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October 14, 2009

Padraig Harrington


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Padraig, thanks for joining us. Welcome to the Portugal Masters. Your thoughts going into the week and your form?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm looking forward to it. It's kind of -- you know, the course isn't too hard. There's a lot of water out there and a lot of golf shots, you have to hit if you want to win this tournament. There's a number of those par 5s and if you want to get on in two you have to take on the water off the tee on the second shot.
So very exciting back nine on the course, and lends itself to an exciting tournament. Obviously the greens are soft out there so you have to expect the scoring would be good, depending obviously how much wind there is during the week, it certainly makes it very testing when the wind is out there. The rough is heavy enough in the morning when it's wet. But I still believe you're going to have to shoot a lot more than -- the greens are softer this year and you'll have to play well this week and shoot a good one.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: 19-under last year.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I like the golf course. Especially the back nine, it's very exciting, lots of water. You know with the rough being reasonably heavy in places, you've got to hit the shots. You can't afford to bail out too much.

Q. What's the goal this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm still chasing The Race to Dubai. That's my attitude. I have four events. I need to win at least two of them and probably need to win one of the next three and one of the next three on top of that and win The Race to Dubai -- it's mathematically possible. Probably any of the top guys, if they go out and win an event in the last four or five events, they will probably win it. But it's still possible.
So that's what I've got to focus on. I will say, I haven't won this year, so if I get a win in my last four events, I'll probably take that, as well, as a good measure of success.

Q. Surprised if Rory won it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Would he be the youngest ever? I assume he would be. You know, I've got to say, I think it would be a great achievement and shows consistency during the year. I think he's right in pole position, two or three in pole position, but I think he's got a great opportunity and if he plays the golf, it's within his control, which is a nice way to have it coming into that final stretch.

Q. You were last on the Algarve in 2001, can you talk about coming back 8 years later as a big star?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, doesn't seem that long ago, yeah, you know what, my game has always evolved. But you know, I remember that last I hit 18 greens in regulation, I don't think I've ever done that in the last round of a tournament which is usual for me. I'm happy for Phillip, nice guy. But things have evolved. The game has improved and I continue to work on things and you know, it's always about getting better every day, every week, every tournament, and moving forward and year by year, and I believe I'm doing that.
So there hasn't been any great -- even though the results tend to lend themselves to big changes, it really has been the small, incremental changes all the way, and just gradually got as far as I've got, even though when we don't win majors, or other events, people think you're changed overnight. But really, it started well before 2001 and it's continued to go on.

Q. (When was it that you spoke to George about going to the Tournament Committee meeting)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That was last Thursday, Copenhagen, we had a little chat. Well, we had a long chat before we had the invite sort of thing. So we set up to have a little meeting while we were both there and we had a discussion and part of that discussion was why don't you come along to the tournament committee meeting and help some of the other guys.
Obviously I had spoken and do speak to a number of the guys on the committee who I know well; how would I find out what's going on. So I think it's a case in point that maybe give a different view from in many ways, the players who now plays a lot of his golf outside of The European Tour.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I don't know, it's hard to say whose side I'm trying to get on there. You've got to remember that -- I assume, and I don't know, but it's in George's interests to have the most open tour he can. It's in the current players' interests to have -- obviously in terms of The Race to Dubai, maybe to limit it in some ways. But I would assume George is looking a little bit like to open it up would be, I assume would be his goal. He wants as many players as he can to join our tour. I'm not putting words in his mouth, but I would assume that -- you know what, I can't really assume where he's coming from but --

