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August 7, 2007

Padraig Harrington


KELLY ELBIN: Padraig Harrington, the 2007 British Open Champion joining us at the 89th PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is Padraig's ninth PGA Championship. His best finish was a tie for 17th at Hazeltine in 2002.
Padraig, welcome back to Southern Hills.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Thank you. It's always good to be back.
KELLY ELBIN: Haven't had a chance to play the golf course yet, but certainly some memories from 2001, the U.S. Open.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I remember a couple of things. First of all, it was a fair golf course. There wasn't any particular holes that I could remember that I thought I didn't like or that I thought were unplayable or anything like that. It is quite straightforward. You need to keep the ball below the hole. That was probably the most important requirement for the week.
Obviously hit it straight, but definitely keep it below the hole. The greens are very fast, back to front. That tends to be the play for the week; hit fairways and hit it in the middle of the green and try and hit your putts uphill.

Q. How much do you think the heat will be a factor this week, and is it going to be dangerous out there?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I really didn't think it was going to be dangerous. (Laughter) Maybe for some spectators but players-wise, certainly I played in hotter conditions and haven't had a problem.
So I don't see it -- I see it as a factor to be looked after but not something that in any way worried about. I would probably say it is a little bit of an advantage for me because I have -- I climatize well. I play quite a bit in Malaysia where we get quite a bit hotter and stickier than this.
I don't see it as a real issue, just making sure I do the right things and take the right precautions.

Q. It's been a few weeks since a European has won a major; will you break the drought this week? (Laughter)
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it will be interesting to see. I think there are a lot of good European players, good, young players, and having been familiar with my game and seeing me go on, I think there are a number of players that will have added belief; it's quite possible. I believe we're in a better place now than we were going into the Open having a chance to win a major championship.
I would say, you know what, if the floodgates open up over the next couple of years, I'm going to take the credit for it. (Laughter).

Q. Zach Johnson was just in here and he said he talked to you a little bit and he said you asked him what was the best and worst thing about being a first-time major winner. I know it's only been a brief time for you, but how hectic has it been and what's been the best thing and the worst thing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, obviously I had a week at home and that was hectic. Since I've come away, it's not been so bad.
The best thing so far probably was -- I had a party where a lot of friends and people who have supported me over the years and some aunts and uncles went; and seeing the enjoyment they got out of it was really nice. There is a lot of people that are a part of any player going on to win a tournament like that. It's nice to see them there and celebrating it and enjoying it because they all contributed a little bit to it. That was probably the best.
There hasn't been a worst.

Q. Over the last few years, maybe going back to Tiger's duel with Sergio and then Bob May, this tournament has produced the most consistently exciting finishes of the four majors. I'm wondering, last year notwithstanding, I'm wondering why that might be; is it because the fields might be deeper with the professionals, the way they set up the courses analogous to the regular PGA TOUR or why have there been more nail-biters over that period of time than some of the other majors?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would suggest that the golf courses are set up in a way to -- they are fairer -- not just fairer, of course they are fair, but they tend to -- you know, the scoring tends to be a little bit lower in terms of par. And I think more players can feel comfortable, you know, when they are making birdies rather than just pars.
So it tends, by especially the end of the week, there's a few more players in competition. There's a few more guys making birdies. It's kind of similar enough to, you know, sometimes you see it at the Masters when they set up the back nine for birdies. This tournament tends to be like that over the years where, you know, a score of 12-under par or something like that is attainable.
I think guys in general will play better golf when they are -- you know, when they are making -- I don't mean -- when they are making more birdies, they feel better about their game than obviously when your good score is par. You know, it's horses for courses, but I think more people would be comfortable and familiar with the sort of test that's being set at the PGA Championship; whereas at the other majors, you tend to get a test where it's not the same as any other week. It's a little bit more, as I said, pars are good scores, a little bit more extreme in that extent and people are unfamiliar with it.
You definitely have more people with a chance at the PGA.

