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May 18, 2021

Padraig Harrington

Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome back to the 2021 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course. European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, is joining us. Padraig, you're in your second spell of the season playing over here in the U.S.

Can you talk about the state of your game today and how it fits the Ocean Course where you had a top-20 finish in 2012, and maybe reminisce a little bit about 1997 World Cup and your finish there.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, obviously it's nice to be a winner on this golf course, the World Cup in '97. I said this to Rasmus Højgaard the other day that I had won in '97 and he hadn't been born for another four or five years or something.

I'd love to play on golf courses like this all the time. It's a beauty of a golf course. It's a really nice test. It gives a lot of options. It's a big golf course. It's got a lot of risk-reward, but it gives you some leeway in terms of you've got the skills around the greens, you can get it up-and-down.

Just a really, really good test.

Obviously playing it today -- I played it Sunday in a cross wind and you could work the ball and the golf course didn't play long at all. It was a really -- it was a nice, enjoyable test.

Today with the wind the way it was, it was a beast today.

Look, I'm sure you guys will set the golf course up appropriate, but I really do enjoy playing it. I think it's a much better test to go out on a golf course where if you shape the ball well you can use the wind, you can work it on the wind, and around the greens it's interesting.

There's a lot of excitement around the greens. You can really hit a good chip shot. You can get a lot of spin off the paspalum turf, so you can play shots that look impossible and you can also mess up shots that look easy.

For me it will be the ideal sort of test.

THE MODERATOR: Let's turn to the Ryder Cup quickly before we go to Q&A. How are your preparations going for September, and can you talk about the way your team is shaping up a little bit?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I do see things are starting to change for me. You know, clearly with the delay I think most of the administration work is done, so my intention coming into this year was very much focused on the team and what -- I suppose watching the team and getting an idea for the team.

My team seems to be reasonably settled in the top nine positions, and it kind of looks like most guys are playing to impress me.

I see my own -- I've changed a little bit, especially kind of the Masters time was a watershed. I played golf up to that and it was awkward to kind of do things, but since then I see myself spending more time with the players at different stages and trying to take a little bit more time out of my day to be -- like I played a nine-hole practice round on Sunday with Tommy and things like that.

Just trying to be around the guys a bit more and maybe stepping out from what I'm doing. Normally at a tournament I'm a busy person, keep my head down, do my work, but I'm trying to make that effort to step out from that and just spend a bit more time.

I'm definitely not as focused on my own golf as I would have been pre-Masters. I'm more focused if anything on the Ryder Cup now.

Q. You just talked about Kiawah being a good test and you won the World Cup there in '97 with McGinley, but he didn't mention this is your 21st PGA Championship. How much is the accumulation of all this experience you've got and also the experience of playing Kiawah, how comfortable will it make you feel this week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, look, people often ask in a general term about experience. Well, as you gain experience, you lose innocence. I suppose if you drew a graph, there's a crossing point of equilibrium where you have some experience and a certain amount of innocence and enthusiasm. As you get a little bit older and you get all this experience, on paper people might think you get better with experience, but as I said, you've seen a few things that you know in your game that you probably never wanted to see, so you kind of lose that little bit of, I suppose, innocence.

It's not everything it's cracked up to be to have experience. I know I've played 21 times in the PGA, and to be honest, when you come to a great golf course like this and you look back, you realize how many different types of tests we've had at the PGA over the years.

I think when I first came out the PGA was considerably played on probably a pretty typical U.S. golf course, U.S. style golf course. But we've played a great variety now over the years, and it's really matured as a major championship from what I would have had an image of it in the '80s. It really is sitting up there now giving us a good variety of tests.

You never know what you're going to get from year to year in terms of style of golf course, and it's -- as all the majors, they're putting it up to each, it's upped its game, it's improved its standing, and coming to places like this for a week where this is going to be a great championship, there's going to be plenty of excitement on this golf course, and whoever wins this week will be a worthy winner.

Q. Are you meeting with any of the European probable players this week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Probable? We're keeping an eye -- I'm trying to -- not this week, no, to be honest. I've tried to say and get it across to everybody, their goal at the moment is to play well in the next three majors and the Olympics. The Ryder Cup is the fifth tournament in their schedule, so if they can peak -- if I was sitting there looking at their training or golfing schedule, they should peak for this major, the next two majors, the Olympics, and then hopefully hold something back to peak at the end of September.

This is not the week for getting in guys' heads. This is not the week for having dinners and things like that. This is a tournament week, serious business for these guys. Anybody who's in contention to make the Ryder Cup team I hope has the ability to come and win here.

