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February 24, 2004

Padraig Harrington


SCOTT CROCKETT: Okay, Padraig, welcome as always. Thanks so much for coming in. You've covered it up now, but there's been a lot of comments about the hair, so we'll start with that. A new year, new hair style. What was the reason behind that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think the last three years I've done something during the winter, changed. I think three years ago I cut it all off. Last year, let it grow long and had a beard during the winter. This year it was coming to the end of the year -- just to take a break from the year, as I said, I changed something. I just went and told the guy that does my hair, do what you like, and this is what he came up with. The interesting thing is what's he going to do next year because I have to have something new again. I said it to him already it's up to him to figure something out.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Obviously you've won this year in the 2004 season in Europe and you're going to carry it on this week, hopefully.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously the win, in my mind, I won last year. I've just come out of stat my first week last year, had nine weeks off previous to that. I'd love to say I have form coming in from last year, but I don't. It's a new year, I'm starting it fresh, and I'm positive about how things will go this year. As I said, it's very early at the moment. I'm just trying to get my game to where I want it to be. Last week I played and I was quite happy, but I was rusty. You can't give up shots like that. It's very difficult. You know, it's the difference between winning and missing a cut is very tight, so you can't afford to be a little bit lax like you are at the start of the season. You're going to have to play some events like that so you build up and get ready and be in your top form.

SCOTT CROCKETT: We'll take some questions for Padraig, please.

Q. Have you gotten over the jet lag?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think I've had a problem really. Like any other time, I'm a good sleeper. I could do with more sleep, but I don't see it as a problem. I actually haven't looked at the time. Have we looked at what time it is tomorrow?

Q. You're fairly early, 7:00 or 8:00.

SCOTT CROCKETT: You're the very first match.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Okay, maybe the jet lag is a problem.

Q. Well, if it's raining you might get the morning off, anyway.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 7:25. Is it daylight at that time?

Q. We can look it up, but your record here hasn't been exactly terrific, has it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it's actually a long way from terrific. As how many times have I been here?

Q. Four.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Think the fourth?

Q. This is the fifth.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I know I made the second round once, so that says I missed it three times in the first round. I struggle. It's early in the season and I struggle off the course, straightforward. Whatever it is, it's not one of the courses that jumps out at me that I play well on. You know, poa annua greens this time of year I don't enjoy, so basically it's definitely -- there's already complications before you go into the fact that you're playing a match against a good player, so it's a hard tournament at the start of the year to -- if it's later in the year it would be a lot better for me, and I like match play.

I'm very comfortable with match play. Like I remember playing, I think, two years ago, and I think -- this kind of sums it up. I was one up after about eight holes. I was playing Steve Flesch and he birdied 9, 10, 11. I just couldn't raise my game whatsoever. I couldn't do anything about it. That was it. Two down, match over. I couldn't go back. I was okay maybe to plug along there. And if he hadn't have done that I would have won the match, but at this time of year, whatever, it's just difficult to sort of get your game up. You do need to be able to do that match play. You've got to be able to go with the flow of the match, and if somebody puts it up there you've got to be able to make a few birdies back.

Q. Does it make any difference that the course is the other way around this year? Do you like it more or less?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't know that. There you go. Does it make any difference? I probably haven't seen 18 anyway the other way around, so maybe I'll get to play it this way. No, it doesn't make any difference. It's an interesting change, actually. I suppose it's done for the clubhouse and that.

Q. TV.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, TV, 16 and 18, 15. Certainly it's a tough finish. The other side is a really good finish, good finish to the course. 16 and 18 are two tough par 4s. 15 is tricky enough, so no longer.

Q. Are you playing next week in Dubai?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm playing next week in Dubai.

Q. Given what you said earlier about not really starting out 2004 until last week, have you ever considered just not coming, not flying all the way over here and going all the way back to Dubai?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There were a few spots yesterday I certainly was considering it at the time. You're going to have to play somewhere. At the end of the day, you've got to start and build up somehow. It's never nice when you're starting off, and the first couple of events are always tough, especially when you take a long break.

For me, I always take a while to get back into it. At the end of the day, whether it's here or Dubai or Malaysia last week, you've got to do it at some stage; you've got to start. You know, I hope I play well and I wish to play well, but it's certainly beyond your control that you just haven't got -- I'm not competitive enough, not sharp enough. But hopefully you get a few matches and all of a sudden everything is great. You win a couple of matches. It hasn't happened in the past. I keep telling myself every year I'll win the first one, maybe the second one, and then all of a sudden your focus is there, but that's what you hope.

Q. Given the nature of this, of 18-hole matches, is this the kind of tournament where you can get by and get some luck and get by not being sharp?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Certainly that would have been my theory for the last five years. It didn't work very well. You do hope that if you can play, as I said, steady golf, and if your opposition doesn't throw anything up against you that you can get through, and if you get through one match, you've got certain confidence going into the next match. You can certainly win matches any time with average golf, and you can lose playing great, as well, so you're just hopeful that you get a couple of matches and with that comes the confidence that you're getting a little bit sharper.

If it was a four-round stroke event you'd be sort of saying, well, keep yourself in there and hopefully by the weekend or by Sunday you'll be competitive and back in there shooting good scores and you can compete, but obviously with match play, it is 18 holes here. Just get a few rounds under your belt and you never know what will happen from there on.

Q. What did you do with your nine weeks off? Was it a complete break from golf?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, no, not at all. I had a couple of weeks off and then I did -- I did enough practicing for the first time in my life. When you practice like that you tend to come out very -- how would I put it? You may be swinging the club well or you may be happy with what you're doing to that extent, but you lose your ability to play. I wasn't on a golf course for six weeks even though I was practicing.

It's that end of the game you miss, just the ability to think straight on the golf course, make the right choices, and just the scoring end of the game you lose, not necessarily the long game.

