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July 15, 2008

Padraig Harrington


MALCOLM BOOTH: Ladies and gentlemen, we've got Padraig Harrington, defending Open Champion, with us this morning. Thanks for joining us, Padraig. As you arrive here as defending champion, how does this compare to arriving at any other Open Championship you've arrived at in the past?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I suppose in terms of -- my terms of this week, I have to avoid and try and play down being the defending champion. It obviously is a distraction for me competing in the 2008 Open. So I have to in some way manage myself to focus on 2008 and not necessarily focus on being the defending champion.
My belief going into this is if somebody offered me a good title defence, I wouldn't take it; I'd try to have my chances of winning the 2008 Open.
I realised going into this event that however I perform this week has no bearing on the fact that I won in 2007, so I'm not going in here to put in a steady performance to prove anything from 2007 winning the Open. So I really have to try and distinctly separate this event and play it as any major, as a new event, and get my preparation right and try not to be distracted by being the defending champion.

Q. How different would your life have been after the course of last year if Sergio had made that putt?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Probably best for you guys to answer that (laughing). I couldn't figure it out. Sure, I would have been asked a lot of questions about what happened. I'm sure I'd be going into this with a lot of pressure to prove myself. I certainly would have been -- you know, looking at most times, I've had plenty of tournaments in the past where I've walked away disappointed. My general thing would be maybe to work a bit harder and try a little bit harder, which is probably something I wouldn't need to do; that wouldn't help my game to do that.
So, you know, we'll never know, thankfully (laughter).

Q. How do you think it might have been different for Sergio? For the lack of a 16th of an inch or an eighth of an inch on that last putt you're a hero instead of being compared to Van de Velde, and he's a guy who's been taking the hits instead.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would be aware myself of the twin imposters of success and failure, how similar they are. Over the years I've done some great things and looked like I've lost tournaments, and I've won tournaments where I've struggled home and won it.
So I realise the difference between success and defeat, and all players have to manage that area of the game because when you do win you're put up on a pedestal and everything is great, and when you don't win it's very easy to be cut down at the knees. To be honest, there's not much difference. A player has to keep going through his process, keep doing his thing, and endeavor to play every event the same, not necessarily focusing on the results.
We do like the results and we do need them every so often to confirm that we're on the right track. But most players have to focus on what they're doing and assume that the results will follow. That is the only way you can tackle a loss and that is the only way you should tackle a win, too. You can enjoy winning, but you have to realise there isn't much between winning and losing.
The key is, and this is what separates players who do win and other players, is you've got to want to put yourself on the line. You've got to put your neck out there, and if you do put your neck out there it will get chopped off sometimes. You're going to have that problem that you're going to mess up. If you're continually in contention you're going to have guys that do great things and things are going to go against you. Some players don't like that feeling.
But the more times you get in there, you know, as I said, it couldn't have been the most enjoyable experience for Sergio last year, but I'm sure he'd be very happy to be in the same situation again this year and have another go at it. That's the difference between being a winner and forever not having a chance. You've got to put yourself in the position. You can look foolish, but if you give yourself enough opportunities in that position you'll be more comfortable and you'll succeed more often than not.

Q. Is there a physical act of bringing the trophy back? Was it in a special place and you had to take it away from there and pack it away and hand it over?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I just handed it over just before this press conference. It was a little bit, well, I'm giving it back. But I was comfortable enough with it that I wasn't -- but actually physically handing it back, I did hand it back and point that I could do with a smaller box so you could travel with it better on airplanes, because you can't take the current one onto a plane; it's too big. Hopefully when I get back on Sunday night it'll be in a little tighter box so I can bring it with me everywhere (smiling).

Q. Presumably being the Open Champion is a fantastic experience. I just wondered, has there been any downside to the great experience for you, either your life or your game?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No downside in terms of there's nothing I would want to change in being the Open Champion. There was a period just before Christmas where I overdid things. I did far too many interviews and far too much and I really was fatigued. I did struggle. I got sick at the start of this year with shingles again, a sign of stress and fatigue. But I wouldn't give it up. That's all part of being the Open Champion, winning your first major. It's fantastic. There's no question it brings an extra pressure, it brings expectation, distraction going onto the golf course. You do try a little harder.
You know, I look at it, and I look at my own situation, and I don't think I could have been in a better prepared situation to win a major than I was in terms of my media experience. I've seen other players who have won majors and possibly wouldn't have that experience. I've seen how hard it is, and it's amazing how hard it must be for guys who haven't had -- I've grown up from the age of 15 dealing with the Irish press. Every time I played a round of golf I would be interviewed, so I would be somewhat comfortable with that.
It's been a little bit of a burden, no question about it. But it's a burden you'd love to handle, anybody would love to handle. But it would be even tougher for some of the guys who maybe wouldn't have experienced that over the years.

Q. Having just mentioned the desire to win is the thing that perhaps separates people who don't win, do you think there are people out there who are frightened to win?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think that they consciously could consider that they don't want to win, but there's certainly people that are so afraid of losing that they don't get themselves in that position as often. It's a subconscious thing. I'm sure any of the psychologists will tell you if you get hurt often enough you wouldn't go back to that situation, would you? Certainly players have had an experience where they've messed up and they've been criticized. You can see that sometimes they don't necessarily want to put themselves in that position again. That's what I kind of alluded to on the 18th green. After I won, I said, you know, I could handle hitting the bad drive. The second shot really felt like I had lost the Open. And when I look back at it, it was an extraordinarily difficult second shot. Possibly I was forced into taking that on, that third shot, because I dropped out of the water.
But at the time I thought, you know, would you want to put yourself through that time and time again? To be honest, I would. I have over the years. At one stage I had a remarkable record of having, I don't know, plenty of second places anyway and a number of thirds and fourths. But I knew as an amateur, I did the same thing as an amateur. I spent about three years doing the same sort of stuff with a few wins but not that many, and then I had a period where I won all around me.
So I kind of had that experience to know that finishing runner-up at times, some of them are good, some of them are bad, but you're learning all the time. There's nothing like the experience of being in contention, and I knew that that was going to make me a better player for one day, like at the Open where I did mess up coming down 18, but I had to force myself to get myself back in the zone for the chip shot, and it made all the difference, obviously. Up-and-down obviously gave me the opportunity to go out and prove myself in the playoff, and obviously I didn't look back in that playoff. It was mine for the winning.

Q. Could you just talk about how green the flora and fauna are out there along the sides of the fairways should the wind be at one and you hit one into the gunge? It looks like you're going to have to step on it to find it.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I can only assume. I haven't been out and seen it. I was here six weeks ago -- six, eight weeks ago now, and with the weather -- I don't live too far away from here across the water, so the weather would have been very similar here, and the grasses have been growing very well in this part of the world with the amount of rain we've had and the heat. Definitely it's got to be lush out there, and I'm sure it's going to be an issue.
But you've got to remember as well, on any links golf course, you hit it in the bunkers, you're chipping out sideways anyway. You hit it in the rough you're probably wide of the bunker, so you probably deserve to be chipping out sideways.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Padraig, thank you very much for joining us.

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