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May 28, 2003

Padraig Harrington


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Padraig, thank you for joining us this morning. You got 2 victories in Europe this year leading the order of merit over there, and you played here as well, runner-up at The Player's Championship. Let's get some opening comments and how it feels to be back in the United States playing on the PGA TOUR.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I still feel my season is only starting. I think I played 9 events this year. I feel like I'm starting to get going. I'm very happy to be back in the States, and this golf course is second to none, I've got to say. I can't understand why I missed out on it so many years when I come here and play this year. You kind of figure out why you every missed this event. It just looks fantastic. Hopefully I play the golf to match my feelings about the place. You never know with things like that. And obviously -- I don't know, not much more else to say.

Q. There is a handful of players, you included, that seem to be able to play the majority of the time in Europe but yet when they come over here for the majors and The Player's Championship and tournaments like this and play well, what do you think the secret is for you?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think pretty good preparation for all events. If you prepare the same for the smallest and the biggest event, it doesn't matter where they are in the world. I travel quite a bit around the world as well, so I'm quite familiar with the traveling; it doesn't upset me at all. Just your preparation, if you got discipline with your preparation, you should be able to -- it's shouldn't make too much difference as regards to pressure, whether you tee it up in a major or whether you tee it off in a friendly game at home.

Q. Give us some general thoughts to the golf course so far.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, there is not a blemish on it really. Every hole seems like it's a great hole. It's particularly beautiful. That's the first thing you notice. Every hole just looks like a picture perfect postcard golf hole.

It's quite a tough course. I don't know if it's because of the rain that they had earlier in the week. It seems to be quite a long golf course. But definitely the premium is on the iron shots into the green and trying to keep it underneath the hole, and try not to miss the greens on the right side. I think it's a very traditional Jack Nicklaus course in the sense that you can get punished very badly for missing some of greens, you know. If you miss some of the greens, you know, you might think the easy side. If you go long and hit it in the left trap, there is water to the right, you tend to get no shot getting up off the bunker. It's one of those courses that it makes you commit to hitting the right shot all the time and not bailing out.

Q. Coming in last year you had a relatively good U.S. Open, over the next maybe eight weeks or so, nine weeks, there are like 3 majors, what is your focus towards those and especially the U.S. Open coming up?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would have to say my main focus would be those tournaments, definitely. You know, every time you tee up in a tournament, you want to play your best that week. You're always trying to win the tournaments you are playing in, but you definitely have an eye for those 3 majors. All four majors throughout the year you are thinking about, trying to get your game in shape for that. I could definitely, you know, accuse myself of doing a little bit too much practice over the last two days. That's the problem with the facilities here, they are so good. I just spent so much time, 10 hours a day, the last two days hitting shots, which is a little bit too much. But obviously I have an eye on the U.S. Open, and if there is anything in my swing, I am trying to get it worked out as quick as possible, so by the time the U.S. Open comes around, I am in shape.

Q. Are you familiar with the course this year?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I played it twice now -- I'm sorry. The U.S. Open course or this course?

Q. U.S. Open course.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm not familiar. The great thing about U.S. Open courses is you can generally expect pretty much the same test every year: Straight driving and firm greens. And you know, obviously, the golf course has changed but usually the requirements are playing well and they stay the same.

Q. How does this course prepare you or this week prepare you for playing exactly what you talk about at the U.S. Open venue?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm trying to play -- I played 2 events before The Masters. I'm trying to play 2 events before the U.S. Open to test how -- just to see if that's a good preparation; a good build-up for the U.S. Open. I think as a European coming across, you need to come across a little bit early for a big event because there are a lot of distractions when you come over. If you come over just a week of the event, you are meeting guys you haven't met for a couple of months, so there is a lot of things going on in the range, you tend not to get your practice done, whether it's -- you might be tinkering with your equipment. It's best to come a couple of weeks early to get that all out of the way, so when you turn up at the U.S. Open, you are ready to play that you don't need to change a thing.

Q. Does this course get you prepared the way it's set up?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it does. I think for me, just getting used to getting on faster greens is one of the keys for me coming over two weeks early. That would be one of the big differences between the European Tour and the U.S. TOUR, I think the greens here are 13. We get some events up to that. But generally we would be somewhere around 11. It's nice to come over and maybe have two weeks of getting used to really fast greens that you are going to expect at the U.S. Open.

Q. Padraig, how would you rate the field, you got a nice blend?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, I certainly -- I think there are more international players this year than other years. It suits it well with the European TOUR this year. The PGA Championship was last week which was on a Sunday, one of our bigger events. A lot of players that play in those event have traveled. I think this is one of those events -- I certainly am here for my first time. I got to say for myself, I don't want to miss out again. I think a lot of players once they are familiar with the events, it's the sort of event they will pencil in right at the start of the year as the next choice to any of the majors. You got to come to the Memorial.

