Orlando, Fla. – Twenty years have passed since Padraig Harrington faced Tiger Woods in his first major tournament weekend, and he’s been watching closely ever since.
Woods doesn’t seem finished. Harrington says Woods could win another major if he can make it to the final nine holes.
“You never chase a tee,” Harrington said after two hours of watching Woods play a made-for-TV exhibition last weekend. But I think he’s probably in a better place than I thought.
Never mind that the 15-time major champion turns 47 at the end of the month, or that Woods has had several — if not more — surgeries.
Plantar fasciitis in his right foot kept Woods out of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas two weeks ago, and if Gary isn’t allowed, he won’t play with his 13-year-old son at the PNC Championship this weekend.
“There are two things that make a golfer — how good they are and how resilient they are,” Harrington said Thursday after teeing off at the PNC Championship pro-am. “Often you will be very clever, not very strong; or you will be very patient and very clever. Tiger, throughout his career, has both, which is very rare.
“I never doubt that.”
His view was in contrast to what Colin Montgomery said on a podcast earlier this week that he didn’t think Woods could win again.
“Listen, yeah, that’s great,” Montgomery said. “But Tiger doesn’t just need to get back to the level he was at. He needs to improve. The level is constantly improving, and there aren’t one or two guys who can beat him now. There are 22 guys who can beat him. So Tiger doesn’t need to get back to where he was, but to reach a level he’s never seen before. He is trying and I don’t think this is possible.
“I can’t see it happening. I’d love it if it happened because it’s good for the game. I’d love it if he won. But I can’t see it happening.”
Woods has played just 172 holes in tournaments this year — 162 in walks. He finished 48th at the Masters, withdrew after the third round of the PGA Championship on a cold day at Southern Hills and missed the cut at St. Andrews. He was on a cart for the team’s match last Saturday as his partner with Rory McIlroy.
“I don’t have much left in this leg,” Woods said, referring to his right leg, which he broke in a car accident in Los Angeles in February 2021 in the Bahamas.
Harrington and Woods They squared off for the first time in the third round of the 2002 US Open at Baypage Black – Woods won his second straight major – and have been friends ever since, with Woods respecting Harrington’s work ethic.
Harrington said the goal was to see where he stood through 63 holes and then show him where he was on the back nine. He won three majors in 2007 and 2008.
It was the speed Woods showed in his swing that prompted him to not watch 10 holes in the tournament last week, thinking he has enough power to keep up with today’s generation and at least make it to the back nine.
“A little bit more speed helps because in the first 63 holes … you know, who wants to go down on Tiger?” Harrington said. “You know he can do anything at that level. I think I’m in a better position going into those last nine holes.”
It takes Woods just 27 holes to reach the last nine at his third straight PNC Championship. Woods and 13-year-old Charlie finished one shot behind John Daly and his son a year ago.
The competition can be tough at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, though that’s mostly because of the time spent between fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.
With Woods involved, everything always feels bigger, even if he often leaves it behind.
“I would say we don’t know for sure how much he is because he continues to do more than we think he can do,” Stuart Sink said. “It certainly continues to defy all intelligence.”