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April 3, 2007

Padraig Harrington


CLAUDE NIELSEN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure for me to welcome Padraig Harrington back to Augusta National for his eighth Masters appearance. I'll give you a couple of highlights from the last couple of years, and then maybe we'll have a couple of opening remarks from Padraig.
He's played exceptionally well in 2006, winning in Europe at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and once in Asia at the Dunlop Phoenix. He won the PGA European Tour Order of Merit. He finished fifth at the 2006 U.S. Open. He took two PGA TOUR titles in 2005, the Honda Classic and the Barclays Classic. He won consecutive Par 3 Contests in 2003 and 2004 (laughter). Any comments on that one?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'll be trying again this week.
CLAUDE NIELSEN: He has a total of 11 national wins. It's a pleasure to have you back. And would you care to make a few opening remarks?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, it's always nice to be back here. Thank you very much for your welcome.
I think -- I think this is one of the few places you come to in the world that it always exceeds your expectations. It's one of those places, every year you come back to, you're just, wow, it only gets better. It's always a joy to be here.
Unfortunately we've got a little golf tournament to play in as well and you can't quite savor it for the whole week, but it's a great place to come back to every year and definitely something special to be just in the event.

Q. It's been a while since a European has won here, Jose Maria the last one; your thoughts, with the dominance in the Ryder Cup the last few outings.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think we had a great run in the late '80s, early '90s. You're seeing in our Ryder Cup Team a lot of junior players who would have watched those great players in the late '80s. So it's kind of, I suppose, most growing up watching as a result of the wins in the Masters, we have a strong Ryder Cup Team at the moment. We have a young Ryder Cup Team and we have a lot of potential and there will be some Masters winners coming out of the team, no doubt about it. As I say, it is a very young team and whereas they are capable of winning, it does take a lot of experience to win at Augusta.
It tends to be not far off; a favorite wins every year at Augusta. It really is not a tournament that throws up surprises. Whereas we have a lot of really good players in the Ryder Cup Team, I think maybe we haven't really seen too many of them compete in the Masters, and I think you really need to do that, really come close before you win here.

Q. Where do the Par 3 victories rate in your career?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: All wins are wins. (Laughter) That's why when it was 11 international wins, I'm thinking, "There's more than that. I have to go and count them up."

Q. Beyond just Europe, it seems that during your time on TOUR, the international game has really stepped up. Can you just comment on where the international game has come in the last several years?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, certainly, it swings around, but obviously the international game was strong a long time ago.
I think what you're seeing now, the development of players now, the Aussies are based -- you could put it nearly directly based on Greg Norman.
There's a lot of European role models at the moment who have developed the game to sort of players of my era and slightly younger than me. I think in South Africa, you had Gary Player, 50 years -- it's unbelievable, 50 years. That would be 2049 for me to get my 50th. (Laughter) It's unbelievable.
I think that's what you see. Just see players coming along depending, you know, who, their countrymen who have been successful. In the States you're going to see in the next couple of years a lot of players coming along because of Tiger Woods who have looked up to him. It's just, you know, the way these things work. They go in waves.

Q. Can you imagine, in any of the modern players, Tiger especially, being able to play 50 Masters?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I try to imagine me playing in 2049. Yeah, I can see it happening. Yeah, no question about it. Gary Player was a special person. He's obviously -- Arnold is still 50, isn't he? So Gary has to do 51 there.
I think Gary is just motivated. It's just a question of finding somebody as motivated as Gary and good enough to win the Masters as well, but motivated as well. It could happen, I guess.

Q. But the modern game is so much harder physically; is it physically possible to did it, do you think?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Top players, top players nowadays could probably afford a private jet. Gary Player was -- he would tell you he had it a lot harder in his day than we have it nowadays. I'm sure the travel, it was a different lifestyle. But Gary worked out. He was probably one of the ones who did the most work. So he's certainly not somebody who took it easy back then.
I think it's obviously not going to be done that many times, if it's only the second player to do it. But, yes, it's a record that will be equalled again I'm sure.

