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How a single black cloud helped Padraig Harrington to Open Championship victory at Carnoustie in 2007

 

By Phil Casey

It may have been 11 years ago, but Padraig Harrington remembers every detail of his maiden major victory in the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie.

And when we say every detail, we mean every little detail, from random changes in temperature to the distance of his second shot to the first hole of his play-off with Sergio Garcia.

Garcia had taken a three-shot lead over Steve Stricker into the final round, with Harrington part of a seven-strong group another three shots adrift.

However, a few hours later it was Harrington who stood on the 18th tee with a one-shot lead after surging through the field with four birdies and an eagle, only to twice visit the Barry Burn and run up a double bogey.

Minutes earlier Argentina's Andres Romero, who carded a remarkable 10 birdies in the final round, had thrown away the lead by dropping three shots in the last two holes to leave Garcia back out in front by a shot, only for the Spaniard to bogey the 18th after pulling his approach into a bunker.

Harrington and Garcia were left to contest a four-hole aggregate play-off, which was effectively decided on the opening hole as Harrington made birdie and Garcia a bogey after again failing to get up and down from sand.

"I try to explain that in winning a tournament, especially major tournaments, there's so many things that happen in the week that can't be replicated, and people seem to think that winning is 100 per cent under control of the player," Harrington said.

"It's control to get yourself into a state of mind and a place that you play good golf that could lead to you being in contention that could lead to you winning, but the things that fall into place, I could list a million of them.

"But the most bizarre involves going up the first play-off hole, where I hit my tee shot down the fairway. Sergio's hit an iron short right of me in the rough and as we walked up a small, black cloud came across the sun and the temperature dropped five degrees.

"And I had been playing the week before at the European Club and I was amazed how much the modern golf ball changes its performance in [different] temperatures.

"The new golf balls go forever when it gets warm, but I saw the reverse of that, how short it goes when it gets cool. I had 168 yards into the pin on the first hole and I saw the temperature drop.

"I took an extra club, hit it harder than I wanted to hit it and just got it to pin-high. Sergio, I don't know how he hit it but he was two clubs short with where he landed his second shot.

"So this was all because this one black cloud came across the sun and the temperature dropped, and I had played the week before at the European Club and I had seen this happen."

For the second year running Harrington will compete at the scene of one of his Open triumphs, the 46-year-old missing the cut last year at Royal Birkdale, nine years after his four-shot win over Ian Poulter.

And he hopes that getting most of his reminiscing out of the way during two sponsor days at Carnoustie will allow him to concentrate on a more successful performance this time round.

"I think Carnoustie is different to Birkdale," Harrington added. "I go back to Carnoustie every year at the Dunhill Championship so I'm familiar with the golf course. I had not been back to Birkdale in the nine years. That was certainly much more nostalgic.

"I did like going up to Carnoustie and talking through it because when you go into an Open as kind of defending champion from the last time it was played there, that adds more pressure and stress. There's a lot of stuff going on and you want to deflect some of that.

"If you want to be competitive, you've got to figure a way of taking it somewhat easy during the week. When it comes to a major the goal is to turn up and be ready so that you do less the week of a major.

"You certainly don't do more practise the week of a major. You do less. You do less work in the gym. You actually take it easier. It's likely I'll only go back and defend at Carnoustie once so I'll make an extra effort to enjoy it. I'll take time to smell the roses as I did at Birkdale."

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from Carnoustie due to injury.

Daly, who beat Constantino Rocca in a play-off for his second major title in 1995, has been sidelined by a knee problem.

Tournament organisers announced the 52-year-old American will be replaced in the field by compatriot Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner. Adrian Otaegui, Aaron Wise and JB Holmes are the next reserves.

Belfast Telegraph

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