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October 29, 2008

Padraig Harrington


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Padraig, welcome to the 21st and final Volvo Masters. Obviously a big week for everybody here, the end of an era, but if you could give us your opening thoughts on the week ahead, and then we'll go from there.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, obviously, I suppose, you could consider it the end of an era but obviously it's The Race to Dubai, and it's a similar sort of tournament at the end of the year, but in a different venue.
But we are going to miss it; I know Volvo is going to sponsor again next year, and we are going to miss Valderrama next year. Well, we never find the golf course easy when we come down here. It's a great golf course to come and play. Certainly it's set up like a proper tournament every year, it's very difficult out there in the wind. The golf course is probably playing as long as I've ever seen it play and it looks like it's going to be a very tough test ahead.
Obviously I know what I need to do this week, or more or less what I need to do. I've got to go out there and try and win the tournament, and two bonuses, if I win the tournament, I win the Order of Merit. So that's what's in my mind for the week.

Q. Do you think it's a shame that The European Tour is losing a venue like Valderrama? Well?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, we went to Montecastillo for a few years not too long ago, which I liked.
So I think things move on and change and move around. I don't believe that there will never be a tournament back here at Valderrama. I don't feel like we are losing anything. We're moving on, obviously I'm very keen on the tournament in the Middle East. I think it's a great idea, it's great timing, the golf course is in fantastic condition and the facilities are excellent out there. So I'm happy to be going on to The Race to Dubai, and it's great move for the Tour. It's as I said, we do move around and move on, and I do believe that, you know, maybe five years, maybe ten years, but I fully believe that I'll play another tournament around Valderrama.

Q. What are your best memories of Valderrama over the years? What stands out for you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously winning the Order of Merit here is the biggest one. Especially the way it happened, you know, it was an exciting day and a lot of things culminated in me winning that day. Yeah, that's probably my No. 1 memory.
I obviously remember the previous time when I had a great chance of winning, fixing a pitch mark in the green on the first green for a two-shot penalty. That's another memory. (Laughter) there's a lot of memories.
It's a golf course I've felt very difficult over the years. It is a very narrow golf course at times, and just probably has not suit my eye but obviously I've got to overcome those things this week if I'm going to go win it.

Q. How many drivers will you be using the drivers now?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The weather is akin to more drivers, but it's possible sometimes in previous years where I've hit three drivers per round. But today, that's not the case. There can definitely be -- there's definitely two on the back nine. New tee on 16 is great. It really is a beautiful golf hole from that tee box. It's strange, it doesn't seem to have lengthened it that much but it does seem to play longer. So that's a superb change. You wonder why it never happened before; it's such a good change.
17 was improved. Couldn't get over the fairway bunker out there, so that's obviously a driver. And maybe 11, but 11 actually down winds is 3-wood. I didn't play the front nine today, so I don't know.
As I said, it's a tight golf course, and you're always happy to be hitting your approach shots from the fairways. The rough is definitely heavier this year, probably than we've ever seen. You don't want to be missing those fairways. You'd prefer to be hitting longer shots off the fairway than shorter shots in the rough.

Q. Would it be safe to say that you're performance-driven, rather than results-driven, how much does winning change your attitude this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, that's exactly it. You don't change your attitude. I know the results is what is going to count but what I'm going to judge is how I went about things this week, and you know, I did get my head in the right place, was my focus right all week, was my process right all week, and if I do that, that's all I can judge.
You know, I'm trying to get there. I'm treating it very much like I would treat any major, any big event.

Q. Is there any point you would imagine at this stage, like say coming down to the last six or last three on Sunday, and you could say, right, time to go for it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Every tournament is like that. There's a point in the tournament where you have to stop being patient and have a go at it. Sometimes it happens. Hopefully not in the first round but I've seen where things have gone like that.
There is a point at some stage where if things are slipping away from you, you have to throw caution to the wind and go for it.

Q. Does the Order of Merit increase the necessity or the inclination to do that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: When I played 18 on Sunday, coming down to the last hole, I was thinking about that and discussing with my caddie the fact that, you know, if I needed to make birdie down the last, there was no wind that day, I would hit driver. But if I needed to make par to finish second and that's good enough to be winning the Order of Merit, I wouldn't hit driver. So it's an interesting thing, if I were still trying to make birdie, I would be a little more cautious because of the fact I would still be trying to win the Order of Merit.
So there is two things that will be on my mind at that stage, you know, so in some sense, the Order of Merit would cause me to be a little bit more cautious if I got into that situation, and a little more cautious than just trying to win the event, which always at some stage in the week, you're going to have to go for it.

Q. In terms of your season, it's been a long, tough season physically and mentally, where is the tank between empty and full?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm a lot better now than I would have been six weeks ago or so. I have been coming back and getting back up to, you know, full strength and really interested in getting out there.
I think my focus is good for this and I'm keen to be out playing golf. Some of that is I can see the end of the season is in three weeks time, and I know one last push; so I'm quite motivated these weeks. I'm very interested in all three tournaments. Obviously this is the Order of Merit, but I'm interested in getting out there and playing.
So I would say I'm ready to go.

