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Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Sunday, 20 July 2008 18:39 UK
The 137th Open Championship
Royal Birkdale - 17-20 July, 2008

By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Royal Birkdale


Harrington showed superb composure to win back-to-back titles

Padraig Harrington successfully defended his Open Championship title with a four-shot victory over Ian Poulter at Royal Birkdale.

The Irishman, 36, fired a closing 69 to end three over as England's Poulter moved up after also going round in 69.

Veteran Greg Norman, 53, slipped back with a 77 to end joint third on nine over with Swede Henrik Stenson.

English amateur Chris Wood, 20, finished with American Jim Furyk on 10 over par.

Harrington, who beat Sergio Garcia in a play-off 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.

But the Dubliner recovered to overhaul his illustrious Australian playing partner in the final group and record a magnificent back-to-back victory, becoming the first European to successfully defend the Open since James Braid in 1906.

Harrington said his pre-tournament injury took the pressure off

"I had a great year as the Open champion, so much so I did not want to give it back," said Harrington.

"It's brilliant to come back and defend. I convinced myself I could win and I stayed focused and managed to get the job done."

Norman, who married tennis great Chris Evert last month, led by two shots from Harrington and South Korea's KJ Choi overnight and was bidding to become the oldest ever major champion.

But the Queenslander, 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.

Moon on 606

"I am disappointed - that would be an understatement," said Norman. "It was a tough day today but I can hold my head up high. I hung in there but it was not to be.

"It was a very impressive victory by Padraig. It looked like it was getting away from him but the putt he made on 10 was the one that stabilised him.

"It's been a good week, I came here with a good attitude and a fresh approach to life and it has shone through in my game."

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.

Norman had mixed emotions after losing his lead in the final round

Most notable among Norman's failures was when he blew a six-shot lead to hand Nick Faldo the Masters title in 1996

He also lost out when Larry Mize chipped-in to win a play-off for the 1987 Masters, and when Mark Calcavecchia beat him and countryman Wayne Grady in a play-off for the Open in 1989.

But though he fell short, Norman's surprise form lit up a wonderful but windy week at Birkdale despite 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.

Ian Poulter
Poulter clinched second place after a one under par final round
Poulter was in the clubhouse on seven over but Harrington's six-foot eagle putt on 17 effectively sealed the title.

Choi, who was tied with Harrington on four over after three rounds, fell back with a 79 to end 13 over.

England's Simon Wakefield, third overnight, partnered Choi in the penultimate group on Sunday but plummeted with a disastrous back nine of 43, including a triple-bogey eight at the 17th to end 14 over.

South Africa's two-time Open champion Ernie Els ended in a tie for seventh on 12 over despite a first-round 80 after carding a closing 69.

England's Paul Casey also finished tied seventh after a 70, as did countryman David Howell who climbed back up the leaderboard with a 67.

Former champion Ben Curtis (75), Swede Robert Karlsson (69), Canada's Stephen Ames (71), Australian Robert Allenby (74) and Americans Anthony Kim (75) and Steve Stricker (73) completed the group at 12 over.

World number two Phil Mickelson (71) finished back on 14 over alongside Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell (72), the first-round joint leader.

Scotland's eight-time European number one Colin Montgomerie ended with a 76 for 18 over par, while Lee Westwood was 20 over and Justin Rose 21 over.

see also
The Open leaderboard
17 Jul 08 |  Live scores
Open day four as it happened
20 Jul 08 |  Golf
Open day four photos
20 Jul 08 |  Golf

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