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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 July 2007, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK



By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Carnoustie

Padraig Harrington
Harrington is Ireland's first Open champion for 60 years

Padraig Harrington pipped Sergio Garcia in a four-hole play-off to clinch the 136th Open Championship at Carnoustie after one of the most dramatic finishes in recent years.

The Irishman won his maiden major title despite blowing a one-shot lead in the Barry Burn in regulation play in scenes reminiscent of Jean van de Velde's infamous collapse in 1999.

The 35-year-old Harrington put two shots into the stream in front of the 18th en route to a double-bogey six to allow Garcia, playing in the final group, a par putt to win the Open.

But the Spaniard, who was three clear overnight, missed. And Harrington beat his Ryder Cup team-mate by one stroke over the extra holes to become Europe's first major champion since Scotland's Paul Lawrie won a play-off over the same links eight years ago.

"If I'd lost after what happened on 18 I don't know what I would have thought about playing golf again," said Harrington, who carded 67 to finish seven under.

"I have come a long way. When I turned pro I would have settled for becoming a journeyman. It's been great to be named as someone who could win a major. To actually go and do it, well I don't know what to think."

I wasn't as sharp as I needed to be, tee to green, to win a major championship

Defending champion Tiger Woods

The Dubliner, European Order of Merit winner in 2006, also became the first Open winner from Ireland since Fred Daly triumphed at Hoylake in 1947.

For Garcia, who carded a two-over 73, it will be a bitter pill to swallow after leading for the first three rounds.

"To tell you the truth, I don't feel like I did anything wrong," said Garcia. "I really didn't miss a shot in the play-off. I hit unbelievable putts. They just didn't go in.

"Every time I get in this position, I never have any room for error. I should write a book on how not to miss a shot and not win a play-off."

Garcia also buckled alongside Tiger Woods at the 2002 US Open at Bethpage and slipped to fifth when playing alongside Woods in last year's Open at Hoylake.

The Spaniard has finished fifth, fifth and second in the last three Opens and now has 13 top-10 finishes in majors. But his reputation as one of the great players of his generation will continue to suffer unless he can convert a good performance in a major into a win.

Garcia began the day at nine under and edged to 10 under before suffering a mid-round stumble, starting with a wayward drive at the fifth.

Sergio Garcia
Garcia's birdie putt in the play-off at 18 just missed

He dropped strokes at five, seven and eight and was caught by Argentina's Andres Romero, but the 27-year-old Romero, no relation to Argentine great Eduardo, slipped back after driving into a gorse bush.

Harrington, six shots behind at the start of the day, joined Garcia at seven under after three birdies on the front nine.

And Garcia wore a haunted expression as Romero bounced straight back with birdies at 13 and 14 to make it a three-way tie at the top.

Australian left-hander Richard Green had set the clubhouse target at five under after equalling the course record of 64, a score also posted by American Steve Stricker on Saturday.

But Stricker, in the final group with Garcia, slipped back early and, along with the rest of the chasing pack, was relegated to a bit part.

Ernie Els had got to within two shots of the lead but his challenge faded on the back nine and he finished five under.

And the trademark charge from defending champion Woods, bidding to win three Opens in a row, never materialised as he carded a 70 for two under overall.

"I wasn't as sharp as I needed to be, tee to green, to win a major championship," said Woods. "I had a chance, I hung around and at least gave myself an opportunity."

Britain's bid again fell flat, with Justin Rose and Paul Broadhurst the best-placed at two under.

606: DEBATE

Romero looked set to upstage everyone when he added birdies on 15 and 16 to lead at nine under as Garcia battled his demons.

But the Argentine squandered all his good work with a double bogey on the 17th after a vicious ricochet from the concrete steps of the Barry Burn fired his ball out-of-bounds and he went on to finish six under.

Harrington took over the lead with an eagle at the long 14th while Romero was struggling, and though Garcia was fighting back, the Irishman was one clear at nine under going down the last.

History was in danger of repeating itself when Harrington's drive found the Barry Burn on the 18th, with memories of Van de Velde's triple-bogey seven via the water when needing a four to win in 1999 flooding back.

Harrington dropped out but again found the water with his second shot, and ran up a six to drop back to seven under, leaving Garcia needing to hole a 10-footer for victory.

His miss set up the play-off and Harrington raced to a two-shot lead with a birdie to Garcia's bogey on the first hole before they both parred 16 and 17.

Harrington, who won the Irish championship via a play-off last week, changed his strategy and chose to lay-up short of the 18th green this time. He chipped to 20 feet for three while Garcia made it on in two.

But when Garcia rattled his birdie putt past and took four, Harrington needed to hole from five feet for a bogey and victory.

The roar that accompanied his disappearing ball confirmed Harrington had won the title as well as rendering him speechless and 750,000 better off.

SEE ALSO
Brit Pack still waiting
22 Jul 07 |  Golf


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