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Caddie Stories


Ronan Flood recalls Carnoustie drama

Padraig Harrington and his caddie, Ronan Flood, celebrate winning The Open at Carnoustie
"I just kept talking to him and looking for him to give me a response, just say anything."

The 136th Open ultimately ended with Padraig Harrington celebrating a maiden major victory, but it is fair to say success did not come easy.

Harrington edged out Sergio Garcia in a tense four-hole play-off in 2007 after the pair had finished regulation play on seven under par. However, the extra holes were only required after the Irishman endured misery on Carnoustie's fiendishly challenging 18th.

When the Angus course had last hosted The Open eight years earlier, Jean van de Velde famously finished with a triple-bogey seven when a six would have been enough to secure the Claret Jug, giving Paul Lawrie the opportunity to triumph in a play-off.

On this occasion, Harrington held a slender one-shot lead as he reached the final hole. He and his caddie, Ronan Flood, were in no doubt as to the right approach.

"He had played great, unbelievable, like the best I've ever seen him play for 17 holes on the Sunday," said Flood, who is also Harrington's brother-in-law, in the first instalment of our new 'Caddie Stories' series. "He was six under par (for the day) through 17 and he could have been probably eight or nine.

"We had discussed the strategy of playing 18 in the practice round on the Tuesday, which was if you're one behind, level or one ahead, you hit driver and try to win. When we got there he was one ahead. There was no question, there wasn't even a thought, it was just, ok, this is it.

"We knew what we had decided, went with driver. For me, he'd played so well, he'd driven it so well for the weekend and particularly on the Sunday. I couldn't see him doing anything else but hitting a great tee shot down the last."

Instead, Harrington's drive leaked right and into the Barry Burn. What followed thereafter presented an immense challenge to both player and caddie.

After taking a penalty drop, Harrington proceeded to pull his third shot left and his ball found a different part of the Burn, the river that meanders through Carnoustie on its way to the North Sea. It was hard for anyone not to think back to the events of 1999 and Flood knew he needed to act fast.

"Initially, when he hit his third shot, I didn't know whether it was out of bounds or not," said Flood, "because it had gone left quickly and he asked me, 'where's that gone?'

"It was the walking referee who told us it was in the Burn. And he just went quiet and, yes, I was thinking about Van de Velde, I'm sure he was thinking about Van de Velde, but over the years we've had different times when things have gone wrong, so I just started talking to him just the same as we would normally, just telling him that the hole wasn't over, a lot of cliches about we'll just wait, get through this hole and see what happens.

"I just kept talking to him and looking for him to give me a response, just say anything. And I just kept saying, 'come on, you hear me,' whatever, and eventually he was like, 'yes, ok, yes'. He wasn't answering me for probably two thirds of the walk down and then he started talking and getting into it.

“He wasn't answering me for probably two thirds of the walk down” RONAN FLOod

"He started answering me back more, talking a little bit before we got to the ball, so at least it was kind of somewhat out of his head. By the time we got down there, he'd worked out the yardage, he'd dropped his ball and he was back into playing golf, so he was fine at that stage."

Under immense pressure, Harrington produced a superb pitch and holed the resulting putt to rescue a double-bogey six. Although that left him one behind Garcia, the Spaniard then finished with a bogey to ensure a play-off was needed.

In a recent Twitter video, Harrington described his pitch on 18 as one of the two greatest shots he has played in his career, together with the stunning five-wood into the 71st hole that effectively secured a successful defence of The Open at Royal Birkdale the following year.

It is clear the three-time major-winner places huge value in Flood's contribution to his Carnoustie triumph.

"I'd hit two of the worst shots of my life," Harrington explained. "I was feeling terrible. My caddie literally had to talk me around. It was 150 yards of a conversation that I didn't want to have and he just kept at me.

"I've never felt that bad on the golf course, I felt embarrassed. My caddie kept at me, kept telling me to play it out, one shot at a time, see what happens. By the time I hit my chip shot from 48 yards as my fifth shot on that hole, I hit it like a teenager showing off. I was back in the zone."

When Harrington and Flood returned to the 18th in the play-off, a two-shot lead over Garcia had been established. There was no chance of the driver making another appearance.

"I wouldn't have given him the driver and he wouldn't have asked for it because we had agreed," Flood added.

Padraig Harrington crosses the Barry Burn with caddie Ronan Flood during the play-off in The 136th Open at Carnoustie
After laying up with his second shot, Harrington put his third to around 30 feet and two-putted for a five to secure victory by a single stroke. However, there was a moment of panic for his caddie when the first putt drifted three to four feet past the hole.

"At the time in my head, I'm kind of thinking, 'Oh God, it's nearly five feet'," said Flood. "It's probably three and a half feet, four feet, something like that. I remember thinking, 'God, what a disaster. If you miss this, what a disaster, we're going down the next hole'.

"But we talked about it after, to him it was a tap-in. He only realised how long it was when he saw it on the replay. He thought that he had just knocked it up nearly stone dead, whereas I remember standing by the hole as it came up and thinking, 'sit down, sit down'. It went that dodgy distance by alright, but thankfully (it was) a tap-in for him."
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