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April 25, 2017

Padraig Harrington

MIKE WOODCOCK: Obviously two‑time champion, golfer of the year, it's fantastic for us and The Open to have Padraig here, and we're very much looking forward obviously to the return to Royal Birkdale, the site of his memorable victory in 2008, and also looking ahead to The Open going to Portrush in Ireland in 2018.
If I can start by asking you, you are currently working your way back from injury. How much of a goal is it to be back to full fitness and at the top of your game for Birkdale?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I've got to say, it's six weeks tomorrow since my operation. They told me I couldn't hit shots for six weeks. I felt like I was capable of hitting shots three days after the operation, but I've been very disciplined and waited and looking forward to it.
Right now at the moment, I have a plan ahead of me of how I'm going to prepare and what I need to do but I'm basically doing my rehab and doing my exercises, and that kind of pushed me a little late this morning trying to get a few of those rehab exercises in. It's a bit of discipline.
As regards my golf, yeah, I'm working away. I have got great intentions, that's for sure. I feel like I'm in a great place with my golf. Strangely enough, I obviously had a poor early start to the season, mostly because I had not gotten my preparation done during the winter. And it was a real eye‑opener when you don't do your preparation, how hard it is to catch up.
The goal would be me at the moment, I've got another five weeks before I play. It's about getting the right preparation, the right type of practise done. Definitely one of the reasons of having the operation and going and having it done as soon as I did, I didn't want to push it out that I would be stuck going into The Open Championship not ready.
So at the moment, pretty much all my practise, I hit a few chip shots in the last week and everything I'm doing, even my thoughts about my driving, will be taking the ball flight down with my driver, working a lot more on chip and runs, a lot more hitting chip shots off hard pan and stuff like that so I'm ready for Open conditions.
Yeah, as much as I want to be ready, I think my first event is going to be Wentworth in five weeks' time. There's no doubt that all my practise, when I do get going, will be more thinking about The Open championship, plus obviously the Irish Open is obviously two weeks before that, two weeks before The Open. You've got the French, Irish and Scottish all played on good golf courses, good preparation courses for The Open.
So for those four weeks of the year, it is hopefully going to be a slightly different ball flight, a lower ball flight, and basically, a lot of my work will be done towards that. Even when it comes, maybe not the first couple of weeks, but when it comes a little closer to those events, I move away from practising on parkland golf courses and start practising on links courses and hitting wedge shots off links turf, because the ball goes a different distance with a wedge off links turf than it does off a parkland turf. It is important to actually physically get out there and do your wedge work in those conditions, not just off parkland turf. So little things like that.
But yes, you would be right to say my focus, as much as my focus is on coming back and playing, it is also very much on being ready to play The Open.
MIKE WOODCOCK: And special memories for you when you come back to Birkdale.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's some great memories. A lot of great memories. I obviously won in Carnoustie the year before, 2007, but obviously the mess I made of the 72nd hole always left a little something wanting.
I always say about my first win, it's always the most exciting when you win your first major. But Birkdale was very satisfying. I went into Birkdale, I know I was injured going into it but I was one of the best players in the world. I played great that week. I swung the club well. I was in the last group on Sunday. I was favourite going out on Sunday, and again, I played really well. I played really solid. There was no drama. There was nothing‑‑ no real drama. There was no mess‑ups. It was exactly how you would, when you're 15 years of age, you're dreaming about winning The Open. How I won at Birkdale is how you would dream about it. It had everything you wanted.
Carnoustie, you know, when you're dreaming about winning The Open, you don't dream about taking a double‑bogey down the last hole. So in very many ways, as much as Carnoustie was exciting, Birkdale was very satisfying, and in some ways, it took‑‑ you know, if there was ever a little wanting out of Carnoustie, Birkdale made up for that and kind of said, well, it wasn't‑‑ I didn't get lucky. Winning a second one was very satisfying. It gave me a real sense of, yeah, a real sense of, yeah‑‑ a real sense of, one, sometimes people can look at as being a little bit of a fluke.
Whereas when you win your second one, and the style I won, it most people would think the shot I hit in the 71st hole was the greatest shot I've ever hit, the 5‑wood from 274 yards. Strangely enough, going back to Bob Torrance, Bob Torrance always said, it's easy to hit a great shot when you're feeling good. It's really difficult to hit a good shot when you're feeling bad. I was feeling great when I hit that 5‑wood.
You know, it was obviously second guessed a lot on TV, but essentially I was hitting my favourite club. I just hit it off the tee. I had hit it previous two holes previous. I was unbreakable at that very moment, and it was my favourite club. As much as it was a great shot, I was in a great place to hit it.
You know, for me personally, I go back to Carnoustie, the 72nd hole for the chip shot I hit there as being the greatest shot I've ever hit, because clearly I was on a low ebb and I hit a great shot, whereas in Birkdale, I was on a high.
So yes it was the greatest shot but circumstances leading into it, you know, I still didn't feel great. It's a lot easier‑‑ and I was second‑guessed‑‑ I know people ask me afterwards; they said I was being second‑guessed about why I needed to hit this shot.
I was kind of mentally pushed into it a bit because I felt ‑‑ Greg Norman was with me that day. He was three shots back, and I just felt like something good was going to happen to him. It was like a fairy tale‑‑ that's the word‑‑ a fairy tale for him all week. It was all about, you know, good things‑‑ you just felt‑‑ I was trying to get away from this big story that Greg Norman was going to win The Open.
But there I was standing on the 71st hole still buying into something was going to happen. He had played very well all day, and he had hit a great drive down 17. And I was just so afraid of him making eagle that I knew I needed to really still try and push on. It wasn't a question of me trying to defend my lead at that stage. I think I had a two‑shot lead on Ian Poulter who was in the clubhouse but I was more worried about Greg Norman and something special happening to him. So I was pushing it to hit that 5‑wood but I was feeling great. I was in a great place at the time.
So again, I won Birkdale from the wrong side of the draw, which is something special to do. That first morning, I went out, it wasn't as tough as the hour we spent hitting in Muirfield in 2002; that was the worst weather I played in in my life. But it was certainly some of the toughest conditions I ever played in that first morning.
I remember in the afternoon, I went back to my house and I shot 74, which I finished strong enough for my 74 and I was feeling pretty good about myself and I'm wandering around the house, trying to avoid watching the golf, because you never want to be watching everybody else play. But I walked by the TV room and obviously my family were watching it and I just looked in. At that moment, Adam Scott was hitting a wood on to 15 for the second shot, the par5. And I was thinking, I hit 3‑wood to that hole this morning, so I nearly kicked the TV (laughter). I was so devastated.
But it was a bad break to play early Thursday morning, but we got a massive break in the weather stayed bad for the week in terms of the wind and the conditions. You can't‑‑ you know, if you're on the wrong side of the draw and you shoot a high number the first day, and everybody, and the guys get away with it and shoot low numbers; it's very hard to pick that up over the next three days if the conditions are good. But if the conditions stay difficult all week, which they did at Birkdale, obviously it's not such a‑‑ it wasn't such an issue.
So if I got unlucky with the draw the first morning, I got lucky with the fact that the weather stayed difficult all week and certainly played into my hands.

