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September 9, 2009

Padraig Harrington


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington into the interview room here at the BMW Championship. You continued your great play last week in Boston, your fourth consecutive Top 10 finish. Just comment on your play and also your preparations for this week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, obviously this time of the year I hit my form. I'm pushing to get a win. Last week was a little bit disappointing to take the lead on the front nine, to be running with it, to have obviously a bit of a mess-up on 10 and 12. It was nice to finish strong, but yeah, a bit of a disappointment.
The good news about that is obviously I've got to keep pushing. I need to perform well here this week to get into the Top 5. You know, if we do that we can have a win at the TOUR Championship and obviously win the FedExCup. So that's strong on my mind is trying to finish the season as well as I can.

Q. Last year you played superbly, won two majors and didn't make it to the TOUR Championship; this year you had some, if I can be polite, some ordinary results until late and have had two good weeks in the Playoff events and are about No. 11, I think.

Q. 7th, excuse me. Which system do you think is more correct, and which one is more out of kilter?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think -- not because I'm doing well in it this year, I think the system this year, the modifications are a big improvement. I think you've got to perform in the FedExCup if you want to win the FedExCup, and that's important in any playoff system. But it does take into account how you performed earlier on in the season in terms of keeping you in the events.
But definitely it gives you -- anybody who's teeing it up in the FedExCup can win it, as Heath Slocum is showing, and that's what you want in a playoff situation.
You don't want the first nine months of the year to count too much, but you also want to give some dues to those guys who have played well for nine months.
So I think the system now, it'll be interesting to see what tweaks will be made at the end of it, but it looks about right to me. I think you've got to play well to move, and if you miss a cut, you move back ten spots or something or eight spots. It's not like you're moving back 20 or 30 spots like last year.

Q. To take you out of the picture for a minute, as poorly as Heath has played all year, is it right for him to be No. 3?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's called a playoff, and that's very important, that people -- very important in a playoff system that everybody can win and has a chance of winning, not just a mathematical chance of winning. Everybody has a chance of winning, and also that big-name players get knocked out. There's no point in having a cutoff if the people that are being put off aren't some of the marquee players, because that makes it more exciting. When you talk about who's missing out this week or who's missing out on the TOUR Championship, you want some marquee names to miss out in order for it to be meaningful.
So on both sides of that, you want to give everybody -- whoever plays the best in the FedExCup Series should win the FedExCup. That's really what it should be.
You know, you do want to see a few casualties. That's what TV is about; you've got to see a few guys knocked out, like I was knocked out last year. At least it gave a little bit of debate to the FedExCup, which is a good thing.

Q. You've been pushing volatility, though, since day one out here, regardless -- you were always saying more, more, more.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm aware -- in any of these situations where you have a TOUR Championship or a cutoff, it's not who gets in, it's who doesn't get in is what's talked about when the cutoff is made, and you need some marquee names to miss out in order to make it exciting. If the top 30 best players by World Ranking made it in, there would be nothing to talk about. That's fair and just. You'd want somebody who hasn't performed or somebody who does miss out. You need to have that situation. The Golf Channel wants to have somebody to talk about that missed out that in the public's eye should have qualified but hasn't played well enough to create that sort of debate, to create that excitement.
Having big-name players miss out creates exciting about the guys that got in, and it makes it more important for the guys that got in seeing some big names that didn't get in.

Q. If you didn't know -- geez, I'm thinking Firestone week you were on the outside looking in at 125, I think it was 142 going into that week if I remember the number right, and at that point you thought when you were getting on the airplane after the PGA, you didn't know whether you were going to be coming back, whether you'd be coming back for the Barclays at that point.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, my year was not exactly -- my schedule wasn't set in stone at that stage.

Q. I guess my point is you've done an awful lot of ad-libbing with your schedule here over six weeks. There's been a lot of dates crammed into a short window and a trip overseas and then back. What has that done physically and what adjustments have you had to do with your driving range marathon sessions and all that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there's no doubt that I've been very conscious -- the biggest draw on your physical resources is actually competing, and I competed at all four events, the last four I've played in.
As professionals, we can pretty much turn up and play a regular event, finish middle of the pack, even have a good day on Sunday and finish well up. But if we're not winning the tournament or in contention, we're not stressed. We can run those weeks over and over and they don't take much out of you. Those are the weeks that you tend to put in serious hours on the range. You do a lot of work in those sort of weeks.
But if you're in contention, I've learnt this over the years, you can't expect to have the mental and physical capabilities throughout a week in contention if you're going to do too much work elsewhere. You've got to admire the likes of Tiger, because I'm sure Tiger -- I would be very surprised, I'm only surmising here, but I'd be very surprised to ever see Tiger Woods play two events into a major again.