Q. You're talking about role models. Who was your own particular role model from that stage of European winners?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm talking just early teenage years just what you're watching on television, the Masters was the tournament that started the golfing season at home. When the Masters came on at the start of April, the weather had turned and it was time to get out and play golf. I would have watched Seve winning his Masters. But probably Jack Nicklaus '86 I think had a big -- that was --

Q. I meant mostly European winners from that era.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's not a day, when I think about the Masters, I think about Woosie's eight-foot putt on the last. For a guy who probably doesn't enjoy putting, it was just the-best-putt-ever-sort-of-thing; or Sandy Lyle out of the bunker; Sandy's wins; Olazábal's wins. Bernhard Langer was a role model of mine in terms of that's the sort of player I looked up to wanting to be like as a kid. Certainly his wins here, all of the European wins, you could put them as one.
I think that's why the European -- Ryder Cup and European golf is strong at the moment because they did tend -- it was like one player winning them all. It was so few Europeans traveling, but they were good; a win from any of them was a win from Europe sort of thing.

Q. Can you just tell us about the dental visit, how long that had been bothering you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I chipped my tooth -- well --
CLAUDE NIELSEN: Repeat the question.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I had to go to the dentist yesterday down in Evans. I went to Billy Evans, I think his name is, in Evans, that's how ... anyway. (Laughter)
I went to the dentist and I was, well, about an hour and a half getting a filling put back in, taken out, cleaned out, put back in and all that. So routine stuff.
These things, you know, we do have to go to the dentist. We're not that good. We may be able to hit a little white golf ball, but it does not preclude us from going to see our dentist and things like that. (Laughter)

Q. I would not be the first person to ask you this and I'm sure I won't be the last time either, but isn't it about time you won one of these bloody things?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've had a few years where, you know, it's talked about, but I'm only starting to come into a situation where I'm probably a little bit more capable of winning a major.
I definitely think the Masters is the toughest one. It asks the ultimate questions coming down the stretch. There's a lot of shots that have to be absolutely perfect coming down the stretch. You can't get away; margin for error on the likes of 11, 12, 13, 15, is very slim.
So I just think this is -- this is the toughest, and this is the one that I would look to work on my game most. Like every time I practice, for the last -- certainly the last year and for the next number of years, really the tournament that I'm thinking about is the Masters, because I think if you can win around here, you can play golf.

Q. And is it because you're thinking about it more than any other, is it the one you think you're most likely to win?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. You know what, I've obviously -- I came to U.S. Open in '97, and really Congressional, just failed miserably. I felt my game was totally inadequate to compete in that style of golf course. All of the work I did on my game for the next eight years was always thinking about a U.S. Open. Now I see, you know, I'm more thinking about the Masters sort of style of game. So I would think, you know, still today, an Open Championship would be the favorite, but the U.S. Open, I've competed well in.
So those two before -- even though I would have a strong short game, this is a great test out here. And certainly, it may take -- it would take a few good breaks for me to improve my game over the next few years to improve on this course.

Q. You were saying on Sunday you were hoping to peak this week. Would you like to be coming here with sort of better form on the board?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I'm definitely hoping to peak here, no question about it, and I didn't peak the last two weeks, the 24th and the 19th, but my form has been solid, no question about it, so far this year. I competed well the first four weeks I was out.
So of course I would like to be in better form. I would have liked to have won my first eight events.

Q. It's not just the Masters; the Europeans have gone a while without winning a major, and you mentioned that back in the day it was one European win for all. Do you guys kind of have that same opinion now?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I certainly do. I want to see -- the way I see it is the quicker a European wins a major, the quicker the rest of us will see that and realize -- it's like breaking the four-minute mile. Once one person does it, everybody will be able to do it. I think there is a little bit of a push needed. If I'm not going to win, I'm certainly rooting for one of my fellow Europeans to win -- selfishly now, this is pure selfish reasons, I know what his game is like, I play with him more often, so it's more likely that I see that as a reasonable goal and as a sort of goal that can be achieved once I see somebody else achieve it.

Q. Do you guys talk about it amongst yourselves or does it just come up when we ask you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it just comes up when you ask us. (Laughter).

Q. In terms of your development as a player, you didn't see any great significance in beating Tiger head-to-head in Japan -- does that not surprise you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think you've misinterpreted what I said. I didn't see any great significance in beating -- as in it could have been any player there, and I would have been happy with the way I performed. The reason, and maybe this is one of the reasons why I've competed well against Tiger is, you know, there's a varied number of players that if they stood on the tee opposite me, I would be worried about competing against them.
So the win in Japan, I was happy with it because of the fact that I stuck to my own strategy and played my own game and did all of the things and it worked out.
I think when I talked to you about it, I was trying to play down the significance of the player I was competing against and play up more to the significance of what I did, what I was doing.

