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August 8, 2009

Padraig Harrington


SCOTT CROCKETT: Padraig, thanks for coming and joining us. You started the day one shot ahead. You're now three ahead. Just give us your thoughts on today and we'll talk about tomorrow.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I'm obviously happy with my day's work. As I said, the key is to keep breaking 70. That makes sure everybody else if they're going to win this tournament, they're going to have to play well.
I felt I went out there the first couple of holes, I didn't think things quite went for me, and then I played poorly in the middle of the round but started recovering well and that gave me a great boost going into the back nine, and created a few chances and holed a few putts and really felt good on the back nine.
I was really pushing hard to put some room between me and the field, and that was a nice feeling. There wasn't quite the defensive sort of position I was in maybe the last couple of days, but it was a bit more like the first day, just going after things and really trying to go forward.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Have you thought about tomorrow, your strategy for tomorrow as yet?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, not really, just more of the same it will be. You know, I realize I'm going to have a difficult day, that's for sure. You know, this golf course has obviously been very good for Tiger. He's played well on it in the past and done well, so I don't think anything is going to be easy tomorrow. Probably at best it's going to be a long, hard day and a battle. That's what I'm going to prepare myself for.

Q. You worked pretty hard to get to this point again to have a chance to win a tournament, and you're paired with Tiger, having to beat Tiger. Does that make it any more difficult?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Even asking the question you're putting more spotlight on it. Yes. I wasn't aware who was in second place at all today. I assumed Tim Clark was in second place all day today. When I looked up and saw Tiger, yeah, that makes tomorrow all the tougher. It's tough playing with him and it's tough playing against him on a golf course he's doing very well on. So yeah, it's going to be an interesting day, as I said. All the more interesting and good for the ratings, I suppose. (Laughter).

Q. What do you recall of the Dunlop Phoenix in 2006? I think you spoke about Tiger getting a bit defensive when he had a three-shot lead coming into the last few holes.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, that was a different -- Tiger was cruising home there, and I could see he was in cruise control. He was playing lovely golf and was settling for pars. In that situation I saw an opportunity for myself, even though I hadn't played particularly well up to that, I saw an opportunity that if I could start making birdies, maybe he's just taking the foot off the pedal a bit early. That worked out well for me. We had a playoff that day and I came out on top.
But I led Tiger in Target a few years ago in the last round, too, and it was a totally different story. He pressed all day, and it came right down to the wire there.
You just don't know what's going to unfold tomorrow. But obviously at this stage I know it's going to be a difficult day. I'm going to have to have -- be thinking well, and as I said, keep an eye on the situation and see what's required at all stages.
I don't expect -- the probably thing I do expect is to have a tough day. Really from the word go it's going to be a real tough day. Just the hype of it all, everything about it, it's just going to be a lot of work tomorrow.

Q. I'm wondering, after all the water under the bridge and all the time on the range and all the dues you've paid whether you feel like you're up to the challenge. It seems like you've gotten it all fixed in a week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know what, it has nothing to do with dues being paid on the range. If that was the case, there would be different guys winning the tournaments. It's not about how much work you do. Sometimes it's actually -- how would I put it? It can be a cop-out sometimes to work harder and blame that sort of side of things.
No, I don't see it like that, that there's any payback here tomorrow. I know I'm a better player. I will be a better player than I was last year. I don't have to go and prove it tomorrow. I just have to know it myself. And I know it will gradually show throughout my game going forward, and that's the main thing for me. Whatever happens tomorrow, I ain't out there to prove anything to anybody. I ain't out there to say that my new golf swing is all okay. More or less I'm using my old golf swing if you know what I mean, it's just in transition. So I'm not going to -- I'm not out there saying that this is the end of it. I'm sure I'm going to miss plenty of cuts going forward. I'm sure I'm going to win plenty of tournaments going forward. Tomorrow is just another day in that, and I'm not going to make too big a deal of it until tomorrow evening if I win. Then it'll be a big deal. But if I don't, it won't be a big deal. (Laughter).
It's just another game of golf, go out there and approach it the right way. Another game of golf in contention, which is what it's all about, getting up in the morning tomorrow there will be butterflies, and that's why I play this game, it's that sort of nervous tension that you always want.

