Three Champions Tour wins including a Senior US Open, twelve top-10 finishes in 18 events and a chance to win the Charles Schwab Cup. It is no wonder Pádraig Harrington feels he has found a new lease of life and is enjoying his golf again.
There isn’t much the Dubliner hasn’t seen. Three major championship wins, six consecutive Ryder Cup appearances for Europe between 1999 and 2010 as well as a Ryder Cup captaincy. His glittering CV has only continued to grow in his first full season on the Champions Tour.
Harrington’s last PGA Tour win came in 2015 at the Honda Classic while his last DP World Tour win arrived a year later at the Portugal Masters. Having turned professional in 1995 the 51-year-old feels that after 20 years on the main tour he had just about burnt himself out but since joining the senior ranks he has adapted his approach to the game and feels as sharp as ever.
“I just kept playing. I probably had my 20 years, you know, about 2016 I would have been burnt out. Kind of in the meantime looked at it and came back not so much for this tour but came back to golf and just took a different angle to it,” explained Harrington. “I’m not as intense about it. I still do quite a bit of work, but not the same level of work I used to do. I don’t think I could keep up the pace that I would have kept as a younger player.
“Yeah, I focused on realising that I enjoy playing golf and to make sure that I can continue to enjoy playing professional golf, I’ve taken out some of the things that probably I didn’t like doing or couldn’t keep doing. Yeah, I enjoy my life a little bit more on tour.
“It’s not all about the work. I’m not as intense about the game as I would have been 10, 15 years ago. And that’s the nature of the game. When you’re younger, you’re trying everything to get better, you’re full on. I’m not as full on about it as I would have been 15 years ago.”
While there is no doubt that Harrington can still compete on the PGA and DP World Tours, the feeling of being in contention to win on a weekly basis on the Champions Tour is what lights the fire in his belly and rekindles the feelings of the good ol’ days.
“That’s why I was still playing on the regular tour. Out here, you know, a lot of players, as I said, you come here, it’s a new lease on life. You’re trying to win tournaments, you’re hitting great shots under pressure, you’re hitting shots and waving to the crowds.
“It reminds you of the good days. Really, that is it. There’s an element of when you’re winning a tournament, it feels like it used to feel like 20 years ago and that’s a nice feeling. It’s exciting. You still have to hit the shots under pressure, but you do feel like, you know, it feels like the yesteryears.”
Since 2016 Harrington has missed almost 49% of his cuts on the main tours and he admits he had come to the end of his 20-year cycle and a new relaxed approach to life on the Champions Tour will prolong his career another 15-20 years.
“Yeah, there’s no doubt I was burnt out there. You just can push for so long when it comes to golf. Like I said, my view, and I fit exactly into the category, careers last about 20 years.
“And even the last couple of those 20 years, you might look to everybody that your everything is normal, but you’re really on a downward slope. Mine fit it exactly in that. I got my win at the end of 20 years, everything was hard after that.
“And I think I had a bit of a breakthrough, probably had a good look about what I enjoy about golf and decided I really like playing golf, I like being out here. What’s not to like about coming to these beautiful, sunny climates and playing golf courses that are prepared as well as they can be for us. We’re treated like stars. We remember the good days. What’s not to like about that?”
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