Padraig Harrington ready to be ‘back in the thick of it’ at SAS Championship
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Written by Bob McClellan
After spending his summer on the DP World Tour, Padraig Harrington makes his return to PGA TOUR Champions this week at the SAS Championship.
Harrington said he made the decision to play on the fly after performing so well on the PGA TOUR this season and in his nine starts on the Champions Tour, where he racked up seven top 10s, including a win at the end of June in the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open.
“I’ve been playing nicely on the Champions Tour and I had a bit more confidence, got myself going, wanted to see if I could take that back to the regular tour,” Harrington said this week ahead of the SAS, the final event before the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs.
Only the top 72 in the Schwab Cup standings will advance to the Dominion Energy Charity Classic.
“I did initially and was quite comfortable, but the longer I stayed it kinda went back to ‘God, this is hard,’” he continued. “You’re kind of on edge, you don’t feel like you can make any mistakes, whereas when I started on the regular tour from the Champions Tour I was feeling pretty good, making plenty of birdies, I could take a few more knocks. But that sort of got worn out on me.”
Padraig Harrington on his pursuit of speed off the tee
Harrington last appeared on PGA TOUR Champions at The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex in July. He lost in a playoff to Alex Cejka at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club on the second extra hole. The next time he teed it up was at the DP World Tour’s D+D Real Czech Masters at the end of August in which he finished T62. But in his next event, the Omega European Masters, he tied for 20th.
Harrington still hits it far enough to keep up with most of the younger players on the PGA TOUR and the DP World Tour. He made 12 starts across those tours this year and made 10 cuts -- all but the final two (BMW PGA Championship, Alfred Dunhill Links Championship).
“Look, I love playing out here on the Champions Tour. It’s great,” Harrington said. “It’s a new lease on life. You’re relaxed, feel good about your game. It’s amazing how much better you play when you feel good. Because I’m physically able to still hit it, I still have that temptation that I can play with the young guys and still beat them.”
Yet, the 52-year-old Irishman is philosophical about the differences between playing on PGA TOUR Champions and playing on either the PGA TOUR or the DP World Tour.
“This is the thing, see: Golf is about being comfortable,” Harrington said. “You make bogey, but you know another birdie is coming. That’s what the Champions Tour does for you. If you’re in contention, you feel good. You go back to the regular tour, and after a while it can wear you down. You’re under pressure. You don’t feel like you can miss that 8-footer on Thursday afternoon for par. It’s like a body blow.
“On the Champions Tour … if I hang in there, don’t lose my head, I might need a big finish, but I’ll still have a chance with nine holes to go.”
Golf is really about rolling with the punches. And Harrington recognizes he takes fewer of those body blows on PGA TOUR Champions.
Padraig Harrington cards birdie on No. 16 at DICK'S
“It will be interesting to see the change of pace back to Champs,” Harrington said. “Out here, you gotta make a lot of birdies. On the regular tours, there’s a drop-off of those birdies. Instead of six or seven, I’m down to making three birdies a round. I know when I first came out to Champions, that pace … it took a while to get going.
“I could definitely have done myself a disservice playing the bigger courses and tougher pin positions because it strains your overall outlook on playing. It might take a week only a week I hope, to get back into the flow. It’s fast. It’s quite a sprint. If you’re not 4 or 5 under after the first round … it’s hard to get to 15 under if you start at level par.”
Harrington said he always intended, no matter what happened on the DP World Tour, to take part in the Schwab Cup Playoffs. He dominated in the three-tournament playoffs in 2022, finishing T3, solo fourth and winning the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
“I’m looking forward to being back in the thick of it,” Harrington said. “I hope I’m sharp enough to shoot 5- or 6-under par every day. You gotta go fast and get going. I’m hoping I haven’t knocked the edges off. I’m looking forward to being under pressure trying to win a tournament rather than being under pressure to make a cut.”