Padraig Harrington had already been declared a “model” Open champion by the R&A weeks before he lifted the Claret Jug for the second time last night.
But his march to a second successive Open title was a dramatic one that started with an injury scare over his right wrist and ended with him raising his arms to the sky in triumph as one of Ireland’s greatest sporting heroes.
Last year his mental coach Bob Rotella spoke of Dubliner’s determination to lift the Claret Jug from Saturday evening but this time he was hell-bent on defending his title from the time he visited Royal Birkdale to play a practice round that doubled as a corporate outing for his sponsors, Wilson Golf at the end of May.
He conceded that day that returning to the play in the Open as the defending champion would be a whole new ball game that would bring new pressures. But he made it clear that he had no intention of turning up to put in a token performance.
At the time Harrington said: “I’m not here to put in the solid defence. That doesn’t mean anything to me. If somebody turns around and offers me fifth place in the Open, I’d say no.
“For the last couple of years, my sight have been very firmly on turning up to win tournaments. Fifth place might be very good in retrospect, but winning is what I am about at the moment and that is why I’m here.”
Speaking by the 18th green on Sunday, the “two Bobs” as Harringtons them, swing coach Bob Torrance and Rotella revealed who their pupil was fully determined to hold on to the most famous piece of silverware in golf.
Rotella said: “Last night he looked me straight in the face and said ‘I'm going to win this.’ At that point I knew the job was done. I felt very strong about our prospects on Wednesday night when Padraig took such a positive view of everything that had happened in the previous days, going back to the wrist injury on Saturday night.
What I realise about him now is he's a good learner because he had to learn. And he's incredibly honest with himself and with me. That is a wonderful base on which to build a successful relationship.
“As defending champion, you have the urge to want to go out and do it like you did it last year but each challenge is different and he knew that. He was clear in his head what he had to do and how to do it.”
Torrance (77) was emotional at the finishing, explaining: “This is as good as it gets. Unlike last year, he didn't try to lose it and give us all heart-attacks. He did it the way a champion does. I can't believe how good he was today.”
Here we trace Harrington’s epic week at Royal Birkdale and his journey to golfing immortality.
After leaving The European Club following his successful Irish PGA defence, Harrington sped home in his 4x4, hit balls for two hours on his back garden range and then injured his right wrist hitting an impact bag in his basement gym at 10 pm. He said: “I tried to hit a second shot and I knew there was something wrong. I went and iced it. When I got up I went outside to see what it was like and tried to hit a couple of chip shots, I couldn't do it.”
13.00 Harrington arrives a Royal Birkdale in a bad way. He can’t even lift a club, never mind hit shots. After presenting commemorative medals to the participants in the Junior Open at Hesketh, he meets his chiropractor Dale Richardson for treatment for a “first-degree strain of the pronator quadratus”. Rest is advised.
Harrington still can’t play golf. He spends the late afternoon stroking putts on the practice putting green and his injury remains a secret to all but his inner circle.
News of the injury breaks and Harrington confesses that he is “concerned” about his chances of defending the title. He explains: “It is one of things you can't test to the limit because you don't want to flare it up again.” He plays nine holes with Damien McGrane without hitting out of the rough. He said: “It was okay for nine holes but just felt a bit fuzzy, a bit tingly inside. I don’t want to push it so am going to go walk nine holes and just hit a few chips and putts instead of full shots. If it wasn’t the Open I wouldn’t be here. I’d have pulled out on Sunday.”
A black day for Harrington. After hitting two long irons off the 10th tee and a six-iron from the fairway, he feels pain in his wrist and walks in for treatment, his face wracked with anguish. He returns with strapping on his wrist but hits just one tee-shot and decides to walk 18 holes, chipping and putting around the greens.
He says: "It's 75 per cent that I will tee it up and 50-50 that I can keep going for four days on top of that. I’m going to give it every chance to play and if there is pain I am still going to play anyway.”
Later he reveals: “The worst point was on the 10th fairway on Wednesday, when I just started my practise round. On my second shot it jarred. That was the low point of the week.”
Harrington warms up at 7.15 am and walks to the first tee for his 7:58 am tee time. Despite some early “twinges”, he shoots a four over 74 in a vicious west wind and driving rain.
He said: “I had about three or four shots on the range where (the wrist) twinged. I had taken some anti-inflammatories and painkillers and I expected to have more twinges on the golf course.
“I was apprehensive about hitting it out of the rough but that’s what I managed to do on the first four or five holes.
“When it didn’t hurt on the first hole, I got more relaxed as the round went out and after seven or eight holes I wasn’t thinking about it at all. The tough weather helped because you could only focus on your next shot.”
At six-over par for the Championship with seven to play, Harrington finishes eagle-birdie, playing his last four holes in four under for a 68 to scorch into contention.
Tied for fourth, three shots adrift of KJ Choi on two-over par, he says: “I am delighted. I am well in there with 36 holes to go but you just want to be there with nine to play and I believe conditions are going to be tough tomorrow. It is exactly where you want to be.”
With winds gusting up to 50 mph, Harrington cards a two-over par 72 to move up the joint second alongside Choi and two strokes adrift of fairytale leader Greg Norman on four-over par.
He says: “I'm happy with the score. It could have been a little bit better, but tough conditions. I certainly would have taken that going out there. I thought it was probably one of the toughest conditions to putt in I've ever experienced, it really was
“The right preparation is getting me into these positions and I am in a good spot going out tomorrow and we will have to see how we get on.”
