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September 3, 2008

Padraig Harrington


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington into the interview room here at the BMW Championship. Thanks for coming by and spending a few minutes with us. You're currently No. 44 on the FedExCup points list. If we could just get your comments about your preparations so far for this week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I probably had better preparation than most guys because I got in on Sunday evening. Not normally a good sign. But I played nine holes Monday, nine holes today. I played the Pro-Am today. I like what I see on the golf course. It's a good course. It looks tough enough, but you can never really tell until you get out there and play. So we'll wait and see.

Q. Your work ethic is almost legendary. I wanted to get your take on Vijay's work ethic and Vijay coming into this tournament. How do you view him?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, he obviously works extremely hard, always has. You know, it's interesting to see, like myself, he picks up niggling injuries every now and again. I see he's got his tennis elbow in his left arm, or I assume it is anyway, just like myself. You do tend to pick these injuries up. No matter how much you work you do at the gym, if you over-practice you usually get caught up a little bit.
Sometimes, certainly on my own perhaps, some of the practice is a little bit obsessive, at times. You know, it's certainly easier to go and practice in my eyes than not practice. There's more comfort in being out there hitting golf balls, then when you stop hitting them you're saying you're ready, and that sometimes is tougher than going out there and spending more time practicing.
But there is always a balance to strike with that. I know with myself, I never seem to under-practice, let's say. It's something I have to be very wary of, certainly in this period of time.
After the two wins I haven't been able to put in the amount of practice that I normally would, because I have been a little bit fatigued and I do have to step back a little bit. It's harder to find the time to get into the gym and do the right workouts. So it's an interesting period, that times when you -- I'm sure Vijay is going to find that after his couple of wins, too, that he's probably -- maybe he's going to tire a little bit in the next couple of weeks, and it will be difficult to sustain that amount of practice. Who knows. He's certainly physically fit and strong anyway. Maybe he won't suffer the same way certainly I do after winning, that it does take a lot out of you.

Q. When you came back out here on Monday morning, could you not help but think back to the last time you were here in 2001?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, as a player, when you're out there playing, it's fine. But it tends to be more when you're asked questions about it that it brings it up. You know, as much as Bellerive is a lovely golf course in St. Louis, I will always remember September 11th and always associate it with here. It does bring a lot of emotions to all the players that you can never really separate both of them in our eyes.
It's strange that we can talk about it when it had very little effect on us. You can imagine the emotions of the people that were really directly affected by it, how strong their emotions would be about it. When we think back and think about it, when you look back, it really had very little effect on us.

Q. On kind of another note, you did play with the chairman of the Evans Scholarship Foundation today. What all did you learn about that program?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Let me see if I can remember. I learnt that it's for caddies, not necessarily people that play golf, which was a thing I was surprised about, based on they must get good grades and they must need financial assistance. I think there is -- would I be right, 836 kids in tuition, four-year scholarships?

Q. He was an Evans Scholar (indicating Bob Harig).
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, and look, he did okay.
So yeah, I learnt -- I realize that they raised $12.6 million last year, which I think they felt was one of the highest-earning charities on the TOUR, so there was a lot of things. I run my own -- well, there's a scholarship at home in my father's name that I support, so I was just curious. Mine is more for the golfers than the caddies. But maybe in the future that's something that we could also look into.

Q. You said that last week you thought Clarke and maybe Monty deserved the two picks. As we now know, that didn't happen.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I don't think I said Monty deserved a pick at the time. I said Monty deserved to be considered for a pick.

Q. But I think you did say Clarke.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I definitely thought Clarke. As most guys, I thought Clarke was the favorite in the betting to get the first pick. You know, what I would say on that is it's obviously very disappointing for Darren, but a captain has many reasons for picking guys, and that's why you select a captain. If we're unhappy with his picks, we should be unhappy with the selection process that put him in that place. You've got to be happy with his picks. Certainly the two players he has picked will add to the team and are good players and will help the team. I think you've got to focus on the fact that both those players are going to do a good job.
Yeah, you know, on the other side it is disappointing for Darren, and as I said, we all expected it. But as a player on the team, you've got to go with the captain's choices, as we will during the week. You know, often times during the week, players, partnerships are put together that maybe we didn't think about, and that's for the captain to do.
He lives by it, too. When the result is called in at the end of the week, if the team wins, the captain is a good captain; and if the team doesn't win, the captain is always thought of as a bad captain. So it's more -- it's up to him. It's his -- it's he who's on the line for this, and the players have to support him and pull behind him.