Q. You were very forthright in your comments about Sergio García‑‑
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Got straight into it (laughter).

Q. What did you think at Rory's wedding at the weekend, did you have any chat with him or‑‑
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would say to you right now at this moment my relationship with Sergio is the best it's ever been. We've had a chat, because obviously clearly there was a bit of an elephant in the room about what I said, and we have decided that we will look going forward at our similarities and the good in each of us rather than any other way. So we are in a great place.
So if anything, it's worked out for the better.

Q. So we can move forward to a head‑to‑head with you and Sergio and Birkdale at the weekend?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, if we were going head‑to‑head and we both said we'd be trying our hearts out, yeah, I think we are both in a much better place right now than ever.
Yeah, it's amazing how things work out.

Q. You were certainly honest and you're a very honest kind of person. Do you feel almost, was there any sense, I should have said less?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As one of my friends pointed out, he said, "You are getting old and cantankerous, aren't you." I think was you get older, you're probably a little bit less defensive about what you say.
But you know, I don't think any of this came from SKY Sports, did it. It was more of a radio interview. When you're commentating, you kind of say as you see. Thankfully it's a tougher‑‑ much tougher job commentating if you're doing it for a living; if you're doing it week‑in, week‑out. When you sit in there for one week, everything you say is new and fresh.
So certainly, I could see with the way it works that the more you do it, the harder it gets. It's hard to be original, you know, if you're there six months; if you're there six months.
The guys themselves were very helpful, incredibly helpful. But God, you know what, I didn't know I said anything controversial on the commentary. I agree there was a lot came from the radio interview afterwards, which came then from a newspaper article from the radio interview which came from a headline from the newspaper article that came from the radio interview; which the headline seemed to be missing a word. So you know, there you go.
Look, the end of the day, I think it's been great. It's worked out so much for the better; that probably the situation had to be dealt with and it was dealt with and myself and Sergio are on a much better footing than we've ever been. You know, as I said, there is a lot of similarities between myself and Sergio that we have to embrace rather than look the other way, and I think that's what we've sort of looked at.
Yeah, it's amazing how these things work out. It's strangely how well it's worked out to be honest. And he was well aware, which was great. He had done his homework on everything that had been said and how complimentary I was about, you know the crux of the radio interview was the fact that Sergio had turned the corner and had shown how much he deserved to win the Masters and had shown the emotion on the 18th green, and everybody had to feel for that emotion. At that moment in time, you could see how he had paid his dues. That was the crux of the article. But obviously that's not what the headline alluded to.
So he could see that, which was very good. I was delighted that I didn't have to explain myself. He knew the goings on of it. But it did need to be dealt with, no doubt about it, and he was exceptionally good about it, which was very positive. And as I said, it's strange that coming from that, you would think that all of a sudden, sometimes you get to maybe a low ebb, and it certainly turned a corner and things are very, very positive now and should be going forward. Interesting, isn't it, how it changes around. It was surprisingly good.

