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June 9, 2009

Ian Baker-Finch

Rob Correa

Jim Dauwalter

Padraig Harrington

David Levy

Jim Remy

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm very proud to welcome our defending PGA champion, via telephone, a true friend of golf, a true friend of the PGA of America, you just got to love the way this guy goes about playing this game, Padraig, thanks for joining us.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's great to be here.
JULIUS MASON: Some opening thoughts about your defense of this championship at Hazeltine National, then we'll go to Q&A.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's interesting listening in. As a player, I turn up and play. It's amazing what goes in behind the scenes. I think it was 590 million people capable of watching, it's impressive figures. It was nice to listen to that and know that there is a little bit more that goes on behind the scenes than us players sometimes realize.
But personally going into it, two things. First of all, I played in 2002 in Hazeltine. It was a great championship. But what I remember most about it is I hurt my neck on the Sunday. I have a picture at home on the wall, I tend to only put quirky pictures up on the wall, where my physio looks like he's trying to pull my neck off. At the top, he's got me in like a headlock as he's trying to adjust it on the course. It was one that I probably wouldn't have played on if it was anything but a major, but always in the majors you do give it a little bit more.
Hazeltine itself, fantastic golf course. I think everything Ian Baker-Finch said, it is a golf course that's there in front of you, with plenty of options. In major golf nowadays the best majors are played on golf courses that have options. If the golf course is too short or something like that, it tends to get tricky with pin positions, because that's the only way of defending it. When you have a bigger, stronger golf course, you can settle for a big golf course, a tough course, but you can set a very fair course.
I think a lot of the majors over certainly the last half dozen years have moved towards that. The golf courses tend to be very solid, fair courses, not tricky, but certainly difficult. I think Hazeltine looks like it will provide that challenge. A big, strong test, one that if you hit the golf shots on you'll get rewarded on. That's what you want. You don't want a course that pin positions are too tight, the bunkers are too tight, the slopes, just to make sure we're not running away with the course. Hazeltine obviously isn't that type of golf course.
Personally going into the event, obviously it's two months away, and two majors away, to be honest, before we get there. It really is now starting to get into the beef of the season. Any player really wants to play well from now on to the end of August. My goal is to peak through these three months. I haven't had such a great start to the year. I've been kind of focused on other things. Now I've got to get down to business and hopefully through the U.S. Open, the Open and the PGA, I'll be back to my top performances.
I do like the idea of the majors. They do seem to be easier to win in some ways. They're a bit like playing -- they feel like you're in a marathon rather than a sprint. A regular event, it feels like a quick dash. If you don't get off to a good start, you feel you're a little bit behind. Whereas in a major championship, you know it's going to come down to the last nine holes on Sunday. It's all about getting yourself in position.
So I'll be looking forward to being in top form and really getting my game peaked and ready for it.
JULIUS MASON: Padraig, thank you. We'll go to questions now.

Q. Just wondered, do you remember the golf course playing long in 2002? Your thoughts on it being another 300 yards longer?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't. You know, I remember it being a big, solid golf course. But I think even though during the week I think we had some showers, some storms during the week, but I think it was warm enough that the -- when we get into the heat, which is obviously going to be Minneapolis in August, we can start hitting the ball 300 yards plus.
Basically you can make the golf course as long as you want and we're still capable of getting out there, as long as the weather is good for it. I think you wouldn't want to play that length of golf course, certainly not in Ireland, anyway, where it's 240 yards, not 300 yards.
I think the course, I personally like to see a golf course with length it, and let the tournament committee adjust the golf course how they see fit during the week, rather than a course that's too short and leaves for options, to go extreme on the rough or the pin positions.
What I keep hearing about Hazeltine is music to my ears. It's sounding like we're going to have a big, strong test, but nothing that's going to be tricky.
JULIUS MASON: I promise it's not going to reach nine thousand yards when the Ryder Cup comes here.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The way we're going in this game, you never know. We might need that. The interesting thing, you can have a 600-yard par 5 and we can reach it, and sometimes you can have the toughest par 4 in the course being 320 yards. It depends on the actual layout of the hole to determine how difficult it is. It's good to have the options of length. It's better than pins that are too tricky or unfair pins. I'd rather hit a 4-iron into a par 4 to a reasonable pin position than hit an 8-iron into a pin position that nobody can get close.

