Remembering The 2007 Open Championship & The Harrington - Garcia Rivalry

Remembering The 2007 Open Championship & The Harrington - Garcia Rivalry

Colman Stanley By Colman Stanley

“We have zero in common, bar the fact that we both play golf. He is the antithesis of me, and I am the antithesis of him.”

These words from a Pádraig Harrington interview in The Guardian came just months after the Irishman out battled his playing partner Sergio Garcia to take home the 2008 PGA Championship.

It was Harrington's third major in four years, and the second time - the first being the 2007 Open Championship - that he had taken down the Spaniard in a tense encounter.

It was the zenith of the rather bitter rivalry between two of Europe's best.

19 September 2004; The European team, back row from left, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Lavet, Ian Poulter. Front row, from left Lee Westwood, Paul McGinley, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and David Howell, pictured with the Ryder Cup. 35th Ryder Cup Matches, Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Township, Michigan, USA. Picture credit; Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

The Beginning

But when did their feud begin?


The rivalry has certainly been there since the 90s, with Harrington turning professional in 1995 and Garcia in 1999, while both players made their Ryder Cup debuts at Brookline in '99.

Although the bitterness may have originated from Harrington's spat with legendary Spaniard José Maria Olazabal at the 2003 Seve Trophy.

In their singles match, the Dubliner had questioned whether Olazabal was repairing spike marks rather than pitch marks on the green, which was not allowed at the time, and called for a referee.


Olazaba angrily conceded the hole, and was incensed at what he felt was an accusation of cheating. The event was also held in Spain, with Garcia on the team as well.

However, Harrington put the bitterness down purely to their starkly contrasting natures, saying in that same Guardian article:

We play the game in exactly the opposite way. He is destined to find the long game easy and the short game hard, and I am the opposite.

We're also competitors who for the last few years have been vying over who is the No1 golfer in Europe. I think in the hearts and minds of a lot of people García would have been No1, while I have been ranked No1. As you can imagine, no quarter is given. It is not as if we have ever had a row or a run-in.

I have had plenty of run-ins with people and we would be friends but [with Garcia] it is just, well, we are just so much the opposite of each other.

Perhaps the most fervent example of their clashing personalities, caught on tape, is a clip from the 2009 Masters, showing the two golfers with wildly different opinions on the layout and toughness of Augusta National.


READ HERE: Padraig Harrington Reveals He Turned Down Offer To Join LIV Golf

2007 Open Championship

Some players would find it insulting if their natural game was deemed inferior to another's, even if they were more successful.


Not Harrington, who almost seemed to revel in the fact that his 'grinder' attitude is what set him apart from Garcia, and has openly admitted that the game of golf comes a lot easier the Spaniard.

"It's very simple," Harrington said in an interview on RTE's 2fm in 2017.

Myself and Sergio have been on tour as long as each other. We would have been the opposite. His has a very flamboyant game, everything comes easy. There were periods he never practised.

We were such opposites. I worked at it, grinded it out. Got the best out of it.

These differences were never as obvious as they were at the 2007 Open Championship.

Garcia had lead from the first round, and went into Sunday with a three shot lead, while Harrington was six back.


Harrington edged his way up the leaderboard and teed up on the now infamous 18th at Carnoustie, knowing that a par would secure a play-off and likely a win.

Instead he put consecutive shots into the water, and crossed paths with Garcia as they walked over the Barry Burn bridge, the pair passing each other silently, knowing that Harrington may have bottled it completely like Jean van de Velde on the same hole in 1999.

Helped by his caddie Ronan Flood, the grind mentality quickly set back in for Harrington, and he got up and down for a double bogey.

Garcia lipped out on the last for the win and lost out in a four hole play-off.

"Then we went into the majors and I obviously I beat him at the majors and I gave him every out I possibly could. I gave him every out I possibly could have at the 2007 Open," added Harrington in that RTE interview.

I was as polite as I could and was as generous as I could be, but he was a very sore loser. And he continued to be a very sore loser.

2008 PGA Championship

Harrington came into the 2008 US PGA having already defended his Open title, and went into the final round three shots off Ben Curtis' lead and level with Garcia.

Sergio went three under through the first two holes, and took the outright lead on the 8th with Harrington still three behind.

The man from Rathfarnham would not take the lead until the par 3 17th, on a hole that typified their rivalry and Garcia's luck.

Harrington hit a clutch tee shot to within 12 feet, before Garcia went even better and left himself with a five footer. Paddy knocked in his putt, but Sergio did not.

It gave him a one shot lead going down the 18th, where a massive par putt sealed the trophy, and an exuberant fist pump was a reminder of how much weight the win meant, once again taking down his closest rival at a major championship.

Garcia cut an exasperated and bitter figure in his post-match interview, sipping on vitamin juice as if to rid himself of the hangover from accompanying Harrington on a golf hole crawl around Oakland Hills.

He said 'I'm fine', but his later comments would show his true colours and lend weight to Harrington's 'sore loser' accusation:

There are guys that get a little bit fortunate; they get in contention, in a Major, and manage to get things going their way.

The Aftermath

While the PGA was was probably the apex of their rivalry - they never had such major championship battles again - the memories and wounds certainly lingered for both players.

And the rest of the tour were very aware of it as well, with 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley going as far as to ask Garcia's permission to pick Harrington as a vice-captain for that year's event.

Harrington's 2017 comments, so soon after Garcia captured his first major at the Masters, were also seen as bit on the strong side and unnecessary.

"I’m very strong on the etiquette of the game, so I don’t tolerate people spitting in the hole, throwing their shoes or throwing golf clubs. That would be my attitude. And it would be quite clear where I came from," added Harrington.

"So clearly, after that, we have had a very sticky wicket after that. The Ryder Cup improved it after that but we say hello to each other every day and it is through gritted teeth, there is no doubt about it. I know he is watching what I am doing and I am watching what he is doing. It is one of those things. He's a rival."

They let bygones be bygones and made up at Rory McIlroy's wedding later that year, but with everything that as happened in recent times with Garcia and the PGA Tour/LIV Golf feud, it is fair to say that their relationship has probably taken the road back towards square one.

SEE ALSO: Solution To Ryder Cup Dilemma Being Discussed After LIV Defections

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