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April 5, 2005

Padraig Harrington


BILLY MORRIS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome again to the Masters. We're delighted to have Padraig Harrington with us from Ireland. This is Padraig's sixth appearance in the Masters. He won his first PGA TOUR event on the second playoff hole in the 2005 Honda Classic, which you all know. He scored an ace here last year on No. 16 in the final round of our tournament. He also won his second par-3 contest. He's a two-time winner on the 2004 PGA European Tour. He has a total of nine European Tour wins and he's finished in the Top 3 on the Order of Merit 2001 and 2004. He was a member of the Ryder Cup Team, has played also in 1999 and in 2002. We're delighted to have him with us.

Padraig, would like to say something or just start with the questions?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I suppose it would be easier if we start with the questions.

BILLY MORRIS: So let's just start with the questions.

Q. What's it going to take for you to go from par-3 champion to Masters Champion?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: First of all, I have to try to win three in a row in the par-3 championship.

This is one of those tournaments you don't -- the guys who win it, you've really got to play the golf. You're not going to get away with anything at The Masters. There's never a bad winner here. The best player, or one of the best players of the week wins. It's not a course that I think there's such precision required, you don't need to hit it just straight when you're coming down the back nine; you've got to hit it the right distance, right quality of strike so everything has to be right. It tends to show really top-class players.

It's definitely one of the tougher tournaments to win, and that's why you have more repeat winners at The Masters, more of the top players winning The Masters, so it's definitely -- it's probably the toughest major to win, and probably because of that, you come back every year, you can't really say a better major to win, but certainly it would be one of my favorites, anyway.

Q. What role has Bob Rotella played in your reaching the point you've reached in your career?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would say, yeah, very significant.

My whole policy on all of this is that I seek out the best possible people to help me, and I have 100% confidence in Bob Rotella as the best, the best man out there to give me the sort of support I need in the mental game, and I'm very confident in him. He certainly has produced the results for me over the years.

I would say he's part of my team, and as I said, I always seek out the best guys to be on that team.

Q. Can you give an example of something he's done for you?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know what, if I start telling you what he does, you could say, "I could have told you that." (Laughter).

You know, you only have to sit down with any of these sports psychologists, and some of the stuff they tell you is so mundane and so ordinary, there is nothing that Bob Rotella would tell me that I don't already know, but he's reminding me and encouraging me and keeping me going down the right lines. So it's not rocket science; he doesn't have any -- he doesn't have any tricks. I wish he did. I wish he hypnotized me on Thursday morning, but it's pretty simple. It's a question, it's kind of a, there it is, go and do it yourself.

One great thing about Bob Rotella is he puts the emphasis on you to do the work. You never feel dependent; you discuss what you want to do and it's up to you to do it. It's not a situation that he stands there and is like a schoolteacher or something. No, it's your responsibility to do it all, and I must admit, I like that, because I obviously play a lot of tournaments around the world and I don't feel -- if he's not there, I don't feel like I can't do what I should be doing that week. He's given me the tools to work on my own, as well as when he's around.

Q. Just following up on that line of thinking, we all know that this game isn't a straight-lined progression improvement. What's the craziest, most discouraged this game has ever made you and how you got yourself through that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: We don't have enough time for that, I can tell you (laughter).

What exactly do you want to know (laughter)?

Q. How it preys on your mind and how far it drives --

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Still not getting it, sorry (laughter). How far, like --

Q. How close to the deep end does it drive you when things aren't going well?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I'm obviously very committed to the game and spend a lot of time thinking and working on it. To be honest, I have to make the effort not to do that because obviously it's detrimental to the game and you do need to have a balanced life outside of golf in order to play good golf.

I'm not 100% sure what you're -- I've had some low points in the golf game, but I'd still argue in the lowest points I've had is probably some amateur tournaments that I lost when I was a kid and maybe didn't quite understand the whole working of it. So as you gain experience, you realize to temper the highs and not to worry too much about the lows. They still affect you. I think a classic example is after I won at Honda, everybody is there, oh, yes, great win, first win, and it's like, I'm never going to finish second again (laughter). Vijay had a 15-footer on the first playoff hole, and if he holed that, I would have racked up my 27th 2nd place and we'd be talking about that now (laughter).

It's true; it was outside my control. I think true experience of some losses and tough times is when you're a kid, you realize that it's never that bad. It's not that bad out here. No matter what, there's nothing out here -- it might feel bad at the time but it's not really -- I think I've learned through experience not to get too high or too low about anything.

Q. What are your recollections of your first trip here? Did you allow yourself to sort of soak in the experience?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: My first trip I just was in Brazil so came up late and got in a bit late. I'm rushing and it's not ideal preparation, and I came in Magnolia Drive, and obviously everything changes when you come in The Drive. It seems you've come from a world that's outside and running around and madness and you come through the gate, especially Magnolia Drive, where there's no real out up there, where I suppose the players and the members, and you drive up there and it's all peaceful and serene. It was a big change of scenery I'd say.

