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History of The Open

Padraig Harrington


The two-time Champion Golfer's best Open years


Padraig Harrington will forever be remembered for his back-to-back Open wins, becoming the first European to successfully defend the Claret Jug in more than 100 years.

The Irishman first hit the jackpot at Carnoustie in 2007, storming from behind to overhaul Sergio Garcia in a play-off on a dramatic final Sunday.

And the following year, that dream became a fairy tale as he beat Greg Norman at Royal Birkdale.

So, as Harrington prepares for his 48th birthday, we take a look back at his famous Open years.

A star is born

After a superb amateur career which included success in the Walker Cup, Harrington turned pro in 1995. A year later, he won his first event at the Spanish Open and then made his Open debut at Royal Lytham & St Annes.


He impressed on the Lancashire links, made the cut and eventually went on to finish T-18 – one of six top-20 finishes to date.

But it was the following year at Royal Troon where he really made a mark.

The week did not start brilliantly for Harrington with a four-over-par 75 kicking things off but a steady 69 on Friday saw him reach the weekend.

From there, Harrington attacked. He hit another 69 on Saturday to get back to level-par before then shooting a fine 67 on the final day to finish T-5th alongside Stephen Ames.

Major contender

After a couple of disappointing seasons prior to the millennium, Harrington quickly became an established force on tour.

In 2000 he notched another top-five finish in a major, this time at the US Open, while he continued to collect wins by adding the Sao Paulo Open and Madrid Masters to his name.

However, it was in 2002 when he made a real leap forward with further top-10 finishes at the Masters and US Open, setting him up for a serious run at the Claret Jug.

Muirfield hosted The 131st Open and Harrington continued his impressive run of form, with a 69 and 67 putting him in a share of the lead at the turn.

However, the weather turned on day three as an army of black clouds rolled in and dumped their load. A five-over 76 was not as bad as it could have been, with Tiger Woods shooting an 81 in appalling conditions.


Harrington still fell to 10th, four strokes back, before mounting a late charge for the Jug. He carved out a fine 67 in excellent conditions but finished just one stroke back from reaching the play-off.

“Muirfield in 2002 was the strangest week for me,” he said. “It was the first time I had a real chance of winning a major, winning The Open.

“I played phenomenal that week, it was four days of the best tee-to-green golf I’ve ever had. I was gutted to miss out – and I was gutted because I could take nothing away from the week because I didn’t know why I played so well.

Luck of the Irish

Harrington left Scotland with the idea that he “needed to get lucky to win a major”, and he had to wait five years for his fortune to change.

In 2007, The Open returned to Carnoustie in Scotland, a course with a fearsome reputation.

“There’s no doubt Carnoustie is the toughest of the Championship courses we play,” Harrington said.

“Every time you walk down that 18th hole, you look exactly where [Jean] Van de Velde hit his second shot.”

With some of the toughest closing holes in golf, Carnoustie always keeps things interesting. And no-one who saw it can forget the closing stages of The 136th Open.

Harrington started the final round six shots off Garcia but a sensational eagle on the 14th helped him to a one-stroke advantage heading to the 18th tee.


Images of Van de Velde – who chucked away a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 - must have burned bright for Harrington. He twice entered the Barry Burn, the stream of water that snakes across the hole.

He made a double-bogey, thinking his chances had gone. But Garcia made a bogey of his own and a play-off was on the cards.

“I was really confident on 18 but I think it’s the hardest finishing hole in golf. I stood at the tee, really confident. I was buzzing and I hit an appallingly bad tee shot.

“I thought I lost The Open. The only time in my life I think I’ve ever been on the golf course and embarrassed.

“I would have been happy for the ground to open up and swallow me up.”

However, Harrington emerged unscathed, a birdie at the first helping him beat Garcia and finally lift the Claret Jug.

“It was exhilarating,” he said. “You’ve won The Open. It was something I dreamed about for sure, but to have done it was amazing. Like, my name is etched in history.”

Double trouble

Like a London bus, when you wait so long for one to come along, two come at once.

A sprained wrist almost ruled him out of his title defence in 2008 but Harrington did the unthinkable and successfully defended his crown at Royal Birkdale.


At a tricky Southport course, Harrington was tied for second ahead of the final round, two shots behind Australian Greg Norman. However, it was England’s Ian Poulter that proved to be the Irishman’s biggest challenger.

The two traded blows throughout a thrilling round but Harrington eventually got the upper hand, with an eagle on 17 seeing off Poulter to become the first European since James Braid in 1906 to successfully defend his crown.

“I had a great year as Open Champion, so much so I didn’t want to give it back,” Harrington joked as he cradled the Claret Jug.

“Carnoustie will forever be so exciting because it was my first major, but there was always something about wanting it afterwards.

“Has it changed my life? Yeah, I would think it’s changed my life, for as long as we go on there will be an Open Championship and my name will be on that trophy.”