Q. When is the last time you had butterflies?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Probably the Open. No, the PGA obviously coming down the stretch. But I was more in the tournament. Probably the Open was more -- going out into the last round of The Open when you're in the last group, that was pretty nerve-wracking.

Q. I was curious at what point you were on the course when you looked up and noticed that Tiger --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Didn't know that Tiger was on the leaderboard, no idea.

Q. You didn't know until you finished?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Until I holed out on 18. I looked up to see who I would be paired with tomorrow. That's all I was looking for. I had no idea. It was a surprise to see him there.

Q. And the immediate reaction was?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, Tiger has a little bit -- in fairness, he's earned it. There's no doubt he has a little bit of effect on every player. I wouldn't be -- I honestly couldn't tell you, barring my two playing partners the first two days, Tim Clark today, Prayad Marksaeng, I couldn't get to ten scores this week, as in ten individual scores, couldn't tell you where they were, but you always know where Tiger is. As I said, he's earned that reputation, he's deserves it. Maybe you guys tell it, maybe somebody in my immediate circle will always mention how Tiger is doing. So yes, we are aware of him. He's got himself there, and he deserves every piece of whatever it gives to his side. At the end of the day there is an intimidation factor there.

Q. So you looked at that white board, saw Tiger and thought?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was surprised, yeah. I didn't know he was up there. Okay, he's in second place, there he is, 7-under par, there you go, three-shot lead, is that enough? Probably not. (Laughter). But now I really wish that putt went in on 18. (Laughter).
Those things went through my head, yeah. I was trying to put as much room between me and the field. But at the end of the day, there's probably never enough room between you and Tiger, so I know I have to play well tomorrow if I'm going to win.
It isn't a question of me going out there tomorrow and thinking I'm going to get away with shooting 70. That's not in the game plan tomorrow. I'm going to have to play good golf to win this tournament. And probably would be the case if you were four ahead, if I had holed the putt on 18. I'd still have to go out there and play well. There's no getting way from it tomorrow. Tiger obviously loves this golf course, and I've got to expect that he's going to perform tomorrow.

Q. You forecast what you said, a tough day for tomorrow. What's the hardest part about playing head-to-head with Tiger in a final group? Is it the crowd? Is it the pressure of a championship or what?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Crowds are great in that situation. You know, it's great when there's fans around and you've got a big crowd. It makes it a lot easier to play golf. Tiger is easier to play with in that sense. He's very professional. There's no problem there.
I suppose, you know, if there's any issues, it's more the internal, your own self, the extra spotlight and focus and all that and just managing that sort of thing and trying to not make it any bigger than it is. So it's probably the internal things more so than the external things. But we're pretty much used to it now. As I said, when there is a big crowd, it is actually easier than a light crowd.

Q. All that said, though, wouldn't you rather play with him than whether he's behind you and you're always wondering what he's doing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I wouldn't be wondering what he's doing. I'd just be totally looking after myself. As I said, I didn't see what he was doing today. Yeah, if he wasn't in my group, I would deliberately not be watching. I'd be deliberately making sure that I wasn't aware of what he was doing. Up until -- there's a point in time, maybe if you were borderline on 16 going for it in two, then you'd have to know exactly how you stand. But there's not a golf shot out there really that you're going to try and hit the best shot -- there's not too many obvious risk-reward holes out there, bar 16, if it was in range. So in general you can just mind your own business, play your own game, and it's obviously harder to do it when he's teeing up with you. But I'm going to try in my own head create that atmosphere, doing my own thing all day.

