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May 14, 2008

Padraig Harrington


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Padraig, welcome back. Glad to be home.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Glad to be home, yeah, always good.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Start us off on your thoughts on the week ahead as defending champion.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you know, normally when you defend a tournament, that obviously brings a certain amount of extra pressure, extra expectations, a little bit more stress, and can't get anymore at the Irish Open, so that's okay this week; it doesn't add to it. It's really just the same old story, Irish Open.
Obviously a lot of distractions, a lot of things going on and you just have to accept it. Everything doesn't go in preparation as it would as a normal event, and once I'm comfortable with that, it seemed to work quite well last year, and sort of same strategy this year. It's not a week to spend a lot of time hitting shots on the range. It's not a week to be trying to find your game. You just have to turn up and play with what you've got, and you know, do the best you can with that.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: You played the golf course today. Is it a lot different from last year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a little bit longer, because we used the back tees. We didn't use them last year. Yes, it seems to be -- I don't think it's playing any easier. If anything, I would say the rough is a bit lighter and at time you can get shots out of it. At times I think I had 60 yards to the front of the green and I couldn't reach the green, so the rough is heavier in places. It's lighter than last year, no question, but not like it's easy or anything like that.
Looks like it's going to be a big test. The golf course is certainly very long and the golf course doesn't run very far on the fairways. It plays its length. The greens are a little bit firmer this year, so that should make it a little bit tougher around the greens.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: And what's going on with this weather?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's like this all the time in Ireland!

Q. What hole were you 60 yards short on?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I hit in the rough on 15 on the left hand side, I think I had 80 yards to the pin. Might have hit it 65 yards with a sand wedge. It can be pretty heavy out there.
Another time on the first hole I hit it in the rough and I hit a 6-iron on the green. So it's kind of, you know, you can draw a lie and you can draw a bad lie. There are certain holes where it's heavier in places where just the nature of the area and there's other holes where it's that sort of -- a bit less to find, I would say.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's a few places that the rough is very uniform so the ball sits down in it, and then there's a few places where it's a bit more trodden down and things like that. But there can be a case where you can hit it in the rough this week and walk away and be able to place the green and walk up and have to chip it out a lot of times.
You know, it is a stern rough.

Q. Could we have a situation like that last year where no-one was under par....
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I thought I was under par all the time last year.
I think more players are going to be comfortable with the golf course this year; and the weather conditions, they will be comfortable with it.
I think sitting here now, if you told me I was going to be 5-under par at the end of the week or something like that, I would be very happy. But definitely you will find players, there will be more players than 2-under par, yes. Even though there are definitely more elements easier this year, slightly easier, the weather looks like it's going to be a lot easier, I would suggest most people's outlook would be a lot better because of the sunshine and that.
But the greens are a little bit firmer, and obviously with this nice weather, we'll tend to use more of the back tees.

Q. Last year was huge for you, winning here and you went on to even greater things. Looking back after 12 months now, how much of a role did this play in your success at Carnoustie?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You couldn't underestimate how important it was in terms of going onto win at Carnoustie. It did give me a lot of self-confidence winning here, kind of against the run of things in terms of, you know, preparation and things. It told me that I could go and win a tournament under a lot of focus, a lot of pressure, a lot of distress and a lot of distraction and that gives you a lot confidence when you can come through something like that.
As much as I would like to have said, well, those are not always the best judge, that definitely helped me believe more in what I was doing and how I was going about things, and it was definitely a big confidence booster. Somebody told me a couple of weeks afterwards, I didn't play that well, because I thought everything was -- I was so confident afterwards that I that if anything, I was over-trying, and it was only The Open came around at the right time where I kind of had got away from the Irish Open, still had that element of self-confidence, but wasn't losing my patience.
That's probably why, you know, if The Open had not come around as the U.S. Open did a month after the Irish Open, I didn't do too well there. It's just two months is the right time afterwards where I was still feeling like I was playing well, but I had regained my patience on the course.

Q. Looking back to last year, what were the key moments in the build up to your success?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I felt comfortable all week last year. Once the tournament started I was very happy with my game, and I think I started nicely and just felt assured that I would be in the mix at the end of the week.
As the tournament progressed, I felt comfortable that, you know, I was going to be on top of the leaderboard and that was kind of it. I thought it was within my own -- totally within my own hands, the outcome, the results of it. You don't often get that feeling on a golf course, because I felt, you know -- I didn't find the course difficult last year. It's amazing, it's only -- talking to a lot of people, oh, it was really tough weather last year. I'm going, was it? I didn't realise it was bad weather last year.
You get those tournaments only a couple of times a year where everything seems easy to you and everybody else seems to be struggling, so I was very much in the zone last year, very comfortable on the golf course.

