90th PGA Championship Review
Luck of the Irish
ALL WEEK LONG, WORDS HAD BEEN KNOCKED AROUND LIKE range balls as pundits dug into the 2008 PGA Champi- onship. “Punishing.” “Relentless.” “Unforgiving.” “Ruth- less.” What golf’s intelligentsia seemed not to realize,
until the 72nd hole produced a remarkable Champion, was that they
were describing not only a golf course on which the 90th PGA Champi-
onship was played, but the man who won it.
Padraig Harrington had a gentler mien and a more inviting manner than Oakland Hills Country Club, which had been lengthened, stiffened and groomed into a true bruiser of a layout ahead of the 2008 Championship. But few are fooled by Harrington’s elfish Irish voice and his amiable way.
He is about as benign as a butcher knife if you care to play him head-to-head across the closing holes of a major championship. He had already shown his mettle three weeks earlier, when he won the British Open at Royal Birkdale, which was a nice follow-up to his winning of the same Open a year earlier at Carnoustie.
Three major trophies from the past six major championships had thus moved into Harrington’s trophy case by the time he knocked in a 15-foot par putt on the dastardly 18th hole at Oakland Hills’ South Course. He had beaten by two strokes Ben Curtis, and Sergio Garcia, the glorious ball-striker from Spain who was Harrington’s victim in a 2007 British Open playoff at Carnoustie.
“I can’t believe I won two of the trophies in three weeks,” said Harrington, whose high-pitched voice seems to contribute to a personal guilelessness that crashes squarely into his golf course ferocity. “I’m going to have to sit down and think about this for a long time.”
So, too, would Curtis and Garcia. They had been Harrington’s primary victims.
They had seen what can happen when a missed tee shot, a bad approach to the green, or a putt that does not have Harrington’s thirst for the cup, ends in one more opportunity for Harrington to put you away.
“He knows how to win,” said Curtis, who had entered the final round with a two-stroke lead and whose closing 1-over-par 71 was hardly a meltdown. “To shoot 8-under on the weekend is pretty impressive. It’s probably one of the best two rounds of golf we’ve seen in some time.”
Curtis was referring to Harrington’s back-to-back scores of 66, which had followed his unremarkable opening rounds of 71 and 74. Harrington, in fact, had complained that he had trouble with his “focus” following all the commotion that accompanied his second consecutive Claret Jug, the British Open’s counterpart to the PGA Championship’s Wanamaker Trophy.
By Sunday, however, as Harrington and most of the PGA Championship field prepared for a 36-hole marathon (rains had postponed Saturday’s round with only 25 golfers completing their 18-hole journeys), Harrington was becoming more focused – in the way a shark focuses on something wounded in the water.
He was beginning to smell blood. Curtis and Garcia were bumping into back-nine troubles. And Harrington decided to take the Championship by the throat, which is pretty much where he had been grasping his share of majors for the past 13 months.
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington rallied to capture his third major championship in 13 months, becoming the first European player to win the PGA Championship since Scotland’s Tommy Armour in 1930
By Lynn Henning
MONTANA PRITCHARD/THE PGA OF AMERICA