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June 16, 2009
FARMINGDALE, NEW YORK
BETH MURRISON: Good morning, and thank you again for joining us at the 2009 U.S. Open. We are very happy to have Padraig Harrington here with us this morning. Padraig is playing in his 12th U.S. Open. In 2002 he tied for 8th here at Bethpage. Could you talk about coming back to Bethpage this week and what it's like to return, how the course might be different.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, the golf course itself, I suppose, it seems to be a little longer than it was or softer than it was in 2002. But with the gradient in the rough it seems to be a little easier than it was in 2002.
Certainly I think most players would prefer to play a longer golf course. With softer greens, that's probably easier to play than a shorter course with very firm, tricky greens.
So I think maybe it's -- as a challenge it's probably -- I think most players would prefer it like 2002.
BETH MURRISON: You said you played two practice rounds Saturday and Sunday. Any thoughts just in terms of how the course is playing currently?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, unfortunately I got down here Saturday and Sunday, played two practice rounds. But in terms of my preparation for this week, that's very good. It means I'm only going to play nine holes twice, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. And that takes a lot of -- it means you've got to be fresh going into the tournament. It takes quite a bit of stress out of the three practice days.
As regards the course, as I just said, it's a big test. If you drive it straight and long, you're going to be a happy man this week. Outside of that, you've got to play very well. Certainly in 2002 these were the quickest greens I've ever putted on before or since. So I expect them to be very quick again this week. And that's something we've got to prepare for.
So in those two fronts, obviously got to putt very well, and if you do drive it straight -- even though I say drive it straight, you've got to make sure, there are certain holes you can get away with missing some fairways out there, but just not the wrong ones.
A couple of the par-4s are uphill. You've got to hit the fairways, even though the rough gives you a chance hitting the ball out of it. When you're going up the hill obviously you're struggling with the elevation to get up on the green. If you do, you're going to struggle to stop it. There are certain holes that are key to hitting the fairway. As I said, you'd like to hit them all, but some of them are more important than others.
BETH MURRISON: Questions?
Q. You said that because you were able to practice here all of Saturday and Sunday, able to play nine holes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it took some of the pressure off you time-wise and so on. Would that cause you do you think in the future to change your strategy of playing two events before a major championship?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, the two events are to get my, to try and get my mental game in shape and things like that. If I was more disciplined, yeah, maybe it would be possible not to play two events. Certainly this particular week I would say is a good week to have played, got all my practice rounds done on Saturday and Sunday, really, because there's a lot of hype around here, and it can be mentally draining through the week. Definitely I'll be happier Thursday morning that I won't have overdone things.
But who knows how that reflects on future tournaments. I know my preparation in the past has been excellent, and I would like to stick to that in general playing the two tournaments beforehand. And if that means getting in contention the week before, so be it.
I think the last -- I think this tournament last year I was one shot off the playoff in Memphis last year. We were asked the question, was I tired coming into this event.
But you want to win every week. You want to try every week. So as much as I'm comfortable having played the two practice rounds on the weekend, I would have enjoyed having the confidence of being in contention last week.
So there's positives on both sides of this, but I'm not going to change my routine, no.
Q. There's been a lot of focus on how much you've worked on your game this year. I wonder if you could speak to that, and do you think the results you had this year are a reflection of how you've played?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think the results are very much a reflection of how I've played. I haven't played very well and certainly haven't made things happen.
There has been a bit of focus on work I have been doing on my swing. In fairness, I've done that work all the time at different stages in my career. And what all the difference is, I'm a little bit more high profile now and the spotlight is on me and people are noticing that I'm doing it.
But at many stages in my career I have stopped, especially when I peak at a certain level. It takes me a little bit of time. When I got to my first year in Tour I think I finished 11th -- finished 11th, then 8th, then finished 31st the following year because I was changing things. When I got to 14th in the world I dropped back a bit. When I got 8th in the world I dropped back a bit.
And I kind of have to get to a point, let myself drop back and come back to it before I feel comfortable at it. I was No. 3 in the world. I wanted to get better, and the way to get better is improve things and change things, and if that means I step back a bit, that's okay in the short term.