Q. Did you feel any need to apologise or anything like that for anything you said or the way you said it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I certainly felt I had to explain myself, no doubt about it. But thankfully, as I said, he had actually already understood the article and the whole‑‑ you know, the whole flow of the article was about: Wow, you could see Sergio had paid his dues.
As I said, if anything, that's kind of what‑‑ that's what I was alluding to. You could see the emotion; the way he was on the 18th green, and I don't think anybody in world golf didn't feel for him at that moment to say, wow, all the pressure that's been put on him over the years, he deserved it at that moment, and you have to feel for him. Clearly obviously that was the point I was making.
I think he made it himself times to be honest before I said it. He spoke quite a bit about how much he's changed from, you know, ten years ago and previous. So yeah it was a lot easier conversation than, you know, sometimes we build these things up and you think it's going to be tough. But once you actually do, as I said, we're in a lot better place now.

Q. How did it happen? How did this come about? Did somebody this come together? Did you just bump into each other?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As you would expect with these things, literally the first person I met was Sergio. It was not a question. But he was‑‑ yeah, it was something that needed to be done straightaway and the opportunity came up straightaway, and yeah, you know, I've got to say, Sergio, as I said, made it very easy. He was exceptionally good about it, and as I said, he already was well informed, which was nice; that he looked into the deal of it and he understood that I was actually saying, wow, hasn't he served his time and he deserved it, and you could see it, and that's what he took from it, which was good. Because that's the way it was obviously intended.
He had said himself at times, you know, that's the way he‑‑ like he clearly felt, like everybody feels, when you look at him, wow, nobody could begrudge him winning the Masters, could they.

Q. (Inaudible.)
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was somewhere (laughing).

Q. Just on Tiger, his fourth back surgery, is it getting to the point now where it's almost, not point of no return, but do you think he's going to get back to where he was‑‑
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I always think he's going to come back. More to do with the fact that history says that players do come back.
Like Tom Watson nearly on an Open at 63‑‑ 59. So Tom Watson nearly on an Open at 59. So it's not like‑‑ he does have time. My attitude, yeah, at the very moment when he comes back, the game has just charged forward in the last three, four years, in terms of, like if you looked‑‑ if you went back to, say, 2000‑‑ Tiger always had the length advantage.
And most No. 1s, there's been very few No. 1s that haven't‑‑ certainly No. 1s have stayed there for a good while, Nick Faldo probably would be the only one who hadn't been substantially good off the tee. You look at someone like Greg Norman; and guys, Tiger was easily the best off the tee for a number of years. He was much more powerful than everybody else, so a big advantage. You could see the ebbs and flows.
But in the last three, four years, it's just exponentially, I looked at it, I think at one stage this year 14 of the Top‑20 in ball speed on the U.S. Tour were on the Tour about less than four years, four or less. You nearly had ten guys who were in the Top‑20 who have come on in the last year or two. You're now looking at our traditional guys like Bubba and J.B. Holmes and those, they are dropping down to like 10, 11 in ball speed, which is your potential.
I'm not just talking driving distance which depends on the golf course. Ball speed is the raw data. The game has got exponentially more powerful, and Tiger has gone the other way with his back injury.
So Tiger has gone from being a 190 ball speed guy in the mid 90s when he came on Tour; he played in the low 180s because he could, and he was still much longer than everybody else. But now he's like mid 170s with his back thing.
So a lot of players, like mid 170s, you're middle of the pack, and that's a big hit to take when you're used to being the strongest, fastest and have some in reserve. He was like the Dustin Johnson. Dustin Johnson hits it as far as he can at the moment but he actually has some in reserve. He's in the ideal place when it comes to driving speed. Hit it miles but actually be within yourself to hit it miles.
Whereas another player like myself, I'm always on the limit of how far I can hit it because I'm trying to keep up. And Tiger is now being pushed in that sense, and it's hard. So he doesn't have an advantage there and that's psychologically tough to come back.
Every time he hits a drive and somebody hits it 20 yards past him, he's now thinking: My back is the problem. It's a big downer. But in two or three years' time, if he was back playing, he would be used to it.
So it's tough for him to come back initially, and you're more likely to see Tiger, if his back injury works, you're more likely to see him maybe in two years' time or three years' time, where he's a bit more relaxed. Like Jack Nicklaus won his last major when he was 46. So he's more likely to be that‑‑ he's got the ability. I guarantee it, if he was coming down the stretch in contention, he would be a different person and players would be worried about him.
But as I said, there's a huge depth of players at the moment and I think that's an issue‑‑ not an issue, but I think that's a difficulty in world golf at the moment. You've got every week, you've got six or seven players that are looking over their shoulder at each other. Whereas in Tiger's day, Tiger never looked over his shoulder at anybody. Tiger always knew if he turned up and played, he was going to win. Whereas there's six or seven guys now thinking, yeah, I've got to play well, but I hope the other guy doesn't have a big week because he can look invincible on his‑‑ when all their AGames turn up, you don't know who is going to win. That's the problem. Whereas in Tiger's day, as he said it himself, he could win with his B Game. He doesn't have that ability now. As I said, it will take him awhile to get used to that.
But I do see‑‑ I don't see him being prolific like he was but I do see his ability in time, if he could get back playing. And it's hard for him with the media publicity. But he might need 18 months of playing golf before he actually then relaxes into who he is now rather than who he was.

