The Open 2013: 'Handbrake' turn by Padraig Harrington drives Sergio Garcia to distraction


Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia have history. Or, as psychologists today like to say: “They have issues.” The bad luck of the draw thrust them together for the third round. It didn’t take long for one of them to become irritated by the other.

They were put on the clock on the 12th hole having fallen off the pace of play. Garcia clearly was not happy to be tarred with the same brush as his playing partner, who has a reputation for being, shall we say, precise. They were timed for two holes before being told they were back on track. But Garcia had a bee in his bonnet that clearly needed releasing.

Marching to the 15th tee the Spaniard complained to the rules official that Harrington had slowed down again having been told his speed was no longer being monitored.

“As soon as you tell him, it’s the automatic handbrake,” said Garcia making the gesture of putting on a car brake with his fist and right arm. “You’re right,” the official replied.

Back behind the scorer’s hut after posting a fine three-under-par 68 to be three over for the championship, Garcia to his credit did his best not to throw Harrington under the bus.

The criticism was there but you had to read between the lines. “We seemed to be a little bit slow out there today, but other than that it was fine.” By “we” he meant Harrington.

“I felt like I was rushing quite a lot,” Garcia said. “I even played out of position when it wasn’t my turn probably two or three times to try to catch up.”

One such incident was on the sixth tee when Harrington nipped off to the toilet and Garcia got fed up waiting for him to return so teed up his ball. “If you’re not hitting the ball well, you have to think of so many things,” said Garcia.

Harrington was the one not hitting the ball well. The Irishman shot a six-over-par 77 to be 12 over going into the final round. “It’s difficult when you’re on the clock with anybody that is struggling because it’s always going to take a little bit more time,” added Garcia.

Although Garcia may well have beaten his rival by nine shots yesterday, both know the only score that really matters is: Harrington two Claret Jugs,  Garcia nil. Garcia ended The Open week in tears in 2007 having lost in the play-off to  Harrington at Carnoustie.

The Dubliner won at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and stuck another blow against Garcia by overtaking him to win the 2008 US PGA Championship. They barely even looked at each other during that final round let alone spoke. Harrington was asked yesterday if he was able to put past differences with Garcia aside. “Yes,” he said with a death stare. It sounded more like “No”.

Garcia’s round included six birdies spoiled by three bogeys. He hit a fabulous bunker shot at the 11th that hit the flagstick. Instead of dropping into the hole, it spun seven feet away. He missed the putt. Bogey.

He fizzed an arcing iron to two-feet at the 12th. Birdie. The two holes were a metaphor for his career. Garcia flashes that winning smile when all is well. But he stares at missed putts with such pain in his eyes that you’d think he’s had a finger snapped off with a pair of pliers.

It is the pain of a man desperate to win. “I’ve always said this is my favourite,” he said. “It would be nice to win. This is the one.”