Sergio hunted down again


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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' Suddenly Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington are inextricably and improbably linked.
The connection has been sporting heaven for Harrington, the son of an Irish cop. And it is has been big stage hell for Garcia, the one-time Spanish boy wonder who will be excused if he is having a hard time accepting the notion that golf is just a game.
Garcia, the most frustrated player not to have won a major, got another long look Sunday at why he will have to continue to wait his turn. What he saw, playing in the same group, was Harrington carve a second consecutive 66 out of the trenches to capture the 90th PGA Championship at monstrous Oakland Hills.
Last year in the Open Championship at Carnoustie it was Harrington defeating a bitterly-disappointed Garcia in a playoff that marked the first major championship victory for a European in the 21st century. This time it was Harrington and Garcia, dueling, in plain view of each other, for five hours on a blustery, rainy, summer afternoon in the upper Midwest.
Garcia jumped out to a lightning start with a birdie and an eagle on the first two holes and turned in 4-under 31. Harrington was three behind at that point.
It looked like his day, Harrington said.
But Garcia bogeyed the 16th, missed a short birdie try at 17 and bogeyed 18th while Harrington was one-putting the same three, all from about 12 feet, to save par, make birdie and save par, respectively.
Harrington has now won two consecutive major championships ' he won the Open Championship at Birkdale last month. And ' another milestone ' he is the first European to capture the PGA Championship since Scotlands Tommy Armour beat Gene Sarazen 1-up, when the event was still match play, 78 long years ago.
And, oh-by-the-way, Harrington has now won three of the last six majors. Thats Tiger-like, said Ben Curtis, who wound up tied with Garcia at 1-under par 279, two shots back of Harrington. Camilo Villegas and Henrik Stenson tied for fourth at 281. Phil Mickelson shot a Sunday 70 and shared seventh with Andres Romero.
Its a long way to catch up with Tiger, Harrington clarified. But he said he was flattered that people are even asking him now about the possibility.
For his efforts, Curtis didnt go unrewarded. He and seven other players ' Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard and Boo Weekley ' have now made captain Paul Azingers U.S. Ryder Cup team that will face the Europeans in Kentucky next month. The final four Americans will be announced Sept. 2 as captains picks by Azinger.
In the end, Harrington won this championship with his resolve and his flat stick, needing just 51 putts on the weekend on greens many believe to be the most difficult in the United States. He knows how to win, Curtis said. And hes not afraid to win.
I felt an edge in experience, Harrington said, which might have been a polite way of saying he believes hes inside Garcias head right now.
Added Garcia of Harrington: He was obviously very good on the back nine. Harrington turned in 34 and came home in 32.
Garcia meanwhile was a study in resignation. The only thing I can do, he said, is go back home with my head up high and keep working at it. I feel like I gave it my best.
But it will be a long time before he forgets the 6-iron from 178 yards that found the water on his second shot at the dangerous par 4 16th. He followed that with a 5-foot par putt that lipped out on 17 and a 14-footer for par on the difficult 18th that also stayed out of the hole.
Harrington revealed afterward that he may have been suffering from dehydration halfway through the championship. I was losing my coordination, he said. After stumbling to a Friday 74 he told reporters he didnt think he had a chance on the weekend.
Then he started drinking liquids. Then he went out and hung a pair of 66s on the board at a course many players insisted was unfair because of its difficult green complexes and firm fairways that were tough to find until Saturday rains softened the course and forced much of the final two rounds to be squeezed into Sunday.
Harrington nursed a sore wrist in the days leading up to his victory at Royal Birkdale last month. And he admitted late Sunday that adversities help his focus. I actually struggle, he said, when things are comfortable.
Second round leader J.B. Holmes, forced to play 36 holes Sunday because of the Saturday weather delays, triple bogeyed his first hole of the final round en route to a front nine 43 and a closing 81 that dropped him all the way down to a tie for 29th with Jim Furyk. Steve Flesch, on the other hand, holed his third shot from off the green for a birdie on the difficult 18th and carded a 69 for a hustling back-door top 10 (sixth place).
Harrington, at the moment, is considered by many to be the second best player in the world even though hes still ranked No. 3 behind the recuperating Woods and No. 2 Mickelson.
The two 66s he fired on the weekend wont soon be forgotten. You wouldnt think that was possible, said Curtis. Probably one of the better two-round totals weve seen in a long time.
And clearly the best golf weve seen since Tiger Woods shut his season down in June with leg injuries.
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