July 15, 2003
ROYAL ST. GEORGE'S, ENGLAND
STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Padraig Harrington. Padraig, you've played 27 holes now on St. George's. You're used to playing links golf back in Ireland.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's not what I'm used to playing golf of late. Obviously since probably the last 7 years as a professional we played the exact opposite of this type of golf course. This is very traditional links. And the way it's out there, it's what you imagine a links golf course should be like. It's definitely the course I would have been brought up with as a kid; hard, fast, with an emphasis more on mental strategy than, say, striking of the golf ball.
Q. In a previous interview you said that you thought that the course might favor a European?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I say that because supposedly the U.S. Players would be more used to target golf. And this is the other end of the scale. There's very little -- because a lot of times -- there will definitely be times out there you'll only be half hoping to hit a fairway, that you'll be playing to hit it down one side and if it misses on that side, that's okay. So it's not like you're trying to hit the middle of the fairways. Sometimes you're definitely taking the option of the least resistance, let's say, and putting it down -- trying to play down one side of the fairway that leaves you in the rough, the light rough, so you know you have a shot to the green from there.
Q. How do you assess your own game?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm struggling a bit at the moment. The last couple of weeks I'm close to hitting it well, but I seem to be missing one part and so I'm suffering a bit with my game, with my striking at the moment. I haven't been putting ever so well, either, but maybe the two are related to each other, and one comes back and the other comes back sort of thing. So I'm certainly not a hundred percent confident at the moment. But I know it's close. It's a question of whether I can sort of figure it out between now and Thursday or not. At the moment I wouldn't be a hundred percent there.
Q. You pulled out of a few tournaments recently. Are you finding it hard to find a balance between practice and playing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't pulled out of any tournaments.
Q. You don't seem to be playing as much this year.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's the exact same schedule as I had last year. I've played the same amount of tournaments. Absolute a hundred percent same schedule up to now, except I swapped a couple of events. I swapped one event for an event -- didn't play in the PGA and played one event instead in the states. I might have even played one more event at this time compared to last year. Obviously I like to take time off and practice. I certainly have been overdoing the practice. I've been practicing very hard both away from the golf course and tournament play. But as I say, I probably think I'm close to swinging the club well. I probably over emphasized that a little bit, trying to find that last step. As I say, it feels like there's one little thing missing and I'm trying to search that out. I have been practicing hard. But my tournament commitment is -- I would say my tournament commitments have been reasonable, probably the last one I played probably I didn't really give myself the best chance. I definitely practiced too much with an eye to this event. But more or less the same as every other year.
Q. In the press, we noticed the ones you haven't played.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As I say, it's only been -- I played more events -- it's certainly a thing that you do, try to reduce the amount of events you play rather than play too many. I still probably play in the high 20's, nearly 30 events in a year. I'd like to get that down to the mid-20's. It's a difficult thing to do when there's so many good tournaments to choose from.
Q. I've been reading in other newspapers that the time has come for you to shed this record of yours of not having won a major. And it's time for you and Darren and people like you to come out and actually win a tournament. Do you believe that your time is now right?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't read those things. As you know yourself, I don't sort of try and read other people's expectations. But it's a very big compliment. I'm very happy with it, to be compared with the likes of Phil Mickelson. For people to say that I should have won a major by now or that I should go and win one in the future, that's a big compliment. I've come a long way for somebody to be saying that. Whoever it was, I have to say that was a very nice compliment. From where I've come from in golf in the last 7 years, I don't think someone would be saying it about me two years ago. It shows obviously the game is going in the right direction. It's something certainly I can be very happy about. In 20 years time I might be aggrieved if I haven't won a major, if I keep playing well and keep having chances or something along those lines. But at the moment I've only ever had one chance really of winning a major. I'm held in very high esteem if that's what they're saying about me. It certainly isn't a negative thing at the moment. As I say, I'm very, very new to -- if you remember four years ago -- three, four years ago I was qualifying for the Open. So I've come a long way in three years, that they say I should have won one by now.
Q. You came very close last year. What did you learn from that experience?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It certainly gave me confidence. The fact that I came so close and I played very well tee-to-green. I actually -- a lot of other times I've gotten into contention in majors it's been on good putting, good short game, good mental strategy. At Muirfield it was very much my long game. It was nice to see that, yes, my long game can get me into that position. Obviously for me to win a major I obviously need to have the whole package, play well tee-to-green, and putt and chip and think well. But it was -- Muirfield, I was very close, and to be honest, I had a very poor week on the greens. So it was the first time that my long game was up to scratch or could be up to scratch. I'd say it had probably been -- well, it was four years at that stage working with Bob Torrance. And that was my goal, to get my long game to a standard that could play golf at the highest levels.
