Posted 08/10/2008 at 09:23 PM
Although it was overshadowed by a busy sports weekend, this year’s PGA Championship delivered a great finish and riveting entertainment on Sunday. With Tiger Woods out of the picture the golf world is struggling to compete with headlines from the Olympics, the baseball pennant races, the Brett Favre saga, and preseason football but those that tuned it were treated to some outstanding moments on Sunday.
Padraig Harrington has been one of the better golfers on tour for the last several years and he broke through with his first major win last summer. He has definitely arrived and is a force to be reckoned with, with or without Tiger in the tournament now having won three of the past six major championships. Tiger Woods has won consecutive majors in three different seasons but Harrington is the first other than Woods since Nick Price in 1994 to win consecutive majors in the same season (Phil Mickelson and Woods have more recently won the PGA Championship and then the Masters the following year).
Harrington and Sergio Garcia were in the same group that took the lead in the tournament on Sunday and two of the more popular and well known players in the event delivered a great duel in the final holes. It looked for a moment that this would be the breakthrough event for Garcia who has recently inherited the ignominious title of ‘best player to not have won a major’ but Garcia could not hit a crucial birdie putt on 17 after Harrington sank his similar putt. Harrington nailed three clutch putts in the final three holes to take the title and he showed great composure to rally for par on 18 after an adventurous start to the hole. Although Oakland Hills looked well below capacity and the TV ratings likely sagged, you couldn’t ask for better storylines and better finishes in the two majors without Woods as there was plenty of star power and excitement.
Past British Open champion Ben Curtis stayed in the mix in the final group but ultimately could not stay close enough to Garcia and Harrington. Harrington’s third major win ties him with notable golfers including Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, and Ernie Els, the dominant players of the last decade in the second tier behind Woods. Harrington also has the distinction of being a three-time Ryder Cup champion, something not even Woods can claim. Another interesting fact is that Harrington is the only player in the world to be paired with Woods at least five times and own a superior cumulative scoring average to Woods in those rounds. Look for Harrington to be one of the marquee stars of the Ryder Cup competition about a month from now at Valhalla as he appears ready to carry the golf world with Woods on the sidelines.