Q. On the Tiger thing, during the 90s‑‑ it was common currency to be remarking on the violence of Tiger's swing, and it's there in writing that he was going to damage himself; that it was inevitable he would damage himself. Was there any talk among the pros, fellow pros like yourself, that he might be going down that road?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: We all remember the media coverage of it. You know, I think the reality is, if you look at most golfers, at some stage‑‑ if you pretty much look at all the golfers, they always have some parts of their body that ultimately breaks down. Mine is my neck. I've had lots of problems with my neck over the years. Tiger's is his back. Another guy will have a problem with a hip, a knee, and ankle, a wrist.
Tim Clark is forever, perfect example is Tim clack. Tim Clark has forever been having issues with his wrists and tennis elbow, and he's not a power hitter. So we're all predisposed to something. There's always going to be something that you have to ‑‑ Rory has to work on his back constantly and he has to spend a lot of time in the gym getting balance so he does puts the least the least amount of strain on his back, and Tiger was the same. He knew that. He got in the gym.
But the reality, as much as it wouldn't be seeing that, the golf swing is a pretty big force. I think it can be up to a 9 g‑force on a drive, and the body somewhere in the chain is taking quite a bit of that pressure. If like me, at 45 years of age, you're trying to hit a golf ball like a 20‑year‑old, you're going to pick up injuries. I've got to work harder in the gym in order not to pick these things up, or at least delay them or at least ensure that they are not catastrophic injuries.
Nobody, there's nobody in sport that would turn around and not‑‑ at this very moment, every sports person is, how can I play as well as I can, now. And they do‑‑ they do what they can to kick any problems down the line if there's going to be problems. But you know, ultimately, Tiger has had a great career. Which he did slow down by the way. As I said, Tiger, when he came out in '96, had 190 ball speed, and he never played at that in the 2000s. In 2003, 2004, he played low 180s, which was a huge advantage at the time. He didn't hit it anywhere near as hard at that stage as did he in '96. So he did slow down. But the reality is, as I said, sports people will always go for now, trying to win now. If Tiger maybe did something different, maybe he would only have 13 majors instead of 14.
He's had a great career, a phenomenal career. You know, yeah, he's had back problems, but as well as that, he's 40 years of age, is that right? 41. In 1996, and I started in 1996 the same as Tiger, players retired at 35. Nick Faldo retired at 38, is gone. I don't think he won a tournament past 37 or 38, did he?
Like Ken Brown, he retired when he was like 35, 34. The guys retired. It was seen, yeah, you stop at 35 and you take a club pro job. So that was the reality back then. We didn't realise that people were going to ‑‑ and you know, Nicklaus retired in 1980. He might of won a tournament in '86 but effectively that's when he stopped winning, in 1980 and didn't really have a full‑time schedule.
He actually did get, Dermot, you're probably more‑‑ he did actually give the game up in 1980, didn't he. He had a year where he basically said, I'm kind of really was retired.
You know, with Tiger, I think the fact he got 40 years, it's great. You know, yeah, hopefully he gets his back sorted out and he can live the rest of his life and hopefully he can come back and play golf, but you certainly‑‑ there's nobody, I don't think there's anybody, or I would be surprised if there was anybody who would have taken 36 years of great golf and then, okay, I've got a few injuries. I think we'd all take his career. I wouldn't second guess anything he's done.

Q. Would you not consider that 18 majors‑‑ it wasn't as he was going to play as long as he could and retire gracefully. His mission was to compete.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, but maybe his mission was to win those majors in 15 years, rather than Jack took 26 year to get his 18. Maybe that was the goal was a shorter‑term goal. And we don't know what deep down, you know, we might have all talked about it, but we don't know what ‑‑ well, we assume his target at 18 or more, but 14 was a pretty decent effort.
Look, let's face it, in 2008, a lot changed in his life, and the back issues obviously were there but came on more afterwards. It's not a straightforward, simple story, is it. Like people's motivations in life change. And that's the hardest thing when you play. As I said, if you look at any of the professional careers of the guys, certainly the European guys who I would be more familiar with.
So you're looking at your Seves, your Woosies, your Lyles; Jack Nicklaus I would be familiar. They all played for about 20 years. They might have played golf longer but 20 years, head a few years in that 20, the first three or four years where they are building up to become big players. They have a ten‑year period in the middle where they are at their best or whatever. And then they have three or four years at the end of their career, end of that period, where they still look pretty good to everybody else but they know themselves. And yeah, they keep playing after 20 years but they ain't the player they were. It's very hard to stay mentally focused, you know, for that long. No other sport does it.

