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March 12, 2009

Padraig Harrington


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thanks for joining us, 6-under 66, returning to the CA Championship. A nice way to start your week here. Maybe a few opening comments.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I'm very happy. Obviously I have not had a great run of form so far this year, so it's nice to shoot a good score. I was probably a little more focused on my scoring this week than necessarily anything else. So it is nice to get out there and shoot a decent number. I certainly didn't hit the driver very well today, but again, my head seemed to be in the right place, and I hit my irons well, short game was good.
So all of those things added up to a 66.

Q. What prompted you to change your mind and come back?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: To be honest, I had a three week break planned which during the three weeks, I was going to get some work done on my game and get some work done in the gym. Coming back here really stops all of that and to be honest would be a hindrance as it gets later into the season.
I think coming in here is a bit sacrificing late August and September onward in the season, because it would have been an ideal three-week break, but I needed to play some competitive golf. Not having played enough so far, it would have been fool hardy to go into Bay Hill and Houston and then obviously the Masters without feeling like I've been on the golf course and being sharp.
The first couple of events this year, I've definitely got a little bit caught up with doing a little bit too much practice and not quite -- more concerned with how I'm swinging the golf club than playing golf. I know that's not the right attitude going into a Major, so I need to get out there, weeks like this, and play golf, get out on the golf course and get the ball in the hole.

Q. How did you play golf today compared with the West Coast, if you will, if you know what I'm getting at?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you know, I only hit -- I think I hit two fairways with my driver today. So it's not like I played good golf or anything like that.
You know, it didn't bother me when I made a bad swing or hit a bad shot. I obviously got a few breaks out there at times.
It was all about the score, and it's a slightly different mind-set I know I need to work my way into. It often happens you get on a bad run and you get back to basics, and that's kind of what I've done this week.

Q. Was the wind a major factor today?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The wind was gusting and it could be reasonably strong at times. But obviously when guys are shooting good scores, generally never get on the wrong side, and so I have to say it didn't affect my play much, if anything. It helped me if anything. A guy out there who shot 72 will tell you how tough it was because he got the wrong gust at the wrong time.
For me, it obviously didn't do anything that it didn't need to do for me, let's say.

Q. Was it putting or did you putt better?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I hit my irons good and I putted well. I got up-and-down. You know, I think my attitude was better, not my -- you couldn't find anything. I really was playing well in the Match Play but unfortunately Match Play can only be a week. I think my attitude is the same as it was then, but I really was swinging it better or certainly hitting it well that week.
This week, I haven't hit it well, but today, and the next three days, I know my head is in the right place, I can shoot good scores.

Q. Has there been any adjustment for you since winning the two Majors in a row and being now a marked guy? I think you mentioned that you would prefer to lay in the weeds a little bit more and maybe be under the radar versus the point of attention and all. Did you not say something along those lines?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Actually I said it's easier to win than being under the radar. I don't necessarily want to be under the radar. (Laughter).

Q. Well, that's an adjustment, too, though, isn't it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, in fairness -- well, you know, obviously I've been well prepared over the last 12 years in Europe, not being under the radar. Maybe things have changed over here with winning three Majors in two years. But in general, you know, most times, certainly, actually for 12 years in Europe, every time I turn up at an event, I would be a marked guy.
So it would not be anything new, and certainly it's a position that you have to relish and want. But it is easier to go win a tournament where there is not much distraction and you can -- easiest way to win a tournament is to be a few shots off the lead until the back nine on Sunday and play the back nine. The hardest way to win is to be leader on day one. How many leaders on day one go onto win? It's a tough way to win a tournament.
If a guy leads a tournament for four days, he's going to know about it the following Monday, I can tell you, a lot more so than the guy who is hanging around there and shoots a good last round. Just on stress levels, it's a lot easier not to have yourself out there, and that's why you have to admire somebody like Tiger or Phil who has always got that attention that they have to deal with week-in, week-out.

Q. Has it been about what you expected, the Augusta deluge?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was surprised as regards my two major wins, really amplified the attention from the one win.
I thought winning once, yeah, one Major in 2007, yeah, that's really bringing me to the next level. But the two wins definitely added significantly to that, even at home in Ireland.
So yeah, it has been a change, but as I said, it's one of those things that you always want.

