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February 10, 2009

Padraig Harrington


MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington, the reigning PGA TOUR Player of the Year. If you'd start out, this is your second event in the U.S. this year. If you'd start out and give some general comments coming into this week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, I obviously struggled last week. I knew I was struggling at the start of the week. I was fighting a hook, and obviously since then I've been trying to find the answer. I think I closed the range -- the range I was on I managed to close six nights last week, obviously not Sunday night, and I closed the range both nights this week, as well. A lot of practice has been done to try and figure it out, and I am more hopeful that I've kind of getting to the root cause of it.
But you kind of expect that when you come out after the winter. I've done quite a bit of work during the winter, and what tends to happen is when you are changing things and working on things, you overdo it, and there's a compensation in there that needs to be balanced out. It does take a little bit of competition, a little bit of playing to figure that out. So hopefully a little bit of that pain was last week, and hopefully when I tee it up this week I'll be in better form.

Q. How do you feel about this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: This is one of the best weeks of the year. Strangely enough, these three tournaments, Torrey Pines, and then you come to Pebble Beach and then you go to Riviera, are probably -- they're certainly three of the Top 5 venues of the year. You know, they're fantastic, and the three courses that we play this week, Pebble, Spyglass and poppy, are all fantastic, great conditions for me to go and play and very much what I like -- you know, I'm comfortable on them let's say and I'm familiar with them.
It would suit me more if these three tournament were further into the season. I really think I'd have a great chance coming out if I was very sharp for them because the conditions do suit me. As much as I don't like the conditions of the cold and rain that are forecast this week, I have a much better chance of winning the tournament if it's like that.
I'm looking forward to that end of this, but I just like the golf courses. I like coming here, I like the conditions, and I do enjoy -- I have a great amateur partner to play with this week, good opposition in Paul McGinley and Dermot Desmond, as well. It's entertaining for me. We have a very relaxed week off the golf course. I played matches yesterday, I played a match today with my amateur partners. I don't know about tomorrow. I think my partner is very sensible and he'll rest tomorrow.
But you know, it's probably the best practice rounds of the year where you can go out there and have a good fourball, a competitive fourball. It has a lot going for it.

Q. Obviously a lot of guys don't go for this pro-am stuff. Why do you go for it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it comes down to your partner. You know, if you've got the right partner to play with, the week can be very enjoyable. You know, I've won a couple of Dunhills with my partner. I've enjoyed coming here with my partner J.P. McManus, and it really does help. I'll try harder to win the team event than I will the individual event this week, and that's what actually keeps me going. I've won two Dunhills doing that because it keeps me going.
You know, like if I'm making bogey at a hole or something and my partner has a putt for birdie, I'm over there reading it, and it cheers me up if he makes the birdie. I get into the idea of the team format, of the team event, of trying to do well in that, and that keeps me going in the individual event. It just works very well for me.

Q. J.P. is pretty good off the golf course, too, isn't he?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, obviously he's somebody only to be admired in what he's done and that, and yeah, definitely somebody of great interest, and any time spent with him is time well spent.

Q. (Inaudible.)
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Look, I'd like to play -- I was brought up playing in this. It's natural to me. I understand it. I can adapt to it. I don't have issues with it. But I'd rather play in 80 degrees and no wind. But I understand that other players will find it harder than I do. So I'll adapt well.
One of my strengths is to adapt to unusual conditions. By playing in Europe, you play a lot around the world. But being brought up in Ireland, you get a lot of different conditions. You can have a nice summer's day or you can have a wet and windy day, and you just have to get on with it and adapt. Certainly that's a trait of mine that has served me well.

Q. (Inaudible.)
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, there is a question whether it's natural or whether it's learnt. I think anybody looking at me would tell you it's natural, but I'll tell you I spent years playing golf in those conditions so I learnt it. When you learn something for long enough it looks natural, it becomes natural. I didn't know any better when I was ten years of age.
I have never not arranged to play a game of golf in Ireland and not played. There's never been a day -- I have played when it snowed, I've played in all sorts of conditions, but I can't ever remember arranging to play golf and not actually going to play.
I've played in a lot of conditions I would not go out in. It's different now. I've gone soft after being on the TOUR for so long. But yeah, there's a lot of conditions I played in as a kid.

