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January 14, 2009

Padraig Harrington


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Padraig, welcome. Thanks for joining us. Why don't you start us off with sort of hopes of the season, probably hoping to repeat last year, but how are things shaping up?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously last year was such a good year, it would be hard to set goals based on last year. So I'm trying to focus on the process and just trying to improve my game. And I do believe I'll be a better player this year. That doesn't necessarily mean that my results will be better, but over time, it will even itself out. So I'm comfortable that things are going on the right track and just trying to stay with results.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Your thoughts on the week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm looking forward to the week. I do find the golf course -- it's a tough course. The rough is very heavy. It's all brushed in off the tee, so you have to hit it very straight off the tee, which first week out, just seems a little bit difficult.
You know, it's a tough test, but as proved from last year, I know Martin Kaymer ran away with it, but if I did okay last year, it must suit me. Let's see how we get on.

Q. In the last year --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think somewhat. I obviously had a little bit of difficulty with my neck and I've done a lot of work during the year, and I had very few problems during the year. And I've done even more work during the winter, so I envisage even less problems going forward.
I think three years ago, I would be losing six events a year to neck problems. I might have played with the neck, but I certainly would have been less than 100 per cent, at least six, eight times a year, where last year, maybe two times.
So if I can keep it down to that, that's okay. I've actually done quite well to manage it, but if I do get a problem in my neck, it doesn't flare to my shoulder and that was what was causing me problems swinging the golf club, say, a few years ago. It's definitely something that has to be managed, and it is tougher at this time of the year.
What happens during the winter, you tend to do more practice and you tend to do more physical work in the gym and you probably tend to do less time with the physio. So the things can build up in that period of time. My physio travelled with me eight weeks last season, and was the first time I've had a treatment from him in nine weeks.
Things do build up and I was in better shape than I expected even though there was a few niggly things that needed to be worked out.

Q. (Do you think you are a better player now than starting last year)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: First and foremost, I've got to say that and believe that, or else I wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning to get out there and practice, and some of it is rhetoric. But, I believe I'm working on a few things. Physically, I'm stronger.
Physically I'm better in terms of stability and maintaining some of my injury problems. I should -- I've been working on something on my swing, and it's not quite there yet. I think obviously if anybody is working on his swing, they think they are going to get better with it, so I think my swing will be better and my ball-striking will be better.
I had a couple of little issues with my short game last year. I think I've cleared up a few of those things. I know that results-wise, it was good, but you know, I've had 18 months where I didn't want to look at a bunker shot. I was really struggling with it in the bunker.
So little things like that worked out. You know, and you put it all together with a good mental attitude like I had last year, I will be a better player.

Q. Who is your physio?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Liam Hennessy (ph). He was over for a week at one stage. Quite a significant bit of work has been done on my swing, as well. It's not quite there other than I'm not as comfortable with it out on the golf course, but I'm certainly getting it on the range.

Q. On the good mental attitude side of the game, does the winning of two Opens in one year sharpen up that and put you in a better frame of mind?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously you're more confident, having done it before, and you're more relaxed having done it before.
I think the big advantage of having gone out and won a major, and then won two in a year or three in total is the fact that you can believe and trust in what you're doing that is bringing the results.
Even though I'm not focused on the results, it's nice when you do get the results to say sort of, yes, what I'm doing day-to-day has reached the rewards. Eventually it will work out. That's probably the most confident or the biggest aspect to is that I know the way I prepare for tournaments helped me win majors.

Q. You went to South Africa for Christmas, for how many days?

Q. Did you hit balls and go to the gym on Christmas Day?

Q. I think it was a Thursday.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The most interesting thing going -- it's the first time I've ever gone on holidays to the sun for Christmas. It's the first time I've ever gone away for holidays on Christmas. The most interesting thing is Christmas really becomes a day of holidays rather than the Christmas holiday. So it's hard for me to pick it out.
By not knowing, I'm not saying that I didn't, that's for sure. I know I did on the first of January, which would be -- I always get out on the first of January. But I'm not quite sure. I think I did.

Q. Yeah, go on, you did.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I didn't. I'll say I didn't.

Q. You did?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't. No, I didn't.

Q. Now that's a story.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think I had a day off. Yeah, I did, I didn't go.

