He likes to see her while he's playing. It's part of his don't-believe-the-hype theory on life. Caroline is there on the good days and the bad days, and her face mirrors his fortunes. Take last May at the Belfry, on a day when Harrington was waylaid by fate and manhandled right into The Twilight Zone. On Sunday morning he was sitting pretty, five strokes ahead of the field at the Benson & Hedges. Better. He had shot a course-record 64 the previous day
When he said goodbye to Caroline and went to the practice range, it was one of those whistle-while-you-work mornings. Elsewhere, though, a loosely connected event was unraveling. The previous course record at the Belfry was 66, so the club wanted to frame Harrington's score-card and hang it in the clubhouse. The tournament director went fishing through a box for Harrington's card. Wait a minute....
Harrington was streaking the blue skies with drives powered out by the swing he had spent three years rebuilding, taking it from a goofy farm-boy lurch to a motion of simple economy. Andy McFee, the tournament referee, suddenly loomed behind him. "Padraig," he said, "could you show me your signature on this card?"
In McFee's hand was Harrington's score-card from the first round. On Thursday he had shot a 71 and come into the scorer's cabin with his playing partners, Michael Campbell and Jamie Spence. In Harrington's head now, the scene unfolds frame by grainy frame, like his private Zapruder film.
Harrington sits on the left, Campbell in the middle, Spence on the right. Their scorecards are on the table. Campbell is handed what he thinks is his card by Spence. Campbell signs it. Realizes it isn't his card but Harrington's. He hands the card on but forgets to mention that he has signed it. Harrington gets the card and meticulously checks the scores, vaguely noting that the required two signatures are at the bottom but failing to note that neither of them is his. He hands his card to the tournament recorder and leaves.
Now, three days later, Harrington stands with his back to the practice range and says of his signature, "No, Andy, I don't see it there."
"Sorry, Padraig. You know the rule."
He does. Rule 6-6b. Five shots ahead on the last day, $246,500 waiting to be tabulated on the credit side, and Harrington is disqualified.
He shakes hands with McFee and strides back to his hotel room. Caroline is getting ready to watch him play. "What are you doing back here?" she asks.
He explains. She thinks it's a gag—Honey, I've shrunk the purse!—but it isn't. She puts her arms around him, and they close the door. "I had to go straight to Caroline," he says. "She cares. Everything else comes and goes, but your wife and family are there, and they go through what you go through. I wasn't angry or upset; I just wanted to be with her so we could tell each other it wasn't the end of the world."