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December 16, 2008

Brendon de Jonge

Padraig Harrington

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Good afternoon for those journalists here in the United States, and good evening for those of you joining us from Europe for today's PGA TOUR teleconference. At this time I'd like to introduce the 2008 PGA TOUR Player of the Year, Padraig Harrington, who became the first European to win the PGA TOUR Player of the Year award since its inception in 1990.
Padraig, I'm sure today's announcement caps a dream season for you. You're also the European Tour Player of the Year. Maybe we can start with some opening comments on a fantastic season.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously it has been a fantastic season individually out there, winning a couple of majors. At the time you win them, you certainly feel that nothing could compare to it. But, to be honest, there is no greater accolade than to receive an award from your peers. And to receive the Player of the Year award is phenomenal for me.
You know, it is an individual game when we're out there competing, but you do want and crave the respect of your fellow pros. And the fact that they have picked me as their Player of the Year, you know, I find it hard to describe.
Probably I've never received as high an accolade in my life, certainly I don't feel like. Because it's the players, because it's my peers, because they're people that I care and am concerned about their opinions deeply, for them to choose me as their Player of the Year is very special.
It compares equally to winning a major championship. I can't believe I can actually say something can compare to going out there and winning a major championship, but this accolade, no doubt in my mind, you know, is right up there.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Again, congratulations. We can go right into some media questions.

Q. Could you talk about from where you got your work ethic, which is probably responsible for this in some small part.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there's no doubt that I have come to this level through maybe slightly different levels than often is expected. While I've achieved all the way up through amateur ranks to professional ranks, I probably never was necessarily destined the one to be picked out to go on to such great heights in terms of winning the Player of the Year or winning major championships. At all stages, I'm somebody who has worked hard. And probably my greatest trait is my ability to learn, apply myself to tasks, find out what needs to be done and to move on.
Where I learnt that, it's hard to know. You know, I'm the youngest of five boys, so obviously I got it the easiest. You know, a good upbringing. My father was a policeman. I lived 20 minutes away from a golf course that he founded, and spent a lot of my time playing at that golf course, not necessarily playing golf, but just involved and around it.
I think I just enjoy golf and I have an insatiable appetite to get out there and work. Every day I go out to the range, I'm enthusiastic that I'm going to improve that day. I think the day that I go to the range and I think I'm trying to stay still or just hold on to what I got is the day that, you know, I'll probably be on a slippery slope out of this game.
I suppose I'm an optimist is ultimately why I have the work ethic. Every day I get out there, I think I'm getting better.

Q. Have you ever worried that you've tinkered too much or tried to learn too much, if you will?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I'm quite a risk-taker when it comes to changing things. I worry sometimes that I certainly in my initial years on the TOUR, I sacrificed short-term performances. You know, possibly looking back, I might have won more events but for the fact that I was always changing things. I can remember many occasions, not just one occasion, where I'd be leading or close to leading a tournament on Saturday evening and I'd be out on the range changing my swing to get ready for, you know, tournaments in the future, which nowadays it would be madness to do something like that. I've got the experience to realize I can at least wait till Monday morning. Many sometimes I did it on a Saturday. You know, I look back at it, and long-term performance sometimes does cost you short-term.

Q. Padraig, I was curious, obviously there could have probably been or has been a compelling argument for Tiger and Player of the Year, given what he did in just six events. I'm wondering what you think this says about the fact that the players obviously hold winning majors in such high regard.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Look, I'm realistic enough to know that Tiger's high standards, you know, obviously hurt him in not winning the Player of the Year this year. The fact that Tiger has won it so many times and has achieved so much, what he did this year was exceptional in the six tournaments he played. What he did at the U.S. Open on a broken leg is unheard of. No doubt, you know, he deserved to win Player of the Year. If I had done what Tiger had done this year, I would have won Player of the Year, if you can understand what I'm saying. It's the baggage he brought into the year and the fact that he is as talented as he is and has done as well as he has that would lead players to look to somebody like myself who has had an exceptional year.
So I think in some ways the fact that I had an exceptional year has swayed the vote towards me, whereas Tiger's phenomenal year is just what we're used to with Tiger Woods: he tends to have phenomenal years every year.