Q. And physically in good shape, no niggles?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, I've always got niggles. Yeah, I'm trying to keep on top of those things, yeah. I seem to be okay, but I definitely, you know, need to be aware of it and constant work on it. There's nothing to stop me playing on Thursday as of the moment, but I am still keeping on top of all the little ailments.

Q. Would it bother you greatly if you didn't win the Order of Merit?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I'm not even leading it, so I can't -- no, it would not bother me greatly at this very moment in time. I would like to win the Order of Merit. I think it would be nice, there's a number of players who played very well this year and it would be nice to come out on top. I think Robert has played excellent. I think Lee Westwood has really come back into form.
It's a good year to win the Order of Merit. Certainly whoever wins this on Sunday has really earned it this year.

Q. During The Ryder Cup, you were obviously tired; looking back, was it more of a mental or a physical thing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a combination of both. But obviously when it comes to your actual performance opponent the golf course, it's a mental thing. There is a combination of the two things, but you know, for a given week of golf, four rounds or so, it doesn't take that much out of you.
I actually find playing golf is pretty easy at this stage. So it would be more of a mental tiredness than anything else. So, yeah, mental.

Q. Robert Karlsson is the man to beat this week; could you say something more about him and his playing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, he's 6'6. Or he's 6'5, is he? (Laughter).
He's a really good player. He's played great all year. I think he's been very motivated on working on the right things the last couple of years and really has brought his game to a new level. You know, he really is a fine player, and if he wins on Sunday, he thoroughly deserves it. I think he has played superb golf this year and very consistent.
You know, very, very strong game in all facets, and you know, if you beat him this week, as I said, I'll know I've done a good job.

Q. On that point, as a dual-major champion, Open Champion and PGA Champion, do you think it takes something from the Order of Merit, if a two-time major champion didn't actually win it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Not at all. At the end of the day, you know, ultimately, I haven't played enough events to put myself out there. And you know, in the events I played, I certainly didn't show the form that I probably showed in the States this year.
My best events definitely weren't in Europe this year at all. A lot of top 5s in the States, but didn't seem to have much form in Europe, and that's why I'm not winning the European Order of Merit at the moment. Obviously I need a big week this week.
So they are two distinctly different things. Yeah, it doesn't necessarily work like -- it probably would be, on the face of it, Robert has performed more consistently in Europe throughout the year, so consistency-wise, and that's what an Order of Merit is. He probably deserves it, but that doesn't mean he gets it. We have to wait until Sunday to sort that out.

Q. Of all of the courses you've played this year, where would Valderrama rate in terms of toughness?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: At this very moment, going and playing often very back of the tees as we played today, it would be easily up there with any major golf course in the conditions that we're seeing out there.
Obviously every golf course seems harder on a Tuesday than it does in the tournament, because you're kind of falling off the back of the tee boxes. Your focus isn't quite there and your ball goes a little further on a Thursday than it does on a Tuesday.
I assume it won't be quite as tough as it definitely seems out there. We'll have to wait and see. It is a tough golf course, because the greens can get fast, and any time you've got fast greens and the wind, it makes it a very tricky course.
They have a lot more rough probably than they ever have had. As I said, it's not like you can shorten the golf course by hitting your driver everywhere. It doesn't work like that, either.

Q. Just changing the subject, obviously we're in Spain and an awful lot of thoughts are with Seve Ballesteros at the moment. I just wondered if you could kind of give us your take on Seve and what he's meant to you in the development of your career.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I wouldn't say there's a player on The European Tour at this stage, who didn't grow up watching Seve. I know Seve is only 51, but at the end of the day, I think you couldn't find a player out here who didn't actually -- who wasn't a kid when Seve was playing golf. 1979 seems so long ago.
So I think, well, we all personally feel for Seve and what he's going through at the moment, and we all hope that he does have a speedy recovery and a recovery.
One thing I think is kind of a shame that he's not over the last number of years, not been really leading out The European Tour as an ambassador. It's only times like this when you feel like you could be losing somebody like Seve that, you know, he's going to be missed. I think he is what The European Tour was. He brought it to the forefront in the 80s, he is what every player is playing the game now in Europe, he is the man who they looked up to and aspired to be.
It would be great -- it feels a little bit like that the Tour could have -- for the players' sake, would have liked to have him more as an ambassador and more of sort of the role model on the Tour and leading the Tour out in that sort of ambassador role.
It's only when something like this happens, that you can see how much he's missed, and hopefully, as I say, going forward or whatever the outcome is, the Tour can build more of a relationship with Seve and have him as the forefront of our Tour. Like the image of Seve, I know with things like, is it Harry Vardon we have on our Tour thing? Why isn't Seve? He is the man when you think about it. He is The European Tour, and it's only at times like this that you kind of say, well, we wish we had more of Seve.
I know players love to idolise him as we all did when we were growing up. It's when you feel like you are losing something that you wish you had made more of that time with Seve.

