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February 5, 2008

Padraig Harrington


THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the 2007 British Open champion Padraig Harrington to the interview room here at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, your first start in the 2008 season on the PGA TOUR. We haven't seen you in quite a while out here on this side, at least since the Target World Challenge. Talk a little bit about your off-season coming into this year on TOUR.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I think I've played two tournaments in the last ten weeks, so most of that time I've been off. I've been practicing, practicing pretty hard, and then in the gym getting ready.
I had a couple of illnesses that sort of stopped me in my tracks, but certainly the month of January I feel I've gotten some good work done. I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent ready to -- I'm not 100 percent competitive, but I'm 100 percent ready to go.

Q. Does playing here on the coast make you feel a little more comfortable like at home?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've got to say, I came here last year and played with my amateur partner, J.P. McManus, who I've won the Dunhill Links Championship, another Pro-Am. I first came here because I'm comfortable playing with him. It's an enjoyable week sort of thing, and I've played well in his company. So I said I'll come out and try another Pro-Am with him.
But when I came here and played the courses last year, I really, really warmed to the courses. They suit my game. They're very similar to -- you know, somewhat similar to conditions that I would experience at home with -- as I was trying to explain, if I played the FBR Open last week I'd be trying to figure out why my 9-iron was going 160 yards or something like that, but this week your 9-iron is going 120 yards, so it's a little bit more akin to at home.
Yeah, this is an easier one for me to acclimatize to, an easier one to be a bit more comfortable with, and the golf courses -- these are the ideal golf courses. If I was to choose a style of golf course to play competitive golf on, these would be them.

Q. Has your work ethic always been to stay very active in the off-season and work out through the off-season until you come back and start again?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I see any -- I'm not one of those players, if I have a week off I do more practice. I see -- every week I take off I see as an opportunity to get some work done and some gym work done. The nine weeks I take during the winter is a big block of that, and I probably try and get more gym work focused, try and get some of the heavier stuff done, try and make some gains and hopefully maintain that through the season.

Q. Favorite holes on Spyglass and Pebble, any ones you enjoy playing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I've got to say, Spyglass, any of the holes down on the beach front, I suppose, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th would be my favorites down there. When you come around the corner after hitting your second shot on the first hole and to see that sight, that's really impressive. I like all those holes. They're framed so nicely.
Pebble, we all know about Pebble. Anything I choose is only going over somebody else's ground, but probably 8 and 10 -- yeah, 8, 9, 10 probably at Pebble, those around the cliff. 7, 4, there is just too many to name.
And all the golf courses have some great holes. The one difficulty I think when you -- certainly with Poppy and a little bit with Spyglass, there are some tough par-3s with water in play, and just when you're playing the ones in terms of a tournament, you don't want to go wrong on one particular hole, and there's a bit of internal out-of-bounds on Poppy, and you just don't want to get caught in a tournament like this where you could end up making a double bogey or a triple bogey by just maybe making a wrong club selection, which will obviously knock you out of a tournament. So those two courses are quite intimidating in this format.
I think Pebble is all there in front of you, but certainly the other two golf courses are a little bit trickier. There are certainly more birdies to be made at Pebble -- sorry, at Poppy and Spyglass, but I think there's a little bit more chances and a couple of holes that there you can -- not necessarily playing them too badly, you can just get caught out with the wrong club, and not knowing the holes and not knowing the courses as well, that's the one fear this week, that you can lose the tournament on one hole and not necessarily play so badly.

Q. Can you give me an idea right now of your upcoming U.S. schedule and maybe lay it out for me a little longer?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm playing this week, Riviera next week. Again, great golf course next week. Playing the Match Play the following week. I then come back for New Orleans, Houston, Masters, and then I'll be back for TPC.

Q. Talk about -- you've only played a few tournaments since you won the Open. How does it feel being announced as the Open Champion on the first tee now?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've probably played about 20 events since I won the Open. It's always nice. Even this week, just the number of players who I haven't seen since I won the Open who have come up and congratulated me. Any time anybody reminds me, I'm happy about that. I'll take that pat on the back every day and go with it. It is nice being announced as the Open Champion, there's no question about that. I've dreamed of winning all my life and I'm going to enjoy it when it's there.

