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September 17, 2002

Padraig Harrington


GORDON SIMPSON: Here we are in Ireland with 49 of the 50 top players in the world.


Q. One of the Japanese.

GORDON SIMPSON: Izawa. But certainly that gives us the status of this event here.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Certainly you never see the classic field that's here, that's never been before. Even at the Ryder Cup you won't have so many big players. It's a big match. Obviously you won't have 49 of the top 50 players, in terms of golf. It's really for the pure golf enthusiast. You're not going to see bigger or have a better opportunity to see like Tiger play here really competitively, so it's a great opportunity for people to see him. Obviously the 48 of the top 50 of the world, so many aspire to be the top 50 of the world.

Q. It's a great opportunity for you to represent the course as well.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously I represent here. It's funny for me because I'm hoping for beautiful sunny weather. I'm hoping everything is perfect for the week. But to be honest, wind and rain will help me win, rather than sunny. Being attached here, and just the fact that the tournament is represented in Ireland in some way you want everything to go perfectly. I keep asking the players how's everything going, I'm wishing everybody well. That's not normally; I'm competitive. But you're interested that everybody is enjoying themselves and you're hoping that the event comes out on top as a winner this week. Nearly more so that I come out as a winner this week, but it's strange. That's the way it is.

Q. Padraig, what do you make of your draw?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've been told I'm with Tiger. I kind of expected that I would be drawn with Tiger, so obviously there was a chance of that. It's good for me, to be honest. It's tough to try to watch with 50,000 other people trying to watch. I'm very happy to play with Tiger. I prefer probably playing with him on Sunday afternoon. Usually that's a good sign, but I'm happy to be playing with him on Thursday.

GORDON SIMPSON: Of course you've done it already this year.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've played with him a couple of times before. You know, I'm sure on Thursday I'm looking after my game and he's looking after his game. I don't think there will be too much of a distraction in it, if anything it can only help. I think the adrenaline will be flowing without playing with Tiger, just playing at Mount Juliet. It's not going any different really. I would still be nervous on the first tee just because it's in Ireland. So it's nice playing with Tiger, but it's going to be the same if I was drawn with any of the other guys.

Q. Can you bring us back to the experience you had playing with him in Bethpage in the third round of the U.S. Open?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: What can I say? Certainly the two of us, we were very much going our own ways for the first couple of holes. We were both trying to manage our own games and there wasn't a huge amount of chat. We were just going about business. I was 100 percent focused on my game and he was focused on his game. It was just trying to get our work done. There was no distraction.

One interesting thing at Bethpage. Obviously it was a very big crowd at the tournament, and watching the game, and there was so many people that there was a certain amount of noise that was there, which meant you could hear nothing. So there was no way you could hear individual sounds because it was like playing in an Open championship where sounds carry across the Links course. So the more people watching, the less distracted you get, when you get to a certain number, and it was perfect.

Everything went well that day. There was no problems at all with regards to crowd control. As I said, Tiger tapped in and 10,000 people moved off to the next green and 10,000 people were still there, so I didn't see the 10,000 there. It's interesting to see, you know. As I said, it might mean a little extra challenge on the day, but that's obviously what we're here for.

Q. Why did you expect to be drawn with him?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Because I'm Irish. Just two Irish guys on the field. The home guy normally gets -- well, he got the big draw (laughter). Well, that's the way it is. Normally, like at the British Open, it was Justin Rose. At the Desert classic, it was born. It always works like that, I'm going to go out and buy a lottery ticket, tonight. It's amazing how these things come out of a hat (laughter).

Q. Do you feel any extra pressure on yourself this week, the fact that you've been welcome here, does that help you relax?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's always a little extra pressure being at home, obviously. There's a little bit more expectations. As I said before, I should be able to deal with that now. I have experience with it, so that shouldn't be an excuse. There really is extra pressure this week, because the week is strange in two ways: Either you play well and you compete in this tournament and/or you don't play well and start thinking about the Ryder Cup. So no matter what happens you have a certain focus this week. It's not like there is no end, if you know what I mean. If you're not in contention, it's the Ryder Cup you're thinking about, and if you are in contention, great, you play for this week. So you're in a no-lose situation, really.

Q. What expectation do you have for yourself this week, in terms of where your game is?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I wouldn't say I have huge expectations based on the fact that I've been working towards the Ryder Cup, so this is not a week that I've been building up for. I've been building up for the Ryder Cup. It's a question of how I start off and whether I make contention and how this week goes. I certainly would have, you know it's a build-up week nearly. It's not a build-up week when I get on the tee, but in my scheduling, there's been certain more focus on the Ryder Cup, I would say, so I don't have huge, high expectations.

