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February 4, 2009

Padraig Harrington


MARK WILLIAMS: Welcome, Padraig, your first event in the U.S. this year after a good start in Abu Dhabi. Just tell us the state of your game and what you're looking forward to this week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I wish I knew what state my game was in. You know, I've had ten weeks off, and during that period I took quite a bit of practice. So there's always, I suppose, a crossover between what you've done technically and trying to get it into play on the golf course. Certainly these last couple of days I've been hitting a few shots that have been slightly unexpected (laughter). So that's a little bit difficult to manage. We all hit bad shots at times, but I'm hitting some bad shots that I don't feel, so that makes it a little bit worse.
So a little bit of doubt in my mind I'd say.
MARK WILLIAMS: Have you noticed any difference in the course since the Open here a few months ago?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, first of all, when I played the Open I didn't even realize that the North Course was where it was. You just didn't see it. And when I teed off yesterday on the South Course on the first tee, there was no tent off the first tee of the North Course, and I really was thinking, what golf course is that? At a U.S. Open you really don't see the golf course as it is with so much -- so many tented villages around the place and so many spectators. You don't get a flavor for the place, unlike now, which is a lot more open, and obviously the North Course is spectacular.

Q. I'd be curious how set you are on your schedule. You're going to do the next four, but what will you do in the lead-up to the Masters?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: My schedule looks like it's going to be these four tournaments and then Bay Hill, Houston, Masters. As with all events, as with all majors, I try and play the two weeks previous. Looking at my schedule, the odd one out there really for me is Doral. I would like to go and play Doral, but to go home after four weeks, which obviously anybody needs to get home, you know, to come back for a week to Florida would seem like a lot of -- just would really knock me out of my season to put that jet lag back on me, so I'm unlikely to play Doral. I'm not fully committed at the moment, but looks like I'll take a three-week break there and go home and work on things.

Q. That's one case where moving a World Golf Championship from the back of Florida to the front might hurt?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, my schedule tends to pick tournaments together. I tend to go with groupings looking to peak. Usually I peak in my third week so I look to put the majors the third week. If you look through my schedule I'll do that with the Irish Open, the Irish Open being one of my bigger events. Even the Northern Trust tournament in three weeks' time, I've played well there. So I kind of felt if I come out and play next week early, maybe I'll be in better form going back to a golf course that I like. So for me, I'd love to play every tournament. I'd love to play every tournament during the year. I'd love to play all the best tournaments. But you've got to schedule these things what works best to help you peak when you need to.
I think the ideal thing going forward would be to play every time I peak rather than building up and giving it my best in the third week of a run. That's going forward. That's where I need to improve. But at the moment it's all about trying to get my schedule right so that I do put tournaments together to get the best run.
I'm a guy who plays better in running events -- if I took every second week off and came out fresh every second week, I wouldn't perform at all.

Q. How encouraged were you by your performance in Abu Dhabi, and how much can you draw on that for this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was encouraged by it. I shot 17-under par, which coming out, at that stage it was eight weeks off, that was a surprise to me to shoot -- I suppose I started very slowly but then shot three good scores after that.
I think I could be encouraged coming in here by it, but I'm only hopeful going in here. You know, this is the thing, I'm not really sure what's in the bag and what's going to come out tomorrow morning. So instead of going out there and expecting something, I'm really going out there hoping that it all fits together, which isn't a great way, but it's all I've got.

Q. How much of your off-season and the way you set it up was with an eye on the Masters? Is it too early to even be thinking about that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would say I had two weeks off during the first two weeks and sat and watched daytime TV and things like that. After two weeks of that, that was enough. Since then I've been working on my fitness, working on my golf swing, and while the Masters is the next major and that's always the focus, during the winter the idea is to try and work on things that you picked up during the year that you want to change. So I do that work regardless of what's ahead of me. That's just to get better.
I think once I start playing tournaments and setting my schedule, the schedule is set, definitely I'll build up for the Masters. But as I said, the key for me would be maybe to turn up more often at a ready stage rather than have to build my way up to events.