Q. I believe this morning started with a pillow fight, did it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, well, obviously we had a bit of spare time today, but obviously I've got my couple of kids here, and they're very keen on the pillow fights at the moment and the wrestling and the football and all those sort of games, stacking bricks and all that. It kept me nicely occupied for a few hours this morning, and hopefully we'll be doing more of that tomorrow.

Q. Will you be doing that again tomorrow morning?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would say pretty much the same routine. It seemed to work okay today.

Q. You've been asked so much about working on your swing this past year. Did you ever take any comfort or were you aware that Tiger did that twice after all of his success?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've done it five times, at least five times (laughter). So no, I didn't need to look elsewhere. The comfort is in what I've done myself over the years. Many times I've been way down deep into my golf swing. I went from -- as an amateur I went from hitting a fade off the tee to drawing the ball after I turned pro in a week. So that's a pretty big change. I did that in a power week before the Tour started. I never put it cack-handed until my first day as a Tour pro, at the Tour school, never put it left-handed below right, so I changed that. I've always been changing, I'm always looking to change. No, I didn't need to look around me. I had plenty of experience in that field myself.

Q. Tiger had a nice charge on the back nine, and then you matched him a little bit. How satisfying was that, and was it your putter?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I wasn't aware of what Tiger was doing. I had no idea.

Q. What did you do well then?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: What I did well was I played good at the start and a few chances weren't going away type of thing, and then I played poorly and I recovered well, so I was feeling good. When I was feeling good and started hitting a few good shots, I kept going after it. I was feeling like things were going my way, and my focus was really in on the back nine. I was thinking birdies all the way home. I was pushing hard. It's just a little bit of a change of mindset, and sometimes that happens when you make a few recoveries; you feel a little bit more bullet-proof, I suppose, and you go after a few things.

Q. This sort of follows on from that. After all you've been through and obviously your confidence takes a knock on the golf course and has taken quite a few knocks on the golf course recently, where did this week come from?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, as you know, I'm probably one of the most optimistic people ever off the golf course. I have a great cure for playing badly as a golfer, missing a cut or losing a tournament, and it's called go to the practice range the next day and you feel great. I've always been a pretty positive person, optimistic off the course. It hasn't really been much of a knock to me.
And where did this week come from? It probably came from starting about three, four weeks ago, being back into -- as I said, I finally discovered what I needed to discover at the French Open, and ever since then I've been back on track and working on my overall game rather than just one element.

Q. You alluded to the Dunlop event in Japan and playing with him and beating him down the stretch. Whatever the circumstances, that hasn't been done often by anybody, especially when he's had a three-shot lead with six holes to go --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I kind of snuck up on him there. It was not quite beating him down the stretch. As I said, he just took the foot off the pedal there. Target was probably a more satisfying win. That was a bigger win in the States sort of thing, and he was pushing and I needed to stay ahead of him. That was probably the more pleasing. Both of them were very pleasing, but probably the Target was more character building.

Q. I guess where I was going with that was in the back of your mind you've still got been there, done that in a couple of instances nose to nose with him, which must be something you can carry forward, I assume? Not many guys can say that at all.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I guess that's possible. I would say this is where it comes from: All my life as a pro I've had many people that I would put up on a pedestal and felt like it would be a big deal to beat them. Even as an amateur, that's probably what motivated me. I used to think this guy was better than me or whatever. I've never been the guy that walked out to the first tee or it's happened very rarely in my life where the guys would have picked out and said, well, he's the man to beat. I've always been the guy trying to beat the top dog, let's say. Whether that top dog was -- you've got to think it was -- there's a number of them. When I started out maybe on the European Tour it was Monty, it was Ernie Els, it was Retief Goosen, there was always somebody there.
So I've had a lot of experience trying to beat something who necessarily I would put up there on a pedestal and think I'm not as good as him, how do I go about beating him. And that kind of thing was kind of the story of my amateur career. I tended to always -- there was always a lot of players. I'd end up beating them, but I always felt they were better than me.
I've had plenty of experience and practice of beating somebody who supposedly who is up there. So that's probably why I had two good rounds against Tiger.