Q. You said after you won the Open, you were looking back on your career and you were talking about having to work to change your game to play the courses over here and succeed over here after being at Congressional. Can you go a little deeper into that process, and what was that like and what was the hardest thing about that process?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, how long have we got?
You know what, I turned pro in the end of '95. My first year was '96, '97 and I did well above my own expectations. You know, I came out and I started strong and I put my head down and kept going. At the end of '97, I realized that where I could get results with the game I had, I was limited on the golf courses I could compete on, and limited on certain holes. I just didn't strike the golf ball well enough.
So I started working with Bob Torrance, and you know, that's ten years now. And basically, it's taken about 18 months ago, two years ago -- so it's eight years of work with Bob before I really felt convinced that I could strike the ball well enough to compete and win in majors.
You know, I don't think -- where I always had a strong mental game and a good short game, and I could certainly play golf shots back in '96, '97, in that time; I wouldn't have the inner belief that I could win a major until I did some work on my golf swing and got my golf swing where I was comfortable and I believed in it.
I think what's happened then in the last 18 months is really a mind-set where I would have had back in '96, '97, where I'm much more focused on my mental game and my short game, because, you know, because I'm more comfortable with my golf swing.
So it's been an eight-year process or ten-year process, where right in the middle I had to sort out my golf swing and I'm still working on it. By no means every week -- it's a little bit more dependable I would say and certainly more predictable. But there's no way I could have gone out there and trusted it before that. I could have gotten a certain level of the job done but it's interesting, I have more faith in my golf swing. I'm now going back to more things I would have been doing in '96 and '97 and prior to that when I was an amateur to get the best out of my swing.

Q. It's been so many years since Tiger Woods won a major; now that you've won a major yourself, do you look at him in a different light?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, so much of this game, you've got to focus on what you're doing as an individual. Yes, Tiger Woods is probably one of the few names that when you play a tournament, you'll always look to see what he shot and what score he's on.
You know, as regards this event or any event, before it starts I'm only focused on what I'm doing and how I'm getting along. As regards Tiger's performance last week, it was a great performance. He's won five in a row -- was it five in a row he's won there? So you wouldn't want to judge your game against his game around Firestone, I would say; you'll probably come up short.
I think we've got to be realistic and just look at our own games and let Tiger look after himself and see what happens. I'd say it depends on the week.

Q. You said about the conditions, what are your own chances this week and after Carnoustie, do you feel you have more confidence because of winning or do you feel you have less chance --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: At this stage I've got to believe I have more of a chance and I'll convince myself of that by Thursday morning. We'll only look back in hindsight on Sunday and say if I haven't performed, say, well, maybe there is a little bit of a letdown after winning the Open.
But at this very moment, I'm trying to prepare the same way as I prepared at the Open, and, you know, really looking forward to the event and quite happy with how things are going and expectant of what's going to happen.
You know, certainly not trying to in any shape or form play down this event after winning the Open or I'm not trying to -- you know, golf is a very strange game. There's always next week in golf. So when you win, there's always another tournament, and if you haven't played well, there's always another tournament the following week. And we're very fickle. We're so dependent on how we play in those events.
So I'm out here giving it 100% this week, and you know, if I don't perform, there will be a bit of disappointment in it. You know, maybe in two weeks' time, I'll be looking back and saying, well, I won the Open. But it's all about Sunday evening and this tournament, for the next six days for me now, it's all about the PGA Championship.
The Open Championship, it's a nice memory, but it's on the back burner for the moment until this event finishes.

Q. Two questions. I read that you were disappointed at not being described as the Open Champion on the first tee at Firestone last week and were you satisfied with your own performance in that event?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As regards -- disappointment, how would I put this? I was -- disappointment is the wrong word and I can't find the wrong word. I was jokingly disappointed. As in I had been waiting for 24 hours and I said it to everybody, and I was actually preparing myself that I would not get emotional when they called me the "Open Champion" because I wanted to hit my tee shot and not get distracted (laughter).
Traditionally on the 10th tee, ten years ago, there was a guy, he used to do a song and a dance going down the tee box and he used to fire his finger down the tee box like this (indicating strong, down fairway) and they actually got rid of him because he was so involved, players were laughing before they hit their tee shot. I just wish he was there. (Laughter) I would have enjoyed the 30-second intro.
You know, I didn't really -- nobody was obviously announced at the event. I remember when I was announced as Padraig Harrington, Ireland, I looked at my caddie and started laughing. You win the Open Championship, you can't wait to be announced as the Open Champion.
It was only -- I wasn't -- I wasn't disappointed in the sense of, you know, I was just -- it's strange. It's a hard one to describe. It was a funny thing that I wasn't announced or it would have been nice to be announced; but it wasn't something that I had an issue with, at all.
And how I played, I really struggled last week. I didn't play well at all. I fought very hard for the scores that I got that last week, and would need to play a lot better. I didn't hit it -- I didn't hit it very well, especially off the tee and struggled because of that. So I want to be a bit better this week.
KELLY ELBIN: Question for Open Champion, Padraig Harrington.

