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May 13, 2009

Padraig Harrington


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Padraig, thanks for joining us. Maybe start us off, your thoughts going into the week, a big week for you, the Irish Open, as always.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously the Irish Open is my fifth major of the year, and so that has to be considered a very important event. I have one under my belt already. I'm looking forward to the week and I'm looking forward to playing golf. I obviously have to stay a little bit relaxed about it.
There's a lot of stress involved in playing in your national open and a lot of things happening, so your preparation would not be ideal, but that's okay. You can work with that, and as long as you accept it's not going to be absolutely spot-on, you can live with it and work through it.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Is that something that's gotten easier over the last couple of years?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think it's got easier but you understand that that's the way it is and you just have to run with it. It would be unusual -- like I'm going to play today in the Pro-Am, my practice rounds, it's very unusual for me to have not played a couple of rounds coming into an event. And there's lots of things that would the not be quite ideal, but I'm quite happy to accept that and run with it for the week and that's kind of the way I did it two years ago when I won.
So that's kind of going to be the attitude this week that even if things are not going exactly to plan, and that as long as I'm comfortable and accepting of it, I can work through it.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Maybe just a word on good golf course and good sponsor this week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The course is excellent. It really is a good test, and a good golf course to come to for an I rib open. There will be opportunities out there but there's also a lot of difficulty on the course.
So you've got two ends of things and with the weather being mixed during the week you'll find that you have to make your birdies when you get your opportunities on some of those par 5s. And you'll have to work hard on some of the par 4s, and in some of the poorer conditions. If we do get it rain, there's going to be times out there that it's going to be about making some hard-core pars and other times you have to make the birdies.
So it's going to be a mixed bag this week and I think you're going to have to adjust and get the job done. It won't be all plain sailing, that's for sure.

Q. Over the past few weeks you've been tinkering with your game; can you tell us what exactly it is you've been working on and maybe where you are with it at the moment?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm always working on my game. You know, I always do change things during the winter and I have dragged it into the season this year and have been heavily focused on it. Bar the three weeks into the Masters, I've been heavily focused on it, which has essentially meant that I've been strengthening my weaknesses, weakening my strengths, and obviously that's not a great idea when you're looking for performance in the short term but it's not a bad idea for look for performance in the long term.
I'm still working through things and still trying to match things up in many ways with the change. I've had to change shafts and different things like that to try to match it up to the change in swing and so there's been a lot of tinkering going on and things have not settled down, which you know, as I said I'm comfortable about. I do need to have it all sorted out certainly in the next three weeks and hopefully I fully expect to have that done.
But there is a little bit of, as I said, trying to get everything matched up, because as I say, things have changed a little.

Q. A lot of people are wondering why a guy who won three major championships in the last two years is turning Tinker Man.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've always been that way, but to be blatantly honest, I don't want to play like I played last year. I want to play better.

Q. I'm sitting here aghast.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's my nature. If I ever did that as I went through my whole career, every year, most years, since I started playing the game at probably 11 years of age from playing sort of -- even nine or ten years of age, every year I've improved and the reason I improve is I actually stop and start re building every year and changing things. That's my nature. I'm always going to do that. And yes, you know, I don't want to play like I played last year. I want to play better than that.
I know I won some majors and I can go forward and play better, and you can play better in the short term and it mightn't give you the results, but over a longer period of time, improving will always reap the benefits. That's what I always try to do is keep changing and keep improving and keep going forward. I think the hardest thing is trying to stay still, and in some ways, by trying to get better, yeah, sometimes short term, it's not the best thing, but by trying to get better, it is possible to sustain performances. I think guys who if you try and stay constant, you're on a slippery slope to retirement.

