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September 18, 2019

Padraig Harrington

Robert Karlsson

Surrey, England

SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you for your attendance today, in what's a special day for the European Tour and for The Ryder Cup.

I'm delighted to be joined by Europe's 2020 Ryder Cup Captain, Pádraig Harrington.

Pádraig, you've had a busy seven months since you were announced with January, but with the points starting tomorrow, does it really feel that Ryder Cup 2020 is underway?

P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I thought the first seven months, as you said, I've been busy. I thought I was very involved. I thought it all started. But there's no doubt, having come here this week and the points actually starting tomorrow, it really is feeling different, the feeling, a different buzz to it.

I swore to myself as the start of this, having been as vice captain over the years, not to get too involved in the points scoring early on; it changes so much. But I'm keen to see who is leading on Sunday, already (laughing). I don't know, you just get drawn into it, you get sucked into it, but there's definitely a different buzz this week.

It does help that we're here in Wentworth. It does help that we're her at the BMW PGA Championship, you know, the Flagship Event of the European Tour, and it does help that it's sunny out there. It all seems to add to a big week.

SCOTT CROCKETT: As you say, you've had a busy seven months behind the scenes. Give us an idea of what you've been up to.

P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: It has been very busy, I got some sense yesterday that I realised that I had so many things planned yesterday, meetings, and I knew there would be other meetings that would come along and different things, that I decided not to play a practice round. So maybe after this long in the game, I'm getting the sense that you can't do everything and you have to prioritize.

I got a lot of stuff done. But I start yesterday morning, I think I start with a 9.30 appointment, which was my own physio, but I didn't stop until 7.00 last night and pretty much all meetings all day, different things. Lots of important stuff, but you know, other stuff important to other people that you have to get through.

At other stages every week, there's something to be done, something small, something big. What surprised me about all this Ryder Cup stuff is how much has to be done well in advance, so all the associate partners, all of the people who are providing stuff, they need to get their ducks in a line now, whether it's the clothing and things like that. Whereas I'm all about trying to get -- do whatever it takes to get a winning team together. Being captain, you do have to do the extra stuff that's important, you know, behind the scenes and there's quite a lot of detail to that.

But as I said, tomorrow is the first day of the points, and we're already starting to get our statisticians behind it to get us lists of the potential players. I could tell you the percentage of each player's chance of making the team at this stage, which is really interesting, because you go, oh, right, he's got a great chance; thought he'd be better. From that side, it's interesting and fun to be on the inside and to see what's happening behind the scenes.

I'd like to say I wouldn't take it too seriously for the next couple of months, but it does seem like it's fascinating, put it like that.

SCOTT CROCKETT: You talked about people behind the scenes, and the important people for The Ryder Cup, is of course, our partners and the eagle-eyed amongst you will see that we have added Aon to Rolex and BMW as a worldwide partner of the Ryder Cup, and that announcement will be made later this afternoon. It's important, isn't it, that companies of that stature, global companies, are involved with an event of The Ryder Cup stature.

P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there's no doubt it does show it is a global event. It has changed. No longer is it like us on this side of the water running the European and then the U.S. It is much more global partners. You have global there and you have BMW and you have Aon coming on now as a global partner for both sides. It's very much part of the event. It's a big, huge, sporting event around the world and it is attracting global sponsors.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Talking of the eagle-eyed amongst you, you will notice a chair next to Pádraig which is empty. One of the reasons we're here today is to fill that chair.

So Pádraig, over to you.

P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, with a year to go I'd like to announce my first vice captain, and it's going to be Robert Karlsson.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Robert, welcome. Before we here from you, Pádraig, just give us your thoughts on giving Robert that role, as well as last time around.

P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Anybody who was involved in 2018 in the backroom staff would see this as a no-brainer pick. Robert is really good at this job. He's very logical, very straight. Doesn't let the emotions -- he's playing to the stereotype to be honest. He doesn't let the emotions get involved. A brilliant vice captain.

He's somebody I've known, we've both been on the Tour. He's a little longer on the Tour than me, but since the start of the Tour, we've both had great success together. We've played Ryder Cup Matches together. We've been partnered together. But ultimately, you know, he provides those two things. He provides a great sounding board, a very logical, very straight sounding board to talk to for myself for the next year because there will be other vice captains, but like in a lot of instance, you have to wait.

Not saying anything against Robert's golf because he did perform very well the last couple of weeks there, but there's other guys who potentially could make the team that could be vice captains, but I need a vice captain now. And Robert is an icon for the northern Europeans, the Continental northern Europeans and I need access to those guys.

In the end of the day, there is -- there can be a disconnect and you know, Robert will bridge that gap with those young not just Scandinavians, but all the Continental Europeans Robert would be an icon for and he certainly helps me bridge that gap so that I have somebody there that knows them personally.

That's a big part of my job and Robert's job now is to get to know the younger players personally over the next year, and Robert is certainly going to help with that side of it.

ROBERT KARLSSON: Yeah, it's fantastic. Pádraig asked me a little while ago, and just to get the question was fantastic. It almost feels like the other Ryder Cup just a year ago. We just finished it but now we start again.

I'm really, really looking forward to this process and being able to be part of the team again, and help Pádraig along the way.

Q. Speaking about the percentages, who is really likely to make it and who is surprised you; who is likely to make it and who surprised you?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: We're not allowed to promote gambling on the Tour, are we. It's interesting, actually. The stats are there, and you know, there's some very obvious ones. There's some in the middle there that you go, well, I really thought he had a better chance, and there's one or two, it's interesting for us, and statistically for us, there's a couple that have been pulled up and flagged to us that maybe we wouldn't have been aware of and they say, no, these guys are really producing the figures; if they keep doing this, they will have a big performance that will push them in very close to making the team.