Q. I know pro golfers like you are pretty used to living out of suitcases. What kind of things do you do to make it more at home when you're at a major in another country?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I suppose the big difference at majors is my family try and travel. I get them to travel as much as they can, and definitely travel through the summer when the kids are out of school. But at a major, I need six rooms in a hotel, which you can't get. So we always rent a house, which is obviously what you want to do. So you do have kind of a family atmosphere that week. You have home-cooked meals, because it's too hard to get bookings in restaurants.
Of all the events, you tend to do the more homely things at major championships. To be honest, you're really toning down the week, whereas in a normal event, you might look to do something in the evening. You might look to go to restaurants, maybe go sporting on occasion if there's a game on in town, whatever. But at a major, you're actually winding down quite a lot in the evenings.
You know the mental stress of that week plays on the physical side. A lot of evenings, and I think sometimes, especially if you played well, a lot of evenings, you're only fit in the evening to go back. Thankfully you might have somebody there who can cook you a home-cooked meal. You sit down and eat it. You play with the kids, chill out for the evening.
The majors by themselves distinctly are different to regular events. You definitely take it more like you might a regular event if you were playing and staying at home. It definitely has that homey atmosphere. As I said, you're not fit to do anything else the week of a major. It's not a week for getting out to the gym, doing sessions in the gym. It's not a week for heading out on the town. None of those things. It's too long a week, too stressful a week to be doing anything but taking it easy off the golf course.

Q. Being a defending champion, is there more pressure on you or is there less because you've already accomplished winning this trophy?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's definitely more pressure the year you're defending. There's more focus on you. There's more questions being asked. There's a little bit more expectations. Even though you've done it before, can you do it again? Yeah, it brings more pressure. It's a good place to be. Like we all know, when you're under pressure, it means you care a little bit. You're exactly where you want to be in life if you're under pressure. You kind of embrace it.
But definitely it makes it harder in the short-term to win. I think winning majors makes it easier to win majors in the long-term because you've done it before. When you immediately go back to defend any tournament, there is a little bit more spotlight and highlight on you. That can be a distraction. It's harder to maybe do your own thing and stay out of the limelight. As I said, these majors can be very long weeks. It can be difficult.
It's tough to lead a major from Thursday onwards because there's extra stresses with that, whereas a defending champion is being put under that stress from the time he arrives on Monday. People are asking him is he going to win, whereas in a regular event, most people don't think about who is going to win until Saturday evening. Certainly there isn't too much stress about it. Whereas I go back to the PGA, the Open Championship this year, right from Monday onwards I'll have questions about how am I playing, how do I think it's going, do I think I can defend.
I will try and focus on doing my own things. These are a little bit distractions, but they're good distractions. They're there and I'm going to embrace them rather than fight them, let's say.

Q. I wondered if you prepared for next week's major and if you've been there, what about the 10th hole, how do you play that thing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I haven't done anything. Obviously I played the last time at Bethpage and had a reasonably good run that week. I think it was my first time, Saturday, the last group of a major. It was all part of the building process.
I haven't done anything out of the ordinary this year. I haven't gone to see it. I prepared for this major like I would for all other majors, as I'm concentrating on getting my buildup right. I do expect to be ready to go when I get there. Thursday week I have to be ready, and I do expect to be ready.
The golf course itself, the 10th hole, I didn't find too much issue with the 10th hole the last time at all. Actually, the 12th, as well. I was comfortably carrying that the last time. I don't know how it's going to be this time. I believe that the weather is going to be good for the week. I don't think any player is going to have an issue. The issue the last time was the weather was bad. As I mentioned earlier, when the weather turns down, you get a bit of a dampness in the air, these current golf balls and drivers, we can all hit them over 300 yards on a sunny day, it does pare back a lot on a wet, miserable day. I think that's what happened last time on the Friday. Only a couple of the shorter hitters struggled to reach the fairways on 10 on Friday. It was a big advantage to me last time.
It didn't pose a problem for me. I was comfortably getting out there. On the Friday I think I shot the low score of the day. Didn't pose a problem. Hopefully it will be the same for everybody else this time around. You know, if it's somebody else that is struggling, it's to your advantage.

