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June 12, 2007

Padraig Harrington


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Padraig Harrington to the interview room this morning. Padraig is playing in his 10th United States Open Championship this week at Oakmont. Maybe if you could start us off with some general comments about Oakmont and what you might have seen last couple of days.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I played nine holes yesterday, 18 the day before. It's a really good challenge. Certainly at the moment, it's obviously a difficult golf course. I don't think I've played a golf course with as many hazards as close to the fairway on both sides of the fairway. A lot of times, you're going down each side of the fairway is lined by severe bunkers or one side has got severe bunkers and maybe a drain on the other side. They are just off the fairway, so maybe they are 25, 30 yards apart, which is normally quite narrow for hazards. Normally we have ten yards of rough and the hazards are on the other side. From that point it's a difficult golf course off the tee. Tougher than, say, traditional links golf courses because -- or traditional U.S. Open courses.
Normally you miss the fairway you're in heavy rough and you could be in a penal hazard. I think the conditions, it looks like we are going to have nice, sunny weather all week and a little bit of breeze and that lends itself to playing a difficult golf course like this. It should be a very fair test in these sort of conditions. The ball is going -- traveling well, so it's not playing a long golf course.
So, yeah, it feels like a good test at the moment. Obviously the greens are the toughest part of the golf course. At the moment it's playing quite well at the moment because there's a little bit of give in them. If it stayed the way it is, say yesterday, for the whole week, I would think it would be a very fair challenge, a difficult challenge, but very fair. I don't know what the intentions are, but certainly with a little bit of give in the greens, it makes it reasonable to play into such severe undulating greens.
RAND JERRIS: With the severity of the hazards, do you think it will encourage a conservative approach to the golf course for most of the players or are there places where you can attack?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There are the odd hole where you can be conservative. But a lot of times you just have to take your chances and hit it between them. If you start laying up, even in the lay up area, there's still trouble. So no matter where you hit your tee shot, you've got to hit it on the fairway. You don't want to obviously lay too far back hitting into severe greens.
Most of the time, and even into the greens most of the time, you're going to have to take the shot on. Like a lot of approach shots, there's no where, there's a lot of greens where you can't exactly hit in the middle of the green and 2-putt. You've got to try and hit it close.
If you're outside of 20 feet on these holes, you've got your work cut out to get down in two. So a lot of times I think you'll find players be more aggressive here than maybe on -- like last year at Winged Foot, it was every hole was hit the middle of the fairway, hit the middle of the green and you basically had a 2-putt uphill from there because they are kind of bowl-shaped.
This year trying to hit the middle of the green, the ball won't stay there for starters, and even if you are there, you're likely to be putting over some undulations on some very fast greens. So it is difficult to 2-putt. You're better off trying to hit it close and make a few birdies and a few bogeys that way.

Q. Everyone else seems to be saying the course is pretty savage where you're playing that down. Is that an indication of how comfortable you feel in this particular tournament?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Maybe it is. I just think you kind of come to expect, you know, at a U.S. Open that you're going to come to a very difficult golf course.
This one has been built up as being tougher than the rest. I would -- I was talking about it the other day; it does make Winged Foot seem very -- seem very pleasant, let's say. You know, 5-over par won at Winged Foot.
The difference, it's a lot more severe than Winged Foot. And it's not, you know, if you miss the fairway, you know, as I said, those hazards, the bunkers or the couple of drains that they have on the course are very, very tight to the edge of the fairways. I think we'd all rather maybe be in the rough. I know the rough is severe, but usually by the time the tournament starts, you can get the ball up near or around the green, whereas in these bunkers, you'll see guys trying to get them up there and leaving it in the bunker. You know, there will be more trouble found because of those bunkers out there. I'm sure somebody will have some good stories of hitting greens from them, but there will be some horror stories, too, of guys attempting it and getting cut up.
So there's a lot more variety on it golf course. There's a lot more -- I think it will be a more exciting tournament in terms of, you know, any player who -- you know, it's a tough course to avoid a disaster hole on. It's a tough course to, you know, as I said, you have to be aggressive a lot of the time and yet, you know, as I said, there is a lot of trouble out there. So it's interesting.
But I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays to be honest to see, you know, how difficult it is in the tournament. As I said, that's probably why I'm thinking -- it's playing -- bear in mind, we're playing probably 30-wide, 30 yards apart the hazards, but we're playing in very little wind. That's a reasonable test. It's not like there's strong side winds that you're being asked to thread a ball between some nasty trouble. It's a good test, and in good sunny weather to be asked to hit between 30 yards I think is a bit right.

