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July 16, 2018

Padraig Harrington

Angus, Scotland, United Kingdom

STUART MOFFATT: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm delighted to say we're joined by the two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington in the interview room.

Padraig, I wonder if you could just start telling us about how much you're looking forward to playing in The Open at Carnoustie this week, a place that holds very special memories for you.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I look forward to playing in every Open Championship. This one, like last year, I'm kind of coming back as a kind of defending champion. I know Jordan won last year, but it does makes it a little more special when you're coming back in that circumstance.

I'm quite familiar with Carnoustie. I've been back every year at the Dunhill Championship. It's not quite the same as Birkdale last year. It's interesting, obviously, the golf course. For all intents and purposes, it's a complete different course than the one in 2007 on that front. But it's always nice to be back in a place you've played well.

I will make the effort to enjoy myself this week. Hopefully, that shows up because sometimes we do get the head down -- sometimes we're working hard and put our heads down as we're working, and sometimes could be misconstrued. But I'll make the effort to smell the roses this week.

Q. Padraig, does this burnt golf course, for want of a better phrase, does that lean towards experienced guys such as yourselves? It is very uncommon for an Open Championship. Is it better for the older guys in the field who will have experienced this before?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, I would agree experience is important. Links experience is especially important. You'd have to go back to Hoylake in 2007 to see something as fiery. Probably not quite as fiery as Hoylake.

But, yeah, it does lean itself to experience. It does play into the hands of -- if you were looking -- it certainly plays into the hands of guys who can tread the ball around, not necessarily -- the great thing about this golf course, or the interesting thing, is you can't take all the trouble out. You know, there's no perfect strategy that eliminates risk. You're going to have to take some risk. You're going to have to go by, skirt by some bunkers. It's very difficult to stay short.

STUART MOFFATT: Stop for a momentary tea break.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes. It's very difficult to play short all the time. You're going to eventually -- if you keep playing short of the bunkers, the second shots are actually very long, longer than it would have been in 2007. You know, like if you lay up on, say, 5. Yesterday I hit 7 iron off the tee to stay short of the bunker at 245 on the left, but like I had -- if there was a back pin in there, I would have had 210 yards, which is an exceptionally long shot into that pin position off the back.

So at that stage you're thinking to yourself, well, I've got to take a chance and maybe hit 5 iron down between the bunkers and get it down to 170-yard shot or something.

So the beauty of the golf course is there's a lot of different ways of playing it, but eventually you're going to have to grow up and hit the shots. You can't always avoid -- you're going to have to take some chances.

Q. Hi, Padraig. You just mentioned Hoylake then. Obviously, Tiger won there with similar conditions. He's back here this week. How do you think he could go here?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I really don't know. You know, he's good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don't think he could play golf like the way he played in 2006 at Hoylake. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn't play that way now. He's definitely capable of winning this week. His game is good enough. I don't know if that's the strategy this week to lay up that far back.

Who knows? I think things have changed in that time. I'm really not familiar enough with his striking. I think his golf ball is harder now than it was back then. So that would make a difference to trying to play in from 220 yards into every par 4. That would be tough around here.

I think the fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they're very fast. There's a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get it back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20, 30 yards more than you think. You can kick left and right. So it's not as easy, as I was saying earlier, to eliminate all the risk by laying off. It just doesn't seem the strategy in all places. Sometimes the strategy will be to hit driver and cover some of the trouble -- not all of it, but cover some of it and take a chance.

The rough isn't penalizing. It's a little bit different. Normally, when you get burnt-out rough, you get an automatic flier. I've been seeing the opposite so far. I've been seeing spinny shots coming out of the rough. So I'm interested to hear how that plays out during the week. Does it make it easier to go in the rough, or does it make it unpredictable to go in the rough?

So as I said, I'm not sure there's a strategy that you can set out right now that you could stick to on every hole without waiting to see how the weather changes, the wind changes, how the scoring happens. Like clearly the first hole is into the wind, at the moment it's like a 3 iron to lay up to the bunker at 265, but if it turns anywhere downwind, it's drivable. And virtually, if it's downwind, it would be quite difficult to keep it short of the bunker.

So, yeah, look, I think the most important thing is every player is going to have to be fluid when it comes to their strategy, that they're not going to be able to set out a strategy that they could stick to at all times. They're going to have to be able to adapt, watch their playing partner, see what they do, and learn as they go along.

Q. Hello, Padraig. Just curious, when you hear the name Barry Burn, what kind of thoughts run through your head.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: When I hear the name of Barry Burn, I go straight back to -- actually, I didn't even hit it. I'd go back, I lost the British Amateur here like in the last 16 back in 1992, I think. '91 or '92. I doubled the last two holes to lose by one hole. So I've got history with this golf course, and certainly the Barry Burn, it's all about 17 and 18.

