But now Harrington has returned to the South Carolina course as a three-time major winner and as a 40-year-old almost certainly in need of something special if next month is to see him win a seventh Ryder Cup cap.
The Dubliner plays the first two rounds of the USPGA Championship with two other former winners of the title, Phil Mickelson and American Ryder Cup captain Davis Love.
But while Mickelson is keen to hold on to what he has - the eighth and last automatic cup spot in this the last week of their race - Harrington has ground to make up. Lots of it.
Only another victory in the final major of the season would be sure to elevate Harrington into a position to qualify for Jose Maria Olazabal's side.
His only other route into the team would be as a wild card at the end of the month.
He got one from Colin Montgomerie two years ago but Olazabal, with whom Harrington was involved in controversy over the repairing of a pitch mark at the 2003 Seve Trophy in Spain, has only two - one fewer than Montgomerie - to hand out.
Asked if he was able to put the Ryder Cup to one side this week and just focus on the major he said: "You know, I have to.
"I'm delighted I'm playing so well tee to green. The game's been excellent, well under control - that's what I've got to concentrate on.
"I can't concentrate on something I haven't control over. I've just got to keep playing my golf and be content that I'm playing well."
After a fall down the world rankings that almost took him outside the top 100 - he stood third three years ago - Harrington produced an eighth-placed finish at the Masters and then came fourth at the US Open in June.
But it was still not enough to lift him back into the top 50, and missing out on last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational as a result led to him playing in a much smaller event in Reno instead.
A 19th-placed finish did precious little for his Ryder Cup chances, but maybe the memories of the 1997 World Cup are something he can feed off now.
"There are positives, no doubt about it," Harrington said. "I like the style of golf course, that's for sure."