Date: August 12, 2008

Harrington edges Garcia to take title

Padraig Harrington broke a 78-year European jinx as he won the 90th US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills to claim back-to-back majors after a nerve-wracking duel with Sergio Garcia. Harrington became the first European since Scotland&aposs Tommy Armour in 1930 to win the year&aposs final major and the first man since Tiger Woods in 2006 to record consecutive major wins, the world number one also having won the Claret Jug and Wanamaker Trophy back-to-back. It also delivered a third major in six attempts for the Irishman – although it was not without a terrific battle against Garcia that stirred memories of their Open play-off at Carnoustie in 2007, as well as with 54-hole leader Ben Curtis. American Curtis, the 2003 Open champion, appeared to have fought off the European challenge of Garcia, Harrington and Sweden&aposs Henrik Stenson over the opening holes – having gone into the rain-delayed fourth round with a one-shot lead over the Swede and fellow American JB Holmes with a third-round two-under-par 68 just 140 minutes previously. Playing in three-man groups and with the backmarkers starting on the 10th tee to try and get back on schedule after losing half the day&aposs play to rain on Saturday, Curtis got off to a great start with an opening birdie. Aaron Baddeley shot a three-over par 73 to be the best placed Australian in a tie for 13th, while Stuart Appleby finished a further stroke behind. Curtis was four under after six – only to unravel with three bogeys around the turn at the eighth, 10th and 11th. Garcia and Harrington, who had completed a third-round 66 in the morning to the Spaniard&aposs 69, were playing together – starting at one over par – with Garcia the more impressive over the opening holes. The matchplay feel to their duel was underlined at the 15th as Garcia sent a six-iron second shot that bounced in and out of the hole from 172 yards to around 10 feet – while Harrington set his 147-yard approach wide of the hole and saw it roll to the same distance on the other side. They matched each other with their putts, too, Harrington&aposs birdie attempt racing outside the cup and Garcia&aposs trickling inside as both made par. Behind them, though, Curtis was showing he was not out of it – with a birdie at the 14th to join Garcia at three under and Harrington a shot back. The drama intensified at 16 when Garcia found water with his second shot after his ball bounced off the putting surface and into the lake. He took a drop from around 50 yards, and this time found the green. Harrington reached a greenside bunker with his second shot, and his sand wedge did not go to plan as it rolled some 25 feet past the hole. But he regrouped in style to sink the putt – and as Garcia made bogey with an equally difficult putt, the rivals found themselves in a three-way lead with Curtis two under with two to play. Garcia and Harrington had both sent in laser-like five-irons off the tee to the 17th green – from which the Irishman gained the upper hand, nervelessly securing a birdie and then seeing his rival&aposs putt lip out. Harrington teed off on 18, the most difficult hole of the week, as the outright leader of the championship for the first time in 72 holes at Oakland Hills. His tee shot, though, handed the momentum to Garcia as he found a fairway bunker to the right, but the Spaniard followed suit, driving right also and into the rough close by. Facing a steep upward lie, Harrington hit a fat second shot out of the bunker into right-side rough – and he gave himself a putt for par with a superb seven iron onto the middle of the green. Garcia had found a greenside bunker with his second shot – and after returning from a bathroom break, he hit his bunker shot to leave a tricky 10-footer for par. Harrington putted first, downhill from 15 feet and pumped his fist as it fell into the cup for remarkable par four. Garcia, unable to catch the Irishman, saw his shorter putt roll outside the hole – and another major eluded him. Harrington retired to the scorer&aposs room to record his second consecutive 66, finishing at three under par as Curtis teed off the 18th needing an eagle two on the final hole. That was one miracle too many – and the man who, after his second-round 74, had claimed he ran out of steam was 48 hours later on top of the world. “It is totally different to The Open. I was very confident in The Open,” Harrington told Sky Sports. “Here I hit some of the wildest golf shots ever hit on a golf course on Friday.” “In the end it was a lot of sheer willpower.” Garcia was left to rue narrow margins. “If a couple of things had gone differently, we would have been talking differently,” said the Spaniard.” “But they went Padraig&aposs way, not mine.”