From Brian Keogh at Carnoustie
Who says nice guys don't win?
Just six days after Nick Faldo suggested that Europe's top players are far too chummy to triumph in major combat, Pádraig Harrington proved that the good can have the upper hand over the bad and the ugly.
"You don't have to be nasty or mean to people to win," Harrington had said in response to Faldo's comments.
And then he proved it with one of the most dramatic Open victories in history by following a superb 67 that included a seemingly tragic double bogey six at the 72nd hole with a birdie, two pars and a bogey in the play-off that realised the dream of a lifetime..
The Dubliner has endured more than his fair share of disappointments in the course of an 11-year career.
And it was fitting that a beautiful rainbow appeared over the Carnoustie clubhouse as he raised the Claret Jug to a cloud-smudged sky at the end of an amazing day for Irish golf that ended a 60-year wait since Fred Daly’s triumph at Hoylake in 1947.
Harrington's mother Breda was looking on from the crowd as her youngest son cradled the oldest trophy in golf. "He made it hard, didn't he," she said to me as she left the media centre. But he deserved it."
Her son's voice cracked as he as mentioned his late father Paddy in his victory speech, the man who collected his practice balls, drove him all over Ireland and imbued in him the spirit of the game.
And that is the key to Padraig Harrington. He is a family man.
Had Sergio Garcia's 12 footer for the title on the 72nd green not lipped out of the hole and the Spaniard had taken his first major title, there is no doubt Harrington's family would have rallied behind him as they have done so many times in the past.
But with 30 second places already in his career, he would have found another one hard to take. Harder than his Connacht Boys defeat to Gerald Sproule at the 22nd in Ballinasloe in 1987, his first Ryder Cup defeat at Brookline in 1999; that bogey at the 72nd at Muirfield in 2002 that denied his a play-off place or those three closing bogeys at Winged Foot last year that robbed him of the US Open.
And he admitted as much after taking advantage of his second chance with a superb, nerveless performance in the play-off.
Seconds after stepping off the final green, a winner at last after 37 attempts in the major, he said: "After what happened on 18, I don't know if I could have played golf again."
At the press conference later, he confessed: “It would have been incredibly hard to take.” He wasn't joking.
Just an hour earlier, his wife Caroline sat in a buggy outside the scorer's hut, wiping her smudged mascara. Her husband had twice visited the Barry Burn on the 72nd hole and that closing double bogey looked to have denied him his life's dream.
She told me, "If it's not to be, it's not to be."
But the drama was only beginning. Listening to a radio as her husband watched the action on TV in the scorer’s hut, she watched Garcia bogey the last, hugged Harrington as he emerged for the play-off, planted a big kiss on his lips and whispered in his ear: "Unbelievable."
Harrington has been tipped to win a major since he missed out on a play-off by a single shot at Muirfield in 2002. His caddie, Ronan Flood once told me that it was not a question of whether or not he would win a major but simply of how many he would win.
Far more talented than he has ever been given credit for, his victory is a testament to hard work and dedication. But it is also a testament to the work he has done with Bob Torrance over the last 11 years.
Now the world No 6, Harrington will surely go on now to add more major titles to his haul.
And knowing Harrington, they will be just has heart-wrenchingly dramatic.
His son Paddy is only three but their first task together when they get home will be a special one.
"Daddy, can we put ladybirds trophy," he asked his Dad on the 18th green.
"Course we can."
That shows what kind of man Harrington really is - a family man who came good. A nice guy with a hard-man inside.