Clearly, it's strange having played it in 2007. The tee shot on 18 was so difficult. And yet yesterday I played, I hit 4 iron wedge into 18, and it would have been nice, it would have been easy if it was like that.

As I said, as much as the 18th hole is probably the toughest golf -- toughest finishing hole in major golf, it is based on circumstances, how you're doing and how the weather, what sort of conditions you're playing in. Yeah, I stood on the tee this week and I looked at where I hit it in the hazard, and you're going, well, how could you hit it in the hazard in the conditions I faced this week? It was easy enough done in 2007.

Again, at some stage this week, we'll expect that there will be some shots out here -- and this is why Carnoustie is such a great championship course. There's always going to be shots that you're just going to have to grow up and hit. You can't hide all the time around Carnoustie.

Q. Padraig, could you tell, please, what did you gain and what did you lose since you won here in 2007?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: What did I gain and what did I lose?

Q. Yes.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: What did I gain? I gained a certain level of satisfaction in my career. I achieved everything I could have dreamt of and more.

I don't think I lost anything. There's -- yeah, it possibly makes golf harder. There's no doubt about it. When you've won majors, you're trying to live up to that, and I've watched from the outside with so many other players and said, well, I'm not going to make that mistake, but it seems to be inevitable for people that, when they win a major, it's just hard to keep that momentum.

I saw Trevor Immelman last week quoted, saying he didn't think he was hard enough now compared to what he was younger in his career. I don't know, there's different terms for what that hardness means. Is it motivated? I'm certainly motivated. Is it hungry? I'm pretty hungry, but you definitely have different goals and outlooks and things.

So, yeah, you change as a person, there's no doubt, in terms of your golf, and it certainly -- I think most players, for me, it was certainly a peak in my career. It would have been a lot -- how do I put it? It would have been a lot smoother in my career if I win a major every five years. If I won one in 2007, 2012, 2017, that would have been a lot simpler on my golfing career.

But, you know, at the end of the day, it still goes down at three wins, and it always will, unless I make it to four. So, yeah, I don't see -- there is no down side. And if there is any down side, it's only perspective, that you've got to work hard and turn it around. It is all positive.

Q. What's your assessment of why the majors have dried up for Rory? And how do you see Carnoustie in this condition as a fit for arresting that run for him?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Rory's obviously played well this year and yet seems to be getting a lot of press saying he's not playing so well. Clearly, his career is now solely based on how he does in the majors. There seems to be no other yardstick for Rory, and that's probably the yardstick he uses himself.

I think back in 2011 he had stolen a match on the field when it came to driving the golf ball, which brought tremendous confidence to his game and all the way through his game. I think at this stage players have caught up. There's many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage.

Instead of really in 2011 he was competing against himself, similar to how Tiger would have been for most of his career, I think there's many guys he's competing against now, and it's just a tougher ask. The beauty for Rory is he's still very young, he's still very capable, and with patience those majors will come.

I'm just trying to word this correctly. If we look at history, when you start in the modern era, start trying to get to seven, eight majors, nine majors, let alone getting up to 14 and 18 majors, it took 20 years for Jack to get 18 majors. And for the eights and the nines there with Watson and Player, you'll find it took 20 years too, certainly 15 years. And you're judging Rory over seven years. Give him another seven years and see if he's got eight in the bag. Are we disappointed with that then?

There's no doubt at four you want Rory to have more majors, but in the scheme of things, even in Tiger's best years -- so he started in '95, turned pro, and say if he finished winning the majors in 2008, so like that's -- I'd better get this math right, where is there an accountant? 14 majors over basically 14 years, 14 years at that stage. That's one a year. It don't happen as often as people think.

Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There's no doubt there's more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.

But the reality, when you start looking at some of even the best players, some of them -- some of the best players have still got one or no major or two majors. So Rory's doing pretty well at four.

Q. Padraig, when you look at the guys who have won here -- you, Watson, Player, Hogan -- is there something about Carnoustie that you think lends itself to the more tenacious personalities coming out on top here? And if there is, who do you look at in the field this year as having that kind of tenacity?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think, as I said, Carnoustie, you just -- you have to hit the shots. You just continually have to keep hitting big shots. There's a lot of questions to be asked. Some of the times, it will go wrong, and so you have to be that character to -- you know, you're going to take a shot on, it won't work out, but you can't second guess yourself afterwards. You have to have that mentality that -- you have to believe that your strategy is it, that you are the man, that 100 percent it's all about what your strategy -- if you try to thread it by a bunker or carry a bunker and it doesn't work out, you can't lose the head and start thinking, oh, I should have done something different. You've got to believe in yourself.