Q. I believe you characterized yesterday's round as conservative, if I'm not mistaken. Is that your mode? Did you follow that all day today?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I got nice and aggressive towards the end. I was pushing. Things were happening for me. I felt good. I was free flowing and rolling in the putts at the hole. So no, definitely not the last sort of eight holes.

Q. In addition to that, will you be pushing again tomorrow, or do you still go with conservative because you're the one with the lead?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm going to have to play well tomorrow. At the end of the day, if I can be -- the key for me would be if I can shoot under 70, that puts a bit of -- Tiger has to play well to beat me. That's probably the key tomorrow is make sure that at the end of the day he has to go out there and perform. And if I shoot sub-70, he's going to have to play a good round of golf to win, and if he does, I'll pat him on the back and say well done, because he will have played well.

Q. You made several references that Tiger is comfortable on this golf course. You've got three rounds in the 60s. You have to be feeling pretty comfortable about the golf course.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm just talking about experience of years gone by. Tiger has been a prolific winner here. It's got to be somewhere -- in many ways I'm building him up in my own head, if you know what I mean. That would make me come out buzzing tomorrow and fighting as hard as I can. I know I'm going to need to do that. Obviously he's had a great record here. I ain't going to get away with anything easy tomorrow. That's the key thought I've got to have going out there is I'm not hoping that Tiger turns up and shoots 70. I'm preparing myself that he's going to turn up tomorrow and shoot 65. I've got to better that. That's the idea in my head. I've got to go out there and perform.
The last thing I want to do is go out there hoping that he doesn't. I've got to pump up to myself and put in my head that I've got to go out there and play good golf if I want to win this tournament.

Q. You kept your round going with some really good escapes --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, it started my round off. As I said, up to that, I had a good chance on a lobby pitch into the second that looked like I hit it stone dead. I had a nice chance on 3. I hit a lobby bunker shot and was unlucky at 4, had a nice chance on 5, nearly holed a putt on 6. All of a sudden everything was going away from me. It's just not happening. Then I played 8, 9, 10 poorly, but I made three great saves. So now I think everything is going my way. If I hit it to 20 feet in those three holes and missed the three putts, I would have felt awful going down the 11th, but I felt great going down the 11th because of those three saves. I started playing well again and started holing the putts.
Sometimes it's a nice thing when you get off the beaten track and you recover. You feel better about how you're scoring anyway, and that's -- obviously my mindset in the last nine holes was very good, very positive in that sense.

Q. Of those three, could you just go over the one you liked the most of 8, 9 and 10?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think obviously -- I liked them all. (Laughter). Yeah, you know, 8 is a tough tee shot. Yeah, 8 and 9 are two tough tee shots, and I missed the fairway right, I clipped a branch coming out, finished in the fairway, good break, and I hit a nice chip, solid chip to three feet.
9, hit a bad tee shot down the left. I hit a really good low hook out of there with a 6-iron. Again, actually I was a little bit unlucky to finish 20 feet short of the hole. It looked like it was going to run up close.
10, I hit a poor tee shot. I hit a nice recovery shot to the green, but I liked the fact that I chipped it stone dead. Those were the sort of things I haven't been doing. I didn't chip it to six feet and make myself work, I chipped it to a foot and tapped it in, which is stress-free and makes you feel good about going to the next tee.

Q. You had the crazy eyes coming down the last few holes. It's been a while since we've seen that. Do you feel that? Do you notice when you're getting into that zone?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I definitely was somewhat there. I wasn't quite like the PGA last year. But I was definitely in there, definitely had my eye on the greens.
I don't notice it, but I feel it. I can feel it. I can feel the lack of interference. I just play the shots and don't get too involved in it. Yeah, so I can feel it.
I suppose the feeling is noticing it, but the key is not to pay too much attention, just let it happen.

