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April 7, 2009

Padraig Harrington


BILLY MORRIS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome. We are delighted to have with us this morning Padraig Harrington, the 2008 PGA TOUR Player of the Year. He comes to Augusta looking for his third consecutive major championship. He was the winner of the 2007 and 2008 British Open. He won the 2008 PGA Championship. He's a two-time winner of our own Par 3 Contest here (laughter) and he says he's going to play again this year. His best finish, tied for fifth in 2002 and 2008, and he's playing in his 10th Masters.
We are delighted to have you with us at Augusta, Padraig and particularly here in the press building. We thank you for coming. Let's go straight to questions.

Q. Could you simply give us your feelings about this tournament; what strikes you most when you first come to the course or the feelings that you've acquired about it since you've been there since then?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think when you first come here, you're over-awed about the place as well as the golf course. When you come down Magnolia Lane and just the ambiance of it, and to be honest your first year on the golf course is lost because of that. It's hard to get your head around everything, and you do tend to be a little bit rushed and a little bit over-awed by it all.
It is a golf course that you have to play on numerous occasions to become familiar with it. As you keep playing it, you do learn a little bit about the golf course every year. There's things that could still happen, I'm sure will happen this year, I'll get myself in a position this week that I have not seen before, and you'll have to adjust. The great thing about the golf course is it just show a lot of new things all the time. You can't prepare for everything, and I think that you realize that after you play it for a number of years.
Your first couple of years, you're trying to hit a putt from every angle on the green and you're trying to cover every chip shot, but after a few years, you realize that's not going to happen. You just have to settle for being able to adapt, because it does show up that.
I like the fact that the golf course is exciting. You hit a good shot, you can make a birdie on any hole out there and you hit a bad shot, you can make bogey or more. It's a great test. And I think ultimately, you've got to actually play all elements of the game here. You do got to hit it straight and long off the tee, and you've definitely got to hit your iron shots with a lot of control. I don't just mean accuracy. I mean, distance control and the ability with a good strike to get the ball to stop in and around where it lands.
I think it's close, and certainly when I practice, if you can play golf around Augusta, you can play golf at any golf course, if you've got the shots for here.

Q. As a follow-up to that, could you compare the beauty of this course to St. Andrews?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a totally different concept. Augusta is beautiful in its own right in how it's manicured and how it's set up and the trees; it's a beautiful parkland golf course.
How could you compare it to the ruggedness of a links golf course, which is a totally different type of nature? They are both unique. They are both very special. And to be honest, Augusta and St. Andrews are the two golf courses that when golfers come to, it does feel like something special standing on the first tee.

Q. If it's so difficult on the first visit to Augusta, you found it difficult, are you ruling out then the possibility of somebody winning their first visit?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Fuzzy Zoeller already did win on his first visit, though.

Q. But Rory is coming and you know him very well and he's from Ireland; are you ruling out the possibility?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it was difficult for me because of the nature and the way I play the game and my personality, as in, you know, I'm the sort of person that I don't feel good unless I feel like I've done the amount of work and covered all the options. There's too many options to cover at Augusta.
Other players can come in and they are a bit more relaxed about their game and they are happy. You know, even for a regular event, I have two practice rounds. There's lots of players who are happy enough to turn up on a Wednesday evening and have no practice round and play a tournament. I don't fit into that category.
Rory, I'm not 100% sure, but the few words I've had with him has been generally along the lines, he's got to play with what he's got and accept that, you know, there's no point in going out there and playing 54 holes on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and covering every aspect of the golf course, because it just not going to happen. There's going to be some variables thrown up. It's always interesting, certainly I've found over the years, that the golf course plays substantially different Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, than it does Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. It's hard to believe how much it would change.

Q. You seem to be doing a pretty good job of staying under the radar before last week. Was it almost a relief to find a bit of form, or are you still along the lines of thinking that you would rather be struggling for your game coming here?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I always want a bit of form, and I would like to have a bit of form earlier.
But following most of my seasons as we go along, I tend to take a good winter break and when I come out at the start of the year, I tend to be a little bit mixed up and complicated from the work I've done during the winter. This year is not hugely different than any other year, except maybe I dragged it a couple more weeks into the season than I should have. So I did struggle to find form earlier on. The last two weeks have been encouraging.
I think I was somewhat in contention both weeks, so that's exactly what you want. Again, I always think it's easier to win an event when you've had a few weeks where you're competing to win, and you can see how you feel in that situation and you can manage it. Like I lost my patience on Sunday in the wind. I'm glad I did it last Sunday and not this Sunday sort of thing.
It is an interesting one that you certainly need to be -- I need to be in contention. It's hard to win something totally out of the blue. You have to be somewhat building your form into a tournament and you have to be competing and feeling, you know, feeling the nerves, getting used to that before you really want to -- because you know you're going to have it on the Sunday here if you're in contention so you want some practice in the lead.