Q. (Inaudible.)
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As an amateur we used to play a tournament in the west of Ireland. It was our opening championship of the year and we played it in March. By description it's in the west of Ireland looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. Next stop would be New York. As you stand there it's kind of on the sea or kind of on the cliff edge and you can see the weather fronts come in, and the weather used to get so bad that it was close to gale force winds, hailstorms. When the real bad winds came in you used to have to huddle into little ravines or whatever or bunkers to protect yourself from the hailstorms. You would be wearing a tee shirt, like a polo neck -- you'd wear a vest, a polo neck, a tee shirt, two jumpers and a rain jacket, and you could feel the hailstorms through that, so you had to huddle. Thankfully being a player I got to get in the middle.

Q. What was the name of the course?

Q. So that was a tournament, though?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, yeah, championship tournament.

Q. You said you'd never arrange to play golf in that, even fun rounds?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, as a kid I think how many days we canceled golf due to weather, and I don't ever remember it happening. I could see situations where the course would be frosted over in the morning or it would be flooded, and by the afternoon it would be lovely and out you'd go and play. We just would get on with it. That's probably why bad conditions have become more natural for me. I've learned.

Q. Having only been there once, I remember noticing not only skilled players like yourself but families, a family outing, a mother and father and kids out playing golf in those conditions.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, you don't think too much of it, as I said. You just get on with it at home, and what you guys would consider -- being from California what you would consider as bad weather, like today is a lovely day -- particularly today would be a fantastic day at home sort of thing. What you were thinking was a bad day, we weren't. That's essentially it.
Like all of our sports, they're never as bad once you get out there. I have practiced in weather, mis-hitting a shot would cause the ball to crack in half. I have had to clean the snow off the ground to hit shots. I look back and say why did I do it because it couldn't have been of any help whatsoever (laughter). It was crazy stuff.
Maybe I was naïve, but I wanted to get out there and do some work and whatever, and maybe the comfort of doing it was a benefit, but certainly the conditions I practiced in as a kid at times just had no bearing on improving your golf swing.

Q. Does it give you confidence when the conditions are bad? Do you feel like it's an advantage you can really adapt to?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The interesting thing is when it comes to bad conditions you need to get on top of it and get going, and unfortunately sometimes if you get a bad start, it can be a bad day. The good, solid start is what you want in bad conditions, where it's unbelievably -- the feeling you have if you make an early birdie and you feel like you have one in the bank and you're going forward, you make a couple of early bogeys you can't see where they're going to come back because it's a tough day, then it can be tough. So some of it is circumstances. Some of it is getting the right breaks at the right time.
But yeah, I know -- I was brought up, my old coach Howard Bennett used to always say you get a bad day, 50 percent of the field aren't prepared to play in those conditions, and the next 50 percent aren't capable of playing in the conditions, so you're only play 25 percent of the field on a bad day, whereas on a nice, sunny day you have to beat everybody. There's no doubt on a bad day most of the field just won't be able to raise it, either because they're not mentally ready for it or they're not capable of managing the conditions.
It's easier to win on a bad day; that's the way I was brought up. We really must be going to get some bad weather this week with all these questions.

Q. You've played here before, so you know.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I've played the last two years.

Q. Last year you sat in here and talked about how much your life changed in the off-season after you won the Open in '07. Was it exponentially more different this year having won two and Player of the Year and Top 5?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I think all the way through my career it has evolved. When I was 15 years of age and I made it onto the Irish boys' golf team I thought I was famous. My picture was in the paper. But thankfully gradually it has just crept up, crept up. So yeah, winning a major seemed to give me a little bit of a jump more. I'm surprised at winning two more this year really took it to a new level.
I think after winning one major you could have gone as far in Ireland as to see people who are interested in sport, people who watch sport, read about sport, would recognize or know who I was. Since winning an extra two of them, I think I've managed to break out of that mold, and it's become, again, another step up where even non-sporting people would be familiar. So yeah, it has increased.

Q. Any examples in the off-season?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm trying to think of any of them that would be particularly of interest. I always say the best one of the lot was what happened the year before. I'm only thinking of that because I've told you before. I pulled up at one of the local hotels at Christmas and the car park was full, so they were waving us away.
I wasn't actually driving, Franz was driving. He rolled down the window and the guy spotted me inside and he said, come on, you can come in and park. He brought me in and parked me over in a nice spot and it was great. He came on over to say hello and have a chat, and he started having a chat, and I'm feeling quite up there, chest it out, oh, this is great, and after a couple of seconds of conversation, I realize he thinks I'm off X-Factor. I still got the car park space, though. You can always be brought down to earth.
There must be a few, but I can't think of them offhand. Over here they have X-Factor. It's like American Idol.

