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July 20, 2008

Padraig Harrington


MALCOLM BOOTH: Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined by back-to-back Open Champion Padraig Harrington.
Take us through your thoughts on today.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, it's a little shinier than I remember. They obviously cleaned it up nicely (laughter).
You know, golfing-wise I went out there knowing it was a tough day with a few key thoughts in my head, trying to essentially -- trying to commit to my shots, regardless of the results, so trying to get something that was controllable and do that rather than necessarily be focused on the end result.
I think in extreme conditions like they were, you can't get too result-orientated. There was plenty of good shots hit out there that don't have good results, and you have to accept that, and the key was to accept it before you hit the ball and commit to what you were doing.
I feel if I went back over my round, there was possibly only one shot on the whole day where I failed to do that, and that was my tee shot on 7. Everywhere else, I hit the ball as good as I could have all day. I was really solid and stayed with it. I found putting extremely difficult on the greens, as I did yesterday. Trying to gauge the pace on my putt that was -- any putt, really, and then obviously the lines changed depending on the wind. So putting was the real hardest task out there.
You know, I think my putt on 10 probably summed it up, the 15-footer on 10, something like that, and I hit it left of the hole and safe, and I'm thinking, I've probably left it a bit high, nearly short and high. And all of a sudden a gust has taken it and it's missed low and it's gone four feet by. I've had to putt back -- if we went out there and there was no wind was left lip, and I'm hitting it right half. Once I holed that putt, like any putt out there today, you had to see the ball going into the hole.
I played 8 and 9 pretty well and made two bogeys. You know, you don't want to see that situation out there where you're playing good holes and you're dropping shots. So putts like on 9 and 10, even though they're three, four feet, it's important for your own confidence that you're dropping those putts, that you feel like things are going for you in that sort of situation, so they were crucial.

Q. Can you just take us through the two birdies and the eagle that you made on 17?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 13, I hit 3-iron off the tee and hit it pure and probably didn't get enough wind. It left me a long way back. I think I had 210 front and 229 pin, and I hit a really solid 5-iron. I nearly went with 6-iron, and my caddie convinced me to go back to the 5. I hit a beautifully smooth 5-iron as solid as I could, pitched nicely on the green, finished pin high, which is a bonus in the wind, 15 feet from the hole. Putt was probably, you know, under normal conditions, six inches right to left. I'd say I hit right lip and it held its line lovely for the last couple of feet. The wind was buffering it nicely, and then it dropped. That was a big plus. Any time you make birdies in the wind you feel like you get one back on the golf course and you feel like you have one in the bank.
15, I hit a good, solid drive and had a similar shot to what I had yesterday so I was quite comfortable with the shot. I hit a lovely 3-wood, pitched it into the green, stayed there probably about 40 feet from the hole.
Again, trying to pick the line is difficult. It was left to right, right to left and then crosswinds. I hit a good putt, looked like it was going to finish two feet away and it ended up five feet away. That was an important putt to hole.
After I holed that putt I felt very confident about my game, very confident going forward. I think if I hadn't have holed it there was probably two shots between myself and Greg. I hadn't seen a leaderboard all day, so I didn't know anything about anybody else. I knew I was doing okay, but two shots, and Greg looked like he was coming back after holing his putt on 14 would have been a little tighter than the three-shot cushion I had going down 16.
17, I hit 5-wood off the tee, hit it really solid, probably didn't quite get it out there. Yesterday I hit 7-iron, but 5-wood today. I hit it really solid. It was good to hit the fairway. I got 220 front, 249 pin, 5-wood is my favourite club in the bag. My caddie said to me, you know, if you want to think of laying it up -- I asked him the situation. He said, "You're two ahead." I just felt -- I knew I could make birdie if I hit 5-wood. I knew that was going to make me -- I was anxious that Greg could make eagle going down there, and if I made lay up and I make par, all of a sudden I've got a one-shot lead.
So I knew if I could make birdie, I wasn't so much worried about the guy that was two shots ahead of me and finished, being Ian Poulter, it was more I was worried if I laid up and made par, I was giving Greg a great chance to get within one shot of me, and one shot is not comfortable in any shape or form going down 18.
So I wanted to take it on. The downslope, I convinced myself -- as you could when you're winning tournaments -- I felt the downslope was a help to me. My ball was on quite a hanging lie, and I said, well, this is great. It's going to come out low so I can't get it in the air. The only thing I knew was a problem was if I put the ball up in the air for a long time. It could obviously find its way into the trouble on the right, or I could maybe get it into the trouble on the left.
But a low shot I felt was always going to be an advantage. So the downslope, I used it in my favour, it came out nice and low. Once I hit it, it was perfect. It's one of the few times I think I've ever heard my caddie say good shot to me before the ball is finished. He doesn't realise he's doing it, and I will rib him about it later. As soon as the ball was in the air he said good shot to me which is totally out of character for him. Normally he waits until the ball has actually stopped before he says anything.
So obviously he was comfortable with what we had taken, but obviously it was a worrying shot. It was a real bonus, obviously, to finish three feet away. I would have been quite happy with it on the green and take my chances with two putts.
And once it was three feet away, you know, you can't have enough shots in the lead going down 18. I proved that last year (laughter). So I was making sure to hole that, take my four-shot lead, and it helped me enjoy the last hole. Obviously I was cautious. I wanted to get my tee shot away, hit a beautiful 3-wood. Once I hit that, I knew I had won the Open.

