Dreamer Harrington soars to the top at Valero
3 Min Read
Written by Kevin Robbins @kdanielrobbins
On a day in South Texas that looked like many in Ireland, a Dubliner of relatively advanced age who makes the rare PGA TOUR appearance shot a 4-under par 68 at the Valero Texas Open in fog, mist, wind and the occasional sprinkle.
It surely felt a little like home at times for Padraig Harrington, 51. The six-time winner on TOUR and three-time major champion made six birdies in the first round of the Valero after a series of suspensions on a soupy Thursday morning. The earliest groups could barely see the Oaks Course ahead at TPC San Antonio.
“Look, tough conditions, which generally suit me,” Harrington said. “And I kept my head down.”
Making his 333rd start in his 28th season, Harrington frequently plays the on PGA TOUR Champions, where he’s won four times. He won his last TOUR title in 2015 at The Honda Classic and has played just twice this season, making the cut at Honda and the Arnold Palmer Invitational but finishing no better than a tie for 53rd. He made one cut in six tournaments last year.
But make no mistake. Harrington can still get work done among men half his age, as he proved Thursday.
He matched Matt Kuchar (44 years old, for the record) for the early lead. He made few mistakes, making only two bogeys at the par-5 second hole and the par-4 12th.
Padraig Harrington cards third-straight birdie on No. 1 at Valero
“I worked my way around the golf course, didn’t get myself into too many awkward situations,” Harrington said.
One of those happened late in the day, on the par-5 eighth (he started on the 10th tee). Harrington pulled his second shot, leaving a tough third. He dumped it in the bunker.
He made par.
“Got to really have your thinking cap on and I did a good job mentally today,” he said. “I got up and down quite a few times and I putted well.”
Harrington has never won in Texas, but he has 20 times around the world in other locales, including Brazil, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Portugal, Scotland and, yes, bonny Ireland.
His major championships came at the 2007 and 2008 Open Championship, and the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
After all of that, Harrington appears to have no interest in a shift to shuffleboard or pickleball. The six-time member of the Ryder Cup team for Europe captained the European team in 2020 at Whistling Straits. He puts golf tips on YouTube. He recently was nominated for the World Golf Hall of Fame. He called himself “an optimist” and “a pretty enthusiastic person” who simply finds great joy in hitting a golf ball, finding it and hitting it again.
“I get up in the morning and it just drives me on,” Harrington said. “I wake up and the minute I hit a golf shot — and you’d think I’d have sense at this age — I’m dreaming that I’m going to find the secret. I know there isn’t one. But I’m always hopeful, dreaming. I just think it keeps you young.”
And, with that, the veteran of so many seasons in golf went to get treatment. His leg bothered him. He was tired. It was a long day.
“After walking 18 holes, I can’t do much,” he said. “I’ll figure it out. Don’t worry.”
No one is, least of all Harrington.