Q. I'm always struck by how honest and kind of negative sometimes you can be about your game or just an honest assessment of your game, where a lot of guys wouldn't say if they were struggling. Is it a mental game sometimes you play with yourself?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm always playing a mental game. I'm always trying to be reasonably positive. In some ways I'm preparing myself for a battle tomorrow. I don't expect to go out there tomorrow and find it easy. So when I say that I'm struggling a bit, I'm trying to get into my head that I'm going to have to knuckle down tomorrow and work hard to save every shot. Every shot is crucial that I give it 100 percent.
Probably I'll be a bit cautious. There's certain holes out there that the targets are wide enough, but I'll probably have to hit 3-wood off it just to make sure because there's hazards and things like that. So I'm really just building myself up that I've got to work hard tomorrow to get a score. It's not going to come easy this week.

Q. Is FTI a Wilson logo or is that something new?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's FTI Consulting. It's financial technical investigation, so mergers and acquisitions, financial investigations. They're closing out Enron, they're closing out the derivative positions for Lehman Brothers. They're actually on both sides. They're involved in, I think, most of the mergers over $50 million in the last four or five years, so mergers and acquisitions are good for them as much as -- I don't think anybody likes liquidations and insolvencies. They do investigation for the BALCO case and things like that. They do corporate PR, economic advice to governments, financial investigation for mergers and acquisitions, and also for insolvencies and liquidations.

Q. Did you have something removed?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I had two non-melanoma skin cancers removed.

Q. Can you give us a little detail, like recently or after Abu Dhabi?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I had it done ten days ago. I had them looked at just before Christmas and had them cut out ten days ago.

Q. The mental part of it, did you and Bob Rotella get together after last year and reset for this year, and how did you wrap your head around --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I talked to Bob. We haven't actually sat down and met. We've only talked on the phone. And we have looked into what we need to do going forward, and we're obviously going to meet a few tournaments before we get to the Masters. I think the goal is obviously to in some way essentially deflect some of the attention and try and concentrate on doing your own thing rather than get involved in the hype that could be there.
I'm really just trying to do my own thing rather than get too much into -- especially too much into results. It's very hard here, everybody likes to improve their results year to year. It's going to be difficult in my case this year (laughter).
You know, my attitude is if I keep playing my golf, keep doing my thing, I will go and win majors. Whether that happens the next one I tee it up or happens in two years' time, that's fine with me. I know it's going to happen, and I'm going to stay patient and keep going along. I don't have to go out to the next one and -- as much as I will try and perform and really get everything right for it, I know there's loads of things just a little bit out of your control.
Like I played the U.S. Open here this year, finished 36th, and I came home afterwards, and I remember somebody delivered a package to my house and came in, and I was signing the thing, and he said, "Gee whiz, you had a terrible week last week. You're having a terrible season, things are all going wrong." I thought, finishing 36th wasn't great, but a couple of things -- I didn't putt well. A couple of things just didn't happen. It is that close.
Two weeks later or three weeks later I turned up and won the Open. It is that close at times. You can go to a major, and a few little things just don't go your way -- not necessarily maybe not swinging it as well as you could or you miss the odd putt, but as what happened to me, I remember on the Saturday at the U.S. Open, I hit a good putt on one green and it just -- a little bit firm around the hole, nearly went in, and I actually four-putted the green, and I double bogeyed the next hole. All of a sudden I was kind of coming back into it and then I'm gone.
In major tournaments you've just got to understand it's about being patient and waiting for your turn. Okay, I had three turns in the last six, which is very nice, but I'm prepared to wait my turn again, and when it comes around, hopefully I'll take it.

