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September 29, 2004

Padraig Harrington


RODDY WILLIAMS: Padraig, thank you very much for joining us. Welcome to the American Express Championship here at Mount Juliet Conrad, and a course I believe you know fairly well.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I was attached here for many years, always enjoyed coming down here. It's a great course to be attached to. You can come here any time of the year and it's in good condition, so you can get some worthwhile practice in. You can come in the middle of the winter and the greens still are true. It's nice to come and play. It's always a joy to play the golf course and good facilities around it.

RODDY WILLIAMS: You haven't had much of a rest since the Ryder Cup. Tell us about your form coming into this week, how you feel about the week ahead.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, my form must be considered good going through the last couple of weeks. Before that it obviously was very average. Hopefully I'm on an upward trend or staying the way I was. I'm hoping my form is good. I have no reason to expect it won't be, but then again, I do because it's gone. You can never be that sure in golf.

Q. What about the various pullouts? Are you surprised at that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know who's pulled out. I've been at home.

Q. Well, you've lost Mickelson, Vijay Singh, John Daly, Mike Weir and Kenny Perry and Nick Price.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: What is it, six out of 70 people? It's not really that big a -- obviously Vijay being the No. 1 in the world, that's a loss, but the others, well, there's still plenty of other players to cover up that loss, I'd say. Vijay would be obviously a star attraction, so that is a bit of a loss.

Q. Is it difficult to draw a line under the Ryder Cup and get into individual mode this week? You had last week obviously.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think last week would have helped me, that's for sure. While last week was a struggle, if I hadn't have played, I probably wouldn't have got over the jet lag as quick and I wouldn't have got over the Ryder Cup as quick. Whether you want to get over the Ryder Cup is another issue, but certainly it was back to work last week. So the Ryder Cup is a little bit in the back of the mind. I would say I'm over the Ryder Cup. Obviously meeting a few of my teammates and maybe meeting a few of the U.S. players, it does bring back those memories, and there is still quite a bit of talk about it, but it is another week this week, another very big week. It's my job to sort of forget about the Ryder Cup now and concentrate on this week.

Q. Do you have any regrets about playing last week, Padraig?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No regrets at all. If you would have told me I was going to finish 37th or something, I wouldn't have. I obviously wasn't there to finish 37th in the event. I was there to try to get at least a top-8 finish. I was happy I went. I probably won't get too many opportunities to play Woburn. I had never played it before. It's one of the traditional golf courses on our Tour, so I'm happy to have played the golf course, happy to have given it a run, would have liked to have done a little bit better, but certainly no regrets about playing.

Q. You won't be too tired?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's possible. I could have done with the week off, but I certainly don't regret playing. I regret not playing well. I regret not finishing well. I didn't play too badly.

Q. You say when you bumped into fellow members of your team and the American team that the memories resurface. How do you greet the American team members and how do they greet you after a week like that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think you greet them the same. You greet the Americans the same, but obviously any time you meet somebody you think about when you last met them. Isn't that the way it goes? I think there's been more conversations with the U.S. players who weren't on the team. You're not going to have an analysis with the players, the U.S. players who were on the team, but the non-playing U.S. players want to have a chat about what happened. Often there are congratulations which starts off the conversation about the whole thing.

It's still strong on everybody's mind, I assume. If they weren't there last week, that's the first thing they want to talk about obviously this week, is the Ryder Cup.

Q. What do they say, the Americans?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a conversation generally, just generally more about -- certainly more about the funnier sides, the things that appeared on the Internet, like the 10 things that need to change, that the U.S. need to have Fiji and annex South Africa and things like that, and that Europe shouldn't be any players educated in the States, married to a U.S. woman, or a European living in the States can't play.

I think they also wanted to ban anybody with dyed hair can't play for Europe. There's been lots of that stuff. It's very lighthearted. At the end of the day, the players who played that week -- it really is just a one-week thing, you know, the significance may carry on other ways. The way I look at it is, we're setting the U.S. team up to come back with a bang. Every time we win, we're just pushing the U.S. team, inspiring them a little bit more, that they're going to come back maybe the next time feeling like they're the underdogs and overachieve themselves, and that's going to put us in a lot of trouble.

We're setting them up for that day.

Q. Padraig, Darren, Lee, Paul and a few of the guys spent several hours in a pub the final day. As a virtual non-drinker yourself, if I may so describe you, how did you celebrate the victory?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was keeping them company there in the bar. I was there. I was there in the bar with my -- my second cousin was with us, as well, for a while, Joey. I was there, a good crowd of us.

Q. What did cousin Joey think of the celebration?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think he was impressed with the whole atmosphere. Obviously he had a good day, as well. He celebrated, as well. His team lost, his real team won.

It was unbelievable in the bar. I've got to say it was very noisy, but I think Lee Westwood probably would have stayed there the whole night if he could have got a little bit more -- maybe if he had a loudspeaker or a microphone (laughter).