Then go through the clubhouse and out the far side and you're presented with this vast -- which you can never experience, the first time you experience it, the vast area in front of the clubhouse you've been told about, all the space there, but when you come out and at first -- I'm a kid and sort of awestruck. The first person I met was the Irish president at the time, Golfing Union of Ireland president, and he introduced me to Sam Snead. So the first person who I didn't know that I met was Sam Snead here, and I sat down and I talked to him for a while at the table and that was very special. I suppose you don't get memories like that; that's as good as it gets.

Q. Is your enthusiasm towards coming here the same or does it ever get old?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, it doesn't get old. Probably got a little bit more serious through the five years. The first time you come here, you're really coming to -- not saying that you're not coming to enjoy it, but certainly after five years now, it's a little bit more expectations. So there's still nothing like Augusta when you're out here, because it is so different to every other event that it's one of the things that makes it special. It is very special, but as I said, some ways, I will never have that first experience. You never can get it again.

But it's still pretty good. It's right up there.

Q. A couple players I spoke to yesterday suggested that after your win in Honda that would be a big benefit to you this week, having won for the first time in the States. Do you agree with that, having finally won in the States?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm not a great believer in that. You know, as I said, I think I'd won a dozen events up to that, so you know, that win at Honda was just as close to a 2nd place as any of my 2nd places.

It might give me confidence to the extent that I've been saying that I have to be patient and wait and wait, and that was one occasion that, you know, maybe it paid off, a bit of patience, so there is some confidence based on that. It doesn't do any harm.

Q. If you were to design a golf course, would there be elements of Augusta National that you'd like to replicate, or is there anything out there that you would actually take with you in designing a course yourself?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think that's very -- I'd like to have a replica of that course full-stop (laughter).

I'd actually -- the only thing I would change, I'd have no rough. I've love to go back to five years ago, no rough. I think that the golf course is so strong that it's just -- the difficulty is all around the greens; I think it was interesting to come to a golf course with no rough. For me, that would be -- I think it was another feature that made Augusta stand out, that they didn't need rough. And I don't think the rough here makes the course. I don't think it makes any difference to the course as in I don't think it makes it harder or easier.

So, that's what I'm saying, it was quite interesting to come to a course with no rough.

Q. What appealed to you about coming to the U.S. and joining the U.S. Tour?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I've been coming quite a bit. I played 12 times last year in the States. The reason I took up my card this year was to play more regular Tour events in the States, with the reason of trying to win one. Somebody said to me last September when I was doing okay in one of the world events at the American Express at Mount Juliet, and it's in Europe, and they said, oh, well, you haven't won a PGA TOUR event. As if to say you can't win a PGA TOUR event. I was taken aback, because I've won plenty and I had plenty of 2nds; 12 wins isn't too bad. I didn't feel that was a monkey on my back, but I decided I would come and play more and win so that nobody else would feel that way about it. I was lucky to win after four weeks, but I knew that by playing more over here, would I get more chances, so it was just a question of creating more chances of giving myself a win.

Q. Sorry to bring this up, but how is your father?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: My dad has made great improvement. He's very comfortable at home. He's home from the hospital and looking and feeling a lot better.

Q. Is it going to be hard for you to concentrate this week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think it's going to be -- there's two issues to it. I obviously was very -- after a high at Honda and then a very quick low two days later, that's obviously knocked back my whole central nervous system, which takes a long time to recover. So I certainly was very flat all the way through the TPC. The question, can I recover in a three-week spell, I don't know. That's just not to be known. You can't really tell that.

As regards actual playing, I don't think -- I think I'll be doing my own thing. I'm working on the right things that I'll be focused and not have a problem in the sense of my mind straying. I do think it would be a problem emotionally if I do happen to get into contention with a few holes to go. So I don't think it would be too much of a problem until the very end, and then it would be -- it could be quite difficult. So, you know, as Bob Rotella said to me, you know, if that's the biggest problem we're going to have this week, we're not going to worry too much about it. So we'll wait and see how I get in -- if I do get into that situation, how I handle it.

Q. Do you remember every shot of the flying start you made a few years ago, and what did you learn from that experience?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No (laughter), nothing.

You've actually reminded me that I did have a flying start. I can remember all of the bad shots I hit. It's amazing, and I can remember all of the bad shots everybody else has hit here. That's one thing about Augusta, you carry the baggage of all the other players out there. It's not just oh, I remember hitting this shot here. You remember that, you know, somebody else did it. Who can forget Seve's 4 in the water on 15, standing there with a 4-iron on Sunday off the downslope? What's the first thought that's going to come into your mind?