Q. Early in the week a lot was made about your wrist, and I just wonder, first of all, was there any point as Thursday approached that you thought you might not be able to go? And secondly, just clarify what was going on with it and whatnot?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: On Wednesday -- on Tuesday I played nine holes and rested and thought, this is good, it's getting better. Wednesday I had more problems than I had on Tuesday, and I genuinely felt that there was a big issue with playing.
I sat down Wednesday evening. My physio was quite comfortable with all the work and he was quite happy that he could get it right. I sat down Wednesday and spent a little bit of time talking with Bob Rotella that I could play even if it was painful. I think Wednesday evening I was comfortable that I could give it a go even if I felt pain.
Probably up to that point I was worried, well, if I feel pain I can't play. We sat down and talked about it and he says, Look, pain is there but you can play through that. So probably Wednesday evening I was going to give it a go no matter what, but I was delighted that through the course of the week I didn't have any problems, maybe a couple of twinges warming up on Thursday morning, but once I managed to hit that shot out of the -- a couple of shots out of the rough every day nearly gave me more and more confidence. And while I was worried about warming up again today, I didn't think about it at all on the golf course. It didn't cross my mind.
And it was a great distraction for me. I have to look back and -- there's no question having a wrist injury and it pushed everything about coming back to defend to the side. It took a lot of pressure off me, it took a lot of stress off me. It was a good distraction to have.
And another plus was the fact that I didn't -- I only played nine holes in practise, and everybody will tell you this has been physically a tough and mentally the toughest week we could ever have in golf. The fact that I didn't play three practise rounds like normal for a major was a big bonus. I was very fresh going into the weekend, and this 36 holes was a real battle. The wrist injury was a saver for me, really.

Q. Two quick ones. Were you aware of Poulter at all by the roar or the cheer?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: When I was walking down 10, I heard on 14 a cheer and somebody shouting, "Go on, Poulter." But as I put it in my head, first of all I thought, oh, he must be going well, and then I just put it to the back of my mind, and I said, well, if he made birdie he'd still get that cheer. So I took it out of my mind. I stayed focused on what I was doing.

Q. Given the way you finished regulation last year, you went out and won this golf tournament, and on a tough week you finished superbly, which is what great players do. Is there any additional satisfaction by the way you finished?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's a different satisfaction this year. Know that when you come and win a tournament by a few shots, you shoot a good last round, when you're under that stress going out in the last group. Definitely last year was a thrilling win and it was exciting and I was on top of the world when I won. This year is more satisfying. I feel more accomplished this year. I feel -- this will probably give me more confidence.
I think winning a major gives you some relief, you know, that you have one. But I think winning this year will give me more confidence that I could manage what I needed to manage going into the last round.
You know, to go out there and shoot 69 in that last round, I don't think -- if you had offered it to me last night, I certainly would have taken it. It was the first time I was in the last group of a major tournament on a Sunday. So it's a different pressure, it's a different stress, and yeah, I'm delighted that I managed it.
I really felt good out there. I hit the ball probably every bit as solid as I've ever hit it, and that will give me confidence going forward, definitely.