Q. But is it not significant, nonetheless, to have beaten Tiger head-to-head?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, but to do it, you can't take -- I put everybody up on a pedestal, but I put them all up there; the last thing I want to do is put one player up there. So I've got a load of players in my head that, wow, they are great players, watched them on TV, did this, did that. So I'm not going to try and say one win against one individual player, because if I talk like that, I wouldn't be -- I've got to put them as, you know, just like the rest of the guys, whether it's Ernie Els or Phil Mickelson or Retief or any of those guys standing there, are just a guy playing the best golf in the world that week.
Generally if you're in a playoff, the other guy has played well. So you can't sort of single somebody out. That's why I would never try and, you know, make more of that; the fact that it was a playoff against Tiger, than I should. That's a job for you guys.

Q. Before when I asked you about the international game and you mentioned specifically the Aussies and South Africans, do you also see perhaps the next big wave coming from Asia?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think, you know, Asia will have a lot of players, but they need to -- they are two steps away, to be honest. They need one player to come out and lead the rest. They still haven't had that sort of -- they need a guy to come across and essentially one guy to come out and win a number of tournaments, and then you'll have even more.
Thinking about it, the game is a world game now. Every player in Asia is using Tiger Woods as a role model. Certainly when I grew up, you looked much more to your own fellow countrymen who are successful to follow into what sport you are going to do.
And you looked certainly at European golfers, we claimed them for ourselves, but I think the game has become so global that it might be necessary for Asian players to have a fellow countryman go out and do it. And they might be looking at Tiger; and I think about it even more -- (laughter) -- they still need somebody like we need somebody to win a major, to go and do it before they realize.
It's amazing, we go and play in Asia and we play in the tournaments and they are really good players at home, and when they travel out, they think they are something different. They need somebody to break that mold, and then loads will follow.

Q. Going back to what you said a minute ago about not wanting to separate Tiger from the other great players, does that change maybe a little bit this week because it seems this event might be exaggerated here?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think if anybody watched the golf last year, Phil Mickelson looked like comfortably the best player in the world when he was winning. When he came down that back stretch, he won this tournament doing hand stands. It was as comfortable a win as I've ever seen on a golf course. Why put one player there when Phil Mickelson has shown -- at that stage, anybody who watched that individual event last year would have definitely walked away and said, "Well, Phil Mickelson must be well ahead as the world's best player."
No, there's no point in singling one person out. I do agree as I said earlier, the better you are, the more likely chance you are winning this week in that it does suit favorites. A lot of the players who have won here in the past have been the No. 1 player in the world at the time in terms of ability, and maybe even on the rankings, but most came into the event as more or less the best player in the game. That puts them right up there; that he would be a strong favorite in my mind.
But there are other players up there, so you can't just worry about one person.

Q. You started by saying this place always exceeds expectations.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's one of the few places you'll come in the world. You'll have a picture in your mind, and every time -- not alone the first time but every time you come back, it still exceeds expectations.

Q. What are the one or two things that always strike you here that make that image in your mind?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would actually say it's the overall, it's everything. It's the whole picture put together, whether it's just the beauty of the place. I think there's a certain mystique here.
I think the fact that we come back here every year really makes it. You're coming back and you are excited about coming to this event, and once you're here, everything, there's nothing left to chance. Everything is ideal here. You know, whether it's the golf course and the clubhouse, just a great place, everything through it.

Q. When you were just describing that the Asian players need someone to break through and win a major to show that they can do it, and you also said that, "We" need that as well, I assume the Europeans, the long drought out here and the long drought at the U.S. Open, why do you think such accomplished golfers would need that, would need someone to break through and show that the continent could do it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Why do you think all us golfers need sports psychologists and things? We need our egos massaged as much as anybody else. (Laughter) We need to be told we can do it, you can win, you're great. Many a guys would be walking around here this week saying -- they will be going to bed saying they are great putters and the best putter and things.
We need to convince ourselves of these things and sometimes we need that convincing to come from an outside agency, and knowing somebody who has won a major, somebody you have played practice rounds with that you have a game with every couple of weeks. If they go on and win a major, that makes it in your head so much easier to do it.
I mentioned earlier the four-minute mile. When the four-minute mile was first run, the following year I think 55, 57 guys ran a four-minute mile. So you can imagine that barrier; it's a psychological thing that you just need to see.
Michael Campbell winning the U.S. Open was very good, because even though he plays The European Tour and we see him out there, I was hoping that would help as a breakthrough, but we definitely need some European to win soon so that more will follow on.

