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July 14, 2009

Padraig Harrington


MALCOLM BOOTH: Ladies and gentlemen, we'll make a start. Joined by Padraig Harrington, Open champion 2007, Open champion 2008. Padraig, congratulations on your win in Ireland last week. How would you assess your form coming into this week's title defense?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would say it's very sketchy, obviously. Not really showing much form in the last couple of weeks. Not really knowing what to expect. I could only be hopeful rather than expectant to put in a good performance this week. We'll wait and see how that comes in.
MALCOLM BOOTH: What's your assessment of the Turnberry course?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I played it twice last Monday and -- last Sunday week and last Monday. So, yeah, it's very tough. The rough is -- nature is taking its course and the rough is very lush at the bottom and if you hit it in there it's going to be a big struggle this week. It definitely suits somebody who's going to drive the ball very well.
You do need to hit driver on the golf course. It's a long course, especially if there's a little bit of wind. You're definitely going to have to hit driver, and you're going to have to hit it straight.

Q. Can you just explain why you're out of form? May be well-known to golf writers, but to the layman.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've just been working on things, trying to change my impact position and through that a combination of other things turned up; when you change one thing there are a few other adjustments needed. And trying to figure out which adjustment goes with which, has been a little bit more complicated than expected, taking a little longer than expected.
Through all of that my short game is pretty poor, and that ended up where it made plenty of changes. In the past I tend to get away with it because I've had a good short game, but my short game has been poor so far this week, so any mistakes I'm making on the golf course have been -- have turned into mistakes, have turned into bogeys and worse. It's been a combination of everything.
In the swing terms it's been trying to get everything coordinated together. Even though I started off thinking it was one change, it definitely turned into a number of changes.
And then obviously putting it all together and making it automatic and then obviously having the short game to go with it. So all of those things -- golf is always for me, anyway, a juggling act of keeping all the balls in the air and keeping everything working together. And I've obviously concentrated on one ball a lot and a few of the other ones have fallen on the ground, and it's a question of picking them up and getting them all together again.
I definitely think I'll be a better player at the end of this process. I definitely think going forward I'm quite happy with it all. Sometimes you make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. I've often done it and that's the way I feel about it.
Yes, there's been variancy, because you're kind of more in the spotlight now. Obviously I'm going for three in a row, so the spotlight is on me, and that has made it -- it's not made it harder, but it's certainly made it more -- it's a lot more high profile. Yeah, probably a little harder to do when it's as high profile. It's not as easy to do your own thing and just work away at it. But going forward I'm going to be a better player and that's all that counts to me.

Q. (Inaudible.)
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: None. I haven't really -- it hasn't at all affected it. I suppose you can only feel the pressure if you were in contention and winning tournaments. I've been doing other things. I've been actually probably doing the obvious, just changing things. In some ways often when you peak, you get to a certain peak in your career, certainly this would be the attitude, you tend to step back and try to get to the next peak.
I haven't tried to sustain what I had last year, which obviously would entail some pressure. I've actually tried to get better and work, and that necessarily means stepping back. I probably haven't been under any sort of pressure in terms of performance. Obviously there's been a lot of talk about it. And thankfully I don't get involved in that too much.
So I've just been busy doing my own thing. As I said, it's a little harder to do your own thing when it is in the public spotlight.

Q. A lot of us enjoyed your Howard Hughes analogy. I wonder if you knew the guy was a drooling lunatic?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's questionable. Obviously when you read the book and see the movie, you wonder. He obviously was obsessive in many ways.
Yeah, I think I was trying to explain the juggling might be better. You get to a certain point and you like to tear it apart and see how it works and put it back better. And it's only at a point of necessity that things get better. It's only probably through adversity that things get better, as well.
I definitely have learned a lot about my golf swing this year, and a lot I feel like will improve it. The interesting thing, the thing that will make me play well were a lot of the things that I did in the past, but these are things that I needed to get on top of; I just want to get on top of these things. I wanted to have a more -- I don't know if I wanted to have a better understanding, but I just wanted to have a better golf swing.

