Monday, July 21, 2008

Filling Tiger's void? Harrington, but not Phil

In the aftermath of the Open Championship, the question isn't whether Padraig Harrington is the game's second-best player regardless of what the official world rankings say -- he is -- nor is it whether this major championship Sunday performance is like so many others in Greg Norman's star-crossed career -- no, this was different.

The question is, what happened to all the guys who were supposed to pounce on major championships while Tiger Woods is on the mend?

This was going to be Sergio's moment, but he shot 44 coming in on Sunday and was never a serious factor.

Ernie Els?

His first-round 80 said more than his three good rounds from there.

Phil Mickelson?

Paralysis by analysis. Just play golf. Enough with the five wedges and rocket-science approach to trajectory and all that overthinking. Just go play golf, especially over there where feel is the most important thing.

Vijay?

He's getting old.

Adam Scott?

Where'd he go?

At least 23-year old Anthony Kim played like a guy capable of winning, at least until he put a putter in his hands. Then the hole started playing hide and seek.

Harrington, meanwhile, enhanced his place in the game with his gritty play. He's as tough as they come and his back nine Sunday was a thing of beauty. Looking for a winner at the PGA next month? I'll start with Harrington.

As for Norman, he didn't win but he had a chance with nine holes remaining and, in the process, he reminded us again of how captivating a personality he can be.

Norman was the game's dominant personality for a decade and having him back out front again reminded us of how flamboyant he was.

Had he somehow kept it together and won at Birkdale, it would have been one of the great stories ever, on a level with Jack Nicklaus' win in the 1986 Masters.

It didn't happen, unfortunately, but it's different when you're a 53-year old businessman who plays golf when the mood hits. This wasn't Norman in his prime with all the arrows in his heart. This was an aging giant back for one more moment and he played with much of the world pulling for him.

Norman didn't play as well on Sunday as he had in the three previous rounds and there was some criticism of him hitting his driver as often as he did. But Norman is considered by many to be the best driver -- combining length and accuracy -- ever. To play away from his strength on Sunday would have been counterintuitive.

Maybe he would have won if he'd hit more 3-woods and hybrids off the tee. Maybe not.

The way Harrington played at the end, it was his tournament to win.

The question is where everyone else went.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ron...how about a comment on the two dopes in the booth... Azinger and Watson. Didn't it seem they had it "in" for Norman? As the weekend progressed, not a complimentary word was said. Azinger will have his day when the European's have their way with him during the Ryder Cup

greg norman said...

azinger told the truth. norman was a dumbass, he should have left his driver in the clubhouse. is that better jr.?