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July 13, 2004

Padraig Harrington


THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Padraig Harrington. Padraig, you didn't play Scotland last week. Can you give us your impressions of the course as you've seen us so far.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I came over and played 54 holes, and it made the journey worthwhile. It made it nice to play the golf course. It's a slight advantage. It's nice to see the golf course -- you see more opportunities when you see the golf course in a different way. If we play the golf course with the wind down to the right. If it changes, it's a totally different course. So I haven't seen it that way, it's nice. I played it sort of slightly into off to the left on the first. The airplanes were flying very low. It was interesting, and it certainly made it worthwhile. It's everything you could hope for to get the golf course in slightly different conditions when you come over early.

Q. How is your fitness?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Fitness is obviously quite good. My neck has been giving me a little bit of problems. I'm having a lot of treatment. It's still there, which I thought would be gone. But I woke up this morning, and it's the best it has been for a week. So it's steadily improving and I was fine to play yesterday. And I expect to be fine to play today. And hopefully by Thursday I'll be absolutely a hundred percent.

Q. What exactly is the problem?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I have a slight bulge in my C5 in my neck. I do a lot of exercises just to keep the pressure away from there. I probably hit one too many balls last week in the wind and the cold -- not last week, the week before. I actually -- one session kind of went to four hours and I tensed up a little bit in my back, and the problem with that is it then puts the stress on the neck. I have to do a lot of gym work to keep any stresses away from the neck. If it moves into the neck it becomes a problem. If you have a problem in the left side of your neck, you can't swing a golf club, because you can't resist in the back swing. Right side is fine, back is fine, but I have to avoid putting any pressure on to that neck. I get it three or four times a year, I would say. And last week was a good week to have it because I had a week off.

Q. You had problems in the past. Are you going to have to address how much practicing you do?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, the physios, both on the physios the first years of Tour, and now I work with Dale Richardson, he travels every event I do this year, they all say, and always say, you know, obviously reduce the practice and you won't have any problem. I have taken the route of keep up the practice and have a full-time physio with me to deal with it. So it's one or the other. I can take it easy myself and stop hitting a lot of golf balls and I probably would -- if I had it once a year, that would be all, whereas I've taken the principle of having a guy with me full-time to keep it at bay, and it's worked very well. I would say I've reduced the tendencies to have this huge amount since I've had Dale with me basically full-time. It came on last week, and it's been rare and it's really had affect in a tournament. And obviously it didn't have an affect in a tournament last week because I wasn't playing.

There's two ways of doing it, do a lot of gym work and have a lot of treatment done or have a lot of rest. I've done a lot of gym work and done a lot of treatment rather than the rest.

Q. Four hours on the practice green, what do you do for four hours and how do you stay interested for that length of time?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would spend all day at the range if I let. I quite like practicing. Not quite like practicing, I like practicing. It's not something I shied away from. It's no problem doing four hours, plenty of guys will do four hours today and tomorrow, breaking up with chipping and putting. But it was four hours of constantly hitting golf balls in a practice, not even stopping to draw a breath was the real problem. And the temperature was a bit down and it was a bit of windy, it wasn't pleasant conditions. It was a bit over done. When you're at home practicing you might hit -- you might hit a hundred balls in an hour.

At a tournament, because the balls are being produced out of buckets, and they're raking away, you probably would double that. So it was -- I just hit far too many golf balls. I could spend four hours and take it easy, and it wouldn't be a problem. It was more the fact that I was hitting a lot of golf balls. And it just tensed up a little bit. I should know better. I should have taken a break at some stage and broke it up to two, two-hour sessions. But I overdid it at that particular stage and obviously I was vulnerable after having a tough week on the golf course. And I would be quite capable of standing there normally and doing four hours, but the whole combination of a tough week and tough weather conditions, for it being so warm. But it all boiled up to put a little bit of stress.

Q. What were you working on? One thing, two things?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Just usual, just working on a few things. I was working with Bob. Usually when I work with Bob everything works so well, I just continue on and get a bit taken away with it. Normally if I'm working on my own, I do tend to get bored after a couple of hours and I'd have to move away to do something else, but when you've got your coach there and things are getting better and you're hitting the ball well, I've often stood -- like I'll stand on the range for six hours a day sometimes hitting shots. It's a lot easier when someone is standing there commenting on your shots and it's going well.

But practice is something I like doing. I have to try to stop myself from doing too much. That would be one of my goals this week, would be not to do too much on the range, especially as it's down off the left. No good practice being done out there, it's a difficult place to hit any shots. I don't think you'll face it down off the left, a couple on 7, one or two down off the left on the golf course. It's a good week not to do too much practice.

