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July 16, 2002

Padraig Harrington


STEWART McDOUGAL: Ladies and gentlemen, Padraig Harrington, how do you fancy your chances this week? You are in very good form.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously probably not thinking like that exactly, you're just trying to play your best golf and see where it goes. I think with the golf course and the way it's set up, I think there will be a lot of players out there, as many as 75 players that think they have a genuine chance of winning this week. There's nothing on the golf course that would necessarily intimidate anybody to think that they couldn't compete here. It's a very fair golf course, and it's really -- the guy who chooses the right shots all the time off the tees, the right clubs to play and plays well on top of that, and holds the putts, so I think there's a lot of people here -- you know, you can go to another major and I'm sure there are not 10 or 20 people that can think they can win it, but this week there will be a lot of people in the field, if things goes their way, they're going to think they have a chance, which I think there could be a reasonable bunch at the end of the week going into the back nine on the last day, I think there will be a few people in contention.

Q. How you've played the majors this year, especially at Bethpage, being at the top of the leader board, are you going to take it into this week, can you take it to the next level where you're right up there?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I don't know what you learn really. I certainly look back and you certainly get a little bit of confidence knowing, okay, you can do it for a shorter period of time than 72 holes. I obviously need to keep it going all the way through, but I certainly -- I know I can do it. It's just a question of extending it and keeping it going for 72 holes. What did I learn?

Q. Did you prove anything to yourself?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, there's always confidence in that sort of thing. I'm doing what I want to do. I think in both tournaments I stayed inside the top 10 all week, so I was always on the leader board. There's a certain kind of pressure. Obviously I wasn't necessarily thinking of winning in The Masters or anything. Well, I suppose I was leading after 27 holes. It's a good -- not that it's a trial run, but it's the sort of thing you need to do, get in that position and stay. Obviously I would have liked to have kept it going a little bit more in both of the tournaments, but that's something you can only gain with experience, when you get into a good position, that you don't back off and keep going forward.

Q. What appeals to you most about this golf course?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't figured it out, actually. That's what appeals to me, I haven't quite figured out the golf course. You go to a U.S. Open and you just know it's all about patience. It's all about trying to play the same shot over and over and over again; you're just trying to hit fairways, hit the middle of the greens, and patience and patience and patience. Here, I haven't quite figured out what's going to make a winner win this week, is it going to be he plays superb, consistent golf or is it because he's playing exciting golf, hitting drivers, making birdies, not making too many mistakes. I haven't figured it out. You can hit it in some of the bunkers, and you can go in there and have a decent lie and have no problem getting up and down, and the same shot could get stuck quite easy up against the face of the bunker, and it's double bogey straightaway.

So I haven't figured out how to handle the mental side; whether the winner is just going to have to accept making a few mistakes or whether -- you know, I don't see anybody totally avoiding all the trouble out there all the time. The bunkers are tiny so if you do get into them, you rarely have a normal bunker shot. That's obviously the main trouble, besides hitting the fairways, obviously and undulating greens, but it's really keeping out of those bunkers is the main thing. I really don't know -- a lot of times you can go on to a links golf course and you can sort of ride your luck; you can hit it and find it and get it up and down and just keep it going from there. You don't necessarily have to play solid consistent golf. This golf course is unusual for a links golf course. It rewards somebody who is very consistent and can hit the middle of the fairway and hit the middle of the greens without doing anything spectacular. That's how a golfer is going to do well here this week. That's why I think there will be a lot of players in contention come the end of the week.

Q. You were hitting some shots today where the caddy would put a head cover in between your arms and then you would swing away. What was the purpose of that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's something I'm working on to help me stop from getting deep at the top of my backswing. Okay, it's actually to keep my elbows closer together during the swing, which stops my right elbow from going deep at the top of the backswing. It's a difficult practice range actually to practice on out there with the left-to-right wind. It was down and off to the left yesterday, which is probably the worst possible wind you could practice in. It was left to right today. Not too much wind today, so it was okay today. It doesn't distract me on the golf course, so I can fiddle around doing it while working on other things as well.

Q. Do you subscribe to the notion of leading challengers backing off when Tiger is -- (inaudible)?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I have my own notion on it. I think the guys who have beaten Tiger in the past tend to be guys who have grown up or performed most of their golfing career as underdogs so they're used to that situation. It's obviously tougher for guys who are always the top dog to have the role reversed and to be the underdog coming up against Tiger. They are not familiar with that situation.

