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May 17, 2016

Padraig Harrington

Straffan, Co. Kildare, Ireland

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Pテ。draig, welcome to The Irish Open, and welcome to The K Club. Thoughts on being back here?

Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: For me coming back after ten years, I'm fascinated to see how my game matches up against the golf course. The golf course has developed in time. It was starting to get quite tight back in 2006. I'm assuming those trees that were planted for The Ryder Cup have matured even more now. Looks like it could be a real tough challenge. You've got to remember, when those trees went in, it was all about the Ryder Cup, so we didn't play as much stroke play. I think in 2002, I shot like 20-under par or something to finish second. That was pretty close to 20-under par.

So as much as the course is intimidating with a lot of water, by the time we got to The Ryder Cup, it was a lot tougher. So I don't know what technology has done to the game now, so it will be interesting to see in 2016 how tough the golf course plays. I know in my head, certainly there's a few tee shots out there, a few shots on the golf course that I'll be -- won't quite give me sleepless nights but happy to get through. I don't think there's a people that will be enjoying the 17 hole tee shots, that's for sure.

Lots of difficulty on the golf course, but I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like and seeing how things have evolved. Obviously traditional Irish Open sort of thing; it's just not a normal week, and there's no point in treating it like a normal week. Early on in my career, I think I wanted to do everything like I would my normal preparation, and that's just impossible this week. There's just so much going on. You have to understand that it isn't a normal week and that if you try to do everything, you'll fail miserably as I would have in my early part of my career.

I now realise, look, sit back, enjoy this week, don't worry about getting your preparation right, don't worry about getting your preparation correct. You're just going to have lots of things happening back and forth that just normally wouldn't be at an event. Like I'm staying at home this week, exempt for my early morning, I would never stay more than 20 minutes away from the event if I could avoid it.

Lots of things with The Irish Open, and the key is, don't swim against the tide. Don't fight it in any way. Just enjoy the week, accept it. It's not quite the same as any other week, which is a good thing.

Q. Do you feel the pressure is off a little, though, since you have won your national tournament?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I do. I think it's very important for me in my career, I've won three majors, but having won The Irish Open -- if I hadn't won The Irish Open, I would certainly feel like there's something missing in my career. As an Irishman, you really do want to win your National Open and have it included in there and tick that box. I have done it.

It won't mean I'm trying any less this week, but certainly, it's just a nice bonus that I have covered that one and I don't have to worry about it. If at this stage of my career, you know, I had not won an Irish Open, I'd be desperate. So thankfully, I don't have to be desperate this week. I've already done it.

Q. Going back to 2006, what are your outstanding, favorite memories from that week, obviously pretty special for Irish golf.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I have a lot of memories. This golf course has been very good to me. I'm an Honorary Member here. I played the very first opening Pro-Am back in the early 90s. That was just a beast of a golf course back then. We'd never seen anything like this place in Ireland at that stage. It was an incredible golf course, incredible facility.

I obviously had a chance in 2002, I lost down the stretch in Michael Campbell. That's probably the standout memory. I'm forgetting 1995, my first professional event. I'm trying to forget 1995, my first professional event.

I did, like a lot of amateurs, I missed the cut in my first event. I wasn't prepared. I completely was thrown by not being able to play the tournament golf course on the Wednesday before the event and I went out on the Thursday with a really poor feel for the pace of the greens.

I remember I played poorly. There was a comment that week, I remember, from a pro, why is this guy turning pro. Yeah, that thankfully, I was big enough and strong enough to see my faults that week. I think often times, an amateur turning pro, can have his career defined by his first event. If he misses the cut, he feels like he doesn't belong and that can be detrimental to the rest of his career.

Even though I missed the cut and was well off the pace, I shot two 75s, I could see my own failings that week and I wasn't necessarily walking away from it thinking, I'm not good enough. I was saying, well, I've got to prepare better.

So that was, could have been a defining moment for me. Thankfully, I suppose experience, I was 24 years of age, which 24 is very old for playing your first professional event nowadays. Normally you see 15-year-olds, 12-year-olds playing their first event. That experience did help me.

And I suppose now to get on to your actual question (laughter) 2006, The Ryder Cup, it was a strange Ryder Cup. It was very nice, very pleasant. I know the weather was a bit -- we won easily. The people who travelled from the U.S. were mainly supporting the Europeans because they were Irish heritage, so there was no antagonism that week. There was no divisiveness. It was a very pleasant, enjoyable atmosphere, just a super week. Everything went well.

It was wet, but there was sunshine on the first opening shot and sunshine on the 18th green. The memories are all very strong of the whole week how things went, how good it was. You know, for me, looking at Ryder Cup for me, you go back to when I was a rookie in 1999, what an atmosphere in Brookline. It was electric. But obviously, seriously antagonistic, but wow, it was exciting.

So the Irish one was just beautiful, pleasant, enjoyable, exactly how an Irish person would like it to go. It just went very, very well. Bar problems with the weather, everything else about it was just perfect.

