Padraig Harrington Takes Golf's British Open

Padraig Harrington of Ireland won golf's British Open after throwing away a lead on the 72nd hole, then defeating Sergio Garcia of Spain in a four-hole playoff. The finish was an eerie reminder of the 1999 British Open, also played at famed Carnoustie in Scotland, when Jean van de Velde of France lost a big lead on the final hole.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The British Open ended dramatically yesterday in Scotland. Ireland's Padraig Harrington edged out Spain's Sergio Garcia in a four-hole playoff.

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan covered this event in Carnoustie, Scotland. And we've caught her at the airport as she prepares to leave. Christine, welcome to the program once again.

Ms. CHRISTINE BRENNAN (Columnist, USA Today): Hi, Steve. How are you?

INSKEEP: I'm doing fine. I suppose I should mention that Padraig Harrington came from six strokes behind to get into this playoff.

Ms. BRENNAN: Yeah. He did, Steve. It was a classic finish. There were three or four different men in the hunt to win it on the final few holes on a cold, gray, damp Sunday on the North Sea. What could be better for the British Open?

But Harrington did come from six strokes back to defeat Sergio Garcia of Spain. Garcia, of course, is the emotional, excitable, 27-year-old, well known in the U.S., but has never won a major. And he had the lead for the first three days, but suddenly he came unglued. And there was Harrington, coming on strong, making birdies, staying in the mix. He shot a four-under 67 while weathering a very terrible 72nd hole when he hit the ball into the infamous Barry Burn, a brick-lined stream twice. But he ended up tied with Garcia.

INSKEEP: Let me just make sure I understand this. He had this fantastic route, and he almost blew it on the final hole?

Ms. BRENNAN: That's right. And it was very similar for those who remember going back to 1999, same golf course, Carnoustie, when France's Jean Van de Velde needed only a double-bogey six on the last hole to win, Steve, but recorded a seven. He hit the ball into the rough, off the grandstand, into the Burn - that's the creek that runs through this 18th fairway - into the bunker and finally onto the green. That was Van de Velde in '99. Unbelievable, but it happened all over again.

There was Harrington in a great position, and could win the Open, an Irishman winning the Open for the first time since 1947. And instead, he hit the ball into that same Burn that caught Jean Van de Velde and caused all his trouble. It's an incident burn twice on successive shots. I must admit, I don't think I've seen anything like that, especially knowing what had happened eight years earlier.

INSKEEP: So each of these guys had a frustrating finish in one way or another, but they ended up in a playoff and…

Ms. BRENNAN: But the difference here was Garcia, you felt had dropped into a playoff. He had blown it. He had it, and he was so upset. He had a 10-foot putt for par to win the tournament in regulation on that 18th hole and missed it. So he fell into the playoff, whereas Harrington, you almost had the sense with him that even though he had that terrible 18th hole, that he had new life, that he kept a great attitude. As he said, he didn't want even think about the fact that he had blown the Open. He kept thinking positive thoughts, hoping there would be a playoff knowing how hard that hole really is. And sure enough, Garcia bogeyed it to get into the playoff with him.

So you've got Harrington on that first playoff hole making a birdie, and Garcia making a bogey. And that two-stroke swing was enough to seal Garcia's fate and give Harrington his first major, the British Open.

INSKEEP: Can I just ask? When leaders are fading on Sunday, you often expect Tiger Woods to come out of nowhere. What happened to him?

Ms. BRENNAN: Yeah. Not quite. Going for his third straight British Open, Steve, but he never caught fire. He finished five for 12. He shot a one under par 70, so not bad. Thursday, eight shots behind Garcia, ended up five behind Garcia and Harrington, but was never really in the mix. Tiger said afterwards, he said he felt he hit the ball well, but not well enough. In hindsight, his second round on Friday, when he shot a 74, three-over par, really knocked him out of it. And he was finished an hour and a half before the leaders. So probably on his flight home to Florida before the tournament was even over.

INSKEEP: Well, Christine, go get your flight.

Ms. BRENNAN: Okay. Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Christine Brennan is a columnist for USA Today and a regular guest here. She was at the British Open over the weekend, which was won by Padraig Harrington.

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