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May 6, 2008

Padraig Harrington


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Padraig Harrington, thank you for joining us here. Open Champion, playing in your eighth PLAYERS Championship this week. You've had two runner-up finishes, so you've got a pretty good track record here. Maybe some opening comments about coming back to play the players.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I suppose my two runner-up finishes were probably on a different golf course, different time of the year. I like it here, like the golf course. It's a course that gives up a few birdies. It can take them away, though. There's plenty of danger. You know, it's not right on top of you, but it's there. If you hit a bad shot, you can certainly find the water on a number of places. Certainly No. 17 is the one that's very much there, very intimidating.
But I think it's the sort of golf course you can shoot a good score on. So if you stay patient, you'll always get a run, maybe a couple of times during the week you'll get nine holes where you'll play 4- or 5-under par and that will certainly bring your score up. Probably that's the way to win the tournament, stay patient and wait for those good runs.

Q. In your three weeks off, there's been three Irishmen that have won on the European Tour, which makes quite a change. How much have you enjoyed it, and what do you make of it all?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It is such a change maybe from last year. We've had three there, obviously on the Challenge Tour, and we've also had a winner six weeks ago. Who's going to win this week is the question. Obviously I assume Gary, Paul and Rory are playing in Europe, and I'm over here.

Q. You're the only one playing this week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, great, no pressure on me.

Q. You've got to win this week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It is fantastic for Irish golf. I think each of the last three wins are probably bigger wins than that for Irish golf. Obviously Damien and Peter out on Tour a number of years, and this is the next step, their first win. So it's obviously a very big deal in an individual sense for them; and obviously for Darren, coming back from what's been a very tough period in his life and on the golf course. It's great to see him out there winning again, and hopefully he can separate his home life and his Tour life and keep playing good golf like he did that week.

Q. Could you just talk about the fact that a European has not won here since Sandy Lyle. Does that surprise you, given the depth of talent in Europe, that it's been that long? And any thoughts -- obviously you've come close a couple times. Any thoughts on why it is; because it's target golf and it's different from the style of courses in Europe?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, obviously at the moment in Europe, certainly in the last six or seven years, we play more target golf than is played in the U.S. Our golf courses tend to have higher rough, narrower fairways, softer greens, so it is very much target golf. The courses over here tend to be wider and a little bit faster and definitely firmer greens in general.
So it's kind of reversed in that sense. I don't think you can put a stereotype on a European player now. Maybe a European player is better at playing in slightly inclement weather. He certainly gets that a little bit more often.
But I think Europeans consider themselves now -- we've been all more or less lumped into international players, and there's certainly been a number of international players at the TPC.
So I don't see it as -- certainly from my own sense this week, I don't hold the burden that no European has won since Sandy Lyle. I'm an individual going out here trying to compete against the other 155 guys, and yeah, I'm not -- I'm trying to do it as an individual and not holding anything out, trying to put any sort of run on things that it can't be done.
I can't figure it out. If there is a reason why Europeans haven't won, I don't know. I don't know.

Q. As a follow-up to that, there's 21 in the field this year, and obviously that's much more than it has been in the past. Sometimes maybe it's just a numbers game, as well.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, certainly that obviously reflects on it. If you want to go to the numbers game, there hasn't been a European winner since Sandy Lyle, which was what year?

Q. '87.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: '87, so we must be due. I have a 1-in-21 chance if it's a numbers game. If you want to get into that sort of thing, yeah. But unfortunately, the other 135 players this week are not going to consider that there's 21 Europeans and they deserve a chance to win (laughing).

Q. Are the green speeds noticeably faster than last year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I don't know about last year, but obviously the grass on the greens, it's a different grass. They're never going to be the speed they used to get. You know, the speeds certainly three, four years ago, six years ago, when they dried out in the sun they were probably the fastest speeds we get on TOUR. These greens, they're firmer to hit into. The type of grass that's on them will not go as shiny, as quick; so they'll never be the extremes that they used to get.
They'll be much fairer and much better and they could be faster -- they must be faster on Thursday and Friday, but they just won't go the way the old bentgrass would go on a Sunday, where around the holes it would just burn off and would get very, very quick.