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: For the economic times. But I would be of the belief that as the growth of Europe, we started off, The European Tour started out as the PGA Tour of Great Britain, and Great Britain and Ireland, and then moved to The European Tour including Europe and then embraced Australia, and then embraced the Middle East. And where is our greatest growth area going forward? It's got to be Asia.
As much as if we are going to grow the Tour and events, you know, if you want to compare ourselves to say the U.S. Tour, and I assume that is the ultimate goal of The European Tour is to be a viable alternative to The European Tour, well, they have 40-plus events of 5 million to 7 million, and I don't think that's going to happen in Europe alone. If we want to have those sort of calibre of events, we have to really embrace Asia. That's where we have got $5 million event in two weeks' time, they are the biggest events on The European Tour.
That's where The European Tour has got to look to grow and embrace, not to close them out in any shape or form by trying to protect some of the events that are here in Europe. We have to see ourselves as a world tour. It's impossible to see ourselves -- and this would be my contention, is that it would be narrow-minded to think that we should only be playing golf in Europe. We should be playing all around the world. We should be embracing the biggest markets. We just cannot grow -- it's been proved, very few countries can hold more than one event. Unfortunately that means we are going to have to go, in time, with the Olympics and that, we'll embrace Eastern European countries.
But Asia seems to be the growth area. It's one that everybody in golf is talking about. We are having some of our biggest events there, and those are the ones that, you know, if they want to encourage us to play events, maybe those are the ones we should be encouraged to play. They are our biggest events.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: But as far as Europe is concerned, I do not see it like that. I see The European Tour as a world tour. I believe if you want to encourage the world's players to come and play in Europe -- and you've got to remember that the South Africans and the Australians used to come to Europe when that was their choice. Now the U.S. Tour has opened up an incredible amount due to Seve and others, lobbying, and now a lot of South African players, Australian players, and Asian players will move to the U.S. by choice.
How do we encourage them to play on The European Tour; how do we encourage all of the players who want to join. This year a number of international players joined our tour by curtailing their options. And I lobbied a number of these players. I canvassed these players to join the Tour by lobbying. By changing this now, it's possible some of these players will leave and I see it if we want to grow our tour, we have to encourage players to join our tour.
You know, it's not necessarily for us now. It's for the guys who are going to play in 20 years' time. You know, if Europe wants to close itself down and become a European Tour, it will get passed out by the other tours. Asia will pass the Tour in 15, 20 years' time. Either Europe is part of it, or if they close down and protect themselves and limit international players -- you know, last year must have been the first time that a member of the U.S. Tour, a U.S.-born member of the U.S. Tour joined our tour. I assume -- has that ever happened before? A U.S.-born member with a PGA TOUR card came to Europe by choice.
That's what The Race to Dubai did is it opened up things. Obviously the players are worried that the bonus might go to the wrong place, but that bonus going to the wrong place in ten, 20 years' time means that there's more international players, the Australians or Japanese or Asian players thinking Europe is a great place to go. And the only place we can grow and have those 30-plus, 40-plus events, it isn't all going to happen in Europe that's for sure.
You have to embrace the world. You know, I know it's going back to the Greg Norman, back to years ago but when you are playing an international schedule like I do, I want to play around the world. But I need -- if I'm going to go, in, two weeks' time, I'm going and playing Singapore and HSBC, the fact that you have two large events back-to-back, that's a big bonus. That's what we need. You need a number of event, and as I say, the Tour has to -- in my eyes, we have to go global. The whole of South America, nobody has anything in South America. There's plenty of markets out there and Europe has to take the lead, and drive on and stop limiting themselves by configuring themselves, and this would be my contention, considering themselves The European Tour, which is holding them back.
If they want to consider, but you know, as far as I'm concerned, we have got to move on and become that alternative to a world tour. And essentially, I know I'm rambling on here, but essentially, you know, if you looked at any other business in the world, you have a very dominant U.S. Tour, the U.S. is No. 1 dominant in business, Europe is No. 2 and the only way No. 2 can compete with No. 1 is in some ways marriage with 3, 4 and 5, and 3, 4 and 5 is Asia, South Africa, Japan. All of these countries, we have to figure a way of giving that alternative so players feel like they have a choice to go across the water.
In the interests of competition, the U.S. opened up their tour to no end in the last ten years. They have done everything they can to encourage the best players in the world to play. I don't think you'll find that the Europeans or Asian players -- well, you will find them, but the majority of players joining the U.S. Tour from Europe and Asia and places like that, don't go to Tour School. I think that's how much the U.S. Tour have opened up. They have given opportunities, if you are a good enough player, you can qualify for the U.S. Tour without going through Tour School. They have seriously opened it up and basically they have encouraged a lot of the best players in the world to join the Tour, made it easier for them to join the Tour.
Europe has to do the same thing. They have to make it easier for people to join and play, and okay, in the short term, there's a little bit of pain, but some guy who doesn't really play a lot of events and certainly doesn't play them in mainland Europe, but I don't think that there should be an issue with mainland Europe.
For years, you had to separate maybe GB&I from Europe, but as far as I'm concerned, we are all one -- got to be one world tour versus the U.S.. we have to be a competing factor and if you close it down -- this step, to be honest, it's fine. There's nothing in particular about this. It's no hardship to play four of those six events. But, what's the next step? And last year it was moving it from 11 to 12. This year it's moving it from, four out of six, which of those four events. And no matter what, you're alienating the Middle East -- Middle East has been one of our great air growth areas, or alienating Asia, which is our growth area. Everybody recognises that. That would be where I see -- from playing a lot outside and around the world, that's where I would see the dissenting view.

