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June 7, 2006

Padraig Harrington


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Defending champion of the Barclays Classic, Padraig Harrington, thanks for joining us. Wet day out there, but got a chance to see the golf course and you've been out here since Monday so you've definitely seen this golf course this week. Maybe some opening comments about coming back to Westchester where you certainly made a lot of fans last year. PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's great to be back. It's obviously always nice to come back and defend a tournament. It doesn't happen that often. This has been a good place for me over the years. Obviously with this rain the last two years it's been very warm and the golf course has been firm. It's a totally different golf course. It'll be interesting to see how I fare on it now. It's definitely a different test of golf than what was there last year and the year before. JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Any magic on 18 today? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I had a good chance of eagle on 18 today. I had about a 30, 40 footer that missed quite close. We were talking about it as we went up there. I practiced the same putt that I holed last year yesterday. It didn't come close. But I only needed to hole it the once (laughing). Q. In what way is it a different test this year? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I probably hit four drivers on average off the tee out there. Today I hit 14. You hit driver off every hole today, whereas usually there's a lot of the likes of 11, it often comes down to like a 5 wood off the tee. Today you could hit driver and you weren't getting anywhere near the hazard. It's playing a lot longer, much, much longer. Q. Is it also playing easier, though, because you can go at more flags? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I didn't feel I had a problem with that before. Obviously today's conditions it's not playing easier, it's playing a lot tougher. The ball isn't traveling at all. I think when poa annua greens get soft, it's difficult to get too much spin. All these greens sit back to front, so the difficulty now is if you drive it down there a long way on any fairway and you're hitting short iron in, trying not to get the ball to spin back too much. I was getting 6 iron to spin back today. The greens are nice and they're sloped back to front, so you do get a lot of spin on them. Q. Does this have any U.S. Open flavor to it, this course? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, very much so. It's the same turf, the same poa annua greens. The rough is quite heavy this year, heavier than it was last year. I would say it has a lot of similarities. Similarities to Winged Foot in that all the Winged Foot greens are sloped from back to front and you're trying to keep the ball below the hole, and that's what you're trying to do here. Q. Talk about defending here and playing in New York, in front of New York crowds, dating back to Bethpage and so on. PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I particularly have always said this. I like playing in an exciting atmosphere, a loud atmosphere, a noisy atmosphere, and you get that in New York. It's always easier to play golf when there's ambient noise around the golf course, when cheers are going up all over the place. It's difficult to play golf in a very quiet, structured sort of way. When it's a bit more free, I suppose, and a lot of cheering goes on, it kind of keeps you upbeat and I think I play much better golf in that sort of mood. It's easy to get excited about playing your round of golf when there is a lot of loud cheering going on. It does help me play better golf, definitely. Q. As a follow up, you've got a pretty decent Irish contingent in this area. Do you hear that out there? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, definitely, yeah. The Irish always come out. Somehow you always spot the Irish. They somehow find me. Q. And the New York Irish is probably double, I guess, double the boisterous or passion maybe? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You said it (laughing). Q. Have you been to Winged Foot since you've been here in New York? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I did. I had a practice round Monday. Q. How tempting is it to think about playing another one? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, okay, I went and had a practice round there Monday, but since then my focus has been solely on the Barclays Classic. This is a very big event. There's nobody here nobody is teeing up this week that doesn't want to win this week, and that's what you've got to focus on while you're here. When your chance of not winning the Barclays Classic is gone, then you start thinking about the U.S. Open. But up until you've got a chance of winning this tournament, all you should be thinking about is what you're doing here this week. Q. I asked a couple young guys earlier about the PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Including me? Q. No, you're a grizzled veteran. The knock against some of the young guys on the Tour is the art of shot making has sort of been lost because of technology, guys aren't able to work the ball in both directions. You came on Tour before the Pro V 1 was popularized. How dramatic a change has there been in that regard? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would think you'd have to go back before my time to really see the dramatic change. Since I've come out on Tour, ten years now, it has been about hitting it long and straight, as far as you can off the tee and being good at your wedges. Shot making, definitely, ever since I've been out there, it's not like what it was. You don't see people like Faldo dominating in the game now. That's the way the game has moved on. You're not going to turn down the opportunity to play I play the Pro V 1 X, and you're not going to turn down the opportunity to play the best ball that gives you 20 yards more off the tee or that flies straight. You've got to take those opportunities. It would be nice would it be nice if we were all back to the mid 80s where we were all hitting it 220? Sometimes when we go home in the winter and the weather is like this sometimes, gee whiz, you struggle to get it over 200. No, it's nice to have long golf balls, is what I'm trying to say, and there is an art to hitting it straight, too. I think the best player is probably the world No. 1 at the moment, you can't argue with that, and I think the best player wins each week for that individual week. They've always revamped golf courses over the years, and I agree that they need to continue to revamp golf courses to meet the demands that are put in the game. All the players are getting fitter and stronger, we're not going to hit the ball further anyway, and we're going to do whatever it takes to get the ball in the hole the easiest. Q. (Inaudible). PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Maybe not in terms of timing the biggest event I've won, but it's certainly right up there in terms of the quality of events I've won. At other stages in my career I've won events, say my first win on the Tour in Europe, and my first win as a Tour would have been a bigger step for me at that time. I think winning the Honda Classic was a bigger step at the time because it was my first win on the U.S. Tour. But this tournament was probably a better class of field to win, yes, but maybe not as elite as some of my other wins. Q. Would it surprise you that it's been seven years since a European has won a major and an Irishman hasn't won since 1970? