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March 24, 2009

Padraig Harrington


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington into the interview room here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. Padraig, thank you for coming by and spending a few minutes with us, coming off a T20 down at Doral. Just comment on that week and on your preparations for this week's tournament.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I suppose I've been home for the last week doing a little bit of practice and things like that. It was a good week for Irish sport at home. We won the rugby and we had a world boxing champion, as well, so it was a good week to be at home.
Doral the week before was exactly what I needed in terms of going out on the golf course and seeing where my game was at and working on a few things on the course. I don't think I could have -- three weeks at home practicing wouldn't have done me any good. I still have a few issues there and sorted out a few things, so that was a very positive week going forward. Obviously looking to build on that this week, next week, and then the following week.
JOHN BUSH: Making your third start here at Bay Hill, your first since 2000. Just comment on the golf course.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, obviously this is one of the tough courses on the TOUR, one of the toughest. I'll be interested to see how my game matches up to it compared to when I did play it back in '98 and 2000 I think I played, and I obviously found it very difficult back then. So I know it's still a tough golf course, but hopefully I'll be a little bit better equipped to handle it.

Q. You mentioned the rugby and the boxing. You've had also McElroy and Tiger's comeback and questions about Augusta. I'm wondering, I know it seems like every ten steps you walk you get an Augusta question, but it could have been worse if there had been all these other kind of issues flying around --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Actually as regards that, it's been a big bonus. Tiger is back, Phil has been great, which has obviously taken huge amounts of the media attention in the U.S., and Rory McElroy coming on the scene at home has taken a good bit of the attention at home, so it's all the better for me. As I said, that makes me better able to manage my own time and cope with what I'm doing. So that's all very positive.
I don't know what the rugby and the boxing had to do with it in terms of that, but it was a good weekend at home for sport anyway. So I think maybe the success Ireland has had over the weekend, maybe they're hoping things will keep going that way in the next couple weeks.

Q. There's been less spotlight on you from that standpoint?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Definitely. But then again, obviously when there's success there's more expectation, so people are kind of saying, oh, maybe we'll have triple. But yeah, definitely the attention is less when other things are happening. But yeah, that's all good in terms of my preparation and lets me get back to sort of normality in how I prepare.

Q. What kind of rugby tournament was it, just so we can share in your joy?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's the Six Nations Rugby. They haven't won it since 1948, so 61 years, and they've been close the last couple years, so it was an open-top bus celebration type win.

Q. That was the year after Fred Daly won the Open.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There you go, so I can lay claim that it was my win in the Open last year that did it all (laughter). I don't think so. With everything else and the economy going so badly at home, it's great to see some of the sporting teams doing very well.

Q. The Paddy Slam, how often do you think about it? How much does it consume you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think about it at all until I'm asked questions about it. It's great to be asked and it's great to be talked about. It's like before I won my first major, people would ask, oh, you're one of the best players not to have won a major, and I would always take that as a positive, that it's nice to be included in that category. And again, it's nice to be included in a category that I can possibly win three majors in a row.
I personally know, yes, it would be a nice bonus to win three majors in a row, but does it make much difference whether I win this one or one win in a year's time or two years' time? No, I'm quite patient; I'll wait for two years' time. It doesn't have to happen this time around. I'm not going to get drawn into this, that if I go to the Masters and I don't win that there's a failure in that, that it takes away in any way from the last two majors.
It is nice that we can talk about it, but as I said, if you had told me I was going to miss the cut in the Masters and win it next year, I'd be very happy with that. So it doesn't have to happen this time around, even though it is a nice thing to talk about.

Q. Has your confidence changed since that first major win?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It has to have changed my confidence. You know, but I think it might be more in the actual heat of battle. I don't think it's change my confidence -- well, it must have. Yeah, it's made me more assured about what I'm doing, it's made me a little bit more dogged in my approach to things and made me a little bit more committed to what I do because of the success.
It also brings, as it has to most guys who have won majors, it brings a little bit of expectation and basically you try a bit harder. You're trying to -- you get a little bit lost in how you won it, and you think, well, I've got to play this well to win and you just play your own game and that's good enough. It does bring its own pressures, as well.
Definitely there is a confidence. But I think that confidence is more for me when I actually get into the heat of battle, rather than necessarily -- which I wish I could, I'd like to walk out to the first tee every week and walk around like I've won three majors and strut my stuff like that, but that's just not my makeup. I would see that as making me a better golfer if you could take that attitude to the first tee every week, but I do take the attitude to the last nine holes, that's for sure.