Q. Obviously people will say, two majors in one year, maybe you've reached a point where you don't need to improve, take the risk of doing what you're doing now to improve more, because there is a risk in what you're doing now, or do you see it that way?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I've done it so many times over the years, I don't think I would get out of bed in the morning unless I was trying to improve. It's all about pushing yourself to get better. The results, while they are very important and they do mean a lot, they are always secondary to -- they are not only secondary, but they are obviously very important when they happen.
But in many ways, it's a question of going through the process of working on things and changing things and getting better, is the real job at hand. That's a continuous thing over 12 years as a pro, and probably 12, 13, 14 years as an amateur.
I think the key difference here is what -- I've done this every year, and consistently throughout my career; the difference is I'm in the spotlight and people are seeing it now. All of a sudden you win some majors and you're up there and there's another level of expectations and people are looking at results and going, okay, well, why is this happening in the short term. If you look back at my career, any stage, you will see the changes.
And essentially, I can look at a lot of players out there and I see the exact same thing happening. Thankfully I'm well aware of what's happening and I'm able to manage that, but like you know what, I can see it in other players when they get to what looks like the pinnacle of their career, they finds it hard to sustain it. And I've seen other players use winning as a springboard to change things, you know, to stand back, and actually never really recover from that, as well.
So there's two sides to it. But as I said, I'm well aware of what I'm doing and what's happening, and it's something I want to do. I just have to run with it and make sure as I've said that I prepare well for the Masters and make sure when it comes to the next three majors that I'm preparing, as well.

Q. Dare I say it that right now, your results right now would indicate that it's not actually working?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, and that's your job, in fairness, is to use the results to show these things up. There's many different ways that get the results done on the golf course. As I said before, I'm focusing on what I would consider my weaknesses, and that means that they are getting stronger, but my strengths are definitely weak at the moment.
And the strengths are obviously what won me three majors. So the whole idea is when you strengthen your weaknesses then you have to go back over your strengths and make sure they are equally as sharp as they would be when you're on top of your game.
So that will be, going forward, that will be the main emphasis; the next couple of weeks, making sure that my mental game and putting game is as sharp as it has been. There's a number of elements that I have not spent the time on because I've been spending them on something else.
So I have not had a balanced preparation throughout the year at all. I've spent most of the time on the range working on my swing, and you know, very little time really on the mental side of the game and the short game.

Q. Do you sometimes find in your process you're doing something that you were doing ten years ago, around in circles?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: This game for me it is a constant juggling act. There's no doubt you're trying to keep many balls in the air and trying to work on certain things and you if do focus too much on one you do drop the ball in other areas, and yet I do slip into old habits and can go back to naturally what suits you at times. But you know, it is a question of managing everything and keeping it together.
I have done that pretty well in the past, and I expect to do it pretty well in the future. At the moment, as I said, really all that's happened is that from the end of the season -- even from the middle of last year, I think trying to get my game in shape going forward, and just in the end of the day, made some sacrifices that maybe the short-term results won't be as good as if I just stayed as I was.
But I'm happy to do that as long as the long-term results pay dividends.

Q. What are the weaknesses that you're trying to strengthen and how closely are you working with Bob Torrance on this?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I have Bob over, he's been in my house for the last couple of days. I've been in the States for seven weeks and I saw him before that.
Yeah, it's all about constantly working on the stuff and it is swing stuff I'm working on. I'm trying to improve -- essentially I'm trying to improve my impact position to give me a little bit more consistency in my bad shots.
I had a chat with Bob Rotella and said essentially I'm trying to improve my ability to hit an average shot when I concentrate poorly, which is a funny way of looking at things, because obviously if I concentrate well, I hit a good shot like anybody else. But if I concentrate poorly, I want to be able to narrow down on the bad focus.
So instead of maybe hitting it in the right trees, I hit it in the right rough or something instead of the left, just narrowing down that little bit of a miss. Doing that, I'll be concentrating a lot on just trying to get more from the impact through trying to get a greater extension in my follow-through and a better impact position. You know, that's technically what it is.
But you know, it's obviously a little bit alien for me because I really never have done it over the years, so it's going nicely. As I said, I've had to make -- I've got to the stage now that I've actually -- it's taken me three or four years to actually figure out how to make -- how to get into a better position. It didn't dawn on me for a long time. I can do it now.
Now it's a question of actually matching up, because it's quite a significant change at impact. I have to change shafts and things like that because they are a little bit weak; change weights in shafts and make them heavier, and all sorts of things like that have come in; change lies on my irons. A lot of things have come into the equation to match up the equipment to the change.
So on a good point, it shows up that there is a change.

