Story 3 - Irish Eyes Are Smiling

By Rex HoggardDecember 26, 2008, 5:00 pm
Top 10 StoriesIn signature self-effacing style, Padraig Harrington jokingly reasoned last week that hed won the PGA Tours Player of the Year Award by a single vote. There is no way of knowing the Irishmans margin of victory since the Tour protects election results like Tiger Woods safeguards 54-hole leads.
But the fact the tally took place in Florida, the undisputed home of the hanging chad, likely didnt sit well with the canvassing board. Thankfully, less than 24 hours later, Harringtons primary challenger in the player of the year polls put the matter to rest with a dismissive, if not decisive, wave of the metaphorical white flag.
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington kisses the Wanamaker Trophy at Oakland Hills. (Getty Images)
He won two (majors), Woods said.
The man who keeps time with Grand Slam glory dismissed his four titles in six starts and one of the greatest one-legged exhibitions in the history of the game and recognized the merits of simple math. Two of kind ' at least the major championship kind ' beats a royal finish at any table.
But it wasnt the view from the top so much as the climb that amazed Harringtons long-time sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella five months earlier from his perch atop a windswept English dune.
Hes been getting ready for this for a long time, Rotella said as Harrington celebrated his second British Open title in 12 months. There is a difference between swing confidence and self confidence. All of these guys have the swing, but its taken him some time to get to where he is now mentally. He has such clarity, so much peace over shots.
In practice, Harrington put that clarity to the test to produce two of the years most clutch haymakers.
At Royal Birkdale, Harrington began the final round trailing Greg Norman by two strokes. By the time he stepped to the exposed 17th tee hed forged a two-stroke cushion. There would be no Carnoustie calamity this time.
From the middle of the fairway Harringtons caddie Ronan Flood asked his boss if he wanted to lay up. The answer was a walk-off 5-wood to three feet for eagle and a long overdue stroll up the 18th fairway, claret jug firmly back in his hands.
You can't have enough shots in the lead going down 18. I proved that last year, Harrington said. It helped me enjoy the last hole.
Less than a month later Harrington delivered the sequel, a 5-iron bullet to 10 feet at the 71st hole of the PGA Championship that sank Sergio Garcias major championship hopes for the second time in six Grand Slam gatherings.
Harrington became the first European to win the Wanamaker Trophy since Tommy Armour in 1930, and the first to win back-to-back majors.
With the games top card doing time on a stationary bike in central Florida, Harrington effortlessly filled the void of alpha male. It was a lofty prospect that seemed pure fantasy as recently as 2005.
Prior to Harringtons breakthrough U.S. victory at the 05 Honda Classic, he was viewed largely as a good player with a good heart but hardly a world-beater or a serviceable stand-in for the worlds No. 1. He followed that victory with another at the Barclays Classic and his 2007 British Open bout with Garcia proved he had the game and mental toughness to beat the worlds best, and a beastly finish.
While Carnoustie may have been the culmination of all that hard work, Harringtons ultimate Grand Slam epiphany came at the 2006 U.S. Open where he finished two shots behind eventual winner Geoff Ogilvy after a messy bogey-bogey-bogey finish.
I walked off the 18th hole (at Winged Foot) . . . and said to Bob Rotella, Now I know Ill win a major, Harrington said. Yes, I lost. I was one of the losers at Winged Foot . . . But I walked away from that tournament knowing I could win a major.
And 2008, a career calendar that inexplicably ended in pedestrian fashion when Harrington played his way out of the Tour Championship in the playoffs, proved he had evolved into much more than simply a good player with a good heart.
That Player of the Year trinket ' whether it was won by a single vote or a landslide ' was simply a cherished nod from the electorate.
It is an individual game when we're out there competing, but you do want and crave the respect of your fellow pros, Harrington said. It compares equally to winning a major championship. I can't believe I can actually say something can compare to going out there and winning a major championship, but this accolade, no doubt in my mind is right up there.
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    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”