The Golfing Gods can never again be accused of heavy-handedness, after the horrors of 1999 Carnoustie got the Open of its dreams. Two European Ryder Cup stars both generously refusing to grab the prize on offer during a sun-kissed evening at what must be the Open?s most exciting venue – drama doesn?t come much better than this. The GM Team were lucky enough to be inside the ropes all the way, with one pair following Harrington and one behind Sergio. It was an experience of a lifetime.
Padraig Harrington ? Luke Norman & Paul O?Hagan
After an early afternoon spent watching an out of sorts Tiger Woods struggle to make anything happen, we returned to the media centre with the intention of watching the rest of the action unfold on television. Thank the lord we got itchy feet after just 30 minutes and headed to the 15th. It was to prove the best decision of the week.
The atmosphere was bristling with pure adrenaline as the huge crowds cheered, moaned and whooped their way around the 15th green. Having watched Ernie Els come through 15 and drive at 16 we were shaken to the very depths by the cheer as Padraig eagled 14 and it became a simple choice of where we ought to be.
The privilege of being so close to the action that we could feel every tremor of emotion was humbling. Throughout the next two hours we spent the majoity of our time looking at each other in disbelief that not only were we witnessing the best Open in living memory but we were close enough to hear Padraig discussing tactics. The quality of the Irishman? strike on 16 in regulation play will inspire for a long time.
As we moved down 17 and towards the 18th tee both of us were convinced that we were following the Champion Golfer of 2007. However, it did come back to me as Padraig took a few swings on the tee of his 72nd hole that he had told Neil just a few months ago that the 18th at Carnoustie is the hardest finishing hole in golf and anyone would need a healthy lead to lift the Claret Jug. His worst fears were confirmed.
A swift walk down the 18th and again we had to pinch each other that we were just yards from the greatest sporting spectacle of all-time ? sorry if that is a bit Woosnam at The K Club but it?s all a bit much! The empathy for Harrington on 18 was soon matched by Sergio as his putt slid by in front of our eyes. But it did mean play-off and yet more unadulterated ecstasy.
Sergio Garcia ? Neil Tappin
Today I had the tough task of walking step for step alongside Sergio. Scrutinising every move from close quaters of the last group in a major was a surreal experience but one I?ll certainly never forget.
Throughout the day the crowds were willing him on but ultimately it was the pressure from within that cost him dear. Several times I spotted him shutting his eyes, taking deep breaths and uttering words of encouragement ? wining the Claret Jug today clearly meant the world to him. But it was his putter, the club that had delivered him his best chance of winning that eventually and cruelly snatched it away. Throughout the final round he stroked the ball without conviction, without belief.
The Spaniard was the most notable casualty of a war that was thrilling, if not a little awkward to watch. Seeing him miss that putt for the title, my heart sank. I met Sergio earlier this year and when he spoke about The Open his eyes lit up ? there was a passion, a desire to win that was tangible.
As I toast Padraig this evening, I?ll also drink to Sergio. I only hope that this disaster doesn?t leave a wound that he?s unable to mend.
Play-off ? GM Team At Large
What can we say? The sun and then rainbow that came out as the gladiators reached the final green was the perfect indication of what were watching. Blessed be the internet and all-yea who have ben reading this site because while all our print cousins were umbillically attached to their laptops with copy deadlines looming we were free to follow the action live and uninterrupted with just a couple of dozen other journalists to jostle for position with. The 16th tee was once again a pinnacle as the intoxicated crowds went wild with delight as Sergio?s ball struck the flag. The sense of cammarderie between all out there was magnificent to be a part of and the sheer delight on everyone?s faces told the true story of Carnoustie 2007. The Golfing Gods have been in the most benevolent of moods today and we for one are hugely grateful ? sure it won?t be that way for long! Adios from Carnoustie.