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August 9, 2005

Padraig Harrington


JULIUS MASON: Padraig Harrington, ladies and gentlemen, playing in his seventh PGA Championship.

Padraig, welcome to Baltusrol.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Thank you very much.

JULIUS MASON: I understand you did play the course the other day. Give us some comments on what you think.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a very fair golf course, it's all there in front of you. It's not tricked up in any way, so it's just there's not much you can say except for it's really a fair course. It's a difficult enough golf course, but I don't think anybody can have any complaints about it.

Q. When you come to a golf course where you see 650 yard par 5s and a couple of par 4s over 500, it obviously places emphasis on the driving. What does it say about short game? You're obviously a player that puts a lot of emphasis on short game.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's not a huge amount of wedge shots out there, that's for sure. That's something that normally would be pretty strong in my game, but it's not required.

Chipping and bunker play and putting is going to be important with the longer shots in, and sometimes if you miss the fairway off the tee, the rough isn't as heavy as some of the other majors. It's not that you're going to be able to hit the green, but you should be able to advance the ball forward. Chipping and putting always is important at every major, but this one is probably asking a little bit more. A player who hits a lot of fairways and greens this week will do well. It's a solid golf course.

I think to be honest, it can be played a number of ways, but it doesn't suit one player in particular.

Q. How does it compare to a U.S. Open layout?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a lot different to be honest. For starters, it's soft. You know, that obviously makes a big difference. It's easier to hit a 3 iron into a soft green than maybe a 5 iron into a firm green. The fairways are soft, they're a reasonable width. The rough is punishing without being too severe.

This always is the PGA always is much more like a tournament that we it's like the best of the regular tournament setups sort of thing. It's probably what the players would choose to play on week in, week out. We like going to a U.S. Open golf course, going to a Masters; it's a little bit different. It's obviously extreme on those weeks, but we probably wouldn't want to be doing that every week; whereas a U.S. PGA golf course is one that the players say is is set up more for the players, and very rarely has anybody got a bad word to say about a PGA golf course. They tend to be fair, and to be honest, you tend to see some decent scoring on the courses. It's not normally level par that wins.

Q. It's been a big year for you obviously in events in the last month and stuff. Can you just tell us about your emotional state as you enter this tournament and the loss of your father?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Emotionally, it was four weeks and I feel fine about it. I'm reasonably comfortable about it all. Physically I haven't quite recovered from the highs and the lows of the year, but emotionally I'm in good position to really start my year off now, to play the last I suppose there's another three months of the year, and then it feels like I'm starting a new year. It doesn't give me great hope for this week because I feel like I've kind of been out of things for a while. Normally when you go to play at a major, you want to have some competitive edge going into it, and I'm sort of missing that at the moment.

But emotionally, I feel like I want to go and play golf. I'm comfortable enough with the events that have happened and ready to play.

Q. Coming to a major championship, as you say, you've never come into a major championship like this before, but does the atmosphere of a major championship, do you expect that's going to give you the sharpness you might not normally have for another event?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I could hope that it would and hope that maybe I get into the tournament and get going, and with that, if you're in good form and you're sort of you get into contention, obviously there's a bit of an adrenaline rush in that, and that helps things.

But I don't know what to expect, I've got to say. As I said, I'm doing everything I can, trying not to overdo things, and then hopefully, it's a little bit of hope really. It's not like I can predict anything. I just have to go with the flow and see what happens.

Q. You were around for the Tiger's first coming in the mid 90s. Does it feel any different now that he's coming again? Is he as good now as he was then; better?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know, it's totally different. Obviously when he came that was an interesting choice of words. In '97 when he first came on the scene, he was only a kid with lots of talent. In 2000, he was a phenomenal player that nobody could touch. I think now he's still a great player, but I don't think he's probably not as untouchable as he was in 2000.

Q. Did you ever feel intimidated by him?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I am intimidated by myself (laughter). It all depends on the situation. To be honest, if I'm ever in contention with anybody, it's me I'm worried about, not the other guy. That's all I can deal with.

