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July 3, 2018

Padraig Harrington

Ballyliffin, Republic of Ireland

NEIL AHERN: Thank you very much for joining us here today. It's very special to have you here, and I think there's a special presentation that's going to happen just now for you. Paddy from Ballyliffin Golf Club is going to present you with honorary membership for the club to thank you for your services to Irish golf.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: That's very nice. Very much appreciated. Hopefully some day I'll get the chance to come up here and spend the time, if you can get the weather like this. Can you guarantee that, as well?

NEIL AHERN: We have some interesting statistics, just heard a very interesting one. In fact, I've heard two. The first one is this is Pádraig's very first time in the County of Donegal.


NEIL AHERN: And the second one you couldn't believe which was your odds in the bookies which was 66 to 1. Can you tell us about arriving here and how beautiful this golf course is?

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I drove up yesterday and as I was driving up, I know it was sunny but it was truly spectacular. I've actually done both ends of the country this year. I went down to west Cork back in April. So I've done both extremes from Dublin. I've seen a lot of it, but it was beautiful on the way up, obviously, in the sunny weather.

Obviously staying here, as well. The town, the village, the views, the house on the hill looking over the bay; couldn't ask for nicer. The weather does add a lot to it.

And the golf course, I played nine holes today. Very traditional links golf course. Requires an awful lot of thinking, a lot of strategy on the golf course, which hopefully will play into my hands a lot of options.

We played in a fourball today and there was -- between the four guys, we could hit four different clubs off the tee. Guys going with irons, maybe a 3-wood or 4-wood and a driver. That's always the sign of a good test.

You know, when everybody is thinking and working and trying to figure out what the best strategy is, it's a good test to see a golf course like that and in some ways that does play into my hands.

I'm looking forward to that side of it. The fairways are very narrow, from what I'm used to, anyway, in the US. That's a little bit hard when you come home to see. It's tougher to get your head around, but there again, it's not a big problem to miss the fairways as long as you don't hit it into either the bunkers or the heavier rough. In general, missing the fairways, you're pretty much in links rough. It's just the lack of control.

Yeah, but nice, traditional links test for sure.

NEIL AHERN: And for all the gamblers, you have a nice inside tip?

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: 66 to 1, I tell you what, the bookies don't normally get it wrong. But they priced me up like we were playing a parkland course which would probably be a reasonable price on a parkland course, but on a links golf course, that's a surprise. I get out there quick.

NEIL AHERN: Good value. It's already gone down.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know obviously we're not allowed to give gambling advice (laughter).

NEIL AHERN: Of course.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I can tell everybody, I just can't tell one person.

Q. Is the game in shape to justify those odds, to landing that kind of gamble?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I've shown some nice signs, but my last couple of weeks weren't great, I've got to say. I wasn't happy with my game there in the last couple weeks. It does need to change around a little bit, there's no doubt about that side of things.

But there's parts of my game, if it does change around, I could have the full gambit of things. It's not like I'm looking for everything to be fixed. There's one or two little things going wrong, and you know, they can click into place at any time.

You know, when you're at home on a golf course like this, it's a lot easier for those things to fall into place.

Yeah, I'm here with the sole purpose of trying to win, that's for sure. As I've been, I might have a little bit of issue, that maybe every time I tee it picked up, I'm trying to win, rather than necessarily, you know, being the middle of the back and sometimes you build momentum from being in the middle of the pack and going forward.

The nature of the game for me now is to win or nothing. I don't get any enjoyment -- finishing 10th is no fun to me. Maybe I put myself under too much stress when the gun goes, but outside of that, I've shown that if I can get myself into that position, where I have a chance of winning, I only play better down the stretch, but I struggle sometimes getting to that position.

Q. So when it comes to this stretch of golf and this stretch of the season and playing links courses, how much of a boost does that give you?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Look, you know, I always love playing a links golf course. It's strange, I enjoy the aesthetics of a parkland course more. I enjoy the beauty of lakes and trees, but clearly I have a competitive advantage when it comes to links golf. I've played it all my life. I can see the shots. I can see the shots. I see other people playing the shots and I can call what's likely to happen in different situations, different lies, because that's what I was brought up playing.