Q. You talked after Birkdale when you won your second major to reflect on what would be the next level, and then the PGA came very quickly after that. Whether it's consecutively or not, what is the next level that you would strive to fit to?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It is interesting because winning one major, it's significant to win two. Two to three, yes, it's great, but it's not as big a job as one to two, that's for sure, and three to four wouldn't be as big a jump as one to two was.
Maybe the next level that really makes a difference would be starting to hit some of the European records of some of the players, five and six sort of thing, or maybe it would be winning all four majors. But the difference between three and four is nowhere near -- the difference between two and three is nowhere near as big as the difference between one and two, that's for sure.

Q. That said, you've got Tiger up here and then three or four of you at three right now.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, you'd be jumping apart from the other guys out here in some ways, but in some ways I'd be more thinking about bridging the gap between the best players in Europe, let's say. I'd love to sit here and say, hey, look, I'm trying to bridge the gap between me and Jack Nicklaus, but that's way up there, so why not go for Faldo has won six and Seve has won five, so those are the more immediate gaps. I've successfully at this stage gotten to win the most majors any Irish person has ever won, so the next level is try as win the most majors any European guy has won or whatever, and then you start moving on from that. Those would be levels I would see as being significant. But to get to five, you've got to win four, so just winning another one is on the focus now.

Q. Could you talk about the evolution of your putting, your putting stroke? It used to be a little more mechanical; you'd spread your legs, take the practice swings, step into it. It seems to be a particular strength now that everybody points to, and it looks like a slightly more natural process, less maybe connecting the dots, or is that just my perception?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, it's probably true. I've always -- that's the end of the game that's suited me all my life, and I've managed one way or the other throughout my career as an amateur or pro to putt well, whether I've had a very natural traditional stroke or whether I've had a mechanical stroke. There's no doubt that what's evolving now is more having worked on the mechanics -- I think, see, what happens is when you play as an amateur golfer, you go out there and you hole putts for the sake of it. But when you turn pro and you miss the odd putt, all of a sudden you get very cautious and you start working on technique and you're putting all those things in to try to eliminate the misses.
I think as an amateur I remember I wanted every week -- I could putt very well every week but I'd still miss one putt from two feet, and things like that you try and eliminate as a pro, and you do that by being cautious and safe and mechanical and all that. I think what you're finding now is where I've put the mechanics in and checked that, that yes, I'm going back a little bit now to put a bit more flow on top of the mechanics. You'll see the flow at good times, but we're trying to get the flow in all the time. So you are correct.
I did change my routine at Doral, which is an issue going forward, as in I really like the new routine. It's more like -- it's probably a bit more like Aaron Baddeley's putting routine, which is -- obviously he's one of the most successful putters out here. I really like it, but how embedded it will be if I came under pressure this week is a different story, but I know it's the right way going forward.

Q. Steering back to the path of going to the Masters, your schedule has been different in '09 as far as events. Has your strategy --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's only been different in terms of the names of the events. It hasn't really been different in, okay, I did that at Doral because I missed a couple of putts. But in general my preparation in my mind is very much the same as it has been the last couple years. There is always a little bit of a sacrifice coming to the first event of the year because ideally if I were to be absolutely competitive and sharp, I'd probably have played 15 events by this stage, and that's not going to happen because I'll be worn out and burnt out by the PGA in Augusta. I'll have played seven or eight events going into the Masters, which I hope is enough. As I said, ideally maybe if I had played three or four more, it would be better, but I know I can't do that. I'm hoping to be ready for the Masters, but I'm also hoping not to burn myself out by the end of the PGA.
There's a lot of things that go on in the players -- there's a lot of balls in the air that have to be juggled to make sure you perform throughout the year and not just make short-term sacrifices that could cost you later.