Q. I'm curious if you could update us on what you're doing now. Have you put the clubs away for a little while? Are you sort of trying to recharge for next year? Where were you in all that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I finished my season a little bit earlier this year than I have in previous years. I've taken my two weeks off where I literally did have two weeks off and sat in front of morning TV, which after two weeks I'm glad I don't have to do that every day. Now I'm back in training, back in practice. I've already two weeks under my belt. I think I have another four clear weeks, and then another couple of weeks before I have one tournament and another couple before I venture out to the States. I have certainly another six to eight weeks of heavy gym work and practice ahead of me before I really feel like the season has a clear start for me, let's say.

Q. Congratulations on all your awards, PGA TOUR, European Tour, Golf Writers.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I really have to go back, there's nothing like -- they're all important in their own right, there's no doubt about that, but to receive it from your peers, from your fellow players, is an accolade that we all crave. There's no doubt, even in an individual game that we play, there is no doubt that we all want the respect of our fellow players. To receive an award like this is high praise, indeed.

Q. I'm wondering whether anybody in Ponte Vedra gave you any idea how close the vote might have been? There was a lot of discussion over who deserved the award more. It was still going on all the way up until the voting deadline Friday. I'm wondering whether they told you, whether you were curious, whether you think the vote tally should be released.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Actually, I didn't ask. Even though I am curious, just as curious as everybody else, I never asked. I thought that would be impolite, because it isn't public knowledge. And I actually believe it should be a private vote and kept that way. I think that ensures the integrity really from the players' point of view. Nobody needs to know it was very close or very wide apart. You know, it isn't like there's a first, second, third. There really just is the player each year. I suppose somebody does know, but I don't feel there's a great need for it to be out in the public sphere, let's say. As far as I'm concerned, I won the vote by one. That's how it is in my head.

Q. I'm wondering, as a player playing around the world, now basically at the top of the game, if you have any concerns or opinions of how the game might be impacted by the global economy. Is it anything you think about? Have you been impacted either in your sponsorships or endorsements in any way?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, as regards the TOUR, there is a small amount of let's say collateral from the global slowdown at the moment. I think in two years' time, not necessarily this season but the following season, you'll probably see more because of the fact there's more contracts, tournament contracts, being negotiated. Most tournaments for this year have already been confirmed. So for somebody to pull out this year, they actually physically have to break a contract, which obviously nobody wants to or likes doing. They'll do everything they can to endeavor to keep a contract.
But going forward, you know, we have to renegotiate new contracts on good terms. I will say for the Irish Open at this point, not only have they negotiated a new three-year contract, they've negotiated a 33% increase in prize funds, which is very impressive.
But, yeah, I believe that, yes, there's got to be some stagnation in prize funds, there's got to be certainly some slippage in number of events.
It's interesting that a lot of players would welcome a slight tightening of the schedule in terms of tournaments; that most players would look for quality ahead of anything else, certainly quality ahead of numbers. Most players would be happy to keep -- rather than let the standard slip, the standard is unbelievable and has raised so much in the last number of years, would certainly try to have less selection, but keep the standard as high as they could.
It will be interesting to see. You've got to believe in the current climate things have got to change a little, but maybe certainly at the higher end of players, players are already struggling to play enough events to give back to the TOUR, and that is an issue for all players. I'm a worldwide player, but I want to support both the European Tour and the U.S. Tour as much as I can because I'm a member of them. In some ways, a tightening of the schedule would mean I've got a greater ability to represent as I would like to do.
It is interesting, there's no doubt players are concerned and are looking at that, to all businesses and all economies. Everybody's going to be that little bit more adaptable and be prepared to work as well as they can and as favorably as they can to make sure things continue on the great footing especially that the PGA TOUR is on.

Q. Does the Race to Dubai impact your schedule for 2009?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, because I'm aware of it. I'm a great believer that, with my own personal schedule, I look to the four majors to try to peak those four weeks. When the end of the PGA comes along, then two things automatically -- in fairness, actually one thing comes into my mind in a big way at that stage at the end of the PGA, and that's the FedExCup. When the FedExCup finishes, then the Race to Dubai kicks in in my mind in a big way and it spurs me on and keeps me focused to get to the middle of November.
You're looking at essentially six mini schedules in the year, being the Masters, being the U.S. Open, being the Open, being the PGA, followed by the FedExCup, and lastly by the Race to Dubai. They each come in in a new step. There's no point in me starting out in January thinking about the Race to Dubai because I have four other reasons to peak before that, five other reasons to peak.