Q. How come you missed the flight home?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I had a lift home. Somebody had offered me a lift direct to Ireland. If I went on that flight I was struggling to get home that night, so I left at lunchtime the following day, much more civilized time, and got home direct to Ireland.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about playing in an event like this on home soil, the added pressure, or is there an added pressure for an Irish player?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There is added pressure, but I think at this stage you've got to be -- we're getting used to it. We have a lot of events in Ireland, with the Irish Open and the European Open every year, now this event. There's a lot to be played here. We're getting used to the pressure.

I was thinking about it the other day. I was trying to put this in context. Obviously a world event is just below a major. I was trying to figure out, would I prefer to win an Irish Open or a world event in Ireland. Obviously I'd like to win a world event because of the stature of the world thing, but I was wondering is there more pressure as regards this or the Irish Open. The field obviously is stronger here. My desire to win either of those two would be similar. I'd be putting the same amount of pressure on me. But there again, I'm living with that and learning to deal with it through experience.

Q. Tiger Woods, of course, has such a great record in this event. Would you expect him to be among the challengers again?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It would be foolish not to. I think that's an obvious one, yes. I think his form is coming back, and I think, yes, he has something to prove when people are saying he's not going to win a stroke-play event. I think that's only riding the Tiger a bit. He would be my strong favorite this week because it's a course he's very familiar with, a course he enjoys and has some good success on. As I said, he'll be motivated.

Q. Just a word on the course.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't actually had a practice round yet. The thing about Mount Juliet is you always know it's in good condition. You always know it's perfect. It's there in front of you. I know the course well from past experiences. You know, the fairer you make a golf course, the less you probably need to play practice rounds on it because you know what to expect standing on the first tee.

Q. Comment on the current debate about the captaincy in 2006 at The K Club.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Bernhard Langer was a great captain, really. I really enjoyed playing under him. He lived up to expectations. If anything, I was going into playing -- looking forward to it because of the fact I've always admired Bernhard, and I was wondering what I would say being a little bit closer in the week.

Being the captain, he has to give a little bit more. I was very impressed. I would probably never have seen somebody who was so self-assured, self-confident in himself without being in any way cocky. He was very cool, calm and collected in the best possible way. He knew what he was doing. He was very assured of what he was doing. He knew his limits. He knew exactly where he stood, yet in a really, really good way, as in he wasn't in any way -- sometimes when you're self-assured you can be arrogant or cocky. He wasn't in any way like that. He came across with self-belief in himself in the best possible way.

He'd be a great captain in 2006. I'd love to see him as captain, at the end of the day. He was successful this time around. We'd probably look like we'll need a good captain in 2006. As I said, the U.S. will be motivated. Saying that, it is only an exhibition, and it is deserving that it goes to other people. At the end of the day, there's other people that deserve to captain the Ryder Cup. They've done a lot for the European Tour, so I do believe it should be passed around. It would be to our advantage to keep him, but I believe that the circumstances of the Ryder Cup is it shouldn't always -- it should be passed around to the next guy.

Q. Comment about why you call it an exhibition; and secondly, talk about the prospects of an Irishman.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've always wanted an Irishman to be captain, always rooted for an Irishman. I believe at this stage that that's not going to be possible. That's the word, that it's not going to happen. It's quite down over the last couple of years whether we'd have an Irishman because there's so many big, high profile guys looking for the job that it doesn't seem like it's going to go to an Irishman. I would love it to happen, but it doesn't seem realistic.

At the end of the day, the Ryder Cup is only an exhibition. It was for its first 60 years. It's only the last ten years that it's changed a little bit. I'm sure between the players, it is an exhibition. It's the highest exhibition of our sport. It showcases golf to non-golfers. The amount of people who have come up to me in the last week and a half who watched the Ryder Cup who aren't golfers, people who would have no interest in golf, were aware of the Ryder Cup. It is the best exhibition for our sport. It shows our sport up so well.

But realistically, it's as good a showcase of golf as there can be, and a friendly match between the U.S. and Europe.

Q. A showcase would be a better expression perhaps than exhibition, because exhibition can be misunderstood. You know what an exhibition match is, four guys go out, two against two.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, we all have pride. At the end of the day, it's a very sporting, friendly match. I suppose we've got different definitions of exhibition. If I play an exhibition I'm going to play 100 percent anyway. But that's what it is. It's showcasing our sport. At the end of the day, that's why we really do it. Every two years it highlights golf as probably -- I'd like to say the best sport in the world, but events like that make it so.

Q. Having been in a couple of Ryder Cups, do you see yourself as a future Ryder Cup captain maybe 20 years down the line?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've got to say, a couple of players were chatting about that at the Ryder Cup. I think it was -- there was a European and a U.S. who would do it in the same year, do this and do that. They were having a joke, and I was just baffled because I would have no thought of -- that's so far down the line and so far away. That's like retiring time (laughter).

Q. Do you think you'd be any good at it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'd be very interested. Nobody takes the job without thinking they're going to be good at it. I've played under so many captains, good and bad, in my amateur days, I'd have a fair idea what I believe makes a good captain and what doesn't. A lot of the times it's irrelevant whether you're a good captain or not. You get judged purely on how the team is doing.

