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May 14, 2019

Padraig Harrington

Farmingdale, New York

JULIUS MASON: Good morning, everyone. Very pleased to be joined by 2008 PGA champion and the 2020 European Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington today. Padraig, thank you very much for joining us. First off, you're coming off a very nice week in Dallas, Texas, where you shot a final-round 65, right, at the Byron Nelson. I'm guessing you have to be pretty pleased with your game, the state of your game coming into the 101st PGA Championship.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm happy with how I played last week. Not too thrilled -- most people come up to me and say I had a great week last week, I finished 12th. It's not a great week. But I was happy with how I played, yes.

JULIUS MASON: Talk about the state of your game coming in this week.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm coming off a broken wrist during the winter. It's still not 100 percent, but it doesn't seem to be interfering too much with my golf. I'd like to have played a bit more coming into this week. I'm kind of -- I think a lot of players would have that going into majors, that they feel like, oh, I wouldn't mind having another week or two. I certainly feel that way this time round.

The goal for every major is to turn up and feel ready on the Monday, be prepared. I think circumstances have led to me just not feeling like that. I really feel like it's the start of the year for me in terms -- because the wrist break, I haven't got up and running in any shape or form, and I certainly haven't got into game mode at this stage.

I have to be a little bit more -- I'm just not prepared basically, so hopefully I'll overcome that in some way or the other. But I'm just -- yeah, I think a lot of players have that feeling going into majors, though, so it's something I would have had early on in my career, but it's when I was playing well in majors, it was the opposite. I would have come to majors feeling I've done everything I can to be ready on the Monday and there's nothing more to do that week.

JULIUS MASON: A lot going on in your life. You are the Ryder Cup captain. You had a trip to Whistling Straits last month, I believe. What did you see? What did you do? What did you like?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, I thought a few changes made to the course, a few bunkers changed, a few holes changed. No, I was really -- it was more administration stuff in terms of you're looking at team rooms, hotel rooms, that sort of stuff, trying to figure out where things go. There's a surprising amount of background stuff to be done at this time in terms of where do you want your physios, where do you want your gym, where do you want your caddie dining, where do you want your players. All the stuff has to be put together in a sequence that -- I suppose the captain and the team are going to be comfortable when it comes around to us.

I was presented with a plan of the hotel. I kind of knew the facilities at the golf course, but I was presented with a plan -- I might as well be looking into a Rorschach looking at a plan on a piece of paper, so that's why I ended up going up there and having a look at it in person. I think it's quite important during the week of the tournament to have the facilities the way you want them, so I think it's worth the trip.

Q. Padraig, it was announced last week that you reduced the number of wildcards down to three. Can you just give an explanation of that? People might wonder why you're giving yourself fewer choices.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I'm giving myself more choices than there was when I started out in the Ryder Cup. It used to be two, then it went to three, then it went to four. My opinion on this matter is that players who qualify tend to be more confident and assured of their place in the team than players who are selected. Having qualified and being selected over the years, I certainly felt that, and from talking to other players, I feel that.

So my decision was based on the fact do I think the ninth player in the qualifying table would likely get a pick, and I was thinking, yes, he would likely get a pick, and I'm prepared to take a little bit more of a chance to let him qualify, and there's less of a feeling -- when you get picked, you have to prove yourself somewhat at the Ryder Cup. When you qualify, you've qualified on merit, you deserve to be there, and it takes a little bit of the stress and pressure off.

It's highly unlikely that I wouldn't want the ninth player in the team. I believe if he's in the team, I will select three guys to complement that ninth player and the other eight players in the team. Yeah, I want the ninth guy to be in automatically. That's essentially what my thinking is.

Q. Doesn't that count for the 10th now?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Eventually you could suggest you could keep going, but eventually you're going to pick somebody to -- so the idea of the picks, a lot of people think the idea of the picks is to pick three guys that are -- or two guys, whatever you want, that are in the top 12 players in Europe. That's not the idea of the picks. The idea of the picks is pick three guys that will help the nine who qualify play well and be better players. It's about complementing.