Q. There are difficult decisions to be made?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, yes, I believe there's a lot of difficult decisions to be made and that's up to the committee to make. I follow the committee and I have my vote like everybody else and I vote people in and out and I will lobby for my opinion but at the end of the day, it's up to the committee to make these difficult decisions but somebody has to give a dissenting opinion in order to moderate what they are thinking.
So a lot of what I'm saying is just making sure that they realize there is an alternative out there, and you know, not to take too many steps in that direction. But I don't believe in the core events -- whoever turns up and putts on a quality event in the world that The European Tour members are entitled to event, that's a quality event. It doesn't make any difference to me whether it's in mainland Europe or whether it's in Asia or whether it's in South Africa or Australia or anything like that. Once it's a good event and run well, it gives an opportunity to European players and obviously the prize fund is up there. It should be treated with equal status. That's my issue.
Four out of six is not hard to do. It's fine. But, does it mean that some of the marquis names, who I encouraged and canvassed some of these guys to join our tour at the start of the year, does it mean that some of these guys will not join the Tour next year? As in the attraction of the bonus of The Race to Dubai, which look at the success that Race to Dubai is, and bear in mind that's not one of the four out of the six in mainland Europe. It just shows some of those guys are not going to join the Tour.
Now, going forward, what does that mean? Well, in ten years' time, it might have an effect. It might have an effect on the 15-year-old kid who is going to be a member of our tour in ten years' time. Doesn't have a say now. Having those marquis names makes our tour bigger and better.
I had a discussion on this topic with three of our tour members last week, before last week, before all this came out. I obviously -- when I heard this, I heard straightaway pretty quickly at the Dunhill from a member of the committee and I confronted three members of the committee about it. I have discussions about Tour issues all the time with the guys I know on the committee, you know, McGinley, Karlsson. I played with Karlsson and Monty. These are guys obviously of my era who I know and I would lobby them very hard. And of course they will give a different opinion, which is good.
In the end of the day, this is all about making sure we have a balance. You know, if I was running a dictator ship that would be fine but I do understand this is about balance and I've got to make sure that they see the other side of it.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As I say, the rule itself in particular is not a bad one. Four out of six, as I said, it doesn't affect me, let's say. I don't believe that it will affect me. I'm going to play the PGA next year. I'm playing Dunhill. I'm playing Portuguese and one of the other ones, Irish, there you go. So it doesn't affect me.
But I wonder how some of the guys, guys you join the Tour, you'll love it. You only have to talk to somebody like Shaun Micheel and Ben Curtis and you get a sense that they don't have to come over here and play. There was an event last week, $7 million last week in the United States, Turning Stone. But they understand that they are coming out here and they will learn more about themselves and their game and make them generally a better player over the time because they are seeing different conditions and they are experiencing different parts of golf. But you wonder what some of the other guys, you know, will they think, well, I'm not eligible for the bonus, it's not as attractive now, maybe I won't do it.
But as I said, I believe the more players -- I think the greatest thing they did last year, The Race to Dubai encouraged guys who had their U.S. Tour card to join The European Tour. And that has never happened before. And this possibly will encourage a few of them not to join.

Q. Did Thomas's reaction to your comments shock you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, obviously I didn't read any of it because I don't read the press. But I sat with Thomas today and I said to Thomas, he's been a friend for 14 years, we've competed on the Tour and we have continued to be friends. Thomas has to -- you know Thomas, and we all -- Thomas, he's trying to get another point of view across there, and in the end of the day, I have been told that there was obviously referred to me in a personal context, Thomas doesn't mean it like that in a sense.
We will be just as good of friends going forward. There's no, you know, there will be no issue between me and him. In the end of the day, I assume he was speaking as a European Tour pro, obviously as the chairman of the committee, he's got to be a bit more neutral. He's got to be like a judge. But in the end of the day, myself and Thomas are good. No problems there. You know, life would be no fun if we didn't have a little bit of dissension to get our decisions and that's how good decisions get made is by having a couple of opinions. Always trying to make sure that, you know, my opinion will moderate somebody else's opinion and hopefully that will end up with the right opinion.