That's kind of the way of the world now when it comes to these things. There's obviously a lot of statistical data behind it. And it just helps us to make sure we're keeping in check with everybody and making sure -- the last thing we want is surprises in the sense of we don't want a situation where somebody gets on the team and we don't have that relationship built up. Whereas these percentages and the predictions help us target players so that we can build a personal relationship so that we -- it's nothing to do with their golf at this stage.

It's just really to do with just being able to know them and know what makes them tick.

Q. How much does it mean to you on the first qualifying event to have such a strong field, and not so much the Rorys and Jon Rahms, who you think would be dead certain to be on the team next year, but everybody here to say, I want to make the team from day one?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: This is a huge part of why it's starting this week and why it's finishing at the BMW PGA Championship. This is the Flagship Event in Europe and the players turn up and take it.

This is our biggest European event. It's the one you want to be there. You're guaranteed getting a really strong field, which is not just important this year -- which is nice to start it off this way, but it will be exceptionally important come this time next year that we have the best players playing the last event. If there's positions still to be decided, each player will be going up against, you know, other good players that week and there won't be any excuses. You can't sort of turn around and say, well, I don't want to come to this event; it's not big enough or something. This ultimately will lead to no excuses next year. Everybody will be here who wants to get on the team. And it's a fine golf course now, it really is now. They have produced the improvements and everybody loves it and it's a real solid golf course and it will produce fine play, which is exactly the sort of golf course we'll be testing the players on.

Q. You touched upon the fact that Robert can, in particular, build that relationship with the Scandinavian golfers. Viktor Hovland's first event on the European Tour this week. What are your experiences and how much have you seen of him?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: I've obviously met him. He played a tournament I was in in the US and I went up and introduced myself. Besides that one encounter, it's really been just the same as you guys, following on social media and that.

He really does look like fine player, like you know, there's a lot -- like his play has been phenomenal. The way he goes about it, I'd say with a small interaction with him, looks like he's got a good attitude, well focused. Feels like to me, it looks like feels like he belongs, which is the biggest key to a young rookie coming out on Tour. You know, if they look like they are caught in the headlights, they could disappear quickly, where Victor really does look like he's here to play golf.

I'm obviously paired with him. I'm looking forward to playing with him. From my perspective, you know, there's not many times -- there's not many guys in the game of golf -- well, there's more and more now that I actually say it that I'm keen to go out and see to watch his game.

Q. Did you specifically ask to play with him this week?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: I have a list of players that both myself and Robert will want to play with over the last number of weeks and the weeks coming. There's a good list, and generally they are not the players -- they are the young players, as I said, the ones we wouldn't necessarily have played with in the past. Victor is on that list and this is the first opportunity for that to happen, so that's why it's happened this week.

You know, as I said, I wouldn't want to miss out on playing with him, but this is our first opportunity, so that's why it's happened this week. But he's a name amongst, you know, maybe 20 names that we have chosen that we want to get out there and build those relationships with.

Q. You mentioned you might have to wait quite a while to name another vice captain. But would you prefer to name them as early as possible and is the plan to have a total of five?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: The definite plan would be to have five. I don't necessarily need to name them too early. I think myself and Robert, I have somebody to talk and discuss with now. The vice captains that I would be thinking about all know; I've talked to them all, and you know, I've spoken to them. Actually, I've spoken to a few. There's certainly one still completely open, but I've spoken to most of the other ones, and I will continue to talk to them in the sense of if I'm looking for an opinion and I haven't named them as vice captain, I can still go and ask them and talk to them.

But most of the majority of the heavy lifting is going to be done by Robert for the next -- certainly the next six months and you might find that another one or two is named, and then ultimately maybe the last two are going to be named. We haven't set any dates on this, but closer to the tournament. You know, maybe a month or two. You clearly need them.

When it comes to picking the three picks at the end of it, you do need to have your vice captains, and you need to have them for a few weeks beforehand to make sure you're getting a full and rounded view of what's out there.

Q. Can you give us any of the names?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: No. No. But it wouldn't be hard to figure them out. It wouldn't take a genius to start picking out who would be the vice captains.

Q. Robert, your second time as vice captain. What lessons did you learn in Paris?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Well, the job is a lot bigger than you think, that's for sure. I'm really looking forward, as well, to work with Pádraig. It's obviously going to be very different from Thomas. Two completely different individuals. I think I am going to have my hands full over the next few months to see how I'm going to relate to Pádraig compared to Thomas. It's important for me to not carry too much with me from that. Learn from what was important and kind of leave the other things behind.

But I'm looking forward to it. I think definitely the personal aspect, trying to build relationships with the players, that's important and something I'm going to do now that I'm more official in this position. I'm looking forward to the fall and trying to build those relationships with the players that are just as Pádraig said, hovering around the numbers and we can see the potential. It's a very exciting fall in front of us.

Q. How different will it be, being an away Ryder Cup, as well?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Well, being at home like we did last year, it was everything from setting up the golf course to trying to understand what we're going to do when we were in Paris. Now it's kind of served to us, so it will be a different course and course understanding. We are going to look at Duncan and 15th club people to get as much facts as we can on the golf course and trying to understand the golf course, and we know pretty much how they are going to set it up. They can't do much with the rough because there's not much there, anyway. It's bunkers and fairways.

So it's kind of -- but trying to understand the golf course and what we're going to be dealt a little bit more than trying to set it up, what we did last time.

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