So at some stage you need to pick somebody to help complement the guys who qualified on merit. I think three -- you know, if you forced me down to two, I wouldn't -- if this was back 20 years ago and we had two picks, I wouldn't have a problem with that, either.

But you do need picks in that sense because you are trying to establish foursomes and four-ball partnerships with those picks. It's not about picking the next best player all the time, but I do believe that you're unlikely to skip the ninth.

As you squeeze down, 10 might be unlikely to be -- less -- somewhat less unlikely to be picked. I don't know, say if the ninth person had 90 percent probability of being picked, the 10th might have 50 percent, the 11th might have 25 percent, the 12th -- yeah, it's always a bit of a struggle when you're 12. Maybe 10 percent.

So I'm just working on the principle that the ninth guy I would prefer -- I'm taking a chance that I prefer him to be in the team on merit and just confident about that, that three picks would seem to be enough for me.

Q. Francesco has been so tough down the stretch. What was your assessment of what happened to him Sunday at Augusta?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm surprised, yeah. He really has become a world-class player in the last 18 months, and seems to be even better, as you said, down the stretch, under pressure, in those situations. I would have put him as half favorite going out that day.

I think in hindsight, we all get drawn into thinking that once a player is doing something, it happens like that every weekend and every Sunday. But golf is a strange game. If Frankie keeps getting himself in those positions, he'll win lots of majors. He certainly has the ability to play under pressure down the stretch, and I would just say it's a numbers game for him in this situation; that you can't expect every time you're in contention to win.

Again, if he's in contention here on this Sunday, you would be looking at him as being one of the favorites on Sunday. He certainly has a game for major golf in terms of not long does he go ball striker, hits the ball pretty straight keeps himself reasonably stress free. He has the short game for when those misses do come in on the back nine of a major on the last day to recover.

Yeah, it was a surprise at Augusta that it happened, but that was really only me or people falling into that trap thinking that golf is a predictable. It's far from predictable. I think if he just keeps doing the same thing, he will win plenty more majors. Nothing to worry about, put it like that. It's just circumstance.

I would love to be in that position and fail on Sunday afternoon. I think every player, bar Tiger, would have liked to have been in his position, and I think going forward, we'd all take having that opportunity this Sunday. You know, the more opportunity you have like that, the more wins you will get.

Q. Is there any possibility that the time and mental effort you have to put into being Ryder Cup captain might actually benefit your playing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a possibility it won't, and there is a possibility it will. Only time will tell, so -- I enjoy the idea of trying to manage the two. I enjoy that in my head I'm kind of trying to play golf maybe for the next year and leave the duty of administration in the background, and then with six months to go, you're kind of getting deeper into it.

But I will say, even at this stage, I'm looking at the potential players -- not the top players, those guys look after themselves, I'm looking at the guys who are unheralded at the moment who are coming through to -- who will be rookies in my team and just trying to get a feel for who they are, what type of game do you have, what sort of personalities -- from my perspective, actually just trying to get to know them.

There will be two guys -- the likelihood is there will be two guys in the team that -- two rookies. At least one of them could come from nowhere. We might be talking about them all now and trying to predict who's going to be in the team. Even trying to predict at the top who's going to be in the team, looking at the ebbs and flows of players and the ups and downs of the game, it's really difficult.

I've been vice captain three times, and I sat in on those -- two of those occasions I've sat in on quite a bit of the selection of the picks. With a bit three months to go, you start, oh, this is who's going to be picked. It changes so much. I won't say it changes every week, but it changes significantly from who you think your picks are going to be with three months to go to the actual day of the picks. It changes substantially; that me trying now to sit here and get too involved in what's going on, that would be a waste of energy.

But saying that, I'm certainly looking. I'm certainly keeping an eye on different players, for my own personal sake, to be familiar with them, because I am playing quite a bit over here. I know at the end of the year I get back to Europe, and then I'll have a better feel come September when I'm playing more in European events to get a better feel for who these young players are, you know, and the names you keep hearing all the time on The Golf Channel when you're watching the European golf coverage.

