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March 13, 2005

Padraig Harrington


JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome the 2005 Honda Classic Champion, Padraig Harrington, into the interview room.

Padraig, congratulations.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Thank you very much. Obviously I'm thrilled, if a little bit surprised I've won today, but, you know, you've got to take it when you can.

JOHN BUSH: Just talk about the emotions of the day, and then ultimately winning the playoff there on the second hole.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you know, I played really well yesterday. That gave me some confidence coming out today. I had not putted well yesterday, worked a lot on my putting, went out today and just played awesome, starting off and holed the putt. When you start making birdies, like I made 10 of the first 13 holes and made six in a row, I'm thinking 59. I'm thinking, make three more birdies, be aggressive the last couple of holes. That was all -- my bubble was burst on 14 where I dropped a shot.

I was a little unlucky on 15 to drop a shot. I hit a good tee shot and had a look at the leaderboard, and from there on, I was trying to win the tournament rather than shoot 59. Thankfully I birdied 17 and I wasn't sure if 14-under would be good enough, but it was just enough.

JOHN BUSH: You've come so close to the winning the past few years on the PGA TOUR. Talk about what it means to finally get over the hump.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Somebody said to me at the American Express last year, I was vaguely in contention, and they said "but you haven't won on the PGA TOUR." And I'm thinking I've won a dozen times, it's not a monkey; I don't want somebody putting that on me. So I decided I would play more over here to try to win an event just to get that monkey off my back.

I'm surprised to have done it after four weeks. Even though somebody at home was asking me, you know, about my form, I said, well, if I do average the first three weeks, the fourth week is the week. It will take me at least three weeks to warm up, get my head in shape, and it took all the way on to the weekend to really start firing.

JOHN BUSH: Questions?

Q. How shocking is it for you when you see him miss that short putt?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, it was a shock. I was mentally prepared to go back to the tee. I'm thinking, right, two holes now, this is my chance, I'll go and take my chance at this hole. I'll go for the birdie. You know, I'm thinking the longer it goes on, I'm going to get my chance. So I'm just waiting and being patient for that. I assumed he was going to hole it.

You know, there was a spike mark there in the middle of his line, and that might have make him go a little bit right of where he wanted to go and there's a lot of grain there. But, you know, my putt was breaking right-to-left there. It was a surprise, and I took it -- it took me a couple of seconds for it so sink in because I really was focused, get back to the tee, hit a good drive and really take on the pin and make birdie.

Q. When you arrived at the course this morning, did you think you could win the tournament?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't when I arrived at the course but, Ernie Els won today in Doha and he came from a long way back, sort of windy-type of golf course like this. It gave me some confidence that, yeah, it can be done.

I know it was a tough golf course for the leaders to defend on. It's a lot easier golf course when you're trying to make birdies than it is when you're defending, making pars out there. You know, it's a great golf course, because it does, it really asks all of the questions; you've got to be right on top of your game out there. It allows you to use a good short game, I have a good short game and that was shown on the two tie holes, and it's really good that way that you're not -- if you miss a green, you're not always in heavy rough and have to hit a delicate chip shot. That's the way golf should be.

Q. You said this morning that you were going to go out and attack the course, and obviously birdieing ten out of the 13 --

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's called attacking the course, yeah.

Q. When you bogeyed 14 and 15, did you feel like you needed to pull it back at all at any time?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Not really because of the fact that then I needed to make another birdie.

On 14, I'm trying to keep it in left of the pin there and keep it underneath the pin. I hit it a little straighter than I wanted and it drifted just left of the green. I played a good chip the first one. I chipped it off the far side the green. I thought it was going up on the green, and that's the great thing about the golf course. I've now got a harder chip coming back. Luckily, I played that well.

15 was a disappointing hole. Marco Dawson, it was the first time he had the honor today, he stood up with 5-iron today and came up short and I was always thinking a smooth 6 and I ended up hitting a solid 6 and it just went a little long. You know, I played a good chip and missed the putt, and all of a sudden, I've gone from everything going right for me to struggling now.

You know it was good to make the birdie coming home and I knew that was important. It was going to be hard, hard for the leaders on 14, 15, 17 and 18, were never going to be easy holes. I don't think too many of them made birdies on those holes.