And I think that's what you're seeing in myself and maybe some of those -- I don't want to necessarily include myself -- in myself and those great players, you're seeing guys who, yeah, they're prepared to take on the shots and live with the consequences. I think that's the big key for this week.

As regards to who I'd be picking this week, I don't necessarily -- and I'm still not sure what the winning score is going to be. I'm not sure if this is going to be the toughest Open ever or the easiest Open. Just not quite sure. I'm hearing different people saying they're going to take driver and lash it out into the rough on every hole and play from there. But I was thinking it was going to suit the guys who thread the golf ball, who are very comfortable running a shot five yards left of a bunker and that sort of style of player who would see the gap, say, on like 5 I talked earlier -- it's probably 35, nearly 40 yards between the left-hand bunker and the right-hand bunker, and the guys that thread the ball are going to be happy to run the ball through that, and other players who are a bit more cautious will be going, well, I don't want to reach the trouble and will end up playing the hole from 40 yards back.

So I would be picking the guys who are -- who don't necessarily hit it that long, don't spin it that much, and just will thread it out there between the bunkers and the ball and run down there, and they'll end up playing a shorter course than some of the big hitters.

Q. Padraig, like you said, there are many other players who feel there's not really a set strategy for this golf course, at least not yet. Does that make it exciting for you as a player that you are going without any set strategy for a golf course? Or is there some kind of trepidation among players when that happens?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think both of them are the same, trepidation and excitement. It really is going to be -- you're going to have to be fluid. You're just going to have to have -- your strategy is that you're going to be able to change your strategy. That is the goal. You're going to stand there, and you're going to -- you think you're going to hit 3 iron off the 1st hole, and you get there, and your playing partner stands up in front of you and he hits 3 iron in the bunker, you're going to have to change. You know, you're going to have to keep watching what's going on around you and get a feel for the golf course. You just have to pay attention.

Especially -- I'm not sure -- I know yesterday I was told the wind was going to change during the week. Today somebody told me it was going to stay constant in the same direction. If it stays constant, obviously, that reduces options. But, you know, golf courses changing during the week, too. So if enough players -- I know a number of players are talking about hitting driver on 3 over the Burn, into the heavy rough, and it is heavy rough left, or front of the 4th tee box, but if enough people do that and walk in that rough, it's going to be all trampled down. That could change whether it's a good or bad play. I think, if it's trampled down, it might even get a little tougher for once if it was laying down across the ball or something like that.

So there's lots of different things that could change during the week, and major golf courses do tend to change. They tend to get a little easier as the week goes on, based on things like rough getting trampled down and the tee boxes -- like we're practising on the very back, the tee boxes will go up five, six yards on most holes.

So, yeah, but it's got to be fluid. You've got to be able to move. I think that will be difficult for some of the guys that have never played links before or are not familiar with it that they want to nearly -- their coaches will want to tell them how to play the golf course or this is how you play it, but when they get out there on their own, they're going to have to be aware of the situation and options are going to change.

Q. Padraig, just you were speaking about your experience here in the Amateur Championship. Just wondering what's the difference between having experience and relying on that and using that to your advantage? When does it creep over into having too much experience and scar tissue and those things becoming a problem for a guy in majors?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Clearly, if we could answer that question, we'd be writing a book on it. There's no doubt innocence is a very nice thing to have. Experience at some stage works well in your favor, and then you kind of, there's a tipping point. Who knows where that tipping point is? I live in the hope that, if you come out the far side and you get past the experience side -- because I've obviously gone over that tipping point, that you could actually be better than ever. Why not live and hope?

Q. Padraig, you're going to like this because I want you to be precise, please, it is generally said that this is the hardest, i.e. most difficult, not in terms of firmness, of The Open courses. Do you agree with that? If so, why? If you don't, which one do you think is the hardest?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I do think this is the hardest, no doubt about it. I think you get -- well, for starters, there's 12 par 4s. You've got -- no, actually more. 13 par 4s. You have three par 3s, two par 5s. So you're not given a lot of options. You've got all those par 4s, in general, you're going to have to hit shots between bunkers. I don't know, there's hardly a bunker on this course, as any links course, that you can play to the green from. They're all mini hazards; if you're hitting in, you're pitching out.

Then you come to the end of the golf course. The last four holes can be brutish, at best. No matter how you've done in those first 14 holes, where you might have played well, and yes, you could have cemented, you could have a good score, you still have to get home to the clubhouse in those four holes. It's a difficult stretch in golf, and to have them the last four holes of a championship really is what makes Carnoustie as tough as it is.

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