A Great Year for the Irish In 2007 The Open returned to Carnoustie — the scene of Europe’s last major triumph — for the first time in eight years. During that time Tiger Woods had won the Championship on three occasions and this year he was looking to secure his third victory in a row, something that had not been achieved since Peter Thomson completed his hat-trick back in 1956. The course itself was warmly received by the players, and even the pouring rain on the first day of play did little to dampen the anticipation. Early interest focused on Woods, who was paired with the 1999 winner, Paul Lawrie, and the 1998 Silver Medallist, Justin Rose. Although Tiger recorded an ominous 69, including an eagle at the 6th, it was Sergio Garcia who set the early pace. Using a belly putter for only the second time in competition, he carded a splendid round of 65, which included seven birdies and just one bogey. On Friday the wind had picked up considerably and, as the players came in, the scores being returned reflected this.
Only five players managed to break 70, with Mike Weir’s 68 proving to be the lowest score of the day. In stark contrast Saturday saw the scores begin to tumble; 16 players went round in under 70, nearly half the field finished at below or level-par and American Steve Stricker broke the course’s Open record, with a superb round of 64. Despite this, Garcia, with a round of 68, was still able to extend his lead and finish the day three shots ahead of his nearest challenger, the resurgent Stricker. Clearly in the mix, with a steady round of 68, was Padraig Harrington who had quietly moved himself up to third place on the leaderboard.
The drama on the final day built up slowly; early scores of 65 from Hunter Mahan and Ben Curtis set the standard, whilst Richard Green carded a round of 64 to equal the course record. By the time Andres Romero had taken the Clubhouse lead with an erratic yet sublime round of 67, which contained ten birdies, two bogeys and two double bogeys, the excitement was palatable. It was at this stage that the focus of attention switched to Garcia and Harrington — two men who were building completely different rounds. Although Garcia started with a birdie he was unable to continue in this form. After recording bogeys at the 5th, 7th and 8th holes, he made the turn at two over par and was now tied for the lead with Romero. Harrington, meanwhile, was putting together a very solid round, and three birdies over the front nine put him three up at the turn, and only two shots off the leaders. The Spaniard responded with birdies at the 13th and 14th, restoring his lead to nine under, with four holes remaining. After holing an eagle at the 14th, Harrington found himself on the 18th tee also at nine under.
Unfortunately, two successive shots into the burn resulted in a double bogey, meaning that Garcia, who had dropped a shot at the 15th, only had to par the final hole to win. However, after landing his ball in a bunker, Garcia could only make a bogey and he, like Harrington, finished on 277. Harrington, whose challenge had built up slowly, carried his momentum into the resulting playoff. Carding a birdie at the 1st he took a two stroke lead over Garcia, who could only shoot a bogey. Both players then proceeded to make par at the 16th and 17th holes, which meant the Spaniard needed to pick up two shots at the 18th to continue his challenge.
Despite going for power off the tee he could still only make par, and although Harrington dropped a shot, this was not quite good enough. At the age of 35 it was Harrington’s first major triumph, and the first success by an Irishman in The Open since Fred Daly, in 1947. With Holywood’s Rory McIlroy’s claiming the Silver Medal, 2007 certainly proved to be a great year for the Irish.