Definitely, you know, like Billy Mayfair a couple of years, Bob May, for all intents and purposes, he was very unluckily not to beat him at the PGA. Players who would be used to coming up against the bigger named stars obviously have a better chance to beat Tiger, to them he's just another one of those bigger named stars, where as the other guys aren't used to that sort of situation where there is somebody better than them or they perceive as better than them in the field, so it's harder.

Q. Do you think it's a fact they are better than them?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think it's a fact. Like anything else, they have to gain their experience. There is a lot of players who have been champions all the way through their amateur or pro career and they've always turned up being the favorite, and obviously the roles are reversed now that Tiger is here. And that's putting a little bit of pressure on them. I'm not saying that they're backing off, but they are certainly thinking a slightly different way, you know, and maybe trying to push too hard. It's just tougher on them. It was something they've never experienced when they were growing up.

Q. Where do you fit in?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would always consider myself the one who was the underdog trying to catch up. Whether it's an Ernie Els or Tiger Woods ahead of me on the final day, I would still be the underdog trying to catch them, so it's not a great deal of difference who it is. It's the same sort of feeling when you go out there, if Ernie is playing well, you think he's the best player in the world, so what's the difference if it's Tiger playing well. It kind of feels the same to -- most guys would be in the same boat.

Q. You're up there in the top 10 in the world rankings. Do you not consider yourself one of the best players in the world?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've never been -- no, you've got me wrong. Actually I said I'm not used to being in that position. I've always to -- even as an amateur, I would never have been considered -- I've always managed to get there, but it's never been easy so it's a bit of hard work. Like you could consider that -- you know all the way up there was always guys with more talent than me or better players, so I always had to work a little bit harder to overcome that. So live and learn. It does hold out more potential for players who are -- who haven't quite had all that success to maybe challenge Tiger, because they're used to challenging people, it's no different.

Q. You were talking last week before the K Club, how you've worked so hard getting a higher trajectory in your shots. Perhaps in the wind at the K Club it might have made it different for you. How does the wind affect you here? Does it make it harder for you here as well?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's an interesting thing for me. Up until a couple of years ago, I really struggled to hit the ball high and I worked hard to get a higher ball flight so I could play better in the U.S. majors. I think four weeks ago in The Open Championship, all of a sudden I'm struggling to hit the ball low enough, which is unusual for me, so I have been working hard to get the ball flight low again. I'm pretty comfortable, as long as the wind that was there yesterday was good for me. That was my max. If it gets any windier, everybody starts to struggle. Certainly I wouldn't feel as comfortable as hitting the shots that I was able to hit 10 years ago when I was an amateur. I would have played any wind shot 10 years ago and felt happier playing that than playing a normal shot. Now I'm not as familiar with it. I've gone soft. All this nice target golf has made me soft.

Q. Sorry to refer back to Tiger again, but you played with Justin this morning, how do you think he'll cope with playing with him tomorrow?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's funny, I was just saying -- you know, he's got probably the two most -- he's with Maruyama as well. He's got probably the two most popular people with the cameramen in the world playing with him. Shigeki will probably have about 30 cameramen and Tiger will probably have about 50. Justin is probably the most popular here. There are three people in their respective countries that are top notch when it comes to sort of the attraction for the fans. It will be difficult for him. I know he's looking forward to it. I don't know what his experience is playing with Tiger before. It certainly is different the first time out you play with him. If he can enjoy it, that will be great. I think if you're asking me personally, I think it's going to be much more of a learning process for him, rather than necessarily -- maybe it will inspire him, but I suggest it's going to be much more of learning and will actually hinder his chances of -- you know, who knows how it will affect anybody, but if it's his first time playing with him and in this sort of scenario, there's definitely going to be a distraction there and it will be harder.

Q. Did word reach you on the course of his draw?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Somebody told him on the 10th tee.

Q. Did it then become a constant conversation?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, it was mentioned on 10 when I -- the fact that he was playing with Shigeki, because you have to expect when playing with Tiger there's a lot of things going on, but with Shigeki as well, when you think about Justin as well, in England, or Britain, he's going to be the star attraction. So there are three guys there with their respective countries that are obviously big, big stars, so there is going to be a lot of razmataz with that group tomorrow.

