Continued from page 1

That’s how it was for Harrington.

He always told Ronan Flood, his brother-in-law who eventually became his caddie, that there was no greater feeling than walking up the 18th at the Open, with the gallery crammed behind ropes and metal railing, the grandstands full of people sitting elbow-to-elbow in the green chairs aligned so perfectly.

“I kept telling Ronan for years, `You’ve got to be coming down the last on a Sunday afternoon. There’s no experience like walking down the last and getting cheered onto the green,’” Harrington said. “The first time Ronan ever got to caddie on the 18th hole was Carnoustie. It took us three years to get there.”

Harrington won his first Open at Carnoustie in 2007, despite a double bogey on the 18th hole. Sergio Garcia made bogey on the last to set up a playoff, and Harrington wound up beating him by one shot. So he made the trip down the 18th fairway five times that week _ four in regulation, one in a playoff.

“But I actually lied,” Harrington added. “There’s a better experience. It’s going down the 72nd hole when you’re actually winning The Open,” he said. “Then the crowds really come alive _ if they have not been alive already. It’s a very special feeling.”

Sunday before a major is getting busier, with a couple of dozen players getting in a practice round.

One of them was Tiger Woods, who arrived at a nearby airport at 7 a.m., drove straight to the golf course and walked right onto the first tee. He stretched briefly, and without a practice swing, uttered his first words of his British Open week: “Get in.”

He nearly holed the tee shot.

Woods meticulously worked his way through all 18 holes, taking notes, hitting a 2-iron off a par 5 into the wind to avoid some of the 206 bunkers. One reason for being so meticulous on a Sunday was the weather might not be this pleasant the rest of the week. The forecast was for rain just about every day, starting on Monday on the first official day of practice.

The grandstands are made by a company called Wernick Events Link. The grandstands will hold some 20,000 people across Royal Lytham & St. Annes, but it’s the three sets around the 18th _ two on either side, one to the back left corner so as not to block the clubhouse, that are so majestic. Workers began installing them in April.

The last three winners have been able to soak up the moment on the 18th. Stewart Cink in the playoff at Turnberry, Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews and Clarke last year all had safe leads. The engraver already was at work on the claret jug. Justin Leonard won at Royal Troon in 1997, though he was in the penultimate group and was busy grinding to make par. Still, he can’t think of a better stage than the closing hole of golf’s oldest championship.

“There’s a lot of things you can understand just from watching on TV,” he said.