Q. What will determine for you that this was the right decision to come here this week and sacrifice the three-week break?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's already determined. It's not a question of what will. I know it was the right decision. I wouldn't have come here if I didn't think I was 100% sure that the decision is a good one. I need to be out on the golf course.
The last thing I need to be doing is hitting golf balls at home, because that's not going to help me play better in the short term. Practicing will help me play better in the long term, but obviously in the short term, too much practice is not a good thing. And the last thing I needed to be was three weeks at home; my job would have been at Cheltenham this week, so wouldn't be too much practice.
Yeah, I definitely need to be out on the golf course and just thinking my way around the course, and just getting the job done, rather than at home trying to perfect something.

Q. Have you been following Cheltenham?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I have indeed. Obviously I have not got the results quite yet today, but for the first couple of days and today, yeah.

Q. Up or down?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't backed anybody. I haven't had any losers, either. Considering when I went two years ago, I had 26 straight losers. Make sure you don't go back and back again. (Laughter).

Q. What exactly were you talking about?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Actually I don't think I can tell you if you don't know. Cheltenham. It's the biggest horse racing festival. (Laughter).

Q. I thought you said checkers, I didn't hear you. I know it's going to sound kind of silly --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Of course you guys don't gamble at all, so you wouldn't know anything about that.

Q. When you mentioned a minute ago about the distraction of not being under the radar, and also you mentioned the word stress, what are you talking about? What is distraction? Because we don't see it the way you do.

Q. We just see our distraction.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, this week, my management arranged with me, basically interviews every day. I picked time, four o'clock each day. I had arranged to do a couple of interviews, meet somebody, do some filming for sponsor, those are three, four o'clock, sort of set and there might have been two or three things kind of taking me up.
Each day, I did at least eight interviews before those four o'clocks with people just coming up and asking me about the Masters. Now, obviously if this was last year, nobody would have come up to me in that period of time and asked me about the Masters or something like that.
So it's just, you know, if you're running to catch to do something and you want to go and spend some time practicing, it's an extra five, ten minutes, trying to explain yourself. Whenever you are doing an interview, you obviously have to be paying attention. It not something you can do lightly. You have to try and explain yourself properly, try and get your point across.
You know, that builds all up, the hype. Here is a good example. Most guys coming into a tournament will not be asking about winning the tournament until they are leading the event on a Saturday evening; whereas, not only will I be asked the Monday of the Masters, but I've been asked for the last six months if I'm going to win the Masters. (Laughter).
If you can imagine, in a smaller way, if you can imagine, as we all imagine the stress or the pressure that a guy will be under when he is asked on a did a evening, if you can go and win this; that's there with Tiger Woods all the time, figure Mickelson all the time, and it's there with me for six months when it comes to this event. And I can't control what I'm going to do four days in a tournament six months in advance, but the question is there.
I'm just saying that it all builds up the expectations that you don't need. We are all trained as golfers just to try to keep those expectations down and you don't want to be going in there, the last thing I want to be doing is trying to win the Masters in the second round at the CA Championship. (Laughter) And yet, this is what we are talking about now; what's it got to do with the CA Championship sort of thing.
But that's essentially what I'm saying. I'm here trying to explain my Masters game, and yet I'm in the middle of a tournament here and doing quite nicely in that tournament, and should be fully focused on that. But you can see how it all builds up, and that's where you have to admire the guys, somebody like, as I said, Tiger or Phil, who are consistently thrown into that all the time. It's new to me. I will become a better player because of it. You know, learning to deal with all of this will help me improve in the future. The three events I'm going to play this year, the Masters being potentially winning my third Major in a row, the Open being my potential of winning three in a row and the PGA defending, so three tournaments this year that are not going to be your regular events, which is great.
That's how you improve as a player and that's how you learn to get better in this game. So I'm happy about that, but I do need to talk the right talk and make sure the prep work is right and in some ways play down this distraction and hype so that I go into these events on a Thursday morning; I ain't trying to win the Masters on the first hole; I'm trying to hit the first tee shot on the fairway and advance it from there. You don't want to get ahead of yourself.
Obviously all of the talk, it's great and I'm delighted that we can talk about it, because it means that I am doing pretty well if you're asking those questions. But as a player, you have to try to keep away from it.

Q. Where did your tee shot go on No. 1?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Big, high, hook left. (Laughter) there was a few low hooks, a few low hooks, a few high hooks. That's where I'm going now, to the range.

