Ireland is hugely proud, says President


PRESIDENT MARY McAleese and Taoiseach Brian Cowen were among those to congratulate golfer Pádraig Harrington last night on retaining the British Open title.

Mrs McAleese was in contact with Harrington last night to tell him the win was a "wonderful achievement".

"The whole country is hugely proud of Pádraig's success and the manner in which he achieved it. Once again, he has combined tremendous natural talent with hard work, dedication and resilience. He is indeed a true champion," Mrs McAleese said in a statement.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen also congratulated Harrington on his second Open win in a row.

"To win the Open once in a career is quite an achievement, however to retain the title in such difficult weather conditions, and also carrying an injury, shows that Pádraig is a golfer in his prime and at the top of his profession," Mr Cowen said.

Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen called the win a "stunning success". He said Harrington was "fast becoming Ireland's greatest ever golfer" and had earned a place as "one of the legends of Irish sport". Mr Cullen also complimented his performance on the golf course, "staying the distance and holding his nerve, Harrington played some beautiful golf as we have come to expect".

Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny said retaining the Open title was a "rare achievement" and as a result "Pádraig joins a small elite group of real golfing greats and has proved himself a true Irish sporting hero."

Many bookmakers lost out following his second consecutive Open victory. Betfair offered odds of 149 to one for Harrington to win the championship after he bogeyed the first hole of the competition and following fears over his wrist injury.