Q. How about the way Jack treats -- are you amazed at what he does?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I am. It is my first time. Everything about this event is second to none. Unfortunately, the practice facilities are too good, they are too long. Just everything, the clubhouse facilities, the welcome. There is nothing left to chance. Everything is looked after. We are spoiled this week, that's basically it. We are other weeks, but there doesn't seem -- I don't think the whole field can come up with an idea to make this any better. You can sit us all down in the room and tell us we are not leaving until we get an idea to improve the event. But I don't see it. Everything so far for me has been better. Better than any expectations that I had.

Q. What did you think about the hubbub last week with Annika Sorenstam on the men's TOUR, and could that happen on the European TOUR?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was delighted to see Annika play last week. There was a couple of issues to it. She was playing for herself. She just wanted to see how her game matched up. She wasn't trying to make any point about, you know, the competition between the sexes, the ladies and the men's TOUR. She just wanted to see how her game matched up and out. I really felt she deserved it. In terms of world golf she is the biggest sports star in Sweden. In terms of golf she is certainly in the top-5 draws in golf in the world without a doubt. Probably even higher than that. You can see she is nearly next to Tiger in her capacity to draw crowds in as she proved last week at the Colonial. So on that context, you know, she definitely deserved to get an invite. She is one of the best golfers in the world, whether it's male or female.

I tuned in and watched it on Friday. I sat in on Thursday and Friday and watched it in the evening time. I was interested. I think, you know, it's great for the game to see that. Anything to bring more viewers in. I can only say in Ireland and the media coverage was obviously very intense in Ireland but a lot of people that maybe wouldn't have been interested in golf were talking about it on news shows, a lot of people tuned in to watch it that wouldn't necessarily tune into watch golf on TV. It increased not just Annika's source of -- Annika's profile, it also increased professional golf's profile. So it was good for golf.

Q. Could that take place in Europe?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I hope it could. I'm not really sure. I will be delighted to see the ladies players, especially Annika, play The Masters or something, that would be great. It's good to see. I think any problem that arose, any issues, people were reading a little too much into it. It was just somebody coming to play a game of golf to see how it matched up. I think maybe coming after the Augusta, people were trying to equate it to -- Annika was just trying to play a game of golf. That's what it seemed to me. She wasn't out there. She wasn't trying to prove any point. She was doing it purely to match our own game with him. In fairness who wouldn't want to play on any tour or any professional event if they got an invite to see how the game was. Any amateur golfer that is what they are trying to do, they just want to get out there and play with the best.

Q. Padraig, there was a mention in one of the magazines last week that you didn't play in the Volvo because you didn't like the course. Is it as simple as that or something else?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's as simple as that. I played several years in a row. I think the highest placed I ever finished, I had one good round to finish 14th one year. Most years I sit on Friday evening trying to figure out whether I can make the cut or not. The year I finished 14th -- I don't seem to be able to match up on that course. Last year was the final straw, I played and I shot 4-over par for the first two rounds and the winner of the tournament was 19-under par and I said to somebody at the time, I said if I was a rookie, and this was my first ever event, I would have packed my clubs up and say I'm not good enough to be out here. That's how far away I was from the winning score. So luckily I played other events to realize that some golf courses suit you and some don't. I played well there. We play an event there in October, I play great then. It's a beautiful golf course. But in May, it's poanna, over seeding, and bouncy and very gusty and the wind, I just can't seem to get grips with it.

Q. Padraig, when you were at The Players this year, you talked about the fact that you really don't play well early in the season. It takes you awhile to get your game going. You talked about that you played 9 or 10 events this year, how much better is your game now than it was at Players. And when do you feel like your game peaks, or do you feel like you are really at your best during the year?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's hard to figure out. I have got to say. Usually if you look at my form over the years, normally I play on the slow to start. April, start of May, the very start of May. I'm kind of trying to prove myself and I seem to play quite well over the years. May through my whole life, I have never performed really at the end of May, start of June, put that with recent years. I put that down to the fact that I used to be doing exams in June. So May was the month off, and I seem to have kept it a month off even though I turned pro. I don't know whether I slack off or something in this month. My focus drifts away. I started the season, I'm into the season. I certainly always play well at the end of the year because at the end of the year it's easier to see your goals as in, you know, whether it's to finish in the order of merit or something. They are so close, you tend to be a little bit more focussed. In May I tend to have lost a little bit of that. I don't know. That's hopefully going to change. Hopefully it's going to change this week. Hopefully I'm going to be right in top form. As regards to my game, since the TPC I would say that I'm happier with how I'm swinging the club, but I probably wouldn't be doing the important things. It's hard to judge. Certain things have improved. It's ebbs and flows with your game and usually it's the guy -- at the TPC my short game was hot that week and that's why I performed well. And to be honest, I might be hitting it a little bit better now but I don't think maybe my short game might be as sharp so we have to wait and see.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Padraig, thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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