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When looking back at the 2008 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, one moment stands out more than any other.
During the final round, Padraig Harrington stood on the par-5 17th fairway with a two-shot lead and 272 yards to the pin for his second shot.
With a cold wind blowing hard off the left, he surprised many by pulling his Wilson Staff FYbrid 5-wood out of the bag.
Almost everyone expected him to lay-up, including the commentators. Ken Brown said: “Perhaps he doesn’t know where he is, he’s two ahead, there’s a bit of a risk in this.” Peter Alliss quickly concurred. “I would have thought so yes, he’s going to be aiming into the grandstand on the left, virtually.”
Both Brown and Alliss, along with the viewing public, were amazed by the unlikely result. The defending champion managed to pull off one of the greatest shots in recent Open history, his ball finishing up within 3ft of the hole. His subsequent eagle ensured he would retain the Claret Jug.
OUT OF THE BLUE
Although he came in as defending champion, Harrington did not really feature in the headlines until the final round. The Irishman was not even a certainty to be playing after suffering a wrist injury at the Irish PGA Championship the week before.
The big news story of the week was Greg Norman. The 53-year-old Australian had turned the clock back, battling through the wet and windy conditions to hold a two-shot lead entering into the final round.
Norman, though, struggled on the final day, eventually finishing six shots back. By the end of it, the only story was Harrington’s stunning four-under back nine, his incredible shot on 17, and the club he used.
Throughout that testing final round, Harrington wanted to remain on the front foot and stay aggressive. He was in the zone. When asked post-round about what was going through his mind on the 17th fairway, he explained how taking on the second shot was the only option if he wanted to win the Open.
“My caddie said to me, ‘Do you want to think of laying it up?’ So I asked him the situation,” said Harrington. “I knew I could make birdie if I hit 5-wood. I worried if I laid up and made par, I was giving Greg a great chance to get within one shot of me, and one shot is not comfortable in any shape or form going down 18.”
The low chasing draw was blown to the right by the strong wind, catching the downslope of the front bunker, scurrying up to less than three feet from the flag.
“It’s one of the few times I think I’ve ever heard my caddie say ‘good shot’ to me before the ball is finished,” added Harrington.
• Above: Harrington recreated that shot earlier this year using the brand’s latest D300 model. Of course, he managed to find the green.
Doug Wright, the global commercial director at Wilson Golf, Harrington’s club manufacturer, reveals a bit of background on the unique club he used. “At that time, Wilson’s R&D department was looking for new innovations that would help us get ahead of our competitors,” he told bunkered. “In 2008, a lot of companies were looking to meet the new demand for hybrid clubs, and we were no different.
“The concept behind the FYbrid was to give golfers options on what they could replace their long irons with and provide seamless distance gapping throughout their bag.”
The 5-wood was designed to replace three clubs: 2-iron, 2-hybrid and 7-wood.
Harrington has always been keen to try out new products and is known as a bit of a tinkerer. He first got his hands on the FYbrid a few months before the Open and fell in love with it. It was his favourite club in the bag, his go-to club in pressure situations.
As is often the case with tour players, however, their set composition can change at a whim.
The Irishman had decided to put the 5-wood in his bag that week during his early practice rounds because of the specialised head shape and loft, length combination that offered him the greatest shot flexibility in the gusty conditions. Once in the bag, it proved to be a great asset.
Wilson Staff was quick to capitalise on Harrington’s heroics, tailoring its marketing around the famous shot. It was the perfect product story that consumers could grasp and appreciate, and it had a dramatic effect on Wilson’s sales figures in 2008, with them recording record sales for a fairway wood at the time.
“We saw sales rise by about 20 to 30% compared to the previous year, which was a great year for us following Padraig’s win at Carnoustie,” added Wright.
“For a company whose pedigree is irons and balls it was great to have a new lease of life in the woods and hybrids market. In my time at Wilson, I have never seen sales receive such a massive boost as the result of just one golf shot.”
The FYbrid now resides in Harrington’s home alongside his other memorabilia and trophies. For those who fancy getting their hands on one, they sell for around £30 on eBay if you look hard enough.
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