CALGARY — Padraig Harrington lives to hear the roar of the crowd.
After draining a lengthy eagle putt from off the 18th green at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club, Harrington received thunderous applause and cheers from the gallery surrounding the par-5, 585-yard finishing hole on the opening day of the 2022 Shaw Charity Classic.
“Surely to eagle the last is definitely the icing on the cake for a good day,” said Harrington, who carded Friday’s low round of 6-under 64 to take the lead at the three-day PGA Tour Champions event.
“You know, that’s why I’m out there on the Champions Tour. I go play the regular (PGA) Tour and I’m middle of the field — just doesn’t cut it. There’s no buzz with that when there’s 25 people watching you. It’s much nicer to be up there on the business end of things — to be feeling it, feeling under pressure, feeling the nerves, feeling the excitement, to have the buzz of the crowd, have people watching. This is the big thing about the Champions Tour, it gives you a second life with that adrenaline.”
The 50-year-old Irishman had three birdies on the front nine of the par 70, 7,061-yard layout before adding another birdie and his clutch eagle on his back nine.
“You make a couple of birdies on a tough day early on, you’ve got something in the bank,” said Harrington, who won his first PGA Tour Champions title on June 26 at the U.S. Senior Open in Bethlehem, Pa. “If something goes wrong, you’re still in it, so a quick start, a good start was very important.”
Kirk Triplett started his first round of the three-day, 54-hole event on the back nine and rolled in a birdie and an eagle on his first two holes. He added two more birdies on his back nine to finish alone in second at 65.
“I haven’t got the job done here,” said the 60-year-old, who has played in all nine editions of the Shaw Charity Classic, finishing in a tie for second in 2013 and a tie for third in 2018.
“I’d like to have another shot or two at it, so I’m off to a good start and looking forward to the weekend.”
Paul Goydos and Robert Karlsson both carded rounds of 66 and are in a tie for third, while Matt Gogel and John Huston are one shot back at 67.
“I’m happy with the way I started,” said the 58-year-old Goydos. “I scored well today. I didn’t necessarily play as well as I’ve been playing, but I putted a little bit better and my short game was a little bit better.”
Although he bogeyed his final two holes, Alan McLean of London, Ont., finished as the top Canadian at 2 under.
“Kudos to the greenskeeper, the greens are fantastic,” said McLean, who was born in Scotland, grew up in South Africa and relocated to Canada in 2000. “I hope I’m speaking to you on Sunday still (being) the top Canadian.”
Following his round, which included four birdies and two bogeys, McLean is in a 12-way tie for seventh spot, just one stroke ahead of Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member and former Calgary resident Stephen Ames, who birdied his final two holes to shoot 69.
The 73-player field also features three other Canadians.
Mike Weir, of Brights Grove, Ont., and Dennis Hendershott, of Brantford, Ont., both shot even-par rounds of 70 to finish in a tie for 26th spot.
Meanwhile, David Morland IV, who’s originally from Aurora, Ont., finished well back of the leaders at 5-over 75.