THREE-TIME major winner and former European Ryder Cup team captain Padraig Harrington has shifted his focus now that he’s 50 years old and eligible to play on the PGA Tour Champions.

The Irishman has made his presence felt on the PGA Tour Champions finishing tied for second at last month’s Rapiscan Systems Classic behind Kiwi Steve Alker.

“It (turning 50) is probably the only birthday as you’re getting older that you look forward to,” Harrington told the PGA Tour’s Cameron Morfit. Still, Harrington believes he can remain competitive on the PGA and European tours.

“I’ve certainly got the distance to keep me competitive on the main tours for another five years,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview the six-time PGA Tour winner – including The Open Championship in 2007-’08 and US PGA Championship in 2008 – talks about shots he wishes he had back, being the youngest of five sons, the trait that defined his career, and why it’s good to feel nervous. All he would say about Europe’s 19-9 loss to a powerful Ryder Cup American team was: “Better to let sleeping dogs lie.”

Padraig Harrington … looking for more success.

PGATOUR.COM: What do expect from playing PGA Tour Champions?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I’m fascinated with how environments change the same person, so I’m curious to see how I change out here and how this environment changes me if I go back to playing the PGA and European tours. Does coming out here into a smaller pond make me feel bigger and better … and then can I carry that back to the PGA Tour and the majors?

PGATOUR.COM: What’s the one facet of your game that is most responsible for your success?

PH: Oh, my mental game, followed by my short game. Not necessarily putting, but chipping. I was always a demon bunker player. 

PGATOUR.COM: You grew up the youngest of five boys. Is that what toughened you up?

PH: You’d have to think so. We’re a competitive family. The brother just 20 months older than me, Fergal, and I were competitive. If I treated him as my equal that pushed me on – golf, cards, snooker, anything. It was competitive. All four of my older brothers started working when they were 13. They all took jobs in bars cleaning tables. Because of the money they earned trickling down into the family, I didn’t work. I got to play golf as a teenager. I got the opportunities.

PGATOUR.COM: What artifacts from your career are on display at Stackstown GC in Dublin?

PH: There’s an Open trophy replica and a replica of the (US) PGA trophy and a lot of personal stuff from when I was an amateur all the way through – some nice stuff. I must update it now. It was a serious party club – legendary drinking and partying and card games and golf games.

PGATOUR.COM: What’s the one facet that held you back in your career?

PH: Too much practice on the range and not enough time on the course. I didn’t have a range when I was a kid; I had 100 yards to practice. Once I got on Tour, it was the draw of trying to hit the next shot better. Unfortunately, I’m a really good range player.

PGATOUR.COM: Other than Tiger, have you ever seen such excitement as there was after Rory McIlroy won the 2011 US Open at Congressional?

PH: That and the PGA Championship because he did it with the driver. Here was this small guy who just hit it like nobody else. I remember Phil (Mickelson) saying at Abu Dhabi around that time, like, how could you compete against him, where he hit it off the tee? Rory was a great player all the way through, but the driving put him over the top – his attitude, his youth. In some ways Viktor Hovland reminds me of him … nothing like a bit of innocence.

PGATOUR.COM: Greatest round you’ve ever played?

PH: The last round of The Open Championship at Birkdale in 2008. I swung the club well, hit some incredible shots. All my other wins, you kind of look back on and go, I recovered here, I saved myself there. Winning the PGA Championship three weeks later at Oakland Hills was completely different. I got sick. I lost my swing and couldn’t get it back. That was pure tenaciousness.

PGATOUR.COM: If you could have one career mulligan, where would it be?

PH: The last three holes at the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot. I had three pars to win and hit three good tee shots and went bogey, bogey, bogey. I bogeyed 16 and panicked. I thought I needed to make birdies. But Winged Foot won me Carnoustie, Birkdale and Oakland Hills because I needed the experience of Winged Foot to realise what it was like to have a tournament, a major, that was within my grasp. I learned a huge amount.

PGATOUR.COM: Any others you’d like to have back?

PH: I bogeyed the last at Olympic Club to tie for fourth at the 2012 US Open. I needed birdie but was maybe a foot short of being on the upslope for my approach. From the downslope I hit it long-left into the bunker. I was leading after 59 holes at The Open in 2015 and lost a ball in the gorse. Everybody knew where it was and nobody told me. The cameras knew. I was looking in the wrong place. I’d turn on my phone now and ring someone.

PGATOUR.COM: You had five top-10s in the US Open, but no wins.

PH: The US Open is my best major. It suits me. I’ve done nicely in it and feel very competitive. I haven’t played in it in 10 years or something, but you need a lot of resilience to win on a US Open golf course. I would like to have a few more goes at that one.

PGATOUR.COM: You had four top-10s at the Masters.

PH: I couldn’t care less about top-10s, but I could tell you where I had a chance of winning and felt nervous … and that’s the most important thing. I had two Masters where, had I shot 31 or 32 on the back nine. One year (2007) I hit the most perfect hybrid into 15 and it pitched five yards onto the green and rolled back off the front and in the water. I thought I had holed the shot. It was ridiculous. They changed the green the following year. Now they have a pin position where my ball landed, that’s how much they changed it. 

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