Harrington claims second major win in a row

Published 3:47 pm Monday, August 11, 2008

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Padraig Harrington rallied from three shots behind Sunday to win the PGA Championship, closing with a 4-under 66 at Oakland Hills to become only the fourth player to win the British Open and PGA in the same year.
If the winner was familiar, so was the finish.
Harrington shot a 32 on the back nine, just as he did at Royal Birkdale last month, and he came up with three big putts down the stretch. He made a 12-foot par on the 16th to catch Sergio Garcia and Ben Curtis, took the lead with an 8-foot birdie on the par-3 17th, then closed out the Spaniard with an 18-foot par for a two-shot victory.
The Irishman ended Europe’s 78-year drought in the PGA Championship, and he joined Tiger Woods, Nick Price and Walter Hagen as the only players to win the final two majors in the same year. Woods did it twice, in 2000 and 2006.
Harrington talked about going to another level after winning the British Open, and he wound up in a class to himself a month later. He is the first European to win consecutive majors, and now has won three of the last six.
Garcia was poised to finally prove he could win a major, leading by one shot in the middle of the 16th fairway. But he hit 6-iron into the water and had to scramble for bogey, then missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 17th to fall one shot behind. He hit into the bunker on the final hole and blasted out to 6 feet, but Harrington made sure that putt wouldn’t matter.
Harrington, stoic throughout so many stunning shifts in momentum, finally let loose when his par putt dropped on the 18th. He pumped his fist twice, then a third time for effect.
Harrington finished at 3-under 277 and earned $1.35 million.
Curtis lost a chance to validate his shocking victory in the 2003 British Open. He bogeyed two of the final four holes for a 71, but came away with a big consolation. His tie for second was enough to move him up to No. 7 in the U.S. standings and qualify for the Ryder Cup.
Garcia moved to No. 3 in the European standings and sewed up a spot on his fifth straight team.
Harrington wasn’t even in the picture Sunday morning when players returned to Oakland Hills to resume the weather-delayed third round, some of them playing 36 holes. He was 4 over after nine holes, then ran off four straight birdies on the back nine for a 66 to get into contention going into the final 18.
With another major at stake under gloomy skies, Harrington simply shined.
And for the second straight year, Garcia suffered.
Harrington rallied from six shots behind last year to beat Garcia in a playoff at Carnoustie. This time, he spotted the Spaniard three shots when they made the turn and made four birdies over the back nine.
He knocked in a 15-foot birdie on the 10th, chipped to 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 12th and caught Garcia with a 12-foot birdie on the 13th. Garcia, whose birdie-eagle start thrust him into contention, didn’t make a birdie over the final 12 holes.
Garcia accepted defeat far more graciously than at Carnoustie, although he was terse when asked if he sensed he would win his first major as he headed to the back nine after two tremendous par saves.
Harrington lamented a British Open hangover after opening with rounds of 71-74, unable to concentrate. Maybe the rain delay Saturday gave him the rest he needed, for his focus returned. He looked more determined than ever, front teeth pinched forward and tongue tucked out of the corner of his mouth on every important shot.
J.B. Holmes, who had a one-shot lead when he arrived Sunday morning to play the final 36 holes, was one shot behind going into the final round and collapsed in a hurry with a triple bogey. He shot 81.
Boo Weekley closed with a 66 to finish at No. 8 in the standings and earn his first trip to the Ryder Cup.
Woods is the only other player to win so many majors so quickly in the last 25 years — the U.S. Open in June made him 4-of-8 until he had season-ending surgery on his left knee. And while the world’s No. 1 player wasn’t around for the last two majors, he surely could have appreciated Harrington’s performance — especially on the greens.
Trying to play it safe after Garcia went into the water on the 16th, Harrington pulled his approach into the bunker and blasted out some 12 feet beyond the cup, leaving himself a putt with about 2 feet of break. He made it for par, then hit 5-iron to 8 feet on the 17th for one of only four birdies there in the final round.
As well as Harrington played, however, Garcia had a hand in his victory.
He chunked a chip short of the par-5 12th green that made him settle for par. His 6-iron to the 15th flew into the cup on the fly and bounced out, leaving him a 10-foot birdie putt that never had a chance. And after answering Harrington with a tee shot to 4 feet on the 17th, he couldn’t match his birdie. Garcia’s putt was left all the way, catching the lip and spinning away.
The other member of the threesome was Charlie Wi, playing in his first major.
Curtis shot 69 in the morning to finish his third round at 2-under 208 for his first 54-hole lead in a major. He was the only player to reach 4 under on the weekend with a two-putt birdie on No. 6, where the tees were moved up to make the hole play 294 yards. He had three solid par saves on the front, but none on the back when it mattered.
He was tied for lead after a 10-foot birdie on the 14th, but pulled his drive on the 15th and made bogey, then watched his tee shot on the 17th land too hard and roll into a clump of rough behind the green, leading to another bogey.