Q. Just as a follow-up, you've holed quite a lot of lag putts this week. Has anything changed in your putting coming in here this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I try to keep my head down and hope that it lasts for one more round. (Laughter). Actually I'd like five more rounds, can I have the four next week, as well.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the shot on 16, how difficult that is with the back pin.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a great shot. It always seems to play short, that pitch, obviously going over water you just get a little bit anxious and you get a little bit pumped up and you just hit it that five yards further.
I was trying to be conservative at 110 yards and I was probably hitting a 105-yard shot recognizing that I would be a little bit up for it as you always are on 16. It just played short. The fact that the green slopes away from you at the back of the green. It's a great golf hole that is, really great. You can make birdie, but as we've seen over the years, you don't have to do a hell of a lot wrong and all of a sudden you're making bogey.

Q. Where were you trying to land it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was trying to land it pin high. I was actually trying to fire it in there. With the greens soft I was feeling good, pitching it into holes, skip a couple yards and spin back. That was in my head anyway. I was a little bit unlucky to plug in the bunker. My ball jumped in there, one bounce and then plugged. It would have been a pretty straightforward bunker shot if it hadn't have plugged. But it wasn't a great second shot. And on the third I got anxious on it and gave it a little bit more of a hit than I wanted to.

Q. You've talked a little bit about preparing for tomorrow to be a long, hard day of battle. You sound as though you relish that. I guess my question would be would you be feeling that tomorrow would be a long hard day of battle if you were playing with Tim Clark or Jerry Kelly?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think I'd be trying to create that feeling. I think I've got to go out there with that mindset. I don't want to go out there in any way, shape or form in any way being defensive. If Tiger wasn't three shots behind, I'd be saying, well, I don't want anybody -- I don't want to give guys who are 4-under par a chance of winning this tournament. I want to make sure that -- that was the key about trying to move away from the field. You want to take guys out of contention. And at 10-under, I can take most of the field out. I won't be able to take Tiger out, but most of the field, if I play golf tomorrow, will have no chance of catching me. They're going to have to shoot -- if I break 70, they're going to have to start shooting low 60s. It's a good -- that was my mindset. It would be my mindset going out tomorrow with a battle on, but obviously Tiger is having that a lot. It's very easy to figure out you're going to have a tough day ahead of you.

Q. You don't have to create that feeling?

Q. You mentioned next week. Can you talk about your tee times for next week? Do you know your pairing?

Q. Tiger for two days and Rich Beem.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know if you guys are aware of that, but the hardest thing about playing with Tiger in the first few days is very few players play very well in the next two days after. There's a stat for you to go look up. It wears guys down playing with Tiger the first two rounds of a major. A lot of players perform okay on the Thursday and Friday, but then on the Saturday and Sunday after the hype has gone away, they've struggled. Somebody can go and do the homework and find out the stat.

Q. Did you find it yourself when you played with him?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I missed the cut. (Laughter).

Q. U.S. Open?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, at the U.S. Open. Definitely you can do your homework on that one. Because of the hype and adrenaline that you use up playing with Tiger on the Thursday and Friday, there is a little bit of a lull afterwards, and players have tended not to perform as well on the weekend, even though they've matched him or played well on the Thursday or Friday.

Q. You just noticed that yourself anecdotally on your own?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, somebody close to me actually told me that.

Q. Sounds like a Rotella fact.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, it wasn't, actually. It was another very wise man at home in Ireland, just a golfing friend.

Q. You played both rounds with him, I think, at Bay Hill and you played the weekend. So are you speaking from personal experience there.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, just a person that has pointed that out to me, and I suppose with the warning, you know, I would actually play down playing with him in the first two rounds, as in as much as I'll hype it up tomorrow, I'll play it down in those situations that I don't want to wear myself out before -- the tournament doesn't start in a major until the weekend or the last round sort of thing. So the last thing you want to do is get too hyped up early on, and it's possible with all the tension that you would. And definitely -- so you have to work the opposite, cool it off a little bit when you're playing with him the first two rounds.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Padraig, thank you, very much.

End of FastScripts

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