Q. When you were playing the final round of The Open last year, if you didn't know who it was beside you, would you have thought that he was a 53-, 54-year-old golfer? Would you have noticed anything about him that would have said that he was that old in the way he hit the ball or played?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, he hit the ball as well as anybody in that tournament. I will say another senior player at the time -- the only player I stood in the whole range at the Open last week, a player was practicing behind my back one day hitting shots, so I'm hitting shots, and I could see his ball flight coming out, and he's the only player I stopped the whole week and turned around to watch him hit the golf ball. It was Tom Watson. I've never seen a golf ball hit like that in the wind. It was unbelievable how well he hit the ball beside me. The consistency, as I said, I had to stop hitting my own shots, I was distracted by these shots going out from sort of over my left shoulder and I had to stand back and pretend I was cleaning the club and have a little bit of a look.
And Greg was very much like that in the final round. There was nothing to tell that he wasn't a young man, no, not at all. He certainly had the ability.
Look, at the end of the day when it comes to golf, a huge amount of why players, their careers wane, it comes down to the fact that their motivation changes in life. Most of the top players will last 20 years before they're burnt out, 20 years at the top of this game. You consider most sports they last 10 years at most, 20 years at the top and then they start to burn out, and they can still play. There's no difference.
There isn't any difference in the physicality of his game, but there's a difference in the mental side of his game. He's got other issues that he wants to deal with, other priorities. You'll find that was the same with Seve, the same with Faldo. They didn't change their physical ability to hit the golf ball; their swing didn't change. What changed is the drive to get up in the morning and get out there.
The only thing that brings great players back in that sense is when they make bad financial decisions and they're broke, then they have to get back out there and start playing well again. Things like that will motivate them. But when guys' careers have gone well, you can't just keep doing this. 20 years is a long time to do the same thing. Players can still play, but their motivation wanes. It is consistent. If you look at like Sandy Lyle, Woosie, Seve, Faldo, they all played for about 20 years at the top of their game, and then it was a slow -- even if they kept playing, they weren't the forces they were.

Q. A couple questions. First, 30 years ago when Fuzzy Zoeller got to Augusta he played a practice round with Hale Irwin and said, "This place was built for me," fell in love with it. In terms of courses that suit you, where does Augusta fall or doesn't fall?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think Augusta suits me, yes. I think it's the ultimate challenge. I find the golf course an absolute challenge. I don't in any way, shape or form walk on the golf course find that what's set in front of me -- like every practice shot I think does that match up to playing Augusta. If you can play golf around Augusta, there isn't a test in the world that you can't play golf on. That would be my attitude. That is the ultimate test. If you can get around -- if your chipping and putting is good enough and your iron play is good enough, because you have to hit it pretty straight there. If you hit it long and straight, you can play Augusta, and there isn't any other golf course you won't manage to get around, either.
So it's the absolute test, and it's the litmus test for deciding on how good a golf game you have.
Does it suit me? I think it does suit me because the short game is obviously very important there, and that is a strength. So yeah, I believe the golf course would be -- it would be my favorite tournament of the year, no doubt, that we consistently go back to.

Q. The second question is you in your last two majors have beat the odds both times. You had the wrist at Birkdale, you hit the squirrelly shots early --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I was dehydrated at the PGA.

Q. Right. Talk about that and that last nine holes gear that you've developed, that you alluded to earlier.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you know what, as regards the last nine holes, I didn't develop it. In earnest, it was there as an amateur, and I used it many times. It's come out a bit more lately, or you've seen it happen a bit more in these particular events.
You know, as regards distractions going into events, always beware of the injured golfer; he's a lot more accepting in that state of mind. As we have proved many times over the past, golfers, it's more about their state of mind than anything in a particular week. So those injuries and those things, yeah, they were a benefit, no doubt. But the key was I took advantage in that last nine holes. And I think I do look forward to that situation.
There's no doubt that when I walked onto the 10th hole at the PGA at Oakland Hills in the last round, I actually was looking -- as I stood on the 9th green, I'm excited about getting to the 10th tee, as in I can't wait to get to the back nine of a major in contention.
You know, the first 63 holes is just -- there's a lot of pressure in the first 63 holes because you don't want to lose it, but the last nine holes is when you get your chance to win it. And I think it's hard to believe that you could nearly draw a line in the sand walking off the 9th green to the 10th tee that up to that stage you're thinking, I don't want to lose this major, and then the last nine holes you're thinking, how can I go about winning it. It does seem to change. It goes from being a marathon for the first 63 holes to a sprint for the last nine holes. There's nowhere you'd like to be more than that.
I realize -- and I've been there a few times when it hasn't gone right for me. I understand what the whole scenario is about. It's about being in that situation, giving yourself the most chances and it will work out right some of the time.