Q. What's your take on the fact that there are no Europeans in the Top-10 in the World Rankings for the first time?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I judge that based -- I've been there -- obviously it's been slightly over two years, and the last year or so I've been the leading European. To be honest, I judge it -- we don't really deserve to have anybody there. Maybe in the Top-10, yes, but we're not setting the world alight at the moment. We don't have players winning majors, certainly not -- any of the European players who are young haven't won majors. We have some older players who have won majors, but we have no competitive player at the moment who's won majors, and that's why we don't have anybody in the Top 5. Top 10 is neither here nor there, that changes.

It's not in the air that we had Faldo, Seve, Woods, Bernhard, winning majors like that. It's a different time now. I think that will change around soon and I think there's good players coming up. I don't think there's any cause for concern, but certainly at the moment the standard has dipped a little bit, and that's just why we're not in the Top 10.

Q. (Inaudible).

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: These things go in cycles, and as I said, I don't see it as a big issue that we don't have anybody in the Top 10. I see it as a fair reflection that we don't -- Top 10, I'd be thinking more a Top 5. We've always had a player there who's right at the top, in the top three or whatever, three or four, so it's just been -- we don't have players winning majors right now, so we don't have a Top-5 player at the moment.

Q. Along that front, you had taken temporary membership last year in the Tour and then decided to not continue it this year. Most players come here thinking that this is the place where they can get better and have a better chance of succeeding and making their game better, but yet you took the other route. What was the reason for that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As the guys are getting better, I would take the attitude that playing around -- I play around the world. I think that it's always good for your own experience to play different golf courses. You know, Australia is some of the golf course setup, Asia's conditions are so different. You're learning all the time. So it's not necessary -- if you just play in one place all the time, you don't necessarily improve. Certainly that's the standard over here. It is the highest -- without a doubt, the depth of the fields is stronger.

I think it's been interesting that in Europe, players have been coming across, and a lot of our international players, not just Europeans, have been traveling. Obviously that reflects -- that will reflect in the World Rankings if we don't have enough of the Ernie Els and Retief Goosens who aren't European. We need them to play in Europe for our points to the strong. I play enough for the States. I was going to play more, but I had a new baby boy, and I couldn't see to make time to come over here to play anymore.

But realistically, I think in order -- from the world realm of players, the best European players in the 80s all played world schedules. It didn't do them any harm to play around the world. They won a number of majors doing that, and I think some of the biggest players of yesteryear all played around the world and played a lot of golf, which is good for experience.

So it is good to come and play here. I enjoy playing here. Yes, the tournaments are of a very high standard and the fields are very strong, but there's also other things to be gained by -- other experiences to be gained by traveling, as I said, to South Africa, places like that, where the conditions are different. It's interesting.

You know, it's all good experiences, but to get stuck on one thing, how good it is, you're going to get stuck there. You're not going to land.

Q. Do you think because you travel all around and the way the World Rankings are, that you're somewhat disadvantaged?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't believe I'm disadvantaged at all. Even though there's less points in Europe, I think it's easier to come by those points at times, so it's not a disadvantage. If you're going to play hit-and-miss golf where you turn up one week and play well and then you don't play well, you're better off playing in big-points events which tend to be in the States. But if you're going to play solid golf all the time, on average you're going to pick up the same amount of points in Europe as you would playing solid golf over in the States. So okay, you get more points for the win in the States, but as I said, it's probably easier to hit the Top 10s in Europe.

There is less points. The only disadvantage I could see to that is, as there's no player in the Top 10 and as some of our international players have moved more to the States, it reduces -- it's self-perpetuating that the points are going to reduce in European events because we don't have -- they still come and play big events, and the reality, they still have major points. So hopefully, as I said, the Europeans look like they're getting stronger at the moment. There's plenty of young players coming up. There's plenty of good players who might have dropped off the last year or two who are coming back to form, so I actually see us getting pretty strong again. I don't see this being a problem or an issue in even a year's time. I think we'll be sitting here and we might have three, four players in the Top 10.

Q. Do you regard yourself as a young player and do you regard the majors as a target?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Last year was the first year I didn't feel like a rookie, so I still think I'm a young player, yes. Last year was the first year, probably, I thought I was comfortable. I didn't have any of those sort of -- I was more familiar with things. I do consider I'm young. I consider that professional golfers peak in their 30s. So I'm 32, and I like -- if you asked me, I'd say 32 to 42 are your peak years. So yes, young.

As regards majors, yes. Simple answer, yes, without a doubt. I hopefully have ten years, as I said, of peak performance. And at some stage during that period, you never know, I'll only be able to tell you when I've finished it, but I do expect to have some good chances to win majors. Whether I do or don't, that's a good question, but certainly I will be in contention. Somewhere along the line, I will have the lead at major championships, and hopefully more than one where I feel like I could have won it. Hopefully I'll be able to do it, so yes.

Q. How often do you check the World Rankings? Do you check them every week, once a month?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I checked them -- I did check them on Monday morning when I was off for the last five, six weeks, because of the fact that being in there -- I thought I was in there about a year, and I was actually told I was in there 27 months. Because I was there, I was hoping to hang onto it just so I could keep the run up.

I didn't check the World Rankings last Monday, this Monday. So no, I don't check them every Monday, per se, but I am quite aware of it. It's a nice guideline. I used to have good fun with the likes of Thomas Bjorn and Michael Campbell, when we used to be side by side and we used to be trying to get past each other. And it's interesting from that standpoint, when you have a couple of players that you're familiar with and you can have a bit of fun and just trying to compete in that sort of sense. It's a nice way of -- it's a nice friendly sort of competition. Hopefully both those guys are playing well and they can get back up there.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks again very much.

End of FastScripts.

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