Sunday, July 20, 2008

Harrington Goes Back-to-Back at Open

The Cinderella story of Greg Norman didn't have the happy ending so many of us hoped for. With just seven holes to play it still looked quite possible though as the "Great White Shark" was tied for the lead at 7-over-par with playing partner and defending British Open champion Padraig Harrington. Fortunes quickly changed after that for the two champions as the Shark bogeyed the 12th and 13th holes, while Harrington birdied 13 and 15 and then hit the shot of the tournament - a 5-wood approach to within five feet on the par-5 17th hole. Harrington drained the eagle putt and parred the final hole for a four stroke victory over Ian Poulter. Norman ended up tied for third with Henrik Stenson.

Did any of us expect a 53-year-old to be competing in a major, let alone leading with just seven holes to play? Probably not. It was definitely like walking back in time, seeing the Shark contending, and although he didn't win, he certainly fought valiently and got everyone's attention. Yes, the Shark shot a disappointing 77 in the final round, but in reality even a good round of 72 would have lost the tournament. Greg Norman didn't lose the 2008 British Open, rather Padraig Harrington simply took control of it over the tournament's final seven holes. Harrington's approach shot which set up the eagle on the 17th was one of the bravest, most heroic shots I've ever seen. A foot shorter and perhaps he finds the rough and is struggling for par... It's perhaps a very different tournament if that happens.

So no, there was no Tiger to be found, but the old Shark certainly gave us all as many thrills as Tiger ordinarily would in a major. Harrington becomes the first back-to-back winner of a major since Tiger himself won the Open in 2005 and 2006. Congratulations to Greg Norman on putting up such a valient fight, and to Padraig Harrington on his great win!


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