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Ice-man Harrington finishes as he started

By Paul Ferguson

It was a case of, "I've started so I'll finish" for back-to-back Open champion Padraig Harrington yesterday.

The Dubliner was frozen solid as he walked round the gales hit 18 holes at Royal Birkdale in a short sleeved t-shirt - on his way to a stunning defence of his crown.

But there was absolutely no way Harrington was even thinking about doing something as sensible as putting on a sweater or windproof jacket.

Instead, the intensely superstitious 36-year-old braved the cold weather for fear of a turn in his fortunes.

Bitter cold winds and overcast skies sent even the toughest of characters for their winter woolly hats and fleeces.

Harrington though was striking the ball so well, holing his putts while others fell by the wayside that wrapping up didn't even enter his consideration.

"I was cold," confessed Harrington, "really cold at times, but I wasn't going to change a thing.

"I really should have put a sweater on but I was swinging so well that my thought was if I put a sweater on it may affect my game. So it stayed in the bag."

I suppose when you are winning there is always a warm feeling. And unlike last year, when Harrington nearly blew it – he was able to enjoy a walk down the 72nd hole and accept the applause from the packed grandstands.

For you see over the last five years Harrington has never been able to enjoy that. For three years prior to his win he missed the cut and last year he made the mistake on the 72nd hole, which forced a play-off with Sergio Garcia, he couldn't enjoy the moment.

Harrington therefore savoured every moment of his walk up towards the packed and appreciative grandstands. And he had every right to milk the wonderful occasion, raising his hat and arms to his adoring public and grinning like a Cheshire cat.

For he knew once he sunk that putt – which he could have had four goes at and still ended up Open champion – that the Claret Jug which he'd only given back was awaiting for him along with little son Paddy, wife Caroline and baby Ciaran.

After his antics last year when Paddy junior tried to steal the limelight from his daddy at Carnoustie, Master Harrington was actually quite reserved yesterday.

Obviously one year wiser, there was no talk about ladybirds and maybe protective mum Caroline had a quite word in his ear about no disrupting champion Dad's press conference was swirling round in his seat.

This year it was left to Paddy senior to hog all of the limelight.

And it was truly a remarkable conclusion to a dramatic, tense and rivetting Open Championship.

We had it all - high winds, major winners being embarrassed, amateur dramatics and of course not forgetting a Shark lurking about.

And thank goodness for a sighting of the Great White again.

A 53-year-old former two-time champion who ignited the Open Championship by rolling back the years to produce exquisite links golf, in horrendous weather, that stunned the watching world.

Greg Norman was on the hunt from the first round but sadly when the Shark went in for the kill, his pray sadly swam away to safety.

His scintillating golf at Royal Birkdale was only part of the Norman conquest spectacle for watching fans.

For many, especially the men in attendance, it was that fine, delectable, specimen of womanhood on his arm between rounds that attracted most attention.

Sadly, the first supermodel of tennis has been a distant friend to the British public in recent years.

Chris Evert though, the subject of much male "attention" in the late seventies and eighties, was re-introduced to us all as Mrs Greg Norman and returned with all the sparkle and beauty that graced many a Wimbledon court.

A few years older yes, but still as stylish and alluring as she was in her prime.

Having recently married in Bermuda, the famous sporting duo looked very much the love sick teenagers as they walked hand-in-hand around the golf course

And as a proud American, she played her role – lead cheerleader for the Norman camp – superbly well.

But there wasn't a short pleated skirt in sight, well it wasn't the weather for it. Instead, she showed how to make waterproofs look sexy.

Her man though certainly didn't let her down – a monumental effort that simply ran out of legs in the closing stages.

But this Open, without don't forget the phenomenon that is Tiger Woods, was all the more magical for the re-appearance of the Great White Shark.

And if truth be told, did we even miss the world No.1 at this Open Championship?

Would this tournament have been a greater sporting spectacle with the 14-time major champion in the field?

Sure, it would have been interesting to see if he, unlike his fellow Americans, would have been able to deal with the 50mph gale force winds.

However this Open Championship had enough excitement, drama and suspense that from the day and hour this tournament started at 6.30 on Thursday morning, Mr Woods' name was hardly mentioned.

Going into the final day we even had the prospect of an amateur in touching distance of the Claret Jug.

Champion Harrington insists Chris Wood, who finished joint fifth, has massive future ahead of him. Well that's of course going to be true – standing at 6ft 5ins he is already a giant of the game.

And then we have Simon Wakefield – virtually unknown unless you happen to be a keen follower of the European Tour.

The wannabe pilot was flying high at the top of the leaderboard on Saturday night only to be brought crashing back down to earth yesterday.

For all the sub plots however, Harrington racing with a four shot victory to retain his title after a wrist injury nearly caused him to pull out is

That means we now have two major champions this year who have both won their respective titles while carrying injuries – Tiger and Padraig.

So seeing as Mr Harrington is a superstitious character don't be surprised if he ends up with a mystery injury once again next year after another successful defence of the Irish PGA.

Maybe that's a bit drastic but I'm sure it will go through his mind.

Belfast Telegraph


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