It’s been a long wait, and so long overdue. In the eight years since Paul Lawrie’s victory, we’d almost forgotten that a European golfer could win a major championship.
Sixty years after the last Irishman won the British Open, yesterday evening Padraig Harrington became the first player from the Republic to lift the famous Claret Jug.
It was an immensely exciting championship, with the result facing as many twists as the Barrie Burn which winds its way across Carnoustie’s closing holes.
In the week that Severiano Ballesteros retired from competitive golf, it would have been marvellous for another ‘young Spaniard’ to follow in his footsteps as an Open winner.
Sergio García’s day will surely come. A day when the cellophane bridge above the hole will be far kinder to his ball than yesterday.
But it just wasn’t to be. As Sergio found out, it’s desperately hard to lead a major, wire to wire, and bring it home.
And as for Harrington – what a prize, and how richly earned it was. It was in the Walker Cup in 1995 that he first caught the eye, striding the rain-lashed Porthcawl links with a calm serenity that defied the weather.
Such confident, crisp iron shots and touch around the greens – a natural shotmaker, with a gift for nipping the ball sweetly from the seaside turf.
For years since then, he’s been getting better. A stalwart in every Ryder Cup, and for a year or two reaching number three and four in the world. Famous wins, around the globe, without ever scoring a major. An underestimated talent.
Until this year. That’s all changed now.
So enjoy your party, Padraig. You deserve it. And we’ll all be smiling with you.
125. The green and the gold – 2006 Ryder Cup
99. One over Strath
66. A dream from Detroit – 2004 Ryder Cup
3. Running in Shakespeare Country
62. On the links
I’ve rarely wanted anyone to win anything as much as I wanted Sergio to bring home the Claret Jug on Sunday. I watched in horror as his last round came apart at the seams, yet you always knew it would. He struggled manfully to hold it together but his putting stroke broke down – he was effectively slicing the ball with his putter – and despite getting it back together at the death missed that last crutial put.
Watching that ball shoulder its way around the lip of the hole reminded me of that (in)famous moment on Kiawa Island when another European – Herr Langer – suffered intolerable anguish, handing the Ryder Cup to the Americans. Langer showed monstrous mental fortitude in the days and weeks afterwards, drawing strength from a situation that would have crushed lesser men. I sincerely hope Señor García can recover in similar fashion.
Thanks very much, Sweder.
Leaving a certain journalistic neutrality aside for a moment, I must say that I completely agree with you.
It would have been great to see Sergio win. El Niño suffered badly under Tiger’s cosh at Hoylake last year, and he is surely ready now to live up to the huge promise of his natural talent and infectious enthusiasm.
Sergio was unlucky with the putter, and he made some bad decisions, too. Going for a tightly-placed flag from semi-rough on the first play-off hole proved a crucial error. Finding the bunker then, as he did, took all the pressure off Harrington, who duly stuffed it close.
One hole gone, and two strokes down already – it was lost right there.
The real winner of the day, though, was surely Carnoustie.
Above all, I felt, the captivating dénouement of the Championship exposed the huge problems set by the enormously tough 18th. It’s not a hole to play aggressively from the tee – With OB close in left and ditches right, it’s far too risky to take a driver, as Padraig proved. It looked as though he bailed out with a push-slice towards the Burn in his resolve to take the duck hook firmly off the menu.
But there are real difficulties in playing that 18th hole conservatively, too. Taking a long iron off the final tee, as García did, then leaves a 250 yard second still to play, over water, with more OB up the left and only 50′ from the flag.
That is a high tariff shot, at the best of times. Trying to hit a high 1- or 2-iron fade, off close-cut grass from the 72nd fairway of a major – that’s not a shot you’d ever want to face.
I was rooting for Sergio, all day long. Until when Harrington faced that tricky three and a half footer to win The Open. Suddenly I found myself whispering, ‘Oh no, please don’t let him miss.’ Because that’s not how you’d ever want your man to win.
I’m sure Señor García will come back, and that we can look forward to another European major victory, very soon.
Harrington had waited so long for this, unassumingly and modestly. He simply had to win, this time, and now he has, more may follow.
Let’s hope that Sergio wins one soon. And preferably, many more as well.
There you are waking up all my childhood memories again – I spent more time on the green in St. Andrews than at home or school!!!
Madame my Mother was Penny Penfold – the Golf Balls!! Of course I therfore spent so much time at tournaments and on the greens that I was a long time allergique to golf!!
Luckily – I overcame that.
Thank you for every minute of pleasure whilst reading your prose.
Yes, Diane – the ‘Penfold Ace’ – I remember those golf balls well, each with a card suit motif – hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades, although Slazenger Plus golf balls were my favourites in in those days.
A homage to St Andrews slipped into my schedule just a Christmas or so ago. A trip to the ‘auld grie toon’ found just enough time for a quick hole of air golf down the famous 18th in the December dusk.
And I’m delighted to say that, without either clubs and balls, we all hit perfect fantasy shots onto the final green.
There’s a sunset picture taken from St Andrews’ East Beach at the bottom of that post, too.
Elsewhere on these pages you can find an ode to the famous Strath Bunker on St Andrews’ 11th hole.
For such an apparently innocuous hazard, the acute siting of that trap has had a huge influence on golf course design, right around the globe.
Seaside turf is something special, and I would play links golf every time, if I could.
More than that, in fact, since I’d gladly never play anywhere else again than Royal Porthcawl in South Wales.
A marvellous championship links with perfect greens, a view of the sea from every hole, and a classic exposure of the Carboniferous-Triassic unconformity on the beach, just to the left of the first three holes.
What better configuration could there posibly be for a golfing geologist – especially one with an occasionally troublesome hook … ?
Dear Roads –
The hole I spent the most on was the…….19th! Also, I don’t know if you knew but the St. Andrew’s tournament belonged to Penfold. They eventually sold out the company lock stock and barrel to Palmolive-Colgate…just for the tournament (crazy, no?)
And, another funny anecdote…..they did not want women golfers on the course at the time!!!
I suppose that there has been some progress since those far off days. I’m now going to look at e verything you put onto you editorials about that memory lane for me.