Q. Back to you figuring out the course, is that something you've got to do tomorrow or do you play by ear as the week goes on?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would like to have a good handle psychologically what I should be thinking in this tournament. I've looked at past scores, 64, 66, you have to think that's good scoring on this golf course. What happens if you're plodding along and you're one over par after five holes. Do you panic? It's just trying to get a grip on the mental approach. It's not easy on the golf course. That's what's good about the golf course, it's interesting from that point of view. It seems to allow good scoring. You kind of go to a U.S. Open or something and you know if you can keep it at level par you're happy. But here, you're not quite sure because somebody playing well will shoot 64 this week, and possibly lower. If the weather is good somebody is going to shoot a very good score. What they're going to do over 72 holes is the next question. That's probably the toughest thing to manage.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's true. He obviously played great golf to get in that position. I would suggest, you know, I don't think anybody would take 72 pars in a row here. It's not going to do the job. Yes, how aggressive -- being aggressive out there -- there was a mention there earlier of Nicklaus driving the 3rd hole here. Was it the last time -- I'm not sure, but they said he shot the highest score on the Saturday and the lowest score on the Sunday. Obviously he was pushing on Saturday, and I think that's probably going to be the most interesting thing, if you are not quite going well and you're a bit off of the lead at what stage do you start taking out drivers and hitting past the trouble and possibly hitting into the trouble. If things are going nicely, you can keep hitting your 3-iron, 2-iron off the tee and play sensible golf, but the course can change so quickly.

You can be very aggressive out there. There are a lot of opportunities to hit drivers and leave yourself only wedges and sand wedges into the Par-4s. That's something you'll see tomorrow. You'll see the same group, one guy going to into a Par 4 and he'll be hitting a 5-iron because he hit a 3-iron off the tee, and another guy hitting a sand wedge in there because he hit a driver. You'll see a lot of different plays depending on what suit the guy's eye, what he likes off the tee. Which is a sign of a great golf course, that you can hit so many different clubs off the tee and play the hole so many different ways.

Q. Going back to Justin playing with Tiger, when you first played with Tiger, how long did it take you to block out the razmataz that surrounds him?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I really don't know how long it took. I can't say for sure. I just remember -- I played with Tiger a few times in the past. Nowadays it's different. The U.S. Open last year I played with him. It was probably the most memorable sort of situation because he was expected to have a good score. It was the last round and there was a big crowd, a lot of cameramen out there and that sort of thing. It was amazing, they had 12 marshals marshaling the cameramen. It was a distraction because it was interesting the first couple of holes. I was watching it. This year at the U.S. Open it looked like they had -- I don't know if they had it, but it looked like they had like a yellow card system, as in, you know, if somebody didn't sit down or moved or tried to get an extra yard, there was somebody there to not quite haul them off, but give them a warning. There's going to be a lot of things happening around the match that doesn't necessarily -- that revolves more around Tiger than necessarily the match. That's a distraction. How long will it take? You know, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be any tougher, but it is something that he'll see for the first couple of holes. If it's handled well, it shouldn't distract him too much, but it is hard. There is a lot more expectation when he's paired up in a group like that. He will be expected to go well from the going. There won't be so much of -- he won't be allowed to slowly develop into the tournament, it's nearly like he's leading the tournament already being out in that group, so it is difficult for him.

Q. In your opinion, will Tiger achieve, with all that distraction, what he hopes to achieve this year?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, he's obviously very familiar with it himself. I'm sure he's not distracted by it. He's certainly well accomplished with handling all that razmataz. So no, it's no distraction for him, I'm sure. He's close to the professional professional now at this stage. He's No. 1 for being able to cope with everything that's thrown him.

Q. Have you found yourself standing over an awkward, say, four-foot putt and the crowd moving away, following Tiger, getting to the next tee to be there with Tiger?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know the great thing when you play with Tiger now is the crowds are so big that half of them can move away and you still wouldn't see the half moving because the other half are standing still. It's 10 deep, so if the five at the back move, there is no distraction. There's always -- you would never hear a mobile phone going off in a group with Tiger Woods because of the fact that there is so much noise around.

At every Open -- I've always said this at an Open, because it's flat land usually it's sunny weather -- usually -- the sound travels across the golf course, so you hear very little because there is actually a hum on the golf course, a certain noise there, so from that point of view playing with Tiger -- like at the U.S. Open, obviously my caddy once or twice would have to say -- but I was never put off by people moving, because there was a general flow around the match. Like if there was somebody moving, it was 5,000 people, and that doesn't distract you, it's just the one person on their own. So it was really good.

Plus here at this tournament, the crowds seem a long way back from the fairways. We were talking about that today. Everything seems quite away from the fairways. There seems to be quite a big maybe 20, 25 yards of rough before you get to the spectators, so it is a little bit -- you know, you're nearly out there on your own. It's not as enclosed as some other tournaments.

STEWART McDOUGAL: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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