It’s the phrase that is the greatest compliment a golfer can give to another player. When doffing the caps and shaking hands on the 18th green, hearing a “Great playing” after a well-played round can feel better than a cold beer at the 19th hole. The better a player you hear it from, the more it seems to mean.
Well, Padraig Harrington, it doesn’t mean much coming from a hacker like me, but, boy, great playing.
Had he finished Sunday’s final round of the 137th Open Championship by losing a playoff after a 3-over 73 — the highest the Irishman got all day was +7 after starting +4 — it still would have warranted a “Great playing.” That’s how tough this championship has been all week.
But he upped the ante and played perhaps the best round of the tournament. When the red numbers for the weekend can be counted on two hands, to finish the Open in 4 under on the last six holes, including an eagle, well, that’s the stuff of legend.
There’s no doubt who the worthy champion was this week. Harrington kind of got a break to make it into a playoff a year ago when he kicked away a chance to win the Open in regulation, needing a similar hiccup from Sergio Garcia to get into extra holes, and taking it from there to win his first major.
Faced with a chance to win again this time — Harrington, battling a sore wrist he thought could keep him out of the Open altogether, was tied for the lead on the 12th tee at 7 over — he stormed to the victory with a Sunday charge for the ages.
Now a two-time major championship winner, Harrington vaults to the upper echelon in golf lore, particularly with the dearth of consistent major contenders from Europe since the days of Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros.
As for Greg Norman and my pick to win, hey, I had to take a shot. It would’ve made for an unbelievable story. At least Norman, who was a mess out of the gate on his way to a crippling 77, can rest easy in the notion that he would’ve needed a sparkling final round just to stay with his playing partner.
There’s no doubt about the two words Norman had to say for Harrington on the 18th green.