Q. You said just a little while ago, that ideally, you would like to be a couple of shots off the lead going into the back nine. Do you think that was a comfort?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I'll take a lead any day. All I'm saying is that if you were measuring stress levels on the Monday after an event, the guy who does not take the lead early and wins the tournament is not going to be anywhere near as stressed as the guy leading for four days. Because nobody in this field would not take the lead after the first round. We are all happy to do that.
But you know, in terms of how much stress is on a person and handling all of that, being asked on a Wednesday, can you go and win this event, is adding to the stress; if you are waiting till the Saturday evening and asking that question, obviously you are three or four days away from it.
That's the nature of the game. Again, guy back to Tiger or Phil. They are dealing with that consistently. You have to admire the fact that every time they tee it up, you know, right from the word go, the very first shot they hit, people are thinking, is he going to win from here or not. That's still 72 holes away from the final results, whereas most players do not get that thrown at them until 18 holes left in a tournament.

Q. This course, coming back to CA, is shorter than some par 70s. Does this fit you better in terms of shot-making?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't know it was a short course. We actually don't; it would be hard to get on a golf course these days. Every hole is played on individual merits, and I had no idea this was a short course. I think I only hit two 3-woods and one 5-wood off the 14th tee, so I must have hit 11 drivers today. That normally means the golf course is a good, strong course.
It's hard, like you could go back to the Match Play and we were playing 7,900 yards or something like that, and it was only three or four drivers, maybe five or six drivers; as in, that course played short at that distance.
This golf course is a good, solid course. This gives you a few opportunities, and then has half a dozen holes that are very stern and put you under pressure, like the 18th and the third and the fourth.

Q. If you were to do well this week or feel great progress, will you still go to Bay Hill?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Definitely. Bay Hill and Houston are definitely on the cards. This week is helping me get ready for Bay Hill.

Q. So you are thinking about Bay Hill now?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, this week is helping me get -- what I'm saying is Bay Hill and Houston are what I use to get ready for a Major. But I've seen because of my recent form that I actually would need to be ready for Bay Hill. So I'd better -- that's why I'm here, to get myself another step along in the progress.
I'm certainly two, three weeks behind where I should be.

Q. Knowing the question was going to come and knowing whatever your answer was going to be, was going to create or down play expectations, at what point did you think, I'd better figure out what I'm going to say to the question of, do you think you can win the Masters?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Seven months ago that started, and it's pretty similar to the question you would have been asked before I won a Major is, you know, do you think you can win a Major. That's one of the toughest questions any player is asked, because one, it's a compliment to putt you into that category. And again, I'll take it as a compliment that somebody is asking me if I can win the Masters.
And two, it is distracting you away and maybe putting you under a little bit more pressure. There's an outside factor judging you, let's say, where you try and keep away from that.
So the key, months ago after I won the PGA, I said I'm comfortable with the fact that -- I don't want it to go away. I talked to Bob Rotella, my sports psychologist on it, and essentially we agreed that we just have to talk the talk and make sure that we try and get ourselves into doing our own thing and not getting distracted by the results. Because you know, like I certainly couldn't win the Masters seven months ago, so I have to wait another four weeks before I can even attempt to do that. (Laughter).
It's one of those questions. Even I will say that there's no doubt that thinking of the Masters has got me more obsessive about practicing than I should be. I've always been pretty bad, but I would suggest that I dragged it on a little bit too much into the season because I was trying to get my game ready for a date three months ahead; whereas, I should have been trying to get my game ready for the start of the season.
But I definitely pushed it out that couple of weeks because of the Masters and the attraction of trying to get my game ready for a set date in April when the best way to get my game ready for a set date in April is to play well in March.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we can just quickly go through your scorecard and we'll wrap things up. You started out with a birdie on the first hole, the par 5.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: How much detail do you want? I hit a high hook off the tee. (Laughter) Blocked 5-iron into the bunker, duffed my bunker shot and pushed my putt and went in. (Laughter).
The second hole, I hit the same high hook and just into the left cut. I hit a nice pitch to six feet and pulled the putt and it went in.
No. 5, I hit 3-wood, hooked left into the rough. I hit a nice 8-iron to about 15 feet and holed the putt.
10, I hit a nice 5-wood down the fairway. I pushed my hybrid right into the bunker, thinned my bunker shot but it spun away for birdie.
12, I hit a big, high hook off the tee to the left. I chipped it out with a 7-iron over the 3 -- I did hit a nice 7-iron, pushed it right into the wind it. Did come back and I holed the putt from about 20 feet.
And 14, I hit the fairway, first one of the day, with a driver, and I hit a wedge to a foot for a birdie.
I got a little bit better as things went on.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thanks and best of luck rest of the week.

End of FastScripts

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