I would have liked to have come out just a little quicker, and certainly I didn't intend to drag it so far into the season. But some of these times are just the road to hell are paved with good intentions. I did have good intentions. I'm comfortable with it. I'm going to be patient. I know where I am.
That's very important. I do actually know where I am in my game. I know -- how will I put this? It's not saying I have all the answers but I'm certainly well aware of things and I'm comfortable with that. And I understand the process that would bring me back to form.
This is not something that's happened out of the blue. It's reasonably predictable, and it's just a question of managing it and being patient and waiting for it to turn around.
Q. Can you tell us where you are for those of us who can't keep track of where you are?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would have said I prepared reasonably well the last two weeks, and obviously I had poor results. But in some ways I would say I'm obviously not playing my very best golf at the moment.
There's not more I can do at this very moment. It's just purely on -- I can't do any more than I'm doing, and by trying to do more would actually be, would put me back in the tracks of where I was in the last six months.
So in many ways I just have to be patient and just do the right things over and over and let it come back itself. There's no forcing it at this point in time.
Q. You're in a grouping with Tiger and Cabrera on Wednesday. What's the mentality like in the locker room? Does everyone think that Tiger is the favorite when a major championship comes along?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I assume if you sat down and started thinking about it, you would think he was the favorite. I think the key in the locker room, certainly the key for me, and it would be very foolish for any of the other 155 players, to start worrying about somebody else.
There's no point in me trying to think about who's going to win this tournament or who's favorite or anything like that. The only person I can control and the only person, to be honest, I'm concerned about, certainly concerned in a big way about, is myself.
I look at my draw, the fact I'm paired with Tiger and Cabrera, I'm more concerned with how I interact with them on the day in terms of are they good guys to play with, will I get along well and how will that affect my game. And both the guys are good to play with, easy to play with, so I'm happy with that draw. Obviously I have to manage the fact that there will be a bigger gallery than normal. There will be a bit more of a buzz about it, and that can be a positive and a little bit of a negative.
Certainly the first time I played with Tiger was in the last group in 2002 here at Bethpage, and definitely the first couple of times you have to get used to, whatever it was, seemed like 50 photographers trying to take a photograph and things like that.
You're on tee boxes waiting to hit your tee shot and you actually have to wait for the photographers to settle or things like that. There's no negative about that, you just have to accept it and work with it, and it takes a while to get used to that. I'm too experienced. You become used to it.
I don't envisage any issues for me this week. I certainly think about it and make sure that I'm ready to expect the bigger crowds and ready to accept whatever goes on with the circus that follows Tiger's matches.
Ultimately, it is a bit of that. And you've got to accept it and work with it.
Q. You referenced 2002. What do you remember about the crowds, particularly the volume level in 2002?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I thought they were fantastic. I really had a great time in 2002. Obviously I played well, and that might help me have a great time. But the crowds -- I generally have played very well in boisterous crowds. I like the idea. The more noise around the golf course. I like the idea. The more noise around the golf course, the better for me.
It adds a buzz to the event when there's an ambient noise reverberating around the golf course, cheers and everything like that. It just makes it more exciting. And it's nice to play in that atmosphere. I definitely think it was a positive for me last time.
Q. You mentioned your paring with Angel, and I was wondering what strikes you about his game or his success and what makes him a good playing partner.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Angel and Tiger, they play their games. They get on with their games, and they say "good shot" when "good shot" needs to be said.
There's nothing about them in the sense they're just out there playing golf like you would any day of the week. So they're comfortable and easy guys to play with.
Angel's game itself, we all know he's a big strong lad. He gives it a good hit. When he's on form with the putter, he's a match for anybody in the world. He knows that. And he just, you know, he obviously has to work at putting. When he's on form -- the long game comes easy to him, and the short game, or at least the putting, is just a little bit more work for him, and when he gets it right he wins majors.
