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THE HONDA CLASSIC


February 23, 2016


Padraig Harrington


Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

JOHN BUSH: We welcome Pテ。draig Harrington, our two-time champion here at The Honda Classic.

Pテ。draig, you won here in 2005 and then ten years later in 2015. Talk about how much this tournament means to you.

Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: It's great to be back. Obviously Honda has been a good tournament for me. It's been a great place for me to come and play, having won twice here.

It is obviously always interesting coming back as a defending champion, puts a little bit more pressure and stress on the week. There's a lot more going on. So in many ways, you can't treat this just as another normal week. It's a different week and you have to take a little bit of a different attitude coming into it.

Certainly kind of it's like coming to a major. You have to actually reduce your workload during the week because there's lots of things going on. You practice a little less. You kind of arrive with the feeling that, right, I'm here to play golf and I'm ready to go. I don't need to do anything more or find anything more this week. You know that if you're going to have a big week and you get in contention on Sunday, you've got to stay fresh, and obviously with everything else going on during the week, that means a lot more maybe stepping back a bit and a little bit more rest on a given week like this.

JOHN BUSH: I know you didn't have the Sunday you were hoping for at Riviera, but just talk about the state of your game coming into this week.

Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I'm very comfortable with my game. The long game doesn't really change much, I've got to say, over the years, but my putting has been struggling a bit and that has come back well. So I'm pleased about that.

I know it's a clichテゥ in the game, but when you start holing putts and you're holing out better, it does lead to a lot less stress during the round, and a lot easier, a lot more confidence in your game, in your long game, when you're holing out putts for pars and birdies.

Yeah, I see an improvement in my putting, which really bleeds through my game. Clearly wasn't there on Sunday. Probably the last two Sundays I've played. But what I've been doing in my game, I see some nice things about it, and you know, I need to carry it through 72 holes, but I'm happy that it's going in the right direction.

Q. Your Player of the Year's favorite players are Jordan Spieth and Jason Day; you have as many majors as those two guys combined. Have your marketing efforts slacked off? What's happened?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: No, that's just the way life evolves. Yeah, you'd want to be a little older than 12 to look up to me as his Player of the Year or his idol.

Look, these guys are great. Jordan is great for the game of golf. He's a great young player. It's brilliant that he's bringing young people into the game and they want to play. I might compete with Jordan for a few fans in Ireland, so, you know, I can hold my own there, even though we do have Rory, as well.

Look, there's plenty for everybody in this game. The more young people we got coming into the game, the better. Jordan is just like Tiger, that he's bringing people into the game, which is a good thing.

You know, my ego doesn't rest on necessarily if a young guy looks up to somebody else, that's good. It doesn't have to be me. I'm happy if he does, and you know, I'm doing my own thing out there, getting on with it, and I'll have plenty of my own fans. But generally, they are a little older.

Q. Who did you look up to when you were 12?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Ray Clemence, the goal keeper. I was interested in football. Pat Jennings, a couple of goalkeepers. Clemence, Jennings, the two goalkeepers.

As regards golf, I probably wouldn't have got there until I was 16, 17 years of age, 16 years of age before golf was my sport and it would have been Bernhard Langer.

Q. Why Bernhard Langer?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Professional's professional. Got the most out of his game. Came back from the yips twice. That's just unheard of. Absolutely phenomenal how much he got out of the game from his work rate and dedication. I've always admired that much more so than people who it comes easy to. Bernhard Langer, it never came easy to him and definitely a hero of mine.

Q. You mentioned the yips there, coming back interest that, do you feel you've fully come back from that?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think you ever fully come back from it, no. But certainly feel a lot better on the greens, a lot less stress knocking in 2- and 3-footers. But it has not quite cleared up, but I'm pretty positive about it all, and I see some good signs going ahead. A lot less work involved on the greens for me at the moment.

Q. Daniel was in earlier, mentioned that you guys have had dinner five, ten times?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: He's a good guy. He's a good craic. Good guy to hang out with. Good young fella. Got the right attitude for the game. He's competitive, wants to get out there and win. He wants to take on the challenge, but all in the right way. It's not -- he's not one-dimensional in any shape like that. He's not over-committed and too focused on what he's doing. He seems to have the right balance, and he's a fighter, which is really what you want. You want that competitive edge, wants to get out there and really compete, but has it in the right place that he's not obsessive about it. You know, I see a very bright future for him.

