Irishman loses lead on 72nd, regroups to win Open in playoff



CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Padraig Harrington finally learned the lesson of Carnoustie, surviving a calamitous finish in regulation and a tense bogey putt in the playoff to win the British Open on Sunday.

In a final round that stirred memories of Jean Van de Velde’s collapse eight years ago, Harrington lost a one-shot lead on the 72nd hole by hitting into the Barry Burn twice for a double bogey, only to get another chance when Sergio Garcia couldn’t make par from a bunker.

Staked to a two-shot lead in the four-hole playoff, Harrington played it safe the second time around on the 18th.

He hit iron off the tee, and another one to stay short of the burn. But a gutsy play by Garcia, who smoked a 6-iron from 203 yards out of the rough to birdie range, forced Harrington to make a nervy 3-footer to become the first Irishman in 60 years to win the claret jug.

Harrington thrust his fists in the air, a survivor as much as a champion, and before long he was waving the Irish flag and doing his best to stop the tears.

“I think if I had lost, it would have been hard to take it,” Harrington said. “But because I had a chance, I didn’t let myself get down about taking a 6. I convinced myself if there was a playoff, I would do the best in it.”

It was a devastating loss for Garcia, who had a three-shot lead going into the final round and was poised to win a major championship he has been chasing since he was a teenager. He was 10 feet away from winning, and his par putt on the 18th hole in regulation looked good all the way until it dipped slightly on the left side and spun out.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t feel like I did anything wrong,” said Garcia. “I really didn’t miss a shot in the playoff. I hit unbelievable putts. They just didn’t go in.”

Harrington, who closed with a 4-under 67 to make up a six-shot deficit, played the four playoff holes in even par, seizing control with a 7-iron into 8 feet for birdie on the first hole as Garcia made bogey from a bunker.

Like the last Open at Carnoustie, there was chaos in the end.

Only this time, it involved more than one player.

The bizarre bounce went to Harrington, whose tee shot on the 18th hole hopped along a bridge over the burn until it went between two rails and into the winding stream.

That left only bad timing for Garcia.

This just wasn’t his day.

Two shots down with two holes to go in the playoff, and with Harrington in trouble right of the par-3 16th green, Garcia watched in disbelief as his tee shot smacked the base of the pin and went 18 feet away.

“Every time I get in this position, I never have any room for error,” Garcia said.

Almost lost in the crazy finish was Harrington, who ended Europe’s eight-year major drought.