Q. Just on a separate point, you said after The Ryder Cup last year that you would be dead set against any change in the qualifying system with five, five and two picks, and you -- the Tour, has now agreed to three captain's picks.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I like the way you put that, you have agreed to three captain's picks, because it is after all the players' tour. You know, yeah, I thought the system we had was very good and performed very well over the years and we had great success with it.
They have not changed the five qualifiers from the European order, which is essentially the most important thing because it gives people the opportunity to play and qualify. Giving an extra pick and taking away from the World Ranking, it will probably go to the fifth guy anyway. The picks generally go to the guys ranked in the World Rankings and the guys who qualify off the order.
It won't change a huge amount in terms of who gets into the team. Probably makes Colin's task a little bit tougher, that's it. As in we all know over the years, picking two guys is hard enough, and now picking three could make it even tougher. His job is probably a little harder. I don't think it will make the team any different.
But I did like the old system, as in it was working.

Q. While you are constantly doing this with your swing, are you happy with the schedule you now picked during the year is spot-on, and does that include not playing Wentworth for a number of years?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: On my own schedule, I'm comfortable that -- I'm comfortable with it. Yeah, I've tried to play one or two more events to make sure I was sharper for the Masters early on in the season and very happy with it all the way through the summer.
Disappointed that I couldn't fit in Wentworth in terms of, I'd have gone and played Wentworth even though it's not the most suitable if it suited my schedule. It didn't suit my schedule, and it wasn't one that because it doesn't suit me to a great extent, it wasn't one to make a big change to get there.
If it was, had they changed the greens and that, and I put it in as a top priority event because I could go there and win, I would change my schedule around it rather than as it would have to at the moment because it's not the most suitable course and it would have to fit into my schedule in order for me to be there and it just didn't fit into my schedule this year.
So you know, hopefully next year, if they do make the changes, I'll change my schedule to make sure it fits. And if they don't make the changes, well, the only way I'll be there is if it fits into my schedule.

Q. Do you feel pressure to play from the Tour?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, I feel pressure to play. Not from the Tour. Just from being a Member of The European Tour. The European Tour is very good to me and I want to give back as much as I can to The European Tour. It's a self-generated pressure, not external.
There's no need for George O'Grady to come to me and say, which they do ask obviously, but there's no need for him to come and ask to play Wentworth. I know the Tour would like me to play in Wentworth. I know my fellow pros would like me to play Wentworth. I would like to play to a certain extent at Wentworth.
Obviously it has not fit into my schedule, and changing my schedule to turn up and play an event that if I play well I might finish 50th sort of thing is not ideal. If they make the changes, I may be there, and if they don't make the changes, I may still be there based on my schedule and timing of things during the year.

Q. We have seen in a number of TV commercials recently with your stare from the PGA; are you conscious of having that when you are on the golf course, which seems to have been missing a in a number of tournaments recently?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't seen any advertisements. I don't watch too much TV, so I have not seen the stare in those.
As for staring at the PGA, we could go into a long psychological evaluation of that. Obviously that's a combination of preparation, being focused, being in the zone, and then the excitement of the situation, the adrenaline.
You would never get to that heightened state unless there was pressure, adrenaline, nerve, all those good things. Yes, I haven't been in that position this year, because I haven't been nervous or as excited or adrenaline at any stage. If I get into the lead this week, I will be.
But, those states like you would have seen in that, they are rare enough; they only come around every -- you can get yourself close, and that's what I try and do. In the end of the day, you can't push yourself over. Some days circumstances pushes you over the line when you do get into the zone as you may call it.
It's not something I need and it's not something I worry about. It's great when it happens. There's plenty of other ways to do it. There's certainly a need for nerves to get there and because of the way I've been focused on other things, and because just the nature of things, I haven't been that excited or that nervous about anything at the moment.
But you know, hopefully I'll get there this week.

Q. Are you able to stay home this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm staying at home this week, yeah.

Q. Coming by air?

Q. By air?

Q. How long does that take?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Fifteen minutes. I would go by road if that was predictable, but it's not predictable, so that's the issue.

Q. Getting back to what we were talking about before, I don't think what your arrangement is with the Wales Open, but does that become less important after The Ryder Cup is held there; and therefore, make it easier to play Wentworth? Are they related in any way?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. No. I haven't considered that. I'm not really sure.