Q. If I could just follow up, do you think it's going to take somebody who is fresh on the Tour like a Henrik Stenson who doesn't have that black flag of disappointments, or someone who has been through all the wars?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would see more the guy with the disappointments, definitely. I think very few guys win a major, especially a major like this, that have not had it and let it go. It's one of those ones, I'm not saying -- especially when you nearly have to be in there once or twice to know what it feels like. I think Lee Westwood described it best when he was leading going into the back nine, just everything totally changed.

Q. The longer the drought goes on, it's eight years now, the longer the drought goes on, does the pressure on you European guys become greater and greater, as you come down the stretch you're saying, "Good God, I might win this thing"?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think any individual player is going to be coming down the stretch trying to win it for Europe. They are going to be selfish winning it for themselves. I don't think they are going to be worried about an eight-year time frame.
As I said, you just need that positive reaffirming when somebody else wins. I don't think the gap is going to be in anybody's head, but I definitely think that it's just difficult to win one of these things. But the quicker somebody wins one, maybe that will open the flood gates for a few more Europeans to follow on.
But as I said, the game is becoming more sort of a global game anyways. Maybe in 10, 15 years' time we won't be talking about players being European or U.S. in terms of their game.

Q. Do you need somebody else to break that tape or could you be Roger Bannister this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, I'll be happy take any chances. Somebody mentioned it -- end of last year, somebody was talking about their aspirations for majors and they said, "I want to be the first European to win a major, 2007."
I said, "I'll be the fourth European to win a major in 2007; I'll be quite happy." Makes no difference who breaks it when it happens.

Q. But you are Roger Bannister, you believe you can do it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there's no question about it. I think in a given week like this, I do need to be right on the edge on a week like this. It's not going to be -- you know, I'm going to need a couple of breaks, hole a couple of putts, do whatever this week to be competitive on this -- on this golf course.
I think in time, as I said, I feel like my game is improving and I think I can improve for future years. But in a year like this, at the moment, certainly I can do it, but it would be -- it would be a really good week for me. I'm certainly not walking out there feeling like I have it totally under control or anything like that.

Q. And back to Tiger. It would have to be a comforting thing for you, wouldn't it, if you reached Saturday night and it was you and Tiger in the last group, that you've beaten him in the past?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think there's a single player in this field that wouldn't want to be playing with Tiger next Sunday, because that usually says you're doing quite well.

Q. But there would be more other players worried about the outcome.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: They might be worried about the outcome. I'd be worried about the outcome, but I'd try and deal with it. There's no question about it, whenever you're in contention or whatever, you're going to be worried about what's happening. You just have to deal with it.
The fact that I have successfully done it in the past, yeah, it's got to be positive enough. As we talked about, positive affirmation earlier on; we're going to have a psychology lesson here. (Laughter)
Yeah, definitely, no question about it. But when people look at Tiger's record, and I would be aware of this, when you watch the golf on TV, he's won 11 playoffs or something, 11-1 or something like that, I always look at it and say, "The law of averages says it's going to turn around." So if I've beaten him a couple of times, the law of averages says that might turn around, too. (Laughter).

Q. You do need help. (Laughter).
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's why you have to be kind of neutral. So if I play with Tiger on Sunday, I'll take that right now and go out there philosophical. I'll be feeling whatever will be, will be. If I don't play well, there's not much -- I know all this week and Sunday, it won't be for a lack of trying. So it's not like I could physically try any harder. So that would be a reason, you know, for me just to be philosophical and say, whatever.

Q. I've noticed in some of the practice rounds that there's a great spirit of cooperation between a lot of the players within the groups. There's Masters veterans playing with rookies and sharing information about the course and such. And I was wondering if you have any experiences you could share, either as a student or as a tutor out here at Augusta National?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't quite made it to tutor status at Augusta National but I have a couple of times, especially my first couple of years I made an effort to play with the likes of Faldo, Nick Faldo and I think Bernhard, as well, early onto ask questions. Whenever I played with anybody else, I would have asked questions.
I think eight years on, I still hear the stories. I was in Mark O'Meara's company last night and he was talking about his win and different things that happened. So, yes, I think all senior players like to be asked, you know, they like to be involved, so they are very free and giving of their time and their information.
I think -- I don't know, as regards currently competitive players, probably it's a bit more of, you know, they play with their mates out there and everybody's happy to share information with their friends. But it probably doesn't, you know, if they are competitive, it doesn't really stretch must past that.

Q. Has anybody asked you for advice?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, as I said, I've not come to -- I'm not experienced enough to be a tutor as of this stage.
CLAUDE NIELSEN: Padraig, thank you for your remarks this morning and play well.

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