Q. You're not willing to --
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I wouldn't even criticise the pro who said it, no. We are all meant to have opinions. It was just, you know, looking from the outside, I was a short hitter at the time and I certainly didn't -- my strengths being my short game wasn't great, and I probably looked like, why am I turning pro.

But like I said, the experience was the big key. I was old enough to handle that and move on. I do see good amateurs turning pro now and it can be a scary thing. You can lose your confidence very quickly and be ever sidelined, and it happens all the time. There's ten players a year turning pro who I would know, there's probably 30 or 40 every year. There's just not enough room for them on Tour, and ultimately, usually, if they don't make it it's because they lose their confidence through a couple poor results early and reading too much into it.

Q. This is the first tournament this week that will be playing since the R&A this morning launched a pace of play worldwide guide. What do you make of the fact that they are doing that?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I talked about this earlier. Professional golf is a terrible role model for pace of play, terrible role model for the athlete of the game and it is under the response of the USGA and R&A. They are much bigger bodies than professional golf, much, much, bigger, it's much more important for them to take a lead role in this.

What you see on TV, is not really a true reflection of pace of play. I was speaking there, Jordan Spieth at the Masters, would have come in for a bit of stick. But a lot of times what was happening there, the producer is sitting there in the office, he's thinking: I would like to show Jordan Spieth eating a bar walking down the fairway. I'd like to show him as his caddie is getting his yardage, and as his caddie is getting his yardage, Jordan is swinging the golf club, getting loose and all that.

So they showed Jordan for a minute before he hit his shot, whereas the next pro, who is not as big a star, they only cut to him just literally as he's going to swing. The other pro could have taken the same amount of camera swings but he just wasn't on camera all the time. I think it can be harsh on a player like that in that situation.

What you don't see on camera is the work the players do behind the scenes to get in place, how quickly they move from A to B, how quick they play on top of the next person. Literally most pros would hit a golf ball, as the golf ball is landing, most pros would be trying to hit their next tee if they are second in play. They will literally be trying to hit that golf ball as quick as that ball has landed in front of them.

We play a completely different game. Our golf courses are far too long for amateurs to walk. Ultimately we are walking back, even now, you go play St. Andrews, you're walking back 100 yards to a lot of tee box es in St. Andrews, whereas that golf course was originally designed, you literally tee off the back of the green and off you went.

If you want to get around the golf course in three hours, you have to have a set of quick tees. There should be a tee box more or less at the back -- at least in a straight line from the next green to the previous green so you don't ever walk backwards. That's how original golf was played. These tee boxes back, all it's doing is slowing down golf courses. Any modern golf course design, it's designed at 7,600 yards which is far too long in Ireland. It's okay, if you seen last week, if you were watching the television, you would have seen us play in 90 degrees of heat and we are able to hit the golf ball 320 yards. I play golf here in Ireland and it's going 240, 250. My 6-iron is going 150 yards here generally when I play during the winter.

So you've just got to understand, that sort of image that you see on TV, you see a pro walk up 35, 40 yards from a chip shot but that could be the difference in making the putt or the difference in winning or losing. For the amateur, he's got a handicap. Drive you up the wall if you saw your amateur playing partner walking 40, 50 yards up to a green to have a look at his shot.

I know with my own kids, when I go out playing golf with them, one practise swing is all they are allowed to have when it's their turn to play. They can have as many as they like when they are off doing other things, but one practise swing, at most, and then hit it. That's just the nature of the game. They have a handicap to allow for that.

There's plenty of things, as I said, I even see in my own game. I was brought up, never walk ahead of the person, never walk ahead of the first ball to play. Now, all pros will walk up to their golf ball even if they are 30, 40 yards ahead of their partners. Never leave the green before your playing partner finishes out. All pros will leave the green, literally be standing, at best, 10, 15 yards away from the green, and often times will be standing on the next tee box when their playing partner is finishing out. That's horrible etiquette but that's what pros have to do to get around and move around the golf course.

There's lots of little things like that you'll see with the pros that is -- that you wouldn't want to see it creeping into the amateur game. So it is right that the R&A has taken the lead on this. But it will always be difficult because the professional bodies, even though they are so small, take such an amount of the limelight when it comes to golf in the world.

But they really don't represent -- like the R&A represents, I'm not sure of the figures, but I'm sure they are ten times the size, or a colossal amount bigger than the professional bodies -- or the amateur bodies to be taking the lead in this because it would be no fun if I was an amateur golfer going.

Personally, I only play 12 holes when I go and play. 18 holes is just too long in the day. I'd rather spend the hour beforehand with my playing partners having breakfast and the hour afterwards having my lunch. I wouldn't want to be -- 18 holes is a little too much time and a little too long out on the golf course.

I would be a big fan -- I know the R&A are looking at nine holes for a handicap and nine holes for pace of play. But for me, 12 holes usually suffices. A practise round on a Tuesday, I would never do 18 holes. It's just too much time on the golf course.

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