Q. You referred to it a little while ago, but can you talk about just how different it was to get to walk down the 72nd hole this time compared to last year, what you were going through last year, what you almost put yourself through last year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I said to my caddie, who's probably -- maybe this is his fifth Open with me. I said to him for the first three years, I said, it's very special when you get to the weekend at the Open coming down the 18th because the stands are full and everybody gets a great applause. I never made the weekend for the first three years with him on the bag. So last year was his first time.
But obviously we didn't get to enjoy coming down the 18th hole, and even in the playoff we were focused.
This time around as we were walking down, I think the both of us thought of it at the exact same time. When the crowds started clapping as we got to the fairway, we both looked at each other and laughed, and he says, "Do you know, it's a great experience to come down the 18th at the Open Championship on the weekend when the stands are full and they're cheering, and it's even more special when you're winning the Open." It was a fantastic experience coming down there knowing I had won the Open.
I hit a nice tee shot, I hit a great second shot. It's always nice to know that you have no more work to do, it's all finished. I suppose it's as good as -- the only experience that would beat that is actually holing a putt to win the Open in dramatic sense. But there's no more comfortable feeling and more pleasurable feeling than, as you said, having a four-shot lead and knowing nothing can go wrong.

Q. Considering the four days that you had in which most of the guys have said were the toughest consecutive four days that they've ever had, how proud of you of the score that you played? And secondly, do you think simply because you really had to concentrate on every shot, there was no time to even let your mind go, that that's why you played so well?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think your second part is very true. I do have a wandering mind at times. I struggle when I get in the lead. That's why I don't watch leaderboards. I never saw a leaderboard today. I struggle when I relax. I need a little bit of tension. I need something to keep me focused. And there's no question the weather forced me to play one shot at a time and stay with my own game. It forced me into doing that and definitely was a big help to me this week.
As regards to the weather, we started out Thursday morning and the weather was -- that rain was as brutal as you've ever seen from tee to green. It wasn't as tough on the greens because the greens had some moisture in them and the wind wasn't that strong even though it was affecting the play because of the coolness and the dampness. It was affecting the ball traveling. The ball went better through the wind on the last two days because of the fact that it was a little bit warmer.
But I've never experienced the difficulty on the greens of the last two days. I found the greens quick. Even though they said they were trying to slow them up, I really found them quick, and it was difficult to get the ball to settle close enough to the hole that you had a tap-in. Every hole you seemed to have four-footers, five-footers, always trying to figure out the line. And many times changing what line you want to hit the ball on nearly as you go. So as tough as I've ever seen on the greens.

Q. How proud does it make you that you --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm really thrilled with the way I felt today on the golf course. I hit the ball as pure as I could and just felt really good. I felt comfortable out there. I felt really within myself, very comfortable. No great sense of -- you know, I just felt like -- I was trying to convince myself it would be my day, but I felt very relaxed out there and comfortable in it.
But knowing that, I needed to keep myself on my toes, too. There was no stage did I get ahead of myself. I never thought about the consequences of winning as much as I was convinced I was going to win. I didn't get ahead of myself, which is very important for me, that I keep myself on my toes. I'm not a good person when I get -- I need a certain level of tension but I don't need too much, and I certainly don't need to get too relaxed, and I think I really got that spot-on today, absolutely as good as I could get it.

Q. Can I just confirm, 5-wood, 5-wood on the 17th? 3-wood on the 18th tee? What did you use for a second, and what was the distance of it, please?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I hit 5-wood, 5-wood at 17. And on the 18th I had -- I think I had -- you'll have to confirm the yardage. I hit 5-iron. I think I had 194 plus 19 or something like that to the pin. You'll have to confirm that. But I hit 5-iron, and it was nice, I hit it right solid again, right on the middle of the club, and it's always nice to hit a really good shot on the 18th.

Q. And it was a 3-wood from the tee?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 3-wood from the tee, as well. I considered even hitting less, but then we found there was a bunker there that we didn't know about, so we had to go with the 3-wood to get over that one. I was always going to -- I wasn't going to go for glory off the tee shot. It wasn't about hitting a big drive down there. It was about making sure that I won the Open at that stage even with a four-shot lead.