Q. There's a very good story in the Irish papers this morning that says you're going to buy, or you have bought 1,000 18-hole flags from Carnoustie and three replicas of the trophy. What's that all about and how much might that cost you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've been asking players like Zach, you know, what they did in terms of memorabilia, and nobody can quite get the figure on it. Certainly I've heard somebody who bought 500 and they said they didn't have enough. I'm trying to buy up, you know, flags and posters and prints and things like that.
You know, cost-wise, I'm not sure. I don't know about the trophies what you get. I've heard from one to three replicas, I'm not really sure. I'm sure there will be so many requests for a long time to come, so, yeah, it's something you have to -- as a first-time winner, I have no idea what I need. And as I said, the only thing you can do is ask other players. And as I said, I've heard 500 has been nowhere near enough, so that's why I've ordered 1,000.

Q. Is it basically for charitable causes?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I don't have 1,000 friends, no. (Laughter).

Q. The number of international players on the PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tours have increased quite a bit in the last decade. What do you think might be some of the factors behind that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think -- I think Australian golf has got very strong, and that's probably -- the guys coming through are the direct result of Greg Norman being one of the best players or the world's best player in the late '80s early '90s and a lot of players are coming through as a direct result of him.
A huge percentage of international players are Australian. I think you have development in the Asian game; you have a number of players coming through from there. And South Africa is strong, a number of players coming through from there.
European players have better access. I think that's why you've seen more European players. I think there are only about four other continents. So that about covers it.
There is a lot better access. That is one thing. It's a lot easier to become a member of the U.S. Tour without going through the Tour school. That means a lot of European players can play their events like this and get enough money by playing well in these to get a TOUR card and then they can play both tours or play one tour.
But certainly, access; it's not too long ago when Seve was fighting to get into events in the U.S. And now, for a good player in the Top-50 in the world, if you're capable of getting into the Top-50 in the world, with the 11 events you play, double events, you should be well within your ability to gain enough money to become a member.
So access, and I think obviously the other sort of big golfing countries, the likes of Australia and South Africa and that.

Q. You said you remember this course in 2001 as being a fair course, and yet a lot of guys complained about the unfair nature of 18 and 9, those greens. Do you remember those being tough? They have been rebuilt; and I know you haven't seen them, but can you talk about your memories of those two surfaces?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I actually don't remember 9. It was 18 that everybody remembers, and more because of what we saw unfold on the 18th green.
The issue of the green that week was they obviously had not cut the green, which meant it was slower than all of the other greens. But by the time the final groups got there, everybody had walked around the hole. So four feet around the hole, you know, was Stimping at 15 and for the rest of the green, it was Stimping at 9. So all of a sudden you had a slow putt to get at the hole but it would not stop beside the hole. That's why guys 3-putted, because as I said, it was nearly -- it was faster because of the way people had worn down the grass or stood down the grass around the hole.
So obviously, you know, rebuilding it, it seems like a logical thing to do. I'm glad they have done it and we won't have an issue like that again.
There again, it made for exciting TV, didn't it?
KELLY ELBIN: For the record, Padraig tied for 30th at the U.S. Open here at Southern Hills.

Q. Have you had a chance to speak with Sergio at all since the Open?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. The only time I saw him last week which was very odd, I saw him as we were both getting in our cars to leave. It was very odd. That was the only time. I didn't even see him in the distance up to that. So I saw him just as he was getting in his driver's door to get to the airport and I was on the other side just organizing my bags, so that was it. Just didn't see him around.

Q. If Sergio had won, do you think it would take you longer than three weeks to get over that, do you think?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I've got to say -- yeah, I would have been -- I think I would have got out there and played golf, but I think, you know, a bit like last week, and tried really hard and got some semblance of scores.
But I think the real difficulty would be when I got myself in a similar position again, how I would have felt about it. You know, you just -- yeah, I would have found it hard.
I don't think I'm going to have that many chances to win majors, so you don't want to give one up at all.

Q. Have you had a chance to watch the last couple of hours of Sunday at Carnoustie?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Only have got to see the playoff once. I haven't seen -- I haven't seen any of the realtime play, none of it at all. I saw in the highlights room my tee shot going into the water on 18 but nothing else, nothing at all.