Q. are you the kind of player that can easily forget the previous week or do you dwell?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I always analyse my week gone by and work from them. I'm not going to hang myself up on missing a cut. That's going to happen.
You know, you've got to put that down to these things happen as you go along. If you're going to be a professional golfer, you're going to expect that things are going to against you and it's going to happen. I don't see it having any effect on this tournament. It would on a normal tournament, as in there's no question when you miss a cut, you're extremely motivated the next week.
I don't think that's the case this week. I'm already motivated with the Irish Open. To be honest, it has zero effect on this week. It would have an effect on a regular tournament, but not when you're coming into a big event. Certainly on some of my -- I've had some cold performances off the back of missed cuts in the past; it doesn't faze me at all. It's going to happen. Especially last week's, when it wasn't like I played bad golf or anything.

Q. How do you feel coming onto this event this year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The same. Actually no, it has not been as bad for the week as it was last year. You know, I think for me, it's been a bonus, obviously with the other Irish lads winning that they have, you know, that they are taking the attention and the focus at the moment, and, you know, there's more to be shared around and less for me to do, whichever way. So it's -- I'm better prepared this year than I was last year.

Q. Are you a better player than you were?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm a lot better player. I'm still improving. I understand my own game and where I'm going with it more and I'm definitely a better player. It's so easy to get caught up in results and use them as a yardstick and over time, those are important. But short term, it's how things are progressing and what's happening.
And yes, there's no question I'm a better player; better swinger of the golf club, better mentally, better know what I'm doing, and much better able to get my game to a level that I need it to be at, much more predictable, my game is better. Every element of my game is better. I chipped the ball very well, probably not quite as good as that, but my bunker play is better than it was last year. You know, my pitching seems to be better, so, you know, there's little things like that that are up-and-down, but overall, I have a much better understanding of where I'm going with my swing and where I'm going with my mental game.

Q. Bad news for everyone else...
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Not really. At the end of the day, you know, you just get yourself as good as you can be for a given week. You get your preparation right. You go in there, you play your golf. What should that should do is hopefully make you play good that week. Playing good doesn't necessarily mean you'll beat the field. If somebody has a very good week, they are the best player in the world if they are going to have a good week, as you see every week, an individual player who is on a hot streak is going to be hard to beat and playing good probably won't do that. But playing good should get me into contention, and I know if I'm in contention with nine holes to play on Sunday, anything can happen.
We all as players, maybe a couple of times a year will have that week where everything goes and we play great, but the goal will be to play as good, as predictably as you can and as often as you can, and that will get you into the position. You know, the position of winning, if somebody slips up or you do something good over the last nine holes, and that will be my goal this week and every week.

Q. There's four players in the Top-50 in the world in the field - are you surprised after last year that the field isn't stronger?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It takes a while to develop the tournament. I think you know, most of the feedback last year -- while, people loved the venue and raved about the venue, they didn't like the weather and they didn't like the severity of the golf course.
So I think four days, I think the golf course will be a lot more pleasant for people's game and could go off with more positive vibes but it will take a while to build my venue or any tournament, and outside of that, it's difficult to get players to play these days, there's so many good events, and the Irish Open has to go back into the pecking order and build itself up to be a premiere event. It just can't automatically command that stuff.

Q. What do you think they need to do to do that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, there's lots of things. I think we could be -- I have opinions that would be different to other people's opinions, so it's not really my place to --

Q. What would your opinion be?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, it's not really -- there's a whole list of things I suppose that everybody could decide on. You know, if you want -- a lot of events, if you attract the Top-50 in the world are paying appearance fees. The Irish Open doesn't pay appearance fees. So, it automatically has a difficult position to be in in order to encourage players to play.
So you really do have to give the full player experience to the mid-ranked player so that when he becomes a top-ranked player, he always feels that the Irish Open is one of the best events. So it's a long-term thing.
Trying to go straight in at the very top players; any player in the Top-50 in the world has a choice of great events every week. And as I said, you know, those players who are there now would have seen the Irish Open over the last number of years, and they don't remember the great days of the 80s and early 90s. They are thinking of it in the last ten years, and they see it as a regular event. So it's convincing the younger players now on the Tour who are going to be here and who are going to be the big names in ten years; that would be one start.
You know, you've got to build relationships with players, essentially. I think some of the best tournaments in the world, they build strong relationships with players that the players feel like they want to go there and, you know, have a strong relationship with the tournament director, the venue, a number of different things. So there's a number of long-term issues. I don't think overnight you can turn something in.
As I've said, the French Open is played in one of the best golf courses of the year with a $6.2 million purse this year and they struggle for a field. So it's not just as easy as throwing money at it, but money does help. And it's not as easy as throwing a great golf course, because the French Open has a date issue, and it really is building a long-term relationship with the players so that they want to come back.