14.20 Harrington marches to the first tee and immediately cuts Norman’s lead to a shot with a chip and putt par to the Aussie’s bogey five. He strips off his sweater
15:03 Harrington rolls home a superb 12 footer for par at the third as Norman bogeys his third hole in a row. The Dubliner leads the Open on his own for the first time since 2007.
15:40 Two stroke lead for Harrington as he makes his sixth straight par in a row. Norman is two behind on six-over.
16:17 Is it slipping away? Harrington bogeys the seventh, eighth and ninth to fall one stroke behind Norman on seven-over par and share second place with England’s Simon Wakefield.
17:20 Harrington steadies the ship on the back nine and birdies the 13th from 18 feet to take the lead again on six-over par as Norman bogeys the 10th, 12th and 13th.
17:37 Ian Poulter rams in a 20 footer for par at the last for a 69 to set the clubhouse target at seven-over par.
17:46: Harrington finds the edge of the par-five 15th in two, lags his third shot to five feet but calmly rolls home the putt to go two clear of Poulter.
18:00 Harrington blasts two fantastic five woods into the heart of the 17th green, cutting a rescue-wood on the wind, it clears the bunker short of the green and holds his pose as the ball skips up the tier and curls around the right hand side to the green finishing just four feet from the cup.
18:22 Harrington rolls in his eagle putt to go four strokes clear and clenches his fist in triumph. It’s a dream scenario and a massive contrast to 2007 at Carnoustie, when he found the Barry Burn twice and finished with a double bogey six.
18:25 Three-wood off the tee for the Dubliner. He splits the fairway to massive cheers from his supporters.
18:31 There would be no agony this year as he rifles a majestic five-iron shot to within 15 feet of the pin.
18:32 Harrington takes off his cap and lets the roars of the crowd wash over him as the takes the “Walk of Champions”. He puts his arm around Greg Norman but the Aussie just pats him on the back and urges him into the limelight.
18:36 Norman holes out for a closing 77 and share of third place with Henrik Stenson on nine over par.
18:37 Harrington misses his 15 footer for birdie but taps in for a one under par 69 and a four shot-win on three over par. His wife Caroline and sons Paddy and Ciaran join him in an emotional embrace. He emulates Tiger Woods in 2006 by defending the Open and becomes the first European to retain the Claret Jug for 102 years.
18:57 Harrington lift the Claret Jug.
Here's his victory speech:
Padraig Harrington's presentation speech
I'm going to hold on to this.
"Captain of the R&A, firstly I'd like to thank the R&A. I had a great year as the Open champion, so much so that I didn't want to give it back. I don't know how long I can keep this up but back to-back, I am thrilled to have done it and I have got the thank the R&A for all the effort and work they have put in to running a championship like this and golf in general. The put the money made this week to great use. I was here on Sunday for the World Junior Open and to see the kids form just about every country in the world was a fantastic insight into the work that the R&A do in golf.
"I'd like to congratulate Royal Birkdale Golf Club. This golf course was in the best condition a golf course, let alone links golf course, you could ever imagine. It is true credit to the members and the staff of Royal Birkdale for the condition they had it in this week.
"I'd like to congratulate Chris Wood . Tremendous score he had this week. I'm sure we will see more of you in the future, maybe as a professional. Great going this week. Well done
"I'd like to congratulate Ian (Poulter). He pushed it very close today. Both myself and Ian have done ourselves favours for mid-September. We were thinking we might have a week off. Well done Ian.
"I am quite enjoying this. I don't think I'll get down. I'd like to thanks Greg Norman. He was tremendous. He was a true gentleman to play golf with today and his sportsmanship on the golf course is second to none. I am sure it was a tough day for him.
"It looked like it was going to be his story this week and things went away his demeanour and his response to all my good shots on the golf course was just tremendous. He is somebody you can only look up to. Thanks Greg. I'd like to thanks and congratulate all the marshals this week. They did have to do a lot of ball-spotting for everybody so it was tough week and you did a great job with a lot of moving around so thank you very much.
"I'd love to thank all the spectators that came out this week. I had just a fantastic week here in Liverpool. I do have to tell you too the comment that I heard during the week. Yesterday, when I double bogeyed the 12th, I was walking down the 13th and a guy leaned over and he tapped my shoulder and said: 'Don't worry about it. I have to go back plumbing on Monday'.
"And today I was walking a couple of times and a gentleman walk by and said: 'Go on Paddy. You are a scouser now. So I have had a great time and fantastic support from everybody here. I don't think I have ever had the support that I have had this week,so thanks very much to everybody.
"Lastly I'd like to say a few personal thank yous to my team. First and foremost and top of the list, a person I left out last year, Dale Richardson my physio. He worked double time this weeks, as you know I had a wrist injury. I was stressed over hit but he was very relaxed and knew he could get it right. Thank you Dale I am, sure you are listening.
"The rest of the team, Ronan my caddie, does a tremendous job. Always keeps my spirits up always says the right thing. Thank you Ronan.
"The two Bobs. Bob Rotella and Bob Torrance, working in tandem on the range. They worked very well together. Thank you guys for your time and commitment.
"Lot of other guys behind the scenes, lIam and Paul. I'd like to also thank my family, those people behind me. My wife Caroline, Paddy and Ciaran, I don't think Ciaran knows too much about it yet but Paddy knows the time and effort that goes into this. My mum, is here. Just about everybody behind me. Thank you very much."