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March 23, 2004

Padraig Harrington


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thanks for joining us. You had a tremendous PLAYERS Championship last year, finished second to Davis. Played well over here, played well at Match Play. Opening comments about coming back to play THE PLAYERS Championship in 2004.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm looking forward to it. It's a golf course I like. It's a course that suits my eye. I've done well in it in the past. I don't have any expectations here. Who knows how I'm going to do this year. It's not so easy. I don't know if I'm going to finish second or better. I'm here to play my golf and see where I finish up at the end of the week.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Have you seen the golf course yet?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I played 13 holes. It's in very good shape. The greens are firmer than they probably were at the start of the week last year. But it looks like it's going to be quite a tough test to get at some of the pin positions. They took the pins away -- with the greens being so firm, it's difficult to play in the middle of the greens, because you tend to be putting up and down, and going at the pins are difficult if they're firm. It will be interesting. It will be certainly a difficult challenge in that wind.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: What have you been doing for the last two weeks? What areas have you been concentrating on?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've been concentrating on all areas of my game, to be honest, mainly putting, if I was going to pick any. A little bit on the swing. I felt like I was losing a few shots right at the Match Play. I'm happy I'm losing them to the left. It's a great game that way. I worked a bit on my swing, and a good bit on my putting, and tried to keep up-to-date on the rest of it.

Q. Were you at Vijay's party last night?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't know there was one.

Q. He said he had a hundred?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There you go (laughter.)

Q. Your expectations for the week, purely based on the fact that you haven't been doing that much competitively or you don't want to raise your hopes too much?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would suggest I'm trying not to have expectations, yeah. Probably at the Match Play I sort of had low expectations, and did a little bit better. I'm not trying to have low expectations this week, I'm not trying to have high expectations, I'm just trying to get on with what I'm doing and really get away from that end of it. Predicting how you're going to do, you just don't know.

Q. How important was your performance last year to the rest of the year? Did it help or did it not help, or can you look back?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think every week is important. Every week you're in contention, you look back and see where things went right and wrong while you were in contention. Last year it was important for the year. But to be honest, I consistently made a lot of mistakes through last year, so I can't say that it set me up for a good year.

Q. You said that "the course suits my eye." Can you elaborate on that? Are there shots that you can visualize, or you like the way the golf course sets up for you?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I suppose we can sit here and start picking out little details. But usually you turn up at a golf course, and sometimes some players will talk about the golf course being difficult, this hole, that hole, other times you turn up at a golf course, I don't see the difficulties other people are seeing or -- you just -- you happen to play well at these courses and not others. And this is a golf course that over the years I'm quite comfortable on. I like the test it sets, basically. I can pick out individual holes, but the whole course, I like the idea of it.

There's lots of reasons, I suppose. Certainly it's definitely a thinking person's golf course. You've got to get the ball in the right places off the tee and on the green in the right places. The greens are very difficult. I suppose there are reasons why I like it. But another golf course supposedly that suits all those things, I might not play well. I feel very relaxed here.

Just about everything about the tournament is perfect. If you're not going to play good golf this week, you're still going to find reasons to play good golf any week.

Q. I wonder if -- we talk a lot about the Majors, and all of golf is consumed by that. But how much do players judge themselves and judge each other on having won majors?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Depends on the level you get to, that's it. And if you're -- if you get to a level you're in contention in majors, it all is judged on majors. If you're a good pro and you've won a number of tournaments, that's a good career, and very respectable career. It depends on -- if you're at the level of winning majors, you judge everything by winning majors. Or if you're at a level where you're a good pro, you win a couple of Tour events, that's excellent, as well.

Everybody has different standards. And once you get in the standard of majors, yes, everything is judged by it.

Q. Where are you on that scale?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm hoping to sort of jump into that level, yeah, where the last couple of years people have talked about going into majors that certainly last year I might be an outside shot. Yes, I would think about winning majors. But I'm still young in my career when it comes to playing majors. I've only been playing a couple of years. 1999 I was still prequalifying for majors.

So there's plenty of years left for me. I'm not hanging out yet, I should have won one or shouldn't have won one. I still have plenty of stepping stones before winning majors.

Q. There's been no European players in the Top 10. Why do you think European players --

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: We're not playing well in them. We don't have the players that we had in the early to late '80s. We don't have that at the moment. That's why we don't have players in the Top 10 or Top 5, realistically. We have to play better. That's the simple truth of it.

I don't think there's a problem with it. I think these things go in cycles. I think we have plenty of good, young players. And who knows, in another three or four, five years' time, we could be winning plenty of majors. Paul Lawrie was the last one to win a major, so that says why we're not in the Top 10 of the world.

Q. What effect does it have that some of the Top 10 players are coming over and playing more?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think if you get the top Europeans, I think the top players are playing more over here, like Retief Goosen and Ernie Els were playing more over there, but we're losing some of the International Players, but they're playing more over here. That reduces points in the International rankings. They're going to play the biggest and best events around the world, so yes, players will play events.

Q. Do you think that negatively reduces the chances in a Ryder Cup, or is that so different?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it is so different. It doesn't ever make a difference where the guys are ranked. We've never had a stronger team on paper than the U.S. and we've won a few times. I don't think we'd be trying any less because we don't have players in the Top 10. I'm sure by the end of the year we'll have players back in the Top 10. But at the moment we haven't been doing it.