Q. Are there any stories that you can tell us?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's lots of stories. The one that I said it earlier, the one that fascinates me is Bob Torrance, my coach, he wrote a book in the 90s, and his son, Sam, did an accomplishments of the best parts and did a couple of players, and Sam chose Seve as the best driver in the game. And obviously, everybody seems to have this idea that Seve was not a straight driver of the ball and that's where he struggled.
But Sam Torrance picked Seve, and Sam would have played with Seve a huge amount of the time in the 80s during his heyday. I asked Sam about it and Sam said, "Look, he always tried to hit the perfect shot into the perfect part of the fairway and, you know, if the pin needed to be played from the right-hand side he hit to the right-hand side of the fairway to play it." And I always remember watching, but I always remember watching The Match Play at Wentworth, and like he used to whip it around that corner on 17 every single day. And that's such an intimidating, such a difficult shot. Every day he hit this high hook around the corner and be hitting an iron in there.
That's what I remember. That's such a shot, like such a shot to take on, and if he wasn't so confident, he obviously was a better driver, and maybe the end of the day, people's image of him, kind of got to him in the ends but he was a fantastic driver and I remember that. Playing that hole, the 17th in The Match Play.
Obviously I would not remember '79, but seeing the chip shot he hit in '79 over and over, but do I remember the Car Park Champion; I do remember that hole. And that's probably the first golf tournament that I remember, the first one that would have, you know, I probably would have sat down and watched.
So, yeah, personally playing with him, you know, obviously I would have been in when Seve was sort of -- he was Ryder Cup captain in '97 when I would have been just coming on the scene and I remember playing with him a few times to get into that. I remember him telling me a couple of weeks to being he said, "Don't worry, you will have your time," which he was quite right. (Laughter).

Q. I hope this isn't an indelicate question, but I know you're a qualified accountant; does the money matter anymore or is it titles, prestige, World Ranking points?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, thankfully, and in the day and age that it is at this moment, I'm in the great position that I am very much focused on titles. Titles first, with majors being right on top of that, followed by the World Rankings. Those are the things that you get focused on.
Thankfully throughout my career, I've been motivated by going out there and winning and financial stuff follows. Definitely the best way to go about it.

Q. Can I ask a peculiarly Irish question? I think we have more Irish players playing the Volvo Masters this year, seven, than we've ever had before; we have two major titles here, and eight titles on The European Tour in total; what is the cause of this? It's an incredible time.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: If I was to answer that question, and say, obviously we've had eight wins on the Tour, three majors, seven players here, numerous wins on the Challenge Tour, numerous wins on the Euro Pro Tour, winner of the Order of Merit on the Euro Pro Tour, as well; so we've had a very strong year right down the ranks. It looks like we have a number of players coming on and we look very strong in Irish golf.
If I had the answer, I would have been able to answer the question three years ago when the same question was put, why we had not won a single tournament that year and why we only had one or two players in the Volvo Masters and why Irish golf was at the bottom of the heap and why can't we compete with the French who have a dozen players on the Tour or something like that. So I didn't have the answer then, so I don't have the answer now. It swings in roundabouts.

Q. Just on that, Rory McIlroy's first full year on the Tour, what do you make of his progress?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think he's really done great. You know, at the end of the season, he's come very strong, which is a good testament to his character. It was easy and it is easy when you're a young guy and you come out here and you're very confident and off you go and you're playing, you're always going to hit speed bumps at some stage, and the guys who are really good are the guys who can come through that.
The middle of the year, it would have been very easy for Rory to get lost out here on the Tour and to really, you know, go away and think that this is a tough life. But he's come back very strong at the end of it and looks like he can continue to improve and become a world-class player of the future. He's been tested once and he'll be tested again I'm sure, but he certainly got tested and he's come out very strong.

Q. Your vision of Seve as ambassador, what precisely would you have given him as the ideal role?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Seve could just turn up and stand there and we would all love him. At the end of the day, that's what anywhere he goes, he has that charisma. He walks into a room, everybody knows he's there. I think that's just what an ambassador does. He can turn up at any event and I think he would add to the event. He could host any event and would add to the event. He could -- any place, you know, he would take more attention or increase the profile of any event he's involved with in that sort of sense. And I think it's only now that you kind of see that maybe an opportunity has been missed there to give something back to Seve, because there's no doubt he brought the Tour an awful lot over the years.
You know, it would be great to see, as I said. I think the players would have loved it. The players would have loved to have somebody out there to who they could really in some ways idolise in that sense and put up there on a pedestal.
I don't think any of us got the opportunity, because Seve was very much a competitor for most of the years, and it's only the last half-dozen years that the opportunity would have been there where he wouldn't necessarily have been seen as coming out to an event to compete but he could have come out to any event as an ambassador. There's nobody in the game of golf who doesn't know who he is or doesn't want to talk to him or listen to him.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Padraig, thanks for coming in. Good luck for the week.

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