Harrington: Tiger ‘not the star’ in dad-son group

  • Senior golf writer for ESPN.com
  • Covered golf for more than 20 years
  • Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana University

ORLANDO, Fla. — Padraig Harrington is playing in the PNC Championship for the third time and loves the idea of bonding with his son, Patrick, and exposing him to the game he has excelled at as a pro.

He also enjoys checking out the various golf swings of legends and amateurs alike. Three caught his eye this week: Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Charlie Woods.

Yes, that’s two 80-something Hall of Famers and the 11-year-old son of Tiger Woods, who is the youngest player to ever compete in the event that begins Saturday at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.

“What I do find interesting: I think Tiger turned pro slightly before me or around the same time as me,” Harrington said Friday after a pro-am round. “This is the first tournament I’ve ever played in that Tiger Woods is playing in that he’s not the star of the show.

“He should note that himself. He ain’t the star of the show this week. And that’s very much among the players and the pros. We’re all going down the range, and everybody is stopping to watch Charlie. ‘Move out of the way, Tiger.’ It is incredible the buzz it’s created.”

There was considerable surprise last month when Woods announced that he would be playing the event reserved for major champions and a family member.

Charlie Woods has shown himself to be quite the player, with a golf swing that looks eerily similar to his famous father, who has won 15 major titles. Tiger Woods repeatedly said that he simply wants his son to “enjoy” the game. During two pro-am appearances, Charlie showed plenty of promise.

Harrington, 49, is the captain of the European Ryder Cup team, the biennial competition that was postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. A winner of 31 worldwide tournaments, including three major championships, he had his share of battles with the older Woods over the years.

But he is intrigued by what is happening with Charlie Woods.

“For me, I’ve watched three golf swings this week,” Harrington said. “Three people I’ve really stopped to have a look at it. Gary Player. Lee Trevino and Charlie Woods. I do stop to look at the sons. But three in particular I take my time.

“Gary Player for me, at 85 years of age, it’s just incredible how well he hits it. Lee Trevino is still a beautiful ball-striker at 81 years of age. Wouldn’t you love to be like that? And on the opposite end of the scale at 11 years of age you have Charlie Woods and what’s ahead of him. It is interesting.

“Push Tiger aside,” Harrington joked. “You’re not the story anymore.”

Like his experience with Patrick, who is 17, Harrington said the idea is to have fun and not worry too much about results.

“Certainly the first couple of years you just wanted him to hit one good shot,” Harrington said. “I remember the first year he hit a lovely pitch into 13 and spun it back. Hit it stone dead. And they showed it on TV. This is the key. They showed it on TV. It was an exceptional shot, but it was aired.

“They’re not about showing the bad shots. We’re here to enjoy ourselves. They do a good job. As much as the kids will be under pressure, it’s not too bad as far as the format. If you are leading the tournament, there is a bit of pressure. But if you’re not, it really is an enjoyable week.”

Tiger and Charlie Woods tee off at 11:48 a.m. ET along with Justin Thomas and his father, Mike.

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