Six birdies and an eagle in a seven hole stretch on the back nine helped Pádraig Harrington come from nowhere to ambush the leaders and become the first man to defend the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.
After a mixed front nine of 35 with three three-putts Harrington had lost significant ground on the leaders before four birdies in a row from the 12th, an eagle on 16 and a fifth birdie on seventeen saw him home in a sensational 28 to take the title by a shot on eighteen-under-par after a final round 63.
Harrington was delighted to defend his title and have his family on site.
“It’s great. They obviously were here last year. My oldest son, believe it or not, drove to New York today after the first hole so he missed the whole thing. He’s going to be gutted. But the youngest son and my wife is here.
“Yeah, it’s nice when you’ve got people around, and certainly during the week — I got a slow start this week, it’s hard after last week — just having family around, they make sure you don’t get down on yourself.”
As for the remarkable stretch on the back nine, the three-time major champion had been struggling with the putter for the first twelve holes but momentum is everything in sport and he finally caught some – amazingly it was a par on 11 that kickstarted the magical run.
“I played really nicely for the first 12 holes. Three three-putts. You know, you can’t three-putt when you’re chasing like that.
“And then on 11 I got in trouble and made a great up-and-down. It was amazing, it was a bad hole that kicked that, kind of gave me, oh, that was OK. I got and down from 31 yards out of a bunker, holed an eight-footer and it kind of — it went from feeling like everything was going against you, to, oh, that’s not so bad. Obviously I wasn’t thinking about winning at that stage, I was thinking about just trying to make as many birdies.
“When I started making them, yeah, then I started thinking about it when I got, I suppose, three or four of them. But it was a bonus obviously to make eagle. It was nice pushing up the tee on 16 helped, just made it a perfect 3-wood whereas every other day you’re kind of between driver, 3-wood. First day I went with 3-wood when I was making all those bad decisions. Today, it was a perfect 3-wood. That was a nice bonus.
“And when I had about a six-footer on 17, it’s amazing when you’re holing putts. I could have closed my eyes, turned my back and I would have holed the putts on 17. It’s amazing, when they’re going in you can’t see a way of missing. When they’re not going in, as they were on the front nine, I couldn’t see a way of getting them in.”
It’s de ja vu for Harrington who picked up his first win of the season at this event last year before going on to clinch the US Senior Open the following week and he will be hoping for a repeat next week.
Meanwhile Darren Clarke is also in fine form heading to the US Senior Open after a seven-under 65 saw him claim fifth place on fourteen-under-par.