Q. What's your motivation‑‑‑‑
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm different. I'm special. I'm very special. (Laughter). I actually believe I'm in a great place, I do. I think I'm aware of the difficulties with that but you know, I've always prided myself on being‑‑ I never want to be‑‑ I always want to be different. I would never pride‑‑ I would never want to follow the pack. I wouldn't want to a sheep. I always want to be out there on my own and try and do things different and being different. That's what's gotten me where I am.
Yeah, I'm aware of the difficulty of staying motivated. This is my 20th year, and to be honest right now, you would have said that I followed the path exactly that I just described of the all the other players. I started off, built myself up, won my big tournaments, played okay and then tailed off and have won a couple of events at the end of my 20 years like everybody else. And that's why I kind of think Tiger is going to have a couple of wins.
Golf is great. It always throws a win out. It always gives you something later on. It would be very easy to say with me winning in Honda and me winning in Portugal was that, here you go, here's one at the end of your career, thanks very much. But I believe I'm different and I have to believe. Even if I'm not, I have to believe I'm different. I have to convince myself that there's more in me and I really do feel very strongly about where my own game is at.
As I said, strangely enough this year, the first five weeks of the year were great for me in the sense of I could see how my preparation was very poor and I need to do something about that.
It's very difficult to prepare on the Tour for events. It's something people don't realise. You know, you can't do the preparation you want at a golf tournament. The golf course is exceptionally busy on a Tuesday. On a Monday there's a Pro‑Am in the States. The golf course is exceptionally busy on Tuesday, and I've got to an age that I can't spend, you know, five hours on the golf course on Tuesday. Literally I would be hanging by the end of it. I would be tired. I'm only playing nine, ten holes of practise, 12 holes of practise on a Tuesday. I'm just not preparing as well as I could. The driving range, you can't prepare the way you want it. So I could see that this year; that I couldn't play catch up, which was very good. So that was a good learning experience.
I think then after that, I think at Honda, I spent a huge, I'd say I spent close to 20 hours of the week with Bob Rotella at the Honda. I was in a good place to listen, which was interesting. And he convinced me on the‑‑ I spent about three hours with him on the Thursday‑‑ two hours hitting shots with him on the Thursday, going through all the mental stuff, and it just wasn't changing. Stuff was kind of the same.
And eventually convinced me at theend of the session, and I was there a long time, so maybe the last half an hour, he says, you know, why don't you go back. In 2007, I waggled to hit the golf ball. In 2008, I had taken that waggle out. And he just said, "Well, why don't you go back to the waggle." And it was night and day the difference. It really was. It was an incredible difference it made to my ball striking and my mental game the following day.
So that was an eye‑opener. I'm looking forward to getting back to that. You know, I know it's old school, as I said, but it's always best to keep moving, whether you're hitting a putt or any shot, it's best to be moving before you do it rather than static. I think I stopped waggling because the odd time you waggle, your grip changes and it kind of puts you off and when you get under pressure and you waggle, you're afraid of nudging the golf ball, which is an issue.
But as I look back at it now, I did win in Birkdale without waggling and obviously I won in Oakland Hills, but I look back on it now, for the increased flow with your game or your swing and your routine, I'm going to put up with the odd time of the grip slipping as I waggle and it putting me off that way. I realise that trying to eliminate that small, you know, once‑or‑twice‑a‑week issue, is probably costing me other shots because the fact you lose a little bit of flow in your swing. That's exciting for me to go back to that. I certainly got through.
In three, four areas of my own game, I've improved my routine. I definitely got a mental key that's really very helpful going forward. I know I need to go back to my Dave Alred practise drills, which I worked with Dave very much in 2012, and I scored my best in terms of I shot a lot of course records that year. That was my best ever tee‑to‑green in 2012, so there was a lot of positive. I still had the yips that year, so ultimately I didn't have a real big year. But I know I need to go back to those Dave Alred drills. I could see that at the start of the year.
And also, hopefully, which is a problem with the neck, I did a bit of work with Paul Hurrion during the winter on my clubhead speed, which showed up something I was doing in my swing that was effectively losing me quite a bit of ball speed. So if I can change that, which it's hard to know because of my neck injury; that will keep me up to speed.
As I said, you've got to keep up the speed with these young lads. I see four areas of my game that could substantially improve but still some of it's dependent on, as I said, I do believe this has all gone very well with my surgery, but I still haven't hit any shots, so we'll have to wait until that.

Q. How does Royal Birkdale stand up to the exponential increase of all these guys, looking back and where the game is now?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: If we turn up at Birkdale and you have strong conditions like we had in 2008, the ball speed becomes a lot less of a factor. It's actually tougher‑‑ the more ball speed you have, the tougher it gets to hit it in the wind at times, a lot of the times.
So that's why in general, you would‑‑ if you are brought up playing in tough Irish conditions, you're certainly not encouraged to hit the golf ball a long way in the air, which if you're brought up in Arizona, you're going to have a lot more ball speed. That's just the way it is. You're going to manipulate the golf ball if you're brought up in tough conditions. Birkdale would definitely bring everybody into play. It's a big golf course. It's a solid golf course. It's nice to have a bit of power.
And I would say the pin positions at all the majors have got tougher, so that the more spin you generate, the further, the more higher, more spin, you can hit your irons shots. Even in windy conditions, it's still needed. But ultimately on a links golf course, everybody can play. You know, it brings everybody back into play. If you want to be a shot‑maker and you want to bounce the ball up and put the right shape on it, you can compete on a links golf course. I'm not saying‑‑ it's not a disadvantage to be a power hitter, but certainly it's not‑‑ when you go play links, it's not taking anybody else out of the field. It's letting everybody compete on a fair footing. Whereas on certain parkland golf courses, clearly you're better off being the guy who can hit it over the bunkers at 320 rather than the guy who has to lay up at 270. But not Birkdale.
Birkdale will suit everybody. Everybody will be able to play it. I personally would be hoping for not as tough as it was in 2008, but a good strong week.

