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September 17, 2008

Padraig Harrington


KELLY ELBIN: Reigning Open Champion and PGA Champion, Padraig Harrington joining us at the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club. This will be Padraig's fifth consecutive Ryder Cup.
Welcome back to Valhalla Golf Club, and thoughts on the first couple of practice rounds, please, Padraig.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I think I'm certainly pleased with the golf course. It's a nice and a good setup. It gets tougher as you get closer to the greens. It's very tricky around the greens, small target. So I think premium on good iron play this week. Good solid play to the middle of the greens, and you'll want to have a sharp short game if you do miss the greens.
I think all of our team are certainly happy with the golf course, and looking forward to getting out there and playing it in the tournament.

Q. Just a couple quick questions. Is it fair to call you a late bloomer compared to some of your peers who may have had great success early in the game at a high level, and just some thoughts about really incredible play in the last year and a half or so in terms of the majors; what do you attribute that to?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it would be fair enough to say that I'm a late bloomer and that I'm coming into the prime of my career at 37 years of age. I kind of did that all the way up in every level, whether it was junior level or amateur level. I kind of always moved to the top of the pile in whatever section I was in and then moved on. I never skipped a level; even at junior level, I never skipped. I always played where I was comfortable. When I had success there, then I took the next step.
I've forgotten the second part of your question.
KELLY ELBIN: Your play in the last year and a half, kind of summarizing the successes.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think the last year and a half is part of that natural progression. It's carried on from when I was an amateur. I've always achieved whatever my initial goals are. Over the last year and a half, I've probably moved away from my first ten years as a pro; I was trying to improve my game and my swing and things like that.
In the last 18 months, I've been more focused on going out there and winning major tournaments by giving myself a chance in a number of them, and three to the good, which is probably a better ratio than I would have expected. But certainly, you know, I've turned my hand at it and getting in contention a lot, and I do expect to be there again in the future and win some more.

Q. Can you tell us how your own game stands at present going into The Ryder Cup?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, two rounds I've played here seemed nice and solid and average and okay and all those sort of things. I can't say I feel like I'm shooting the lights out or anything like that, but kind of pretty much normal; it's just ticking along.

Q. And the second part of the question is, there's been a lot of speculation and conjecture as to what the fourball/foursomes partners are going to be when the thing really gets going. Do you think it really matters whether Paul Azinger knows who Europe are putting out on Friday or if Nick Faldo knows who America is putting out on Friday? Could it affect the overall result of the match?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it could help, yeah. I think what matters foremost is Nick Faldo knows who he's putting out and Paul Azinger knows who he's putting out, in that he gets that balance right.
But after you've got your own team set up as well as you can, you then want to select the order they go out in. That's very important. But it's a little bit of an advantage if players have an idea who they are going to come up against. You know, could you choose certain players to play a different -- to play another partnership based on the style of play.
And another part of that would be if you give somebody the choice of that, they feel good about it, so even though it might not make any difference, the fact that -- if I got to choose who I played in the singles, it might give me an advantage, even though it really isn't an advantage except for psychologically, I get to pick.
Yeah, I think it does make a difference.

Q. Are your batteries sufficiently recharged?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I hope so. I hope so. I think the great thing, it's the Ryder Cup. I think there will be lots of pressure, lots of nerves and lots of adrenaline come Friday morning, and that can only help me.

Q. Could you talk about the role of momentum in The Ryder Cup, and then looking back on Oakland Hills, how you and Colin went into that first match against Tiger and Phil, what was your mindset given what you accomplished?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I think momentum is very important in team play going your way, and if not, you're going to have to find a way of stopping it and counteracting it.
Yes in, Oakland Hills, myself and Monty going out, we all knew who was going to play in the first match. Hal Sutton had declared it to the world, and myself and Colin elected and chose to play against Phil and Tiger. Not because I don't believe the two of us thought we were going out there to out-play them or anything like that, but we knew we could go out there and play our own games and force Tiger and Phil to live up to their games. And it was always going to be difficult to do.
It was good that we had that choice, and the momentum definitely helped. But you know, we tried it again in Ireland in 2006, and it didn't work. But we still came out winning there. So on that hand, you could say that momentum isn't anything, so who knows.

Q. With the three majors, do you find yourself a much more popular guy amongst your teammates now?

Q. And do you welcome them kind of picking your brain for what got you over the top to help their games?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I certainly have -- in fairness, popularity has nothing to do with your ability to play golf, good or bad. But there's definitely more respect in terms of I do -- I wouldn't say over the last number of years, players have seen what I've done and how I've improved my game. I think what gets the respect is that most players can look at my game and see what I've done and help them by watching me and learning from me to improve their own game.
So it gives, which I would say to any of the young players in Europe, it's given great potential to them all that they have seen somebody who they would be familiar with his game, being me, and be able to say, well, if he can win a major, I can go on and do that. All I have to do is X, Y and Z, so I think it does give great encouragement to the other players.
And yes, I do get asked questions and inquiries on what I'm doing, and that's good to have.