Hal has been in for a lot of stick since the U.S. lost, and he seemed like a good captain. I know my first year Mark James was a great captain. I thought he was a great captain, and he came in for a lot of stick.

Whether you're a good captain or not purely depends on how those 12 guys play. Obviously a good captain can motivate them and get the best out of them, but I've heard stories about captains where the team has won and they've gone on to be known as great in spite of themselves (laughter). People are laughing. They all know the same stories.

I can't believe I'm talking about this. This is miles away, miles away. You've got 20 players on the list at this stage that are -- well, there's five or six currently, I would say, that are strong contenders over the next ten years. After that, it's a long, long way away.

Q. What exactly did Bernhard Langer say to scold or reprimand you? What exactly happened and what did he say?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was lighthearted, though. We have our team meeting and he kind of pointed out that -- I think first of all he pointed out that he didn't want to see any silly mistakes again like hitting a fairway wood into a water hazard on the 3rd or 4th hole it was. It was only -- how will I put it? It was funny. I didn't take it in any way like -- it was a funny sort of side to the sort of team meeting type of thing. You know, it wasn't -- it was brought up, let's say, but it wasn't -- I didn't feel like I was scolded. It was just a phrase for it.

Q. Did he smile when he said it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Probably not (laughter). He said afterwards that he didn't mean to -- it was just part of the conversation. That was Bernhard being Bernhard. You could tell he would not have made that mistake himself. He didn't want the team to do the same things. That's how professional Bernhard is. You know, he would have been more aware of that. It was one of those things. Everybody had a good chuckle around the table at me, of course (laughter).

Q. A lot has changed from the two years this event was here. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. The old order has changed. Do you sense that it has changed as well, that there's more a sense that this is an ordinary tournament? Does this, in fact, give you and other guys a better chance to win it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, it is more -- we're more familiar with the tournament, without a doubt, world events. They're very special. The more you play them, the more you get used to them. The fact that Tiger hasn't dominated and the fact that Vijay isn't playing does open up more to the players. Everybody feels like they can compete and contend. Obviously as regards -- I think with the Ryder Cup just gone and maybe the Ryder Cup being in Ireland in 2006, another thing that takes a little bit of the focus off the event, the last time I was here was the first time that the world's top 50 came to Ireland and played golf. This time it's the second time. That says it all really, at the end of the day.

A lot of people will be focused on the Ryder Cup in two years' time even now.

Q. What's your theory? Why isn't Tiger playing as well as he did?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: (Laughing.) Just ebbs and flows. You see it in all players. They get to a certain level. Tiger was performing at the highest level possible I think that anybody has ever got to in 2000, and obviously he sought to improve that, which is the nature of any competitive athlete, is they're always trying to improve themselves. When you're trying to improve at that level, to try and make one step forward, sometimes you step two back, and obviously Tiger has taken a little bit of the shine off his game trying to improve it, but that doesn't mean that he won't come out a better player in another year's time or now, tomorrow let's say, this week. But a lot of players have done it. Lee Westwood did it in Europe. You see a lot of players do it.

If you're going to be competitive you've got to try to improve things even when they're very good.

Q. (Inaudible).

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, Tiger made everybody else improve, without a doubt. I think it's just a natural ebb and flow in his career. If you went to analyze any of the great players, Jack Nicklaus or anybody, they all had ebbs and flows where they were unbeatable, then only competitive at the next period and then unbeatable again. I don't worry for Tiger. He's going to be back, and that's it.

He's still the most talented golfer in the world. He may not be the best golfer in the world at this very moment, but he's the most talented golfer. There's no question about it, Tiger will be back on top of his troll eventually. It's just a question of when rather than whether he will.

Q. You'd kill a lot of birds with one stone this week, first U.S. tournament, first World Championship?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: First tournament in Ireland? Yeah, it would be a big -- yeah, it's very high on my priorities is to win a world event, and it's probably even higher on my priorities to win an event in Ireland. The two of them would be equal. I would have them on an equal footing as regards goals. I'd hate to go through my career without winning an Irish Open let's say. I could probably get away with it if I said I won a major professional event in Ireland, a Tour event in Ireland. Yeah, it would certainly mean a few ticks off the goals if I could win a tournament in Ireland. It would be better to win it here than anywhere else.

Q. The fact that Darren has won two of these WGC events, does that give you a little bit of extra incentive, motivation?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. Tiger has won ten. It doesn't motivate me any more. I would see that as a plus in winning them. It's always a plus when Europeans or people close to you win events because like I know Darren's game, I know him, and if I could see him win an event, it's easier for me to visualize myself winning an event because I know his game, so I know what it takes to win let's say. It's always a positive when a player you're familiar with wins a world event, a major or something like that. There's enough for us all. It's not competitive. It's not a question of he's doing that or whatever. I wouldn't be competing like that with Darren at all. There's plenty of events out here.

RODDY WILLIAMS: Thank you very much for joining us. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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