Q. Looking ahead a couple of weeks, with all the changes at Augusta, the par-5s on the back nine, is it more important than ever before to take care of business on those, because your scoring holes, if there are any, or were any, it's pretty much limited to those two now?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Have they changed more holes since last year?

Q. I think they changed the trees on 11.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Where do they have trees on 11?

Q. So now you have to hit it over the water.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I suppose the good thing is if you hit it right, you can't go for the green. You know, it's the same for everybody. I think it goes to always test your ability to play the right shot at the right time. And it's one of the few golf courses that really puts pressure on your decision making.

The last thing you could say is I'm going to go out and play every hole and only birdie 13 and 15. Because at some stage you're going to get the right yardage, the right club and the right wind direction, and you're going for the pin no matter how tough it is. On the easiest hole no matter how it's set up you're going to play it. In Augusta you can't depend on how you play it. Everything changes there.

And that's the toughest part is trying to make decisions. You've seen it in the past. You just can't say I'm going to go for 13 and 15 every time, it just doesn't happen. And if -- there's another 16 holes out there, and -- I certainly don't think you'll survive if you birdie 13 and 15, that wouldn't be enough.

Q. Has your generation maybe felt any pressure from the European audience to try to follow up with what those guys did in the '80s and '90s?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I don't think so, no. Maybe we're putting pressure on ourselves. Certainly it's -- but I certainly haven't felt any pressure in that sense. All professional golfers will tell you they're self-motivated and put enough pressure on ourselves. We don't tend to look around and look outside our own little bubble. I don't certainly feel like there's been outside pressure put on, no.

Q. What was your first Masters?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was -- that's a good question -- I think it was 99. It must have been 2000. Has to be 2000 after I won in Brazil. I'm not sure.

Q. I was curious if you played the course before they beefed it up.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I did. The first year I played was the first year of rough, that was it. Was that 2000?

Q. That would have been 99.


Q. The way they've added the length, and in other areas, has it taken any of the fun out of the Masters? It used to be if you got decent conditions, you could go around and light it up.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I'm happy enough with the changes, I've got to say. When I first played, I hit -- into 11 was a good example. I hit little 9-irons, little 8-irons in there. When I watched it on TV, you maybe hit 4-iron in there. Last year I hit 4-iron in. Obviously the fairways were soft. The changes in general, they've toughened the golf course up. Yes, they have made it a little bit more of a testing.

I assume it's just not meant to be a fun challenge, it's meant to be a challenge, a tough challenge. Certainly they have toughened it up and made it more -- certainly I would have perceived it to be in the '80s, more long irons into the par-4s.

Q. Which of the majors do you consider to be the most demanding?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'd say The Masters, I would. I think you could set game plans for all the other ones and stick to them, like at the U.S. Open the guy who hits every fairway and the middle of every green is going to win. But necessarily at The Masters, that's not going to happen. So I think at The Masters it's a tougher challenge mentally. And it asks more questions, definitely. So I would say The Masters is the toughest.

Q. It asks more questions?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It asks more questions of -- all the way through the game. You've got to have an unbelievable short game. You've got to hit your chip shots just perfect. It's not like chipping out of a heavy rough. You've got to putt really well, you've got to be precise with your irons. You've got to drive it long and straight now. And you've also got to think well.

Whereas I say, some of the other majors -- U.S. Open, as we always say, you could nearly say you could play the U.S. Open without the practice rounds. You have to hit it in the middle of the fairway and the middle of the green. In an open, you can get away with some shots and you're required to have a bit more imagination with the short game. And PGA is a bit like a U.S. Open, you can set a strategy and stick to it.

Nobody can set strategy around Augusta. You don't know until you actually get over the ball in each fairway whether this shot is right to play safe or right to go for it. So it's definitely the most mentally challenging course of the lot.

Q. Do you expect to have high hopes come Augusta or do you expect to be in the same frame of mind?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: We always have high hopes. High hopes aren't hard to come by (laughter). I have high hopes. I'm not going with expectations. Hopes are like we all dream of it all falling into place. When it comes to Augusta, yeah, I'm trying to get my game ready for Augusta. It's interesting, you come to a very big event like this two weeks before, and you want to play well here, but, yes, you have one eye on Augusta, too. So it's -- definitely, I don't think there's a player playing Augusta who wouldn't be thinking about it at this stage and trying to figure out what they need to have in their game for Augusta.

Q. In that list of challenges, where would this tournament and this course rate compared to the Majors?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, this one, like Augusta, we come back to the same course every year. That's the reason Augusta is special, as well. This course is probably -- is probably the most appropriate tournament for professional players, as the golf course is set up to be as fair and tough as possible while being fair. This is a real professional event. We can't walk away from this event and have any moment whatsoever about anything, because it's always perfect.

I suppose it's set up by the players for the players really in a week like this. It's the fifth biggest event in the world. It's the next one after the Majors. It's got a field that's equal if not better to the Majors. So it's right up there in terms of winning, and if I win this week I'll call it The Fifth Major. But besides that, it is the fifth biggest event.

End of FastScripts.

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