Q. Was that by choice?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I don't have a copy of it. I'm sure I'll get one eventually. But no, but it's hard when you're not at home recording it. I don't have any copy of it at all. I think it's been organized.
Plus, yeah, I didn't have any time either, really. The time I watched the four holes, I was at a function and they just were playing that in the background and that's when I got to see that.
That's something I'm looking forward to, something I'll get to do. Probably the winter before I get to do it but something I really look forward to doing.

Q. When you look back on the things that led to Carnoustie, how important was beating Tiger last year, and also what other wins or turning points do you look back on and say were stepping stones for that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's been an awful lot of things, you know, that could be stepping stones.
I think winning the Irish Open this year. There's a lot of pressure and stress about your National Open, and winning that was very important. Interestingly enough, after I won it, I felt I played very well all the way up to the Irish Open and just hadn't really been converting my chances at that stage.
I won the Irish Open and came out of it thinking, okay, I'm playing well, I will move on, and I struggled the next four or five tournaments. I didn't play well at all. I missed the cut at the U.S. Open. I think I missed the cut the week before the U.S. Open. And the Irish Open had kind of knocked me back a little bit in terms of my expectations had got very high afterwards.
It was only coming out of that, going into the Open Championship that, you know, I sat down with Bob Rotella and started to work out what was going through my head, what was going wrong. And it's something, sometimes you need that sort of -- even though I was playing good golf, I definitely had a down period coming into the Open. And it definitely gets you to refocus and be disciplined and get out there and do the right things.
And often some of your best performances come -- I wasn't playing bad in the period that I was -- I didn't score well. That was for five or six weeks, I just didn't get the best out of my rounds at all. Sometimes you go through a period like that where your game is okay, but you're not scoring well and that's sort of when you have your biggest performances coming out of that.
So, you know, what's been -- there's a lot of, I suppose we could sit here and go through the sort of highlights over the years over what have been the biggest stepping stones. The only thing I would say about my whole career, and this is right up from when I was a junior golfer; I always -- I very rarely skipped any level. I always won at the level I was at. When I was a junior, I won junior tournaments. When I was an intermediary I won them and I won senior events as an amateur. Didn't win any pro events as an amateur and turned pro again and I started winning European Tour events and moved on from that to bigger European events and winning around the world, winning in the States.
I gradually improved. If you did a graph of my whole career, it would be quite smooth and just a gradual improvement all the way up.
A little bit like, as I said with my golf swing, for me to win a major, I have to believe it, and it's taken me a long time to believe that I could, and maybe the last 18 months has been that sort of period. You know, it's been nice to keep moving in that direction. Hopefully I can keep improving as a player. I definitely have things to work on. There's plenty of aspects of my game I can improve and I'm quite comfortable that I can become a better player from this moment on.

Q. I just wondered if you've continued to have the trophy at the end of your bed, or where the trophy is now and have you managed to get any ladybirds?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The trophy is at home, boxed up away. My son, I managed to rescue ladybirds from going into it, because they wouldn't survive too long inside the Claret Jug, I don't think; they would become intoxicated. (Laughter).
So no ladybirds in it yet, but we have been -- we have gathered a few ladybirds. Maybe we'll try it at some stage. Obviously, you know, it's not with me at the moment and probably I had seven days with it, and I think I definitely needed a break from it. But I'm sure I'll get another run with it when I'm at home.
It is nice. When it was at home, I just kept it on the breakfast table actually and come down to breakfast and see it sitting there as you're having your tea and toast is very pleasing.

Q. The last time we spoke to you about the rest of the year, you were unclear about your schedule. Are you any clearer now? Can you give us an idea of what you'll add and detract from your program?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It looks like compared to last -- it looks like -- well, it looks like being taken out from winning a major is the Portuguese Masters, and what is being added is the Grand Slam event. And it looks like I'll be taking a few more events off at the end of November, but that's not due to me winning a major.
So at the moment, probably playing three or four less events than I would have envisioned at the very start of the year, so nothing added.
And next year's schedule, I would suggest looking at a couple of events coming out and maybe -- I'm not sure what the event, the Buick Classic in Torrey Pines.

Q. Invitational.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Buick Invitational, because the U.S. Open is in Torrey Pines. That would be the only one added so it looks like I'll take a few out next year as well.
The schedule, as I said, trying to bring it down a bit rather than increase it.
KELLY ELBIN: PGA Grand Slam of Golf is the middle of October in Bermuda, just FYI.