Q. As a European player, did you feel you already earned the recognition and respect that you deserve in America?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The question seems to be, being from Europe, did I have to re-earn respect by playing on the PGA TOUR. I think that the truth of it is every time you go to a new tour, any time you venture into a new playground, let's say, yeah, what you've done beforehand helps with your own self-confidence, but, yes, you do have to prove yourself again, you do have to start fresh and get out there and perform and show you can.
I think over the years one of the reasons I've been successful when I've come to the States, say compared to some very good players that have come out of Europe, is the fact that I have found it very comfortable in the States. There's a number of factors for that reason. First of all, I like playing there. I like the conditions. I like the TOUR. I like the players. There's a lot of good reasons I'm comfortable.
Obviously there's a very strong Irish connection in the whole of the U.S. So, again, I have a lot of good support, a good support base. I have a friend who caddies for me, which really helps in terms of my travel and things like that, that there's always somebody there with me, which is very important off the golf course to have somebody close to you who can relate to you and listen to you. The professional TOUR, while it is glamorous, can sometimes be a lonely life.
But going back to the players, yes, you do have to earn the respect. And, yes, you put in the extra effort. Again, as much as we play an individual game, there's no doubt we all crave -- as human beings, you crave the respect of your fellow pros, and it's something that is worth having. It's definitely something that's worth working towards. An accolade like this says a lot for me because it's something I'm very proud to have won, to have received their votes.

Q. The Golf Writers Association of America announced that you and Lorena Ochoa won the Player of the Year titles. What can you tell me about her?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm aware of Lorena. I admire her. While I haven't actually played golf with her, I've only seen her play, she looks like somebody who is going out there and achieving. You know, she's really, really performing, getting the most out of her game. She looks like somebody who is committed, somebody I could admire. I think that's somebody I would want in terms of -- without knowing her personally, but just looking at her personality, she looks like somebody, if I was a kid, I would hold her up as a role model, somebody who really has the game at heart and excels to the best of her ability, gets absolutely the most out of her game, and tends to use her own mental strength and her will to achieve what she's achieving in the game. It's not like she has some obvious advantage that she hits the golf ball so much further than somebody else or has been, you know, maybe as a teenager a child prodigy or something. She just looks like somebody who loves the game and wants to get out there and win.
Her achievements have been phenomenal. Looking at the ladies' game, I suppose this is foolish in any sport, but you never thought there would be anybody as good as Annika Sorenstam, and Lorena Ochoa looks like she's well on her way.

Q. If you could bottle a feeling maybe or a shot from 2008 and reproduce it again, what would it be? Secondly, you said as far as you're concerned you won by one vote. I'm wondering, did you cast your own vote and can you tell us who got it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: In fairness, the two votes in the European Player of the Year and the U.S. player, I abstained from voting. I wouldn't believe in voting for myself. But I did dearly want to win it, so I wasn't going to vote for somebody else. That would be my stance on that.
As regards a feeling or a shot or some sort of emotion from 2008, if I could bottle the mental state I was in at the end of the PGA, especially holing the putts on 16, 17 and 18, I think obviously this is a focus we've seen in other players, you're close to unbeatable when you're in a zone like that. If I could bottle that, I believe I'd be so much better.
The interesting thing is if I was like that every day of the week, in every round of golf, in every shot I played, I wouldn't manage to play too many rounds of tournament golf a year because it is an incredible state of mind to be in and certainly very draining. It is easy to see why somebody like Tiger, who obviously gets there probably more often than the rest of us, why he has to rest more than anybody else and play that tournament.
You know, it is something, a state of mind I'd love to try to get into it. I think I'm getting better at peaking and producing my very best golf in the right situations. But definitely it is one extreme high that does take a lot of time, preparation to get into, and a lot of time to recover from.