Q. What do you think about Thomas stepping down as Chairman?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think Thomas is stepping down as chairman because of the stress of trying to play golf and be chairman. I think his timing is a bit -- it's a bit of a coincidence rather than anything else. At the end of the day, I believe, and if you want my opinion in this, a chairman should not be a playing member of the Tour. He should be an ex-player. It's too hard to do. I think it's hard enough to be on the committee let alone be the chairman, have everybody come in with their gripes and so it should be someone who has played on Tour and know what it's about and not a current player. It's too hard a job to do.

Q. Who were the players you persuaded?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I won't give you specific names, but any of the guys in the States who asked me about The Race to Dubai, I definitely encouraged them and talked about them and talked about the benefits of playing our tour, definitely. Some of those players didn't join, as it turns out, but definitely talked to a number of players. By the way, I think having a stronger world tour would make the PGA TOUR stronger, so I think it would benefit both tours here. I'm not saying that we need to -- good competition is what I'm all about.

Q. IMG have had an influence in taking the tour to new territories - would you be consulted on that kind of thing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would talk to them in a social capacity over dinner and different things like that. Like a lot of people, I'm happy to throw my cup into any argument. But I don't have -- I don't have any, how would I put this. I'm not asked my opinion in that since -- well, in fairness, I would be asked my opinion but I'm not out there and not part of any committee or board or anything like that, but I would definitely talk to my own manager/agent who would obviously talk to the other guys in there and I would talk to some of the other guys and give my opinion what a player thinks what's happening. But certainly I'm not part of any -- insofar as I'm not part of the decision making I would definitely be happy enough to tell them how I feel.

Q. How did you hear about Thomas?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I believe we found out as we find out everything, other players told me, yes. It was all the buzz last night in the par 3 competition.

Q. What do you think of the Chairmanship?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: My opinion of chairmanship at the end of the day is a very neutral -- got to act like a judge and moderate everything that's going on at the meeting. And you know, that's his job. I probably would not fit that. At the end of the day, I would be maybe one side of the argument too often and the chairman should be the most neutral guy in the room. So not really for me, no.
And I know how difficult of a job -- if you're concentrating on playing, it is an incredibly difficult job and it's a tough job being on the committee first off and it's a tough job being the chairman and being that focal point of a lot of things for you guys, for everybody, really. It's tough to do. I would definitely be all for bringing back an ex-player.

Q. Did you talk about him stepping down?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't mention the fact of he's stepping down. I just mentioned -- we talked about our relationship, that's it. Nothing more than that. I told him -- stepping down because of the stress. And as I said before the chairman really isn't the one we should be -- it's more of a neutral job.
So it's not the guy -- it's kind of misused a lot in that sense that an ex-player going in there -- I think Thomas like everybody else has a difficult job to do. You know, this is a perfect example. He's asked to go on record and give an opinion off the cuff on what I said, but there's players every week saying things. You know, he's put in that spotlight every week about every little decision and I could see how that can affect your golf. That's all I can say.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Different issues have been sort of substantial issues all the way through. I think, you know, in the economic climate, times are difficult, and I can see how they are thinking we have to protect what we got and there are elements of that in it.
You know, I'm more thinking about, we have got to push on. You've got to make sure that we grow this tour for the players coming after us.
You know to be honest, it's nothing new, it is essentially what Greg Norman said many years ago, and that I believe Europe and in tough times, it's the time to get things done, and I believe European Tour is in a great position to move forward, but we could lose that opportunity in time. As I said, it's quite possible in ten, 15 years' time, Asia will be the second-biggest tour and Europe will be -- you know, that's where I'm thinking.
It is a big issue for the Tour. You know, do you -- and this is a question, I don't have the answer. Is this the job of the Tour committee and the Tour executive to look after the current 150 members of the Tour, or is it their job to look after the future of the Tour in the next 20 years. And obviously they could argue their decision making will be they will look after the Tour for the next 20 years but I think we have to open it up and grow it.
And at the end of the day, when they got the Australians and the South Africans to come here, we were very open to that. We embraced those players. Embracing some of the international players would be what The Race to Dubai is. You think about this, a dozen players who are a member of our tour because of The Race to Dubai and that's fabulous. You've got to look at things like that to show how you can stimulate our tour so well.
We are not that far off from really attracting the absolute best week-in, week-out to a lot of main events. But that would be certainly to a player like myself who plays around the world, that would be every time I turn up, I want to see the strongest field there.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The management committee -- I believe that's the executive board. At the end of the day, as well, I do believe that the executive board and the management, they are the ones who run the Tour. The players, we have our opinions, but our opinions are to be recommendations to the executive committee and they have to really make the hard decisions. That's why we pay them and employ them is to make those hard decisions, and businessmen should know better in general than golfers. That's certainly a big point that we should have the people with the right experience to make the right decisions and you know, and impact the right people to make those decisions. And the golfers are not always going to be the right people for making business decisions.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Therein lies the point I just made. That's the point I just made the. The executive committee and management, the people who are paid are the ones running our tour and should make the main decisions and decide on those things. It's the committee -- well, I'm playing golf, I don't have time to be -- I don't have time to be on a committee, let alone time to be in a management role. I'd have to be retired if I was looking for a salary to run something. I'm never going to be there sort of thing. I just don't have the time as a competitive player. It's a difficult thing to do. But as I said --