Q. You seemed to pick up an extraordinary number of penalty shots last week, was that down to frustration and impatience?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. Sometimes you go on a run of doing things like that.
It's hard to know. You know, to be honest, a lot of those -- I do things slightly strange. When I actually start hitting at water hazards like I did last week, I'm kind of working on things so that -- how will I put it? If I was playing really badly, I would make sure to avoid the water hazard. If I'm playing better, I'm trying to hit it down the fairway and taking on the shot.
So maybe I was a little bit aggressive at times last week, and hopefully it's not a sign of things to come this week. Because I think I had nine-plus, at least nine in the water last week. (Laughter).

Q. Do you see yourself as a rival with Tiger Woods? And apart from Tiger Woods, do you have a rival, and is rivalry important or helpful?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would have to say I can't be a rival, because in the end I'm always fighting with myself. That's it. I'm always competing with myself. So I'm trying to better myself all the time.
So I don't really have a rival in that sense. I'm totally focused on trying to get the best performance out of me and trying to improve my performance.
So I don't believe in trying to compete against one individual. You know, I could turn up this week and say, well, I want to beat Tiger Woods. Well, maybe I'll beat him by a shot and he finishes 20th and I finish 19th. That's not much good to either of us.
You can't just focus on one individual. I know if I turn up and play my golf and do my thing, that's all I can ask of myself. And who knows where it's going to finish, but there's definitely no point -- if I turn up and shoot -- I open up and shoot 75 in the first round and my so-called rival shoots 76, do I feel good about it? No. I've got to concentrate -- I'd be much happier to shoot 69 in my first round and my rival shoot 68 if there was such a thing.
It's a bad mental outlook to be focusing on one other person. The only person you focus on is yourself.

Q. Yesterday there were maybe a dozen, a dozen and a half people at times following you around the golf course. It was not a large following. What do you make of that? What does it mean to you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was playing at five o'clock in the evening and it was cold. (Laughter).
BILLY MORRIS: Next question. (Laughter).

Q. At the moment you have the potential to win three Majors in a row; in what way is the pressure pushed up some more for you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously you're going for three in a row, it's certainly adding a bit to the story, but if I had won, say I've won the U.S. Open and instead of the Open and the PGA and I would not be going for three this time, for me there would be just as much pressure. It would be the same. It's gotten to the level that adding any more on doesn't make any difference in how I feel.
It's a major. It's a chance to win another Major. It's a chance to win the Masters. All of those things bring their own pressure. Just because it's three in a row, it adds to it, but not significantly. It doesn't make the pressure any different of turning up at any major and trying to win it.
I'm going to have that pressure for the foreseeable future in majors, I'm going to turn up to a lot of them and know that if I play my game, I can win. That's the pressure you bring in every week, that it's one thing going into a Major, as maybe I would have a couple of years ago and gone in with the thought that if I get lucky this week, I might win a major.
Now I realize actually I can win Majors within my own control. So that brings it's own pressure. I know if I prepare right and play right and go out and play my golf, it's possible for me to win and to be in control of me winning.
So that's the pressure and I know I can do it. I have to be able to bring it to the table every time -- well, not every time, but sometimes. Regardless of what's going on outside with you guys and whether it's three in a row or another Major, it's just the fact that I know I can do it. So that brings its own level of pressure every time you tee it up in a major.

Q. We ought to check with you, do you have any ailments given what happened at the Open and the PGA?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, nothing out of the ordinary to bring up at this stage.

Q. Are you having a problem choosing the driver that you wish to play with this week? Have you been experimenting?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I have been, yes. I've been adding loft to my driver over the last couple of weeks due to some of the work I did during the winter. I put one in the bag last week that went well at times, but it's got the -- it looks like it's got the sack now. (Laughter).
At the moment, the driver I used here two years ago is going into the bag. So another couple of days.

Q. What kind of club was that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was a good club, actually. (Laughter) I actually don't think I ever had as good a driving tournament as I did two years ago, so hopefully I can replicate that.

Q. Why did you tinker, then?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, it is in my nature, but I've been tinkering with my swing, and that's been one element of it. With what I've been changing in my swing, I need more loft on my driver.

Q. How much loft?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I have been up to -- I used ten degrees last week, which would be significant.
This week, it's nine and a half degrees, but with a slightly longer shaft, so it comes out higher. I won the three majors with an eight-degree driver. So that just says, adding a bit of loft.

Q. You threw out a figure of 75 in the opening round, you've put yourself behind the 8-ball in the past, is there any particular element you've worked on to not do that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That could only be to do with mental outlook, going out the first day, being a little bit cautious. Certainly I played well after those scores because I had to play well. I'm certainly a player who plays better when I have to and under a little bit of pressure of being pushed a little bit into a corner that I have to come out and play well.
I haven't had that intensity maybe in the first round. I've gone out there a little bit -- could have gone out there a little bit cautious and maybe a little bit too much patience, I'm not quite sure. I think the key would be to play my first hole of golf in the Masters like I play my 72nd hole of golf in the Masters. That is certainly something I would talk to with Bob Rotella to be as intense on Thursday as I am on Sunday.