Q. How do you assess your year from the standpoint that you won two tournaments that are two of the biggest you can possibly win, but from a consistency level of contending more often, probably lacking in that area.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I had a very interesting year. My run up to the Open, I finished top five in every second event I played in the States. So I actually got into contention quite reasonably, but I didn't finish off any tournaments. I didn't win any tournaments. And I actually was putting myself under a lot of pressure, just not easing up, not giving myself any freedom.
It was interesting that the wrist injury at the Open opened everything up, allowed me to relax and let my good golf come out.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Padraig, thank you very much.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: At this time we'd like to welcome the Nationwide Tour Player of the Year, Brendon de Jonge. Brendon earned the Nationwide Tour Player of the Year honors after finishing second on the Nationwide Tour Money List and after posting a win at the Xerox Classic. Brendon returns to the PGA TOUR for the second time next year after having been a rookie on that tour in 2007.
Brendon, I'm sure it's an exciting day for you in your golf career, and hopefully the start of something really big on the PGA TOUR next year.
BRENDON de JONGE: Yes, sir. Obviously very exciting for me. I just want to start off by saying a big congratulations to Matt Bettencourt, Jarrod Lyle and Jeff Klauk for the wonderful years they had, being nominated for this award. I have no doubt they'll have continued success next year.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Maybe some comments as far as yourself on your season, some comments about playing on the Nationwide Tour this past year.
BRENDON de JONGE: Yeah, you know, it's a great honor obviously. It's nice to see the Nationwide Tour, what a great proving ground, what a great tour it is. Hopefully more and more people are getting to see that.
As far as my season goes, I'm very, very thrilled at how consistent it was, how often I put myself in contention. The biggest thing is for me to take that same mindset to the PGA TOUR next year.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We can go into questions now for Brendon.

Q. I want to get your sense, what areas of your game do you think you improved this year coming off of your PGA TOUR experience in '07?
BRENDON de JONGE: I think the mental aspect definitely got a lot better. Just pretty much my all-around game. I learned so much on the PGA TOUR in '07. Thankfully I was able to carry that down to the Nationwide Tour with me. I think that bred a lot of my success.

Q. After having to go back to the Nationwide Tour this year, was it hard to have the right frame of mind? I'm sure some people might have been pretty much down after not being back on the PGA TOUR this year.
BRENDON de JONGE: I made a very, very conscious effort at the beginning of this year to embrace the opportunity I had of playing the Nationwide Tour, playing my way back onto the PGA TOUR. I think it was obviously very important to get into the right frame of mind.

Q. Moving forward to the PGA next year, what were the key things you learned or got better at that you want to keep up next year when you go back to the PGA TOUR?
BRENDON de JONGE: As I said, the mental aspect of it, the patience, just telling myself that I'm good enough to be out there and compete out there, try and play with the same consistency I played with this year.

Q. Do you have a feeling this will be your swan song on the Nationwide; you won't be back in 2010?
BRENDON de JONGE: Yeah, I would certainly like to feel like that. But, you know, things happen.

Q. This year was there a certain point in the year where you felt, I'm really in a zone here, really feeling it?
BRENDON de JONGE: There was a six-week stretch right around the middle of the summer where it didn't matter how I played, I managed to get a score in under par. As I heard Padraig talking earlier, you get in that zone, and it's a nice place to be, but it is very mentally draining.

Q. Obviously with the success that Johnson had this year on the TOUR, is that nice to see, now next year you'll be on the TOUR as well, give him a run for his money?
BRENDON de JONGE: Very much so. Johnson and I are very good friends. We actual played today. It's obviously great to see the success he's had. You know, it's nice for me because I know how our games match up and compare. You know, seeing him do well also breeds confidence for me.
You know, it's going to be great to be out there playing with him. There's always a healthy competitiveness between us.

Q. Where did you play today?
BRENDON de JONGE: We played out at Piper Glen here in Charlotte.

Q. You're living in Charlotte these days?
BRENDON de JONGE: Yes, in Charlotte.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Brendon, thanks for your time today. Again, congratulations. We hope you enjoy a little bit of time before you kick things off probably at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Best of luck next year.
BRENDON de JONGE: Thanks very much, guys. Appreciate it.

End of FastScripts

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