Q. Where does The Ryder Cup fit into the grand scheme of things for you? We had Rory in saying it's an exhibition.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: An exhibition, friendly, between two countries, or the Europeans and the U.S., so it's not quite two countries.
I suppose it is on paper but there's more excitement than that. The adrenaline and the excitement of the event means that it's a bigger occasion, and yes, it is something you want to be involved in. It's something that you know, you're going to -- from the minute the qualifying gets going, you're going to start thinking about it. You'll want to be on the team when and if you qualify, if and when you qualify; then you think about the event, and it is a big deal when you get into it and get there.
So it is a big deal, yeah. Where does it fit in? I would think it is different than playing majors and winning majors, but on a level, it's pretty much up there. It's a different -- because it's not individual, it's not the same, but it may be as important, yes, in a different category, yes.

Q. Do you think you might learn that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think it's a question of learning or not learning. I'm sure conversation, like it is easy to say it is a friendly match; it is an exhibition.
When you play it, it's some of the most -- I would say Detroit was the most exciting golf I've ever played in my life, the most exciting experience I've ever had on the golf course; I've won three majors. When I finish up playing golf, the most vivid memory I have of golf is my match with Mark O'Meara, no doubt about it. And I've won three majors since then. So that says how big The Ryder Cup is.

Q. Just on the practice, you've spent a long time on the driving range last week; what are your plans for this week, and how are you physically?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, circumstances dictate that obviously I won't spend a lot of time on the range. There is a commuting issue and there is -- it's just a busy week to be out there doing work. And probably too windy, anyway, to be doing some serious work.
How am I physically? I do have a few injuries and I'm booked in with the physio at I think about 11.15. I think I could be late. Yeah, I have a few little niggly things, but nothing too over-practice -- nothing in any shape or form that will hamper me. Some of my injuries that I work on are probably better than they have ever been. I would think physical shape, I'm in really good shape, yeah.

Q. What do you hope for this week, not just personally but from the perspective of your National Championship?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's only one reason to be here, and that's to win.

Q. Not just you personally but for the event.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: For the event, I'd love it from a professional standpoint, I would love it to get back to what it was maybe in the 80s or early 90s, to have a standing on The European Tour that all of the players love coming and wanting to play in the Irish Open.
I do believe 3 can move it to that. I think sponsorship-wise, it is a good move and it's a big move. So I do believe that it's going in the right direction.
Hopefully the crowds will turn out. If we get the crowds -- there's nothing like playing in front of big crowds. The excitement of turning up; I think all tournaments, their biggest task going forward is to make sure that they pack it out as much as they can. Whatever it takes to get full crowds into an event is the most important thing.
Are tickets free tomorrow?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Incentives like that are very important. Players appreciate turning up -- obviously we have a good golfing heritage in Ireland, and players like the fact that the spectators are very knowledgeable and enjoy it. And if they turn out in their numbers, the players auto really like that. They feel enthused about playing in the event. They get more up for it. That's something that the Irish Open can offer. It can offer an event that feels like a big occasion, feels like a world-class event, feels like it's only secondary to major events.
And the crowds play a huge part in that. The bigger the crowds, the more enthusiastic they are, the better the venues, the better the sponsor, what's put into the event, will all make it a bigger and better events going forward.
But the key to any relationship open is it has to be grown back to where it was, and it may take time, and 3 have committed for three years, and at the end of three years, this could be one of the premiere events in Europe.

Q. There are people, including the sponsor, who believe the tournament should be moved into mid-summer preferably a week or two before The Open Championship, and even if that's not feasible, because of all the slots not being available, there is the view that this date is too early in the year, and yet you were attributed for one of the reasons for playing it this week because it fits into your schedule. Would you be happy to play it another time of the year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would suggest that for the tournament, it's borderline too early in the year, borderline too early in the year. I would suggest at the moment they have a pretty good date on the Tour schedule. Certainly I won't say it's a premium date, but it's not far from the top.
The next best date, you know, who are you going to come up with; next week, the BMW PGA Championship? BMW PGA Championship obviously should take precedence. The following week is European Open and then Wales. The European Open is a big event. Yes, possibly over time, maybe the Irish Open can become a bigger event.
I think ten, 15 years ago, the Irish Open probably was. This is the battle the Irish Open has. It has to try and become bigger than some of the other events. The two events in the middle of.

