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June 15, 2004

Padraig Harrington


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to be joined this afternoon by Padraig Harrington from Ireland, he's playing in his 7th U.S. Open. Growing up in Ireland you'll be familiar with a lot of the playing conditions this week, with the wind and links style golf course. Talk a little bit about how your experiences playing in Ireland might help you this week.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Certainly I spent a lot of time the last couple of years playing links golf around Ireland. I'll be prepared for this. But as a professional golfer, I tend to play more and more stadium golf courses, I might not be as familiar as I could be or should be. Certainly I look at the shots and I think, wow, how can you possibly get the ball there or to that pin position. As an amateur, I might be well able to manage it. I hit the ball higher than I did when I was playing ball in Ireland. I might have some experience, but I'm like everybody else. Everybody else competing here this week, we'll find the windy conditions and the firm greens difficult, as we're just not used to it.

RAND JERRIS: Could you give a few general comments on the course.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm really impressed with it, from every standpoint. The color of the golf course is brilliant. You can stand there, there's a lot of definition. The trees around the golf course, give it a good backdrop. It's not as rugged as a links golf course in Ireland, but I like the look, the fairways have got a lush green. The heavy rough is a little greener, then you have the wispy, yellow rough that you don't want to go near. It's set up beautiful off the tee. Obviously there's a number of blind shots, and I suppose the practice rounds are a bit trying to find the lines off the tee. There will be mayhem if the winds change. Somebody told me there were four different winds at the last Open here. If that happens it's going to be difficult. It's a tough golf course even knowing that. If the wind changes certainly there will be a lot more mistakes will be made.

Q. Maybe you're telling us last week that you were struggling with your swing, trying to keep it together. What's the status and how is your swing?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I managed to get it from a hook to a cut. I've changed it around the other way. I'm hoping it will come out somewhere in the middle. I've worked on what I was doing wrong last week. It needs more work, but if anything I'm now struggling to hit the ball right-to-left. Whereas last week I couldn't hit it left-to-right.

Q. You've got four Top-5 finishes in majors, do you feel you can make a final push in this one?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm starting to get to a stage -- I haven't played that many majors where I've come into -- where you felt that I've got a chance of winning them going into it. Only in recent years have I come into form in the Majors. Obviously I only feel like maybe one or two I ever had a chance of winning. It's not like I've had a lot of majors where I've had the experience of being in contention, and a lot of those Top-5 finishes have been good weeks where I've run into Top 5. But hopefully I'm getting to the stage where I can compete from day one all four days and get myself in a position on Sunday to win from.

Q. You were so close to winning last week, do you have a certain level of confidence that has been gained by playing in the States more regularly?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've always -- the first couple of years when I came over here I played my first major here was the U.S. Open at Congressional, and I couldn't believe how tough the golf course was, I couldn't get around it. And the same when I played Winged Foot and the PGA. Since then I've been quite comfortable when I traveled around here. I like the golf courses. As I say, I think since the U.S. Open at Olympia, I've changed my golf swing, to hit it higher in the air, especially off the tee. To hit it longer in the air off the tee, which isn't good for this week, but in general I've remodeled my golf swing in order to be able to play better in the States, and to be honest in Europe, we play a lot of stadium golf courses in Europe now.

Q. The last six majors have all been won by first-time winners including three guys that came out of nowhere you wouldn't expect to win. With this course and with these conditions, is it any less likely this year, maybe not a first-time winner, necessarily, but sort of a dark horse coming out?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't believe so. I think with the same odds this week with a first-time winner and the experienced player, the golf course -- your going to have to -- looking at the difficulty around the greens, you're going to either be an exceptionally good chipper or exceptionally competent with your putter or be riding your putt and finding that confidence. I could see, you know, no problem a first-time winner here or somebody coming out of the pack. There is a lot of difficulty out there, sometimes experience and the fear that you have in experience will hamper you on this golf course. You miss a few greens, and you go to try to get up-and-down there's a chance you're going to double bogey the hole. If you play safe you're most likely to make a bogey. And at the end of the day somebody with no fear is going to go for that par chance every time and make par and never make the double bogey and he's the guy that's going to win. You could definitely see somebody without the experience winning this week, yeah, no problem.

Q. We've heard a lot of talk this week about Shinnecock being close to Ballybunion, Portmarnock or Lahinch. Growing up in Ireland, what links courses would you say Shinnecock is most like?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't picked -- I wouldn't pick it necessarily as like another golf course in Ireland. To be honest, it's not like the links in Ireland, I don't know any links in Ireland that has trees on it. You've got to think of it like Formby in England or Lytham that has trees or most of the links in Ireland are right next to the sea or you can see it as you're playing. No, I wouldn't pick any golf course in Ireland. I would think of Lahinch as regards to the way the ball runs off the left, and Lahinch would have the most similarity of shots, but as regards look, it's got -- it doesn't have any similarities in look as to most of the Irish links golf courses.

Q. Obviously talk about another second place on the weekend, but are you past that where you think it's much better to be in contention than worry about the second places?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I actually -- I'm totally indifferent to it at this stage. I have either got to walk away from it and say great, I was in contention, that doesn't do anything for me, I'm enough in contention now, that it's nice, but it doesn't do anything for my confidence necessarily, and I don't get too bothered about the second places, I've got used to them. I'm just indifferent, it doesn't do anything for me anymore. It's just one of those things. I'm not going to spend too much time thinking about or worrying about it, it's another second place, yes, but they have been so varied in how they've come about, that it's just -- they're just so different that you can't really compare them. I know it's in the 20s now, but people will list them, you've had 20 something second places. But some of those second places I played great golf, some I played terrible, some I messed up, some it wasn't my fault. A lot of things happened. I just can't -- I can't spend any time worrying about it. It's just one of those things at this stage, I'm just waiting for it to turn the corner, to go all my way at some stage.

Q. How important is it in a little bigger picture for a European to win a U.S. Open, maybe some additional majors in term of lifting the boat for everyone on the European Tour?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, it would be good for the European Tour for -- to have Europeans win a U.S. major, I think Paul Lawrie was the last one. Obviously there was a period at the end of the '80s, early '90's, where we obviously had the best players in the world. If you have the best players in the world at one stage there's going to be a period where you don't have them, and it's going to drop off. I think there are good young players in Europe, and I think the future is bright for European golf. If a European player doesn't win this week, it's not going to lessen anything about the European golf. But there's a lot of strong European players. I see some good years ahead for European golfers. It doesn't have to happen tomorrow or Sunday. It can happen -- it will happen in the next few years, there's a lot of good players out there.

RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much for your time, and good luck out there this week.

End of FastScripts.

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