Q. There's been a lot of talk in the last month about Tiger Woods and the Grand Slam. As a major winner yourself, how does that make you feel, that you're being essentially given no chance?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, as the question is related to me, I would put it like this: It doesn't matter if Tiger is the odds-on favorite to win the next 12 events. I'm going to play my own game, my very best game every time. If there's 155 guys in every week, I can't control them; I can't control Tiger; I can't control anybody else. The only person I can look after is me. I will endeavor to play those 12 majors as well as I can. I will do my thing and look after myself.
And if Tiger wins the next 12 Grand Slams, as somebody was saying on the range up there, I'll pat him on the back and say, "well done," because he has to go and do it. My goal is to look after what I'm doing and not worry about anybody else.
It's up to you guys to create that interest and to put it out there that he's going to win the Grand Slam this year, that he's going to be unbeatable for the foreseeable future, and that's the story you've got to create.
But as a player, I've got to keep away from that and just do my thing. I think last year, there was three other major winners. It's interesting that the prediction is he's going to win the Grand Slam when last year was probably -- he nearly won two a year for most years and he only got one last year.
I think players are more likely to do their own thing and take their chances now. I think there's a good depth behind Tiger, and as I said, he may be playing the best golf of his life, he may be the best golfer we'll ever see play golf. But I think it's a big challenge to do that. And there's enough depth of players behind him, you know, to put him up some. If he does it, I'll shake his hand and say, "well done."

Q. Two questions that are nothing alike, but have you ever aspired to be No. 1?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: If I have, I wouldn't tell you (laughter).

Q. So I can make up whatever answer I want?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you can. I won't read it (laughter).

Q. Secondly, what are the differences of Dunhill and this?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Temperature is about the same. Actually we played in tee shirts last year at the Dunhill. They're different golf courses.
For me I play with the same partner and I treat those two -- those two events are different than any other event I play. I really do treat these events as -- these are played much more in the spirit of enjoyable golf, maybe the way you would -- I go out there, both on and off the golf course, I have a good week. I don't necessarily come into this week and see it as a grinding week. I don't see it as a week -- you're on beautiful golf courses here. Everything about it, staying at the Lodge, everything is great this week, and I see it as a week to be enjoyed.
I don't see this as the week that you get out there and you knuckle down and beat yourself up and you try and cover every blade of grass out there. It's just a little bit more relaxed. It's a good, comfortable way for me to start the season.
And I would take the same attitude at the Dunhill. It's usually a good, social aspect to the event. It's just a nice relaxed week. They're similar enough in terms of both events you can go star gazing and say, I saw such-and-such and he wasn't as big as I thought he was. So they're similar in that sense. It's just they have a little bit of an air about them, both of them, in terms of the fact that there are celebrities and sort of movie stars and things like that. Yeah, so I would say pretty similar.
The great thing about them, they're both played on -- obviously St. Andrews and Pebble Beach, you can argue they're the No. 1 in Scotland and No. 1 in the States, backed up by two admirable courses behind them, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns and Spyglass and Poppy, so very similar sort of formats I've got to say.

Q. Do you feel that the Scottish galleries and the press have embraced the concept as well as they have over here?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes. I think the first year of the Dunhill they took it a bit too seriously. They were used to having an international team event, and now it was a Pro-Am in a relaxed fashion. It gets serious for those guys that are trying to win it the last day, the last nine holes.
But in general this is one of those events of the year that is to be -- I was discussing it with somebody else, years ago I wouldn't have played in an event like this, a few years ago, because of the fact that I wouldn't have felt I could have prepared for three golf courses. I'd want to have played two practice rounds on each course, I'd want to test the pace of the greens everywhere, each difficult chip on every course, every bunker shot; I'd want to cover everything. It can't be done. It can be done for a major but you've got one course. It can't be done for three courses.
And until you get the attitude that you have to give up a little in order to play well at these events, you have to stand back and say, take it for what it is, this is more akin to playing -- going out and playing a competitive match with your friends for three and a half days. As I said, if you do get into position with nine holes to go, it does get very serious, but other than that it's a relaxed week.
I think the galleries and the press at the Dunhill probably didn't realize that in the first year, but certainly I think everybody loves it now.

Q. How soon after you won the British Open did you realize that you were the only Irishman that had won the British and the Irish Open in the same year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I found that out today (laughter) when they told me outside. Winning the Irish Open was a big, big deal for me. It's the fifth biggest tournament I could win, the first one after the majors. Winning the Open, you know, it's a dream come true. Both of them are so big independently, I didn't need to put them together in the same year, in the same sentence. They stand alone in my mind. No, I wouldn't take anything away from the Irish Open, I wouldn't take anything away from the Open by adding the other to it.