Q. Do you have a favorite hole out there at Augusta National and is there one that still perplexes you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, on both accounts. I'm trying to think of anything that jumps out at me. There's fantastic holes out there.
But favorite holes in terms of where would you find a better hole of golf than the 11th?

Q. Why?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Just a great test. You've got to hit a big tee shot and you've got to hit it straight, and then you're intimidated with the second shot. You've got to hit a quality shot, and you've got to choose whether you go for it or not in terms of firing it down to the flag or the middle of the green or to the front right of the green or even to the right of the green.
Lots of options and lots of distractions with the wind swirling. It's just got everything you want in a golf hole.

Q. Do you have a mental mantra for this week? I know you don't usually go for swing thoughts.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I will have plenty of mental thoughts, and part of these couple of days is making sure -- establishing which ones I will use and which ones I will pick from, the many that you can have over the years have built up.
So this is what the couple of practice days are about so that when you tee it up Thursday, you're clear on a couple of -- you'll have a couple of mental goals, I would say. It could be to try and be patient. It could be as simple as that.
There's a couple of things like that. As I said, they are not set in stone at this very moment, but come Thursday morning, I'd better have an idea of what I'm trying to do.

Q. You've won the last two majors and three in the last two years; yet, you come in here and all of the attention is sort of on Tiger being back for the Masters. Does that bother you at all?

Q. You understand it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've got three majors. It's a dream come true for me. Winning major tournaments is amazing.
As I said, I'm fully concentrating on what I'm doing in my tournaments and my career. You know, it makes no difference to me. The outside stuff, I can't control, so I'm not too fussed about it. But, you know, at the end of the day, I can go home to Ireland and I can get Tiger Woods-esque attention there in my country. That's the nature of it; I can experience it at home.
Tiger, obviously when you get to the bigger stage, he is the top dog and he deserves the attention with what he's done, and he's coming back from injury, it's a fantastic story and it's good to be told. That's what gets out there.
Does that make him play better golf on Thursday morning, or me? No. We have got to go out there and play our own games on Thursday and not let the outside stuff affect it. So regardless of what's happening outside, it ain't going to help me. It's not going to give me a shot advantage on Thursday morning and it's not going to give me a shot disadvantage. I'm in control of that element.

Q. Trevor Immelman said recently that he had sought your advice in the wake of your success and the Irish rugby team sought your counsel. Have there been other examples over the last eight months and is there a recurring theme?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Not in the last eight months, but I will say, on the sporting teams, I have had one go with the Dublin football team and I've had one go with the Irish rugby team. The Dublin football team and the Irish rugby team are equally enthusiastic about what I had to say. The Dublin team went out and lost to a very lowly-ranked team the following week, and the Irish rugby team have had success. So, I'm at 50/50 at this stage. The next one could be pivotal. (Laughter).
In fairness, I've had a few other -- actually plenty of requests now to go and talk to different teams. A lot comes down to obviously, have I got time, and usually you know, I did it with both those teams because of personal relationships and somebody asked me.
I've got some experience over 20 years of the highs and lows of sport, and that's the one thing that stand by me, which brings me to tremendous confidence, is I have not always won as a rule. Winning is a habit, and some people have that habit and have no understanding of losing. I have plenty of understanding of losing and I've had to work my way through some pretty kind of miserable -- miserable in terms of golf, not miserable really of losing events, and I think I had a record there, a number of second places, and it was amazing. It was being used as nearly as a stick to beat me with. You work your way through that and it gives you tremendous experience.
To be honest, you learn from losing. You don't really learn from winning, even though winning is a habit.

Q. I'm just wondering if going for three in a row, there's been a significant increase in e-mail messages and whether you've been sort of soaking that up.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I've been getting the text messages and the e-mails and the encouragement. I think the best one, I do have to bring it up, Lee Westwood said to me yesterday, "What's all this about the Paddy Slam? Are you starting up wrestling?" (Laughter).

Q. You said that the formula, basically, if you're feeling with pressure, the formula going into a major is to prepare well and then go and play well, a simple sort of thing. Have you prepared well for this major, well enough to win?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think I have to correct you on your formula. Correct well doesn't necessarily means play well.

Q. No, you have to do both, obviously.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: We're not 100% in control of whether we play well. That's still a little bit -- certainly I haven't established control over my golf game enough to demand that I will turn up and perform every time I want to.
In terms of preparing, yeah, I've done it as well as I can. Doesn't mean I've done it right but I've prepared as well as I can.

Q. Have you prepared for the Par 3?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, I like the Par 3 Tournament. I like the idea of going out there and hitting a few wedge shots. It's very important in the tournament, your wedge play, and I like the idea of, you know, the hype and the little bit of excite many. It gets you ready for the tournament. But obviously there's no preparation going into it bar ordering a little golf bag for my son to be able to carry around. That's the only preparation.

Q. And have you worked out the yardages?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You get those on the first tee.

Q. How many clubs will you have?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Usually I go 7-iron up but I might go 8-iron up.
BILLY MORRIS: Other questions? Well, Padraig, we thank you so much for sharing this time with us today. We know you want to go practice a little bit, so thank you and good luck.

End of FastScripts

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