I don't worry too much about him, but without a doubt, I think every player, if they're going well at this tournament, they'll have a quick look to see where Tiger Woods is. He definitely has a slight mark on the rest of the field, that's for sure. Everybody looks, how is Tiger doing. It's a natural reaction.

Q. Just to follow up, what's different between Tiger in 2000 and 2005 in terms of the way players look at him?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: In terms of the way players look at him, players have obviously closed the gap. Vijay passed him for a while.

I think in terms of himself, I think he's probably more experienced now than he was in 2000. I think in 2000, you know, he was unbeatable because he probably believed he was unbeatable. Now he's an experienced pro and who probably have a it's slightly different when you're more experienced in the sense that, you know how would I put this? The confidence in 2000, as I said, he had a certain confidence about him, and when you've had some highs and lows since then, obviously some of that confidence is gone. But he's more experienced and doesn't need it, per se. So he's a different player now rather than I think that's probably the only way you could describe it. He's a slightly different player now. I'm sure he could be a better player in certain ways, but so has the rest of the field improved and caught up with him.

Q. You've talked in the past about how you enjoy playing in New York. Can you elaborate on this the New York area, I guess, can you elaborate on what's different here? Can you envision a scenario where a player might dislike playing in this environment, where the crowd is as rowdy as it can be?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I like the atmosphere. The New York/New Jersey crowd tends to be a bit louder and I like that atmosphere around the golf course. It adds excitement to the week. I suppose we're used to play in a more sedate environment, and it's good to have a bit of excitement around it, a bit of noise. It adds to the whole event when there's roars going up all over the golf course.

I used to remember that as a kid, not a kid, but when I started playing in Open Championships in Britain, the noise tends to travel across the golf course because there's no trees to stop it, so there was a great atmosphere. I felt once you come back to this area, there's a lot of people making a lot of noise, and you do tend to get a really great ambiance around the golf course. There's a great spirit in it.

As regards would it put off people, I don't know why it would. I suppose there's a lot of noise maybe, but it's good sort of noise; it's not like it's harder to play when it's quiet than when it's noisy. I don't know what other people are feeling, but I like it.

Q. Why is it harder to play when it's quiet?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Because you hear things. When it's noisy, you hear nothing. It's one of those things. When there's a lot of noise, you can't pick up on individual sounds. When it's very quiet, it's very easy to I can never understand when I'm watching NBA over here. The guy goes to take a free throw and everybody starts roaring. If everybody shut up and the guys would try to throw those free throws in a quiet arena, if somebody dropped a pin instead of waving and shouting; it's easy to hold your sort of concentration in that kind of atmosphere when there's a lot of noise. It's very difficult when it's quiet.

JULIUS MASON: You convince an arena of 17,000 people to do that, I want to see that.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: We have a rugby team in Ireland, the Monster, and it's bad to make noise when a guy is making penalties. And the other teams, they make a lot of noise. It's much harder to do things when it's quiet.

Q. Pardon the obscurity of this question, but last month we got to see Jack Nicklaus say goodbye at age 65, and Tiger made a mention in his newsletter about physically what he might be like at 65, just hard to be able to make yourself compete obviously at that age. I was just wondering if you might be able to throw out a few thoughts on where you think Tiger might be and where the golf world might be when he's 65, assuming he stays healthy.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's got nothing to do with your physical; it's all to do with if you want to compete when you're 65, you'll compete when you're 65. It's all about burning out early or burning out late. It depends on the person.

It's like a guy you see, you know, maybe when he turns 40, doesn't play well at all, and when he turns 50 he's competing on the Seniors Tour. It's about the drive, the will, the want. Will Tiger have that when he's 65? I would seriously doubt he'll go on for 40 years at the intensity he goes on now. He puts a lot of effort into his tournaments, as Jack did.