Q. I have two questions. One is about the Irish Open. I'd like you to give me your thoughts in terms of going back. That's going to have to be a delightful title defense for you this year I would think?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The Irish Open is an event now that I've struggled with over a number of years because I've tried to take it so seriously, and I was unable to do that because there's a lot of distraction. A lot of things happen in an Irish Open for an Irish player, a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations, and I struggled to deal with that over the years.
I know going back this year it will be similar to other years, but my preparation won't be ideal. I just have to roll with what happens, and my time won't be my own during the week. But I accepted that last year, and I performed because I was comfortable with going out with maybe less than perfect preparation.
I think that maybe subsequently helped me going into a major, that I realized that one of the problems I would have is I'd just get a little bit obsessive and try and make sure everything is covered and everything is right and everything is perfect, and I'd go to the end of the world to do that. But sometimes I have to realize that it's not always in my best advantage to just keep pushing.
I think at the Irish Open I realized that. Having success there certainly helped me going into the Open.

Q. My second question is regarding the Open Championship. Have you and Sergio ever exchanged any consolation or consoled each other? And if not, would you ever initiate it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: On the 18th green we did. I could see from his expression and demeanor, and I really, really felt for him on the 18th green. It was the first time I realized that there was a loser.
Up to that, I was just focused totally on winning, and once I had won, it was the only time that I contemplated that somebody could actually lose in that playoff. I could see it in Sergio's face and I could see the disappointment that it really was. It was something that I felt for him.
Since then, no, I haven't. I haven't commisserated with him since. I don't think I'm the person to do it. And I mean that in terms of real commisseration only comes from somebody who's a close friend, family, somebody coming up and patting you on the back and saying, "hard luck." It's not going to make any difference. I'm not the person to do it. It's somebody who's close to him who he can trust who's probably most likely going to be his mother or father are the ones who are going to have to help him through that loss as I'm sure he feels it is. But I don't think I'm the person for that, and I don't think I could be the one to help him. It would only seem like, and it probably would only be just hollow.
It was very genuine on the 18th green, but since then I think what I can say is not going to add to the genuine words of his father or his mother who he can trust and would listen to more.

Q. There's quite an Irish community up in San Francisco that I understand you did a little warmup with over the weekend. Is that going to make you feel a little more at home with some of them in the crowd this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, warmup, I played Harding Park on Saturday in the rain, it didn't get warmer than 40 degrees anyway. It's just cold and wet, and my caddie managed to beat me (laughter), so that's a good start. And then I came down here and got beaten by them down here in the four-ball match, as well. They weren't going easy on me that day.
But yeah, I've got some good friends living in San Fran. When I come to the West Coast I tend to visit for a couple of days. One of my best friends at school, he lives there now, and I've built up a good, probably a dozen friends up there, and when I'm on the West Coast they travel to the event and they travel to a few others. They'll be here this week and cheering me on and just getting into the spirit of things. They tend to enjoy it more than me.

Q. And they root hard for you when they're still at home?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, they follow the golf, and a couple of them travel quite extensively when I'm playing in the States to go to events. A number of them are coming to the Masters this year. It's nice to have a bunch of guys over here who -- they're interested, but also they come to the golf, and it keeps it real outside the golf in terms of we can talk about things at home and stuff like that, which is always a nice balance.

Q. You talked about having to relax at this kind of tournament and not being able to obsess. You mentioned that with the Dunhill tournament, as well. Is that something that was a revelation for you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was. It's a continual battle. The way to get to be successful at any sport is to be quite obsessive and work hard, but you have to live with that when you actually get there. Because when may work at 18, 19, 20 years of age is not always going to work when you're a little bit older, a little bit more mature. You have to find a balance, and certainly the danger in my golf would be to be too obsessive and to overdo things, so I have to take breaks.

Q. Has that revelation come to you slowly over your career, or was it something that really hit you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's slowly and still trying to be learned. It's one of the reasons I changed my caddie two and a half, probably three years ago, to my -- I have a friend on the bag now. It was because of the fact that my previous caddie, as good as he was, he would always say, come on, let's get another bucket of balls, and I'd hit that extra bucket of balls. I don't think I've ever left a golf ball sitting on the range. I've closed more driving ranges than I can remember. I've been kicked off more ranges.
And just having somebody there who's prepared to tell me, you know, point it out to me that maybe enough is enough is helping me mellow a little bit and accept the fact that I can't cover every inch of grass on a golf course. I try to.
STEWART MOORE: Padraig, best of luck this week. Thanks for coming in.

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