Q. Everyone around here seems to think that 7, 8, 9 and 10 are the meat of the golf course. Would you agree with that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I actually would give every hole out there the respect it deserves. I think what they are talking of 7, 8, 9 and 10, is they are the ones with some severe greens that can really catch up on you.
But no, I would definitely think -- I haven't picked any one hole out there as being a golf hole I want to -- I want to play, you know, my best. I think 18 holes out there are all the same; if you slip up or make a mistake, you can find trouble.
You know, like even 17, 17 probably you know is a drivable par 4. I hit it in the right bunker, yes I didn't hit a great bunker shot, not a bad bunker shot and I drove into the far side, the far bunker. You can find a bogey out there anywhere.
7, 8, 9 and 10, just numbers. Every hole out there is tough.

Q. I know we talked a lot about the course, but can you describe where you are; we're about halfway through the year. Describe what your year has been like so far.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've been very happy with how things have gone so far in my year. I've felt like I swung the club better than I've ever swung it this year; a lot more consistency in that. My short game has not been as good as it has been in past years, but often when you get one thing right, the other thing seems to drop off a little bit.
Results-wise, I've been happy with my performances. I've been in contention quite a bit and felt good about that. Whereas actual final results, which obviously a player can't get too hung up about that, haven't been as good, but the win at the Irish Open kind of makes up for a lot of that. That was a big goal of mine, and to have done that.
I wouldn't say I'm content, but I'm comfortable with how the first part of the year has gone and feel good for the second half of the year.

Q. Historically, this tournament has not been kind to the Europeans; is there any grounds for optimism this time, do you think?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think that's a way of just using historical data to try and put something on a future event. At the end of the day, who knows who is going to win this tournament this week. If the Europeans have won the last 25, would we have a better or less chance of winning the next one? The law of averages says a European will win one eventually.
But there's a lot of good young players and a lot of players capable of winning from Europe. I think the question with European players is when one does win, others will follow.
As said, I think golf is very strong in Europe at the moment, especially the young guys coming through. With that, you know, it's probably only a question of time. They are all capable of doing it. But obviously it takes a lot of experience to win. It generally takes a lot of experience to win a U.S. Open. Obviously some guys can skip that.
But I think the Europeans are good and strong and if they have a good week, any of them, they can win. You know, to say -- there's probably five or six that maybe even as many as ten that are capable of winning this week, and they are only getting better over the years. If they don't do it this year, they will do it next year or the following year.

Q. You talked about playing aggressively, that might be the best way to go. You've gone through 27 holes of practice. Have you figured out the holes that you think you want to attack or --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. No, I haven't got that far yet.
I don't necessarily think -- a lot of times you're going to be forced to play a shot. It's not a question of like there's a number of shots, I'm just pulling out, maybe the second shot into the second hole. It's only a 9-iron or a wedge or something like that. But there isn't anywhere to hit it but where the pin is; it will come off the green. It's not like you can hit it anywhere but -- I'm trying to think of a couple of pin positions on the green. If you don't hit it within 15 feet of those pin positions, the ball is going to most likely run away 40, 50 feet or possibly come off the green 30 yards away, 40 yards away.
So it's not a question of choosing it. It's being forced upon you. I think that's what this golf course does. You'll be forced into hitting the shot. There's a lot of tee shots that you're being -- you know, you just don't -- there's not such an option. Like a lot of times you have an option if you don't particularly like a tee shot, well, go back to your 3-wood or your hybrid off the tee. Whereas here, you're kind of going, well, I've got to hit it, so I've got to hit the driver and hit it well.
There are a number of holes like that that don't get any easier by playing them more conservatively.

