An ecstatic Harrington after sealing the deal to win his second major championship in three weeks, as a dejected Garcia looked on.
arrived at 16, the ominous par 4 where water smothers the green’s right side. Bunkers are a menace on the left, and the green slopes wickedly to the right, which leaves a golfer to pick his poison unless his nerves and his shotmaking skills are such that he can throw a dart onto the putting surface.
Garcia missed – badly. After his ball splashed into the pond, Garcia’s up-and-down bogey became one of the final round’s best recoveries. But it was no match for Harrington, who rapped in his 20-footer for par. The men strode alongside Curtis to their showdown at 17.
Harrington’s 5-iron shot to 10 feet was a marvelous work of art on a par- 3 hole that had treated the field to such evil throughout four rounds. Garcia’s, though, was better. With the tournament riding on a single swing, he stuck his 5-iron to 4 1⁄ 2 feet.
“I knew if I holed this, I probably would win the PGA (Championship),” Harrington said later. “If I missed, Sergio would probably win the PGA.
“So it was down to that.”
Harrington coolly rolled in his putt. Garcia missed on the hole’s high side.
The PGA Championship, as so many had envisioned, was to be essentially decided by the 238-yard 17th.
The PGA Champion, however, had that bit of work to do at 18. He finished bravely, which was in step with difficult decisions Harrington had made years earlier about a
young European Tour player’s golf future.
Harrington had trained as an accountant, which was viewed as good career strategy by those who doubted he would ever make much of a living as a professional golfer.
He was then an Irishman with broad eyes and grand dreams who had found marginal success in Europe. But he was not quite there, and Harrington knew it. He promptly re-crafted his swing, which is not recommended for those who do not wish to put themselves through misery and rigors that most Tour golfers outside of Nick Faldo would never consider once the checks begin rolling in.
Harrington, though, approached his golf vocation the way he handled the final holes at Oakland Hills last August. There was personal resolve at work to match his considerable skill. Three weeks after he won his second British Open, he took a long leap into the tight circle reserved for golfers who win multiple majors on either side of the ocean.
Padraig Harrington won the 2008 PGA Championship. Very much, he won it. Shamrocks and luck might be endearing parts of Irish culture. But Harrington seems to prefer soul and skill, probably because he has so much of each. ●
Lynn Henning is a sports columnist for The Detroit News.