Q. Two questions. One, we mentioned the crowds. Phil Mickelson is so popular here. Do you think with what he's dealing with, that the crowds would help him or maybe would it hurt, because they're probably going to be bringing it up more probably than maybe other places. And totally unrelated, what is the most intimidating thing about this golf course?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I can't see the crowds being in any shape or form a negative for Phil. I think what he's going through personally, you know, that's going to be his own things to deal with. But I think any time a golfer -- this might be my own opinion about this, any time a golfer is going through something in his personal life, that's unfamiliar territory.
But when they're on the golf course they're much more comfortable. So the easiest place for Phil at times to be would be on the golf course, because nobody's asking him any questions when he's out on the golf course.
The only questions being said to him are the ones that are in front of him which he's well capable of dealing with.
Certainly when I was going through an emotional time with my dad passing away a few years ago, I found it very difficult to be asked questions and to discuss something that -- I'm just like every other person, never dealt with it before and not 100 percent how to deal with it.
But when it comes to golf, obviously I'm reasonably good at hitting a little white golf ball and I know how to talk about it. I think when Phil's out there on the golf course, that's probably the easiest place for him to be at the time, because he's good at that part.
The other end of it is a difficult thing to explain your emotions, and possibly certainly I felt I didn't have the experience to be open in front of the world media explaining things like that.
So I would assume for him it would be better on the golf course, definitely. And the crowds will help.
I don't know what's the most intimidating part of the golf course in itself. The same test is asked quite a number of times out in this course. You've got to hit the fairway. You've got to hit it on the green and not short-side yourself.
It's asked a lot on this golf course. There isn't one particular hole that stands out that says one hole is different from every other hole on the golf course. Every hole -- certainly there's six or seven holes that are most hit fairways, maybe even eight or nine holes.
So there's no one hole that jumps out at me that says I'm any tougher than the next one, because even No. 7 I think is the longest par-4 playing-wise on the golf course. I don't know if it's longest yardage-wise. If you miss the fairway you're not reaching the green in two, but there's eight other holes if you miss the fairway you're not reaching the green in two.
If it's over 500 yards it really is just the same as a hole that's 490. Because if you miss that fairway, you're just not reaching it. Same story.
Q. Given what the U.S. Open demands in terms of shot-making, accuracy, putting, things like that, can you think of a player that might be a prototypical U.S. Open player? Is there one out there?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: When you normally go to that, you are thinking of somebody who is relatively straight, and usually relatively straight means relatively short. And obviously that's not going to work this week.
I would definitely think you want somebody who is long and straight, long in the air this week because it's all about carry out there. There's very little run. I don't know. Find a guy who is long and straight and is a good putter. Most people it's just the nature of this game. You seem to get blessed with one part of it. You don't seem to get the whole part. You're either good with the short game and struggle with the long game or you're vice versa.
So there's probably no complete golfer, but on Sunday evening there will be one, I'm sure.
Q. How does your week-to-week approach change because it's a major? Do your previous weeks affect that, or once that first tee shot is hit on Thursdays it's just a whole new ball game?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I obviously -- and I assume most sort of players at this stage -- have a system of preparing for their majors. So how I prepare for this one is the same how I prepared for my last dozen majors at least.
So that doesn't change. Does Thursday morning affect -- the previous week? Yeah, obviously if you played well coming into an event you feel confident. You probably do a little less. If you played poorly coming into an event, the temptation is to do more.
Obviously you have to avoid that. But it is true, many weeks guys will turn up, not just major weeks. You know, they might hit one down the first fairway and just stays in the semi-rough rather than going into the rough. They scrape it by the bunker onto the green. And maybe another guy has hit it on the same line and he sees the read of the putt so he gets a good read and hits it a bit firm and hits the back of the hole, and instead of going six feet by, missing the one coming back, he's made birdie, and he walks off thinking he's playing well and goes on to win that tournament shooting 20-under par.
So the way you play the first hole, the first couple of holes can affect players, and it most affects player, because a lot of weeks you see guys who have shown no form who all of a sudden turn into looking like the best player in the world. And that can be just a little bit of a momentum, things going right straightaway.
I won't deny getting a good start can help. And getting a bad start will work the other way. But if we're disciplined and professional it shouldn't affect us. But I won't deny that it does.