Q. When you went to the first tee on the final day in 2008, you looked like you walked up with your chest puffed up. Do you see yourself going to Birkdale this time around‑‑
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I remember, obviously I was very nervous going to go the first tee was you would be and I really remember the fairy tail story Greg Norman was and trying not to buy into this story that, you know, Greg is going to‑‑ like I had in my head that he's going to be given this major at the end of his career and everybody be delighted for him.
It kind of reminds me of the story in the BMW in Germany one year. John Daly won the event. I think he shot 27‑under to my 26, and the amount of people that came up to me‑‑ he had not won for a few years, and the amount of people that came up to me and says, "Aren't you delighted John won this week." 26‑under, the lowest score I've shot in my life, I lost. And that didn't happen once: "Isn't that great that John played so well."
And I was afraid of that story line at Birkdale. Everybody is like buying into the Greg Norman story line, and I'm thinking, God, don't get drawn into this.
I remember going to the first tee and yeah, I'm trying to look brave, puff up the chest and if everybody remembers on the day, I played in a tee shirt and it was a pretty cold day. My jumper was too small for me. Every time I lift it up, the bottom of my jumper came up and I was wearing a white tee shirt. Wouldn't have shown, but I keep seeing this bit of white underneath and I says, no, that has to come off, those annoying me. So I was freezing. It was a fashion decision. (Laughter).

Q. Do you see yourself going this time to the first tee and first round in Birkdale, thinking, I've got some sort of familiarity with the venue, familiarity with the feeling and I might have an advantage here? In other words when you spoke of winning more majors, is this your best chance because of the familiarity?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would think my own confidence would be highly‑‑ would be highly based on how I played going into it. I really do. I'm going to have to, you know, for me to have‑‑ right now I could tell you, I could be a real good outlier, outside bet, that I could be in great form coming to The Open.
But when we actually get there, we will know whether I'm in good form or not. If the next, you know, six, seven weeks don't go well, or six, seven weeks of tournament play before The Open don't go well for me, you'd be crazy to think I'm going to turn up on the week and it just come from nowhere.
If those weeks go well and I show the form I want to show ‑‑ and that doesn't necessarily mean a win, but it definitely means playing well, being in contention and getting myself into a position that I'm feeling nervous in a few tournaments going into it. So by the time The Open comes around, there will be no mystery. If I'm in descent form and I've contended, yes, I'll feel really good on The Open venue because I've won there. Clearly it suits me. Clearly links golf suits me so everything about it will be playing into my hands, but I have to be in some decent form.
It's not a question of me turning up with no form and you know, it materialising out of nowhere, because it's on a golf course I like. It will have to be more a case of, if you see me in contention‑‑ even in contention on a parkland golf course. Doesn't have to be on a links course coming into The Open. At least a little of the tension in the my game and my swing and being tested a little bit; then we'll know more about coming into The Open.
Basically what I'm saying, there's no doubt going to a links golf course, my game will step up a gear and there's no doubt going to Birkdale where I won before, my game will step up a gear, but where it's going to step up from, is my question.
Hopefully it will be right up there and hopefully I'll be in fifth gear and I'll find a sixth gear the week of The Open, sort of thing, is the way I would look at it.

Q. What are your abiding memories of wrist injury, not being able to practise?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I have a lot of memories, the wrist injury, I remember talking to a friend of mine. I talked to him a couple of times during the week but I remember him saying to me, actually physically saying it to me on Saturday night: "You're in the best place going into Sunday."
Says, "What do you mean?"
He says, "Well, it's obviously been a very tough week with the conditions, so a tough week mentally, physically, for everybody." And he says, "You've played the least golf of anybody this week, and so you're going to be the freshest tomorrow." Which is a very nice way of putting it.
I would have always looked at somebody like Monty in his career, Monty never practised. I was always jealous of that. He literally never hit. You had to move away from him on the range because he talked so much. If he came down and put his basket of balls near me, I'd actually pick mine up and leave. It would be conversation; for his ten‑minute warmup, nine and a half minutes of that is talking. I did, I did move away. Like he knows it. He's seen me. I'd pick up the basket and leave. I'd have a bit of a chat and then I'd leave.
But he was always very good on a Sunday because he had done so much less than everybody else on a Sunday, and that's very much the way I was at Birkdale. Because I had done nothing, like in a nice world, you would do nothing Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. You wouldn't play any golf, but that doesn't work every week. Certainly would be nice if I was that sort of guy that didn't need to do a lot of practise.
 And I have become more of that, as I said earlier, I don't play 18 holes of practise on a Tuesday anymore. It's just too much work and effort in a week.
I do try and do a lot less at a tournament week, because Sunday is probably twice the effort, twice the workload on Sunday with the pressure and a stress than it is on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday. So you need to be ready for that. A lot of my second places early on in my career would have been at the fault I had worn myself out by the time I got to Sunday.
At Birkdale, I certainly had not done that. I was definitely ready for it. If you look at Carnoustie, I had a tough enough week in Carnoustie, I was always under the radar on to Sunday, which again is no stress. It's very hard to lead a tournament on Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night and still be 100 per cent on Sunday, and I think we see that a lot of times that players, if you've had a lot of stress, you know, coming into Sunday, it's hard to be up. Well, I know you're up for it but it's hard to be at full pace on a Sunday.