Q. What kind of wisdom or maybe advice did you maybe bestow upon him?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know if I did. I think he's in a great place. It's all a learning curve for him at the moment but I think he comes from the right sort of attitude that, you know, if you want to be a professional golfer out here, really you've got to ultimately learn to hustle a bit, and he has that. He's a fighter and if he hits a bad shot, he'll try and get it up-and-down. He won't worry about the bad shot, and you kind of get that when you're competing a lot and out there the -- the word we would use is hustle. That's kind of missing in golf nowadays, everything is ordered. It's all academies and things like that.

Whereas, a lot of the reason why Irish golf has done well is we were always brought up playing matches, playing games, competing. I don't think I ever spent a day in my golf club where I wasn't trying to win something off somebody. You know, that ultimately gets the focus.

The best practice I do out here on TOUR is when the other Irish guys are out here, and a few other guys if I can, I play chipping contests, and it's all about the competitive edge. I think Daniel has that, I've got to say. He has that sort of attitude out there. He likes the fight, which is a good place to be if you want to be a professional golfer.

Q. Everybody knows about the Bear Trap out here and how dangerous it is. Can you talk about No. 6, a hole that's hard on everybody?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there is several holes on this golf course that are big and intimidating. 6 is probably your first one on the front nine. Even though there are other good holes, no doubt, but 6 is very small fairway with a water hazard down the left. You have to hit -- I wouldn't say you have to, but you really want to hit that fairway in order to hit the green, because it's a small green.

I will say, last year for me, winning this tournament, I look back and try to figure out, what did I do right. Because it came out of the blue for me to win. And ultimately I played the difficult holes really well last year. So I played 6 under par and I played 11 in 3 under par. I made a couple of birdies on 5 and birdied 17 one of the days. All of the difficult holes I played really well.

If you can do that, the rest of the golf course, while it's still tough, I gained immensely on the field on the likes of 6. If you can hit the fairway, it's a small green. It tends to be something like a 5- or 6-iron into the green, and if you do hit the green, it's a small green, so you have a good birdie chance.

It's one of those holes that a good player can actually maybe make a birdie or two during the week. You're forced into hitting it close. It's not like a hole that you can play safe on. And a player who is struggling will easily take a double-bogey.

It's a great hole for a guy playing well and not a great hole for anybody else.

Q. Daniel spoke a little bit about the mental edge that he tries to give himself coming in by giving himself low expectations to try to trick himself. What kind of mental aspect do you take into a big tournament like this to help you along the way?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I think he's trying to trick you with low expectations. There's no doubt a lot of people struggle to perform when they have high expectations. It's one of the -- it's always a big difficulty in any sport, is you want to be confident, you want to be up for it. But once you get those high expectations, it tends to lead to a dip in performance.

Obviously it works and some people can play with it. I've always struggled with high expectations. You will see it in golf a lot. Guys who shoot a low score one day, they struggle to back it up the next day. It's probably the hardest thing to do in any sport is live with expectations and live up to it. It's nice when you go along in kind of a bit of a haze and you don't really think about it. But certainly, downplaying is a trick that a lot of people would use.

I don't believe that Daniel has low expectations, though. I think he doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself for sure but he's a pretty positive guy, and he believes he can win here this week, that's for sure. He believes it's coming around the corner for him. He needs to stay patient. A win is there. He's easily got the game and he's easily got the ability, the spirit to do it. He's just trying to stay patient which is the right thing for him.

Q. The way you finished last year with the double on 17 --
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I remember five birdies on the back nine.

Q. The five birdies and then the double on 17. I know it's a pretty thin parallel to Carnoustie, but I'm just kind of curious if there was ever a time early in your career that taught you that a late blunder doesn't mean the end of it?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: If you actually knew my career, I don't think I've ever made it easy for myself, ever, in my entire life. (Laughter) I genuinely, like all my tournaments, all of them, I would have done something similar. So I've been learning that lesson since I'm the age of the young ones here in front.

I like a bit of adversity. I seem to bring it on myself. But I fully understand that I have won plenty of tournaments where I've hit it out-of-bounds in the last round, plenty of tournaments where I've hit it in the water in the last round. So I know it's never over until the end.

