Padraig Harrington's Birkdale scrapbookJuly 15, 2017 Golf News
The 2008 champion on overcoming injury, battling Greg Norman and taming the elements when the Open last visited Birkdale...
The below is a picture from a practice round. You can see I’m icing my wrists and I have it strapped up. I genuinely was not sure if I would play or not. I hurt it on the Saturday night prior to the championship and treated it with ice.
I got to Birkdale late on the Sunday and had treatment straight away – I had all sorts going on, including physio.
You can see here, I’m walking around the golf course with Ronan (Flood) carrying my putter and a few wedges.
I could only manage hitting a few chip shots and putts and remember being really unsure as to whether or not I would be able to play.
The above is actually a shot on the 6th hole which changed my whole tournament. It was obviously very difficult throughout the first day. This suited me as I was very much “in the moment” as you need to be when playing in bad conditions – you can’t be getting ahead of yourself, you just have to hit one shot at a time.
Bad weather helps you do that in many ways and having the wrist injury really helped me because I just wasn’t sure whether I’d be hitting any shot beyond the one I was about to hit – I didn’t know if there was going to be another shot.
This is also the first real test of the morning. I had struggled along the first six holes and I missed the 6th fairway left and ended up in a wiry, heathery piece of grass.
I’m trying to hit the ball as far as I can but I can only advance it maybe eighty yards over the bunker. This is the first time I’ve actually had to go after a shot that day. Once I hit it and there was no pain, there was an enormous sense of relief.
All of a sudden my mindset changed from ‘Am I okay?’ to ‘I’m definitely okay.’ I was euphoric about it and it certainly put me in a great place going forward.
It was great to walk down the 18th with a four-shot lead. I don’t watch scoreboards but on the 17th my caddie told me I was two ahead of the clubhouse lead and three ahead of Greg.
The eagle at the 17th basically gave it to me and coming down the last was very nice. I was able to wave at the crowds and enjoy it, kind of how you would dream of doing it as a kid.
Actually the whole week at Birkdale was very satisfying in that sense. I’d played great, putted and hit the ball well, hit a fantastic shot into the 71st hole – everything you would dream about if you were 15 years old.
Clearly going from one to two major wins was a big deal. It is incredible to win a major but once you have, you don’t ever want to be the guy who only ever won one major.
It was interesting playing with Greg Norman on Sunday. I had played with him earlier that year in the opening of Doonbeg Golf Club, which he designed, and he played fantastic.
I was very aware of how good a player he was at 53. I’m not talking about how good a player he was in his heyday when he was clearly the best in the world, but I was aware of him and how good he can be when he’s interested.
In my opinion, the fact he wasn’t performing other weeks was more down to the fact he was more of a businessman than a golfer. But here he was at the Open, interested. Greg’s mind was in the right place as well as him being very capable physically.
I was very worried about the media. There was a fairytale story about how there was going to be one last victory for Greg and that concerned me.
I’m not a superstitious person, but I don’t like getting drawn in to everybody thinking ‘Oh, wouldn’t this be great if Greg wins.’ It wouldn’t have been great for me! Interestingly enough, he couldn’t have been better to play with on Sunday.
He was genuinely happy for me when I won and was an ideal playing partner. At times when you play on Sunday, you can get a guy who can drag both of you down or equally, you can drag yourself down.
Greg was great to play with and he played fantastic during that final round. There were a couple of aggressive drives that didn’t come off for him but he certainly hit the ball well enough that day to win.
Ronan never talks to my golf ball and the shot on the 17th was one of the few times I’ve heard him say “good shot” when the ball was actually in the air.
Obviously this was a big shot – 272 yards to the pin, a bunker about 15 yards short which I needed to carry and a strong wind straight off the left. I hit 5-wood off the downslope, which was my favourite club and I was feeling good.
It is certainly one of the most extraordinary shots I’m going to hit in my career. I was hitting it in the right frame of mind and I wanted to win the tournament there and then.
I didn’t want to lay up, then possibly hit it on the lower tier and three putt. I liked the shot. It’s easier to hit a good shot when you’re feeling great than it is to hit an OK shot when you’re feeling bad and I was certainly feeling great at that stage.