It was good that 14-under made the playoff at the end. I wasn't sure it would, but I knew going into it -- I was in a three-way playoff last year at Westchester, but you have to take your chances in a three-man playoff.

Q. How many golf courses would you say there are on the PGA TOUR that would charge you up to play the way this one does?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I would play on all golf courses and work hard to see all of the good sides on all the golf courses. I just particularly like this course for the fact that you really have to shape the ball well into the greens in order so that when you hit the green it doesn't run off the green.

You know, it's a good golf course in that sense. You've got to commit to the shots and also you've got to hit them with the right shape. You can't play with one flight around this golf course. And then also, you know if you've got a good enough short game you can recover out there, which is, I think I made six bogeys this week, which is, you know, really why I won at the end of the day.

Q. Your first drive on the playoff hole was pretty far right afterward. What were you thinking, what happened there?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, it was only three or four yards right of the fairway. I wanted to get it up on to the flat side, right-hand side of the fairway to be hitting on the green. When I played it in realtime I, hit the same drive as in the second playoff hole. You're left on a hanging lie there. It was a tough shot. I was trying really hard to just hit a nice one up the right-hand side. I pushed it a little bit, hit it a bit strong and didn't have a good lie in the rough, but thankfully I got up-and-down, gave myself -- came out again.

I thought I could have got over the hump in the second playoff. It seemed to be it was dropping, the wind a little bit and it's a tough shot from that side. So both myself and Vijay missed it. We both missed it well right in realtime and we both missed it left on the second playoff hole. It's a good hole.

Q. You're a world-class, proven player, but does Vijay bring an intimidating presence that you have to deal with the playoff?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I've got to say I was more worried about myself and what I was doing. (Laughing.) There's a lot of pressure on us and you've got to focus on what you're doing and control your own emotions without worrying about what the other guys are doing. You can't control them, so let them off and you do your own thing. So he would be an intimidating presence and maybe he was subconsciously, but at the end of the day, I was just really trying to do my own thing and work on what I was doing.

Q. They say you're the first person from Ireland to win on the PGA TOUR.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: So I believe, yes.

Q. Just talk about that, what does that mean to you?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It does mean a lot to me now that I've done it. I wouldn't have liked to have put it up there beforehand, but now that I am the first, nobody can take away from me.

It does mean I've come a long way to do it, I've got to say. I've worked very hard at the game to get to this level. You know, I'm sure when I turned pro, nobody would have predicted how far I've gone, and it's days like that makes it all worthwhile. Those 26 second places when you have a win that maybe somebody gives it to you a little bit, it's nice when somebody does that, considering how many times I've been close and it's been taken away from me.

Yeah, it's very good to be the first Irishman. We've produced a lot of competitive players in Ireland. You get a lot of competition growing up in Ireland. There's a lot of good inter-club competition for juniors, and we've produced more than our fair share of golfers over the years. We have seven or eight players on the Tours at the moment, and we've only got four and a half million people living there. So we're doing okay.

Q. Do you know if this is being watched back there?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm sure it was. Every single bit, I'm sure Sky went a little bit over with their coverage to make sure. I think they normally finish at six o'clock your time, so I would say they extended a little bit to make sure it was covered.

Q. As it relates jumping into that next group of top three or four players, how does beating Singh work with you from a confidence standpoint?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, you don't know how you feel about it or how you're going to react to it right now. Who knows? But you've got to assume it is a nice thing to do, you know, to beat one of the top players in the world. He obviously was playing to bring himself back to world No. 1. You know, it's got to give you confidence, yes.

I don't feel it at the moment, but I'm sure somewhere deep down, yes, it does, it does give you confidence, and I hopefully will gain from it.

There are a big five at the moment, and it is a little bit of a step. I've been patiently waiting, I've had nine weeks off and another couple of tournaments, and I've been losing points World Rankings and I've been patiently saying, "Wait till I get my chance." It's nice to build my points up and get me back to right up there. I'm sure I'll be, not quite breathing down next to the Top-5, but in position to catch them up.

Q. And you mentioned Ernie and the inspiration to you as far as the comeback, what do you think these last two weeks will do for him going into this stretch?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Winning is always good. It's never a bad habit, winning. So you know, it's tough to go out and win when you're a favorite. That's one of the hardest things to do is when you're the actual, everybody is looking at you. It's easy to win when you're under the radar, but Ernie, he's expected to go and win there, and he did it.

