Ronan Flood knew he had given Padraig Harrington the right club for the shot that effectively sealed victory in The 137th Open at Royal Birkdale in 2008, but the caddie was nevertheless prepared for plenty of criticism had things gone horribly wrong.
As he stood in the fairway contemplating his second shot to the par-5 17th hole on Sunday, defending champion Harrington held a two-stroke advantage over nearest rival Ian Poulter.
Strong winds had made scoring difficult all week – not a single player was under par – and Harrington, who had begun the day two behind a 53-year-old Greg Norman, could have been forgiven for adopting a cautious approach as he sought to hold on to his lead.
Instead, the Irishman chose to attack, going for the green in two at the penultimate hole with his trusty 5-wood.
In the latest instalment of our ‘Caddie Stories’ series, Flood said: "It was 272 (yards) to the hole, I think it was about 228 to carry the bunker, and once you carried the bunker short of the green, anywhere over that was fine.
“The 5-wood is his favourite club, so it was an easy decision for us to make. He had hit it off the tee, he really liked it, hit it well and it was sitting on a little downslope, so it was unlikely to get up in the air - which was the worry because there was a crosswind - and blow it out of bounds.
“But I did know, as I stood there and he was practice swinging, that the whole world was saying, ‘what is he doing letting him hit a 5-wood?’
“I knew that everybody at home would be shouting, ‘what are you doing’. I knew it was his favourite club, it was the right club for him to play. But certainly I knew who was getting the flak if it didn't come off!”
Flood need not have worried. Despite the strong crosswinds and the enormity of the situation, Harrington hit a sensational approach shot, his ball landing just short of the green and bounding up to within a few feet of the hole to leave a short putt for eagle.
“Once he hit the second shot on 17, for me it was all over,” acknowledged Flood, who was so convinced of victory by that stage he found himself surprised by Harrington’s next move.
“He had a putt for eagle and he called me over and I genuinely thought he was calling me over to say ‘I've just won The Open again, I'm gonna win The Open’.
“But he actually called me in to read the putt. It took me a couple of seconds to get back in and realise that, hang on, he actually wants a line on this.”
Harrington converted his eagle putt, ensuring the final hole provided an enjoyable experience for the duo. Their 2008 triumph stood in sharp contrast to the tension of 12 months earlier at Carnoustie, where Harrington double-bogeyed the 18th to give up a one-shot lead before eventually pipping Sergio Garcia in a four-hole play-off.
A grinning Flood added: "That was the first time that I got to experience walking down the 18th without much stress. I think he was four ahead - I pretty much could have won from there.”
Harrington parred the last to retain his title, but his second successive Open win had appeared a far less likely prospect just a few days earlier. The Irishman had sustained a wrist injury when swinging his driver into a bean bag on the weekend prior to the tournament.
His activity was limited during the practice days at Royal Birkdale and he was therefore unsure exactly how he would fare when the tournament began in miserable weather.
“When we got there on the Thursday morning, he didn't know whether (he could play) ... it could have been one shot and just walk in,” said Flood.
"(It was) one of the worst mornings I've been on the golf course, which probably helped in the sense that you weren't really hitting shots full out for quite a while. It was about the fourth or the fifth by the time he hit his first shot (at full power). I think the fourth hole, it was kind of out of a bush, like a bit of gorse, and he hit it, and after he hit it, he just looked at me and said 'it's fine, good, if we can get through that we're fine'.”
Harrington could only manage a four-over 74 on day one, yet that still represented a respectable score given the weather. As others faltered, Harrington went from strength to strength, shooting 68, 72 and 69 over the next three days to retain the Claret Jug.
“The conditions were so bad it definitely was beneficial to be rested rather than having worn yourself out practising,” reasoned Flood.
“The form he was in at the time and as good as he is playing links golf, it was ok. It didn't matter really how often he played the course. He knew how to play links golf.”