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April 1, 2009

Padraig Harrington


MARK WILLIAMS: Padraig Harrington, welcome to the interview room at the Shell Houston Open. Thanks for joining us. I know you've had a long day. We'll just get straight into it. Tell us your thoughts on the golf course and your form coming into the day, into the week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The golf course is a strong course. The condition of it is as good as could be. I don't think they could look for any more. Certainly setup-wise, they cut it as close as this course can be to Augusta, and the greens are, you know, the reaction is firm and very, very quick, very fast, actually.
And so it looks like it will be a good test for the week, and I think at this stage, especially as the tournament starts tomorrow, the focus is very much on the Shell Houston Open, and The Masters can look after itself on Sunday evening.

Q. You're coming off your best performance of the year with a T-11 at Arnold Palmer Invitational. Do you feel comfortable with your game?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm happy enough with my game. I'm obviously working on trying to peak for next week. I generally realize if I'm going to peak next week, I've got to show some signs of it this week. I'm hoping that the form will be good enough this week that will get me into contention, and, you know, you never know what can happen when you're in contention.
That's -- I could do with that practice. A little bit of it last week, but I could definitely do with the feeling of being in contention and having that little bit of pressure and the game is physically solid and just needs to be a little bit stronger mentally.

Q. Could you elaborate a little bit on the "little bit stronger mentally." That's part of the game that you're known for being --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was -- essentially I did plenty of work during the winter as I normally would do. It dragged a little bit into the season and kind of got caught up a little bit in working on my swing for quite a few weeks, and I'm just now -- I'm not quite, what I mean by that, competitive as I would like to have been.
I'm fully hoping that tomorrow I walk on the tee and it's perfect. That isn't always the case. What I mean by that, could be a perfect example of, you know, I'm standing and I agree with my caddy to hit a smooth 6-iron. When I go to hit it, I hit it hard or normal. I don't commit to what I decided, if you know what I mean, or, you know what, I'm not quite sure -- I don't trust the club that I picked even though it's the best choice, I'm not quite trusting it.
When you're competitive, you pick a golf club and you commit to it more, and I'm not quite as committed as I could be at times and I'm doubting whether it's going to carry the bunker or, you know, whether it's the right club or whether -- sometimes I change my mind and may not allow enough for the wind. All that sort of stuff is lack of competitive play.
The week a guy wins, he doesn't do any of that sort of stuff. For whatever reasons, he's right in there, and it's not that he's swinging the club any better, but he's trusting that he's swinging the club better.

Q. Has Tiger done you a favor by kind of shining the spotlight on him a little bit?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Tiger and Phil are playing very, very well. Phil is playing great golf at the moment. Rory McIlroy is taking quite a lot of potential as well. I will say I have enough on my own plate. So, yeah, there is some taken away from it.

It's kind of overflowing as it is. My cup is overflowing at this stage. It's nice to have them all there anyway, and I know whether they were or weren't, the only way for me to win the tournament next week is concentrate on my game and do my thing and not be looking around me and I'm worried about any one individual out of a field of -- The Masters shortened field, I suppose 100 players.

Q. Is it hard not to think about that a little bit?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It is hard. I will say, I don't look at leaderboards or get into all that, but for some reason when it comes to Tiger, you kind of always know what score he shot. I wouldn't know -- like I've had the embarrassment of meeting other players in the locker room on a Friday morning, let's say, and they might say "good score" to you, and you're going what score -- without being able to ask them what score they shot. They could be leading the tournament and I wouldn't even know (laughter).
That happens. I did it three weeks ago to a leader. I had to turn -- it was on the putting green. I had to turn to my caddy, "What did he shoot?" Told me what he shot. I said, "Good score." (Laughter). He was leading, he was actually tied for the lead. I had no idea whatsoever.
You know, I'm good at that, but in general somebody will tell you how Tiger is doing or whatever. Maybe that will be one that's hard to avoid. He's created that, and he deserves that little advantage that he gets. Certainly when I was an amateur, the fact that when I played a match against somebody you would like to -- you like the fact that guy would tee it up against you and give you a stare because you were an International player or something like that.
Tiger in some ways has a little bit of that. He has a presence and he's created himself. That's his advantage. I'm sure Nick decided in his day and Hogan and Palmer and all them, the greats.

Q. Did the wind make you feel like were you back in Ireland a little bit?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was okay when I was on the golf course. It got cold when we finished up. The course is quite protected out there. It certainly didn't feel windy or cold out there. As you can see, I'm in a light T-shirt. Regret that decision. Need a coat now at this stage. But no, it was fine.

Q. Is it difficult not to look ahead and to --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, it is difficult not to look ahead. It's easier at this very moment because I've got a tournament starting tomorrow morning. It was harder on Monday and harder the last couple of weeks and harder during the winter not to get caught up in things. The most important thing to me I'm ready tomorrow morning. Augusta will be out of my mind now, definitely.

Q. That was kind my question, though, in terms of you talk about getting to a certain level of competitive fire, but you want that a week from tomorrow.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah. You want to peak the week of a Major. I don't -- nobody has turned up this week who doesn't want to win this tournament, and so if I happen to peak this week and win, hey, it's not a bad thing, is it? That would be the way I look at it.
I'm not going to -- I'm going to be very happy, and I'll try and peak for two weeks in a row, but the idea is when you're building your schedule I go to peak for the Major, but you're never going to complain if it happens to be this week as well, and that's the way I feel about it. When you're going out tomorrow morning, you're hopeful and enthusiastic that this is going to be your week.