So yeah, this is worth a lot of shots to me rather than playing a standard parkland course. It wouldn't take much for me to move into the form that would have me in contention this week.

So yes, my golf hasn't been perfect. I worked on something with Pete Cowen today on the range that I was happy with. Unfortunately it was a swing thought, which I never really -- I'm not a great fan of thinking about what I'm doing on the golf course. I would rather just play but it certainly seemed to help.

I know it's Tuesday and I'm always optimistic on a Tuesday, so we'll wait and see how it goes Thursday.

Q. Was your performance in The Scottish Open last year a sort of indication of what you're talking about, sort of just hitting form? Is it a mental thing with you that something just switches on?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I've always been a better player when my back's to the wall. So if you put me on a golf hole that had out-of-bounds on the left and water down the right, I'm more likely to hit that fairway than I would if there was only one trouble on one side of the hole.

You know, it doesn't seem to make sense, but you put -- and it's more the case down the stretch. I would have seen it very much in The Scottish Open or even I had a chance in Turkey where the more I got into situations at the end of it, the less I worried about hitting a bad shot.

I'm good at not worrying -- how would I put this. I don't mind hitting a bad shot when I'm under pressure. I really mind hitting a bad shot when I'm not under pressure, if that makes any sense. So it's getting myself into position; that's the hard part for me, but on a links golf course, yeah, there's so many things.

I would be surprised, if you went back and looked at my links form -- look, I play a lot better on links golf courses than I do on parkland golf courses.

Just like you said, at The Scottish Open last year, any of The Irish Opens, I do nicely on them. So yeah, I know it's an advantage for me to be on a links golf course this week, next week. Clearly I'm building up to The Open. I would hope to get my head -- it takes a few weeks to get your head in the right place.

Hopefully by the time The Open comes around, I'll be prepared and ready to go. But if I get myself in contention this week or next week, it will be all about that individual tournament, and The Open can wait.

Q. You've won at the European Club. Do you see any design parallels between Ruddy's work there and out here?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I had not looked at it like that. They are different pieces of land. I just saw a very traditional links golf course here. And maybe this is the parallel: It doesn't really look like this course is designed. It just looks like it just was.

Very rarely, you don't think any earth was moved for the golf holes here. They just sit as they are. They play like that. Yeah, it looks like this golf course just came into being rather than was designed, which is the beauty of it.

Startlingly enough, if you didn't have a tournament, you'd be out there going, where am I going. It's amazing that when we went to different tee boxes, like it genuinely is, it is like, wow, this is out on your own, out in the wild. The great Atlantic wild -- the wild Atlantic way, it very much is. If there's ever a golf course that sums up the wild Atlantic way, this is it. I can imagine it on a wild day out there. I just said to my playing partners, "Thanks be to God we have marshals this week to find our golf balls."

Q. Talking about the mental challenge of getting yourself mentally ready for The Open Championship, just wonder if you watched the U.S. Open and the mental challenge that posed to the lads at the weekend. I know Phil is a good pal of yours and I'm just wondering what you made of all that.
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: That was a long-winded question to get to that one line (laughter).

You want me to talk about the U.S. Open or talk about Phil?

Q. I want to talk about what a golf course mentally --
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I did look at the U.S. Open, and I said, it's the first time I sat out a major and questioned whether I wanted to be there. Does that make sense to you?

So I did see -- I looked at it on TV. Look, in the end of the day, there's too many good players in the game of golf now for anybody to set a golf course up to keep us at level par without going over the edge. You have to focus on 4- to 8-under par

We see this on the PGA TOUR. On the PGA TOUR, they set up the golf courses, generally about 8-under upwards with -- if they went any -- if they tried to get us any lower, back down to level par or something like that, the pin positions and other things would have to be changed; that players would be really unhappy, and the USGA has to realise that over time, they are going to have to realise, you can't keep that many players par, unless you do silly things. You know, get the greens extreme and get the pin positions extreme.

