The affable Irishman won five PGA Tour events between 2005-08 but always opted not to make the jaunt to this part of the world. He always used this time of the year to recharge his batteries and get ready for the annual grind.
Following his victory last year at the Honda Classic, Harrington knew this was a place he would finally visit.
He bogeyed the last hole Thursday to shoot an opening 3-under 70 following a nine-week break that included surgery to heal a torn meniscus in his knee. He had never had more than a seven-week hiatus at any point in his career.
“As all of these guys, we’re trying out a few new things at the start of the season,” Harrington said. “You’re not sure what to expect, so I was happy with what I saw and kind of (hope) all goes well for the rest of the season.”
At 44, Harrington didn’t necessarily intend to take so much time off, but his longtime caddie Ronan Flood looked him in the face at one point and bluntly told his boss that he was playing “stale golf.”
“I hate to say it, it made sense,” Harrington said.
It’s easy to look at Harrington’s 2015 season and deem it a success. He won for the first time since 2008 and earned a spot here at Kapalua. How bad could it be? But Harrington has a much different take. He played 27 events worldwide and missed 12 cuts. After his Honda victory his next best finish was a tie for 20th place at the British Open.
“Last year was a tough year on the golf course,” he said. “I seemed to be playing OK and just grinding, grinding, grinding, couldn’t get anything out of it. Each week it’s hard work, so having the break was probably a good thing.
“I certainly come out here with the idea of, as much as we try making the effort to really enjoy it an relax a little bit, I have done more than I had ever have wanted in this game of golf. So I don’t need to beat myself up too much.”