The Claret Jug can now be filled with Guinness, or ladybirds, or whatever the Harrington family wants. Actually, it probably will not be Guinness because Padraig Harrington is a teetotaller. Whatever, when the 36-year-old Dubliner won the Open at Carnoustie last July, and his little son Patrick scampered onto the 18th green and asked if he could fill the famous old trophy with ladybirds, it was fully 60 years since an Irishman had last won golf’s most venerable championship.
Now the Emerald Isle can boast one of only five men in the past 50 years to have mounted a successful defence of the title, and the only non-American, as Harrington joins Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods. It is an exceedingly illustrious list, and one of its quirks is that Royal Birkdale features in four out of five of those back-to-back victories.
This marvellous course on what used to be the Lancashire coast, until the 1974 boundary changes impolitely deemed it Merseyside, posed a formidable challenge again yesterday, although for the first time in four days the stiff wind off the Irish Sea brought scarcely any rain with it, and by the afternoon the people from Southport Tourist Board must have been singing hosannas. At long last the sun had come out, with his hat on. Hip, hip, hip hooray!
Hats have loomed large in many of the nine Opens at Royal Birkdale. There was Mr Lu’s famous pork-pie number in 1971, and the flat cap 12 years later of Watson’s faithful Southport caddie, Alfie Fyles, which according to local rumour could only be removed by surgery. To this list of celebrated Birkdale headgear can now be added Harrington’s blue peaked cap, which he doffed on receiving an ovation on the first tee and removed once more as he received the thunderous plaudits of the crowd while making his distinctive splay-footed walk up the 18th fairway.