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Harrington secures PGA Championship

August 11, 2008|Randall Mell | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Tiger who?

Ireland's Padraig Harrington mounted another dramatic back-nine charge Sunday to win the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, claiming consecutive major championships and three of the last six.

With clutch putting down the stretch, Harrington prevailed in a classic duel with Sergio Garcia to become the first European in 78 years to win the PGA Championship.

Harrington, 36, has stepped forcefully into the vacuum created when Tiger Woods was sidelined for the season because of a knee injury after winning the U.S. Open in June.

Harrington has done so with fierce closing skills under intense final-round major championship pressure.

"I know I love the idea of the back nine of a major on a Sunday," Harrington said. "I love it so much that I'm actually disappointed I'm seven months away from the next major, and I don't know what I'm going to do.

"I love the feeling of knowing that it's going to come down to the back nine, it's going to come down to who can do it under pressure in the last nine holes."

With Garcia sizing up a 12-foot putt for par at the 18th hole that he hoped would force a playoff, Harrington buried the winning putt.

With a steady, confident stroke, Harrington holed a 15-foot putt for par, igniting a roar across Oakland Hills as he gritted his teeth and pumped his right fist in jubilation.

Harrington joins Woods, Nick Price and Walter Hagen as the only players to win the British Open and PGA Championship in the same season. He's the first European to win the Wanamaker Trophy since Scotland's Tommy Armour in 1930. He's also the first European to win consecutive majors.

"Obviously, things like that will take time to sink in," Harrington said. "At the moment, I'm just enjoying the PGA win for the PGA win."

Harrington said he felt like the championship was decided at the 17th hole, where he carved a five-iron to 10 feet. He buried that clutch putt for his first outright lead.

Garcia answered with a five-iron to five feet at the 17th, but he missed his birdie chance, pulling his putt left.

"I kind of felt like I had won the PGA at that stage," Harrington said.

Fashioning a back-nine 32 reminiscent of his brilliant finish at Royal Birkdale to win the British Open in July, Harrington came from three shots behind Garcia at the turn.

"Why are you making this a disappointment?" Garcia said when quizzed by reporters. "Obviously, I was trying to win, but that's it. It's not disappointing.

"When you give it your best, and the end result is not what you wish for, it's hard, but you feel good."

Garcia, 28, remains the active player most widely regarded as the best not to have won a major. It's his third runner-up finish in a major. Harrington also beat him in a playoff at last year's British Open at Carnoustie.

"The only thing I can do is go back home with my head up high and keep working on it," Garcia said.

In a marathon Sunday, Harrington closed out consecutive 66s on a course so many players called the hardest they've ever seen. Saturday's storm and suspended round forced Garcia to play 35 holes Sunday, Harrington 28.

Harrington's three-under 277 was two shots better than Garcia (68) and Ben Curtis (71), the 54-hole leader whose bogeys at the 15th and 17th holes cost him.

Curtis played in the final pairing, where he could see what Garcia and Harrington were doing in front of him.

"The way Padraig played was pretty unbelievable," said Curtis, the 2003 British Open winner. "Those two guys were making birdies all day, and you could hear the crowd. So it was kind of fun."

Curtis' consolation prize was a spot on the American Ryder Cup team. His finish lifted him into the top eight of the final points total, bumping Steve Stricker out.

Garcia played solidly all day. His six-iron at the 15th appeared to hit the bottom of the flagstick in the hole, then carom 10 feet out.

At the 16th, he made his first big mistake, pushing that same six-iron into the water, setting up a costly bogey.

Harrington capitalized there, making yet another clutch putt. He ran in a 12-foot putt for par to tie Garcia for the lead.

"Winning three of the last six majors, that's like Tiger right there," Curtis said. "If [Harrington] keeps playing like this, I would say 'Watch out, Jack [Nicklaus].' "



72-hole scores at $7.5-million PGA Championship

277 (-3) -- $1,350,000

Padraig Harrington: 71-74-66-66

279 (-1) -- $660,000

Sergio Garcia: 69-73-69-68

Ben Curtis: 73-67-68-71

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