Q. What are your thoughts No. 8, and what is the consensus? Does it teeter on the edge of being unfair, do you think?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I can't remember No. 8.

Q. The long par 3.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, no, it's probably one of the more straightforward holes on the course. I played it on Sunday. 5-wood, pitch it to the front of the green. It's downhill, so obviously that makes the tee shot easier. It's a big, wide target.
Would I suggest, I'd pick that par 3 -- I would pick that par 3 as a hole I would want to make a par on probably ahead of, you know, 13 or 14 holes on this course. It's big green, big target; okay. In this heat, in this sort of temperature, in this sort of wind, it doesn't make a big difference, length. Length isn't -- I don't think length is scaring anybody out there. And that's probably one of the bigger targets out there. I think it's definitely -- you know, I think it's a good hole that we -- it's not a bad question to ask is to hit a long shot into a par 3, a wood.
You know, you're looking at that hole there, but as I said, I hit 5-wood into it, a target that's probably -- it's definitely the biggest green on the course, and the biggest target. There's nothing in front of it. Whereas, you know, 17, I'm hitting driver on a target that's maybe no more than ten yards wide in front, maybe 12 yards wide.
You know, 14, you'll see guys trying to drive that green and it's probably only five yards wide, eight yards wide, something like that.
We don't really look at pars. We just look at the shot in front of us, and 8 is a very reasonable hole. It won't be a hole you won't see a lot of 2s at; I agree with that, you won't see many birdies. I think most players will be comfortable enough. It's a fairly big target for us to hit.

Q. Deep down, really deep down, do you think you're capable of winning the U.S. Open this week, and what score do you think you'll need to do so?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: What score I think I'll need to win is absolutely irrelevant. It makes no difference. I'll likely have to shoot the best score I can this week.
So, you know, whether that's level-par, 8-over par, it doesn't really make any difference. You've got to shoot the lowest score by one to win, and that's all that counts. As I said, the figure, the total they come up with -- I think the USGA on this course will be in a lot more control of what score they want us to shoot.
So if you were asking me what score I think is going to win, well, if I was the man on top here, the head guy at the USGA probably could set that to win a shot at this very moment with this golf course; they are in that much control. If they wanted to go and soften up the greens, easy pins, they would probably get us to maybe shoot under par. But certainly if they wanted us to shoot the high, single digits, just firm the greens up and toughen up the pin positions, we would all be shooting close -- the winner would be shooting close to ten over.
Like I said it is tougher than Winged Foot last year which was 5-over, but the USGA will decide the score. It's a little bit like Augusta in that they can set it up a number of different ways to establish a test that they want rather than -- I can't see a situation where they don't get what they want this week, because there is a lot of variability out there.
As regards me, yeah, you know, I had three pars to win the U.S. Open last year and was very comfortable in that position. It rolls off the tongue very well, three pars to win the U.S. Open; sounds pretty straightforward. I was playing great, felt comfortable to that stage and didn't play the last three holes pretty badly either. I'm well capable of doing it. Whether it happens this week -- I'm nowhere near I'm the class of player where I can predict I can turn up at any tournament, let alone a major, but there is a little bit of hit and miss in that.