Q. Even for a player with your experience, is there an adjustment for links golf, and if so, does that have anything to do with why you like to play the Irish PGA?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's a massive adjustment to links golf. I can't explain to people the difference of hitting the golf ball, of links turf, beside the seaside. This temperature compared to playing golf on a sunny golf course, pristine, the ball sitting up. With a 7-iron, with the same amount of wind, I'm not talking about a difference in wind, I'm talking about a difference in temperature; you're talking about 30 yards in difference. And you have to adjust for that. It takes a while. If it's perfectly sunny weather this week and temperatures in the 20s, there's less of an adjustment.
But it's incredible the difference that it makes, just the difference, the difference in density of the air, because it's cooler and you're beside the sea and the turf. A lot of the golf shots that can be played nowadays even out here require you to actually hit the ball quite high. It's not a question of -- you will at times have to hit low shots, but generally it's who can hit the ball in and stop it the quickest.
So it's not always about what most people think about traditional links golf course, which is being able to hit the ball low. At times you will have to do that. There is a varied amount of shots, but it's just really getting used to chipping off the turf and controlling your distance off a different turf which we don't play off of that often.

Q. You had the wrist problem obviously 12 months ago, dehydration at Oakland Hills. Is there any comfort to be drawn from coming into a Major in adversity? Can you turn the problems that you have here into potential strength for the next four days?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, different sort of issues. I would have been mentally strong and well prepared in my mental game and things like that for the last couple of Opens, whereas this time around my preparation is gone out the window in the mental side of things, rather than the physical side of things.
So this is a totally different way of -- even though you could say I wasn't as prepared as I wanted to be last Open, it was a different sort of lack of preparation. I had a nice, quiet mind that week. This week obviously with all the stuff I'm doing with my swing it's a bit too active, let's say. It's going to be hard to be calm and focused throughout the tournament.

Q. You told us last week that you were anxious to get over to Turnberry to see the two Bobs as quickly as possible. Can you tell us if they were able to do anything to help you both with the mental and the physical side of the game?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I think, as I said, the strangest thing for me -- I was here last Sunday and Monday, and I would say I never hit the ball better. And then obviously I played in the PGA and really had -- I really struggled at times with my swing there. And I did a lot of the work yesterday, trying to establish where it had gone in that week and how I'd gone from thinking I'd really got to the bottom of this to maybe not having got to the bottom of it.
So, yeah, I worked hard with Bob yesterday, changed a few little things. And again, which is never great going into a tournament changing something, because, you know, as I said it's not going to be automatic, or it's hard to make it automatic by Thursday. But from probably that -- as I said, I'm happy to have done it and I'm happy going forward.
It does leave a lot of the doubt in my performance this week. I may swing the club better this week because of that work I did yesterday, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you play better. I know that's a strange thought, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you play better. Sometimes trusting what you've got is better than going with something that's better in you.
But we have to wait and see. As I said, I'm attempting to make that little change and we'll see how it goes. I have to manage it well. The physical change I made, now I have to make -- the physical change I made with Bob, now I have to make sure I manage it well with Bob Rotella, so that's the complication.
It is -- I'd love -- if somebody could push The Open back a couple of weeks I'd be delighted, but I don't have that option. We'll go with whatever we have Thursday afternoon.

Q. Are you one to challenge bunkers or one to avoid at any costs? How would you rate the reward of those who do try and take them on?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, my whole links golfing life I've avoided the bunkers at all costs. Bunkers are like water hazards on a links golf course; you're chipping out. Avoid at all costs.
One thing I have noticed here, there is a substantial amount of rough around the greens, so if you're leaving yourself long enough shots into the greens, it's not like if you missed them that you're going to get up-and-down all the time. So there will be rewards for guys who hit the ball long enough down the fairway because those shorter irons will lead to birdies.
These greens, the interesting thing about Turnberry, and this is why it's as protected as it is this year. If you do hit the ball down the middle of the fairway, you've got reasonable iron shots into the greens. A lot of the greens, there's probably nine of them out there, that are bowls. So the ball actually gets closer to the hole when you hit the greens. So there will be birdies made this week from the fairway, assuming you've got a reasonable shot in there.
The penalty will be missing the fairways. The guy who drives it well this week has a big advantage, much more advantage this week than on any links golf course I've seen in a long time. Even if you're wide, like if you hit a wide one off the tee here, you have to struggle to get back on the fairway.
That rough is deep enough that to try to hit a ball straight 50 yards out of that rough and not hit it too far and not hit it -- coming across the fairway is going to be difficult. I would suggest, you want to hit the fairways at all costs, but there is an advantage for somebody who drives it down the fairway and gets it out there, can make some birdies.