Q. Phil Mickelson's light therapy machine‑‑
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I remember heading over to his hotel every night. I was trying everything. I was icing. There wasn't a physio, acupuncture, I had anti‑inflammatories, I had the light treatment, I had ultrasound. I had everything on the wrist.
But it wasn't until six holes, the sixth hole in Birkdale, I had hit it left off the tee, and it was really miserable conditions. So the bunker that you hit to, on Sunday I hit an iron at level with the bunker to hit a wood for my second shot. Now I've hit it short left off the tee and that bunker is still 80 yards in front of me and I have to carry it with my second shot, and I'm in a little bit of a, more of a briar bush than anything, just a little bit of scrawny bit of brush. And I'm looking at it going, do I chip it out short and probably can't reach the green, or do I go for it. And I went for it. I think I might have hit a 9‑iron out of the lie and then I had to hit it hard.
And I knew that my whole Open Championship was on this one shot, because literally I had never put my wrist under any stress up on to this and I hit it and there was no jarring, no pain, no nothing, even though the club wrapped around the briars, and that was like, the sense of relief that went through my body that I didn't break down in that moment. And once I hit that shot, I knew I could play from then on.
So little things like that always happen when you win a major tournament. You'd be surprised how when you look back at the pivotal moment and hitting that shot out of the rubbish there, really did‑‑ like the blood flow changed to my body; the sense of relief that I could actually physically meet the challenge that I needed with that shot.
You know, from then on, everything was good from then and I was in a good place. I was the freshest guy and hit all the chips and putts. And bear in mind, if you look at that week, again, it was actually, when I look back on it, it was really windy that week. I didn't miss a putt from inside four feet for the whole week. And guys, like the ball was moving around. That was killing guys.
So you could imagine that I never lost any momentum really for the week. If you're not going to miss those short putts, that really keeps you in the right place.

Q. Have you considered not going to the first tee on Thursday at any point?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, I considered it a lot on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but I never considered it on Thursday. I was going to go. I've had a history of niggles in my career of constantly having shoulder and neck issues. I've always teed up with them and I've always known that if you can get a few holes into it, it's amazing how much adrenaline and stuff that comes with playing can help ease out a problem. It's amazing the amount of times I've gone on a golf course with a neck injury and been substantially hindered by it but after eight, nine holes, six, seven holes, I'd have to remind‑‑ kind of forget about it. Sometimes it works like that.
I'd love to tell you that I'd never, ever not played and never, ever finished but I did a few years ago play with a neck injury at BMW Wentworth and I walked in after three holes, because it wasn't‑‑ I was hoping that that one was the one that it would clear up and get better on the golf course, but ultimately it didn't. So in general, though, it does, amazing, you do walk it off in general.

Q. You touched upon Sergio, not to revisit an old‑‑
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Starting with it and finishing with it.

Q. Would you like to captain Sergio in 2020?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'd like to play. Maybe I'd be playing when Sergio captain's me. There you go. In my head, I'm the player. I haven't got to the stage that I'm going to be‑‑ obviously we talk about how it pans out. There's no certainty in things, and on the face of it, you're alluding to there, it looks like you're saying that I'll be retired by 2020 and that maybe I'll be captain. That decision will have to be made in a year and a half's time whether‑‑ even though it's 3 1/2 years away, in a year and a half's time, I'm going to have to put my hat in the ring. How I play over the next year and a half and if I'm in the running for that‑‑

Q. Are you available‑‑
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's my point. I won't know for a year and a half. It all depends on how I play, and clearly, you know, Sergio‑‑ you know, clearly Sergio would be available if I was captain, and I think no matter what our relationship is, I think we'd still be‑‑ it's the Ryder Cup and we've always gotten over it for The Ryder Cup. I think as I said, I think we're in a far better place than that now.
I would, yeah, I would think right now, I would have his support. So if that's the question you're asking me, I would think yes, I would have his support. And look, and these are the positives that as I said, that there has to be, you know, through my own fault at times, I would look for the opposite.
The positives, Sergio wants to win The Ryder Cup in 2020. If he thinks I'm the best captain in 2020, he will support me as captain, and that's the reality of it. And that's always been the way The Ryder Cup has gone. For the Europeans, we pull together and we know we have to get the best out of our team, and if there was an alternative captain, Sergio would support him, if he thought he was better. It wouldn't be a personal issue. You don't bring personal issues into something as important as that.
But I actually think on the other side of it, I think if I am‑‑ there's no doubt, right now, if I am the right guy for the job in 2020, I would believe I would have Sergio's support 100 percent. I would have believed I'd have it before, because as I said, if there's nothing else, Sergio wants to win The Ryder Cup, so he'll support the right guy for the job no matter what.

Q. A captaincy, to bookend your career, retire, three majors, tournament wins, Ryder Cup captaincy‑‑
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think they will bookend me and let me end my career at Ryder Cup Captain when I'm 80 (laughter). In my head, I'll be playing golf when I'm 80. You know, I know it's strange, and maybe I will have to face the reality one day that I can't hit the golf ball like a 20‑year‑old but that's not how I get up in the morning.
But yeah, look, there seems to be an opportunity in 2020 for, you know, myself, I know Lee Westwood has put his name in the hat and maybe myself and Lee might be in and around who you'd be talking about in 2020, 2022, and then you know, 2020 is a good bit away, but you are starting to see other guys coming into the picture in 2022 anyway and 2024.
So it would be a risky strategy for me to push it out that far, no doubt about it. But I like playing golf. So it will all depend on how I play, how these new waggles work. It will all depend on that and how I play in the next year and a half, what happens. But yeah, I think I'm a player.

