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June 10, 2008

Padraig Harrington


Full Audio Interview

RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Padraig Harrington to the interview room this morning. He's playing in his 11th United States Open Championship at Torrey Pines. Maybe you could start us off in your comments about your victory in The Open Championship, what that has done from your confidence and what you learn from your experience and bring to the U.S. Open today.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: In relation to the U.S. Open obviously it brings a certain element of expectation, puts a bit more stress in a week like this. Having won a Major as a player, you want to go on and win two.

But also it gives you the confidence that if you can get into that situation you believe you can do it again. So a lot of my focus at the moment will be on building my game up for Major tournaments so that I peak during the week.

And certainly having won one, that's what you want to do. You want to go out there and win more. And I've had some good runs in the U.S. Open, so definitely this week it's about bringing my game along, playing to the best of my ability and seeing what that does.

RAND JERRIS: Talk a little bit then about the state of your game right now, how are you feeling through your practice rounds, feeling about the golf course.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I played nine holes so far at the golf course in total. I haven't played here before, at the Buick or anything. I like the golf course, really like it. I'm very happy with it. It's a good, stern test, but it seems very, very fair.

Certainly I think everybody, certainly from what I've heard, everybody is very pleased with the course. Which may be a little disappointing, it's always nice when about behalf the field gives out about it, but everybody is pleased with it, it looks like a great test and sets up really well this year. It looks like it's going to be a good tournament.

Q. Can you explain to what extent your life both on and off the course has changed since you won the British Open?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think last year for the six months up to Christmas it was incredibly busy, a lot of things to be done, a lot of extra pressures and stresses outside the game.

I think on the golf course it brings a certain level of expectation and there's no question you probably try a little bit harder when you're on the course.

I think since Christmas it's kind of drawn a line and this is a new year, 2008, and it's easier to focus on going forward when you're in a new year. You put it to the back of your mind.

And while I did enjoy winning The Open Championship and I enjoyed 2007 with it, 2008 is very much looking forward. I'm sure when I go back to defend at Birkdale it will be different, but at the moment it's very much in the back of my mind and something that I'll enjoy again in the future, maybe when I retire from golf. But at the moment it's all about playing the next tournament and doing well in the next event. I'm really focusing on the Majors.

Q. Have you seen a difference in the way the USGA goes about setting up the Open course the last couple of years as opposed to the five or six years before that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think there's a difference in the way all golf courses have been set up over the last -- certainly I've been on Tour 12 years, probably always been evolving golf courses, but certainly in the late '90s it was very much the heaviest rough they could get, down the side of every fairway and around the greens.

I think in the early 2000's, I suppose, besides the odd course, like Shinnecock and Pinehurst, they did start looking at heavy rough down the fairways and a little bit of variation around the greens, some cut a ways.

Now I think they've realized that they can grade the rough off the tees and have a little bit of imagination around the greens and the setups have only gotten better with that.

I see that in all golf. I see that on the Tours it has been very much a case of putting four, six inches of rough around the greens, but they realize that actually that doesn't make the golf course harder for the players. We're a lot more intimidated by a tight lie than by four inches of rough. So better setups are happening.

But these things evolve. And I'm sure it's about looking at each golf course individually and deciding, yeah, a little runoff here is better for the hole, makes it tougher. And I think the key is always to make it tough, but fair. And I think the USGA are doing a really good job of that. I don't think anybody could go out and look at this golf course and say it wasn't a fair course.

Q. You come here on the back of a good finish in Memphis and the Stanford tournament. Are you happy with your preparation going into the event, has it worked out like you'd like it to?


Q. If so, why?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I played the last two weeks, and I've been getting into my focus, into what I've been -- my concentration is getting better, my thinking on the golf course, my sharpness, all those things have been improving. So, yeah, I'm happy with the last two weeks. They've been a good two weeks to sort out a few things. And I feel that -- I feel ready to go and play this week. That's all I can do.

I can't tell you now that I'm going to have a great week or I can't tell you that it's going to be a bad week. I don't know what the result is going to be, but all I can say is I've got a couple more practice rounds, but I feel ready at this stage that things are on track.