If you want players to play badly, have your golf course in bad condition. If you set your golf course up in beautiful condition, there's going to be enough players; it doesn't matter how difficult the golf course is, if it's good in condition, players will shoot good scores, some players will. That's just the nature. There's so many players who are good players, somebody is going to play well on a good setup.

So to limit that, you know, you need silly conditions. The greens, obviously they were just very bumpy, watching it on TV. The conditions, some of the pin positives, just plainly looked wrong on TV.

The fact is, it would be a far better tournament if they thought about 4- or 8-under par. Probably the best example of the lot is I would have played the Masters in 2002 and 2003 and it became extraordinarily tricky. It was a short golf course and it was really, really wasn't any fun to play as a player. Pin positions were no more than three feet away from slopes that ran the ball off the green.

And then they lengthened the golf course and made it a huge, big test, and there was quite a backlash when they lengthened the golf course. But the following year, it became the fairest golf course we played. All those pin positions were now three or four yards away from the slopes because they had a big, tough golf course, and it was very fair.

When they had a short course, it was very tricky and nobody enjoyed it. You just have to understand that you've got to set the golf course up in a fair manner, and then so be it whatever the winning score is. That's the merit of the golf course, and generally as we see, 8-under par, maybe for a major, you might say 4-under par.

But if you start forcing us back to level par, you're going to have to do funny things that people aren't going to be happy about.

Q. And Phil?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Phil. I thought I avoided that. (Laughter).

NEIL AHERN: Thought you did, as well.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, look, it was a complete moment of madness that should have been treated as a complete moment of madness.

Obviously Phil was making a statement to what he did. It got to him and he should have just put up his hand and said, look, it got to me, that's it. You know, the extreme situation, yeah, it was -- it was a bizarre incident, there's no doubt about it.

I think as bizarre as the incident was, I think it would have been simpler for him just to come out and say, it got to me and I made a crazy error of judgment.

You know, you don't want to defend the indefensible, basically, is what he went about doing. Yeah, I don't think -- you'd never imagined it would have happened before it happened. Yeah, you really can't defend the indefensible. That's it in the end of the day.

I think Phil, you know, whether it's the USGA not wanting -- having the rule that he wasn't disqualified; I think it would have been simpler for Phil to just have put up his hands and say, look, the place got to me, moment of madness, I'm getting old, whatever he was -- age is, I'm sorry -- I'm not allowed to say things like that. You know, he just could have just said, Look, it got to me on the day, and we all would have accepted that.

But I think defending it, it wasn't a nice thing to see. It shouldn't have happened. I wouldn't advocate it being allowed to happen again, and if necessary, there needs to be a rule change. If they are happy that you can consciously make a stroke on a moving ball, you know, that should be changed. It definitely should be changed.

I know that there's other instances where you can hit a moving ball. If your ball is moving in a water hazard, you're allowed to hit it. Obviously on a double-hit you're allowed to hit a moving ball. I think three instances you're allowed where it's not penalised, but that one I had never seen before, and it needs to be a rule change that you can't do it. Straightforward.

And clearly it wasn't in his best interest to do it. He could have taken a stroke and distance and would have been putting for two shots less if he took a stroke and distance, so it wasn't a clever thing to do.

As he said, it was conscious effort; that he thought this is a good idea, but it was, as I say, you can't really defend the indefensible.

Q. You mentioned getting ready for The Open earlier on, and I think you did a sponsor day at Carnoustie already this year?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: A couple of days.

Q. Was that a conscious plan to almost try and get back the nostalgia, talking about it all out of the way, so you can focus?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I think Carnoustie is different to Birkdale. I go back to Carnoustie every year at the Dunhill championship. So I'm familiar with the golf course, and Birkdale, I had not been back in the nine years. That was certainly nostalgic, much more nostalgic, and I obviously went up there beforehand, as well.