Q. Now that we've had a year under our belt, so to speak, do you have any thoughts or any prefaces on the way this is played? Do you like it in May? Does it matter to you one way or the other?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I was never ready for it when it was pre-Masters. It was too early in my schedule. Yeah, it's a better time of the year, definitely, now. The golf course is immaculate out there. It's as good as a golf course as you can play in terms of its condition. You know, the weather is superb. It's a good change of date, there's no question.
Like any tournament in the schedule nowadays, there's always scheduling conflicts and things like this, but this is big enough that it can handle anything like that. There's no question, it suits -- the timing suits for the tournament in terms of the condition, the weather. It's been a few weeks since the Masters now. So yeah, I think that the date is a great change for the event.

Q. Just going to the question of Irish winners, are you a follower of this theory, somebody saying, well, if he can win, I can win?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I certainly think, you know, the case there would have to be -- I think you have to take Graeme out, obviously, and Darren because he's an older, more mature player than the others, probably great him. But I think Damien was so self -- he was focused. He was going about doing his thing, and he broke the mold. There's no question, he put it up to Peter. They're very good friends; they play a lot of golf together. And often we would have looked at Peter and hoped he'd kick on. I think Damien winning pushed him into it. We would have always said Peter was well capable of winning tournaments, and I think it did take Damien's win to prove it to himself.
You know, hopefully they'll go on and do more. But it was fantastic to see. Just obviously Damien winning was tremendous; followed up by Darren. But the fact that Peter and Damien would be such good -- their careers would be so close together in terms of they've been out on Tour together for so long, it's interesting to see. There must be something in it; there must be. Maybe that might be something good for majors with the European players.

Q. Have they ever picked your brain in a way to find out, the psyche about what it takes to win?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: We've certainly talked golf plenty of times, just had general discussions. I think both of them, but particularly Damien -- I think both of them knew what they needed to do to win. I think Damien just had more belief in that and committed more to it. I actually try and pick -- I'd certainly be sitting with Damien and try to ask them a few questions. Actually both him and Peter are very smart golfers and they're very knowledgeable about what they're doing. Anytime we go to dinner, if we do get on to talking about golf, it's not a one-way conversation. There's plenty to be learned from them as much as I'd hope they'd be learning from me.

Q. How difficult of a decision was it to say that you were going to skip the PGA at Wentworth, and also, is this sort of another example of there's so many great choices for you guys, it's almost too much?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I could hang a journalist out here, actually. I made my schedule during the year and I put the PGA in, and I was pointing out to somebody that, you know, I liked playing two tournaments into the major. That seems to get me my best form.
When a certain person looked at the schedule, they said, "Well, why aren't you doing it there?" It kind of opened me up to say, well, why aren't I? I haven't gotten an answer, so I changed it.
It was in the schedule, and just as I said, I probably was -- I was going against what I should be doing. And when I was put on the spot and asked why, I couldn't come up with a good enough answer, and that's essentially why I decided to skip it. It didn't suit in terms of building up for the U.S. Open.
At the moment I would consider it, but for the next number of years anyway, in the peak years of my golf, my career, the majors are the focus. They're very much the focus. I've won one already, but with that win, I kind of proved to myself that I can build a game for a particular week if I focus on it. My goal the next X number of years is always to peak for the majors.
Not playing the PGA unfortunately is -- I'd dearly love to win a PGA Championship. Over the years I have struggled, but I think in the last number of years I've come somewhat to grips with it, why I'm not comfortable at that particular tournament. I feel like I've got good enough maybe to overcome some of those things. I might be giving up a little bit when I go there, but unfortunately dates, schedules and things like that -- but there's plenty of good events.
The hardest thing for all the players now is -- even guys just playing the U.S. schedule, they find it hard to play all the good events. So you can imagine what it's like for an international player to try and not play too much, make sure they play well when they do play. If you're interested in your World Rankings you don't want to build up too many events; that'll do you harm. You don't want to overplay.
You just have to look at the French Open on the European Tour. It's $6.2 million, and that's on a fantastic golf course that's got heritage, everything you want at an event, and there's an event that always struggles to get all the players to turn up. Just an incredible amount of good events out there competing with each other. It's one of the tough things to play everything.

Q. This may be hard for you to answer since it's been 21 years since a European has won this tournament, but do you think winning this would be more meaningful to an American than it would for a European or South African or what-have-you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it would, yeah. I think winning this tournament -- I think anybody who wins this tournament will jump and say -- would move over to the camp that it's the fifth major. I think anybody who hasn't won the event will say it's the next biggest event.
I do believe that the U.S. players would be more inclined to see this as a major, because in many ways, getting onto serious topics here, obviously the U.S. Tour don't own any of the four majors, and this is their move to host one of the biggest tournaments in the -- I suppose in the spectators' minds. It's a great field at a great venue, everybody returns here.
But it takes time to build a major. This is around 30 years. I'm sure when we come back in 50 years or 100 years, this will be a major. But certainly those calling for more likely to be a U.S.-based player or somebody who's won this event.

