From Brian Keogh in Detroit

Padraig Harrington entered the annals of golfing history when he smashed Sergio Garcia’s major dreams for the second time and snatched the US PGA title in a thrilling finish at Oakland Hills.

The Dubliner, 36, became the first European to win the title for 78 years when he holed a brilliant 15 footer for par at the 18th for a second successive four under par 66 and a two-shot win over the Spaniard on three under par 277.

After kissing his wife and the trophy as he walked off the green, Harrington turned to his manager Adrian Mitchell and beamed: “It’s hard to believe.”

It was an amazing performance by the affable Rathfarnham man, who lifted his third major title in the space of 13 months with one of the great final round performances in living memory.

Putting was the key to Harrington’s 24th career victory as he single putted 11 times and took 26 putts in all as he carded six birdies and two bogeys.

After a roller-coaster afternoon that had more thrills and spills than a Hitchcock thriller, Harrington came the 18th with a one-stroke lead over Garcia on three under par.

Despite pushing his drive into a fairway bunker, Garcia went even further right into the rough and then found a greenside bunker with his approach.

As Garcia dashed off to the toilet, Harrington tried to lay up but caught his bunker shot heavy and came up 143 yards short in the right rough.

But he produced a fabulous seven-ironapproach to 15 feet, heaping the pressure on Garcia.

The Spaniard could only get his sand shot to 10 feet but it didn’t matter in the end as Harrington holed his putt for par and punched the air four times in delight, leaving Ben Curtis needing an eagle two at the last to tie.

Garcia missed to finish second with Curtis on one under par after a 68 but turned away as he accepted Harrington's handshake at the finish.

It was an amazing finish to a major that threaten to turn into a damp squib as the lack of birdies, the absence of Tiger Woods and the poor weather forced fans to vote with their feet by staying away.

But Harrington was soon involved in a real firecracker battle for the the title after surging through the field to complete his delayed third round with an amazing four under par 66.

Forced to get up and 4.30 am to resume his third round on the back nine at 7.15, he looked out of the running on three-over par but scorched home in 32 for a four under par effort thanks to four birdies on the spin from the 13th.

A birdie at the long par-three 17th and a par at the last would have given Harrington a new course record 64.

But missed from 10 feet at then bogeyed the last after his four-iron found greenside sand.

Tied with Garcia and Korean Charlie Wi on one-over par and paired with them in the second last group, Harrington was three shots adrift of leader Ben Curtis and just two behind Henrik Stenson and JB Holmes with a round to play.

As Holmes took a triple bogey seven to fall away, Harrington birdied the second, bogeyed the fifth but then birdied the sixth to stay in touch before saving brilliant pars from greenside sand at the seventh and ninth.

That left him on level par at the turn and three shots behind Garcia, who birdied the first, eagled the long second from four feet and then birdied the sixth to lead on three under as Curtis got to four under but faltered with bogeys at the eight and ninth to trail by one.

The rest of the back nine was pure theatre and Harrington and Garcia traded punches like a couple of prize fighters - some sensational, others ugly.

It all started when Harrington curled in an 18 footer for birdie at the 10th to cut Garcia’s lead to two.

The Dubliner then produced a great chip and putt par at the 11th to stay touch before he birdied the par-five 12th from three feet as Garcia chunked his chip and failed to make birdie to reduce the gap to one shot.

Three shots adrift at one stage, Harrington birdied the par three 13th with a superb long iron to 10 feet as Garcia came up short on the bottom tier and two-putted.

A bogey at the 14th, where almost holed his second but overshot the green and failed to save par, left Garcia tied for the lead with Curtis on three under and one clear of Harrington

Both Europeans parred the 15th, where Curtis would make bogey in the match behind to go back to two under.

But there was huge drama at the 16th, where Garcia’s approach kicked into the greenside lake.

Harrington pulled his approach into a bunker left but splashed out to 15 feet and again save par with another crucial, right to left curler as Garcia saved bogey with a brilliant chip to four feet from the dropping zone.

Curtis, Harrington and Garcia were now tied for the lead on two under par but it was the Irishman who grabbed the initiative at the 216 yard 17th when he hit his tee shot to ten feet.

Garcia replied with a sensational shot to six feet but as Harrington rolled in his birdie chance to grab the outright lead, the Spaniard brought back memories of Carnoustie when he lipped out.

The 18th topped an incredible week that saw Graeme McDowell close with a 73 that left him tied for 15th on seven-over.

Disappointed with his putting, McDowell said: “It could have been a lot better. Obviously I struggled on the greens a little bit again. Same thing last week, tee to green I was great. Just need to get the hang of these kind of slopey, fast greens.

“But it's another major, more experience under the belt, and I'm slowly and surely learning how to get around these places. I think I've played my last 45 holes in one-under par, so I have reason to be satisfied with the week's work.

“The golf course has went through two or three different changes, Wednesday to Thursday and obviously overnight, and it's good to see the greens a little softer this afternoon and guys making a few birdies, a few cheers going up.

“But like I say, it's an experience game and another tough setup and I think you can only learn something about yourself and your game in general.”