So they should be really focused on that and not worrying about a tournament five months out. Myself and my vice captains will do enough of that for them.

Q. I don't know if I've missed it, but are you close to naming your vice captains?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I have a fair idea, obviously, who I want. I must admit I've just mentioned at the European Tour that I will be looking to announce my next one very soon. I haven't told him that. I have to give him the news that -- most of my vice captains are players, and players who potentially could have made the team.

So telling a vice captain that we're going to announce him is kind of -- is not great news in some ways for that person. But look, I actually need more vice captains. Myself, Luke, and Robert have a Zoom meeting next Monday, and I was just sitting there looking at it and saying, It's time that the other guys get on board.

And we kind of need more vice captains at this stage, so yes, I will endeavor to announce another one and maybe not make a slip-up and announce it unintentionally, but I will be doing that pretty soon.

Q. Could you talk about the challenge and the difficulty of the 17th hole?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's pretty straightforward. Don't hit it in the water.

It was a big hole today. It was a 2-iron, maybe -- I carry a strong 5-wood. I hit 5-wood. You've got to take it on.

If you want to hit the green, you've got to be brave, take it on, take it down the right-hand side. If you want to play to that left-hand bunker, which isn't the worst play in the world -- well, what would be interesting about the left-hand bunkers is there's no bunkers this week, so you're making the assumption if you play left that you're going to get a nice lie in the bunker.

Let's hope that's the case. It's not a bad play. It's definitely a very difficult hole. I would assume if we had the same conditions as today, we would play that tee box up, which turned it into a 4-iron, 3-iron type hole, which is difficult but very reasonable.

Look, there's a lot of great holes here. I do agree if I was designing the golf course, a championship golf course, I would have a real stern test at the end because you want a true winner, and a true winner is going to have to hit the shots at the end and really take them on.

You can't have a -- it's not a soft finish in any shape or form. That's a good thing. But yeah, nobody would have won this tournament until they're through the 71st hole; that's for sure.

Q. I'm wondering, what does the captaincy mean to you? And how do you sort of define what that role is?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Look, the captaincy is one of those things that you -- I suppose you generally as you're going along before you get in the running for it, you think, Oh, yeah, yeah, I want to be captain, I'd like to be captain, I've had a career that deserves to be captain, that sort of stuff.

And then the reality hits that it's your time, it's your turn, and in our case the European Tour players will come to you and say, Right, are you going for this? It's quite a shock to take it on because, one, there's obviously quite a personal commitment and time into it, but you don't want to be a losing captain. You want to be a winning captain, and you're putting a lot on the line being out there.

It's not a ceremonial job. It's important, and it's important to the European Tour. It's important to the European Tour players, and you certainly want to do it justice.

I thought long and hard about do I want to put myself through this, do I want to put myself out there, and I didn't take that decision lightly. I didn't take the job on because -- I definitely didn't take it on because I thought it was my due or it was my time or this is what I was supposed to do.

I took it on because I believed I could do a good job and that I would commit and put the time and effort into it. It's been interesting. It's not -- you know, there's work. It's not straightforward. I have to thank -- I really have to thank, I suppose, Thomas Björn and Paul McGinley for the amount of work you have to do on the Ryder Cup when you come from Europe because they really did turn it into a full-time job.

But you don't want to leave any stone unturned and you want to live up to -- those two were great captains and you want to live up to what they did in terms of the time and effort and the work behind the scenes.

So it is a strange one. I think for us, it's not just about who was the best player who had a great career deserves to be Ryder Cup captain, it's about who could do the job and who's the right man for the job, and I don't take that lightly.

Q. I notice in the pairings that Steve Stricker is playing with two qualifying Americans trying to make the team and you're playing with Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. Any gamesmanship there on the PGA of America?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I can guarantee if this was the BMW PGA Championship in Britain I would be playing with two potential qualifiers, so I would expect nothing else.

I personally would have liked to have played with Steve, but obviously on the other side of that, as an ex-champion here you're paired up with ex-champions. It would have been a fun group to be paired with Steve, but as I said, they have their set way of doing things here.

As I said, it's probably quite tough on the two potential guys to be paired up with Steve when it's a major week. Personally, as I said about the Europeans, I really don't want to take away anything from their chances this week of --you know, make it as relaxed as possible for those guys, because when it comes to the Ryder Cup, the best thing my players could do for me is win majors, be major champions coming into the Ryder Cup.