Q. You're arguably the greatest achiever in the history of Irish sport now. How does that feel?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Things like that will sink in over the next couple of days. You know, one of the keys to playing well on a Sunday is you don't ever get into the consequences of what you're doing. I did that very well today. I never at any stage -- or if I did for a second or two, I stopped myself, started to think about what it means to win a second Open, defend an Open, to win two majors. Obviously winning a major puts you in a special club. Winning two of them puts you in a new club altogether.
But I didn't get into the consequences, and I think over the next week I will begin to reflect on things like that. I'm going to make sure I enjoy the next week and make sure that this is what I will do for the next week. And I've got a wrist injury, so I can't go and practise, so I'm okay for a week (laughter).
This is what winning is about. You savour these things. These things will come into your mind over the next week about what it all means. That's what I will do when I reflect. But at the moment I still haven't got into what it all means and the consequences of winning. I couldn't even tell you what I won today. I don't even know what the prize fund was or anything like that. It's all about this (indicating Claret Jug) at the moment.

Q. You have one year, you have got a second year coming. You talked about the consequences. Can you put up with it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's a great one. I've got the experience from last year to know what I'm doing this year. A couple of things from last year. I thought when I won the trophy, I was kind of saying, do you think I could get away with maybe signing Paddy, go for the one-name word as a signature (laughter), and this was at probably my first tournament afterwards, Bridgestone. I'd say I got at least five days of a lecture off my caddie about signing my full name. Whereas I used to always sign P. Harrington, as Open Champion, I think I've signed certainly 99.9 per cent of all my signatures as my full name. So that was one thing that changed.
I don't think that winning the second one will get me down to the one name yet. I'll have to win a few more (laughter).
I never said it beforehand, but the hardest thing with winning is actually I found that I have a slight aversion to flash photography. It gives me a headache. So that was one thing I don't know if I'd be able to manage a bit better next year. But certainly those -- whoever invented those double flashes on cameras, they really get your eyes going after a while.
I don't know, maybe managing my time better. I think winning again obviously gives the ability to play less. It says to you, you can come out and win on the big occasions so you don't need to sort of throw -- I think if you turn up and play a lot of events, you're hoping to play well. If you start winning big events, you're then saying I can turn up to certain events and expect to play well. You're a bit more selective about that.
Again, as much as I try to be fair to be the Open Champion and play around the world, I think, you know, the key will be, again, just to not overplay. That was the big goal so far this year. I really kept my tournaments down to a minimum. It just helps -- you need wins in order to give you the confidence to do what you know is right, but this is certainly going to help with that.
You know, I'm sure there will be many more things, as I said from last year, that will help me be the Open Champion for another year. Sounds good, too (laughter).

Q. Greg Norman was such a big part of this week, and I just wonder if as the week went on you had an appreciation for the story that was unfolding and what your feeling is for him right now obviously with a two-shot lead --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I said to him coming down the 18th, I thanked him for his company today. He's a super guy. If you ever want to be playing with someone in the last group of an Open, Greg is the perfect guy. He says good shot when it needs to be said, and he does his own thing, as well. I did say to him coming down 18 that I was sorry it wasn't his story that was going to be told this evening.
I did feel that, but I wanted to win myself. In this game you have to take your chances when you get them. But it would have been a fantastic story. Greg has been a great champion through the game, and you know, another win at this time in his career would have been the icing on the cake.
I think he has shown, as myself and my caddie were discussing, gee whiz, you'd be happy to drive the ball like him at any stage in your career, let alone at 53 years of age. His chipping, his putting, everything about his game is excellent. And it just shows that any of these great champions, when they show a bit of interest, when they have that little bit of spark back, they can really play the game. And Greg showed that this week.
You know, he went out there leading the tournament in very difficult conditions. Probably the hardest thing in the world is to defend the lead in any circumstances going into a tough course. But a tough golf course in extreme conditions, one or two things don't go for him, and all of a sudden it's slipping away. It's going to be the hardest thing to lead in those circumstances. So you would have to feel for him.
It's a lot easier going out on a straightforward golf course in straightforward conditions if you're leading, but when there's a lot of decisions to be made with different clubs and winds and that, and definitely a few things went against him. You know, he bogeyed the first three holes and he could have easily parred the first three holes. It really did go against him, and, you know, as I said, just went away from him.

