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March 23, 2005

Padraig Harrington


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington to the media center. If we could start with some opening comments about coming back to THE PLAYERS Championship. You finished 2nd here the last two years, had some great success here and recently won the Honda Classic, so maybe start with some opening comments about coming back to THE PLAYERS Championship.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The last two years I've obviously finished 2nd. Strangely enough, it was my fourth event of the year. This year I won my 4th event of the year. Obviously the 4th event of the year normally works well for me. Coming off of last year's 2nd place there's obviously expectations. They're going to be high, and I'll have to be careful and stay on a very level keel, especially if I look at the way I finished 2nd the last two years. I was obviously in contention the first year all the way through, and last year I played the last nine holes well. There's many different ways to get into a tournament. One thing I've got to do is stay patient from the start and not try and -- play down the expectations obviously.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about what the reception was like back home after you won? Was there dancing in the streets, was there drunken revelry? What was it like when you got back home?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It took a long time to get home, so no, not really. Obviously people were thrilled, but to be honest, I didn't really -- I didn't really get out and about that much to see that much of the reception. It's a short week when you go home like that, and I got a lot of phone calls and text messages, but as I said, by the time I got home, it was 24 hours later and people I'm sure enjoyed the night I won, but there certainly wasn't that much celebration.

Q. What was the most interesting thing that happened to you in the aftermath?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: A lot of interesting things happened. Most interesting thing that happened? It was nice to see that Des Smith won on the U.S. Tour, the Champions Tour, that we did it in the same day, so that was probably the most interesting thing that happened.

Q. Did you return the President's phone call?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't. I don't think you just ring up the President, do you? No, I didn't. I appreciated getting it and it was nice, but no, I'm sure -- hopefully I'll say thank you in person someday.

Q. The obvious question people from Ireland are going to ask, why are the Irish golfers playing so well at this period?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: We seem to have a few decent players at the moment. You know, I suppose all these things come in ebbs and flows. We have good tradition in Ireland. We have a very competitive amateur system in Ireland. There's a lot of good competition, so even though we're a small amount of golfers, we do produce competitive players. Like I said, I've got a rich tradition in European golf over the years. There's been a lot of players to look up to.

We have a few now who have come on the scene, but I suppose over the years we've always had a few top-class players in that situation. I think what's happening now is maybe there's more access to playing a worldwide schedule. In the times of Christie O'Connor, Jr. it wasn't as easy to come across to play and his contemporaries at that time. So what's happening now is even in the times of Des Smyth when he was playing well in his early years and Christie O'Connor, Jr. they didn't get the opportunity to show their game but in a Ryder Cup or one or two events. It's just we've got more opportunity to play around the world and that's why we're probably showing up a little bit more now. It's not that we're any better than those guys, there's just an opportunity to get out here. It's easy.

Q. Have you heard from David Feherty and do you plan on reminding him that you've got one more PGA TOUR victory than he does at this point?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't heard from him as of yet, but I'm sure I'll hear him before I see him.

Q. Will you have a chat with him at Augusta?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, I always have to stop and have a chat with David. It just lightens up the day, doesn't it? I don't think I'll get serious with David. I don't think -- I'm sure he will pat me on the back for winning, but I'm sure we'll have something to joke about, maybe not golf. That's the great thing about David, he's a lighthearted guy who can talk about anything really.

Q. Given your success here, you've played well here, what do you think about the closing stretch of holes, and do you think about 17 before you get there?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think about 17. I'm thinking about it now (laughter). I'm 71 holes in advance from Sunday. It's a strange hole. Every time you get there, you look at it. In practice, it's fine, it's no problem. You pull a club and you hit it. It doesn't seem such a difficult hole. Then you get in the tournament and there's all sorts of things happening before and after. You can cut the tension in the air down there, especially if you're going well.

So yeah, I do think about it. I look at it when I'm going down 16. I definitely look at what the players in front of me are doing. I want to get an idea for how the hole is playing, so I'll accept watching their good and bad shots so that it makes my shot -- so I have a better idea what type of shot I want to play. Yeah, you kind of think about it. It's one of the most important holes out there, and without a doubt you're trying to hit each shot as you play it, but you've got one eye on -- especially when you're going down 16 toward 17.

Q. Is it a good hole or a bad hole?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a great hole. It's a hole you can make a birdie at and a hole you can have a disaster at. There's a lot of risk reward, but it's certainly not an unfair hole, so it's a very good hole.

Q. When you look back on last year, is there a sense of disbelief that you could finish with six 3s in a row, or what do you think about?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Six 3s in a row, there's not a sense of disbelief that you can do it, but you just wouldn't want to be waiting around to do it again (laughter). That's what I mean. I was 10-under par for 13 holes the last round of golf I played. I don't expect to do that when I tee it up again, but it can happen.

As I was saying earlier in the week, hopefully if I can stay patient through the week, maybe I shoot six 3s in a row in the first round on the front nine. You don't know when you're going to do it. If you hang around long enough, when it does happen, make sure it counts. That's all that happened last year. I stayed in the tournament long enough that when I did have a good round and a good break, I was close enough to the lead that it got me in contention.

And it was the same winning at Honda. I could have missed the cut at Honda. I definitely could have missed the cut at Honda. I had to stick in and work hard to stay in that tournament, and when I did get my run, all of a sudden it got me in contention.

The main thing for me this week is not to expect that I'm going to do something but just to stay in there and keep playing my game, and if it happens, it happens.

Q. You withdrew from next week, correct? Why is that? Are you going to be spending that time practicing a little bit more for The Masters?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, my dad is not well, so I'm spending the time at home.