Q. Another kind of golf course question, the three previous times here, you could state the case that the best player in the game or the guy that would be the best player in the game won all three times, and wonder whether you can float an opinion or theory on why that was the case. And secondly, if you could indulge me and go back through your so-called intervention and the details of that a few weeks ago, your family members and caddie, et al.?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As regards the golf course, it has produced three great Opens. Yes, there were great champions, but they were also great Opens, they absolutely fantastic spectacles of golf. That's the great thing about this golf course; it's a very fair golf course; if you play well you can make birdies. If you play badly, especially this year, you're not going to make birdies, you're going to make bogeys.
If you put lots of long, tough holes that were boring, everybody would make par and nobody would make birdie and a few people would make bogey. But here the shapes of the greens, guys playing well will make birdies. But, yes, if you hit a bad shot you're going to end up bogeying that hole, too.
There will be quite an amount of excitement this week, especially I think -- I'd like to be in the heat of the hunt with nine holes to go, because anything can happen this week. I can see some guy coming back if he gets -- assuming reasonable weather, making plenty of birdies coming home. And yet you could see a leader or somebody in the lead making -- struggling and making plenty of bogeys.
You could see a significant swing in the last nine holes of this tournament, as you could see all the way through, but it will obviously be more pronounced in the last nine holes.
It's one of those weeks to hang in there, get yourself in position for those last nine holes, if you're on form for those nine holes you can make birdie. It's a good golf course. That's the ideal golf course is one that lets you make birdie when you play well and punishes you when you play badly. And I think this is a course that is going to do that this week.

Q. Just wondering what the changes you made yesterday were, and also, given where you are with your game you presumably still think you've got a chance this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The one thing I know is that if I get in position I can win. That's the nice thing. Others can get there, but they won't win. So at least I know I can do it if I can get into position. Can I get into position is what's in doubt.
As regards to changes I've made, yeah, I changed a little bit where -- one of the things -- I've been working on my impact position, and through concentrating on that, my backswing got a little bit out. You've been looking at my backswing of late. And because I think -- and this could be good for me, because I have a tendency to break my wrist late in my backswing. Earlier in my backswing I tend to lift the club with my arms. And when I lift the club with my arms I get stuck in my backswing, I have nowhere to go. It seems if I break my wrist a little earlier in my backswing, obviously the club is then going up and I have no need to lift it as much with my arms. So I tend to keep the club on one plane rather than lifting the club off plane, which hopefully that seems to be -- as I said, if I hadn't gone all through this, that seems to be a reasonable breakthrough for me, because this is something I've done for eight years on and off where I get stuck on my backswing. And when I get stuck, obviously that's not a feeling anybody can ever hit a good golf shot from.
Hopefully this will be something -- I didn't intend to change, but hopefully this will be something that can be a significant improvement in terms of consistency throughout the year, whereas a couple of -- definitely a couple of months in every year I'd lose to get that feeling, getting stuck in my backswing.

Q. Looking back over this process, do you think you sacrificed the ability to win golf tournaments to better yourself?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes. I finished -- I had that lovely record of -- it's now 30 times second place. During the first 29 of those second places I look back at that now, many a Saturday evening when I was leading the tournament I was trying to improve my swing to play well the following week, not the following day. And I lost many a tournament because I was actually trying to get better for the next week.
I don't necessarily do that now. I certainly wouldn't advocate doing that if I was back there. But I've spent most of my career trying to get better for the future rather than for the immediate future, let's say. And you know, that's what I've been doing this year.
Obviously I wouldn't recommend it to everybody to do it all the time. You've got to play for the now every so often. But I fully expect that I go through this now and hopefully be more comfortable with my swing and going forward over the next ten years I'll be very competitive and win plenty more tournaments. But definitely -- I definitely sacrificed -- I've done it many times.
We all do it, players. You sacrifice in the short-term so that you get better for the long-term. Long-term consistency is what it's all about.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Thanks very much for coming.

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