Q. Other people do believe that you could win a major. But do you believe that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, the likes of Muirfield, that's what I'm saying, does give me confidence that I'm capable of doing it. I think Muirfield would have been a big step for me, even though I had top-10s in two of the majors last year, and I was 11th in the PGA, I don't know if I had a chance of winning. I think I led in The Masters, but that was early on. You have to be in the hunt right down to the end. And Muirfield was the first one that sort of said, yeah, I was capable of doing it. When you finish 5th in a major, which I have done a few times, you can do it without necessarily competing. You're under pressure, but you're not really competing to win the tournament.
At Muirfield I felt I was through the back 9 and my game held up -- it did say to me I could do it, yes.
Q. Does Bob think you can do it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: If I had his confidence I'd be okay (laughter.)
Q. What does he say to you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Bob just says -- he just wishes I'd go and do it without thinking too much about it. Obviously that's the nature of me. I do tend to put a lot of thought into things and sometimes overcomplicate it. I'm sure if I was a little bit more -- how will I put this -- Muirfield proved I have the ability to do, if I don't get in my way. And obviously I do get in my way quite a bit at times. So it's really a question of getting the head right in the future.
Q. Is he here?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Bob? Yeah.
Q. Talking about your torment. Does it make it more unsettling or more difficult to recover? You said it's not one area of the game. Does that make it more unsettling for you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Like I said -- I think I won five tournaments, which is a reasonably good average. I've won four times in the last ten months. So it's not really a dip in form. I didn't play well at the European Open. I hadn't played in a month. I played three events in the states that I finished 13th, 13th and 10th. If that's playing badly, it was average, but it ain't a dip in form, I can tell you. That's okay, because a lot of people would settle for that. Obviously the European Open I played badly. And the realistic reason why I think there's a dip in form or maybe you think there's a dip in form is I had very high expectations. I felt I was playing really well after the last couple of months, and I haven't been bringing it from the range onto the golf course. I hit the ball at times on the range better than I've ever hit it. But just not bringing that bit -- there's a little bit of flow missing when I go out to the golf course. I just haven't been taking on the golf course in that sense.
With regards to the rest of my game, it's actually getting -- probably getting better. The only thing that's probably lacking, is because I've been so focused on the technical end of my game, probably my mental game is not as strong as it was last year.
Q. You've spoken a lot about your mental strategy for this week, what exactly do you mean by mental strategy, and what is it for this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Mental strategy on a links golf course is really -- is really your choice of shots and basically all week and accepting the good and the bad bounces. But huge amounts of playing links golf courses is really getting the right shape on the ball, but not necessarily hitting the perfect shot. How will I put this? Say on 18, the option at times, you're trying to hit the fairway, yes, but a hundred percent you're trying not to hit it in the right rough, left rough you're hitting up the green. So it might not be a good shot to hit it in the left rough, but it's a lot better than hitting it in the right rough. So sometimes it is. Depends on how you're playing. If you think you can hit that hump back fairway, hit it down the fairway, but a strong option for hitting it slightly down the left side to leave yourself hitting up the green. That's the sort of mental strategy I'm talking about, knowing when to -- not necessarily taking on the aggressive shot of maybe missing that fairway right and coming across the green. Obviously things have changed a little bit today -- the last day it was downwind. When you're hitting a driver up there it's a different hole. Coming in from the right rough across the green, you want to hit a spectacular shot to get it on the green. If you come down the left-hand side you have a genuine chance. It's selecting the right shots to play, which doesn't mean necessarily the perfect shot. It's really -- most links golf courses we play, if you're brought up with links golf, you're very rarely certain to hit -- it's nearly like playing a lot of average shots, rather than playing all the best shots.
Q. Sandy Lyle said yesterday that he didn't feel this would be an open Open, would describing it as more a traditional links, do you think that lessens the numbers of contenders to win the championship?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would suggest some familiarity with links golf is needed. The only thing I would have to say against that is all players who are here are capable of playing good golf now, so they can -- they should know how to get a golf ball around. This is really what it's about. It's more about getting your golf ball around and scoring here this week than the pure swingers. So somebody who hits the golf ball well could definitely not -- somebody going out there swinging great might play worse or score worse than somebody who's hitting the ball poorly who uses his head around the course. Everybody should be capable of scoring well. It certainly is not a long hitters golf course, with the amount of run on the ball. You can't say a big hitter has a big advantage or you can't really say a short hitter has a big advantage, either, because it's still difficult to hit the fairway. So I can't see why it would exclude anybody, there's nothing out there except for the mental strategy. And as I say, they're all -- certainly a lot of the best players in the world are here. And that means that everybody should know what they're capable of, getting around, scoring well. And that means it wouldn't exclude anybody.
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