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THE HONDA CLASSIC


February 20, 2018


Padraig Harrington


Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

JACK RYAN: We'd like to welcome Pテ。draig Harrington to the interview room at the 2018 Honda Classic.

Pテ。draig, always a media favorite in here. Two-time winner of this event. How does it feel to come back to a place? Where you've had a lot of success in the past.

Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, it's always good to come back. I suppose, you know, I clearly like the golf course. It's a very difficult golf course but I think I like the conditions that we play in. I see lots of wind, which I know plays into my favor.

I don't know, I haven't been out on the course yet but generally, I perform better on windy golf courses, hopefully with reasonable -- I tend to play well on courses with softer greens, which sometimes when you have the high wind, you can't get them too firm. Looks like conditions suit me. I like the place.

Obviously the difficulty of the golf course puts me, I think puts everybody under pressure, but I tend to play a little bit better when I'm forced into that. It narrows my focus. It's not that -- nobody looks forward to hitting the tee shot on No. 6 here, but I tend to do well on holes like that.

I tend to have a good track record on the Bear Trap. You know, if you went to the 17th hole at Sawgrass, I tend to have a good track record on those holes that players find difficult.

So it's not that I love it; but I tend to do a little bit better on it. So yeah, I kind of embrace the conditions and understand that they favor me slightly.

Q. How have your goals changed over the years and what are they now?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there was a time I'd write down those ten goals at the start of the year. I'm now too lazy to do that.

Things have changed. There's no doubt with it. I want to enjoy myself out here more than I would have ten years ago. I'm not as -- I'm more relaxed about the way I go about things. I want to win, but I know that winning isn't going to change my legacy in golf.

You know, I'd love to win any tournament. I'd enjoy winning it, but it's not like, I'm not a young guy. I'm not thinking that winning any given tournament is going to make a big difference to who I am or what I've done in golf. It's just a nice thing to do, and so yeah, there is an element of me that, it's all about winning and decent performances. You know, I wouldn't get any pleasure out of -- and this is strange. I'm not going to get -- I don't get any great enjoyment out of anything but winning.

So if I finish 10th this week, you know, I couldn't even tell you. Like if you started, listed off my performances in tournaments, I wouldn't know; I couldn't tell you the second, third, fourth. I don't think I've had any seconds in majors but I couldn't tell you any. I couldn't tell you my best performance in any of the majors but the wins.

Yeah, I'd like to win. I know it doesn't change much if I do win, but it's like a busman's holiday. I'm kind of out here enjoying what I do. Like playing. It's still interesting. Fascinated by the game. But certainly, I suppose the in-between stuff doesn't do much for me.

Q. I was talking to you last week, you find yourself now during the off-season struggling to go out and practice like you did probably before you were married and before you had children?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Well, nothing to do with that. Nothing to do with family or kids, no. Most people, that would tell them to get out there.

It's month to do with, as I've got older, going out on a cold, wet, windy day, that doesn't really interest me. I still practice. I practice quite a lot during the winter but I practice indoors. I've gone a little soft, there's no doubt about it.

I'm not as -- I still like the competition. I still like being out there, but yeah, I've gone a little soft. I don't -- I'm not as hard. I'm not going to go out there on a bad day and be cold and miserable. Maybe I know at this stage that it's not as productive, anyway, so why would you do it.

I've changed. That's just the way it is. I'm not -- I'm a different person than I was five years ago, ten years ago, 20 years ago. You know, I'm probably not as innocent, so I don't believe it's all ahead of me. I don't believe that -- I don't think I'm going to wake up tomorrow and have the secret or anything like that.

So yeah, just things, you evolve as a person. I'm a different person. I have to find a way of working with the person I am and part of that is just really enjoying myself when I'm out here and being more accepting of what I've done in the game of golf, rather than necessarily be the guy who wants to win one more tournament as if it was going to change everything.