Q. Your next tournament over here is THE PLAYERS Championship where you finished second last year.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: And the year before. No added pressure. (Laughter.)

Q. What does that do for your confidence now coming back there, having done well now with your first win under your belt in the States?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's brilliant for my confidence. You know, the fact I finished second the last two times is great for my confidence in the TPC. But saying that, you know, I have to bring down my own expectations. If I go out there thinking, if I take anything for granted at Sawgrass, it's going to bite me.

So I have to, you know, keep it as level as I can and try and not get too high from this win or from other performances because Sawgrass is a course you have to keep a very level head for 72 holes.

Q. Phil just won back-to-back, Tiger just wins, Vijay is in the hunt here, Ernie wins back-to-back, how satisfying is it to win at this time?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, somebody said that to me coming out. He said, "All the good players are playing well and winning."

I just kind of grit my teeth and said, "Well, I just do my own thing." (Laughter.) But it is tough when you see these guys, when you know that they are playing well. But obviously you've got to take your chances. It's tough out there on the golf course, and if you get in there and give yourself a chance, you know, that's all you can do. At the end of the day, let them, if they are going to win, well, so be it. They are star players. But as long as I do my job, that's good enough for me to win my tournament.

Q. A lot of players when they are asked about it being a goal to be No. 1 in the world, they say, oh, yeah it would be nice, where are you on that scale? And also, to follow up to something you said, are you now always the favorite when you walk on a course on a European Tour event?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, always a favorite to finish second. (Laughter.)

I would think as regards that, I have one real goal with golf, and that is when I finish up, when I walk away, I want to feel like I gave it everything I got as far as I could and went down every road and endeavor to get better. If I finish sixth in the World Rankings and that was the best I ever could have got, I'll be very proud of it. And if I finish second in the World Rankings and that was my highest, but, you know, I felt I could have got more, then I could be disappointed.

So it doesn't matter where I get. It's a question when I look back, you know, is that as good as I can go. And I have come a hell of a long way since I've turned pro. When I turned pro in '96, I would have very happily settled to be an absolute journeyman pro on the European Tour. That's where I thought my professional golf tour was going to be.

So I've come a long way, I've improved my golf game, I've totally tore my swing apart and rebuilt it, and it's days like this, you're reaping the benefits.

Q. Is there something to be said for the runner-ups, winning when you maybe didn't expect to, coming from way off the pace?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: All I can say is I did the same thing as an amateur. When I was amateur, I had a period of three years where I had 24 top-four places with two wins, and then I went 18 months without losing at home, at all.

So, you know, you get a stage like today, you go out and you can do no wrong and somebody does something better. And then other times like today, you can go out there and play and all of a sudden, you're scrambling a little bit and somebody makes mistakes and gives it to you.

If Vijay birdied that first playoff hole, we'd be sitting here saying, you finished second again, which is true. You'd be marking it down as number 27. So it wasn't all in my control. You know, if he holed that putt, I would be sitting in the car heading to Miami airport thinking about the bogey on 15.

Q. Your tournament plans the next few weeks?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I have a week off and then I play three and then I have another week off and then I play three players BellSouth Masters week off, Houston, New Orleans, Wachovia.

Q. What did you and Vijay say to each other after the miss?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: "Hard luck." You know, that's golf. What can I say to him? I can't go up and put my arm around him and say -- there isn't anything you can say to a player who misses a 2-footer in a playoff, there's nothing. Hard luck. I lost a playoff to Vijay in Malaysia in '99 or 2000. So, you know, we've been in playoffs before. What can you do? You can only just say hard luck and mean it. I've been there and I've seen it. If I had done it, I would be distraught but thankfully Vijay has won enough that he shouldn't let it get to him.

Q. And also, are you missing your flight?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm still trying to make it.

Q. I don't believe there are any European or British press right now, how do you feel that you've been treated by them over the years?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: If you know the Irish press, we get fantastic coverage in Ireland.

Q. So Colin Smith, has he called you already?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm sure, I've had my phones off. I'm sure my phone will be full of text messages. But we know those guys. Ireland is a small community. As I said, we have a lot of good competition at the junior level. So we would actually know all of the traveling journalists from 14 years of age. So we have a very -- it's just a close community because of the fact that it's small.