Q. Would you like to see the qualifying system changed?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think our qualifying system is excellent, I really do. I think it has worked very well in the past. You know, many times in the past if you go back to '97, certainly I remember '97, I think I was 11,000 Euros out of the team, and I certainly wasn't even considered for a pick at the time, which -- Seve might have been right in that situation, but I wasn't considered. You've got '99, Robert Karlsson was right in there and got overlooked. These things happen.
I'm trying to think of the other couple of years, but always somebody is not going to get picked who is inside, but that's why you have two captain's picks and that's why you select a captain, so select a captain wisely and then trust that he knows best.

Q. There's going to be four rookies on the European squad, six on the American squad. What was your rookie experience like, and what can we expect from that? Did any of the older players take you under their wing and say anything to help?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, certainly I probably came in -- at least I had experienced Walker Cup play, which is the same level of pressure at the time that you play it. I think the first thing with the Ryder Cup, it's a very -- it goes very quickly. It's a very busy week. You know, as somebody who does a lot of practice, you don't get too much time to do that. You know, you've got to -- it's an interesting week. You've got to kind of play your way into the team -- as a rookie you've got to play well Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. I know the first time in Boston, I played really well on Tuesday, Wednesday, and we selected the team, or the team was selected by Mark James on the Wednesday evening, and I wasn't starting even though I had played well, and it was only on the Thursday Ollie felt that he wouldn't be up for the foursomes that I got put in. But the reason that I put in was because I played so well Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
So for many rookies a huge part of their week is actually Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and getting their game together, whereas for the more senior players they'll take Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday like they do every week and just be having a look at the golf course and gradually getting themselves into it. But certainly for rookies the competition starts early because if they're going to play early on in the week, they've got to prove themselves.
Most certainly the European team, certainly our first morning play on the Friday, there's only a couple of spots open probably. So there's not that many opportunities to start off, but they'll get their opportunities, they'll get to play, and obviously it's a foregone conclusion that every rookie will play before the singles. I don't think anybody is going to go down that road again (laughter). So they'll get their chance.
I know I played with Jiménez my first one. I think he might have been a rookie, too, but he was vice-captain in '97 so he was very helpful to play with, certainly very calm, self-confident person, so that was a good partner to have. But I know first shot I hit in the Ryder Cup I couldn't see the golf ball. It was gone by the time -- by the time I had to hit it, I was just so nervous I couldn't even see it. You've got to expect that in your first Ryder Cup.

Q. Is there any advice you can give those four rookies on how to handle walking to that first tee for the first time?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I'll give them the advice in the team room (laughter).

Q. Nick Faldo when he announced his captain's picks mentioned a few times that he thinks that you, maybe Westwood and maybe Sergio will take on more of a leadership role at the Ryder Cup.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's an interesting thing. As I said, without Monty or without even Darren, it kind of leaves Jiménez maybe as the guy -- he's a very relaxed guy and a good guy for anybody to look up to in the team room. Then you've got to look for golfing sense obviously maybe to myself, Lee, Sergio out on the course. You know, interesting, myself and Lee are more quiet about what we do. There's probably enough for every player on the team to find somebody to go to and seek that advice between the three of us because we're different characters. And throwing Jiménez into it, as well, there's enough experience there that we might necessarily suit everybody. But there's enough between us that we'd be able to help out different individuals different ways. We'll have to wait and see how that sort of works out during the week. But it is interesting not having a Monty there.

