If you want to understand how Padraig Harrington won this
year’s PGA Championship, all you have to do is look at how the three leaders
played Oakland Hills’ 238-yard, par-3 17th hole on Sunday. Each player had the
exact same score -- 2-under-par -- and felt all the pressure in the world when he
hit his tee shot on 17.
The eventual champion Harrington hit a terrific 5-iron,
about as good a shot as you can hit, and stopped it 10-12 feet from the hole.
Then Sergio Garcia hit his tee shot. Garcia’s shot was a work of art. It was
higher, softer and closer than Harrington’s, landing about six feet from the
cup. Garcia is one of the only guys who can even hit that shot. His ball landed
on the green so softly it was almost otherworldly.
By contrast, Ben Curtis's shot hit the front of the green, then
rolled over it and ended up in the thick stuff behind the green. He didn’t have
a chance from there. Curtis couldn’t have hit that shot better -- it actually
landed shorter than Harrington’s -- he just doesn’t have as much talent as
Harrington and Garcia. He got it back on the green, and two-putted for his
But what happened with Garcia’s and Harrington’s next shots
really told the story of the tournament. Harrington made the longer putt, and
Garcia just missed the shorter one. So even though Garcia had the most talent
and executed his tee shot perfectly, he couldn’t get the ball in the hole. Garcia didn’t
choke, but Harrington took the championship by making putts from more than 10
feet on the last three holes.
It’s not always the guy who plays best that wins the
tournament. You need to have enough talent to win, sure, but you also need to
make putts. That’s when qualities like courage and character shine the
brightest. Harrington doesn’t have the talent that Garcia does, but he made an
unbelievably good putt, and that’s why he won the championship.
On the stat sheet for 17, you’ll just see “P. Harrington: 1
putt; S. Garcia: 2 putt,” but that one line says all you need to know about
this year’s last major.
(Photo: Fred Vuich/SI)