Q. Just to go back to your point about not enough people moaning about the course, do you think that a lot more will fancy their chances this week or will the actual length of the place knock out half of the field?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think the length is -- from what I saw yesterday, the length isn't as big an issue as it could be. And if you do miss -- the shorter, straighter hitters are going to hit more fairways and they're only going to miss, if they do miss, they only tend to miss in the first cut. You can get a ball running out of those. And nearly every green out there is accessible at the front of the green. It might be a small target, but it can be done.

So I cannot see -- I would actually fancy the chances of some of the very short, straight hitters this week, I would see them doing quite nicely. So I can't see anybody who feels that they're slightly out of the -- have less chance than anybody else on this golf course, as I said. It looks like it's wide open in terms of the field, plenty of opportunities for everybody to play well.

Q. You've often told us when you came to the U.S. Open first, I think it was 1998 at Congressional, that you were very uncomfortable and didn't feel your game was up to the requirements then. Since then obviously you've put it together so well that this year alone you've had four top-5 finishes, so you're very comfortable in the United States. Does that give you more reason to be confident going into this week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think the results in the tournaments this year will give me the confidence. Yeah, I've had a lot of top-10's and top-5's, and all that in the last six, eight months, without any wins, which is always -- the wins are the ones that count.

But what gives me confidence is that I seem to be getting better over the last say -- I think over the last two years maybe a little bit more, maybe two and a half years of playing a better game the week of the Majors. Maybe close to two out of three of the Majors in the last -- maybe the last eight or nine or ten of them I've played good golf and got myself well into the tournaments. So I've had a few missed cuts at those times, as well. But I've had a lot of good, good runs in them. And that's what gives me confidence.

I realize if I get my preparation right I should be able to perform and get myself into position on Sunday afternoon. It's all about playing the first 63 holes so that you have a chance with the last nine holes. If you're in there with nine holes to go, that's all you can ask in a tournament. And things can happen at that stage and you just have to be patient and wait to be there. As I said, 63 holes to get into that position, and you don't want to ever get out of it early on, and you want to be hanging around at the right place at the right time and you can make things happen on the back nine on Sunday.

Q. Couple of questions. There's always the debate of whether the USGA is trying to protect par at this championship. What do you think?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think what you find is you go to -- and this is what I believe, also, has happened at Augusta. When you go to a substantial golf course, there's plenty of length here, there is lots of protection of its own. I think it gives whoever sets up the golf course, the Rules Committee or the Tournament Committee, more opportunities to set up a fair golf course.

So I think this is a big golf course, it's a good, tough course, there's plenty of tough pin positions out there. It allows them a bit more freedom. They've cut away a good bit of the rough off the edge of the fairways. The fairways are generous. The course is very playable because they have a good, tough course.

That's why I think the changes at Augusta are a bit like that. They've lengthened the golf course. Since they've lengthened the course they've eased up a bit on the pin positions. If the USGA thinks the scoring is going good, we'll have tough pin positions. And if they think the going is tough, you're going to have easier pin positions. But the golf course allows them to have the variability and the freedom to set the golf course up and change the course for whatever score they want.

I would think, if you ask me, this looks like a golf course that, as I said, it looks like a playable course at the moment, but the pins will probably get quite tough and you'll find it will be 3- or 4-under par at the end of the week, and normally something around there, maybe.

Q. Do you need a score to determine whether a course is fair or not?


Q. Do you need a score to measure whether the course is fair or not?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, but I'm just saying that if you get -- sometimes you can get a golf course that's -- that they don't have the variability in it, the length in it and things like that, and maybe they're worried about a low score and then the golf course can get tricky.

I think here because it's a substantial test, there's plenty natural hazards out there. There's plenty -- the greens are difficult. They know that this golf course is going to protect itself, essentially. So that's why the setup is so fair this week, because the course is easily able to protect itself.

As I said in, around level par, is going to be the winning score. If it got windy we'd have easier pin positions than if it doesn't get windy. That's what I mean, that the USGA would have a great advantage that they can vary things to suit the weather conditions and suit the tournament.

RAND JERRIS: Thank you very much for your time this morning, and we wish you lots of luck this weekend.

End of FastScripts

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