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It doesn't surprise me, no. I think these things tend to go in cycles. European golf was very strong at the end of the 80s, early 90s. There has been a lull, but I think a lot of the guys coming through now will have been would have watched those great players, the Faldos, the Seves, Sandy Lyle, Woozy, Bernhard Langer, as I did growing up, and they would have motivated a lot of players. I think you'll see European golf becoming very strong in the not too distance future. There's a lot of good young players. It's only a matter of time before a European wins a major, and I think it will make it easier for other guys to follow like it did in the 80s. Q. Is there a pressure attached to that? Does it ever play in your mind? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I'm worried about myself to that extent. I'm not trying to carry the burden of the European of Europe on my shoulders. It's not hard carrying my own expectations without anybody else's. Definitely I would love I've said this to Thomas Bjorn, Thomas has probably been the closest to winning majors in Europe a few times, and Thomas is a friend of mine and I'd love him to win a major for himself, but I'd be quite happy to see him win a major like I was Michael Campbell because I know he can play well and I know him well, and it makes it more believable that you can win one. I believe somebody in Europe will make a breakthrough and others will follow. Q. None of us has seen Tiger since The Masters. Are you looking forward to seeing Tiger again? On a more serious level, you've been in the steps that he's taken over the past couple of months, and how did you get through those tough weeks? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, it's a very personal thing. That's got to be a issue. When Tiger comes out and gets on the golf course, it'll probably be the best place, the most relaxed place, the most comfortable place on the golf course because that's what he does best in his life. He gets out there and plays golf. He's the world No. 1. He's the champion when he's out there. Off the golf course he's just another regular guy who's obviously had a bereavement in his family very close. Obviously it's very difficult to deal with that in a public arena. People expect so much of him, but nothing prepares you for that. It will be much more difficult for him off the course next week than on the golf course. He'll be nearly relieved when he gets on the golf course and he's doing things that he knows what he's dealing with, he's playing golf and he's comfortable with that. The tough part will be trying to explain things off the golf course that nobody can explain. Q. In that same topic, obviously you're not in his body and his mind, but to not have competed since The Masters and then coming right to the U.S. Open, how difficult do you think that's going to be with no competition? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: For everybody else it would be you'd say no chance. You know, not everybody has what Tiger has in the bag. He's got plenty in reserve that he can win, as he used to say, with his B game at one stage. He doesn't have to be on A 1 form. He's obviously still a tournament favorite going into it. He won't be 100 percent, there's no way he can be 100 percent, but he doesn't need to be either. Q. When you first came back, what was your first event back and how much time did you take off? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't take that much time off. I played sort of only a couple weeks afterwards. As I said, the best place, the most comfortable, easiest place to be is on the golf course when you're actually out on the course. This is what we do and we do it quite well, so when we're out there we're in our own little zone, in our comfort zone. It's the stuff outside, when people ask you to explain things you haven't got the capability to explain. We're professional golfers, not psychologists or psychiatrists. We go through the same thing as everybody else. Q. In a way it was surprising to some that he didn't come back last week, for example, because obviously a lot of you guys probably want to give your condolences to him and give him a pat on the back. I wonder if there's any concern it will be a distraction for him coming back right into a major from that. I'm sure there's a lot of sentiment on the Tour. PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's not what he's worried about at this time in his life. He's got to play next week but he's not worried about being 100 percent next week. He's going to take it as it comes. Somebody coming up and giving their condolences next week, it's like somebody yes, there is a distraction if it happens all the time, but it's not the issues for him at the moment. It's not a big worry in his life whether he wins the U.S. Open next week or not, I would suggest. He's turning up, he's going to play and see what happens. He won't be 100 percent, but he doesn't have to be 100 percent, and to be honest, I don't think he'd be putting any pressure on myself whatsoever next week. That's the main thing. It doesn't matter what pressure anybody else puts on him, it's up to himself. If he doesn't feel like coming back two weeks previous, it doesn't make any difference. Q. Tom Lehman said this morning that you will definitely be at The K Club on the European team no matters what happens. PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Is he picking now? Can I take up U.S. citizenship so he can give me a pick? There's a number of good players in contention, and that's a good thing for the European team because there's half a dozen players who aren't qualified who are playing decent golf and with a chance. So nobody can take for granted anything is going to happen. My concern would be playing my way onto the team so if the captain a pick for somebody else and give him a choice, not put it down to don't put any doubt in the way. If I make the team, I'm assured of being there. Q. Do you think there's added pressure on Irish players to make the team as he suggested? PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there's more added pressure without a doubt, but I think certainly myself, Darren and Paul Darren aside obviously because he's got other issues going on, I think myself and Paul want to be there, but we'd probably be trying just as hard anyway if it was anywhere else. The fact that it's in Ireland, yeah, there's more pressure, but really we probably generate that pressure anyway. JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Padraig Harrington, thank you.

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