I tend to have a little bit of an issue with having a lead in terms of, I relax a little bit at times and get a bit defensive. I think I've always played my best golf when it's on the line, I'm under pressure, and I get the feeling, well, there's nothing to lose at this stage.

So yeah, I just have a habit of putting myself -- if I get a lead, I have a habit of coming back to the pack and making it tight and if I don't have a lead, I end up catching the leaders and making it tight.

Ultimately, most of my tournament wins have always come down to the last hole. I won last year -- or the year before last, in Indonesia. I hit it in the water on the last. I was tied going down the last and I hit it in the water. I still won. Just remember that. I hit it in the water on the last and I still won.

Q. How?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I dropped out, hit a 6-iron to 15 feet and holed it for a par. The guy I was playing against, he hit his second shot in the water. I actually won by two. (Laughter) You never know what's going to happen.

I'm very good in that situation. When I mess up, I actually get better. Sometimes when things are going swimmingly well, I get a little bit defensive. Always have been. I've spent years working with Bob Rotella trying to figure out how to be -- how not to get defensive when I get ahead. You know, that's just the person I am and I don't seem to be able to change it.

Q. Did you give up trying to change it?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Probably would work if I did, but no, I keep trying to change it and it doesn't change. That's the fascinating thing. It's amazing how much you try and change who you are, but ultimately, you kind of stick with it for better or for worse.

Q. When you talked about this win last year came out of the blue, would it come out of the blue if you won again this year?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think it would in the sense that I've shown better form so far this year, and plus, people are more expecting me to be doing something out of the blue. If so I won out of blue, people are happy enough. I would think that they can see that if I get myself in contention with nine holes to play, I think my fellow players would see me as a threat, as in I'm good in that situation.

So I do struggle to get the first 63 holes out of the way, but the last couple weeks I've been doing a little bit better at that. Yeah, I'm reasonably positive -- it's very difficult, in a week like this. As I said, I'm going to be teeing up on Thursday morning with the stress like I'm leading the tournament, whereas when you win most tournaments, you get quite a bit into the tournament before people start looking at you as the -- and you feel like you're under pressure.

A week like this, I feel like I'm Monday pressure from Thursday morning onwards. So it's a little bit longer week, a little bit tougher a week to do it; not impossible, and I look forward to the challenge of doing it. Like I said, I'm positive about my game and that's a good thing and putting's coming around. Like it did here last year, the mental side just needs to click into place and if it does, you know, I know I can do it.

Q. I think you've been in at least 11 playoffs as a professional.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: You've done your homework. I didn't even know that.

Q. Seems like you and Daniel have formed a little bit of a bond. How often when you play a guy in a playoff do you guys have a bond that kind of develops throughout the rest of your career because of that moment?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Certainly know of one player, at least one player, I don't have a bond with who I played in a playoff (laughter). No, I would think I have mellowed, myself. I would see Daniel as a great young player who he's not my competitor.

When I was 25 years of age, everybody was my competitor. Now I've mellowed out quite a lot and I'd be quite happy to give advice to the young guys on the TOUR. I'm not as competitive in that sense. If I thought I had the secret to the game 20 years ago, I would have guarded it. Now, look, everybody can know everything. It's up to them to do it.

That happens with age. Where I have a good bond with Daniel now, it's more because I mellowed myself and I'm a little bit more relaxed about who my competitors are. 20 years ago, it would have been a bit more dog-eat-dog at that stage.

That doesn't mean when I'm standing at the tee I'm trying so hard to beat any guy or beat any person I'm competing against. But definitely off the golf course I'm a little bit more relaxed, and I wouldn't have been like that when I was younger.

Q. Who is the best hustler out there do you think these days? Where did you learn your hustle, and what do you know now that you wish you had known when you were 18, 19, 20 or when you were starting out?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: We haven't got all day.

I learned my hustle at Stackstown Golf Club competing with my brother, competing with my friends.

I remember one story -- there's many stories, but I'll give you one story playing against my brother, Columb, in a game. I was just coming to the stage where I was able to beat -- he's nine years older. So maybe I was around 14 years of age, and we were playing for a pound. Back in the 80s, it was enough.