Q. What's the biggest key in your opinion to being an effective wind player?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Wow, I suppose you could write a book on that.

I think you've got to try it. That's ultimately -- I sometimes see some good players, good ball strikers, and I just don't think they've put enough time into trying to be good wind players. They might have tried it once or twice and it just didn't work out.

You've just got to continue to try and fail when it comes to the wind and learn that you've got to commit -- even though you could be aiming 20 yards left of the fairway at rubbish, you've got to commit to your shots. You can't be thinking of the middle of the fairway when you're aiming, you're trying to commit 20 yards left or something like that. You've got to hit it there like you're hitting a straight shot.

Hitting the ball low, that probably comes a little bit more naturally to me. But as I said, I think any player or good ball striker can learn to do it, and the more you take it on, the more you do it, you gain experience and you end up having that experience and trusting it under pressure.

I think that's the key. It's tough to come into one tournament, especially a big tournament like this, and all of a sudden start trying to hit golf shots that you're not familiar with. But if you played those shots more and more, by the time you get here you'll be comfortable with it.

It really is just an experience thing. Just keep -- if there's somebody out there who's a good ball striker -- the better a ball striker the harder it is to be a good wind player because you're generating -- with a quality strike you're getting the ball -- you're usually going to fly it higher with more spin.

The longer certainly a ball striker, the more he has to become a good wind player who can hit half and three-quarter shots.

You've got to understand that it is trial and error to start off with, and it ends up being, yeah, experience that there is nothing that can turn around and say -- like today I've got 98 yards to a pin and I'm hitting a shot that's going to go 140 yards, or I'm hitting a 9-iron at times.

That has to be experience. You're not going to be able to write that down in a yardage book. That has to be how you feel at that moment and remembering what you did in past situations in a similar situation.

Q. I have very fond memories of you in the 1997 World Cup here. Lee was in earlier, and obviously his play has been brilliant the first part of the season. And he doesn't have a major win, but he has fabulous finishes in majors. What would it mean to you to have a player that's seen sort of both sides as a vice captain and as a player on so many Ryder Cups to be able to have that on your team?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you know, we've talked about this in Europe many a time, and it's a bonus for me that Lee has played his way into the team because you need leaders in your team. It's incredibly important to have a leader that people will look up to. What he says in the locker room will command respect.

I have talked to Lee, and that will be very much part of his job during the week will be -- I'll expect more from Lee than just playing golf. I'm quite chuffed that he has played his way in, because as I said, I've seen teams that have been -- it's not all about the captain like me. You need captains behind the scenes. You need playing captains. You need captains in the locker room.

From my perspective I will be asking more of Lee than just golf.

Q. You were saying that one of the factors for you for the picks will be the next majors and the Olympics. With the current situation with the Olympics, how much of a factor is it? Is it the fact the players want to represent their country makes it like a commitment to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, look, it's very important when you're looking from a Ryder Cup perspective. You're looking at players who play well in the majors, players who play well this week, players that play well when it's on the line.

The Olympics creates that pressure and tension. Winning an Olympic medal is a big deal. I've seen that -- I've traveled the world since the last Olympics, and even as a three-time major winner, Ryder Cup captain, I could be introduced in some countries and they might say three-time major winner, I get a clap. They might say Ryder Cup captain I might get a cheer. But when you say an Olympian they can recognize that that's something they can judge a merit off of what you did in your career.

It is a big deal being an Olympian, and especially would be a big deal if you won a medal, gold medal. That will put players under pressure and stress, and that's the sort of -- from my perspective if a player can go out and win in the Olympics, that's the sort of player I want on the first tee of a Ryder Cup.

Q. The other side of your pairing this week is playing with Phil Mickelson. Is that an incentive for you to play better and to try to win? And how much do you like the PGA Championship?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Look, it would be interesting. I get on very well with Phil, so we'll actually probably -- should enjoy our golf out there. We should have a bit of fun together. It's a good pairing for me. There will be a lot of chat.

So yeah, because myself and Phil are at that age, yeah, I think we should get on well and enjoy it.

It would be interesting to see. Obviously Jason Day is more competitive than maybe myself and Phil. Myself and Phil, Phil maybe more than me -- myself and Phil are more hopeful. I think Jason Day is still a player. In terms of golf, you want -- you do want your playing partners to play well, so hopefully we all get out there and play well and it's not a ceremonial group.

But I know -- I'm pretty sure myself and Phil are going to enjoy it anyway.

THE MODERATOR: Padraig, good luck this week and good luck in September.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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