Ireland’s Padraig Harrington toasted his accession to an elite band of players after a superb final round at Royal Birkdale saw him successfully defend the Open title.
Harrington fended off the challenge of England’s Ian Poulter and Australian veteran Greg Norman to become the first European to retain a Major for more than a century.
And Harrington, who became the first European Major winner for eight years 12 months ago when he lifted the Claret Jug at Carnoustie, admitted he felt he had joined a distinguished group.
“It’s important that you go on and win a second major,” said Harrington. “Very few people have won two majors or back-to-back majors. I was always trying to play that down but winning a second sets you apart. It’s a new level and there’s less people in that club.”
Harrington’s one-under-par final round of 69 left him four shots clear of Poulter, who mounted a late charge. Two-time Open winner Norman had been the surprise leader after 54 holes but finished tied for third after a 77.
Dubliner Harrington’s key moment came when he eagled the 572-yard 17th, after a stunning second shot left him four feet shy of the pin.
His defence had looked in tatters on the eve of the Open, after a wrist injury left him unable to practise fully for two days. But the 36-yearold credited the injury with helping him to a triumph that ensures his place in the Ryder Cup team and lifts him to No3 in the world.
“In hindsight the fact that I didn’t play three practice rounds meant I was fresh for the battle ahead,” Harrington added. “It took a bit of stress and pressure off me. It was a good distraction.”