Q. Segueing nicely into another question here, is Augusta National a course you like, and when you've played it have you thought, I could do really well here?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I love Augusta National. I think it is the ultimate test. You've got to hit all the golf shots, and it's intimidating coming down the stretch, real intimidating. Plenty of shots, you've got shots there on a number of holes that you hit them well you're making birdies and eagles, you hit them bad you're making double bogeys. I think it's a golf course you've really got to be on top of your game. I don't think any player gets away with doing well at Augusta without really being on top form.
When I judge my game, I always judge how I'm playing to see do I think I could get around Augusta, do I think I could play there. I think -- I find it very difficult, but in terms of results, I've done okay. Not really being in serious contention, but the last couple years haven't been too bad. I've been somewhere up there, and hopefully, I know it's only a little bit more I need to do. It is a golf course I like, yes, and it is a golf course that suits me. But it does scare the hell out of me, too.

Q. How close did you get to the lead in '07? That was the year there were five or six guys all within a club there. A shot or two?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I think I got reasonably close in there coming down the stretch. I think I was thinking about it. So that's what you're really looking for. I probably wasn't genuinely there, but I was certainly thinking about it coming down the back nine. That's kind of what you want in a major is to get those feelings that you're coming down the stretch and you're pushing and you're getting a little bit nervous. That's where I was definitely in '07. In '08 I think I finished --

Q. Tied for 5th.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I was actually more in it in '07 than I was in '08.

Q. A few years ago at La Costa we were talking about the best European to never win a major, and you wanted no part of the conversation. What did you do specifically with your game to make yourself a major winner?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: When somebody would say you're in that class, one of those good players who hasn't won a major, I used to be delighted to be included because it is a compliment to put you into that league. I didn't allow it to get to me in terms of -- I went and played my golf and didn't allow myself to put the pressure on me to go out there every single time as if this is my last opportunity ever to win a major. I don't think my game changed much.
But about two, three years ago, I started to trust myself a little bit more, and when I went into the majors I really started the goal of -- the majors became everything about three years ago, I think. Up to that, I was building -- I was hoping to play well any given week.
But certainly three years ago I started to peak for them. Definitely I put more focus on turning up and going out there and playing my golf.

Q. Rory McIlroy won his first European Tour title against a very strong field. Just curious what your impressions were when you first saw him play and how capable you think he is of making it to the very top.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, he's already at the very top. He's well up there now. He's 16 in the world, is he? He is one fine golfer. You guys probably haven't got to see him yet, but when he plays, he's got a great attitude. He's a nice guy, and he's got a great attitude on the golf course. He likes playing golf. He likes going out there, and he just pulls that driver out and rips it down the fairway with no fear, as an 18-year-old would (laughter). He loves it.
It's great to see, and I do believe he's overcoming the obstacles and hurdles that are in the way of a young kid coming out here. A lot of times the kids that come out on TOUR, it's very easy to get lost and get distracted. Every hurdle that's in his way he's overcome. He's had a few patches where you wonder which way he's going to come, and he only comes out stronger after that.
The win is very big for him. I do believe he will go on to do great things in the game, and he's working hard, which is a great thing, as well. You'll see a lot more of him. Very impressive.

Q. Two questions: One, when you talk about being in a group of the good players who have never won a major, do you think some in that group it affects negatively, becomes too much of a burden?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's no doubt that how you react to that, it definitely puts pressure on people. I think I took a leaf out of Phil Mickelson's book when he used to say, and I thought it was tremendous bit of wordplay or psychology, whenever he was asked about you're the best player not to have won a major, he'd always say, "Yeah, I'm not just going to win one, I want to win majors." He always put it that he was going to win a number of majors. I think it makes it easier to win one when you know you're going to win a few.
When I was asked about it, I always tried to put it in the plural, as well. I think there's a limiting factor. If you think, yeah, I want to win a major, it kind of makes it harder to win one if you think that's all you've got in you. I'm not saying that's what you think, but you're kind of putting yourself on the emphasis that there is only one in the bag, whereas if you start saying I want to win majors, two, three majors, you kind of put it as being inevitable that you're going to win your first one.