Q. When do you expect to hit your stride?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would be pushing -- the whole idea is to hit my stride before the Masters, but it will be a push to do it. But I understand that it's not like I can come out any earlier and play more events because that would make sacrifices further into the year. So in some ways I have to work hard to be ready for the Masters. Another couple events wouldn't do me any harm, but I don't have that luxury. Hopefully -- last year I didn't hit my stride until the middle of the summer. Well, even early on in the year I played okay without getting results.
It's going to take a while, but I was keen, and that's the reason why I played last week, to add an extra event just to give myself a couple more events to get into a little bit quicker. Hopefully I'm going to hit my stride this week.

Q. Have you done anything different with the Claret Jug this year than you did from last year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's just part of the family now (laughter). No, nothing different. It rests in the same place on the kitchen table. The funniest thing about that was before I gave it back, I was saying, this is the last time I'll have it, I have to give it back, and the week before they said, well, you're only going to give it back for a week, so it was a nice reminder kind of to go and win it again.

Q. Do you get tired of looking at it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. It's fantastic, it really is. You can read the names, you can look at it and you can look at the little nicks and marks on it. It's always good. As I said, it's one of those trophies, as well, it's amazing if I do bring it anywhere the profile it has. It's like a photographic magnet. Everybody wants a picture with this trophy. It's incredible. I suppose it's the way people think about it and its recognition around the world.

Q. Do your kids play with it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, because it's up on top of the breakfast table. They're not allowed up on top of the table, so no, they don't play with it. I'm sure my little fellow could do some harm to it if he got a hold of it.

Q. Have you thought about what it's going to be like at Augusta having won the last two majors?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've thought a lot about it. There's no doubt there's going to be more attention, expectation, pressure, distraction on me that week. The great thing is how I do in the Masters this year, I'll be a better player after that week because I'll learn new experiences that only having won the last two or the only way I can learn those experiences going into it. I'm in new territory, and I will 100 percent learn from it and come out a better player.

Q. Will you put different pressure on yourself?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I personally won't. My job is actually to deflect it and take it down a notch or two and manage what I'm doing and not get caught up in it all. That will be the task. That's what I'm going to try and do. It's not going to be as easy as talking about it, but no matter what, I'll look to manage myself well going into it and just fully know that the great thing is, as I said, I'll be a better player afterwards because it's a new experience that you can't get these experiences unless you put yourself out there, and this will make me a better player and a player better able to understand who I am going out to the golf course and being able to manage myself going out on the golf course.
I think I learned a little bit from the Open last year because I was defending there, and three of the tournaments this year I'm going to have pressure on me no matter what, at the Masters, defending the Open and defending the PGA. So it's a good year for me to learn a lot, and we'll see what results come. The results are more in your territory than mine.

Q. This is obviously theoretical. What if the Masters is Tiger's first tournament? Would that make you happy? Would it take the attention off you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think on his website he says he's hitting balls full speed. We could see him out in three or four weeks' time. I don't believe there's any point in actually thinking it actually. I think at this stage if you're to believe what he's saying, he's going to be back well in time, so he'll be hoping to peak for the Masters.
But he will draw away attention, which is not a bad thing. It's obviously a lot easier to compete when you're under the radar. But I'm not going to be under the radar no matter what, but in some ways I'll be happy to see him back and playing, and hopefully we can play well enough to put it up to him.

Q. We won't be writing about you being close to withdrawing on Wednesday at Augusta?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Who knows? You never know what's around the corner in this game, especially for me. It wasn't an intentional injury last year, but it certainly served me well. Like the year before my son running onto the green at the 18th, it wasn't intentional, but it served me well, too. The PGA there was a rain delay. Obviously I didn't control that, but that obviously served me well, as well. Little things happen when you win majors.
I suppose you could look back at any tournament, and there's -- you get the odd break that's slightly out of your control that makes a lot of difference. Certainly at those three majors, I would put those three things down as possibly making that big difference of me winning or just having a normal week.