Q. Can you provide an assessment of what Tiger is doing well with his game now to have success versus the last time we were here for a major?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think he's more comfortable with who he is at the moment. I think he's probably found a better balance to his golfing life. As I said, his game looks solid. He's hitting lots of greens in regulation, which is important. He's probably -- he seems to have lost a bit of ball speed this year, which I think is a conscious decision, to take some pressure off his back. He realizes if you're still leading greens in regulation, it's obviously shown that he doesn't need that ball speed.

I did like the way at the Masters -- you know, on 8, 11, 13, he tried to hit draws and he lost it right on 8 and 11. 13 he hit it left and clipped the trees. He's just not comfortable hitting that shot, and he's trying to hit the right shot all the way around.

I love the way he played the last five holes where he just played golf to win. There was nothing about -- he wasn't -- like he hit a fade off the 14th, he hit a fade off the 15th when you're trying for a bit of distance. He was just getting the job done and winning the tournament.

That's something I thought he would have done when he got the lead at the Open back at Carnoustie, but he definitely did it at Augusta. He closed it out like he was only interested in winning that tournament. He wasn't interested in proving to the world that he's a good driver of the ball or anything like that. I think he just was interested in getting the job done, which is -- that's a tough Tiger to beat when he's in that frame of mind.

Q. The narrative this week is how difficult this golf course is. Is there one shot that you find particularly challenging, and if so, why?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it's an overall test, this one, in terms of you lose a shot or two out there, and you don't feel like you're going to get it back. I think that's the intimidation factor of Bethpage Black. If you get ahead of the golf course, you're getting 1- or 2-under par, you feel like you have one in the bank, things are okay, because the holes are big, solid holes, but they're not rinky-dink tricky holes with water and out of bounds that you feel like there's -- if I can avoid a 7 at the 13th I'll be okay today. They're just big, solid golf holes.

If you're ahead of the course, you do find it reasonable. If you get behind, you get 1- or 2-over par and you start thinking ahead, you don't want to wear any -- you can look at the card and you go, where am I going to make some birdies here to make up for this.

So it's a general overall intimidation factor, rather than one hole stands out. Like, look, there's several of the par-4s you'd like to hit a good tee shot on, and if you hit a good tee shot, they're not so bad. The greens are big enough. I know there can be some undulations in them. But you hit good tee shots on nearly any of the par-4s, you're doing okay. But you hit a slightly bad tee shot, and all of a sudden you are struggling. It's that overall intimidation factor that there's -- it doesn't give you anything at Bethpage. It really doesn't give you anything. It's not like you're standing there going, I have a guaranteed birdie or there's a stretch there of three holes that, if I play well, I can make two birdies out of three holes and pick up on the golf course.

You're always feeling a little bit back to the wall on this course that there's just -- yeah, how can I get ahead of this. And I think that's the intimidation. It just gives up nothing.

Q. You've played this tournament in August 19 times. What are your feelings on the move to May?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Cold. At the moment. (Laughs.)

No, I like the schedule. I really do. I like the way it goes Masters, PGA, U.S. Open, Open. It really is a good schedule. It suits the game of golf. It suits the FedExCup. It suits the Ryder Cup. Everything about it gives a nice spacing to golf.

Yeah, I do believe the PGA have taken one for the team with it. I do believe to facilitate the world of golf, they have switched from what was probably a better date for them in August, but it's better for golf to have this event in May. I think the golfers appreciate it. We're happy with it. We like the run of things.

Let's hope it keeps working out. Obviously it looks like Thursday to Sunday here will be pretty decent, and come Sunday evening I'm sure the champion will be crowned holding the Wanamaker Trophy on a nice, sunny 18th green.

