Padraig Harrington won the 2008 British Open Championship on Sunday with a final round 69 (-1) to finish the tournament at +5, four shots ahead of runner-up Ian Poulter. The week began with Harrington unsure if he’d even be able to play and defend his 2007 Open victory, but it ended with Padraig holding the trophy high for the second consecutive year. Entering the 17th hole with a two-shot lead of Poulter, Harrington hit a perfect five wood which left him a ten-foot putt for eagle. After Padraig knocked that putt in to give himself a four shot lead, he parred 18 and pumped is fist high in the air. Lost in Padraig’s victory though is 53-year-old Greg Norman, who gave us quite a ride during the entire tournament.
Norman finished the 137th British Open tied for third at nine over par. He started the day with a two shot lead on the rest of the field, but a final round 77 cost him a shot at becoming the oldest major champion in PGA history. Yet, Norman has nothing to be ashamed of. His performance was nothing less than magical, and though this story did not have a fairy-tale ending, it was still a great ride. His putting during today’s final round was mediocre at the best. The horrible weather conditions at Royal Birkdale caused putting to be a nightmare for all of the golfers and Norman struggled mightily.
Without Tiger Woods, this year’s British Open seemed to lack the normal anticipation and excitement that leads up to every major championship. The casual golfer lost interest in the Open Championship without Tiger, but Norman revived this interest. He brought back the drama and the “can he really do this” attitude to this major championship. Fans braved the weather at Royal Birkdale just to get a glimpse of the 53-year-old sensation. Barely even playing anymore, Norman gave everyone a player to cheer for. Fans may have watched Padraig win the 2008 Open Championship, but they came out to see Norman.
It brought fans back twenty years when seeing Norman’s name atop the leader board on Sunday was not uncommon. He never seemed to be able to keep his name atop the leader board at the end of Sunday, but it started at the top many times. In many ways, Norman’s performance at the 2008 Open Championship resembled many of his performances from his younger years. Three terrific rounds gave Norman a lead entering the final round, but like so many times before, he could not come through under pressure. The difference between today and twenty years ago, however, is that Norman shouldn’t win today. He shouldn’t even make the cut today. He’s 53 years old and plays golf for fun, not for a living. He does not practice daily and focuses more on his companies than on the sport he loves. So instead of his final round 77 being looked at as a choke, the 77 is more what I would expect on a daily basis from Norman. The fact that Norman made it through the first two rounds at just +2 was a miracle and the final round 77 was just Norman returning to normal. So don’t be amazed that Norman choked again, because that’s not what happened. What happened is that a 53-year-old legend played three spectacular rounds and though his fourth round wasn’t as good as his first three, he still played a fantastic tournament.