Q. It's two years removed from the last Cup in Ireland, and that was kind of a home game for you, and you made reference to a lot of things that week about how it was difficult for a guy to have a home game in this. Looking back on it now, how tough is it for a Ryder Cup to be played in a man's home area?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, maybe with hindsight, I would look back at 2006 and say it wasn't very difficult. Everything at The K Club went very well. It was very pleasant and we won by a lot and all of the support was behind The European Team.
Yeah, it wasn't too bad at all, I've got to say. Looking back at it now, maybe I would have given you a better opinion the Monday after The Ryder Cup, but I thought it was a good experience and no tougher than playing anywhere else.

Q. On Friday when we talked to you, you spoke about playing with Graeme McDowell and how it could be on your wish list to play with him in fourballs. You've played with him this morning. Can you talk about how it went and both your form together?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, we played -- we obviously played yesterday, as well.
I don't think it would -- I don't think anybody would take any genius to figure out that I will play with the other Irishman on the team at some stage this week. When and where that happens is not clear as of yet.
But Graeme is playing really nice golf and I will be keen to tee it up with him at some stage and get out there and play. He's a really solid player and he looks like his mind is right and ready to go this week.

Q. With the rough how it is and talk that the bigger hitters can hit it where they want, if you were put with a big hitter and a lot of times in foursomes were left relying on your short game, would you be happy on that with this rough?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, there is a lot of talk that it's a long hitter's golf course, but from what I've seen, certainly any of -- like I played with Miguel today and Graeme. They are by no means short on this course, because the fairways are firm. You hit it down the right sides of the fairways, you know, you can get quite a good bounce off the fairway. I think it's going to play just as much into the hands of some of the shorter hitters who can work the ball and get the most out of it.
So I don't see there being a massive advantage there or a disadvantage playing with somebody who is going to be straight and hit a lot of fairways. And the rough is heavy enough if you're wide.

Q. We hear so much about Tiger Woods, intimidation factor when he steps on the course, and I'm sure that comes partially from winning a whole lot of tournaments. Has your recent success given you that kind of intimidation factor you think, not approaching Tiger's level, of course.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think so. I don't believe so, no.
You know, I would expect that guys if they tee up against me will believe they are in for a tough game, but I don't think I have that walking on to the tee. I don't think the guys are scared, no. I don't think they are -- I'm sure most guys, as I said, will probably look forward to having a crack at beating me this week. As I said, having won the last couple of majors, there's a little bit of a price on my head in some ways. I'd say most guys would relish the opportunity of having a game against me, but I don't think I scare too many players, no.

Q. In previous Ryder Cups, you've been used to having the likes of Bernhard Langer and Monty in the team room. You're probably the team leader now. Do you feel any extra pressure this week, and do you perhaps see yourself being sent out in the Monty role on Sunday?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I think I've thought about the Monty role on Sunday. As I say, I won't play any different golf if I'm playing at No. 1 or No. 12. I'll go out and approach it the same way and do the same thing.
Monty, he played vastly different and improved so much by playing him No. 1 compared to playing him No. 2. It just made the man to be out there No. 1 and to be leading. You know, there's no point in wasting that spot on me. Maybe I will go out No. 1, but it's unlikely. If there's another person there who can relish it, let's say, I'd pride myself on treating every situation the same and just being able to play the 72nd hole of a major like I'm playing the 18th hole of a friendly game of golf.
So it's all about that for me, doing the same thing. So I don't know if that's going to be the case on Sunday. As I said, one of the things, you know, I'm a good player at being able to do my own thing. I've always tried to play at the tail in The Ryder Cup in order to get the sort of pressure situation. I don't know if it's going to be different this time, but certainly, you know, there is an element of the fact that, as I said, I'm the leading player on the team to be out there and do things. But you know, it's probably not in my nature in sort of the way I play the game in terms of I don't gain any -- I don't gain any confidence from it, let's say. I just do the same thing all the time.

Q. The day after the Open, you made it seem like you were more comfortable leading by example. Has that changed without Colin and Darren being here? Have you had to wrap your head around it a different way or has Nick talked to you about it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I lead by example by approaching everything every day the same way. As I said, no matter what the situation, I'm trying the exact same as if it was a big deal or a very little. And by that, I lead by example; my ability to apply myself to things. I don't get the highs and lows that maybe other guys get. I tend to keep it nice and solid and consistent.
Yeah, hopefully I'll lead by example by managing myself this week and approaching the game the right way, and as I said, not allowing myself to get too high or too low in the course of the matches.

Q. Does it change at all without Colin or Darren being here then in the team room or in settings that we don't see?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think there's other people there who, as a team, that we all take their place. I do believe Colin was fantastic in a Ryder Cup. He loved that position as the non -- or as the playing captain, let's say. You know, there's nobody there to fill his boots at this stage, but there's a number of players in the team who are voicing their opinions and helping out.
So, yeah, I think while he's missed, he's replaceable, too.
KELLY ELBIN: Padraig, thank you very much.

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