Q. What did Santa bring you for Christmas?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: A teppanyaki table, that's what I got for Christmas, you know, one of those Japanese things that they cook in front of you.

Q. How do you spell it? (Laughter).
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, it's like a barbeques. So I have to learn how to cook on it now.

Q. No problem getting it on the plane?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Presents were given before we went. It's a little bit big for that. So it's a kind of barbeque table.

Q. I was going to ask you, the start of the new year calendar-wise, a lot of U.S. Tour-based players this week, and also Trevor, do you sense a sense of excitement that you're starting this Race to Dubai?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, certainly it's great when you come into a new year, in my own sense, it's amazing when you finish off a season how tough it is to finish it off in terms of getting up and getting into the gym and doing your practice. Eight weeks later you come out and you're all ready to go and you're in the gym twice a day and it's all go.
I think with The European Tour, I think The Race to Dubai has really added a great boost. As you said there yourself, there's more international players coming back, and I think that's what the European can do is -- it's tough. Even though we have attracted one or two U.S. players, it's tough to attract them over here.
But in terms of South African players, Australian players, traditionally they used to come to Europe and obviously the focus in Europe could be in interesting these players, Asian players, to Europe. If they are not going to play on their home tour, why not play on The European Tour sort of thing.
So, yeah, it is a very positive move that we can encourage the likes of Robert Allenby who started on The European Tour and people like that. It's good to see them here and coming back to Europe and seeing the merits of playing in Europe.

Q. After you won the US PGA Championship, you said, is it really eight months to the next major and now we are sort of halfway to that.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I think definitely every major tournament, the next one is the focus. So I would say, yeah, most of the work I would do in that intervening period from August all the way through on to the Masters would be with an eye on it. Once the Masters finishes, you start thinking about the U.S. Open.
Yeah, it's there in front of me. It reasonably close. I'm only going to play seven events before the Masters, this being one of them. So that's not very many tournaments to get ready, and I have to be fairly disciplined in order to be ready for Masters.
In some ways, I would be better playing more before the Masters, but I realise if I did that, it would mean that I would be -- for the other three majors. A couple more events would be great, but if I'm disciplined in those seven events, I should be ready to go at the Masters.

Q. What will you be playing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Here, I'm going to play Buick, AT&T, Northern Trust, the Match Play, and I'm going to play Bay Hill, Houston, Masters.

Q. Made up your mind on the Memorial?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Likely to be as you've said Wachovia, Memorial.

Q. (Goals for the year)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've set many goals, all sorts of goals, some that are very attainable and some that are a bit far out there. I don't have tell anybody my goals and I'm never going to give anybody a stick to beat me with. I'll let you figure out what my goals are.

Q. You set them every year?

Q. At the beginning of this year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, before the first tournament. So they are done.

Q. Where do you keep them?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I keep them in my diary. So if you pick-pocket me, you'll see it.

Q. (Goals for last year)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, there was plenty. There's always a number there and you know, you try to keep them and you try to make sure that you can cover all occasions, so if something happens in the year, you'll always have something to focus on. That's the main thing with the goal setting is if you achieve something, there's always another step afterwards.
Sometimes when you set a goal and you get there, there can be a void there after wards. Certainly players have struggled after they won their first major, because that was their ultimate goal. And obviously if you achieve your ultimate goal, there's no more.

Q. (What were some of your past goals)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Very first thing put on my list when I come out on Tour was to get my card. That stayed there for a good ten years, I would say. Things like that, it could have been retain your card. You know, make the Volvo Masters, as it was at the time. There's many little things like that. Making all the cuts got to be in there.

Q. Starting last year, did you change to win two majors?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That was one of the goals, yes. That was one that got a tick. I actually try to find as many as I can, try and use my imagination and really spread them out so that there's loads of different -- usually you get about 15. I think I got 16, actually.
Obviously things happen in life but these are physically based on golf, the ones that go there, yeah.

Q. Like learn how to cook?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, learn how to cook -- no, only golf that. Could be one there, all right. I think when I got that teppanyaki table, that's what they were saying that I have to learn.

