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December 1, 2009

Padraig Harrington


DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome the 2009 PGA TOUR Player of the Year Padraig Harrington to the interview room here at the Chevron World Challenge. Padraig, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. Overall a really good year for you. You really came on hot towards the end. Your six top-ten finishes came back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back in your last six events of the year. If you could talk a little bit about that particular part of the season, maybe what it was that really kicked in in your mind and just kind of how you're feeling as you head into the week here at Chevron and then into the off-season.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: A lot of questions. I think overall if I look back at the year, and obviously at this time of the year we are looking back, in terms of results, I've had a disappointing year. In terms of development, I've had a very good year.
So both sides of that, yeah, you know, at the start of 2009, would I make maybe the sacrifices I made over the last six months, consciously made them, probably not. I might put a bit more on the long finger. But I got caught up in something. I was busy and working away, and once you go down a certain road, especially -- certainly me anyway, I won't let go, and I kept at it. It was to the detriment of my performances first six months, but you're always hoping it would turn around and that you find that secret.
Obviously I did turn it around in terms of form from the middle of August onwards, and it was more of a question of I kind of found out what I wanted to work on. I didn't really work on it too much; just the finding out of it was giving me some clarity. I'm concentrating, and I'm playing again for the next number of weeks. It was nice to see the form was still there when I got my head around things and got the mindset right.
So I was pleased with that end of things, that I could turn it around quickly. And I think I learnt a lot from the year, obviously. I probably knew a lot of this stuff going into it, but it was an interesting lesson. You've got to make sure that -- you've got to separate that little bit, the actual amount of technical work and the playing work. I definitely got -- I probably closed every range for the first six months of this year. I couldn't let go, and that wasn't helping my performances on the golf course.
But as I said, it was nice to change it around. I haven't played -- I had a couple of kind of average weeks when I went back to Europe. I was trying a little bit too hard, and I had a nice week in Dubai, the Race to Dubai a couple of weeks ago.
I don't know how this week is going to go, but I'm comfortable with where my game is at. I'm trying not to -- I'm looking forward to the winter, but I'm trying not to look forward to it. I've got one more tournament to go and I'm trying to stay focused on playing this event. I've got lots of stuff I want to work on during the winter. I'm heading down to TPI on Monday and Tuesday to clear up a few things, and I'm looking forward to my eight-week break of practice.
I'll try and put that to an end by the time I come out to the first event next year back here in LA at Riviera. So that's kind of where I'm at.
DOUG MILNE: With that we'll open it up and take a few questions.

Q. What's been your reaction to everything that has happened in the last few days involving Tiger Woods, and have you spoken with Tiger?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I have not spoken with Tiger. I don't think too many people have. Yeah, you know, to be honest, I know very little about it, bar what I'm reading online. I've learnt a few of the few new websites this week.
I really have no idea, and you know, I'm like every other person; when it comes to -- when I'm at home I read about the soccer players, and I read all the gossip and everything that's going on, and you get drawn in by it. But at times when you're involved in it, you can see how far away from the truth they get. It's amazing how rumors can build up and things that seemed logical -- I've been on the other end of that stick, and it's amazing how things can generate and build up.
When you've involved, you can see how far it is, but when you're looking in, you're like every other person in the world. We're all inquisitive, we all pick up the newspapers every day and read about stories. There's sometimes only 25 percent of the facts and the rest are 75 percent made up. It's just part of life. That's what we do. We're all interested in a bit of gossip and what's happening, and usually it's a long way away from the truth. But it's part of human nature, I suppose.

Q. You've played this tournament before. What is it going to be like this time without Tiger?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it's going to take away from the tournament I think the first couple of days. Obviously now we're talking about Tiger not being here. I think as the tournament starts and progresses through the rounds, I think it'll be more about who's playing well and who's trying to win the tournament. I think the tournament itself will evolve very nicely once Thursday starts and the play starts and guys get out there and play. But Tiger Woods is the biggest star in the game; it's his event; he's going to be missed.
But obviously -- I think anybody who's injured, there's no way he could -- with him unconscious for six minutes I hardly think he's fit to play golf. So I think it's reasonable for him not to competing. We do miss him. We'd all like to be out here beating him this week, but we don't get that chance. Whoever wins here on Sunday will be a worthy winner, and as I said, I've seen many events like this or things like this happen in the past; when the event gets going, it will become itself and you will have a worthy winner here on Sunday afternoon.

Q. I know that since he missed it last year with his knee surgery, I know a lot of the players were anxious to have him back in the field to take him on in his own tournament. But you don't get that opportunity again.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The thing is you want to -- if you want to compete against Tiger, you've got to play against him as often as possible. You want to be in that situation and get familiar and as comfortable as you can competing in that situation. This is an ideal chance. It is off-season, so it gives you a great opportunity to go head-to-head without necessarily being in the stress of a major and competing, and beating him in a week like this would better your chances of doing that when you go head-to-head in a major championship.
I think guys always want to go head-to-head with Tiger, except for maybe coming down the stretch in major. I think they'd prefer to be on their own in that situation. But in general they want to improve their game, and the way to improve it is to play against the best.

