Harrington wins play-off after day of drama

Irishman Padraig Harrington beat Sergio Garcia of Spain by one stroke in a four-hole British Open play-off on Sunday to land his maiden victory in a major and the first by a European for eight years.

Harrington (35) completed the extra holes in 15 shots (level par) after the two Ryder Cup colleagues had finished the championship locked together on seven-under 277 following an incident-packed day of high drama on the east coast of Scotland.

Garcia, who had led the championship from day one, returned a closing two-over 73 while his play-off rival had a four-under 67.

”I have come a long way,” Harrington told the BBC as he choked back the tears after becoming the first Irish winner of the Open since Fred Daly in 1947. ”When I turned pro I would have settled for becoming a journeyman.

”It’s been great to be named as someone who could win a major but that brings its own pressure. To actually go and do it, well I don’t know what to think.

”I’m sure there’s a helluva party going on back in Ireland.”

Argentina’s Andres Romero was third on 278 after a remarkable 67 that included 10 birdies, two double-bogeys and two bogeys.

Green sparkles

Sharing fourth spot on five-under 279 were Australian left-hander Richard Green, who fired a course record-equalling 64, and South African Ernie Els (69).

Harrington seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after going to the 72nd tee with a one-stroke lead.

Evoking memories of Frenchman Jean Van de Velde’s spectacular collapse here eight years ago, the Irishman drove into the notorious Barry Burn before his third shot also found a watery grave in front of the green.

But Garcia, playing two matches behind, then saw his eight-foot putt for outright victory agonisingly lip out of the cup at the last.

”If I had lost it would have been hard to take,” said Harrington. ”But I stayed positive and in the play-off I did the business.

”If I had lost I don’t know what I’d think about playing golf again.”

On a day of constant ebb and flow among the leaders, Harrington thrust his name into the title picture when he rolled in a 12-foot putt for eagle at the 14th.

The genial Dubliner, so often a bridesmaid but rarely the bride after coming second a combined 30 times each side of the Atlantic, finally crossed the threshold in the playoff to collect the first prize of £750 000 ($1,54-million).

Lawrie win

He became the first European winner of a major since Briton Paul Lawrie triumphed at Carnoustie in 1999.

Garcia, who started the round with a three-stroke lead, was simply unable to find any magic on the greens.

”It’s tough because I didn’t think I did anything wrong,” said the 27-year-old Spaniard after missing out on his first victory in a major. ”I really feel I didn’t miss a shot in the play-off.

”I hit unbelievable putts all day and they didn’t want to go in. I just have to move on and take the positives out of it. That’s the way it is.”

The round started in pouring rain but as the weather improved in the afternoon it was Green who made the first charge.

The Australian equalled the course record held by American Steve Stricker and Briton Colin Montgomerie to set the target in the clubhouse on 279.

The unheralded Romero then eclipsed Green after an extraordinary burst of scoring that included six birdies in seven holes from the 10th.

World number one Tiger Woods, bidding to land a hat-trick of coveted claret jugs, carded a 70 for a two-under 282. – Reuters

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