Padraig Harrington, in his own words, describes one of the most dramatic finishes in Open history
You can always rely on an Open at Carnoustie for a Hollywood ending. Just ask Jean van de Velde. Padraig Harrington is another to have fluffed his lines on the 72nd hole of the Angus links, but it didn’t prove nearly as costly.
In 2007, the then major-less Harrington stood on the 18th tee on the final day with a one-shot lead over Sergio Garcia thanks to four birdies and an eagle. He would go on to make a double-bogey six to open the door for the Spaniard, but a 10-foot par putt to seal Garcia’s first major drifted past the hole and it was down to a play-off.
The Irishman talks us through the drama at the 72nd…
“I played fantastic golf all day. I played as good as I could have played. By the time I got to the 18th tee I had a one-shot lead and I felt awesome.
“I stood on the tee and felt so confident that I was just going to bust it down the fairway. It’s a tough tee shot with water left and right. At the top of my downswing I got a twinge of doubt and said to myself, ‘Don’t hit it left.’ So I hit it way right.
“It was a bad shot, but it happens. I was overconfident. I perform much better when I have a lot of fear and a lot of doubt, I am much sharper in my focus. I can’t understand why I underestimated the 18th, but I was just really confident. I hit a bad shot and walked off the tee. I am pretty good at accepting what’s happened, anybody can hit a bad shot so let’s get on with it.
“I dropped it out of the hazard. I had 258 yards to the flag and 228 to the front. I had water short, out of bounds left, and out of bounds long. You also cannot miss the green right because you will not make it up and down. I had the worst shot you could ever have in your life, and really I should lay it up. Obviously I am in trouble and I have got to make five so I don’t lose my lead. I am trying to hit a 4-iron and just carry the water to the front of the green. There is no point me hitting a longer shot because if I pitch it on the green it will go out of bounds. There is nowhere to aim at, from where I am, with the right-to-left wind.
“I made an error in hindsight, because I dropped the ball too close to the hazard. It was in a light bit of semi-rough with the grain against me. I should have gone back another 20 yards into the fairway and hit my 5-wood.
“I hit my 4-iron fat and it ended up short left. Thankfully it was short enough that it only went in the water, rather than out of bounds. I walked away from that shot and for the first time in my life I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I was embarrassed. I had choked and I thought I had lost my chance to win the Open. I had never felt like that on the golf course before. I was devastated. I felt like I had won it and now I had thrown it away.
“I was walking away and my caddie started with the cliches of ‘it’s not over yet’ and ‘one shot at a time’. He took the 4-iron off me, because otherwise I would probably have hit him with it.
“After 50 yards I was starting to listen to him, and by the time I got to the ball I was starting to believe it. I hit the pitch shot 48 yards like a teenager showing off to his friends. I was in the zone for that shot. I watched it spin up behind the flag and I holed a six footer to make a double-bogey.
“At that point it hit me again. I had lost the Open. My three-year-old ran on, did a somersault in my hands, and looked at me like I was the greatest thing in the world. He didn’t think I had lost the Open. That moment had a profound effect on me, and I realised it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.
“I went to the recorders’ hut and they scrambled to turn off the TV, because they were re-showing every shot I had hit down the 18th. I recorded my score and sat there very calmly. I turned the TV on to watch what Sergio was doing and, while sitting there patiently, said, ‘I am going to win this Open.’ I knew Sergio had to make a bogey down the last, and while I didn’t wish him bad, I felt I was going to win.
“When he did miss, I didn’t get a high, I was just in the zone. I walked back onto the 1st tee with determination.”
The four-hole play-off involved the pair playing 1, 16, 17 and 18. Harrington birdied the first while Garcia made bogey. He never recovered and Harrington had broken his major duck.
“Nobody wants to be in a play-off, but it is an incredibly exciting way to win the Open,” he added.
What happened next?
Harrington went on to defend his title at Royal Birkdale in 2008, beating Ian Poulter by four shots to secure back-to-back Claret Jugs. Harrington describes his second Open as a “more satisfying” win that “validated” the Carnoustie debacle.
He then won his third and final major to date at the PGA Championship the following month.
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Padraig Harrington was talking on the Open Podcasts. Listen to the full episode below, on Apple Podcasts, or on the Open website.
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