Paddy's day of enjoyment
Padraig Harrington stays in the moment for his first win on TOUR since 2008
March 02, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Padraig Harrington moved to 21st in the FedExCup standings with his victory. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Padraig Harrington’s playoff win over Daniel Berger on Monday at The Honda Classic was his first on the PGA TOUR since 2008, got him into the Masters and moved him to 82nd in the Official World Golf Ranking.
But he’s not thinking about any of that.
“The one thing you learn is you don't win as often as you think,” said Harrington, who also moved to 21st in the FedExCup standings. “I'm just enjoying winning The Honda Classic.
“It's not about what it means to my career or what it means going forward. You don't win that often. When you win, make sure you enjoy it. So that's where I'm at the moment.”
Padraig Harrington wins on second playoff hole at The Honda Classic
When you’ve been around as long as the 43-year-old Harrington, and reached his highs and his lows, you learn to live in the moment.
Seven years ago, he was the toast of the game, winning three majors in a span of 13 months, including the final two of 2008 to reach No. 3 in the world.
But Harrington’s game would soon fall on hard times. He re-tooled his swing and was willing to take one step back to take two forward. Instead, he kept going in reverse.
In 2009 and 2010, he missed the cut in four of eight majors. When he did make the cut, he didn’t contend -- registering just one top 10.
The decline continued each of the next three seasons as Harrington had just nine top 10s in 53 starts on the PGA TOUR. Two of those years, he didn’t even crack $1 million in earnings -- something he hadn’t done in nearly a decade – and he rarely found himself in contention.
Whatever physical tinkering he had done with his swing, not seeing the results he’d hoped for had crept into the mental side of his game and in 2012 he suffered the yips.
“As a lot of people who win major tournaments, you look back at them and you try and live up to them, play up to them,” Harrington said. “I just got very intolerant of my mental game, my focus.
“When you get (the yips), it's really frustrating, it's really hard. You don't know what to do. You grind your way through it and it is a tough thing to get through.
“But yeah, there's no doubt low points in those years, because you know, in 2008, 2009, I'm very much in the penthouse. I wasn't quite down to the doghouse but not far away from it.”
Padraig Harrington interview after winning The Honda Classic
His work with Dr. Bob Rotella over the years helped.
So did his general fascination with the game (which is what explains all of that tinkering in the first place).
So did perspective.
Harrington missed five cuts in his first seven starts of the 2014-15 season, including three of his last four in the calendar year.
He nearly threw away his chance at The Honda Classic, too, making a sloppy bogey and an even messier double bogey to lose his lead early in the final round. Then Ian Poulter beat him to it, hitting five balls in the water during a 10-hole stretch that saw him go from three strokes ahead to four behind.
Still, Harrington, who had dropped so far in status that he needed a sponsor exemption just to play at PGA National, stumbled again, rinsing his tee shot on the 71st hole before bouncing back with a birdie on the par-5 18th to force a playoff with Berger, who was already in the clubhouse.
It was perhaps fitting, too, that on that same par-3 17th hole where Harrington had nearly lost the tournament, he stuffed it to 3 feet while hitting first in the playoff. In that moment, experience helped. So did perspective.
“I never once considered how important this win is to me,” he said. “(Winning) changes everything for the three years. I'm back at the Masters. There's lots of things that this does; world ranking points, but I never considered that all day. I was very much in the moment all day, which is good.”
The victory doesn’t get Harrington into this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship an hour down the coast at Trump National Doral, but that might not be such a bad thing. He had already accepted sponsor invites for each of the next three events after it, and he plans to honor them. That’s the kind of guy he is.
Not that he’s thinking about any of that. He’ll let this one sink in for a while before moving on to what’s next.