Golf

Balls Remembers: Padraig Harrington's Amazing 2008 Open Win

Balls Remembers: Padraig Harrington's Amazing 2008 Open Win

“It's a little shinier than I remember,” Padraig Harrington told reporters after his 2008 Open Championship triumph at Royal Birkdale.

They obviously cleaned it up nicely.

For consecutive years, the Dubliner was seated in front of assembled members of the press as Champion Golfer of the Year.

Harrington regarded his victory at the 137th Open Championship as his most satisfying to date, having remained in contention on the final two days and asserting himself on Sunday evening.

One reporter noted: “You went out and won this golf tournament, and on a tough week you finished superbly, which is what great players do.”

To this, there is undoubtedly an element of truth. His victory against Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie in 2007 saw Harrington come from an incredible six shots back to force a play-off against his Spanish counterpart.

When you come and win a tournament by a few shots, you shoot a good last round, [which is different to] when you're under that stress going out in the last group.

Definitely last year was a thrilling win and it was exciting and I was on top of the world when I won. This year is more satisfying. I feel more accomplished this year.

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Harrington had navigated through a different type of week in Southport, one which threatened to be over before it even began.

A wrist injury prior to the tournament had hampered his preparation for action in Birkdale. The Irishman was only able to hit a handful of practice shots in the build up to his opening round.

On Tuesday I played nine holes and rested and thought, ‘this is good, it's getting better’.

Wednesday I had more problems than I had on Tuesday, and I genuinely felt that there was a big issue with playing.

Victory at the Irish Open left him in the running to defend his title and Harrington drew on all his links experience to overcome the rain and 40mph winds which had battered the North West coast.

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And while the experience of winning in 2007 was fresh in his mind, Harrington was still in unchartered territory on the final day of action: it was the first time the Irishman had ever been involved with the final group on the final day of a major.

The winning score at Royal Birkdale come Sunday evening was +3, a one-under round of 69 sufficient for Harrington replace Greg Norman at the top of the pile.

Norman, vying to become the oldest major winner in history, led the way heading into the final day with K.J Choi and Harrington two shots further back.

The veteran Australian had previously led on six occasions heading into the final day of majors, without going on to claim victory - most famously his implosion at the Masters in 1996 handed Nick Faldo victory.

Harrington’s difficult opening day 74 was followed by a 68 in much calmer conditions on Friday.

In the chasing pack were Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Englishman Ian Poulter, who led a final day charge to keep the heat on Harrington.

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Harrington’s motivation to succeed at the Open was simple.

I liked being Open champion so much I didn't want to give the trophy back.

The path to victory became clearer down the final stretch and after consecutive bogeys from seven to nine, there was a fear that Harrington may have to scramble to keep his challenge on course.

With birdies on 13 and 15 Harrington afforded himself some breathing space from Poulter.

Then, on the 17th hole with 272 yards to the pin and with the breeze ripping through the course, Harrington stepped up to hit one of the finest shots the Championship had ever seen.

A simple tap-in allowed him to eagle the 71st hole and a par on the last gave him a comfortable six-stroke victory over Poulter.

Only his second ever major win, Harrington etched his name into the history books alongside Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Peter Thompson, all of whom successfully defended their Open title in the post-war era.

His achievement also earned him the unique accolade of being the first European golfer to defend the title in over a century - England’s James Braid the last to do so after his back-to-back successes in 1906.

Harrington’s hot streak didn’t end there. He cemented himself as one of the finest golfers on the planet in 2008 when he won the PGA Championship later that year.

His successes earned him the merit of PGA Tour Player of the Year, PGA Player of the Year and European Tour Player of the Year.

Cian Roche

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