Sunday, July 22, 2007

Carnoustie Strikes Again

It looks so peaceful; so tranquil - the Barry Burn that winds through the 18th fairway (and elsewhere) on the Carnoustie Golf Links. After today, there can be little doubt that its status as legend in the golfing world is secure, and that the 18th hole can safely be considered among the most terrifying closing holes in major championship golf.

Unlike Jean Van de Velde in 1999, Padraig Harrington was conquered by the Burn, but lived to tell the tale. Harrington even went one step beyond Van de Velde - when a simple bogey would have meant victory, he hit into the burn twice. And it may come to be regarded as one of the greatest double-bogeys of all time, because it was just enough to get him into the 4-hole playoff against Sergio Garcia. This time, again faced with a situation where bogey would mean victory (absent a birdie from the suddenly erratic Garcia), Harrington played it as safe as a man possibly could, grabbed his 5, and walked away with the Claret Jug.

This could have been a breakthrough win for Garcia, but for now he remains the holder of the least coveted title in the sport - best player never to have won a major. Going into Sunday, this tournament was his to lose, and he lost it. It was not a "choke" in the Greg Norman/1996 Masters sense, but neither was it a round of distinction. He's only 29, with a lot of golf left in him, but in his press conference it was painfully clear that he was absolutely crushed. This one would have meant a lot, coming at the same tournament where his friend and mentor Seve Ballesteros announced that he was hanging it up for good. I still think Garcia will win multiple majors, but this loss may set him back for a while.

As for Tiger, this had to qualify as only a fair effort - 6 strokes behind, T12. When your standards are as high as his, a season without a major victory is a failure, plain and simple. Which is why it would not be wise to bet against him in three weeks at Southern Hills.

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