Q. Sergio Garcia had issues here last time he was at Bethpage, probably related to temperament. You've seen him close up in major championships. And you probably didn't do anything to help his temperament, beating him. But does Sergio's temperament help or hurt him? What's your observations?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would suggest I'm probably the last person who could be considered neutral in that matter to give a comment on. So I'm not -- no matter what way I'm considered biased. There's no point in me giving my opinion, just no point. Either side of it. I can't be right, so I'm not going to really talk about it.
Q. The changes that you made with your swing, did they seem natural, or was it something you had to adapt?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: If they were natural I wouldn't have to make a change. I obviously had to adapt. Whenever you're changing something, it's usually you're moving away from what does feel comfortable and does feel natural to you.
As I said, I'm a constant thinker. I've been doing this since 15 years of age. I don't think I would be comfortable unless I was changing something. It will be interesting if I ever do get to the end of the road, and obviously that's a never-ending road so I won't get there.
But I need to be working on something. It's a little bit -- maybe this is a bit of a false makeup for me. It's a little bit of a crutch to lean on that I have to go away and do these things. I envisage at some time in my golfing career that I'm going to stop doing it, but it hasn't happened as of yet. But definitely whenever you're changing -- we all do what's naturally instinctive to us.
So that's the hardest thing about changing. You've got to get away from what you thought was the right feeling and work towards another feeling. And as my coach says, you've got to stick with what gets you the feeling, not the feeling itself. Work that one out.
Q. And what is the confidence and comfort level going into the Open with this swing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously I'm not confident because of what's gone the last couple of weeks. As regards -- I believe I will be as prepared as I can going out there on Thursday, and that's all I can ask. That's the key for me, just because I'm not playing well enough, feeling good about my game, not confident, doesn't mean I should start changing things. I've got to accept that what won me the other majors is the only way forward for me winning this major. I have to assume that my swing will be there on Thursday, and not -- just stick to the good process. It's too late -- as we say at home, the lightning storm is too late to get up and patch the roof. So I've got to accept what I've got this week.
Q. You've talked about how many of the holes here require the same sort of approach; drive it long, be in the fairway so you can have a shot at the green. What about the 5s and the 3s, anything that strikes you about them that you could share with us in terms of the way you'll play them?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm trying to think of the first par-5, No. 4. Yeah, the first one, obviously it's reachable in two. Difficult second shot as I remember. But if it does say soft, it's a lot easier second shot. The last time we played in 2002 it played shorter off the tee, but it was a very difficult green to hold it up the hill. But you're always going to go for it in two. I would get it on the principle get it around the green and try and chip and putt it from there.
It can be one of those holes that you feel it's an opportunity and if you make par you feel disappointed, and it can be one of the more negative holes on the golf course, because of the fact that you get so few opportunities that you don't take that opportunity, you feel bad going to the 5th tee. So that's an interesting -- that definitely I'd say some players will accept bogeys on some of the par-4s quicker than they will accept a par on that par-5. That will be an issue during the tournament.
The next par-5, depending on the tee -- if they put it on the back tee, again it's just a three-shot hole and a good three-shot hole at that. If they put it on the front tee, we've got a chance of reaching it in two. Again, it turns a bit into the 4th hole, you get so few opportunities that when you don't take one, you know it can have a negative impact mentally going to the next hole.
The par-3s, you know, the par-3s, they're all good solid holes. They all have pin positions that are very dangerous. They all have pin positions that are safer. And I think it will be a question of managing those par-3s, depending on the pin positions.
Some days, yeah, you'll go after a pin and some days you'll just play safe. And you have to wait and see the pin positions.
I did notice one interesting thing about 17. And I wasn't quite sure, I played it the other evening. And I assume that last tee time on Sunday is, what, 2:00. So I played it at 7:00 straight into the sun. It was really, really awkward. It was really, really nasty at that stage.
7:00 could be distinctly different from 6:00. If it's 2:00, we should be -- so it wouldn't be as big an issue. Certainly if we were playing at 7:00 it was a big issue at that stage. But hopefully it's the case, hopefully I'll be there by 10 to 6:00 on Sunday evening tapping in for birdie.
BETH MURRISON: We'll look forward to that. Thank you.
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