Q. Just to follow on what you've just said, was the Irish Open the only tournament that you actually set out to win then?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. Every tournament I ever tee it up in, I'm trying to win, every week. It's from the smallest to the biggest event, I'm trying to win.
As I said, you want to be -- some player, to be able to turn up and say, "I'm going to win." It's not, you know, it is -- I'm coming here, I'm going to try and bring my very best game to this tournament. I'm going to try and prepare my very best. I realize that if I do get these things right, I will put myself in a great chance of winning.
If I get in a position to win, you know, that's all I can ask for because I know if I get in that position, it's going to hand.
As regards winning this individual tournament, well, I'd hate to -- you wouldn't want to be putting your house on it. It's not -- I don't think there's probably no one that can say they are going to win this week. I could turn up and play well this week and not win. That's basically what I'm saying. At the end of the day, I could turn up and play well and win or I could play well and not win.
There's very few people in this game that could actually turn up and probably there's only one that could actually turn up and say, if I play well this week, I'm going to win. In the end of the day, I could turn up and play well and if I hole the right putts at the right time or get the right breaks at the right time, then I'll have my chance.
I can only ask for myself to play well. I couldn't, you know -- the actual result of winning is not -- there's much more things to do in between that, and as a player, you have to go through doing all your own things, going through the process, and then waiting at the end of the week to see whether that's good enough. And that's really what I'm trying to do is get myself right in there at the end of the week, being in the position -- I know that if I'm in the position at the end of the week, with a few holes to go, I feel as good as anybody else in that sort of situation.
That's all I'm looking for is to get into the hunt with nine holes to go.

Q. I know you just said to Charlie you think it's irrelevant what you think the winning score will be or whatever; would you take four 72s now if somebody offered them to you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes. Very much so, and then would I sit there and plead with them to firm the greens up and I would look for a bit of wind and all sorts of things.
Yeah, it would be a good question if there was a player who wouldn't take it. It's an irrelevant question actually but -- (laughter) -- but it's a good one. Nobody is offering me four 72s, and that's the way I have to look at it.
But yeah, I would take four 72s. I don't necessarily -- I wouldn't be putting my house on that 8-over par is going to win this tournament. But I certainly think it's got a chance. As I said, if the USGA want us to shoot level par this week, the winning score will be level par. So it's much more in their control than it is in any player's control.
As I said, if somebody goes out and shoots 66 the first day, God help the rest of us for the next three days. (Laughter) but I don't see that happening. So I would see -- you know, and generally when we get in to play a golf course, we figure out how to play the course. I would see, you know, to be honest, it would be again sort of mid, low, over par. I would really be surprised if they let it get up to ten over par or something like that.
I would see it more as a four or five (over par) or something like that.

Q. You were talking about you can't predict you can win this week, and you have to do some things to putt yourself in that position. If you do that having won the Irish Open, which is a tournament that meant so much to you, will there be residue from that? Will you benefit from having won that? Will it help?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it would be silly to think of that one event -- the key for me at the Irish Open was more not necessarily winning on the course but more so just dealing with everything that went around it. And obviously, you know, if you get in contention at the U.S. Open, it can be quite a circus around the actual event.
So that was probably the key with the Irish Open. There was a lot of distraction that I went through well will and kept my mind focused on winning. I would single out more events than just one. There's a number of events that as I've gone on would give me confidence to believe that, yeah, I can produce the goods to win, and probably no more so than the U.S. Open last year. As I said, I was exceptionally comfortable in that position and playing -- I was 4-over with three holes to go and I missed a number of putts that day. So it wasn't like I was even having a good day to be in that position.
Capabilities, things like that, there's been a number of tournaments where, you know, I've been there or thereabouts. I realize that for actually to happen -- to go out there and you know, I've won enough to realize that there are very few -- a lot of times when you win or lose, it can be very similar situation; you know, if the odd putt drops or not. The best way of winning is to keep giving yourself opportunities. The more -- it's a numbers game. The more chances you have, the more chances you're going to have to win, that's the way I look at it.
My whole goal with any major, now into the future the next number of years is to give myself the best chance of being there in the back nine the final day, and if I'm in that position, I'm aware that, you know, it really -- anything can happen. I feel good about that.
So it's a pure numbers game, get myself in contention as often as I can in majors, and, you know, that's the goal.
RAND JERRIS: Padraig, thank you very much for your time today. Wish you luck this week.

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