Q. Do you see the three major championships all becoming more and more alike?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, very much so. Very much so. Maybe when I first started playing them in '97, you could distinctly say there was a difference. Certainly the U.S. Open, the US PGA, you can interchange them some years. Sometimes they play the same courses, they have done. They've become, especially the last four or five years, good, strong, fair tests. The players in general over the last four years would rave about every course they turned up to for a major, where maybe from 2000 onwards, there was an issue, players would say this course is set up too hard, the rough was too heavy, it was dangerous, or too tight.
But I think a balance has been struck. The golf courses we're finding are real strong, solid tests. As I said, the fact they're being set up so well, both the U.S. Open and the PGA, means it's hard to distinguish who is setting them up each time.
In '97, the PGA would have been considered more like -- the setup was more like the regular setup on the TOUR. The U.S. Open was considered at that time they were setting up some really brutally tough courses. But what's happened I think is both of them have moved now -- I suppose the PGA have probably kept to their rule really. They set up what has been always what is known to be a quite fair golf course, and probably at times could have been accused of listening to the players too much. But now I think the U.S. Open probably they've set up some very fair golf courses over the last few years that everybody has enjoyed.
So probably the U.S. Open has moved to be more like the PGA, and the PGA has stuck to their guns over the last 10 years, using good, fair, solid courses.

Q. Padraig, you mentioned how weeks at majors get toned down. When you come to places in a country where you otherwise wouldn't get to but every seven years, do you get any sense of where you're at for the week, a sense of place? Other than remembering that you almost got your head pulled off by your physical therapist, what kind of memories do you have of Minnesota?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The biggest memory I have of Minnesota is I played the Walker Cup there in 1993. That is probably the one time I got to see a little bit of the city and that.
When you go back for a major, yeah, it is very much lockdown for the week. You don't see a huge amount going on. But definitely, as I said, I've had good memories of Minnesota. My wife could tell you all about the shopping malls, if you like, the Mall of America.

Q. It's bigger than Ireland.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The Mall of America, am I correct?

Q. The Mall of America.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: See, I know these things (laughter).
So, yeah, you know, at times you see things. But I don't expect it's going to happen much at the major. I will spend my off time, as much as I -- I will be doing two things in my off time: resting and just playing with my kids, just getting away from it. That will be it. I won't spend a huge amount of time out seeing the sights. It's too much of a drain that week.

Q. Talk about your game now. You've not played quite as well as you'd like, I'm assuming. What can you do or what are you going to do to kind of snap out of that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you know, it's all about the process in my world. And definitely, you know, over the last couple years I've been trying to get to the bottom of my swing. Since I won the two majors last year, I got a little bit deeper into it, trying to figure something out, been very much concentrating on that for the last eight months. As I said, for about two and a half years I've been tinkering with it, but certainly the last eight months I've been heavily focused on it.
Obviously, when you see results, the results have been quite lean certainly in the last five months, I've got to get back to working on my scoring. I'm comfortable with what I've been doing technically. While I haven't got it in my swing like I would want it, I'm comfortable what it is and what I need to do to sort it out. That kind of can be put a little bit on the back boiler there. I can concentrate back on my scoring, just getting myself ready for these tournaments, making sure my short game, which is my strength, is as sharp as ever.
Sometimes when you work on your weaknesses, your strengths do get weak a little. I'm right back on track. I'm very comfortable with what I did and where I'm going.
Obviously I'd like to turn around as quick as possible. I'm doing the right things. I've got to stay patient. I've got to be accepting of this. I'm very, very comfortable where I am and where I'm going, let's say. I think I'm in a far better position than I was this time last year, or even this time at the end of August last year. I just won two majors. I think I'm a far better player now than I was then.
Obviously, I just have got to be patient and let it happen and wait for the results, which ultimately are the judge to turn around. As I said, as a player, sometimes you've got to go by order of things to judge where you're going in your game and not necessarily short-term results.
As I said, the next three months, I've got three majors in just over two and a half months now, and that is going to distinguish what sort of year I've had, getting ready to play them.
JULIUS MASON: That looks like it's the conclusion of our news conference, ladies and gentlemen. A big thank you to the distinguished members at the head of our table for joining us, and a big thank you to Minnesota and Hazeltine National Golf Club for your hospitality. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

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