Q. He said he wouldn't.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Even for him, who is probably the most familiar golfer in the game with winning, even for him, having two weeks of winning, took that out of him on a Sunday in a major when you need to be 100 percent on top of your game. I've had four weeks where I haven't won but I still had that sort of intensity and pressure. So on one hand I'm losing a little bit in terms of fatigue, but I'm still motivated because I haven't won.
If I had won over the last couple of weeks like when I won my majors last year and things, I'd have a big dropoff straightaway. What's keeping me going is the fact that I haven't won. I'm pushing hard and I'm focused to do that, and in many ways I'm on the edge in that sense. I could definitely see a win making me totally drop back off. But until I get that win, I think I'll be going hard after it.

Q. Have you throttled it back in practices or post-round sessions, anything like that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, it's a short week. I definitely have a little bit, yeah. I'm aware of -- but as well as that, when you're in contention you're finishing -- by the time you finish and do some media and sign some autographs, it's 7:00 o'clock in the evening. So you don't have as much time to do that. It in itself throttles you back. But there's definitely a big case at the moment that I have to be very wary of, the fact that I've had four stressful weeks, and that takes its toll.

Q. Just to follow on that, if you were to win this week, would you then feel a big letdown at the TOUR Championship when the big prize was offered?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's $10 million at the TOUR Championship. I think I can get motivated again.

Q. And a week off.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I'm going to go home for five days in between. But I think the TOUR Championship, if you've got a chance of winning it, there's enough motivation there. 10 million reasons to win that one. Well, actually it's practically 11 and a half because you'd have to win the actual event, too.
I do believe they should give out the cash on the 18th green. Just sit it there just to have a good look at it. It would be great, like the World Series of Poker. We could take it in a wheelbarrow up to the clubhouse. Anything that falls out, it's the caddie's.

Q. One of the things that is constantly sort of being talked about is people who are going to be pushing Tiger, and every week it's always him and it's someone else who's the guy doing the pushing, so for a couple weeks there it was you; now we've got Steve Stricker who's wearing that mantle after last week. His view is that he can't think about that because it's a lot to think about. What advice, as you look back on your few weeks there --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: What advice have I got for Tiger? I don't think so.

Q. For Stricker actually is what I meant.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think Stricker is in an ideal position. I would look at Stricker, as I would with all players, I try and learn from everybody, and what's great about Steve Stricker is he's trying to be Steve Stricker. He's going to try and beat Tiger Woods by playing Steve Stricker's golf. He's not going to go out there and try and play Tiger's game, and that's very important to distinguish those two things.
If you try and match yourself up to anybody -- I would have had this issue when I first came out on the European Tour. I wanted to play like Monty, but the only way of beating Monty was to play Padraig Harrington's game. Steve has realized that he's got to stick to his game, and that's why he's performing as well as he is.
It's probably the most evident if you go out there and watch him play. He plays exactly how he plays the game. He doesn't try and do anything that he can't do. He plays well within himself, and when you add those numbers up at the end of the week, it's very impressive, and that's the only way any player can compete with Tiger is by doing their own thing, and in many ways, the best way of beating him is doing your own thing and making Tiger perform better. And when he does, you'll say well done. But the key is not to have a situation where you've played below par and Tiger can get away with not playing his very best and still win.
I think Steve is ideal in that situation about being his own man. Jim Furyk is superb at doing it, as well. There's plenty of guys out there who are excellent at playing their own game.

Q. Do you think that was the lesson of Yang that most other golfers learned watching him against Tiger?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know if Yang has played his own game. I've seen Yang lead a couple of tournaments from the front and he seems very good in that position, when he won the HSBC, when he won the Honda Classic. Both of those he led from the front. He was obviously in a pressure situation, and he's obviously a guy when his game is on form he feels good about it and can keep going with that.
I think that's a slightly different scenario. I don't know how he -- I don't know him well enough except for the fact he's very good from the front. So I wouldn't be 100 percent sure with him, but definitely Stricker, it's all about playing his own game and doing his own thing.

Q. All these weeks on the road and all that time in contention, does that compound it when you come to a golf course that's very long and potentially difficult? Can that compound the fatigue factor?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I don't think -- the golf course is fantastic here. It's a big, tough golf course. It looks like it's going to put plenty of pressure on all the players out there this week. I hope it suits my game. I hope I play well on it.
The key for me would be to stay in contention. If I drop out of contention, I could see a dropoff then of the intensity and the adrenaline, and the chance of winning would keep me going. If I lose that sort of thing, I could see myself dropping away and not having the mental strength to fight on, let's say.

Q. How difficult do you think they can make this golf course?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: They can throw anything at you out there, if they play this thing from the back and put some tough pins in there. It's evident that when some pin positions will be shorter tee boxes and -- you could see how -- like we're experienced enough now to realize that we're not going to be falling off the back of the tee boxes and we're not going to be playing the back pin positions. It's going to be sensible stuff. Then see how the golf progresses the first two days and then adjust what they need to do on Saturday and Sunday.
It's a strong golf course, so I would think that their main focus would be setting it up a little bit easier rather than trying to get the most out of it.