And the fifth hole, I've got like this little putt to go 1-up, and just as I'm about to take it, he says -- I missed the birdie putt. He says, "Oh, it's a pity there are no more birdie holes."

As I'm standing over this, I'm thinking, "But the par 5 is reachable in two and I'm going make birdie on that one." Of course I was thinking about the 7th and missed the putt. He completely put off to take me out, distracted me. That pound note hung on my kitchen, or my mother's kitchen, I should say, for probably 20 years. So I looked at that; that was the last pound he won off me, and it was pinned on the wall for 20 years.

That's what we were all about in our house. Whether we were playing cards, whether we were playing snooker, whether we were playing golf, it was all about trying to get the edge and everything. I'm still that way. I'm playing with cards with my brother at Christmas -- I know I'm getting distracted.

We're playing for a couple of hours. And I realized two of my brothers are ten years, nine years -- so four of them are there, and when we're playing the cards, I obviously bluffed a few times, I did a few things, a little bit of verbal here and there. They thought I was eight years of age. They had no concept that I had actually bluffed them. It was amazing that all of the brothers actually still see me as a little kid. It was one of the greatest things ever to get away with all of this bluffing of verbal and they are thinking, no, he wouldn't do that (laughing).

But when you have four older brothers, that's what you grow up with and the golf club I played in was particularly competitive. If you wanted to play in the games that we played in the golf club, every day you would have a 3- or 4- or 5-footer on the last four or five greens, that meant the difference of you winning or losing. If you couldn't hole those putts, you couldn't play the game. It was all about that in the club for sure.

Outside of that, on the TOUR, who is the best, if you're allowed talk, you'd probably give it to Phil Mickelson. In terms of pure being able to give verbal out there in a friendly game, obviously you haven't do that in a competitive game, Phil is pretty good at hustling and bustling his competitors.

In terms of physically on the golf course, we all let our clubs do the talking on the golf course. I think over the years, even against Daniel when I went home, everybody said I won the playoff when I shook hands with him, as in -- whatever they were saying, they were saying like I had used my eyes in some way to intimidate him in shaking his hands. I was just shaking his hands and wishing him good luck, but it's amazing how people read into things like that.

When it comes to the actual competitive play, it is very much let the clubs do the talking. Certain shots do make a shots when you're in that situation, holing the putt or maybe hitting in first to a green, that can change. But generally if you want to win a match, just hit the best shots.

Q. You talked about Daniel being a fighter. Does it require that attitude more because you know you're going to get punched in the face out here at some point?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I think all golf requires that attitude, but yeah, this golf course is a big, tough test. The likelihood is you're going to succumb to it a few times during the week and you've got to be able to get on with it and deal with it and come back with bounce back birdies on this sort of golf course.

Yeah, I would think this golf course is that sort of golf course. There are certainly players here, anecdotally, players who don't want to come here and play the course because it's just too tough a test in certain places, and there's players who will get frustrated very quickly on this golf course because of certain holes that have gone wrong.

Yeah, this is a good golf course for anybody with a good attitude. But then all golf courses are good for people with good attitudes.

Q. Just wondering the nature of the Florida Swing now, where all the golf courses seem to be pretty tough golf courses, even though they are not like Augusta National, does the setup require a certain mental toughness that maybe gets you ready for a major?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: This golf course plays like a major tournament, no doubt about it, this one in particular. A lot of big shots out here. You've got to man up quite a bit out here and hit some tough shots and take them on.

You can't afford to -- like 6, you can't afford to bail out right. It could be just as bad hitting it right as hitting it in the water left. There's a lot of big shots here, just like a major tournament. 6-under par won last year. I got to 9-under at one stage. It's that type of thing. You don't generally see people getting to a score and coming backwards unless it's on like a major golf course. This is everything a major would be; well capable of holding a major, except it's not a major by name. But it's a big tournament and the best players are turning up. You see all the best Europeans that are coming over.

If you can win here, you can win a major and that's why you see guys here. This is definitely a warmup in terms of attitude that you need in a major tournament, if you've got the skills to get around here, you know you can win in any major golf course.