Q. You just mentioned your nervousness at your first Ryder Cup. How would you compare that to anything else in professional golf? Is it similar to coming down the stretch at the Open or teeing off the last day at the Open?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, no. I think -- it was the same as it was when I played in '91 in the Walker Cup. Your first shot, you know, in the Ryder Cup, it's not like your 72nd hole of a tournament that you're playing well in and you're coming down the last hole because you've played well to be in that position. You have a reasonable idea of what's been happening. When you go to hit your first shot -- a little bit like I was nervous the first shot I hit in the playoff in 2007 Open because I just hit two bad shots, and I just wasn't sure what was going to come out, and you're kind of like that on the first tee at the Ryder Cup. You're kind of like, yeah, I've done my work, I'm doing okay, but you're not quite sure what's happening. So there's a little bit more doubt than if you were on the 18th hole or the 72nd hole of a tournament when normally there would be pressure only at that stage.
Certainly the first hole at the Open this year, I was very comfortable all day at that one. So totally different. I think that's one of the things at the Ryder Cup that people tend to miss out on. Normally in a given week you watch a player playing well, you're only watching the guys who have played well for three days if you know what I mean going into the last round, whereas in the Ryder Cup guys are asked to play well cold, sort of. So they could be asked to play well on their -- most players are doing well if they hit one in three weeks, and all of a sudden they'll be thrown into a week where they're expected to be like they were leading a tournament, which they don't necessarily have the confidence of having played the first 71 holes to be feeling like that. So it's an interesting thing.
It's definitely a harder tournament to manage the pressure because of the fact that, as I said, you're kind of thrown in at the deep end and you're not really sure -- it's not like you're having a good week but you could be under the same pressure as if you're trying to win a tournament.

Q. Speaking of the Ryder Cup, two of your Ryder Cup teammates, Americans really don't know very well, Oliver Wilson and Søren Hansen. Have you played with those guys at all or can you give us a scouting report on them?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I know Søren Hansen very well. He would have come on the Tour at the same time as me, particularly good player, and if anything, just -- he knows himself. His putter lets him down a little bit at times. He's one of those guys that you always feel that could be -- if he turned around the putting or just a wee change, he could be a big star in golf. He's always been tipped that way in Europe. I wouldn't say there's a player in Europe or in world golf that wouldn't like to hit the golf ball the way he hits it. He's a top-class tee-to-green player, top-class striker.
Oliver Wilson I don't know much about. He's obviously come on the Tour the last couple years, and I wouldn't be as familiar with his game as I would be with Søren. I look forward to seeing him.

Q. Out of all of your Ryder Cup matches, pick one that you were involved with where you won and one where you lost that stands out most in your mind, and why?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'd probably pick out the one that I won in Boston against Mark O'Meara because it looked like it was the match -- certainly was being hyped as the match as the side that won that day. The crowd swelled around it. I was the first European to win. I think there were six red scores and then my blue score was the seventh match. And certainly from the crowd's reaction, I heard a number of people saying, "This is the match."
By the time we got to sort of 15, 16, it was -- the crowds were 20, 30 deep around every hole. I've never experienced an atmosphere -- I've won three majors since, and I've never experienced the atmosphere I felt there. It really was electric, and definitely the best Ryder Cup -- even though we lost, the best Ryder Cup to be involved in.
So when I won the match, I thought we had won the Ryder Cup, and it looked like we had won the Ryder Cup. I think Ollie might have been a couple off at that stage, and it really did look like it was the winning match. And it was interesting because I did give one or two interviews, and then I say I ran down the 18th fairway; I actually glided down the fairway, don't remember hitting the turf, I was on such a high.
Just as I settled down at the green and got myself in and being congratulated and it's all exciting, Justin Leonard holed that putt. So it went from the biggest high ever to a massive low. It's amazing how quickly it can be taken away from you.

Q. How about a time when you lost?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't remember.

Q. That was kind of winning and losing at the same time there.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, that's classic team play. All of a sudden I've won a singles match that is huge and very quickly the team has lost. So how do you feel about that? You can't celebrate an individual win when all that counts is the team. That is all that counts in the Ryder Cup, how the team performs. That's the great thing about team play, to learn to be able to -- to lose a match and celebrate if the team wins or win a match and genuinely not really care that you win your match if the team loses.

