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Watch Padraig Harrington pull off outrageous shot under a tree—from his knees

March 28, 2024
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Raj Mehta

As one of golf’s great characters, three-time major champ Padraig Harrington never lacks for interest, on or off the golf course. Just in the last couple of months, he spoke to Golf Digest at length about the golf ball rollback and taught our colleague, Christopher Powers, how to gain a bunch of speed with the driver. The guy is a wealth of knowledge and entertainment.

On Thursday, in the opening round of the Texas Children’s Houston Open, the Irishman produced a shot that we might have to do a separate video lesson on.

At Memorial Park’s dogleg right, par-4 16th, Harrington hooked his drive into the trees. He arrived at the ball to find it directly under a thick, squat pine tree. No worries. Harrington pulled out a wood and got on his knees to line up his shot—to the amusement of the Golf Channel commentators.

“He practices hitting it off his knees all of the time,” said Brandel Chamblee, adding that Harrington can smash a drive 280 yards from his knees.

Later, Chamblee noted the difficulty: “How many guys would get in there and have some little pause … you might hit over it; it might get caught in the limbs. The key to this shot is that you almost feel like you have to come over the top of it.”

Of course, Harrington pulled it off, punching the under-the-tree shot into the fairway 120 yards, according to ShotLink, not far from where Tony Finau’s drive was. From there, Harrington missed the green with his approach, but got up and down with his putter to save an adventurous par.

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Stephen Dunn

As both Steve Sands and Brad Faxon noted on the broadcast, any shot like that will recall Craig Stadler’s 1987 tree difficulty. In the third round of the 1987 tournament at Torrey Pines, Stadler kneeled to hit a shot on the 14th hole of Torrey Pines South, but used a towel to protect his knees from getting wet. It wasn’t until Sunday morning, when a replay was shown and viewers started calling in, that it was determined that Stadler had violated the rules by “building a stance.” That’s a two-stroke penalty, and because Stadler signed an incorrect scorecard, he was disqualified.

Eight years later, in a publicity stunt for the San Diego tournament, Stadler wielded a power saw and cut a limb off the dying tree. "It's been eight years,” Stadler said. “It's time to put it to rest.”