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: To think I could be on the management committee? No, the players' committee is very important to making recommendations to the management committee. But if the management committee fails to do things, the players' committee job is to say what the players feel like but we play George and his executives to make those hard decisions, to make business decisions, whatever is the right business decision is the most important thing, and they have to make those decisions. Our tournament committee will be there in order to make recommendations about how the players feel. How the players feel is not always the right decision, or the executive committee, and they have to make -- they have made hard decisions over the years that have not been popular with players, but that's their job. That's why we employ them.
So I assume that's -- they have run out of tape, how about that? Is that a success or not? (Laughter) I assume the job of the committee, that would be an interesting point. What are they there for? But I assume they give recommendations to the executive committee but it's up to the management committee to make the decisions. It's the tournament committee are there to make those recommendations but I assume the management run the Tour, not the players. But we employ them and if we don't like them we will get rid of them. Once you give somebody a mandate to run the Tour you have to let them run the Tour. So in the end of the day, whatever decisions are made, it's up to George to make those decisions and whoever he's working with. He has to take under advisory what his committee think. His committee have to take under advisory what the other 155 players think. That's the way it works.
I assume, what, is the arcs of the players' committee? Anybody know what they are meant to do? I don't know what it is, you are making it up there as you are going along. Are you there to set the rules or -- I know we have moved onto a different subject but do they set the rules or does George and his management committee set the rules? I assume it's George and his management committee because we obviously could do away with them if the committee are doing it -- exactly it's up to the committee to give the recommendations, yeah. But we don't know what it is. I don't know what the arcs are.
If somebody has set out what the committee is for -- but you do need somebody at the top to make the decisions. I assume that is George. And that's true. If something happens and the Tour doesn't continue to expand and that, it's George's neck that's on the line at the end of the day. He's the one, so he has to make those decisions.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Truly it's the paid management that run the Tour.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, you think it's the executive give the Tour --

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would assume that the guy paid at the top to be the CEO of the company is the guy who makes the final decision, and the buck does stop with George. At the end of the day, any decision, anything that affects the Tour, the first person, if it's good or bad, it's George who the buck stops with and ultimately he is the one that's making those. So maybe he put this to the committee but that isn't to say that he's running it -- so it is -- as in -- I assume that's the man you paid to do the job is the man who has the decision to make.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You think the committee has never said no before and he has gone against them, or Ken has gone against them? At the end of the day, if the success or failure of the Tour is the person who gets the praise for being successful is George, and if it's not successful, he's the man who loses his job. So the buck does stop with George. There's nobody else out there, I can guarantee it. He'd be a very good person to --

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, yeah, I might be making the suggestion but he is the man running the show, nobody else. I can guarantee you that -- I honestly don't know. I just vaguely talked to George. I don't know what to expect or what I'm to do if I'm invited at all. It's George that's inviting me so I have no idea. There's no chairman to invite me -- I just don't know what to expect.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: I'm stopping the buck here, thank you, Padraig.

End of FastScripts

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