García and Barry Burn fail to halt Pádraig
In an extract from his new book The Irish Majors, PHILIP REIDrelives the day when Pádraig Harrington became the first Irishman to win a Major in modern times – at Carnoustie in 2007
BY THE time Harrington got down to the breakfast table, his caddie Ronan Flood had already departed for the links to scout the final day’s placements. Flood, a good amateur, had worked as a bank official with AIB before leaving his desk behind to travel the world and the fairways with Harrington. It was to be a beneficial move for both player and bagman.
As he sat down to his breakfast, Harrington wondered why Jonny Smith, a family friend, was sitting at the table with a half-dozen golf balls. He knew Flood had already packed the customary dozen balls in his golf bag. Then it dawned on him: the balls were for a possible play-off. Flood had phoned back to Smith asking him to get another six balls in case they were required.
Flood’s gesture of faith was appreciated by Harrington. It reminded him that Nick Faldo had come from six shots behind to beat Greg Norman in the 1996 US Masters, and that Paul Lawrie had come from 10 behind in the 1999 Open at Carnoustie. As Harrington tucked into his scrambled eggs and toast, he knew – as any big-time golfer knew – that, despite trailing Sergio García by six shots, the game was still alive. After all, only one other player, Steve Stricker, separated the group in tied-third from the 54-hole leader.
Someone could emerge from the pack. Why not him?
Before heading to the course, Harrington conducted a warm-up routine of stretching. The rented house was just five minutes from the links and Harrington timed his arrival – 12.15pm – so that he could get a rub-down from his therapist Dale Richardson, an Aussie who had built up his own small pool of players on tour. After almost 20 minutes of standard physiotherapy, and no recurrence of the neck spasm that had woken him in the early hours of the morning, Harrington headed to the range. It was 12.40pm, plenty of time to stop on his way to sign autographs.
On the range Harrington hooked up with Flood and his coach Bob Torrance, who was like his shadow. He didn’t worry too much about how he was hitting the ball, more about getting his head right. He felt good. He spent about half an hour on the range before he made his way to the short game area where he stuck to his routine and hit some bunker shots and some chip shots.
The next port of call was the putting green. All week, Harrington had spent no more than 10 minutes on the practice putting green before a round. It was an indication of how well he felt, how comfortable he was with the blade. He arrived on the green with 12 minutes to spare before his tee time, spent seven minutes hitting putts and then made his way to the first tee.
The central characters were to be Harrington and García, although the young Argentine Andrés Romero also played a leading role. In golf there is nothing like the pressure experienced by a player in the final round of a Major.
When García birdied the third hole to extend his lead to four shots, the smile on his face told its own story. It wasn’t long afterwards, though, that the Spaniard discovered it wouldn’t be all plain sailing.
Far from it. On the fifth hole, García’s tee shot came to a stop in an awkward lie on the edge of a bunker and he could only play back to the fairway. He ran up the first of three bogeys in a four-hole stretch. Suddenly, it was all to play for.
The surprise gatecrasher proved to be Romero, who conjured up a remarkable 10 birdies. Unfortunately for him, he also suffered two double-bogeys. The first of those came when his approach to the 12th green finished in a bush. Such a fate would have knocked the stuffing out of many a player. Not Romero. His response, quite incredibly, was to birdie the next four holes.
Then disaster struck on the par 4 17th, where he got greedy with his second shot out of the rough. His two-iron shot was shanked into the wall of the Barry Burn and then, almost by a force of nature, ricocheted across the 18th fairway and past the out-of-bounds stakes. It led to a double-bogey six. He also bogeyed the 18th to sign for a 67, which left him on 278. It was the mark to beat.