Q. Have you had a chance to go play Augusta?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. No. I've played it eight times now. I always find that a golf course changes incredibly, even from the Monday through the Thursday, let alone -- you can turn up there two weeks, three weeks ago and the temperature being different, the golf ball doesn't travel. It's not the same course. I'm quite happy to play my practice rounds the week of the tournament.

Q. Speaking of it not being the same course, can you just address a little bit on Augusta and how it has changed over the years?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think since I played it, I started playing in 2000, and I think the changes they've made are fantastic since then. I think when I first went there, I hit sand wedge into 1, I hit pitching wedge into 5, 9-iron into 11, lob wedge into 18. These are not the clubs were being hit into the holes when I watch it -- these are not the clubs I saw being hit into those holes when I watched it on TV.
What they did was they tended to put the pins very close to the slopes and the course was tricky. Since they've lengthened the golf course, it made a bigger, solider challenge and they use fairer pin positions. So to me the golf course got stronger but fairer since then.
So instead of -- you know, four would be a good example. They use that pin in the back left. The flag would be a foot from the slope in 2000 or 2001. You would be hitting 7-iron in there. Now you're hitting in a 3-iron, 5-wood type shot but the flag is cut two, three paces from it.
I think that's better. I prefer to be asked to hit a bigger, solider shot but to a fairer target. I think they've improved the golf course no end. It is a long course, but no longer than what we saw on TV in the '80s.

Q. Padraig, the course you defended, The Open Championship last summer, which was a lot of pressure, have you ever known anything like the pressure you've experienced through the winter with the Paddy Slam over here coming up? How does it manifest itself most of all?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it's similar to obviously my preparation for The Open last year. It's similar to obviously the same preparation going into the Irish Open every year that there wasn't an Irish winner for the last ten or 12 years that's been playing.
It's similar in that sense that the expectation is there and, you know, some ways the expectation is more of a want, You know, are you going to go on and win it. So yeah, it's something that I will be familiar with. It doesn't mean I'm familiar with -- it doesn't mean I'm going to handle it perfectly or anything like that. I definitely, I've seen it before and have some experience.
If I would say I would love to tell you that hey, it didn't have any effect on me, but I've got to believe that the little bit of obsessiveness about my practice and dragging it a little bit into the season has definitely -- if I was looking for a reason for that, I would definitely be saying that maybe -- maybe I was trying to hard to get ready for The Masters instead of -- and driving it into the tournament season rather than just being ready to play golf.
So, it's possible it has had an effect.

Q. Have you left the phone off the hook at home or anything like that, or sought refuge somewhere strange or gone to a Trappist Monastery?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Definitely, you know, maybe not because of The Masters but because of the wins, there's definitely an element of, you know, being comfortable not doing things in terms of yeah, I don't want to go there or -- at times there's an element to that that you're as happy to stay in, let's say, and it's nice and quiet and in your own world at that stage. Not a great deal.
Nothing to do with The Masters, but more to do with the fact that of I've won two Majors last year. I suppose there's a lot of hype in that. It's nice to have some quiet time.

Q. You notice once of a guy who interrupted you at mass to discuss your golf game. You haven't had much of that.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm trying to think of what it was. Actually he wanted to talk about Tiger Woods (laughter). It was 19 -- I think that was 19 -- that was after he won The Masters in '97, wanted to discuss Tiger Woods's game in mass. "Peace be with you" (laughter).

Q. You don't remember the reason, do you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I had a couple that I have no idea what they were, but I remember when they stood out as -- stood out as being good. I'm trying to think. I know that the worst one for any player is obviously when you're in the restrooms and somebody wants to shake your hand (laughter). That's always one of the -- I'm not sure at the moment, but there was a few beauties like that. Hopefully somebody wants to have a conversation, but I'm not sure. If I think of it, I might tell you.
MARK WILLIAMS: Two more questions.

Q. You made some really pressure putts obviously in winning the Majors there. Can you -- has that always been a strength of your game?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It has, actually.

Q. Has it gotten better over the years, anything you've done?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It hasn't changed. What might have changed over the years is I did acquire a lot as an amateur. I used to get into the zone and hole putts and do incredible things when I was a amateur. I probably lost that edge a little bit as a pro, and I think oftentimes people do as a pro. You get a little bit more cautious and you lose a little bit of the flow in there. Everything is a bit more ordered.
I think what you would have seen in the PGA and those events is it coming back out when the pressure is on and being just pushed into it, really.
But it was definitely there as an amateur. I can remember doing phenomenal things as an amateur in matches where, you know, genuinely in a lot of trouble and starting holing putts everywhere. There's a few people out there will tell you the stories.
MARK WILLIAMS: Last question.

Q. With Augusta a week away, what part of the game are you really pleased with? On the other side of the coin, what part of your game do you feel needs strengthening?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: To answer that question, I'm totally focused on my mental game at the moment. So that gives you both the positive and the negatives in that. I'm not trying to fix anything. I'm totally focused on getting my head in the right place.
MARK WILLIAMS: Padraig, we appreciate you coming in. I know you've had a long day. Thanks for your time.

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