It took eight years and a return to Carnoustie for Europe to find its next major champion after Paul Lawrie. This was assured with a play-off between Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia but the return to the mighty Angus links also brought back memories of Jean Van de Velde’s late collapse.
Harrington admitted thinking of the Frenchman as he twice found the Barry Burn at the 72nd hole before a superb pitch to five feet saved a double bogey.
“I never let it cross my mind that I’d just thrown away The Open,” Harrington said. “Obviously, if I had, it would have been incredibly hard to take.”
Harrington started the final round six strokes behind Garcia, who had led throughout following an opening 65. But the Spaniard’s outward 38 let the others back in. Anders Romero made ten birdies and led briefly but had a second double bogey of the day at the 17th and bogeyed the 18th to miss the play-off by a stroke.
Harrington made four birdies and then eagled the 14th but his six at the last left Garcia needing a par to win. He took a bogey and then bogeyed the first extra hole, while Harrington birdied it.
At the last Harrington made a bogey but Garcia could not make the birdie he needed to stay alive.
Harrington was the first Irish winner of The Open since Fred Daly 60 years earlier. Garcia could not emulate his compatriot Seve Ballesteros, who journeyed to Carnoustie to announce his retirement from the game.
Tiger Woods’ quest for a hat-trick of Open wins ended in a tie for 12th place, while Steve Stricker, in the third round, and Richard Green, on the final day, shot 64s, the lowest score in The Open at Carnoustie. Rory McIlroy completed an Irish double by claiming the Silver Medal as the leading amateur.