Q. I know you won your tournament here on one of the Bear Trap holes. I'm curious how your strategy has evolved on the Bear Trap and whether or not you like those holes or hate those holes or just how you look at them.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I think I fear those holes. There's no doubt about that. My strategy has never changed. You know, first goal is not to hit in the water. Second goal is not to hit it in the bunkers. And then hopefully, you hit on the green between them.

But strategy, you're just trying to hit the right shot at the right time. You're trying to get as much information wind-wise. You're preparing for those holes definitely in advance. When you're standing on the 14th, you're watching the players in front of you play 15; have they gone long; have they come up short. You're getting an impression of those holes, very similar to the 17th at Sawgrass, you how you play them. You're always watching the groups ahead of you trying to get a feel. You're playing your playing partners birdied 14 so they hit their tee shots first on 15, little things like that.

The good I think this for me is I've tended to, when you have to stand up and hit a shot, I tend to be better than when there's a little bit of -- the more options you give me, I'm not as good. You know, when I narrow my focus, I tend to be better.

They are just tough holes. You know, in some ways, you would prefer not to be talking about them because you're only setting yourself up. But they have to be played. And I have to believe that they are an advantage for me in terms of playing this tournament; that give me the tougher holes, I tend to do a little bit better maybe because I have a good short game. I'm not 100 percent sure why.

But you know what, no matter what way it is, you have to kind of create some sort of your own reality that they suit you and that you are an advantage over the field on those particular holes.

Q. Just listening to you a minute ago, you almost sound like a ceremonial golfer. Do you look at yourself that way?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I think I'm a bit more the ceremonial golfer, but yeah, definitely there's a bit of a part in that, yeah, no doubt about it. I've said this in interviews at home.

I've played with guys at my age when I was coming up, and I was kind of, wow, if sometimes these guy who is have been my heros coming up and I was frustrated when I played with them because they were so dogged and so hard. I was saying, would you not take a step back and enjoy what you've done in the game and in some ways I would hate to be that guy that is not enjoying what I'm doing, and trying to win one more tournament to prove something.

You know, I've overachieved in my golfing career and there's no point in me thinking any other way. There's no point in me thinking, look, winning a fourth major is going to make any difference to my first three. Three is pretty damn good.

Q. Secondly, I'm curious, as a long-time golfer, does anything about Tiger fascinate you right now?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Everything.

Q. What fascinates you the most, maybe.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: We'd be here all day if we started talking. He has changed as a person just as much as I've changed as a person. I'll give you a quick example.

At Torrey Pines, Tiger would have come on to any range in his heyday and he'd walk on that range, he'd nod respectfully at whoever, and he would go and do his work. He'd have his manager standing right behind him deflecting everybody away from getting near him.

He came on the range at Torrey Pines. He high-fived a few people, had a few chats. Stopped and had a couple of chats with me. He was enjoying himself. No sign of his manager or anything like that. It was just him and obviously the media entourage but him enjoying and that was really it. He was relaxed and enjoying himself. Clearly he's not -- he doesn't have the intensity that he had ten years ago. That intensity ten years ago, certainly, that intensity ten years ago certainly created an aura. He's mellowed. That's just the way he has changed. And can he be the guy he was ten years ago, just like me? He can't be. Things have changed in who he is as a person. So that's one.

Clearly, physically, watching, a year ago, you would have said physically he didn't have the game to come back and win. But he certainly has it now. He's hitting the ball -- if you turned around and gave most of the field his game, they would be so chuffed with it that they go out and win straightaway with it. His game to him will never feel like it was back in the heyday.

You know, when you're used to hitting shots that are ten out of ten and now he's hitting nine out of ten, it doesn't feel as good. If you were used to hitting shots at an eight and now you're hitting it Tiger like a nine out of ten, you'd be loving it.

If I turned around and hit the golf ball like Tiger Woods this week, I'd win because I'd love it. If Tiger Woods turns around and hits it like that, he may win but it won't feel as good as it did back in the day.

