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January 16, 2007

Padraig Harrington


GORDON SIMPSON: Welcome to the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. It's another calendar year and I presume it must have given you a warm glow to know that you're European No. 1 and you have the chance now to do something about it this season.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's very nice. Obviously never been in this situation before, and hopefully I will carry the flag of the European No. 1 well for the year and defend it well and perform like the European No. 1 I suppose for the rest of the year.
GORDON SIMPSON: Does it make a difference being No. 1?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, not really. At the end of the day, you know, if you went back to Valderrama and Sergio had parred the last, would I be any better or worse a golfer now; just because I won the title, it's a nice accolade and something I'm happy about, but in terms of playing my own golf and improving, I set other ways of judging that other than results because results can be very fickle at times. When the results come along, those confirm that you're on the right track but they are not the end-all or be-all.
GORDON SIMPSON: And did you get the chance to have a fairly decent break and just try to recharge the batteries over the last few weeks?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, it's gone very quick. Couple of different things. Obviously my caddie (Ronan Flood) got married one of the weeks, Christmas was one week, went on holiday last week to Dubai. I had something going on every week. It went very quickly.
Having taken only four weeks, I intended to come out here to -- last week I did some practise. I'm testing some new irons, a new driver and this really fit into my schedule to come and play and to use the clubs in a tournament environment. So that was a good reason to be here.
But it has come in very quickly. It's amazing to be back on the golf course so quick for me when I normally take such a long break, it has been quite short. The benefit of that is I'll able to take more time off during the season. By playing a few events earlier, it opens up a few two-week and three-week breaks during the season.
GORDON SIMPSON: Thank you for those remarks and we'll take some questions now please.

Q. How are the clubs different?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, they are slightly different in that they are designed look-wise, a little bit of change to the look but the weighting has changed on it. So I basically get a little higher golf flight so, that's obviously something you've just got to get used to in terms of distance control and you know, the shot selection.
I think another aspect, I put my grips on probably 20 degrees open or so, so that takes a bit of work to fit that in. It takes a bit of time to get them correct. And really, just getting used to it, sorting things out. I probably spent -- I probably spent three hours for the last two days fixing my grip, just putting them on and taking them onto got ones that feel comfortable for me.
So there's a lot of things to be done when you get a new set. To be honest I set a goal of being, you know, happy and finished with this now. I'm going to play four tournaments in the States and when that's finished, I'm going to be happy if everything is sorted out, not sort of changing for the rest of the season after that. It takes a little time to put anything new into the bag.

Q. About changing irons.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I have them on 20 degrees open. You can say right to one person and you move the head right and you say right to another person and he moves the grip right. The club face is 20 degrees open when you grip the club square.
I think Bernhard Langer does it, Nick Price did it, I think Hogan did it and I think David Lynn does it. He showed me the other day.

Q. How does your schedule look?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's looking good, because I played a little bit earlier. That means if I play the same events that I played last year in numbers, I'll be able to take more breaks off during the season.
I think I play four in the States and then I take two weeks off, play three in the States, take three weeks off. So some bigger breaks mid season than I took last year. Last year I had a lot of one- and a few two-week breaks and really just didn't get enough time between events.
So this year, I'm experimenting with some nice sort of time off in-season rather than taking the big, long winter break.

Q. Now that you're European No. 1, is a major the next target?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think that would be -- I've won tournaments all the way up to major championship level, so that would be the next step. Obviously it's a big step where, yeah, that's what I'm trying to do. If it doesn't happen this year, so be it, whenever it comes along.

Q. Are the majors a focus?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Definitely, yeah, definitely. Everything is geared to get your game every week I play I play as hard as I can but definitely the schedule is built so that I'm going to be ready to play in the major tournaments without a doubt. I'm going to play every major the week before, I think that's better for me. Little things you've learned over the years. You're always trying to perfect what's the best way of getting your form for a major.

Q. (How is the form?)
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I'm happy with how things are. I'm obviously a little bit rusty and I'm going to make mistakes, but I have to accept fact that I'm going to make mistakes out there. If I do that, I think I will probably perform well, as long as I know that. Because I haven't played so much, I'm going to make a silly clubbing error here or take some shot on that I shouldn't or I'm going to lose my focus here or misjudge a chip shot or two. That's the nature of it when you haven't played as much golf as you want, but I'm happy with how I'm swinging the golf club. The bit of work I've done during the winter I feel good about.
I do feel good about my game, yeah. I like the golf course, too. It's a really nice course. So nice when you travel out here like to any event at start of the year, it's nice to play a course that you feel comfortable on.

Q. Have you played the course today? What do you think of it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I played nine yesterday and 18 today. I really like it, very, very nice, definitely a course that would suit my game. Yeah, I find it very good, I've got to say. I like grainy greens. I find them easier to read, and I really feel like, yeah, I can hole putts on them.

