The Open Championship 2008Posted on: 23 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Padraig Harrington retains the Open Championship with a superb final round at Royal Birkdale.
Padraig Harrington became the first European to successfully defend the Open Championship since 1906 with a four-shot victory at Royal Birkdale.
The Irishman fired a closing 69 to end three over as England’s Ian Poulter moved up after also going round in 69.
Veteran Greg Norman couldn’t keep up his fine form from the opening two days and slipped back with a 77, to end joint third on nine over with Swede Henrik Stenson.
English amateur Chris Wood finished with American Jim Fuyrk on 10 over par, earning him the silver medal prize.
Harrington, who beat Sergio Garcia in a playoff to win at Carnoustie last year, was a major doubt in the days leading up to the event after injuring his wrist winning the Irish PGA.
1) Harrington +3
2) Poulter +7
3) Stenson +9
-) Norman +9
5) Wood +10
-) Furyk +10
But the Dubliner recovered to overhaul his illustrious Australian playing partner in the final group and record a magnificent back-to-back victory.
Norman, who married tennis legend Chris Evert last month, led by two shots from Harrington and Korea’s KJ Choi overnight and was bidding to become the oldest ever major champion.
But the “Great White Shark” from Queensland, who is only an occasional tournament player these days and last competed in the Open in 2005, added another chapter to the story of missed chances in the majors.
Norman has now led seven times going into the last day of a major without going on to win.
His only success in converting a third-round lead came at Turnberry when he won the Open in 1986.
Despite falling short, Norman’s surprise form lit up a wonderful but windy week at Birkdale, even with the absence of world number one Tiger Woods.
The Australian’s final-round woes began when he opened with three straight bogeys to hand Harrington the lead as Choi also faltered.
But the Irishman had his own struggles and dropped three straight shots going to the turn to reach the 10th one behind again.
Norman’s challenge unravelled with three bogeys in four holes at the beginning of the back nine as Harrington regrouped and made birdies at 13 and 15 to reach five over.
Poulter was in the clubhouse on seven over but Harrington’s six-foot eagle putt on 17 effectively sealed the title.
Afterwards, Harrington spoke of his delight after becoming only the seventh player of the post-war era to retain the Open title.
The 36-year-old now joins an illustrious list of golfing greats, saying “Very few players have won two majors or back-to-back majors.”
“Winning a second one sets you apart. It’s a new level and there are less people in that club.”
“I knew my game was there but maybe this week I got the right break at the right time and made the right decisions at the right time.”
“I tried my hardest not to think about the consequences of winning. I tried to convince myself I was going to win but not think about what it meant.”
“I had a great year as the Open champion, so much so I didn’t want to give the trophy back.”
The victory all but assures Harrington of a place in Nick Faldo's European Ryder Cup team for the defence of their title in September.
Outside of an automatic place a week ago, the Irishman has now leapt to the top of the rankings table.
Did you see the Open Championship of 2008? Who were you backing and did you feel Harrington deserved his title?
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