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July 4, 2017

Padraig Harrington

Portstewart, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Mr. Harrington, welcome.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Thank you. It's good to be here.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Pleased to be back for The Irish Open?

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, as always. At this stage of my career, it would be even nicer to come back to an Irish Open. I think I've got over the stresses of this event, maybe ten years ago. So yeah, I look forward to it and quite enjoy weeks like this now.

Yeah, I came up yesterday. Had a nice, quiet day's practise. Got a lot of my work out of the way. Didn't have to go out on the course today in the wet and it's allowed more time to do all the little extra things that you have in a week like this, like this media and stuff like that.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: What's the difference between being an Irishman who has never won The Irish Open playing it and being an Irishman who has won The Irish Open playing?

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I suppose the difference, I don't know about having won it and not won it, but certainly my early years playing The Irish Open were incredibly stressful. There's just an awful lot going on. There's a lot of good distractions, like even today, I arrived up to the clubhouse a couple of hours ago to get ready for this, and I had a few little things to do. But you keep meeting people, keep talking to people. You know, they are all interesting conversations and you inevitably, like I have now, you run over time.

I think early on many my career, I found that very stressful. I liked to feel like I had all the angles covered. It was only when I realised that it was impossible to do that at an Irish Open; that you just have to accept that it's not a normal week. You have to accept that there are external pressures and stresses that wouldn't be in a normal week.

Once you understand that and you understand that people want you to win, rather than expect you to win, and there is a subtle difference between that, you tend to start enjoying them. Obviously when you enjoy them, you have more chance of winning them.

Q. You said yesterday that you had not played here ever before, which I was amazed by. Now that you have played it, how have you found the course?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, it's a very nice course, very pleasant, really enjoyable course. Obviously spectacular all the way through the front nine. I thought the back nine, actually, was -- we heard so much about the front and back nine here. I thought the back nine was excellent. Probably tougher. Some great holes on that back nine. Even though my favourite hole on the course is 6, the little par 3, the simplicity of it. Fantastic golf hole.

Yeah, a lot of spectacular holes on the front nine. A lot more challenging holes on the back nine. That's how I saw it yesterday in the wind. Obviously I have to play the tournament before I fully understand the golf course, but certainly a very enjoyable golf course. And I'm glad that we're here playing The Irish Open on it and it's giving me the opportunity to play it under tournament conditions.

Q. It's been a disruptive season with injuries, one more bizarre than the other. With all that in mind and bearing in mind I've tipped you to win this week, how is your game looking?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: My game had turned the corner last summer. I started playing really well, striking the ball well. Had it well under control around The Open last year.

Obviously the injury at the Olympics just curtailed the end of my year. Then came out with the operation and everything, having only played 25 rounds of golf since November -- 25 rounds of competitive golf, it really just hasn't got started because I haven't been competitive. I need a run of events. There's obviously -- I can't be fully ready. I just haven't played enough golf.

My game feels good, yeah. As I said, I liked when I see in my game. I just like to get out on the golf course and play a bit more and get a bit more tournament ready competitive. But there's no reason why it can't add up to a winning performance this week or in any week at the moment. I did throw a win in in Portugal last year and that was in the middle of the injury.

Now that it's cleared up, you know, it's just a case of getting out on the golf course, being competitive, sharpening the game up, and you know, I would have seen that happening through the four rounds at Travelers two weeks ago. So hopefully I'll still be ready to go Thursday.

Again, I'm certainly not using this as a practise week, but if this week doesn't go as to plan, I have next week and then The Open. So hopefully I'll be absolutely ready when it comes to The Open.

Q. You kind of touched on where I was going next. Are you looking forward to The Open, or are you focussed on these two weeks?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm definitely more focussed on this week at the moment. But I have set my plan of preparation to get ready for The Open. I've already got into that sort of game mode where everything is about, you know, peaking for the week of The Open. But that doesn't mean that I won't play my very best in the weeks previous to it, either. It's a good situation. My head is in the game; put it like that. I'm all about getting out on the golf course and competing and playing.

There's no real distractions there at all in terms of all I want to do is actually play tournament rounds of golf, considering I haven't played that many in the last year or so.

Q. Have you retired from giving clinics?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I've got to say, I've given quite a few lessons since then. It's amazing how cautious I've become. I'm definitely a little bit more anxious, no doubt about it. I was down on the range the other day with my two sons, and yeah, I'm not as blasé about walking around, or letting anybody else walk around, for that matter, either. Maybe it's a good thing down the road.

Certainly it could have been a lot worse for me. So maybe it was a good lesson to learn.

Q. We can laugh about it, but it was potentially more serious.
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: It was potentially, I don't think you would compete -- I don't think I would compete as a professional golfer if I smashed the elbow or had broken the elbow again. I don't think my style of game; you're not coming back from an injury like that, to full health, full fitness, no matter what you do.

With the way the modern game has gone, I'm 45 but I'm trying to hit the golf ball like a 20-year-old. You wouldn't do that with a broken elbow coming back from it. So yeah, it would have been the end of me, no doubt about it.

Q. The course, they spent quite a bit of money in terms of what we see out there. Do you think that's what is reflected as what people describe as a lovely, natural flow to the holes? I think the whole lost cost them about a hundred thousand or something ridiculous.
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Hey, we would all love to have a beautiful sand dunes like that to build a golf course. You know, there is a beautiful flow to it. I would suggest there's an even better flow to the golf course for the members than there would be for the pros.

Obviously the back tees are quite a long way away from the greens and uphill. So it's quite a long walk backwards for the pros. But I would think this is a beautiful golf course to come and play if you're just out for a game of golf. It looks like a nice course, quick course, to get around.

As you said, the holes don't look like they have been designed. They look like they have always been there.

Q. With six million Euro in prize money this week, and some of the best players in the world here, it's a great position for The Irish Open to be in, isn't it?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, we're where I suppose we want The Irish Open to be. There was a time, I think it got to the stage that we kind of expected The Irish Open to be there. Clearly that was proven wrong over the last, say, ten years, 15 years. Thankfully with Rory and The Rory Foundation and the effort he's put in, it's brought it back to where it should be. I use the word "should"; not really should be, where we would like it to be.

But we should never take it for granted. It takes a lot of effort to put a $7 million event on, and we shouldn't forget those times in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, whenever, when the tournament was being propped up by The European Tour. I heard a lot of people at the same suggesting it wasn't a stature of a tournament that the Irish Open should have been. But the game of professional golf, or certainly in organising tournaments, you can take nothing for granted. Nothing deserves to be anywhere by right. It has to be earnt.

Without the Rory Foundation and Rory putting an extraordinary effort in behind the scenes, we wouldn't have the event we have now. All the players appreciate that. But I think the Irish players, particularly, appreciate it because we would like to have one of the best events in Europe. But we're not conceited enough to believe that it's our right. It has to be earned.

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