Q. From your experience of playing '02 and '09 U.S. Opens, other times you've played here, the Barclays, how would you describe the New York fans?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: New York fans are great. You know, we love a bit of atmosphere. Players, we want to be out there and have a buzz about the golf course. I obviously have a particularly good time everywhere I go in the States, but even more so when you go to the East Coast there's quite an Irish representation. I like coming here. I've served -- I believe I am the current course record holder. I think so, anyway. So it's a golf course that's been good for me. I had a good run in -- was it 2002? Yeah, the first one.

Yeah, look, it's a good course for me. I get on well here, plenty of friends here, and I get good support. So yeah, New York crowds for me are great. And I must admit, I do like a little bit of boisterousness in the crowd. If I was at a golf event, I'd be like that, so that's the way it is.

Q. Did you get the chance to speak to Rory before he confirmed he'd be playing in the European Tour this year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Not -- I have spoken to him about it, and spoke a while back, spoke since, and somewhat in between, but not directly in between. You know, in terms of -- it obviously mattered to me in terms of the Ryder Cup. I still think he would have qualified starting January 1 next year. I think all the European players understand how big the Ryder Cup is to themselves individually, how much of an opportunity it is for their careers to play in the Ryder Cup.

You know, I know Rory loves it, and you only have to see him during a Ryder Cup in the team room. It gives him an opportunity -- Rory is only a young man, but it gives him an opportunity to be -- to play the captain's role, the leader's role in that team room.

There's very few of us out there that don't relish the opportunity to be a leader. Rory is certainly one of those, and he wants -- I can see that he wouldn't do anything to harm his chances of being in that team. You know what, I know that. I think everybody else knows that deep down. It is nice that he is taken membership to put it down on paper and make things a little simpler and less complicated questions and things like that.

But it was never really -- for me it was never really an issue for the Ryder Cup. I knew he would be -- I know he will be there and giving it 100 percent when it comes to it next September.

Q. Going forward as a point of principle, do you think if you're not a member of the European Tour in the two-year cycle of the Ryder Cup, do you think you should be allowed to play in it? Would you like to see a rule change?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've been quite vocal about making sure -- I would be on the side of making the players jump through a few more hoops to be in the Ryder Cup team. It is a huge deal to play in the Ryder Cup team in terms of people's careers. Like Frankie Molinari won the Open last year, but the Ryder Cup made him, and that just sums it up for Europe. Like it really did make him as a golfer.

And I think the players are starting to -- they should understand that and see that, that the Ryder Cup, it's a bigger deal than people think. You know, I know individuals, we play our individual game all the way through, but when it tee it up and when you get to the Ryder Cup and then you realize, like it makes stars out of European players. Several European players, it's the pinnacle of their careers. Even players who were successful individually in their career. It's added a huge dimension to who they are and the general respect they get.

And I think European players appreciate that. So it is very much something that the European Tour can use as, I suppose, a carrot to ensure -- I would have been the one vocal a few years ago that -- they were talking about letting non-members be picked, and I was against that. I want to make sure that every player who's in my team will have to show commitment to wanting to be in the team. I'd be a little bit stubborn on that sense.

I was surprised that in my change, everybody is talking about the three picks, but everybody seemed to have forgotten that the date has changed for the picks to actually the BMW Championship at Wentworth, which is only a week before the Ryder Cup. So it's a much later date for the picks.

And one of the reasons that date is there is because it means anybody who wants a pick is going to have to turn up. Nobody has an excuse not to turn up at the BMW Championship in the UK. They can't say they're playing another event or they're somewhere else. If you want a pick, you're going to have to turn up and play a big tournament with the other players who are interested in that pick so I can make a definitive decision as late as a week before the tournament. I'm a believer in having players who want -- who prove that they have a commitment and want to be there in the Ryder Cup, and that event -- the idea of -- which we've seen in the past players saying, oh, well, I've got something else to play in, or I want the rest.

Well, if you want a pick on my team, you're going to have to be at the BMW Championship. Close to that. I'm not saying it's a guarantee, but I want to see commitment, and I'm a believer in that.

JULIUS MASON: Padraig Harrington, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for joining us.

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