Q. Going back to adversity you bring on yourself late in a round, can you think of the one tournament where you probably should have lost all hope and still won; a normal person would have lost hope.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I can think of the ones I lost. You know, the hardest tournament I probably ever lost was when I was 18 years of age, I lost the Irish Youths at Dundalk Golf Club. I was two ahead and three to play and we didn't have leaderboards. But somebody came out and told me I was two ahead with three to play and I relaxed and I thought I had it won and I bogeyed the last three holes.

You know, 18-year-olds are not very politically correct, and they let me know what they thought of my finish. I was devastated. And you know, it was then I started working with sports psychologists on -- I thought I choked when I actually had done the opposite. I had relaxed. So that's when I realized -- that particular week is when I realized, fortunately or unfortunately, I needed pressure or stress in order to play my best golf.

So I need to be hyped up. I need that adrenaline and I need that buzz at the end of a round, and in many ways, like when I got to, which was probably one of the more significant ones, when I won at Carnoustie in 2007, let me tell you about when I won my first major in 2007.

When I came to the third playoff hole, actually on the third playoff hole, I had got an 8-footer to go three shots ahead. And I rolled that putt down there with zero intensity. It was amazing how lack of focus I had in that putt. And I realized when I hit it, it's amazing I realized, it was the exact same feeling as Dundalk. I thought I had done it. I thought I had finished, wow, I'm going three shots ahead and I didn't have any focus whatsoever on it.

When I was walking, it's a long walk from 17 tee to 18 green. It was a 80-yard walk. All I was telling myself was I haven't won it and all I was trying to do was put myself under pressure going to the 18th tee. So that loss in Dundalk possibly won me the Open in 2007, purely because I realized, hang on a second, I don't perform very well when I start relaxing and defending which think I've got something.

I'm always a lot better when I'm afraid, when I'm fearful and nervous and got that stress on me. And that's what I tried to create walking to the tee box. I tried to make myself nervous. So if that answers your question, 2007 is the one that probably won, whereas a lot of people wouldn't have won from that situation and all because I lost when I was 18 in an amateur tournament and I realized the same scenario.

But at one stage, I think I had 29 second places on The European Tour or around the world, and people wanted to pigeon hole me into a certain category. But in those 29 second places, there's so many different experiences. Some of them I lost through being ahead and relaxing. Some I lost to hitting bad shots under pressure. Some I shot a great round to finish second. Somebody else holed a putt to beat me and I could do nothing about it.

But all 29 second places were learning experiences, and the third and fourth places, you're learning every time. From all those experiences, you understand how to read a situation, and that's the one thing I can do really well now. I read the situation very well coming down the stretch. I can understand what the other players are doing, how they are feeling, what's likely to happen; who is the threat, what do I have to do; do I need to push on or is that guy going to come back to me.

Lots of scenarios, and I enjoy that the most. When you're coming down the stretch, is this going to be a playoff, is it going to be a one-man playoff. A one-man playoff is a great place to be. A four-man playoff is a terrible place to be. So you've got to understand all these situations are different, and you've got to adjust your game based on it.

So if I'm coming down the last hole here, or coming down the stretch and you know it's a four-man playoff and it's a big bunch, you're going to do everything you can to win that tournament right there and then and not get into that playoff because then it becomes a lottery. Whereas, if you're going into a playoff with one guy, you're quite happy to settle for par at the last and get your chance in the playoff. You don't have to win it there and then.

Basically in a one-man playoff, you have two ways of winning. You can birdie or he can mess up. In a four-man playoff, it's pretty much, it's a been fight at that stage. Who knows what's going to happen. You have to adjust your strategy and I got good at that. I just wish I was in contention more often.

Q. From a competition standpoint, which is more exhilarating: Carnoustie or Oakland Hills, for the nip and tuck of the last hour?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I won three majors. My first one is your first, nothing is as exciting as winning your first major. I played great, messed up. The mess-up always left something wanting. I won in Birkdale where I just played solid, fantastic golf. I swung the club well. I did everything that you would dream of doing as a kid. Just exactly as if you were 15, you were dreaming about winning The Open, Birkdale is how you would dream would you do it. Hit the shots, hit spectacular shots, one the club, won as favorite.

And in terms of Oakland Hills, that was just ugly and I stole it, just straight out, and I can tell you what, there's nothing more fun than winning the ugly ones.

JOHN BUSH: Good stuff, thank you, Pテ。draig for your time.

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