BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - One shot was a little better, one cheer was a little louder, but when Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia climbed the hill to the 17th green and saw golf balls 10 feet and 4 feet from the cup, they didn’t know which was which.
They were tied for the lead Sunday afternoon in the PGA Championship.
Even though the Irishman was farther away, memories were still fresh of his victory in the British Open last month, and his playoff victory over Garcia in the British Open last year.
“I knew that I had the opportunity to get the putt in first,” Harrington said. “And that was important. I knew if I holed this, I probably would win the PGA. If I missed, Sergio would probably win the PGA. So it was down to that.
“And I hit a lovely putt.”
Harrington made the 10-foot birdie putt to seize the lead for the first time at Oakland Hills, and he finished off a steely display of putting with a 15-footer for par on the 18th hole to become only the fourth player to win the British Open and PGA in the same year.
Garcia’s 4-foot putt caught the left lip, stretching his record in the majors as a pro to 0-38.
“There’s guys that get a little bit fortunate,” Garcia said. “They get in contention in a major and manage to get things going their way. And unfortunately, it hasn’t happened to me. I feel like I played well enough to win probably more than two majors throughout my career.”
Instead, he has one fewer than Ben Curtis, who also had the lead on the back nine Sunday and tied with Garcia for second. The consolation for Curtis was earning a spot on his first Ryder Cup team.
Harrington entered elite company on three fronts.
He closed with a 4-under 66 for a two-shot victory to become the first European in 78 years to win the PGA Championship, and the first European ever to win consecutive majors.
“I obviously hold a lot of European players who I grew up watching in high esteem,” Harrington said. “To believe that I achieved something they hadn’t is very special.”
It was the second straight major in which Harrington shot 32 on the back nine of a demanding course to come from behind. He was one shot behind Greg Norman going to the back nine at Royal Birkdale, and three behind Garcia at Oakland Hills.
This one was far tougher.
“It looked like his day,” Harrington said. “I had to convince myself that, ’No, it’s going to be my day, and I deserved to win three majors.’ You’ve got to be very selfish in this situation when you’re on the golf course. Off the golf course, you can look at it in a different light. But on the golf course, you’ve got to be hard. You can’t be soft.”
Harrington talked about going to another level after winning the British Open, and he wound up in elite company a month later. He joined Tiger Woods (2000 and 2006), Nick Price (1994) and Walter Hagen (1924) as the only players to win the PGA and British Open in the same year. And he now has won three of the last six majors, accumulating them at a rate only Woods can appreciate over the last 25 years.
“That’s Tiger-like, right there,” Curtis said.
Woods, who missed his second straight major after season-ending knee surgery, could have appreciated Harrington’s clutch performance. Even more impressive was how he kept his cool, rarely showing emotion over key putts until the final one dropped.
Harrington pumped his fist twice, then a third time for effect.
Moments later, after Curtis failed to hole his shot from the fairway, he was holding son Patrick by his heels in a family moment and hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy for another major victory.
Harrington finished at 3-under 277 and earned $1.35 million.
Curtis lost a chance to validate his shocking victory in the 2003 British Open. He bogeyed two of the final four holes for a 71, but came away with a big consolation. His tie for second was enough to move him up to No. 7 in the U.S. standings and qualify for the Ryder Cup.
“It’s almost a victory in itself,” Curtis said.
Garcia moved to No. 3 in the European standings and sewed up a spot on his fifth straight team.
Harrington wasn’t even in the picture Sunday morning when players returned to Oakland Hills to resume the weather-delayed third round, some of them playing 36 holes. He was 4 over after nine holes, then ran off four straight birdies on the back nine for a 66 to get into contention going into the final 18.
With another major at stake under gloomy skies, Harrington simply shined.
And for the second straight year, Garcia suffered.
Scenes from golf’s final major, taking place at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Mich.
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