So you obviously have -- you know, that's what he has to deal with. He's never going to have the same feel as or be as good as he was back in his heyday. And he would have been better in his heyday if had more good players around him to push him, Tiger's game of, say, early 2000. He got very conservative after 2001 because he could win with a conservative game. Before that, he used to hit some spectacular shots, and I think you would have seen more of that if there was more good players around him to keep pushing him.

But going back to him today, you know, he's like myself. He's out here. You see him, as I said, talking and enjoying being out here more and the camaraderie that's out here rather than back in the day, it was very much business. So yeah, he's a different person. There's many things you see in Tiger Woods to have changed and the one thing he can't do is try to be the person he was 15 years ago. He has to try and be the version he is now and that's plenty good enough to win tournaments. It's plenty good enough to win major tournaments. It mightn't be the game that he had back in the day that was good on demand, but you know, it's certainly good enough, as I said. There's many of us would love to be in his shoes in any given week and have his ability and we would feel good about it.

Q. If he won 15 majors, it wouldn't change his legacy, would it?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: 15 would make no difference to 14. 18 or 19 would make a difference but 15 would make no difference. Like really, it wouldn't. 14 or 15, it's still a great career. You know, in the end of the day, I think he's the best golfer we'll ever physically see. The fact he didn't get to 18 means Jack is the best, you know, performance. That's kind of the way I would look at it. There's two different things.

But I do believe he will win another major. Will he get to 18? I think the odds would be against him getting to 18, but I would be pretty sure, if you look at any of the great players in the game of golf, they always won a major later in their career when they -- like Jack's last major came six years after; he effectively retired in 1980, he really showed down his schedule and he won in 1986. I do see that happening a lot.

He will definitely get another major and his game is good enough to do that, from the outside looking in; it's just not good enough to do it on demand.

Q. There was some complaints last year from players about raucous crowds in the Bear Trap holes, and we're seeing that at other places, as well. Last week in L.A., some of the gallery following Tiger. Is this a growing concern on the TOUR? Is this something players are just going to have to deal with these days?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's certainly a conversational piece, there's no doubt about it. We, personally, I love the likes of Waste Management. The crowds are phenomenal. You want that atmosphere when you go there. You're expecting that atmosphere. I think sometimes players can be distracted and upset if it's out of context; if they are not prepared and aware it's going to happen.

You know, I wouldn't necessarily -- I certainly don't have a problem with it in terms of handling it. The one here in the Bear Trap is the 17th, the actual spectator stand is literally on top of the tee box. It's within feet of the tee box, so you can hear a lot. So I could understand, and it's an intimidating shot. The 16th hole at Waste Management is a pretty easy golf shot under a lot of pressure. The 17th here is an incredibly difficult shot under a lot of pressure.

Yeah, I could see players, if it's a bit close or a bit tight; I think the one here on 15th here is a great place for it. It's not stressful down the left-hand side of 15. It's a lot more stressful on 17.

So it really isn't -- it really -- it is an issue to be talked about and it needs to be managed and put in the right place, and just evolve so that -- everywhere has its place. I'm sure if I was at a sporting event, I might be a bit raucous and shouting and enjoying myself. I don't have a problem with the fans, and they are just enjoying themselves.

As I said, the players will get used to it and it just needs to be managed in the right way, rather than, you can't have it one way or the other. It can't be nothing and it can't be all that way. It just needs to be controlled in the right places. In the end of the day, we are in the entertainment business and as I said, if you came out to watch a sporting event, you'd be enjoying it and shouting things that really, really are funny to you, but not to the other person.

Q. On the back of that answer, Tiger was saying last week that all the commotion and the comments in his career has probably cost him two shots a tournament. And you may like Phoenix but there's a lot of people don't go to Phoenix anymore because of that behavior and you have a situation like the Presidents Cup last year --
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Phoenix, you can't get into Phoenix. I couldn't get into Phoenix this year. You say a lot of people don't go to Phoenix, that's rubbish. That's complete rubbish. You can't get into the field; so many people go there. There is a person or two who doesn't go to Phoenix because of the raw cause crowd.