Q. And on 12 tee what do you think about?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Fred Couples really on 12 would be the overriding thought.

I know he got away with it, but you know you won't get away with it I think (laughter).

Q. 13?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 13, I probably carry my own baggage on 13 (laughter).

Q. Given your accent and Sam Snead's accent, can you tell us how that conversation went (laughter)?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know what, I didn't even have to understand a word he was saying. I probably was too awestruck to understand a word. But for a person like myself who is normally running around, and especially at that time, I'd be running around like a headless chicken, that was the one bit of quiet in all of the madness of what was going on in my head, was just sitting there and enjoying a very special moment.

Q. Did he initiate the conversation?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. He was sitting and telling stories to three members of the Golfing Union of Ireland, and one of them brought me over and sat me down at the table, and I didn't leave. I stayed.

Q. Who was it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The president --

Q. Paddy Murphy?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was Paddy Murphy, yes. Not a particularly Irish name, Paddy Murphy (laughter).

Q. You were talking about the par-3 contest before and you know the history of it. Do you ever hope that you don't win that contest?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. You know what, I've never hit a golf shot in my life where I haven't been trying. The only way I can't try and win the par-3 competition is not put my name down on the sheet.

Q. Have you had people tell you not to play?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's all baloney. How could winning a tournament on a Wednesday affect how you play on a Thursday? That's rubbish.

Q. Would you like to be the guy that proves it wrong?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, if they come up with a new excuse that you win the par-3 competition three years in a row, you're assured to win, there will be a new superstition. If you want to go over superstitions, we can all add a few in there.

Q. Players are talking about how firm and fast the course already is at this time of the week. What are your expectations of what you guys will be facing come Thursday?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Somewhere we're all hoping for a bit of rain.

It does seem difficult. I was out there yesterday, and I've never seen the course play -- well, after playing the course the last two years, it's playing much -- feels shorter, but then you hit a reasonable short iron into a green and the ball lands and it's still moving two or three or four seconds later. You're used to the ball just bouncing once and stopping. This time, you see it and it checks and you're watching it and it's still moving. Because the slopes are so subtle, the ball is moving 15 feet on from where you would expect it to have checked up.

So it is going to be a real difficult -- if the greens stay the way they are, the firmness they are and the speed, a lot of precision just to get the ball into the areas that you want it, not just to get it close, but keeping it -- it means carrying those slopes by no more than a yard or two to stay in the area without falling off the back of the area. It's tough, I've got to say, it's as tough as I've seen the approach shots.

Q. Are you one of those who thinks that that would open up to more players having a chance to win if it plays that way?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, I'd be very surprised. I would have thought that requires a higher standard or a higher ability which and it would close-up the potential, potential winners. It would definitely put the emphasis on longer hitting off the tee to get shorter shots into the greens and the emphasis on quality of striking it on to the greens. I would say it would limit who could win.

Q. Are you glad you're playing against such good competition in the Top 5, or do you wish they weren't around?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I wouldn't mind if I was just the only guy here this week to be realistic about it. I don't worry about my opposition. It's neither here nor there to me. I've got to do my own thing, and whether these guys are playing well and they're -- you know, who knows what's going to happen. You've got to do your own thing and not put them up on a pedestal, not hope that they do badly; that's not going to work, either. Just play your own game and that's it.

It's really neither. And to be honest, it's not like, you know, it's how you play yourself. If you win this tournament and the Top 5 guys haven't played well this week, well, you know, the guy who wins it ain't going to worry about that. He's not going to worry that he beat Tiger Woods in a head-to-head going down 18 or he beat, I don't know, the lowest-ranked guy in the field. He's just going to be happy that he won. It won't make a great deal of difference. You shouldn't be thinking about it, anyway. They are playing well and the course does suit the Big Four; this is the course for them.

Q. The first question I asked, you talked about the golf course; does this golf course affect the situation more than any other golf course, and if so, why?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The situation of?

Q. You were talking about how it affects play and you always have a good winner here, and the impression I got, it was the golf course.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: This golf course, you know, you only have to look at the amount of guys who got in contention coming down the back nine over a couple of years. Good, solid players and when they are there for the first time, they will tell you it's something different. Guys who are used to winning, this golf course asks a lot on the back nine on Sunday. As I say, it's precision play all the way. You don't get away with very much at all. You know, if you do have precision play, you can make some birdies. So I've got to say, it is very much -- this is the perfect golf course for tournament play. It can be set up any way, as they proved last year, if they want to see birdies and eagles on that back nine, there will be birdies and eagles. But if they don't want us to make pars, we struggle, too. It's a perfect course for that. They can vary what golf they want to see, and players, you know, it's ideal for that, that you can set the golf course up and really test players.

BILLY MORRIS: Padraig, thank you very much, and good luck to you this week.

End of FastScripts.

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