I did like going up there and talking through it, but this was more to get the media commitments and that sort of stuff done. Just like this week, you know, when you go into an Open, somewhat, obviously kind of defending champion or whatever from the last time it was played there, that adds more pressure and stress, and there's a lot of stuff going on, and you want to deflect some of that.

If you want to be competitive, you've got to figure a way of taking it somewhat easy during the week. When it comes to a major, the goal is to turn up and be ready so that you do less the week of a major. You certainly don't do more practise the week of a major. You do less. You do less work in the gym. You do less work practise. You actually take it easier. Those are the weeks where you really taper down coming into it but you actually really take it down.

And yes, getting stuff out of the way is all a good thing. But you know, I realise, I'll only go back in -- well, maybe not the case, but it's likely I'll only go back and defend at Carnoustie once. So yeah, I'll make an extra effort to enjoy it. I'll take time to smell the roses. I did at Birkdale.

You realise as you get later on in your career, these things don't happen as often as you would like them to happen. So you've got to make a conscious effort to enjoy it.

Q. And of all the things you've said about Carnoustie, that first major, is there anything you haven't told us yet?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: No, there's a lot of stories. I don't know which ones you don't know. I tell the stories. There's so many -- and I try and explain it, any winning a tournament, especially major tournaments, there's so many things that happen in the week that can't be replicated, and people seem to think that it's a hundred percent under control of the player winning.

It's control to get yourself into a state of mind and a place that you play good golf that could lead to you being in contention that could lead to you winning, but the things that fall into place, and I'm sure I told you a story, like I could list a million of them.

But the most bizarre -- there's so many bizarre ones, but hey, going up the first playoff hole, I hit my tee shot down the fairway. Sergio's hit an iron short right of me in the rough and as we walked up, we had left the tee box. A big, small -- certainly not big -- but small, black cloud came across the sun, like a really, really dark thundercloud and the temperature dropped five degrees. And I had been playing the week before in the European Club, and I was amazed at the European Club how much the modern golf ball changes its performance in temperature.

So the new golf balls go forever when it gets warm, but I wouldn't have seen the backside of that, how short it goes when it gets cool. So I think I had 168 yards into the pin on the first hole and I saw the temperature drop. I took an extra club, hit it harder than I wanted to hit it, but I wasn't intending, because I take the next club and thought I was going to hit a smooth 7-iron and ended up hitting a hard 7-iron and just got it to pin-high. Sergio, I don't know how he hit it but he was two clubs short with where he landed his second shot.

So all because this one black cloud came across the sun and the temperature dropped, and I played the week before at the European Club and I had seen this happen, how the weather, when a shower comes in or something like that, the incredible effect it has on the modern golf ball. Much more so than it would have when I was playing links golf 30 years ago.

The golf ball went into the wind and didn't go. Now, literally, I could be playing in the States and in the same day, if you had a seven- or eight-mile-an-hour wind out of the left in the States, I can hit a 9-iron -- I've hit it like 170 yards. That would be a 5-iron at home. Certainly a 6-iron.

I always laugh at the fact that they have tried to design golf courses 7,400 yards back in Ireland, and I think there isn't a day in the year, bar this day, that you want to be on that golf course.

But in the state, they could make them 8,000 yards long and it wouldn't bother us. In the warm weather, the ball goes forever. Phenomenal how well it performs, but feels like a drop down in the cold weather.

Is that unusual enough?

Q. Who is the favourite this week?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I have no idea who. I haven't looked at anything.

Q. Rory --
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Who would I be -- I comment on myself and that's it. I'm not allowed back -- we're not allowed to gamble, but they may be more likely to win this week than me but there shouldn't be 59 points between us. That would be my -- and you know what, I could fall flat on my face and miss the cut, who knows?

But I would think anybody, you don't often find value but that's value in that.

NEIL AHERN: Mad rush to the bookies now. Thank you very much, Pádraig.

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