Q. I hate to raise the subject, but how are your injuries getting up?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: They're recovering. I'm dealing with them and recovering, just trying not to do too much practice on them and they should be okay.

Q. Did you practice today?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I hit 55 balls. That's all I hit. I hit 55 balls and then I hit a few wedge shots. I didn't really did a lot of practice, eight hours hitting balls on Tuesday last week. That's what knocked the right hand side out.

Q. Are you where you want to be with the Ryder Cup?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm not where I want to be. No golfer is where they want to be. As I say, I'm gradually building up, so hopefully when I get to The Belfry next week I'm not looking to do a huge amount of practice; I'm just looking to ease my way into the tournament. I'm hoping that's the case this week as well.

Q. How much will there be a sense of playing with Tiger out there that you want to match him shot-for-shot, hole-for-hole with maybe the Ryder Cup in mind? Is there a more competitive element as a result of it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Not with regards to the Ryder Cup. I'm not trying to compete with Tiger Woods the week before the Ryder Cup. There's no issue. It makes no difference to the Ryder Cup if I shoot a score better or worse than him tomorrow. It just makes a difference for this tournament. To be honest, it's not even a question of matching him tomorrow because it's a 72-hole tournament. It's not even a question of matching him. It's a question of beating yourself. If you do that, let Tiger look after himself, and if he plays well, so be it, hopefully I will do the best I can. I wouldn't be competing against him, no.

Q. Could it work the other way: You would measure your form against him and wonder where you should be for the Ryder Cup?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, not at all. It's totally different than match-play. You're not going to win anything. You succeed nothing by it, to compete here. You have to mind your own game. That's what happened in the U.S. Open, you just have to look after your own game and what you're doing and let Tiger look after himself. You know, what good would it do me if Tiger shot 75 and I shot 74? Would I be happy about beating him? No, I would tell you I would be more happy losing to him if he shot 65 and I shot 66. There's no competition there.

Q. How closely will you watch his swinging and playing style, that kind of thing?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No more than any other player, definitely not, no. To be honest, I do watch players a lot, but I won't watch him any more than I would the next guy. I like to see what makes guys tick when they're playing golf, if you watch players and try to figure them out, and I will watch Tiger to that extent, but I wouldn't watch him any more than I would watch anybody in any given week.

Q. When you are in contention after 72 holes, what has experience (inaudible)?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I can tell you what it is, that is an interesting thing. It does train you, obviously, if you have a good week here, it drains you, but then you get confidence having a good week, so you're hoping that balances up. Obviously if you played here well this week, you have to do less work next week. I think anybody who plays well here is probably going to be a better player next week, just purely that they've got a little bit of form going into next week. So it does drain you a little bit, but I think the Ryder Cup has enough adrenaline that you wouldn't have any loss of focus because of it.

Q. You talked about your build-up to the Ryder Cup rather than this particular week. It's only a week in difference; can you tell me what you can achieve in a week that will make a big difference in your game next week than this week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You always believe you can do great things in a week's practice. The way I've scheduled my build-up is to the Ryder Cup. It doesn't mean that I can't play well this week or play better this week than next week; I've just been building up for it. Like if there was something wrong with my game, I can stop and work on it and change, possibly change that in the five days, six days practice time that you probably have from now to the Ryder Cup. Hopefully, that's been worked out over the last week, two weeks, and now I'm just looking for sort of the competitive nature of the game and the timing of my swing and that sort of thing. My thinking really is what's been worked on last week, this week, going into the Ryder Cup. More the flow of my swing, things like that; I hope that's what I would be working on anyway. Obviously if you feel there is something wrong with your swing, you have to go work on that, which isn't preparation, but if it has to be done, it has to be done.

Q. Which do you prefer: To win this tournament this week or to be a member of the team that wins the Ryder Cup next week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know what, at this very moment, right, I want to win the American Express Championship. Next week I want to win the Ryder Cup. I want both. I want my cake and eat it. There is no issue, when you turn up and play a tournament, all you're thinking about is winning this event. Now, there is a slight distraction this week that the Ryder Cup is next week, and it is there, and the only time I will start thinking about the Ryder Cup is when I feel that this tournament is out of my reach. If I feel, you know, that I'm not going to win this week, then my mind will go forward to the Ryder Cup but up until then I'm only trying to win this event. I have to say at the moment, you have to win the one you're playing. Next week I have to try to be on a winning Ryder Cup team, and the following week, then I have to win the Dunhill. It's not like -- you can never balance like that. I want to win both. That's it. Let's be greedy. Don't pick and choose.

I will tell you, I think anybody playing on the Ryder Cup team will say if they're here, they want to win this week and then win next week, rather than sacrificing.

