Date: July 21, 2008

Shark falls short

Four days after he feared a wrist injury might keep him out, Padraig Harrington is celebrating back-to-back British Open glories. This time it came in a stylish four-stroke victory without the agonies of 12 months ago when he double-bogeyed the last and had to go into a play-off with Sergio Garcia. Instead, on a Royal Birkdale course with winds that tested everybody to the limit, two birdies and an eagle in the last six holes made Harrington the first European to make a successful defence of the Claret Jug since James Braid in 1906. Ian Poulter had made a terrific late bid – he covered the last 10 holes in three under – to almost become Britain&aposs first major champion since Paul Lawrie in 1999. Australian veteran Greg Norman – the leader by two strokes heading into the final round – finished third, tied with Henrik Stenson. Norman, the 53-year-old 54-hole leader had set out with the dream of becoming the oldest winner in major history. He lost the lead with a terrible start, got it back by the turn, but was chasing a losing battle when he bogeyed the 13th and 14th. When he pauses to think about it, however, he will no doubt realise that third place was still phenomenal. Norman, a part-time golfer these days, had unquestionably left his mark on the week, though, and had captured the imagination of the sporting world by doing what he had on the opening three days. It was the eighth time he had taken a lead into the final day of a major, but the first since that unforgettable round at Augusta in 1996 when, six clear, he collapsed to a 78 and Nick Faldo pounced with a 67 to win by five. But it was Harrington&aposs day; his poise under pressure on the back nine was something to behold as he closed his final round with a one-under-par 69. Harrington went into overdrive with birdies on the 13th and 15th before hitting a glorious second to four feet on the downwind 572-yard 17th that effectively clinched victory. Since the Second World War the only men to have retained the title are Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson (three in a row), Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods. All the pre-tournament talk was around Woods&apos absence, but even if he had been present he might have struggled to beat Harrington&aposs three-over par total of 283. Norman led the 18-strong Australian contingent with Robert Allenby next best in a tie for seventh at 12-over for the tournament. Adam Scott was a shot further back in a tie for 16th and Richard Green just missed the top 30. He was locked in a share for 32nd place alongside Nick O&aposHern. Final scores from the British Open +3: Padraig Harrington 74 68 72 69 +7: Ian Poulter 72 71 75 69 +9: Henrik Stenson 76 72 70 71, Greg Norman (Australia) 70 70 72 77 +10: Jim Furyk 71 71 77 71, Chris Wood 75 70 73 72 +12: Robert Allenby (Australia) 69 73 76 74, Stephen Ames 73 70 78 71, Paul Casey 78 71 73 70, Ben Curtis 78 69 70 75, Ernie Els 80 69 74 69, Robert Karlsson 75 73 75 69, Anthony Kim 73 74 71 75, Steve Stricker 77 71 71 73, +13: Kyung-Ju Choi 72 67 75 79, Justin Leonard 77 70 73 73, Adam Scott (Australia) 70 74 77 72 Also: +15: Richard Green (Australia) 76 72 76 71, Nick O Hern (Australia) 74 75 74 72 +17: Stuart Appleby (Australia) 72 71 79 75 +21: Brendan Jones (Australia) 74 73 83 71, Craig Parry (Australia) 77 70 77 77