By Mathieu Wood
Over a 13-month spell between July 2007 and August 2008, one player stood out above the rest in the world game.
Victory in the US PGA Championship – which is this week staging its 105th edition – 15 years ago at Oakland Hills saw Pádraig Harrington create a piece of European golfing history.
In holding off the challenge of Spain’s Sergio Garcia and 2003 Open Championship winner Ben Curtis of the United States, the Irishman became the first European to win consecutive Major Championships.
His historic victory saw him end Europe’s 78-year wait for a player to win the US PGA Championship, the last being Scottish-born Tommy Armour in 1930.
Not only that, but it was also his third Major triumph in six starts.
The win left Curtis comparing Harrington’s dominance on the Major scene at the time to that of the then World Number One Tiger Woods, who was absent because of a serious injury to his left knee.
"That's Tiger-like, right there," said 54-hole leader Curtis. “He’s playing pretty impressive golf.”
Of that, there was no denying.
Harrington began the final round on one over, three shots adrift of Curtis – a deficit which grew to four by the fifth hole.
But three birdies in a four-hole stretch from the tenth lifted the then World Number Three alongside Garcia into a share of the lead at three under and one ahead of Curtis.
However, a second bogey of the day at the 14th soon dropped Harrington out of the lead, before the three players in contention to claim the Wanamaker Trophy were back on parity at two under after bogey by Garcia at the 16th.
Harrington seized the initiative with a birdie at the par-three 17th before he clinched a two-shot victory with a fantastic par save from 15 feet at the closing hole after finding a fairway bunker off the tee.
It was a victory characterised by an inner resolve and belief that had grown.
“I felt an edge in terms of my experience,” Harrington said. “I felt an edge in terms of my ability to take an opportunity when it comes around.”
Just three weeks earlier, he had successfully defended his Open title at Royal Birkdale, becoming the first European to do so since James Braid in 1906.
"I had a great year as the Open champion, so much so I did not want to give it back," said Harrington of retaining the Claret Jug.
"It's brilliant to come back and defend. I convinced myself I could win and I stayed focused and managed to get the job done."
At the end of a week in which Harrington had faced pre-tournament concerns over a wrist injury sustained in practice, he withstood the windy conditions at Birkdale to win by four shots from Ian Poulter.
"In hindsight, the fact I did not have to play three practice rounds meant that I was fresh for the battle ahead," he reflected after a one-under-par 69 in the final round saw him finish the championship at three over.
"Maybe having a wrist injury took a bit of the stress and pressure off me. It was a good distraction."
The two consecutive Major wins in 2008 helped Harrington be crowned Golfer of the Year.
That was the second year running he had received the honour, having first made his Major breakthrough at the 2007 Open after a play-off with Garcia as Carnoustie served up another dramatic finish.
Holding a one-shot lead on the 18th tee in regulation play, Harrington threatened to unravel like Jean van de Velde had done eight years earlier as he found the Barry Burn twice before an excellent pitch helped him save a double bogey.
That left Garcia, playing alongside Harrington in the final group, with the chance to claim victory with a par but he could not capitalise.
Harrington went on to win by one stroke over the four extra holes, becoming Europe’s first Major champion since Scotland’s Paul Lawrie had lifted the Claret Jug at the same venue in 1999.
“I never let it cross my mind that I’d just thrown away The Open,” said Harrington. “Obviously, if I had, it would have been incredibly hard to take.”
Now, at the age of 51, he continues to compete with the best in the world, registering top tens on the DP World Tour, PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions already this year.
And with just a month to go before Harrington is inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, he will hope the memories of the best spell of his career can inspire him to contend for more Major glory.