Notes Stricker Stalls Some Major Moments

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CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Steve Stricker is known as one of the better putters on the PGA TOUR.
 
Playing in the final group of a major for the first time, his favorite club let him down. Big time.
 
Three shots off the lead and paired with front-running Sergio Garcia, Stricker never mounted a serious challenge at the British Open on Sunday. The American might have if not for three short misses on the front side -- a 2-footer for birdie at No. 3, a 4-footer for birdie at No. 6, and a 5-footer to save par at the ninth.
 
'I hit it fine, but I didn't get it in the hole,' Stricker said. 'I was a little hesitant with the putting and it showed. I would've liked to have see what would've happened if I'd made a couple of birdie putts early on.'
 
He didn't, making the turn with a 1-over 37 and settling for a 3-over 74 -- 10 strokes worse than his 64 in the third round, the lowest score ever for an Open played at Carnoustie.
 
Stricker wound up with a 3-under 281, four shots back in a tie for eighth. Garcia lost to Padraig Harrington in a playoff.
 
'It was a great experience,' Stricker said. 'You can't pay for an experience like that, playing in the last group of a major.'
 
But, he added, 'Overall, it's disappointing.'
 
MAJOR MOMENTS
Hunter Mahan had only played in five majors going into this season. Now he can count on playing all four of them next year for the first time in his career.
 
Mahan made the cut on the number, then had the best weekend at Carnoustie. He shots rounds of 69-65 to move into a tie for sixth, and the top 15 are automatically exempt for next year's Open.
 
Mahan qualified for the Masters by winning the Travelers Championship in Hartford last month, a victory that also gets him into the PGA Championship. A month ago, he tied for 15th in the U.S. Open to ensure a trip to Torrey Pines next year.
 
'I felt I could play here,' Mahan said. 'I kept plodding along and found my swing. It's been neat this week. There's been an electric atmosphere.'
 
Now he'll get to experience all four majors in 2008.
 
Mahan wasn't the only one who claimed somewhat of a consolation prize.
 
Richard Green matched the course record for a British Open with a 64, and by tying for fourth, he'll get into the Masters. Andres Romero also can count on his first trip to Augusta National after finishing third.
 
Others who will be invited to Royal Birkdale next year by virtue of a top 15 in the British Open include Paul Broadhurst and Pelle Edberg.
 
KEEP YOUR DAY JOB
Ben Curtis plays golf for a living, and he plays it well overseas. He won the 2003 British Open with a strong final round, and used a big finish Sunday to tie for eighth, four shots back.
 
His second job is selling the National Football League to fans who might not be that familiar with American football.
 
Curtis, who has a deal with the NFL, wore the colors of the Miami Dolphins in the final round, and also wore the colors of the New York Giants during the week.
 
It wasn't coincidence, since the two teams play a regular season football game this year in London.
 
The light colors of the Dolphins weren't a great match for a gray rainy day with mud lurking everywhere.
 
'Unfortunately today, I wore the Dolphins and it had to be the worst day,' Curtis said. 'It was just quite funny.'
 
It wasn't a bad day for Curtis, though, who shot a 65 for only his second top 10 of the year. He was happy with both that and the fact he played well again in a championship he has won.
 
'I think the last three years have been a little disappointing for me here,' he said. 'This year I just -- the main goal was to make the cut, and then after that you obviously want to play well to try to get in contention.'
 
DROUGHT BREAKER
Before Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia settled the British Open with a playoff, Miguel Angel Jimenez knew that one winner already had been decided.
 
Europe.
 
The continent broke its eight-year drought in the major championships Sunday, when an Irishman (Harrington) defeated a Spaniard (Garcia) in the four-hole playoff.
 
'Jimenez came to me on the first hole of the playoff and said, 'We've got a European winner,'' said Harrington, who became Europe's first major winner since Scotland's Paul Lawrie won the '99 Open, also at Carnoustie.
 
'I hope it has a very positive impact,' the winner added.
 
Europe has dominated the U.S. in the most important team competition, Ryder Cup, but Americans held the upper hand in the major championships.
 
Before the Open, Nick Faldo suggested that European players were too chummy with each other on their own tour and lacked the killer instinct to close out big events.
 
With the claret jug beside him, Harrington scoffed at that suggestion.
 
'I am a very competitive person inside,' he said. 'But I'm always a believer that ... you can be a nice guy and win. It's a nice thing to aspire to.'
 
EASY BEING GREEN
Richard Green splashed some early color across the final-round leaderboard with six birdies and an eagle en route to a 64 that tied the best British Open score ever at Carnoustie.
 
He could have tied the tournament record with a par at the 18th hole, but made his only bogey of the day.
 
'I was as focused as I ever was in a golf tournament,' he said afterward. 'In situations where I've won before, it was equal to today.'
 
The round propelled the Australian to a fourth-place finish and ensured a return trip to next year's tournament. But Green, who matched Steve Stricker's 64 from a day earlier, thinks he might have gone even lower if he hadn't played in the morning's steady rain.
 
'I don't normally play that well in waterproofs, wet gear,' he said. 'It's obviously a demanding enough game as it is, let alone restricting yourself.'
 
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