Q. Do you think a European will have won when we come back in 50 or 100 years?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, let's go to the numbers game (laughter). Yes, I do, actually. I do.

Q. In terms of how much you just pay attention to what goes on week to week, do you get any sense from what's happened this year with Anthony Kim winning last year and J.B. Holmes and some of the different guys I should say, Brandt Snedeker playing well, that --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That I'm getting old (laughing)? I do get a sense that I'm getting old.

Q. That was my follow-up, but do you get a sense the team you're going to see in Kentucky later this year might be vastly different than what you guys have seen before?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I certainly felt that about the Europeans. I said in Europe, there's a changing of the guard.

Q. From a couple years ago, or you mean now?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Right this year. This Ryder Cup looks like it could -- it did look like it could end up with sort of six rookies and a younger team. We had a dinner at the Match Play this year, and I was the second-oldest person in the room; actually not including Faldo, second-oldest of the players, I would say.
So there is a changing of the guard. Now with the likes of Darren coming back into form and things like that, it might not be as extreme as I thought.
I don't see it happening in the States. I think with Paul's four picks, I think it's a very sensible situation for him. They're going to have a number of rookies coming into the team, but you can be sure his four picks will go to the more experienced players, the bigger names, the marquee names that he can depend on to turn up and get the most out of the rookies that he can depend on.
I'm not sure who's on their team in the States, but the likes of David Toms, Justin Leonard, Davis Love, I don't know if they're in the team, but those are the sort of players that know how to turn up and play golf when it's needed. They're the sort of players that I'm sure Paul will be looking at to ensure that he gets the best out of the younger guys.
You know, I'm sure Paul, after he picks a couple solid players who are dependable, he might then go down the lines of picking somebody like -- I'm not saying, obviously -- somebody like a John Daly, if he was in form, an exciting player. It gives him a lot of options, having four picks, and I'm sure it will strengthen their team.
If they do have a lot of young players, good players -- but the Ryder Cup is more about that depend ability, I suppose, and the four picks will allow him to bring in those seasoned campaigners, guys who have won majors and been there and been around there, played lots of Ryder Cups and more or less know what they're doing.

Q. But if you were Paul, some of these dependable people haven't won a Ryder Cup in ten years almost. Are they all that dependable?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I believe so, yeah. I believe that these guys -- you know, you've got to mix your team. That's why I'm saying that. He only had two picks before. I think four picks -- these dependable guys, yes, they haven't won, but maybe because it hasn't been a good a blend. I think you need a certain level of maturity on the Ryder Cup team to bring the best out of the young players, the rookies or some of the younger guys. That's certainly the road I would go down, a good mix of that. Scott Verplank and Stewart Cink proved their worth at the last Ryder Cup. Two more picks on top of that would have been a help.
I'm not suggesting anybody who qualifies for the team, any of the younger guys who qualify, truly deserve it. But certainly for balance sometimes in a team, certainly that's what happened in Europe. We generally had about four rookies, two, three, four rookies sort of thing, and you only have to look back at the likes of Seve and David Gilford to see how the experience can help motivate and bring along a less experienced player. But equally as capable -- there will be players who won't get the pick this year. When Paul goes to pick his four players, there will be players who don't get a pick that will be better than some of the players who get the pick.
But for the week of the Ryder Cup, it's about having a mixture and not necessarily having the 12 best individuals. Sometimes it's better having some certain amount of maturity.
You know, in some ways, you know, Davis Love is going to be -- or Fred Couples or if John Daly was in form, is going to be a more intimidating player to tee up against a European than some of the younger guys who are just young guys like the rest of the Europeans or whatever. I would think -- that's where I would go, but then again, I'm not Paul Azinger. I'm sure he has the experience to know what he wants to do.