Q. How does that happen? How does that become bigger? They are putting up 3 million.

Q. Does the money matter?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The event matters. Everything about it matters, how it's run, where it's run, the size of the prize fund, how everything goes, how the players like this, all those things matter.
You are comparing the next two best dates you are looking at would be the French Open and Loch Lomond. Both of those, Barclays and the French Open, they have more than paid their dues over the last five, ten years to deserve two of the premiere spots on the Tour.
The French Open worked very hard to get as good a spot; for years, they put in the biggest prize fund put in one of the best events, and for years they were not happy with their date and so they worked hard to get their date. Loch Lomond, the Scottish Open has held onto it but it is one of the premiere events on the Tour.
So now you are moving into after The Open Championship and yes, it is possible for the Irish Open to compete with some of those events after that time. But I don't know how premiere they are considered.
The schedule is very tight, and you've got to be absolute top dog in order to achieve what date you want. As I said, the French Open is probably the classic example of that. They probably spent five, six years, putting massively running one of the best events on one of the best golf courses with one of the biggest prize funds and it took them a long time to get them the actual date that they really required, and I'm sure everybody -- that no one on the Tour would not want to have Loch Lomond's date, the Scottish Open.
So it does take time to work your way in. The Irish Open at one stage commanded a choice date; at the start of the year, the Irish Open was right at the top of the list for when do you want to play it. Over the last number of years, other events have presumpted it and become bigger.
If we went back to 1990, would the French Open have been bigger than the Irish Open? I don't think so. But clearly over the last ten years, it has created a massive European event. It's one of the best-run, best events, and if you asked a European player, and bear in mind, as well, this is The European Tour. If you asked a continental European player, which is the better event, the Irish Open or the French Open, it would be clear to him, the French Open is.

Q. Because it's more money.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. Because they have run a bigger event for a longer period of time. They have run a bigger show for a number of years. They have gone all-out. Prize money is part of it. It can set you apart and 3 have done that. But for the players, the best thing we can have is an event that wants to be the best, and if you want to be, the French Open has gone to no end to try to create as good an event as they can.
I see that happening now here and going forward, I think it's very possible that the Irish Open can become the status.
But I think what I'm saying here is, just because golfing heritage is great in Ireland, doesn't mean that we can turn around and deserve the first pick. There's other people out there, other countries out there, that are making the effort and have done for a number of years, and have paid their dues to become -- like you just look at how we got The Ryder Cup here.
We paid our dues. We had the European Open for ten years, a great prize fund, ran great event in a great venue and we get the Ryder Cup. This is how The European Tour -- there's so much and it has to be fair to the fact that The European Tour is not the Great Britain and Ireland tour. That's what it was 20 years ago. It's not that anymore. It's the European Tour and the continental European players makeup -- I would say they make up the majority of the Tour or certainly close to it. If they want to run the best events, it takes time for them to do it. They can create a situation like the French Open that it's a class event and absolutely deserves to be treated with tier one status.

Q. If 3 put the prize money up to 5 million next year, will that attract the best players and a better date for the tournament?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, might happen next year.

Q. So it is the money?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. It's the event; what makes the event. There are so many things that make the event: Like how well the players' lounge is could make the event; how well the wives are treated make the event; the access; the golf course; the timing of the event; the prize money; the practice facilities. At Loch Lomond, fantastic, they have the best facilities for the players on the range.
There's a lot of things that go into making a great event. And yes, the date helps. But you have to work to get that date.
You know, if they turned around and did like The European Open did at The K Club and say, well, we are going to have the best event, we are going to have the second biggest prize fund and we are going to guarantee it for ten years and we'll guarantee everything that should be done around the event; with that, the Tour will respond to that and the players will respond to that, and make sure that that event gets premiere status.
So it is a question of working. Like everything else, I'm sure if a new sponsor came in and said, look, we are going to have a 10 million event, can I have the week before the Open, well, it wouldn't happen. But if you decide I'm going to have ten million for next ten years, how long before it happens that he gets the date he wants? That's the way the system works on the Tour; that if you support the Tour over a period of time, you get better and better standing on the Tour and you get better and better dates, and ultimately you might end up choosing your date. That's how I see it works, anyway.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Padraig thanks for joining us.

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