So, yeah, we have very good relationship with the press in Ireland. I can guarantee you, there will be text messages from them congratulating me "and looking for you Tuesday."

JOE CHEMYCZ: You just received a phone call from the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, who passes on her congratulations to you for your victory.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Thank you very much. There you go. President of the country congratulates you, not too bad. I'm sure I kept a few pubs open tonight. (Laughter.)

Q. I think we maybe all were a little bit surprised to hear you're the first Irish golfer to win on the PGA TOUR. Who are we missing?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's true, I believe Christy O'Connor, Sr., was our best player for a number of years, Harry Bradshaw. You know, there was phenomenal players and then we had a good run of good, solid European Tour players. But there was never an opportunity to go and travel or play in the States. When Christy, Sr. was playing, you could come over here but you had to come -- it was two weeks to get here type thing.

Nowadays, it's easy to be a world traveler. I'm still based at home and I can fly in and out of the States. It's simple to travel in and out. It's easy for a professional golfer to play around the world now. It's not the life that Gary Player and Arnold Palmer Jack Nicklaus used to travel to another country that was a two-week trip. Now you can breeze in and out in a week when you play a tournament.

Q. Last year you were teetering on if you were going to take a card or not take a card in the U.S. and you didn't.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think that you guys pushed me over the edge at the American Express when somebody said I haven't won. I've always this that streak in me, if you tell me I can't do it, I've got to go and do it.

Q. Now you have your card, plus you've got another two years, is your plan to keep that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, I'm going to play the year out and hopefully by playing the extra events. I'm hoping this will be the key to playing better early on in the season, playing better in the majors. And I'll certainly do this schedule next year, give it two years, and see if I can handle this and who knows what I'll do after that.

But you've got to play the schedule that makes you play the best golf. There's been a lot of talk about schedules over here lately of players, most of the top players are trying to play about 22, 24 events of the year, and because I'm a world player I'm up around 30 events. So you know, there's only a certain amount of time that you can, 30, events is a lot of events. Because of that , I'll have a shorter career, I'll burnout quicker.

Q. How satisfying is that decision now to play over here full-time?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, it's brilliant. You know, I've got to say, as I say, I was trying to be patient these couple of weeks. I was well down the field last week and I was struggling to make the cut here for most of this week and you're saying, okay, I'm building up, I'm just getting ready, I'm working on things. You're trying not to get down on yourself, so to get a win is phenomenal so quickly.

Obviously it puts more pressure on your game when you tee it up, more expectations, but it's a pressure I can live with and enjoy, anyway.

Q. So does winning here affect how and where you'll celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, celebrating, I'm home for St. Patrick's week. And the only thing I've got on next week is we have a big rugby match at home, and I'll travel to that in Wales. But that's my only plans for the week, but I'm sure somebody else will make up some plans for me. (Laughter.)

JOHN BUSH: Padraig, can we get you to go through the card real quick, starting on 1.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I hit lob-wedge to 12 feet at the first.

I hit pitching wedge to five feet, six feet.

I hit 5-wood on to the green to about 35 feet two putts.

I hit 3-wood up right of the green and chipped up to five feet.

8, I hit a great 5-iron on 8 left-to-right wind, 200 yards to eight, ten feet, ten feet probably and holed the putt.

9, I hit pitching wedge over the flag. I hit a big drive there. I hit pitching wedge about eight feet past the flag and holed the putt.

10, I hit a pitching wedge to three or four inches.

11, I hit 4-iron to about ten feet.

12, I hit a good drive, but didn't hit a good second shot. Came up about 30, 40 yards short and chipped it up to about five, six feet and holed the putt.

13, I hit driver drive and it just drifted, the wind died down and it drifted to the right-hand bunker. I hit 7-iron middle of the green to about 35 feet and holed it.

I missed the green with a 5-iron, played a nice chip, went over the green and played an even better chip stone-dead coming back for bogey.

Then 15, I hit a 6-iron, nice shot, middle of the green, just drifted over the back of the green, again hit a good chip but everything was firming up to about 15 feet and missed the putt.

17, I hit a wayward drive left, and hit a great 3-wood off a hanging lie to the short right of the green and chipped it up to about six feet and holed a lovely putt.

JOHN BUSH: Once again, Padraig, congratulations.

End of FastScripts.

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