Harrington advances to 'a different level'

The Baltimore Sun

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Not long after Tiger Woods announced he was done for the year because of knee surgery, the search began for the player who could dominate golf in his absence, especially the final two majors.

Padraig Harrington didn't make too many short lists.

Most eyes were on Phil Mickelson, No. 2 in the world with three majors among his 35 victories around the world. Maybe it was time for Ernie Els to emerge anew, especially now that Woods wasn't around to break his heart. Youth focused on Sergio Garcia, a phenomenal talent who had captured the next best thing to a major at The Players Championship.

Harrington provided the answer not once but twice.

First came his four-shot victory in the British Open, in which he shot a 32 on the back nine in 35 mph wind at Royal Birkdale. One month later, Harrington awoke from a daze to win the PGA Championship with a 66-66 at Oakland Hills.

That gave him three of the past six majors.

And instead of asking whether he could fill the void, the question now is whether Harrington can challenge Woods when he returns.

"It's a good situation that you can ask that question," Harrington said. "I have probably been the leading player in Europe for close to six years. It is a big step now to move up and start competing on a different level. I've got Phil. I've got Tiger ahead of me. I don't necessarily pay attention to what they're doing. I pay attention to more what I'm doing."

When Europe had gone through eight lean years without a major, it was Harrington who ended the streak with his playoff victory last year at Carnoustie. Not since 1905 and 1906 had a European won the British Open in consecutive years until the Irishman won at Royal Birkdale.

Tommy Armour was the last European to win the PGA Championship in 1930 until Harrington won at Oakland Hills.

And he even carved out history all to himself Sunday as the first European to win consecutive majors.

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