by Golf World, October 2008
If at the beginning of 2007 you had suggested that Padraig Harrington would win three of the next six Majors, you would have either been mad, Irish or both. Yet, at Oakland Hills, for the third time in 13 months, he came from behind to win his third Major.
At Carnoustie last July he wrote off his chances before the championship, saying he didn't think he was the European favourite (even though he was). Then at Royal Birkdale this summer his "wrist injury" enabled him to come in under the radar. And in Michigan, halfway through the championship on Friday night, he walked off the course saying: "Clearly, I'm not ready for this week."
Clearly, by Sunday night, he was. Just like at Birkdale, he shot 32 on the back nine to clinch victory. Just like at Carnoustie, it was Sergio Garcia who bore the brunt of his brilliance.
With this victory, he became the first European to win the US PGA Championship since Tommy Armour in 1930 and the only European ever to win back-to-back Majors since the first Masters in 1934.
His eye-staring intensity of Sunday made us all forget Tiger's absence, and his incredible one-putting - he enjoyed 10 such occasions in his last 13 holes, most notably with a 15-footer on the 18th for an extraordinary closing par made him a very deserving champion.
He also became only the fourth player in the game's history to win The Open and the US PGA in the same year; behind Walter Hagen (1925), Nick Price (1994), and Tiger Woods (2000 and 2006). And, with two Majors this year, he must now be favourite (yes, ahead of Woods) to become the Player of the Year.
He reflected on his victory...
How does this latest Major differ from your victory at Birkdale?
I was very comfortable with my game at Birkdale, but this time that wasn't the case. I wasn't happy with the way I was swinging the club all week. I don't know if it was my focus, dehydration or tiredness, but something had me a little bit off my stride. My co-ordination wasn't quite there. In the end, adrenalin kept me going.
What was you mindset during the final round?
I know that in a Major, nobody plays on Sunday without making some mistakes. So as long as I could hang on in there, I knew I'd get my opportunity. So I was patient. Even when halfway through the round it looked as though it was going to be Sergio's day, I knew I would get an opportunity.
Talk us through your decisive putt on the 18th green?
When you've got a putt you know you've got to hole, it's nice to see the line straight away. It was a double-breaker, but it was an easy putt to read. I hit it a cup right of the hole and it was slightly downhill, so I didn't want to hit it too hard. I rolled it down there and it broke from a cup right to just outside the left edge. And I knew the pace was just about right so, as it was getting close to the hole, I could see it breaking and was just saying 'Go on, keep going, keep going...' Thankfully it got just inside the left half and dropped.
On Friday night, you seemed to think you were out of it?
It's fascinating because halfway through the week I definetely didn't have my swing. I finished my second round with a huge block-hook and a massive pull-hook. I talked to my trainer at home that night and he thought I might be dehydrated, and that was leading to lack of co-ordination. So that gave me something to focus on, whether it was the cause or not. At least it gave me something tangible I could actually pin it on, and it gave me the belief that if I could get my hydration right, my co-ordination would come back.
Are you ready to challenge Tiger?
That's a nice question. It's a big step. I've probably been the leading player in Europe for much of the last six years. The next step now is to move up and start competing on a different level. I've only got Phil and Tiger ahead of me now. Do I believe I can improve as a player? Yes. There's plenty of parts in my game I can improve. There's lots of stuff I can work on. And I am maturing as a player, just like I have done throughout my career. I'm a good learner. I've got a long way to go to catch Tiger, but the only way I can do that is to focus on what I'm doing and not what he's doing.
Because of Carnoustie, did you feel you had an edge over Sergio?
I felt an edge in terms of my experince and my ability to take an opportunity when it comes around. I wasn't so sentimental to think I won the last one so he should win this one. Judging by yje support,some people were saying maybe it was time for Sergio to get one. Obviously, I had to get myself away from that, like I did with Greg Norman at Birkdale. I know now I have the idea of how to play the back nine of a Major on Sunday. I love the feeling of knowing it's going to come down to the back nine. I love it so much that I'm actually disappointed we're seven months away from the next Major. And I don't know what I'm going to do.