Q. Was the Ryder Cup possibly the best week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Best? That's a not a word I would use to describe a Ryder Cup; as best or enjoyable or anything like that. It certainly was the biggest experience of my golfing career. But "best" seems to say it was joyful or something. No, it certainly wasn't the best. I never experienced anything like it on a golf course. It's very intense. It's right up there. It isn't any fun. As I described it before to people, I said, it's like, I don't know, going on a roller coaster, you go on the roller coaster and as you're going around it's not much fun, but the longer time you get off the roller coaster, you think you have fun, so the more time between it and when you were on it you say that was fun. That's the Ryder Cup: When you're there, you're thinking this is a pretty grueling experience, but the following week, the last thing you would do the week after the Ryder Cup is play another Ryder Cup match, but two months, three months, six months later, you think I want to play in the next Ryder Cup, and a year later, you're thinking you actually enjoyed the last one. So it's an experience like that. It's not the best. But certainly it's up there. There's nothing like it. It's five rounds, a couple of practice days. It's six days of golf like you're leading a tournament. For six days, the pressure you feel, if you're winning a tournament, you're lucky if you're feeling pressure on the back nine of the last day, but for the Ryder Cup you get six days of it. That's really it. It's up there with experiences. You know things are happening if you're there. As I said, it wouldn't be best. Best is winning ten shots with not much stress for the week.

Q. If you wouldn't describe it as the best; would you describe it as one of the most beneficial experiences you've had as a golfer?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would put it up there as a learning experience, a major learning experience in my golfing career, but I've had a lot. Would it be the biggest one, I don't think so. It would be up there, though. It's right up there as an experience. Yes, it did give me confidence. I think the problem, a lot of people relate to the Ryder Cup, to me, and say, well, you went to the Ryder Cup and you it looked like you came out a different player. It didn't really. I was the same player six weeks before as I was six weeks after the Ryder Cup. Maybe a little bit more confidence, but not unduly. They might have said to me the things I was doing were the right things and it confirmed some stuff for me. But besides that, it hasn't changed me as a golfer, no. It just looked like that because it was around that time that I might have stepped up a level. So a lot of people have asked me, you know, did you come out a different person. I don't think so, but certainly around that time I did step up a level and people took more notice and liked to put it down as maybe the experience of the Ryder Cup, but surely you couldn't do that, because many people have played the Ryder Cup and it has had the opposite effect.

Q. Have you come across a better conditioned course this year?


Q. Does the condition of this course make you proud to represent it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It sets a standard for Ireland. I'm constantly saying we don't have the weather, but this golf course, I can come down in the winter and the greens are just as good, maybe a little slower, but they're perfect. The golf course definitely condition-wise is as good as I've played all year. I would probably have to go to some of the Australian golf courses to find golf courses in as good condition. It's perfect. I don't think anybody could fault it.

Q. And yet would somebody have to go very low to win it?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't figured it out. It's an interesting course. It's one of Jack Nicklaus's old courses and he designs it so the greens actually -- when you come here and play and they're slow, the greens up to nine, play slow and up to 12, every time you miss a bunker there's a little slope out of the bunker so you tend to be in the middle of the green if you short-side yourself. If anybody short-sides themselves they will struggle. You'll see a lot of guys hitting to the middle of the greens. The better condition of the golf course, the lower the score, always. So I think the scores will be good, especially if the weather stays good. I think you'll see sort of 16-under mark sort of scoring. It's an abnormally long golf course. It will be interesting to see which strategy wins out.

Q. Would you guarantee that he would rise to the occasion next week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: All I've said, the Ryder Cup when I got on the team, I had two, three weeks between winning the match and -- I was still on a high. I got in late, finished second coming into it. A lot of guys are in for the first time, they have had to spend a year justifying that they are Ryder Cup players. Every time they tee it up the question is asked "are you ready for the Ryder Cup or not?" People have been judging every round they play if they're ready for the Ryder Cup, which could be eight, nine months away, and it puts a lot of pressure on the guys. I think when the Ryder Cup comes around, these guys are going to play the way they were getting ready for the Ryder Cup, and just rise to the situation, where they've been scrutinized for a year. Every round they've shot for a year, people have said to them, "what's the form for the Ryder Cup?" "How does this reflect on your Ryder Cup?" There's nothing worse every time you tee it up proving you're a Ryder Cup player. Of course, they are they qualified. It's unfortunate they have to spend a year proving something that was already done. I think when they get there, they're going to be fine. I sure would be delighted to have it over this late in the year. Pierre Fulke has been waiting 20 months since he qualified. He's a very strong character, but everybody has been saying, you know, every round he has had, it's a question about the Ryder Cup, which is pretty tough for 20 months of that. It's not good for your game.

GORDON SIMPSON: Padraig, I hope you get a big slice of cake on Sunday night.


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