Q. Is this one of your favourite courses in the world?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It seems to suit me, there's no question. I do like the golf course. I think it's a beautiful venue. I think, you know, the scenery, the setup in terms of the aesthetic value of the golf course is really excellent.
Why the golf course suits me, I think the style of greens is what actually suits me the most on the course. The fairways, as I always say, are as I always say, quite a lot narrower than what I would be used to playing in the States, and the rough is much heavier than it is in the States.
Tee-to-green, I think the golf course is tough. I don't feel comfortable in any shape or form in that sense, but definitely around the greens, I do like the rolling undulations on the greens, and for me, I think it actually makes it easier for me having most of the pins tend to be set in hollows with soft surrounds, and I tend to work the ball well in and around the pins with my short game.
That's the only place that I can see is an advantage for me.

Q. Would it be among your top five?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, yeah, definitely.

Q. What number?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Five - no maybe it would be in there, purely because of the rough. Because in my Top-5, there wouldn't be any rough on the golf course. (Laughter).
That would be as in you're asking personally what I like and I would rip it all out and have a lot of run-offs. You don't get things like tight-lie chip outs. Most of the main -- most of the top golf courses in the world have moved away -- over the next five years, I would say that they all went with the heavy rough and now they are all coming back to having run-offs where we have to chip off tight lies and that's a real skill. Chipping out of the rough is just a lottery.
Most of it, you just have to look at the TPC last week, everything was a run-off. Everything that could make it run-off -- and they realised, it's a lot harder out of the tight lies and it brings it into scale much more so. Sometimes we'll take a putter from off the green and yes, they will putt it up stone-dead sometimes but it certainly is a different test than just getting in there and splashing out of the rough with a wedge.
That would be, you know, it's a great golf course, but to be my favourite, I would definitely have a lot more run-offs; if you miss the green off the right, you're in the water, that's just the way I would do it. Around the par 3s, I would have them shaved down so that if the ball misses down the right hand side, it goes into the water on 11.
That would be my way of setting up the golf course. Last year. 17, last year I missed the pin, I was probably 20 feet from the pin, and I was in 14 inches of rough where if they shaved it, I would have run-off down, I could have been 15 yards away from the green, or ten yards away from the green; and it would have been a chip, tougher shot trying to play an 8-iron chip-and-run up the hill rather than having a swing at a lob-wedge from, you know, 20 feet from the hole.
But you know, I'm not criticising the golf course in that sense. I'm just saying to be my favourite, that's why I love Augusta. Those chip shots around the greens are intimidating. TPC last week, the chip shots around the greens are intimidating. It's a real level; of skill. That's where I would move for it to be my favourite golf course.

Q. How much pride can you take from the recent Irish success?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I think Graeme's win was due to his own motivation. He wanted to move on. And I think Peter will agree, while he has the talent to win, he needed to see Damien to win to give him a bit of a kick start. And Darren has always had the talent to come back and there's obviously issues and things in his life.
The main thing for Darren is that he tried to separate his ability to go out and play golf and his home life. It's tough when every shot he hits is judged not on his golfing ability but on something else. It was great to see Darren win and come back, and I hope that he can manage to keep the two separate. The pressure being put on him to play good golf, you know, is totally outside of, you know, his game really. But I think, you know, Darren said maybe a couple of wins earlier this year helped him along, but I think my winning The Open would help other Europeans win majors, yes. It would definitely help Europeans go on and win majors. Once they see me do it, it's a lot more realistic. Seeing Michael Campbell win the U.S. Open, I know his game and I understand his game and I know what levels he got to win the U.S. Open and it's easier for me to go about winning myself there.

Q. Did the 25 year wait for an Irish winner come into your mind on the back nine?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was going to happen at some stage. I was not thinking of 25 years.

Q. At all?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I was trying to win a tournament at that stage.

Q. Is it harder to defend a title?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think -- I think the pressure of defending and the stress of trying to win a big tournament, a major or trying to win an Irish Open is -- from Wednesday, we're discussing it now, people are asking you, are you going to win this tournament. The focus is always there, and in some ways, you kind of don't want to stick up right from the start. Whereas in a normal tournament, you play your way into it and you go under the radar for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and maybe somebody on Saturday will ask you if you can win the tournament. It's not that the pressure is any greater; it's just that it's for a longer period of time.
My focus has been on making sure my game is absolutely 100% for the majors and, you know, if it was up to the same level to a major, would I have played -- while it's a very big event and still is in my mind, having won one, you know, that putts my focus onto the four majors.