Q. If Doral gave you a chance to take stock of your game, is there a particular area this week that you're looking to improve on as you gear up for the Masters?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I definitely drove the ball poorly in Doral, and I really need to drive the ball better. The rest of my game was fine. I was happy with that in Doral. I need to keep working on things. I've got an idea of some practice drills and routines for my driving that would bring about better driving, and that's what I'm going to look at this week, and hopefully that improves this week going forward. I'm going to be comfortable with my game going into next week, and then hopefully again into the Masters.

Q. You mentioned that you changed your routine in putting. I'm wondering why did you make the change and what is that change? What's different?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, currently -- not currently, I used to take my practice putts at the side of the ball and then move in over the ball. Now I'm taking my practice putts on the putting line back maybe six feet behind the ball and then walking from there in on top of the ball. It helps me line up better. It's the same way I line up when I'm hitting a driver. I walk in from behind the ball. It's something I've done in practice over the years when I do struggle with alignment and then I'm just taking it onto the course. I pick out my target and get settled into my target quicker. I think sometimes when you're practice putting you then have to adapt to get over the ball, which is what I'm changing. It's an alignment thing.

Q. Do you give Rotella as much material as he gives you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I hope so. I hope so. I do like to try and throw a few things out there to get him thinking all right, and I think he does the same with me. It is nice. I do believe that we're both learning from each other.

Q. Have you ever sent him a bill?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I could never repay that man what I owe him, that's for sure.
I have one more thing to say actually. You're thinking about the next level? I was in an Italian restaurant at Doral, and a friend of mine came over, we were actually sitting at the bar having something quick to eat. A guy came up to the bar, and he ordered an Arnold Palmer and the barman knew what that drink was. Now that's, that's getting to another level. Think about it, you don't go up there and order a Tiger Woods at the bar. You can go up there and order an Arnold Palmer at a bar in this country and the barman -- he was a young man, 25 years of age, he knew what that drink was. That's getting to another level totally. That's in a league of your own. How many people could say they could walk into a bar -- when the guy ordered it, I thought, maybe you could do it in a golf club, but he's ordered it in a random bar, and the guy who probably wouldn't know one end of a club from the other knew what it was.

Q. Do you know what it is?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it's lemonade and cranberry is it?

Q. What kind of drink do you prefer for your name, Irish whiskey?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Coca-Cola, that would go down okay (laughter). I'd have to think about that. It's Arnold Palmer and James Bond. That's about the two I know that have got drinks. That just shows how big a name Arnold Palmer is, isn't it? Obviously when that happened and then obviously coming here, he really has -- nobody has taken golf to the level he has.

Q. If I could ask just one more question because it made me think of it, what do you think we're more likely to see next, or what's more likely to happen next, another Tiger Woods or another Arnold Palmer, one based more on performance, another based on a lot of things?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's hard to be an Arnold Palmer now. I think Arnold Palmer gave so much of himself to the people and he was out there, and just -- players, all sports people, are protected more because there's more issues going on. You could just go back and say the world was a better place in the '50s and '60s. There was no issue with having 5,000 people swarm around a player walking down the 18th fairway. That won't or can't happen today. I don't believe -- like Monica Seles is got obviously stabbed a few years ago. That wouldn't have happened in the '50s or '60s.
I don't know if the era could happen again where you could have somebody like Arnold Palmer who was a man of the people, let's say. Now sports people tend to be a bit more aloof and detached, maybe because it's bigger hype, bigger stage to be on, maybe it's because of the way society has moved. I can't give you those answers. But it is a different era and possibly -- I don't know if it will ever happen again. Maybe it will.

Q. Do you have a favorite recollection of any interaction you've had with him?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, obviously I'm going to tell you, I've had a few personal interactions, which -- he's a person when you're in his company you are humbled to be in his company, similar with Sam Snead. He has a presence.
But probably the funniest story that ever happened, when I played in my first Masters I hooked it up the left at 17 and I'm going up to play my second shot, and the crowds have all spilled from the 7th green out onto the 17th and I can't hit my shot and I'm getting all flustered and I'm thinking why aren't they moving, but it was Arnie on the other side of the ropes. So we all said, "go ahead." I'm thinking, what's happening here, can't they see I want to play my shot. When I realized who it was, it was a different story.
So there's always a time that you take second stage, and to Arnie, yes, that's always going to be the case.
JOHN BUSH: Padraig, thanks for coming by, and play well this week.

End of FastScripts

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