Q. Do you find yourself reflecting on the incredibly fine line over what's happened to you over the last 2 1/2 weeks and what would have happened if Sergio would have made par?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I always reflect on the difference between success and failure is such a fine line, and sometimes not in your control. Obviously if Sergio's putt dropped on 18, that had nothing to do with me. It would be a different story. So, yeah, I definitely reflect.
But I'm long enough in this game to realize that I've had many a day that's gone right for me and many a day that hasn't gone right for me.
If you can handle the good days, and be very, you know, definitely enjoy them, there's no question when you win, you've got to enjoy it but always taper it with a bit of what if, and the alternative, you'll always be able to handle the bad days well.
I've had many a day on the golf course that things haven't gone right and I've come off and said straightaway to the guys, this is only -- how would I put it? The difference between me winning and losing today is only this, that and the other; it's only a hair's breath. It's only a slight bit and another day things will change in my favor. I'm not going to get too down about this loss or this happening. It's the same way when you have a win. You do enjoy it but you can't -- I don't walk away and think that's the end-all and be-all; that I'm never going to lose an event again, it's never going to happen and I'm going to mess up or do something spectacular to lose. But if I'm in the right place at the right time, I might do something spectacular to win or somebody else will mess up and let me win.
You'll hear this a lot from Tiger, as well, it's being in the right place and getting yourself in contention with nine holes ago. I double-bogeyed the 36th hole and it made no difference to the outcome of that event, that bogey. It's so early on in the event. All I wanted to be was somewhere in the tournament, so that with nine holes to go, I could be in contention. If you're in contention with nine holes to go, anything can happen. You can -- you know, you can play the golf to win. You can get a few breaks to win. You can get lucky or somebody else can get unlucky. You know, it's amazing, you just have to be in there, hang around there, and wait and see. Sometimes you'll be forced to hit the shots, and other times you can play them safely through the back nine but it's all about being there.
I think that's more important for me, and this is -- you know, this is maybe the last 18 months of majors, a lot of times with the U.S. Open, I had a great chance at Winged Foot. I had three pars to win the U.S. Open. Sounds very easy. But I walked away from that exceptionally confident because of how comfortable I felt in that position.
Okay, I knew I made three bogeys and another time, you can think, oh, looking from the outside, that was a really poor finish. In terms of results, it was a poor finish. But I know how I felt in my head and I know how I was going about things, and I knew from there, especially that event, that I could definitely win a major. So by losing that one, I knew I could win another.
And things went my way at the Open at the very end, but I did play the golf to get in that position. When I got my break, I played my golf again in the playoff. That's the most important thing, that when you get the opportunity, you'll take it.
Over the years, I've seen it happen so many times in events where I've won and lost, and I've learned from every single win and loss. And it's important. Most people don't learn from when they win. It's a lot easier to learn something when you win, but it is very important to learn about your winning, as well, and to take a moment to reflect on how that win came about, and how close it was to, you know -- and it would have been quite close, the disaster. It would be a totally different story.
The sad thing about the story is I would be sitting here trying to explain it -- or maybe I wouldn't be sitting here trying to explain it to all you guys. I would be trying to explain it to the four or five Irish guys over here; they never deserved it. (Laughter).
I would be trying to explain the loss, and it would be very hard, but I would be explaining it in the exact same way as I'm trying to explain the win. There's such -- for a player, and certainly the way I play golf, there is such a fine line, that the winning is losing, the actual result, it's not that it's insignificant.
But you can't -- when it happens, you enjoy it. But you can't really, as a professional athlete or golfer, you can't get hung up about it, because success and failure, it's a fine line and you have to be -- I trailed when I won the Open, but I certainly wouldn't let it go to my head in terms of the fact that it was very close that I didn't win the Open. You always have to be aware of that.

Q. Are you surprised there have been three first-time major winners this year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I think that there is a greater depth in golf around this game now, and there's a lot of players capable of winning. It's not as easy to pick an individual. You know, we can all watch Tiger, but there's so many players who are good players and capable of playing this game and capable of winning now that, you know, you would be a fool to concentrate on individuals. You've got to focus on your own game and let everybody look after themselves. There's just too many people out there with a game to play. Especially when they are having a good week, you know, with a game good enough to win a major.
KELLY ELBIN: Open Champion Padraig Harrington, thank you very much.

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