Q. You talked a little bit at the PGA last year of being dehydrated during the week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm usually very disciplined about drinking things, Diet Coke and things like that. But what happened at the PGA is after winning the Open two weeks before, I just was susceptible to needing to be 100 percent on top of things, and I wasn't 100 percent on top of things. The fact I had won just before, I probably got -- not lazy but maybe a little bit -- not distracted but not lazy, just didn't do what I would normally do maybe 100 percent. That happened that time, and it was warm and I didn't see the warning signs. I did get dehydrated. It was tiredness, too. I thought I was just fatigued after the Open, and I assumed what I was feeling was something else, whereas another time I would spot the feelings very quickly and I wouldn't let it happen. I'd be on top of it or a bit more disciplined. Unfortunately I wasn't, and I put that down to the euphoria of winning after the Open.
Thankfully I got that 36 holes -- I got that break, the rain delay, which meant I didn't have to play too much on Saturday and had an extra 24 hours to recover.

Q. In some ways will you be happy when Tiger is back given your success the last couple years? How eager are you to sort of measure yourself against him?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I measure myself only against myself, that's it. There's nobody else I have to -- I have to come up against myself and walk off the golf course and be content with who I am and what I've done. Nick Watney was the best golfer in the world last week. If you were to take it -- you look at him, I finished ten shots behind him and was clearly an inferior player. You can't build your game based on what other people are doing, you have to build it totally on what you're doing and how you feel about your own game.
Now, you do use other people as yardsticks, but certainly I could go in and have a great week at Augusta and not win, and I can't walk away from it. If I've done everything right I can't walk away from it disappointed. It's very important that I stick to looking after myself and what I'm doing and not focus in on something I can't control. That's not going to -- not the way to go about it.

Q. You played well the last U.S. Open here in 2000. I'm wondering if you could just kind of compare the differences between now and 2000 on the course.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was a little firmer back in 2000. Yeah, the greens were very firm and fast. They were quite fast yesterday but soft. It's a longer golf course now, obviously, with the temperature and no run. But with the softer greens probably an easier course -- definitely an easier course without the rough and the greens.
I remember on the 12th hole at the U.S. Open we couldn't stop the ball on the green. It was probably a little bit downwind and you were hitting 5-iron or something that wouldn't stop on the green. Now yesterday I was hitting a hybrid into the wind and trying to get the ball to go forward. The conditions, it really is -- as much as scenically it's beautiful and it's the same, the golf courses don't really compare much in terms of how they're going to play. There's hardly a chance you could reach 18 in two in the conditions that were there yesterday and like at the U.S. Open you could. It may be the same golf course, but it's not comparable.

Q. Could you talk about some of the changes that have been made?

Q. Yeah.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm a particular fan of reducing the rough and running fairways into hazards so that it's got a cleaner cut. I really, really like the 6th hole. I think it's a massive improvement.
Probably wouldn't be mad keen on the 9th hole, the runoff there on the right, purely because somebody who takes it down the right -- assuming that there's rough down the right, as there would be at the U.S. Open, deserves to get the break of hitting a great drive, where if he doesn't hit a great drive he's back at the top of the hill or in the left-hand rough. There I think they're maybe punishing a guy for hitting a good tee shot, whereas the 6th hole it's just fantastic, much better hole, much cleaner look, sharper looking hole. Probably not a tougher hole. If anything it's a fairer hole but probably not tougher because the ball going in the hazard, you get a drop out and probably could knock it on the green.
But I think -- to me you've got to use things like that to make the golf course look beautiful, and that's what it does there.
I think 8 is a much better improvement, too. The par-4, they've cleaned up the right-hand side. I'd agree with that. Any other changes that are out there?
The tee box on 11, that looks like it's going to be really difficult. You're going uphill enough there without going to the lower tee box. I don't know how that's going to play in the tournament.
Was there other changes out there? I think it's valid to add extra length to the golf courses. I think the thing is it gives the option if the weather conditions allow to use a longer golf course. Generally when they use a longer golf course, they can use fairer pin positions. If you've got a golf course that's a little short, what happens is the pin positions become very tricky, and none of us like playing to tricky pin positions, because by their nature it makes it a little more of a lottery. I prefer like we're doing at Augusta, play a bigger golf course, a big solid golf course to fairer pin positions than a short tricky one.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you, Padraig.

End of FastScripts

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