Q. Before I ask what I was going to ask, I wanted to follow up something you just said. You said Tiger would probably not play two in a row going into majors again. Is that something that you --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's in consideration for me. I've always said that two in a row is an ideal warm-up going into a major. If I'm in contention at those two events, it's not ideal. What I've tended to do in the past is the very first of those two events has been very much nearly getting to know my swing again and getting to know my game, and the second week I've been getting into it more and then the major. But if I have a little bit more discipline I could go down the line of maybe just having one-tournament warmup. I'd have to be a better player to do it, but I think that's certainly a distinct consideration if not a possibility next year.

Q. And what I was going to ask you is I know you analyze every round with a fine-tooth comb. What did you come to for conclusions on Monday night?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: On Sunday night I looked at -- I didn't actually play particularly well last week for most of the week. I didn't feel great about what I was doing a lot of the game. Short game was strong. 100 percent out of bunkers, 80 percent chipping and putting. That sort of stuff kept me in contention last week. You know, I did a lot of things right, and that's what got me close at the end of the day. I was a little bit disappointed. I hit a poor shot on 12, but I actually got unlucky on it. Another day I would have made 4 off the same tee shot.
But who knows. This is the way it goes, as I said. It wasn't my very best week and yet I still kept myself in contention, and that's a good sign.

Q. You mentioned money falling out of a wheelbarrow for the caddies. There's a lot of bonus money out there. How should the caddies -- if any, what percentage of that pile do you think they should get? If you won $10 million --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: My caddie gets full percentage.

Q. Of everything?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I wouldn't consider that any different than winning a tournament, no.

Q. Second thing, your last four tournaments being in contention, right there knocking on the door, is that a positive that out-strips the penalty shots that have kind of derailed you in three of those tournaments?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Somebody tried to pull up a stat the other day, Golf Channel came up with a stat straightaway when I finished, you've had double bogey or more in your last round three of your last rounds. I said, well, I didn't have it at the Barclays and that was last week; I shot 67 in the last round. You can come up with those stats and figure out, yeah, I probably double bogeyed a hole four years ago coming into the last hole. I know I've won a tournament hitting out of bounds in the last round. You never know in these situations.
The strong point for me is where I've had a couple of bad holes, I've made minimum bogeys in the last rounds, maybe the four last rounds I probably made a total of four, five bogeys, something like that. So that's really positive stuff. I'm keeping -- I've had a couple of blips, but as I said, the double bogey last week, another day -- that hit the limb of a tree we didn't even know was there. I'd hit my second shot and be down on the edge of the green and probably making 4 and moving on. So you can't always legislate for everything. I know I'll have plenty of rounds where I won't have a double bogey in the last round.
My friend at the moment, one particular friend, he sent me the theme tune to "Jaws," music to stay out of the water. Then he sent me a ball retriever for retrieving balls from water hazards. Then he's invited me to stay at his house in Portugal for the Portuguese Masters coming up, and he said he'll put red stakes around the swimming pool just to make me feel at home.

Q. This is your friend?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: This is my friend. (Laughter.) You've got to put up with these things. I'm well aware that -- and this is the whole nature of my game. I'm quite comfortable with putting myself on the line. I know I'm going to mess up some days, but the days I don't mess up, they're great, and I'm quite happy -- I've got three majors in the bag the days I didn't mess up. Other days I mess up, but every day I'm learning, every day I improve, and the fact that I can accept those days -- you know, it hurts.
I can tell you what, I had a great chance of winning last week. It hurts. I had a great chance of winning in Akron; it hurt. I had a great chance at the PGA. I look back at that and go, wow. They all hurt. But if you don't put yourself there -- I could hide in the pack and shoot 66 the last day and finish 5th and everybody would say, well, nice week. But I ain't going to win the tournament there.
Unless you put yourself out there, and even if you do put yourself out there, if you put your neck on the line it gets chopped off every now and again. If you don't want that, you're not going to win as many tournaments as you can.

Q. Just curious, Arnold Palmer turns 80 tomorrow. Do you have any favorite stories?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've been asked this earlier in the week. The best one I could say about Arnold Palmer, I saw on TV -- it's about ten years ago. He's playing a Seniors event, and they're interviewing him after the event, and he is buzzing. You've never seen a man with so much excitement and enthusiasm because he found the "secret to the game." (Laughter.)
I just love the fact he's played the game at least 50 years competitively, and he's still convinced that there's a secret, just like all of us are out there hoping that tomorrow we're going to hit the range and we're going to find that one little thing that we've got for the rest of life. At 70 years of age, he was just buzzing at this interview. He'd found the secret to the game. I just love his enthusiasm.

Q. Does it discourage you at all that you went searching for a key this year and Arnie didn't find it until he was 70?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It encourages me that he's still looking at 70.

Q. Have you played the par-5 15th hole, yet, and if you have, it's the shortest of the par-5s; can you just give us your strategy on that hole?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Pretty straightforward, driver, hybrid, 10 feet, knock it in for eagle. Straightforward. That's what we did today, that's what we'll try and do every day.
JOHN BUSH: As always, thanks for coming by. Appreciate it.

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