Q. Ireland has had three players in the last three Ryder Cup Teams and could have more this year - do you find that extraordinary for such a small nation?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: What's interesting is the Irish guys have come into form and some of the more experienced guys have come back into form for Ryder Cup. It kind of always works like that. Christmas generally looks like six rookies could be on the team and with more players playing their way back in, that's maybe more in doubt now. Yeah, there's a number of Irish guys, but there's not room for everybody on the team. So everybody kind of has to play their way on to the team, and you know, if we got three on again, that would be spectacular.
You know, it's great to see Darren back in form in terms of The Ryder Cup, with his win; if he can have that sort of form for the three or four months -- that will be great for the main events starting now.
Just on average, you know, the victory would be unbelievable; to get four in -- there's not that many spaces. We're going to have to fight it out amongst ourselves really.

Q. I know it's because of your focus on the Majors but do you feel bad about missing next week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I honestly would like to play next week. I've often said, I don't like the greens at Wentworth but I really like the changes Ernie Els has made to the golf course, and it's a bigger, stronger course, and so I would like to be there. I'll play the following week in Wales. Still, that's the problem, there's always some tournaments losing out and other one's game. We can only play a limited amount during the year.

Q. Has anyone - players or the Tour --tried to make you change your mind?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The Tour have been onto me, but, you know, I've made my position quite clear that the focus is very much on trying to get my game and peaking at the four majors, and the way to do that for me is playing the two weeks into them. I think they are comfortable with the decision and that it's not just not wanting to play the golf course. It's more of a scheduling thing and it's unfortunate but that's the way it's going to be.

Q. Is there too much independence for players now?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you know, there are so many options for where the players go. Sometimes if you reduce the options, then you're forcing players into doing certain things.

Q. (Inaudible)
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, I agree. At the moment we are in a situation that is an interesting time for players -- we are sitting here having this conversation and on the U.S. Tour, the tournaments are every bit the same screaming out for more players to turn up and we want more of the top players to turn up and we want more of the name players turning up. So it's the same issue all around the world, which is great for players, but it not great for the Tour.
It's an interesting conflict; how does the Tour, you know, provide the best opportunity for the players, who own the tour, but also expand your own tour to the best you can. There's certainly a conflict there, there's no question what's good for a player individually is not necessarily what is is good for a tour, yet what is good for the Tour is not always good for the player, so it's who comes first. And that's what's happening on both tours at the moment, they want more players to turn up and play more evens, but you know, if you start squeezing players -- it will only affect the international players. You know, if you end up reducing their opportunities -- say, for example, you had one tour or say both tours went to you have to play 20 events on each tour or something like that. Instead of me playing 30 events in a year I might end up playing 20. I play ten less because I can't play 40.

Q. Do you think players worry about the sponsors?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think they worry about the -- I think players generally worry about the sponsors, I do. But they are concerned about the well being of the Tour and that means the well being of the sponsors. You know, they have to act individually, though. They can't -- like I can't play 40 events in a year, I can't. I played 32 or something last year, and I should be playing 27, 28. You know, you get down to Tiger playing 19, 20, something like that; so it's a difficult situation as you squeeze players on one end, it might end up that you end up playing less events.
I've got 58 events or something silly in the World Ranking or something like that; I need to have that under 50 to maximise my position in the World Rankings. 50 events is far too many. I would love to cut eight events out of my schedule; find the eight events to cut, that's the issue. If you're playing to play around the world, you know, it's not easy and the Irish Open this week obviously loses out a bit, but is it Congressional this -- what's this week in the States? AT&T, there you go, AT&T, a golf course I've nearly won on, a golf course I like, there you go. I'd like to be there, as well. I figure I have to clone myself.

Q. I was going to ask something along those lines. Is scheduling any easier this year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've got to say it isn't any different in terms of, you know, there's still -- once you get up to, as you said, where I am in the World Rankings, the options are there. You know, there's places to play every week, and a number of good events to go every week. So I won't say that, you know, winning The Open has made it any harder. It's still the same amount of tournaments. If anything, as I said I'm trying to reduce my schedule rather than trying to increase it from last year, trying to take it down, which it difficult to do.

Q. Do you have any World Cup plans yet?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would think at this moment I haven't confirmed anything. I'm trying to get through the next couple of weeks. My schedule is pretty set up to the fourth majors and The Ryder Cup, well, the four majors, not even sure after the four majors. It's a little looser after that. It's difficult. Depends how you're feeling about your game, how you're going along at that stage. But I think the overriding thing is to reduce the number that I play.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Good luck, Padraig, and thank you very much.

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