Q. Do you think there is much of a gap between the top four players at the moment and the rest of the guys who are high up in the rankings? Obviously when you play as well as you did last year and you won a couple weeks ago, it doesn't seem like there's that much difference, but Vijay and Ernie and the rest of them, are they just that little bit in front at the moment?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's three points of difference. I think you'd be amiss not to include Retief Goosen in those, to be honest. Winning majors every couple of years is really high standard, last year's current U.S. Open champion. I would say there's not a top four, there's a Top 5. There is a step up to get to those guys. There is a big five, and you have to -- it's more a leap of faith to get in there and a few results, but they're definitely in a league of their own at the moment. That doesn't mean -- as I say, Vijay Singh, is he world No. 1 at the moment? As of three years ago he was behind me in the rankings. Things can change over a two-year period. It's just a question of -- there is a mental leap of faith to do it, but at the moment, those Top 5 are very much a step above.

Q. Is it something particular about this course that really suits your game, and also, is the level of anticipation at the same height as for a major championship for you here?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know about what suits me on the golf course, I really don't. People keep asking why have you done well here the last two years. I like the golf course, that's for sure. I don't stand at any hole out here -- every hole is a good hole. I like the look of all the holes.

But there's nothing I could say that suits me in particular. There's no way I would say that there's any aspect of the golf course that I'm a better player on than other players or this is the type of golf course I do well on. I don't know, I can't put my finger on why I perform well the last two years.

As regards expectations for this tournament, okay, you've got to put the four majors up there, and this is the best field. You come back to the same golf course, which adds to the luster of the event, but it's a very special event, it's a very big event. It's a very big event, that's what it is, while the others are probably just that little bit special with the history that they have. In 20, 30 years' time or 50 years' time, this probably will be a major, but at the moment it is the fifth biggest event in the world and doesn't quite carry the burden of the other four majors.

Q. Do you wake up with butterflies or anything like that like you would for a major?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I wake up with fear, fear, always fear (laughter). That's just me. It's fear (laughter).

Q. You've talked before about how you used to think of yourself as a journeyman pro and now you're an elite player in the world. How much reflecting have you done on how far you've --

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Somebody asked me this question the other day and I tried to explain to them, I have been questioned whether I'm the most talented golfer in my family of five guys (laughter).

Q. Recently?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Not recently, no (laughter). Not for a second do I believe it, but at times there was a questioning of that. My other brothers have got a 4 handicap, so I'm putting the marker down now.

Q. Do you think you've become the player you've become because of your background or in spite of it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Certainly not in spite of it. I've had the best possible background for playing golf, upbringing for playing all sports. I have tremendous self-belief from a young age in everything I did, a lot of confidence in all the sports I played. So that's definitely nurtured through a family sort of thing. I had good competition with my brothers.

I couldn't have really asked for a better -- my dad, I couldn't have got more encouragement from my dad without ever in any sense pushing or wanting to live his life through my sports, so it was top-notch, the sort of encouragement I got without in any way any pressure.

Q. Did your dad teach you how to play golf? Is that where you first picked up the game?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I never had a golf lesson until I was 15 years of age, but what I had when I was growing up was my dad was a very competitive, very intelligent player, and he just taught me the idea of getting the ball in the hole, the art of scoring. I would never have once given me this is how you swing the golf course, but I would have encouraged me to score well, and at the end of the day, that's really where my talents lie is in my thinking around the golf course and getting the ball in the hole.

Q. What's your dad's name and what's the nature of his illness?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, he's got cancer and his name is Paddy.

Q. Was it tough to come back here?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I certainly didn't want to come.

Q. When you talk about the art of scoring as opposed to, I guess, being all swing obsessed and all that, what do you think you've figured out about that that --

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't figured anything out to be honest, but I've spent eight years being obsessed about the swinging of the golf club. I managed to play through that because my natural instincts are on the scoring end of the game. Obviously for me to get up to a higher standard, I need to move back to what I'm good at, which is my thinking and scoring end of things and to trust the swing I've built over those eight years.

Q. If you worked hard on your swing, you apparently have it the way you want it now, and you already know how to think around the golf course. Looks like you would have the combination that's the best for you.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you can work at your golf swing, it gets better, but it's very rare that it's all there, if you know what I mean. I've done a lot of work and there's less maintenance on my golf swing, which is really what I set out to do. So I have a golf swing that maybe I understand more.

As regards the scoring, you can do that very quickly by doing a lot of technical work, so it takes a while to get that sharpness back. I saw a little bit of it last week at the Honda Classic. It wasn't that I chipped and putted the two playoff holes, it was the way I felt about was I only chipped and putted two holes, and it was a bit like when I was an amateur. My focus was very strong and not relaxed but in the zone when it came to those chip shots, where over the years it causes thinking so much, I probably wouldn't have been as comfortable playing those shots.

It's always a work in progress. It's always trying to get the two together and it's never easy. You get it the odd week. It's just that the best players seem to get it a few more weeks than everybody else.

Q. Which sounds like you're playing golf in your subconscious now, which I've always read is the way you have to play the game. You can't think all the time about it.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you've read correctly, that's for sure. It's very hard thing to do, but yes. I worked with Bob Rotella on this and I have for a number of years, and it's not easy to do, but it's worth trying to do it. Without a doubt, your results are -- but for me personally, I have to go through that phase of working on my golf swing and doing all that work to clear my mind in that sense, and once you have a good golf swing, then you can have the confidence to not think too much about it.

Q. Had you ever taken as long a break as you did this off season?


Q. You take that long a break every --

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Every year for certainly the last seven years anyway, nine weeks. It's something I need to do, get away from it. It gives you time to rest, time to get into the gym and time to practice, so it's a must for me.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Padraig, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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