AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Fittingly, Padraig Harrington had his back to Firestone Country Club as he walked to the scorer’s trailer. A smile creased his face as he saw his two kids.
“Give me a hug,” he said as he lifted first Ciaran and then Patrick. “I need a hug.”
Boy, did he.
Harrington had said he was looking forward to facing off with Tiger Woods. But then a dreadful 16th hole – Arnold Palmer dubbed it “The Monster” for good reason – finished him. The Irishman’s triple-bogey 8 on the 630-yard hole sabotaged any shot he had of keeping up, let alone staying ahead.
“Until 16, it was just a great battle,” Woods said.
Woods, who came into the hole down by a stroke, drilled a moon-shot of an 8 iron that ended up a foot from the hole for a birdie. Just like that, a four-shot swing meant Woods was well on his way to his seventh victory at the Bridgestone Invitational.
“One hole,” Caroline Harrington said, shaking her head at the thought of her husband’s late fall.
Tour officials had put the twosome on the clock several holes earlier. Harrington later said he felt the pressure to speed things up, but didn’t use that as an excuse – although he twice said he “rushed” shots at the 16th.
“I think being on the clock influenced him,” Woods said. “By rushing like he had to that … forced him to make a couple mistakes.”
Harrington had the tee and drove into the right rough.
“If you’re going for the green in two, you’ve got to hit it right down the right-hand side,” Harrington said. “I wasn’t unhappy to have missed the fairway right. It’s not the end of the world.”
Needing to just punch a 5-iron that would run down within 80 or 90 yards of the small green, fronted by a large lake, he pulled the shot and it ended up on the slope of a bunker. From there he hit his approach over the green into more deep rough.
While all of that was taking place, Woods had found the left rough. He hit back to the fairway, leaving himself 178 yards that he easily covered with the 8-iron.
“It was a superb golf shot, a phenomenal shot,” Harrington said. “I struggled to hit that green with a lob wedge, so it was pretty impressive. … Yeah, it was a great shot, but I was having my own troubles at that stage.”
Woods waited while Harrington struggled, hitting six shots including the penalty.
From behind the green, Harrington’s flop shot from a downhill lie behind the green came out hot and rolled all the way past the pin and into the lake in front of the green. The gallery, crammed into the grandstands and five-deep behind the ropes at the course’s signature hole, groaned in unison.
“I had an awkward fourth shot,” Harrington said. “I had to go after it and probably rushed it a bit as well.
“That was the end of that.”
Harrington walked all the way back to the middle of the fairway and again chipped over the green, then chopped the ball out and hit the putt for his snowman.
“I took 6 and 8 the last two days (there), so I certainly think it’s a bit of a monster,” Harrington said.
He swore that the 16th wouldn’t stick in his mind.
“You learn from these things,” he said. “I don’t see it being a big issue. I’ve got the PGA next week. So, at the end of the day, when I start hitting shots tomorrow, today will be forgotten about.”
Harrington took steps to forget it immediately.
After the round, he turned to Woods and said, “We’ll do battle many times again.”