Q. And secondly, going for a third straight major obviously comes with a lot of attention and a lot of hype, but do you think you might -- that might be lessened or you might be helped by the fact that there's been so much attention this year on Tiger and when he's going to return and the fact that it's seven months between two and going for three?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think the seven months is going to be too much of a distraction because as we all know, when it comes around to those majors, I am looking forward to Tiger coming back and taking some of the spotlight off me. It's much easier to win any tournament under the radar. It's a lot harder when somebody asks you on a Monday of a tournament or somebody asks you two months before the event are you going to win. A lot of players won't be asked that question until they're leading on a Saturday night, so they only have to deal with it 24 hours, whereas the week of Augusta, I'll have lots of people coming up to me saying, you're going to win.
You know what, I guess we all know it's harder to win a tournament when you're leading tournaments. It's a different sort of pressure and players play a different sort of way, and I feel like that standing on a Thursday morning. I'll go out Thursday morning feeling like the attention is on me as if I was leading the event, whereas normally you can kind of get away with that for three days, three and a half days sometimes. The less stress you put yourself under in a given way, the more chance you're going to be strong on a Sunday afternoon.

Q. Did you feel that at Oakland Hills on Thursday?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oakland Hills, I think Oakland Hills came around very quickly after the Open. I was in great form. I went out there playing really well the first two days. I only managed to play about nine holes -- probably nine holes each day before I fell apart, or certainly was struggling to get to the clubhouse on Thursday and Friday.
But in fairness, going out on Saturday and Sunday, as it turned out mostly Sunday, it was totally different then. I was chasing. It's easy when you're chasing or behind. As I said, if I didn't shoot two good scores on Saturday and Sunday or on the weekend, nobody would have noticed. Nobody would have batted an eyelid. It's a lot easier. Whereas at the Open I was going into the final round and the attention I felt was on me. As we all know, if a player in contention goes out in the final round and shoots that 75, you can be held accountable for that for quite a while. So there is an element of pressure in that.
But the PGA, no. The PGA was like, this is a great chance to win. It was like a freebie.

Q. Are you like many golf fans, wondering about Tiger's return and how he will do when he comes back?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm not wondering about it, as in I know as little as anybody else and don't really need to think too much about it. He'll let us know. And I'm sure when he does know, he'll tell us something different anyway. I know that's what I would do.
I actually think he'll come back better. I don't think -- for him he's proved over the years he's a guy that plays much better with rest, and he's very good at coming into tournaments without the competition. No, I'm sure he'll play once before the Masters or whatever. He's very good at playing cold. That wouldn't be a good trait for me. I do believe he'll come back better over time.
I kind of also believe that, like any player who isn't forced to take a break from the game, they come back from that enthusiasm and love for the game because they've missed it. When something is taken away from you, you want it even more. It's hard to believe that I'm saying he might even want to win a tournament more than he did before.
Look at somebody like Olazábal when he was out with his back. When he came back he was just so good for that period of time initially because when something is taken away from you, you do want it all the more.

Q. How big did the Player of the Year Award play in Ireland, and after what you just said about Tiger, is doing that again conceivable, a goal, either-or?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was a very big deal. It was a very big deal to me. There's nothing better than getting the vote of approval from your peers. You know, I won two majors during the year, and I would easily put that on the same level as winning a major tournament. I didn't think anything could compare with a major, but being voted by your fellow players is very special.
Do I think it's conceivable to win it again? You know, as I said at the start, yeah, I had a great year last year. Do I think I can surpass it and do it again? The problem is just like Tiger in the voting for last year, the better you do, in order to win it again, you actually need to do better again, a little better. You've got to keep raising the bar.
It's possible, yeah. It's possible, but I believe that I can play very well this year and not win that. I know that over time these things even out a little bit. So if I don't win Player of the Year this year, I won't be writing this year off as a bad year. I can still have a good year this year and not win it.
MARK WILLIAMS: Padraig, thanks for coming in, and best of luck at the Buick Invitational.

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