Q. About new clubs.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Technology advances, always. These clubs, I can see a big difference in the longer irons. The key with my game and probably for majors and things like that, I want to hit my irons a little bit softer into the greens. These definitely fly higher and sort of hold the trajectory well; whereas before, the one thing I get a little bit too often is an aggressive flight, which is great when you're playing in windy weather and links golf courses, but it's not great when you're playing stadium-style golf courses where you're trying to fly a ball into a green and stop it quickly.
You're always looking for an edge, for something better.

Q. So you have a lot of input?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, quite a bit of input, yeah. That's the great thing of being with Wilson, they will always come to me and ask me what I think and explain what they are trying to do to make their golf clubs better. I have quite a bit of input into it and would be aware that these irons, for a good -- all three last year sort of thing, having looked at the very initial designs and talking through what I wanted to see in the designs, all the way up from the irons through the wedges through the driver.
So it is a big benefit being with a company like Wilson where I suppose I'm one of their top players, if not the top player, so they will ask me.

Q. How will you judge your success this year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you're going to look at it in results. I can play better this year and not win the Order of Merit. But at the end of the year, somebody will judge it on whether I win it or not. So there's lot of things that I have in my mind that I want to do to judge whether I'm successful or not by the end of the year. I'm focused on those things.
As I said, whether you win the Order of Merit or win a major, you know, yeah, you want to do that over time, but you know, as I certainly proved over the years, you know, you can be in the right place so many times and things not fall into place, and then like for the Order of Merit this year, you know, I'm in the right place at the right time and everything went for me.
So my game is improving every year, it's improved since I've come on Tour and that's all I'm looking for this year is another improvement. It's inevitable that if my game keeps improving, that I will take the next step.

Q. How would you judge a good year for Padraig Harrington?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was a better player. There's loads of ways to judge being a better player. Doesn't necessarily go with -- if I contended. That's probably, if you contend, that's the sign of a good player; that he can turn up and contend when he wants to. Rather than a player can turn up and play well in a given week and not win and win the next week and do nothing for the rest of the year. The sign of a good player is a player -- difference between a great player and a good player is a good player plays well when everything goes for him when he feels good. A great player plays good when he wants to, so he can play to a certain level. That's a way of judging it.
If you really want to be a good player, you have to be able to turn up in a given week and perform to a certain level. Doesn't mean that you win the tournament or whatever but you have to be there; that you can say you gave it a chance. That would be the ultimate goal, that you're turning up whenever you need to and put in a performance that gets threw or there about. Winning is a different things because you can only manage your own game. It's about managing what you do and performing to the best of your abilities rather than sort of being hit-and-miss and having a few good weeks here and there where you hole a few putts and feel good about your game and struggle maybe some important week.

Q. About learning from other players?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. Watched. Obviously you can watch everybody and learn from everybody. Watching somebody who is successful and also watching somebody who isn't successful, you can learn as much from somebody who is getting it wrong.
I think Tiger, you know, his schedule is different to mine and I can't see myself playing 20 events in a given year or 22 events as he does. So I have to work at a different rhythm.
I also like to play the week before a major. I don't think Tiger plays the week before a major. Everybody has a slightly different schedule but you have to be aware of what other people are doing and checking whether that suits you or not.
As I said, right down to, you know, you don't have to just look at the very best players, but other players, why they don't peak or why they do peak. Like I know as an amateur, I always peaked, I would take a week's rest, a week's practise, then play a small tournament, and then play a big tournament. That would be my ideal way of preparing for a tournament.
Unfortunately, you know, as a pro, you don't get that sort of option all the time. But that would be ideal for me, having a week's practise, a week's rest and then a tournament and I'm there to sharpen my game up and then the following week the main event. That would be my ideal way of peaking for a major.

Q. What majors this year would you not be able to follow your ideal schedule?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Say, like two weeks before the Open would be the European Open. I can't take that week off. That's why you can't -- you can't do everything you want to do as a professional golfer. As I say, normally I would take -- if it was in an ideal world, I would take three weeks off before an event. Now there's one where I can't do it.
I would search to play for a tournament the week before the Open now. That's something that I realised after last year. I went in playing the Open and went in swinging the club quite well and scored terribly and put it down to, you know, not having a tournament under my belt the week before where I could have, you know, ironed out a few of the little glitches that there really wasn't much wrong with my game.
It's just a little bit of, you know, nothing that wouldn't have sorted out. As I have often done, I played a major and played great the following week. A lot of players do that, peak a week too late.

Q. What do you think of the field?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've got to say, you know, the field here is very good this year, very, very good. You look, there must be a lot of World Ranking points. I see why. People who came last year have talked well about the course, they see the golf course and the Palace hotel and that gets people coming back. This event, it's strong this year going from strength to strength.
Really, this is a good test of golf, and especially at this time of the year, you've got great practise facilities here. People, you know, yeah, I like coming here, this is somewhere you come back to as an event, as a very positive event. If you don't play well, you've got ideal facilities for tuning up your game and if you do well play, it's a good golf course. You can shoot really good scores on the golf course, which is another plus. You don't want to be coming out here to shoot 2-over par. You want a sort of golf course that you can make a few birdies on and play well on.
So it's got a lot going for it, and I can see how a lot of players who would have been here last year would have been coming back this year.

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