Q. Starting the year in Abu Dhabi --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, any time you come to an event, you really do want to win it, and you're here to win it. The interesting thing with Abu Dhabi when you come out here is it is early in the year and there's a lot of things happening in terms of your own game.
As much as you feel like you're ready, I would say I'm more hopeful than expecting in a week like that, because of the fact that it's the start of the year. You are a little bit raw in terms of your scoring ability and that really determines whether you win or not during the week. Yeah, it would be lovely to start off that way. But you know, as I said, I'm hopeful rather than expectant. I like the golf course.
And the thing about coming down here at this time of the year, it is ideal for practice and it is ideal for gym work. The weather is perfect. It's exactly where we want to be at this time of year in terms of if you don't play your very best golf, there's a lot of work that can be done on your game, as well.

Q. Out of how many goals last year, how many did you make?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I had 15 last year and I ticked off seven. I think I was happy with the ones I ticked off.

Q. Is it possible to go to the Masters having written down that you would like to win the Masters, or is that the way -- or do you put down just winning any major?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You've always got to look at -- Bob Rotella, I think it's in the Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, he quotes Seve Ballesteros that when he won his Masters in '83, he describes the story that when he won coming down 18, it was the least time of, not necessarily enjoyment, but he believed so much going into it that he was going to win it and he visualised so much that he was going to win it and he was convinced that he was going to win it; that, you know, he had in his head his goal was that he was going to win that week and believed it.
So in your answer to that, many people when they go and win tournaments, do have it in their head before they go that they are going to win that individual event. So it is possible to do it.

Q. Have you envisioned that with any of the majors you have won?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm much more pragmatic in terms of I try to concentrate on what I'm doing. I try and stay away from the actual end result. So what I've been focusing on and visualising is what I'm doing and trying not to take into account the actual result.
Going into individual events, I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking about getting everything right and prepared and the routines and all that sort of stuff and the visualisation. Just really covering myself and I know that that is what gets the results at the end of the day. I don't -- yeah, I wouldn't put myself under that much pressure for me to have the success that I have to win at a given event, no.

Q. Where do you rank the Dubai World Championship, do you think it is going to be a big event, maybe as big as a major?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I hope it's going to be. I think it will be. Obviously not having played it and experienced it yet, I can't fully tell you what it's going to be like. I will tell you, as regards a major, and the end of the day, it will develop and evolve over time. You can't -- you can do everything possible to create the right situation for a major, and it will eventually become one.
But when it starts off, just like talking about my own game, if you do everything right over and over and over, you'll eventually win. When it comes to a major, it takes time. The four majors that are there have evolved, some of them over a hundred years, to become what they are. It does take tradition and heritage to get that.
So in order for the Dubai World Championship to become a great event and a big event in its own right, and hopefully it will over time, if it wanted to become a major, I think we need to come back in about 50 years' time. That's the way these things go.
And that's the same with the TPC. While it's looked at as the fifth major, it will only become the fifth major in probably another 50 years. It just takes time. Like the Western Open used to be a Western Open in the States, and these things do change over every 50 or 100 years. The best thing that tournament can do is set itself to the position that it attracts the best players and over time, if the best players turn up, then it will evolve.

Q. Thoughts on the majors this year, the courses?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, (Augusta), obviously it's the ultimate test. It tests all elements of your game, so that's the win that if you can play around there, you can play anywhere.
I think Bethpage is a golf course I enjoy playing. I enjoyed the atmosphere, especially, at the last U.S. Open there.
Turnberry, never played it. Looking forward to seeing it. I hear it's a great golf course, so I look forward to that.
And the PGA is Hazeltine, so another old-style championship golf course, which I would think for me, personally, would suit me, yes, I would be happy with that.

Q. (Aggressive start this week)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think anybody -- maybe they will, but I wouldn't be aggressive starting off. I would hope, you know, if you were going to ask me, I should get better every day. So I'm actually happy with steady to start off with knowing that that will improve.
If I'm going to win this tournament, it will be a case of me getting into position and coming down the stretch on Sunday and winning it from there. I couldn't see myself -- I don't envisage myself coming out with all guns blazing on Thursday morning and firing at all the pins.
I'll be a little bit quieter than that and hopefully work my way into the event and settle my way into the year, really. And I'm sure a lot of players who have had a period of time off, especially those players who are working on their game, will need a little bit of adjustment to get into it. That would be the target at the moment. It would be nice to work my way in, and if I shoot a steady score the first day, I'll be very pleased.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Padraig, thanks for joining us.

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