Q. The tournament itself, a major, could it create something of a problem you wouldn't normally encounter, as far as putting pressure on yourself is concerned?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Always majors they're that bit special, and because of that there is more pressure. For anybody to say there isn't, I think you've got to manage that. If you look at all the players, most players turned up Sunday, whereas a regular event you get players turning up early Tuesday night, so the fact that they're here three days early says there's something different, telling their minds there's something different. I'm happy it's a question of managing it, and necessarily managing it better than the rest or as good as the rest, not necessarily -- it is a different event and you have to take -- I played 54 holes last week. No way I'd do that during the year, so it is different.

Q. I was speaking the back of the neck, if that could cause more tension.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it could, if I stood there hitting golf balls. And as I said, I hit 12 balls on the range yesterday. I have the intention of hitting a few more today but not many more. I spent a lot of time chipping and putting -- not a lot of time chipping -- and played the course. And that's my intention the next few days, not to hit too many shots. I don't want to upset the neck.

Q. How do you rate this golf course, and what special problems does it present?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would suggest this is certainly one of the fairest courses on The Open roster. You don't attach fair to links courses. Golf was designed back then for it to be fair. It was designed to be a game of mental fortitude rather than anything else. But this course doesn't -- you don't get too many bounces off the fairway here. The fairways aren't exactly flat, they're undulating. It's not like Royal St. Georges, they don't gather in areas. I think everybody will feel like they have a chance.

It's not a golf course that suits long or straight hitters, it suits everybody. There's been a variety of winners over the years. So most people going out there will feel like, yes, this is a golf course we can all play. The greens are pretty flat. There's areas to land the ball short of the greens that you can bounce the ball up. You can hit drivers on some holes and carry the bunkers, but also straight hitters will be long by running between the bunkers. It's a good golf course to play on, one that everybody can compete on.

Q. There was an outside winner last year, Ben Curtis, but he went to see the local professional at Sandwich after the tournament and he said it helped him immensely. Is that something you did at all?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I saw him last year at Sandwich. It didn't help me then (laughter).

Q. I think you were one of the other ones that went to see the pro.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was there early and I had a chat with him and talked about the golf course. No, I haven't done it this year. I was in the pro shop, all right, but I didn't really get to have a discussion about the golf course. Obviously Royal St. Georges was a -- it was a new venue to a lot of players last year. This course had The Open in '97. I played in The Open in '97. So I have my own experiences of the golf course. So maybe I didn't feel like -- I just -- it's not that I didn't feel like it, the opportunity didn't arise. At Royal St. Georges there were discussion at holes, is it 4, par-5, over the big bunker. So there was a lot -- a lot to ask the local pro, especially wind changes.

Here, as I said, the fairways -- there's very few blind shots, things are in front of you. You do have to judge if the wind did change around. There is a difference in how far the ball will go on each particular hole. Yesterday 5-irons were going 290 off the tee on the way out. I drove the 7 to the back of the green, it's a 405-yard hole. On the back I'm hitting driver 240, 250 into the wind at times. That's going to be the difficulty, is judging go how far the ball is going to go out here. A good striker of the ball will do that, a good iron striker of the ball, who can get the ball to go the right distance downwind. It's sometimes not -- it's not easy a front nine as people make out because of the difficulty judging how far the ball is going to go. Obviously the back nine is difficult back into that wind. It will be an interesting test.

I think when the pins are set in the tournament the golf course will get a lot tougher than we're seeing in practice. When they hide the pins. There's a couple of pin positions if they put them behind the bunker downwind -- you can hit it to 20 feet, but you can't hit it to 5 feet. They're not going to be as easy birdie holes as it would seem.

Q. How do you rate your chances of actually being a European major winner? Do you feel any burden being one of the highest ranking European players?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The chances are strong. We have half the field or more. I don't know what the percentages are. As I said, everybody teeing up would be quite capable of competing here on this golf course. We were very close having a European winner last year. I don't see any reason why we don't have a good chance of having one this year. Obviously a lot of U.S. players have won on this golf course, and I believe the reason for that is it's quite a fair links -- most players will come and face the golf course and feel that instead of having problems with bouncing fairways and things, they would see this as a very good opportunity for them to play.

As regards the only expectations of burden on me, as I keep saying, I've only gone into this sort of position, it's early days for me. I'm quite happy that my game is developing and I'm going to be patient and bide my time. If I haven't won this tournament on Sunday, I'm not going to feel like the world has ended. I'm not going to feel like my game has fallen apart. It's very difficult to win a major. I wouldn't say I've teed up in half a dozen where I feel like I'm a contender. So it's early days for me yet.

End of FastScripts.

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