November 30, 2008

6 Padraig Harrington

If Harrington isn't Player of the Year, it will only be because Tiger Woods limped his way onto Mount Olympus at Torrey Pines. But at Davy Byrnes' pub in Dublin, two majors trump one lousy anterior cruciate ligament. Harrington hasn't lost a British Open since Woods won his last one, and the Irishman re-elevated the PGA Championship to major status in Europe when he beat Sergio Garcia and Ben Curtis at Oakland Hills. In the Open at Birkdale, a sore wrist deflected the pressure of a title defense. The question wasn't could Harrington repeat, but would he start? He did, and he finished, too, with the shot of the year, a 5-wood to three feet for an eagle on 17 that helped him end 53-year-old Greg Norman's heroic bid and slam the door on Ian Poulter. Harrington and Garcia famously brushed past one another, going in opposite directions on a bridge over the Barry Burn when Harrington won his first major championship at Carnoustie. At the PGA he had the Spaniard on his hip when he holed his putt on 18 for what became a two-shot victory and a likely ticket to the Hall of Fame. Not bad for a man who thought he could never be any better than average.