If you look at general, at most careers, they last 20 years in golf, from the highs to the lows. After 20 years most professional golfers are burned out. You can certainly look at a lot of careers in that sort of span. It's very difficult to keep going past that. Jack has done it. He obviously was exceptional.

We know Tiger is exceptional, so maybe he'll do it. But it's nothing to do with his if he wants to be able to hit a golf ball at 65, he'll stick in the gym and do it. But it's how much he wants it, and it's a long time, 40 years of wanting it. And with Tiger, it's probably since he's ten years of age he's wanted it.

Q. By that reason, everyone can be looking forward to him being done at 40 then?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Who knows with Tiger. As I said, everybody is different. You can't tell. You can just look at the careers of so many great players, and if you want to look at the careers, you can look at some of them who have been very successful, maybe their game has tapered off, maybe they went broke financially, and all of a sudden they come back and they're very successful again.

It's not a physical thing about golf, it's how much when you get up in the morning, how much you want to play that day. And that's what wanes after 20 years on Tour, when you get that half hour morning call on a Thursday, do you jump out of your bed ready to go or do you say, "Oh, I can't put up with this." Most professional sports, you don't see it because they only last maybe ten years at most competitive. In golf, you're asked to play probably 20 years competitive.

Q. He's got ten years now. Do you think he will catch Jack's 18?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah (laughing), I do. I really do, yeah. As I said, he's so set that he's going to do it. But everything changes. Every record gets broken. That takes nothing away from Jack Nicklaus doing 18. That's phenomenal, too.

Every record gets broken. Everything moves on. That's the nature of things. Jack will still be remembered as the greatest player, and Tiger is going to break his record unless something unforeseen happens, and people would judge because they never played against each other, and who's better, and that's great for golf.

Q. Just one more about your dad. Any stories or memories that you care to share with us, and will you be thinking about him when you tee off on Thursday?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I have plenty of stories. They're so numbered and varied, I wouldn't pick one out in particular. I don't think I will be thinking about him on the first tee, no. As I said, I'm pretty comfortable with it. I'm sure it will come into my head during the tournament, and if the worst thing probably the worst thing that could happen is if I said this earlier in the year, if I was in contention, I'd be worried about getting a bit emotional about it all, and if somebody pointed out, well, that's not a bad starting point to be in contention and dealing with it. So I'd put up with that and see what happens, and who knows.

I can't predict what's going to happen. But I think when I'm on the golf course, I'll be trying to focus. There's no significance. To be honest, there will be no significance teeing it up on Thursday morning and thinking about my dad, no. There will be no connection there.

As I said, maybe if I was in contention, there will be an emotional element to it because it's been such an emotional year, but as I said, that's not wouldn't be the worst thing to have to deal with this week.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your preparation for a major or for any tournament, what you kind of do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; kind of walk through the week going up to Thursday?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I'm still experimenting. I wish I when I win one, I'll tell you what the right preparation is (laughter). It depends how much you know the golf course, how much like if it's an Open Championship and you're going to play a links golf course. The best preparation is just to play links golf continuously for a while just to get used to the feel for playing it.

When you come to a PGA golf course like this one, the fairways are soft, the greens are soft. So you want to know the golf course, but most of it is you can predict from the planner I've got to hit this, I'm going to hit the fairway. The key this week is probably play the course a couple of times, but it's more about not tiring yourself out and being ready to play.

When you go to a U.S. Open, and it depends on the golf course, as well, but a lot maybe at Augusta you're looking at spending more time on the greens or something. It's different for every one of them.

Usually, I'm going to play two and a half practice rounds this week and spend some time just working on my short game. As I said, really the golf course is set there in front of you. It's not one that is going to change significantly from day to day with the fairways and greens being reasonably soft. You can predict what's going to happen, so it's not about getting out there and playing a lot of golf. It's about being ready to tee it up on Thursday, being rested.

Q. You're going to play two and a half has the half, you've already played it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm going to play nine holes Wednesday.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks for coming down and speaking with us, Padraig.


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