He won the last time he was in Arizona, but Padraig Harrington is skipping Tucson this week and heading to Orlando.
Harrington won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix last November but he’s forgoing the Cologuard Classic on the PGA Tour Champions.
Instead, he’ll be among the 120 golfers in the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the second full-field designated event on the PGA Tour.
The $20 million purse and $3.6 million first-place check up for grabs at Bay Hill vs. the $2.2 million total purse at Tucson National likely has something to do with it.
But for competitors like Harrington, testing your game against 44 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking – the most at any event since the 2022 Open Championship – is a significant draw.
“My game had turned a corner coming into 50 years of age,” he said ahead of the Honda Classic last week. “At 49, I was starting to play well in regular events. Still a little bit hard on myself at those events.”
Harrington tied for 60th at the Honda, his first appearance in a PGA Tour event this season. Last season, the API was the only cut he made in six Tour outings. On the flip side, he’s already won four times on the senior circuit and knows life is pretty good on that tour.
“It’s a nice place to be. It’s nice to be a big fish in a small pond,” he said.
A major difference between the tours is the 72-hole PGA Tour events that cut the field in half after two days compared to the no-cut, 54-hole Champions events.
“It’s nice not to have the stress of a cut. Even the couple of events I played on the European Tour, even the first one where I finished fourth, at one stage on the Friday I’m like, ‘What’s the cut going to be, where am I?’ and when you start thinking like that you just hit a brick wall,” he said.
“It’s amazing how hard it is to play when you’re thinking about the cut and you’ve got to get that out of your mind, which the Champions Tour, again, we don’t have a cut; 54-hole golf is not 72-hole golf. That’s very obvious. It’s a big difference having a cut line. A lot of pressure, a lot of stress in that cut line, and it doesn’t matter how good, what you’ve done in your career.
“Professional golfers have this silly thing in our heads that we don’t want to miss cuts. We don’t want a weekend off. Who in the world doesn’t want to have a weekend off? Professional golfers, we just all get uptight when it comes to the cut line, much more so for me. I could be chasing down the lead and it wouldn’t bother me whatsoever, but if I’m on that cut line, I’m like, ‘Oh, you don’t want to mess that one up.’”
Playing with the 50-and-over set has led to a mental adjustment.
“It’s freed up my golf somewhat, and like hopefully I can take that to the regular tour. Physically I’m very capable.”