Harrington again triumphant at British Open

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Padraig Harrington celebrates after winning the British Open golf championship at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, England. Nick Potts, The Associated Press

SOUTHPORT, England – Padraig Harrington enjoys few moments more than the walk down 18th fairway of a century-old links course, especially with a four-shot lead in the British Open and the engraver putting the final touches on the oldest trophy in golf.

He stopped Sunday to share the moment with Greg Norman, who knows this path all too well.

Celebration for one, sympathy for the other.

“I did say to him coming down 18 that I was sorry it wasn’t his story that was going to be told,” Harrington said. “I did feel that, but I wanted to win myself. In this game, you have to take your chances when you get them.”

Harrington seized his opportunity by smashing a pair of fairway metals into the par 5s that carried him to a 32 on the back nine of blustery Royal Birkdale and made him Europe’s first player in more than a century to win the British Open two years in a row.

“Obviously, winning a major puts you in a special club,” Harrington said after closing with a 1-under 69 to win by four shots over Ian Poulter. “Winning two of them puts you in a new club altogether.”

Norman got a chance no one saw coming.

Still on his honeymoon with tennis great Chris Evert, at 53 only a part-time golfer with no expectations, the Shark found himself with a two-shot lead going into the final round and was still one shot ahead with nine holes to play.

It ended like so many other majors for Norman – a quick succession of bogeys, the clutch shots belonging to someone else. He made eight bogeys in gusts that reached 40 mph, closed with a 77 and tied for third.

“Where does it rank in those? Probably not as high as some of the other ones,” Norman said of the six other times he lost a 54-hole lead in a major. “Quite honestly, I’m sure I surprised a lot of people.”

So did Harrington.

The 36-year-old Irishman injured his right wrist eight days ago, and it was so sore that he could only practice for nine holes on Tuesday and for three swings on the eve of his title defense.

He gave himself a 75 percent chance of starting, 50 percent of finishing.

Turns out that wrist was strong enough to hit all the right shots. Better yet, it was strong enough to lift the claret jug.

“This year is more satisfying,” Harrington said.