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June 14, 2005

Padraig Harrington


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Padraig Harrington to the interview area this morning. Padraig is playing in his 8th United States Open this week at Pinehurst. He's had three Top 10 finishes in the past. Padraig, you had your first PGA TOUR victory this year at the Honda Classic. As an international player maybe you could talk a little bit about your growing comfort level playing here in this country.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think this year has added in any way to that. I was pretty comfortable coming into this year. I played enough in the past and have enjoyed my experiences over here. It was nice to win at the Honda Classic. It came at a good time.

You know, I don't feel like it's added to my confidence or anything like that; it's just it was a nice win at a good time, but I suppose deep down there must be some confidence from it. But on the surface, you come into a week like this, and I still have my own fears of what I need to do and all that during the week. I'm certainly no more confident going into this U.S. Open than I would be at any in the past.

RAND JERRIS: It seems every year we have the inevitable question about Europeans and their success at the U.S. Open. Maybe you could handicap what your chances and your thoughts on the Europeans at Pinehurst this week.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: To be honest, the courses in Europe are being set up with about 22, 24 yard fairways like this and the rough is intended to be heavier than it is here. So the European players are getting used to it. Obviously there's more playing as the years go on. You know it's going to happen sooner or later. We're going to get a few wins in the U.S. Open.

The golf courses in Europe are being set up more like U.S. Open courses than say they're tighter than a regular PGA TOUR event, so maybe the U.S. Opens should suit Europeans now.

Q. How would you assess your game, where you are right now, and what about Pinehurst poses the biggest problem for you?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's Tuesday morning, so I would always assess my game as pretty shabby at this stage, trying to get things together. The difficulties on the golf course obviously you want to drive the ball well, but I find the rough very difficult. I'm not getting the ball getting much distance out of the rough. Certainly 6 iron seems to be the most I can flight out of the rough. It's very important for me to hit a lot of fairways this week. That's certainly a key.

Obviously putting is probably the number one thing. The guy who wins this week is going to putt well. So that's another one. Choosing the right shots, there's a lot of difficulties around Pinehurst No. 2 I've got to say. It really does ask all the questions here.

Q. Is hitting the right area of the green and the way the ball runs away from the hole, is this U.S. Open a little bit like Augusta in that regard?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's not really like Augusta around the greens. I think the greens here are very firm, they're very small. The target areas are very small on the greens.

Augusta is definitely a lot more generous than here. You know, the ball tends to sweep into the pins at Augusta. Here it's always running away from them. I would say this is very tough. There may be little target areas on the green, but as I said, the ball rolls off them rather than onto them, so there's very small areas to aim at. Say anywhere on the actual top surface of the green is all you're looking for.

Q. After Shinnecock last year, what are you expecting in terms of course setup here?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I think the course is set up the way it is now, so it's quite evident to see the way the roughs and the fairways the pin positions, I would expect them to be very tight. They were at Shinnecock, and there's no reason why they won't be very, very tight to the edges of the greens here. I don't envision any surprises at this stage for how this tournament is going to run this week, for me anyway, from experience. I'm quite comfortable with the way I think it's going to be set up.

Q. You were saying it tests every part of the game. Are we going to see the cream rise to the top, or is there still a question of another type of winner?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think whoever wins is going to have to play the best golf during the week in all departments. Possibly I would think that it's hard to know because an outsider who's playing well is the best player in the world, so you can't rule anybody out this week. If any of the 150 guys who tee it up this week plays well with confidence, they'll become as good as anybody else in the field and can win. It could possibly be an outsider, but I'd still be back in the favorites.

Q. I don't think we've ever had Tiger Woods come in here and describe his game as pretty shabby.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's Tuesday morning.

Q. Does that say something about your character as much as your game?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it does. I'm the sort of person that on a Tuesday is kind of trying to gather everything together. You know, I always look to my weaknesses before I start a tournament and try and get them up to strengths. On a practice day I'm focused on the weakest part of my game, and that's why I would look and say, "Well, I'm not quite ready yet." That's always the same feeling every tournament, certainly every major, is that I'd like another week. It was always the same whenever you were doing an exam, wasn't it?

Q. Were there weeks when you felt your game was pretty shabby

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I've won when I've played shabby nearly every event. I usually play very well when I'm in that form.

Q. With this being Father's Day week, I wanted to ask how your dad is and if you have a special memory of him you can share with us.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: My dad is comfortable, and I have so many special memories that there would be too many to go through.

Q. Do you have a number in mind that you think you'd have to shoot to be in contention on Sunday?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I try never to go there. I don't like picking out numbers because I just want to shoot the lowest score I can this week, and that's it. There's no point in me setting a goal of level par or 3 under par. It just doesn't work. You've just got to try to play the best you can and see where that leads you.

Q. In regard to the shaved chipping areas, there's several ways to play those shots, bump and run, flop, use a 3 wood to putt it. What are some of your favorite ways of playing that? Do you think that favors any particular player?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Of all the things this week, that's probably the only unfortunate thing about the course. Last year at Shinnecock all the shaved areas were firm, so you really had a choice to putt it along that surface or play a chip and run with a 7 iron or you could chip it over or some guys did the 3 wood. This year the shaved areas are very soft, they're sanded, they've just been resodded and the ball is dying, so realistically you can't pitch and run through it, you certainly can't putt through it, so you've only got two options, either the 3 wood that bounces along or else chip it over with a lob wedge.

I wish it was playing the way it played at Shinnecock that gave you those options. But like I said, with it being sanded and resodded recently, it cuts out two of the options really. If you chip it onto that area I hit a shot into full shot into 18 yesterday that just pitched on the flat surface of the green and released to the back of the green. So I tried to hit a low shot in and I pitched it short where I was trying to pitch it and it just died in the resodded area and came back three or four yards short of the green. That wouldn't have happened at Shinnecock because it's firm say like the links I was brought up on. Because they're sanded and a little bit softer, it's a little bit softer than it would be at home. It's a bit scraggy and you can putt it and run it, but as I say, it's a little bit softer.

Q. If you win here, will you celebrate with a mineral water or half a Guinness?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Neither. It'll be something else (laughter).

Q. How would you celebrate?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'd wait and see. Who knows, who knows with me. I wouldn't be sure.

Q. I think you were here about a month ago. Could you talk about how the rough particularly has changed since then, and did it surprise you when you came in?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was here a month ago and there was very light rough, and I played around and really, really enjoyed the course playing that way. It was a lot of fun. This time around you come back and the rough is I don't know what they're saying, it's three inches, but it's as deep as you'd ever want rough to be, and it's much more of a test. It's much more serious now than it was four or five weeks ago. You could have a bit more fun. It was a course four or five weeks ago that I'd like to play a four ball on and just go out with some mates and enjoy it.

Now it's a bit more hard work with that rough off the tee. There's a certain amount of pressure on every tee box to hit the fairway. I know players are saying that even on holes where they might have an option of hitting a layup with a 3 wood off the tee that they might as well hit driver down there because they have some chance of hitting the green if they miss the fairway with a driver where if they lay up and miss the fairway they'd have no chance.

So it is a lot more it's not as much fun with that rough, that's all I can say. It's tough.

RAND JERRIS: Padraig, thank you very much for your time this morning, and we wish you luck.

End of FastScripts.

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