Q. But 200,000 people a day.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: It's fantastic. It's fantastic. And if you don't like it, don't go.

Q. Okay. But Marc Leishman's wife, bravely going public, like posting some of the comments in New York, were downright indecent. Does the PGA TOUR need to up the ante in terms of the spectators, because you said something needs to be done.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I had a spectator who was with me last week say that if the PGA didn't sell drink at an event, they wouldn't have spectators at an event. As in, so you know, which do you want. Do you want an atmosphere? Do you want people there enjoying themselves? So it is -- it's Catch 22. I'd rather play for the $7 million a week and have the atmosphere created and managed properly.

Clearly if somebody crosses the line, that's not right. Clearly if somebody crosses the line, it's not right. You know, personally, I played at Brookline in '99. I've never had it. You know, whoever follows me, I think I have enough people following me, enough Irish, enough American-Irish or Irish-American people, that other people wouldn't dare say something to me during my round or else, you know (laughter).

You know, maybe somebody else. I'm not denying that people have had things said to them and that but it's not a question of stopping or shutting it all down. It's a question of managing it and keeping it in the right environment and creating a festival. Every golf tournament, bar the majors has to be, nearly every golf tournament, has to be a festival. It can't just be, you know, we're in the entertainment business. There's got to be more to it than just, you know, 72 holes of golf. There is more to it. There has to be an atmosphere and none of us wants to go out there.

Any golf event would be terrible if they went out there and closed the gates and had no spectators. There's a happy line between the two and it does need to be managed. In the end of the day, if somebody said something that's inappropriate or like that, well, that needs to be controlled. There's no doubt about it.

But it's not a question of -- and usually it should be controlled. I'm trying to think, controlled by the people that are there. Like if somebody says something inappropriate and they are standing beside you, you wouldn't stand for that, would you. That's just the way of life. But I think I certainly know, if I was coming to watch a sporting event, I would be there enjoying myself and that's the way it is. It's just a question of managing the areas where that happens.

Q. Two things. One, when you were talking about Tiger, you kind of talked about how he's changed. Can you remember when because of age or whatever, you changed? And when you did change, how did you deal with that issue?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: It's not going to be -- it's certainly not going to be like clear-cut when it happens, but certainly having the next neck surgery last year kind of said to me, yeah, things are different. I'm out here -- I mightn't have that many more years out here. I might as well enjoy myself.

I think you just evolve with life; that you realize there's more to it. I would often meet somebody from my era who was a competitor of mine who, you know, I would have been at lad logger heads with during my career but now I would consider them a friends and want to stop and chat. Because you know, he went through the same experiences. He understands what life was like on tour 15 years ago, 20 years ago.

I personally -- but maybe one of the big defining points -- actually there was a defining point. Three years ago, I think I missed the FedExCup Playoffs and went and played in Europe and I went home and hung out in Europe in the evening times with the other Irish pros who were playing in Europe who are my age who I played with as an amateur golfer, and I couldn't get over how much fun, how much I was enjoying those events where I had that social outlet in the evening time. We'd go out and chat and it was just, it was fantastic, and I realized there was something I was missing out on. There was more to this than when I was committed, more committed.

Somebody said to me last week, you know, I get up in the morning and I do 20 minutes of stretches and stuff like that. In my heyday, I was doing 40 minutes. Just not as -- I couldn't do 40 minutes anymore. 20 minutes is enough. These are things how they change.

I want more out of -- there's more to life than just playing good golf. As much as I still -- by the way, I always want to play good golf, so I'm not ever not trying or anything like that. Just a different, a more relaxed attitude to it. I see that in Tiger. You can definitely see he wants -- he wants to have friends out on TOUR. He didn't want that back 20 years ago. You know, it was business. And it's not like he can go back to being the other guy. You are who you are at this moment in your life, and you have to be that person and deal with that person and work with that. That's where I'm at. As I said, I'm not as selfish now. That would be a good way of looking at it.

THE MODERATOR: Best of luck this week.

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