Q. Open Champion at 45 this year or 46 next year, what about Portrush in 2019? Have you been up to see it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't been up to see it. I've obviously seen the pictures. We're due to see that‑‑ look, I'm getting the nod at the back of the room, don't say, don't say. I would be due to play it soon. That okay, Mitch? (Laughter) yes, so maybe watch that space.
Yeah, I'm looking forward to having a look at it and playing it. As I said, I've seen the pictures. I hear it's great. It's a place I've always been very comfortable with, I've always loved playing my golf in Royal Portrush. I've always had a great welcome there. You know, happy days, happy memories. So I'm looking forward to it. And yes, it doesn't matter what I've done; if I win the next two Opens, I'll still be wanting to win in 2019.
Every time you tee it up in an Open, it's a special occasion, it really is. There's something about an Open Championship, The heritage, traditions of it, there's an excitement about being there. And I think the nature of it; that maybe it plays into my heart more than anything else, there's a certain wildness and there's a certain ruggedness. It's the traditions of the game, and in many ways the game‑‑ there's a huge push in the game to make the game very ordered and very fair and very perfect.
But the game was never designed to be that. The game was designed to be a game of managing your wits and your mental temperament, getting good and bad breaks. Like you look at the original game, you played it as you like. That was it. There was no relief for anything, footprints and bunkers; the game has become more sanitised over the years but The Open‑‑ and I'm not saying that The Open hasn't moved with the times. But there's still a little bit of, wow, there's some bad breaks and good breaks to be had on this golf course and I've got to really be up for it and take that.
And I love the idea, this bad side to the draw. Every single person going into an Open Championship is thinking, you know, I can get the wrong side of the draw here. Mayhem could happen. You could get some crazy things happening, and the excitement of that, you know, of good and bad things happening. I just love the idea of being tested mentally, as you do at The Open. You can have a wedge shot at The Open and just be the hardest golf shot in the game, and you could have a long iron shot and the ball kicks into the pin and it could be the easiest shot in the game.
Like The Postage Stamp. You're standing there, okay, it didn't play as hard last year but still you're standing with a little wedge in your hand and you are just so nervous of messing up, get on the green and 2‑putt and you're happy. You've played a 110‑yard par 3 and if you make 3, you're thrilled. That's what you've got to love about open championship golf. It changes, it varies and there's good and bad breaks.
You talk to other guys, just like Adam Scott being able to reach a par 5 that I hit 3‑wood on the same day. So yeah, I love the excitement of it.
And the fact the R&A do a good job, the golf course sets itself up at the start of the year. If we've got a lot of growth during the winter, there's going to be heavy rough. If we have a dry, fast golf course, well, that's what it's going to be. They don't necessarily‑‑ they leave it in its natural state as much as they can, which is a nice way to have it.
So some years, you're going to have Open Championships where 20‑under par wins and other years you're going to have ones where close to level par wins. That's the beauty of it; the variability, you never quite know what you're going to get and as you've seen with a lot of guys who play in The Open, guys will come over first of all and tell you that they hate this; this is the worst form of golf, and then five years later after playing, they say, this is beautiful. This is the best form.
Once you begin to understand the vagaries of links golf, and what it throws up, and the fact it isn't fair; it never was meant to be fair. Golf is not a game that's meant to be fair. It's a game that's meant to test your mental resolve. I do fear that as the professional game has a much bigger influence on golf, that the emphasis is going on having everything perfect, manicured, never have a side slope, everything has to be flat, nobody gets a bad lie, manicured rough, everything. I like that; it's beautiful. Just don't believe golf should be that way all the time.
There's got to be some good and bad breaks. Everything can't be ordered. That was not the way the game was meant to be played and as somebody said, it's an outdoor game. There have got to be some elements to it and I think The Open is the best at doing that, at leaving it‑‑ we've played many holes in The Open where literally, there's a spot down the right‑hand side, five‑yard circle, and God forbid, you hit your golf ball and you might even lose it and yet hit it five yards short of that or five yards past and you can hit a wood. And most people would say, well, that's not really fair, is it.
But that's what you love about it, recognising it and being able to play around that is a fantastic element. But we all know on a links golf course that the little hollows and valleys off the fairway, that literally if you hit your golf ball in there‑‑ or you can hit a perfect drive.
The beauty of a links golf course, you can stand up there and you know, you're trying to hit the fairway and you're hitting between a bunker on the right and a bunker on the left and if you hit in either of those bunkers, you have to chip outside those. It's a penalty.
And if you hit it 40 yards right of those bunkers, you're in the crowd and you have a free shot, and most people could go home. That's not fair. Sure it's not fair, but that's golf. That's how the game is meant to be played. It's a challenge. It's a mental challenge. That's what I like about The Open. It just gives you‑‑ it's the biggest mental challenge of all. In general, it's the biggest mental challenge.
I'm sure the odd major that comes along, that you know, I'm sure if you went to Oakmont or somewhere like that, that tests you mentally quite a bit. But you know, if you go to a standard golf course, everything is too ordered for my liking. Whereas The Open just gives you a little bit of, for me, gives me a little bit of trepidation and a little bit of excitement.
MIKE WOODCOCK: Padraig, I think on that note, we'll close. Thank you very much for taking the time. We all look forward to seeing you back at Birkdale in the summer. Thank you.

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