Q. The Ryder Cup really took off in Europe when the results started to become equal and it wasn't lopsided in the Americans' favor. Now that the tide has totally changed, do you think there's a possibility that it might lose some of its luster in the United States unless it starts to equal out a little bit here fairly soon? It's five out of six.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I think most neutral people would suggest that the U.S. -- it would be good for the U.S. Team to win. I'm not neutral (laughter). I think the best I can come up with is that it would be close and we win. Close is good enough. If it's exciting, I think that will bring the attention back to it. Yes, it is an issue.
It's like when we won in -- I know when we won in 2002, I remember saying, well, we kind of needed that win at the time. After losing in '99 we needed the win in 2002, and I remember saying to one or two of the U.S. guys, well, you know, the balance of things, it's probably a good thing that we won. That may be the case this time, but players don't think like that. That's for you guys and for the public to figure out, not for us. We've just got to play as tough as we can during the week, play as good as we can, and have some good matches.
I think things have changed in the Ryder Cup. Most players are very familiar with each other on the teams, and there's not the same -- I wouldn't think there's the same rivalry as maybe there was 15, 20 years ago. Certainly those guys in the '80s were trying to prove a point. We were winning some majors and they were trying to bring up the stature of the European Tour. But I'm sure the European Tour also, as I said, we do feel like the underdogs or the country cousins of the U.S. Tour at times, and we have a point to prove. I don't think it's the same maybe as a few years ago. You want to win, but you want to win by beating the other guys when they're playing well. It's not win at all costs.

Q. Two-part question about the championship here. The course has changed significantly since your last time here. What are your thoughts on the course and what challenges do they pose? And the other part would be who does this course maybe favor?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As regards to who it would favor, I think you've got to hit the ball reasonably long here. It seems to be a long enough golf course, so I would -- there's a lot of close to 500-yard -- some 500-yard par-4s, so you've got to hit it well off the tee. So I would definitely go on some of the longer hitters, medium to long, rather than anything else, especially if the greens are a little bit soft and they're protecting them with the forecast. Yeah, a long ball hitter, or reasonably long, would do well.
As regards the golf course, I think it's great, yeah. It's a real big test. It's a long course -- it's amazing to have an old golf course that has as much room and length in it. You've got to drive it well. You've got to hit your driver a number of times, some good, tough holes. It will be interesting to see, we haven't experienced the pin positions because they've all been in the center of the greens the last couple days, but it'll be interesting when they start putting the pins into the corners of the greens how difficult it gets. Certainly there's enough trouble and water out there that it will make it tough enough.
As a player I've seen this before where you don't want to have expectations going out on the golf course because some guys without expectations can shoot a low number; where you're thinking that 1- or 2-under is okay, it might take 6- or 7- or 8-under, who knows. So I'm trying to keep away from that end of things, but the golf course itself is very solid.

Q. It's hard to believe with two major championships you're not in the TOUR Championship. What are your thoughts on that, and what would you do to change that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I actually think I'd be more inclined if you miss the cut, go home, you're out. I think I'm in a lucky position that I still have a chance at qualifying. I've missed two cuts, I certainly should be out.
I have no problem with that. This is the playoffs. It's four tournaments. It should be judged on the merits of those four tournaments with a little bit of bias to the start of the year. So I like the volatility. I think there could be more volatility if you ask me in the future. If I was going to change it, obviously I wouldn't give so much to making the cut. I'd give more points to guys doing well, Top Tenning and getting in contention, and I'd give less points to guys making the cut. You always want to reward the guys who are putting themselves out there, not the guys who are scraping by in points systems, so I would change that.
And I would probably make this week more volatile than the first two weeks. You know, because everybody here gets points, this is only half as volatile as the first two weeks. The last guy -- you know, say last week, if I made the cut, I might have moved up. Say a guy in 46th who made the cut last week might have moved up into the Top 30, whereas this week I'm in 46. To move up into the Top 30 I'll probably need to finish well into the Top 10. It's a lot tougher to move in week three, which probably if it was my system I would make it, as I said, probably even more volatile as it gets further down. And even again in the TOUR Championship make it even more exciting that guys can move around more.
If I was putting it on a scale, I might rank weeks one and two the same, maybe week three double it and week four, double it again in terms of how people can move, and then give less for guys at the end and more for guys winning and finishing up there.
JOHN BUSH: Padraig, thank you and play well this week.

End of FastScripts

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