Q. You've come so far as a player. I wonder why you might think you're so good at improving, year after year.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I've got to say if you were to ask me my best trait over the years, it's always been my ability to learn, to look around me, see what's out there, take the best from everything and try and put it together.
I enjoy that end of things. I do believe I'm getting better with time. I'm maturing as a player, as a person. My golf game is improving all the time, and I need it to be. I think if I was standing still I would lose the interest, as I said. You kind of have to have the feeling that things are getting better in order to get up every morning and want to get out there in order to get in the gym and do the boring stuff in order not to eat that extra piece of pudding. You've got to have that extra interest to want to get out there and improve. I do believe I'm improving and I do believe that days like this make it all worthwhile, help in that belief, help you have the confidence to wait with patience.
I've had a funny year this year. I will tell you I haven't played any different at any stage this year than I played this week, and yet my results probably certainly on the face of it might look like they have been quite average. Certainly a number of Top 5s but no wins.
Wins like this help you wait it out, help you say, you know, keep doing your thing, keep trying to improve, keep working at it, and your days will come. Thankfully what I might be getting good at is making sure those days are the big days, and that's very important.

Q. We had a U.S. Open winner playing on one leg and a British Open winner playing with one arm. Are we going to have 155 guys out slamming their heads in car doors now to do this injured-golfer thing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's no doubt this week it helped me having an injury. It took all the pressure and stress and expectation away from my game. It helped me deflect so much away from coming back and defending, and it gave me -- it was like coming in afresh. There was no judgment coming into it. It was a big, big, big plus to have that sitting behind me to distract me from trying to -- we always say beware of the injured golfer. Yeah, I think my case is slightly different to Tiger's. He was obviously injured throughout the tournament and it was impairing his ability to perform. Mine didn't impair me at all on the golf course. As I said, it kept me away from practise, which as it turned out was a bonus for me, a help.
So slightly different, but yeah, there is always a case, beware of the injured golfer. Golfers are very fickle. Little things can set us off in the right way or the wrong way, and guys can be the best golfers in the world in a given week when the right things might happen, and might miss a cut the following week. So little things can change our mindset and our moods, and that can have a huge effect on our golf. And certainly maybe having a little bit of a pressure release this week in terms of having a wrist injury was just what I needed to get out there and play my own golf, do my own thing and not get -- not try too hard.
You know, there's an element when you're an Open Champion or a major champion of trying to live up to it all the time, and that can be a burden.

Q. You talked about how much you've improved over the years, and I'm just curious where this takes you in the future, to have won two of these now out of the last five majors. Do you see yourself becoming a Top 5 player, winning several times a year? Where does this take you confidence-wise going forward?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think I'll be Top 5 tomorrow morning in the rankings. Anybody work that out? Third, there you go. I got to 6th in the world before and wasn't comfortable there. Just kind of, ooh, I'm 6th in the world and it's not good enough. If I do get to 3rd, certainly I will question that, but I'm more comfortable at 3rd than I was at 6th. So I have improved as a player, and I'm continuing to improve as a player. That's the main thing for me.
I think I said earlier in the year, my goal is to keep myself getting into contention in majors, keep hanging around. The majors are what it's all about for me. I set my schedule out this year for the four majors and the Ryder Cup. I was trying to peak for those four weeks. I got myself vaguely in contention at The Masters -- not particularly, but vaguely. U.S. Open, it didn't happen; the Open, it happens. If I can get 50 per cent hit rate and get into contention and then -- that's two a year, and then all you need to do is maybe hit one out of four of those and you're winning one every second year. That's a pretty high rate for most of us mere mortals. It's all about getting yourself into position so that you're there or thereabouts with nine holes on Sunday so that if you can make a few things happen, you're in the right spot. I think I've got better at that. I've matured as a player with experience, and with my game. I trust my game more, and I definitely have more confidence in my swing.
Yeah, that's where I'm at, getting myself in position. I didn't realise I'd get another major so quickly. I honestly didn't think it would happen so quickly. I was confident that it would happen again. I really was confident that -- for the whole time last year I've always said it was great to win my first major. I never put it as an isolated event. I felt I was going to win another one. And as I said, it's come around a little quicker than I thought, but it's very sweet that it's happened so soon.

Q. You may be the only guy on the property wearing short sleeves today. Why is that? Does the cold not bother you? Were you not cold at all today?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I'm very good in the hot weather and I'm very good in the cold weather. I did think it was cold today, but I was comfortable swinging in a shirt and I did not want to change any feeling that I had. I definitely did need to put a sweater on. It was cold at times, but you know, you never change anything when it's working okay. I was going to stick with what I had, it was going nicely, and that was the way it was.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Padraig, congratulations. Thank you very much.

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