Q. Do you still envisage six European rookies?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It is changing a little. I definitely -- you know, you would think you would learn. You look at the table at Christmas, and you go, wow, this team is going to be -- a lot of new names in here. And then all of a sudden three months later -- and we really haven't got into the bigger events at this stage, there's a substantial change. And it always seems to happen, it really does, that some of the more household names come through towards the end. Whatever motivates them, they seem to come through.
And as I said, the team seems to change quite a lot.
I definitely see, there is a changing of the guard in Europe, and it might be happening in the States, too, but there's no question in Europe there's a changing of the guard. I suppose these things happen every -- I suppose it's been about eight years, really, now, and now you're looking at a substantial change. It looks like it might be happening in the States, but probably it will take another two to four years before all those young guys really come through in terms of the consistently marquee names.
So it's good for golf. It happens. But Europe, maybe not as much as I thought. Maybe it's going to take another two years.

Q. With no Tiger Woods here this week, does it make any difference in terms of the way you approach a tournament?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, no. You know, I try and play every tournament purely on an individual basis, do my own thing. Yes, we are aware that Tiger Woods isn't here, and probably there wouldn't be too many other players who wouldn't be aware if they didn't make it into the field.
But it doesn't change my approach. I've got to play my own game, do my own thing. If it comes down to it on Sunday and you're playing the 18th hole and you're a shot behind or a shot ahead, whatever it is, it doesn't really make any difference who's on the other side of the tee. It makes all the difference how you think about it.
No, it's not a big deal. It doesn't affect the mind-set going into the event.
It's going to be just as hard to beat the player standing opposite you on 18 this week as anybody else, because if they're there, they're probably playing the best golf of their life.

Q. What did you do during your three weeks away? Attend any weddings?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I did, a big wedding. Yeah, very good, had a good time. It was a good weekend off for me in the sense of get away from things. But as usual, I did plenty of practice, changed a few things, and then the last week just tried to get a little bit competitive again to be ready for this week.

Q. How did you do that, get competitive?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I just played a couple rounds of golf. I played, I think, three rounds of golf on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, which I don't normally play too much social golf when I'm at home. But I'm kind of making -- not having played a tournament last week, I knew I needed to get out on the golf course and play one-ball and get competitive. That was the best way of doing it without actually coming out and playing a competitive tournament.

Q. Where did you play?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Luttrellstown Castle. It's a great links course. We played the first day and went back twice.

Q. Best score?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I shot a -- I shot a 61 on Saturday. It was a two-ball scramble, though (laughter). I knew I'd suck you in with that laugh (smiling).

Q. Sorry if this has been asked already, but what are your thoughts on why they've had such a wide array of winners on this golf course, from short hitters to long hitters to in-between guys? I guess you'd be considered in the middle; you finished second a couple times. Seemingly excludes no one from having a chance to win.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think that's because it's a good course. Every player has opportunities on the golf course. It gives up birdies, but it doesn't necessarily mean that -- there is a number of 3-woods off tees and things like that. So if you're a short hitter, it's fine. You can hit drivers on those holes. You do need to hit it reasonably straight.
The par-5s, while they're on in two, they're not always straightforward, so a shorter hitter who lays up is not going to be greatly disadvantaged hitting into the hole; or a longer hitter who's missed the green in an awkward place.
So everybody can play their own game on this golf course. I think everybody can have a strategy, and there's a lot of different strategies, and maybe that's why you'll see a different -- you know, you'll have the guy hitting driver down the 1st and driving it right and not being in the rough, and you'll have another guy -- you'll even have guys hitting irons off the tee, I'm sure. There's a lot of different ways of playing the golf course, 3-wood or driver off the 2nd, and same on 18.
Every hole, probably the greatest thing about the course, you can go out and watch a three-ball out there and they'll consistently hit different clubs off the tee. They'll go from driver, 3-wood, even down to a hybrid or something on the same tee box in the same conditions. You know, there's a great amount of choice out there, just you don't have to fade the ball or draw the ball. It's not suited to one side of the golf course.
So yeah, it's probably one of the better designed golf courses in terms of, you know, the difficulty, the intimidation, while it's there, it's not -- besides 17, it's not right there; it's catching a bad shot rather than just an average shot. I think it's a golf course you'd always like to play on.
You'd always feel that there's a -- one of the great things about the course, and I said this, you always feel like there's a score. No matter how tough the course is playing, you feel like if you get on a run out there, you can shoot a 65 or something like that. It's not like everybody is going to be shooting in or around 70, 72. There will be great scores shot on the course, but it's hard to keep it going then all the time, as well, for 72 holes. Patience is the key.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you, Padraig.

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