CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — The 18th hole at Carnoustie is a 499-yard par 4 called “Home.” That name may be welcoming, but the hole is a brute lying in wait to break hearts and wreck Open championship dreams. It is the toughest closing hole in golf. Just ask Sergio Garcia, Andres Romero and a hugely relieved champion, Padraig Harrington.
The Barry Burn, which snakes in and out to trap tee shots pushed right and approach shots that come up short, took its toll again on Sunday. In 1999, it was the scene of Jean Van de Velde’s downfall, and for a while it looked like it had claimed another victim. Harrington arrived at the hole with a one-shot lead, but both his drive and his third shot found the Burn, and he had to scramble for a double bogey.
That meant Garcia had a one-shot lead when he arrived on the 18th tee. He was in the fairway, but he left his second shot in a greenside bunker and made bogey, which forced the playoff. A crestfallen Garcia complained later about having to wait on his second shot as the bunkers were raked in front of him.
“When you’re one in front, hitting a 3-iron into a green with danger everywhere, having to wait 15 minutes to hit your shot doesn’t help,” he said. “It seemed to take a long time to rake two bunkers.”
Harrington, whose bogey on 18 in the playoff was good enough for the win, was relieved that his double bogey the first time through didn’t cost him the tournament.
“It’s the toughest finishing hole on golf,” he said. “No question. There’s trouble anyway you look at it. I turned the sound down on the TV in the scorer’s hut. I didn’t want to hear any analyzing of my 6.
“But with a two-shot lead in the playoff, I was able to play it as a par 5.”
Romero, the 25-year-old Argentine who was trying to join his countryman Angel Cabrera as a 2007 major winner, would have made the playoff with a par on No. 18, but he missed the green with his second and bogeyed to finish at six under.
“I certainly wasn’t thinking about Jean Van de Velde at that moment,” Romero said. “But I could be put into that category by some.”
This week, the average score on No. 18 was 4.611, and many players approached it like a par 5, laying up with their second shots. The hole yielded just 17 birdies. There were 209 pars against 172 bogeys and 54 double bogeys or worse.