Three-time Irish golf champion Padraig Harrington admitted he “knew nothing” about the off-course activities of Tiger Woods, and always thought Woods had “a quiet life” when not playing golf.
"The only thing I can give on the whole story is ‘wow.’ I was out there on tour with him for 10 years and often Tiger himself has said I’d be . . . a friend, and I had no idea this was going on in his life . . . a triple life: golf, home and when he was away,” he told The Irish Times in an interview.
“I’m amazed by the fact I am out on tour and I knew nothing. I’m wondering, ‘I must have my head in a hole or something,’ but seemingly nobody knew anything.
“That’s what amazes me, I thought the guy was, and I’m particularly loath to use the word, but let’s say had a quiet life, went back to his hotel room every night . . . (to) sit in your room for six hours is not a pleasant experience, he couldn’t go out.
“I felt sorry for him in that sense, (because) I could go out (for dinner) every night. I assumed life on tour was real tough (for him). You knew when he was off tour he enjoyed his boat and going fishing and that was the only freedom he ever got.
“I’m amazed by both sides, that if somebody goes down that road you usually can tell, there’s a bravado in it and all that sort of stuff . . . the odd time he’d be in a hotel and you’d see him going getting his ice to have an ice bath for his knee and things like that, you’d see him in the gym, always just incredibly diligent.
“You’d kind of often think (of asking), ‘do you want to go out for dinner?’, and not (ask), think he is trying to do his own thing and trying to be special in that sense. I felt for the fact he was absolutely in a fishbowl, life was tough in that sense.
Harrington believes Woods would be much better getting back on the tour as soon as possible. “What he is good at, is playing golf. So, no matter what is happening in his life, the only peace and freedom you get is on the golf course, (where) he is comfortable and in his own environment.
“Okay, what goes with it is tough, but when you go through issues in your private life, the death of his father or my father, (being) on the golf course is the best place to be. We are pretty good at hitting that little white golf ball, and we feel at home there.”
Harrington added: “Tiger’s going to have to talk about this. He is no expert. He is no marriage counselor himself, so he hasn’t seen this before or experienced this before.
“He is not going to be comfortable in that situation but he will be playing golf and playing golf will bring balance to his life.
“No matter what he is working through, playing golf will bring balance to his life. That’s where he clearly is comfortable, he enjoys being out on the golf course, so at the end of the day that will come back into his life and it will help . . . (and) give him some ground for what he does in his personal life as well.”
“Playing golf will bring balance to his life . . . that’s part of his life, out there on the course is what he does well. Out playing golf again will bring back some balance to a life that’s obviously in turmoil at the moment. It will bring some structure back to it, give him something to do that he is obviously good at . . . that will help him.”
Harrington still believes Woods will surpass Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors. Woods currently has 14.
“I expect him to win 19, I don’t think this changes him as a competitor. It might make it tough for him to play regular events when he comes back, but the majors have always been different . . . I don’t see this making any difference going forward in the majors and maybe it might clear up one or two things that could have been emotionally affecting his game in the past . . . from a purely selfish point of view, his life needs more clarity, emotional stability and balance if he wants to bring it to the golf course, maybe that’s the reason – I didn’t see it myself – why (people say) he was angry on the golf course for the past six months.”
“Ultimately, with Tiger, it is totally out of my control . . . (in a tournament), I’m not just trying to beat Tiger, I’m trying to beat myself.”
Harrington isn’t due back out on tour until the Los Angeles Open in early February.