BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (RUSHPRNEWS) August 11, 2008 â€” Padraig Harrington rallied from three shots behind Sunday to win the PGA Championship, closing with a 4-under 66 at Oakland Hills to become only the fourth player to win the British Open and PGA in the same year.
If the winner was familiar, so was the finish.
Harrington shot a 32 on the back nine, just as he did at Royal Birkdale last month, and he came up with three big putts down the stretch. He made a 12-foot par on the 16th to catch Sergio Garcia and Ben Curtis, took the lead with an eight-foot birdie on the par-3 17th, then closed out the Spaniard with an 18-foot par for a two-shot victory.
“I think I was willing them into the hole at that stage,” Harrington said. “You have to get focused and give it a go.”
The Irishman ended Europe’s 78-year drought in the PGA Championship, and he joined Tiger Woods, Nick Price and Walter Hagen as the only players to win the final two majors in the same year. Woods did it twice, in 2000 and 2006.
Harrington talked about going to another level after winning the British Open, and he wound up in a class to himself a month later. He is the first European to win consecutive majors, and now has won three of the last six.
“That’s Tiger-like, right there,” Curtis said.
Garcia was poised to finally prove he could win a major, leading by one shot in the middle of the 16th fairway. But he hit a six-iron into the water and had to scramble for bogey, then missed a four-foot birdie putt on the 17th to fall one shot behind. He hit into the bunker on the final hole and blasted out to six feet, but Harrington made sure that putt wouldn’t matter.
“I obviously came up a little bit short,” Garcia said. “But I guess that’s the way things go sometimes. The only thing I can do is go back home with my head up high and keep working on it.”
Harrington, stoic throughout so many stunning shifts in momentum, finally let loose when his par putt dropped on the 18th. He pumped his fist twice, then a third time for effect.
Harrington finished at 3-under 277 and earned US$1.35 million.
Curtis lost a chance to validate his shocking victory in the 2003 British Open. He bogeyed two of the final four holes for a 71, but came away with a big consolation. His tie for second was enough to move him up to No. 7 in the U.S. standings and qualify for the Ryder Cup.
Garcia moved to No. 3 in the European standings and sewed up a spot on his fifth straight team.
Canadian Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont., shot a final round score of 74 to fall to 13 over and into a tie for 42nd place.
Harrington wasn’t even in the picture Sunday morning when players returned to Oakland Hills to resume the weather-delayed third round, some of them playing 36 holes. He was 4 over after nine holes, then ran off four straight birdies on the back nine for a 66 to get into contention going into the final 18.
With another major at stake under gloomy skies, Harrington simply shined.
And for the second straight year, Garcia suffered.
Harrington rallied from six shots behind last year to beat Garcia in a playoff at Carnoustie. This time, he spotted the Spaniard three shots when they made the turn and made four birdies over the back nine.
He knocked in a 15-foot birdie on the 10th, chipped to three feet for birdie on the par-5 12th and caught Garcia with a 12-foot birdie on the 13th. Garcia, whose birdie-eagle start thrust him into contention, didn’t make a birdie over the final 12 holes.
Garcia accepted defeat far more graciously than at Carnoustie, although he was terse when asked if he sensed he would win his first major as he headed to the back nine after two tremendous par saves.
“Next question, please,” he said. “Let’s try to keep this as positive as we can, please.”
Harrington lamented a British Open hangover after opening with rounds of 71-74, unable to concentrate. Maybe the rain delay Saturday gave him the rest he needed, for his focus returned. He looked more determined than ever, front teeth pinched forward and tongue tucked out of the corner of his mouth on every important shot.
source: globesports.com DOUG FERGUSON (Associated Press)