Sunday, July 22, 2007

Padraig Harrington Wins the British Open

I've always liked watching the British Open. Maybe because of the tradition. More likely because it's so different than the kind of golf you see on a weekly basis in the United States. No trees, a completely different kind of golf requiring a unique strategy. It's practically a different game, and it always amazes me how the pros are able to adjust. I remember interning in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2002 and waking up early in the morning to watch then unknown Ben Curtis (who despite his win is probably still largely unknown) parlay his 396th world ranking into a win at the what is arguably the world's most prestigious golf tournament.

In a repeat of the 1999 collapse of Frenchman Jean Van De Velde, leading going into the 18th and final hole, Padraig Harrington found the burn (or what we would call the water), twice, making double bogey and giving Sergio Garcia, who had been leading most of the tournament, a chance to win his first career Major by simply paring the 18th. But as Van De Velde, and now Harrington had shown, making par on the 18th hole at the British Open with a chance to win is much much harder done than said, and Garcia missed a short, but tough, par putt, giving Harrington second life, and giving us four more holes of playoff golf.

If the final round was great (with its back-and-forth leaderboard and almost impossible-to-believe 18th Hole) the playoff was just as good, though, over almost as soon as it began. Harrington, who could have collapsed after his disastrous 18th, showed great poise, with a birdie on the first hole of the playoff. Garcia, who never seemed to get over that missed putt, made bogey on the first hole, falling two shots behind.

The playoff though, was not over until it was over. Even with a lead heading into the 18th Hole, the final hole of the playoff, there was still the ghost of Van De Velde, and the much more recent gag by Harrington himself, that had to be vanquished. And they were. Though, Garcia did make it very interesting on the 18th, with a birdie putt which looked right online but ran just past the hole instead.

And it all goes to show that no matter how great Tiger Woods is (and he is) and how entertaining his rivalry with Phil Mickelson is, even when Tigers is not in contention, the sport of Golf can still be incredibly entertaining and captivating. Sunday certainly was.

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