Q. I can't believe you've subjected Bob Torrance to the California smoking laws. Talk about why you brought Bob over.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Bob, my coach, is over here. It's been a long time since he's been in the States. It's a big trip. He's in his mid-70s now, so it's a lot of effort. But I want to coordinate some of the stuff I work on at TPI. Bob is very much my swing coach, but I do work with TPI in terms of like my physical efficiency during the golf swing, as in how my body is working to make sure I'm not doing myself any harm or basically staving off any of those injuries.
I want to coordinate the two of them to make sure, one, I'm doing what the golf coach is telling with what TPI reckons you should be doing with your body. It's really a coordination thing.
They all agree, to be honest. It's startling how Bob's teaching would agree completely with what is a computer-generated golf swing. But they agree totally. But I just want to make sure that they're both on the same page. So it'll be interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing how the science meets the man.
Bob is the man. At the end of the day, the last say always rests with him, no doubt about that. He's got 60 years of experience. That's a lot of experience with the golf swing. I would definitely -- he sees the overall picture. He's much more focused on what the club is doing. But as I said, both of them do agree, but definitely Bob would be the winner anyway.

Q. Can you talk about what work you've already done and what work you will do to incorporate the new grooves for next year, and what impact do you think that'll have next year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've just been out there now at the moment testing the new grooves. Interestingly enough, my old grooves passed, the grooves I've been in. I carry two sets, so one of the sets passed. But we're still -- it passed with the R & A. We're not quite sure whether than means it's a pass with the USGA. There's a slight difference. We're still not sure if they're conforming now and they were conforming when they were originally built because obviously the grooves wear down a bit.
There's lots of confusions like that. So we have the new sets all built up. They're all conforming. And I'll probably just for simplicity's sake move to a new set. Even though the old ones are legal, I'll probably just go with the new set to make sure everything is clear.
It does make a difference to my game. I will have to adapt. It just makes a difference when I get in closer to the greens with the wedges, not so much in the longer shots. I tended to use V-grooves in major tournaments over the last number of years anyway. Between box grooves and V-grooves, out of a reasonable amount of rough, there's about 40 yards of difference with a 7-iron. I hit a 7-iron out of, what do you call it, like the second cut of rough. At the U.S. Open, I hit a 7-iron about 130 yards out of that rough, whereas with a V-groove I'd hit it at least 170.
So there is -- as in it's to our advantage to have V-grooves at times. I've used V-grooves in majors because of the fact you want to move it out of the rough. Box grooves just don't go out of the rough, but that's a good advantage when you've got a wedge in your hand and you can control it and make sure you're not getting a flier.
So you will lose out a little bit around the greens, but -- whereas I won't be able to spin my chip shots as much and I've certainly made use of that over the last number of years, I actually think it'll be chipping easier to go back more to the style I would have used as a kid, which is more of a flop shot rather than a lower, faster, spinnier shot.
There will be some gains from using the new grooves, but there will be some loss. What that means in the overall context, I'm not sure, but definitely there's places it's to our advantage to have the V-grooves and there will be other places where we're caught out a little.
Some golf courses it will make the scoring better and some courses it will make the scoring slightly -- make it tougher let's say.

Q. Getting back to Tiger for just a second --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't forgotten. (Laughter.)

Q. Putting aside what, as you said, 25 percent may be true, 75 percent not, whatever the case may be as far as what's true and what's not, he's found himself in a situation where he's unable to come to this tournament playing and/or hosting. Are you surprised that he's involved in a situation like this?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: He was in a car crash and was injured. That's the fact, as much fact as we know, and that's causing him to not come here and play. That's as much as I can -- I think we can -- that is what we're ascertaining as fact. That's as far as I'm going with it at the moment. As I said, the rest is all interest and speculation, and as I said, it is natural for somebody of his profile for speculation and things and for everybody to be talking about it.
It made the front pages of every newspaper, I think, at home, which is incredible considering there was a rail crash at the same time in Russia where there were 89 people killed. That was the front page picture was Tiger Woods.
It's a phenomenal story. The spotlight is massive. It's pretty legitimate for people to be discussing it and talking about it, but as I said, we just don't know what the facts are. We do know there was a car crash, we do know he was injured. I'm sure if I was unconscious for six minutes I wouldn't be playing golf the following week, wouldn't be high on the agenda.
From what we know, I think obviously it's tough for him because it's his own event. If it wasn't his event, I think -- I wouldn't say he'd give consideration to him coming out, but the fact that it was his own event, I'm sure it was a hard decision for him to make.
I think it was only the natural decision to make. You never know what the repercussions -- I'm sure it must be tough to try to concentrate if you were unconscious. I know if you're a footballer and you get concussed, you have to take six weeks off, isn't it, three months off for a footballer is it? There's a set period of time, isn't there? I don't think competing would be the ideal thing after being knocked out for six minutes.

Q. If I can tear you away from Tiger for just a minute or two, just curious how much you watched of Ireland at the World Cup of Golf, how disappointed you were with the result there, and how great it is for golf that Italy won the title.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a fantastic story. The Molinari brothers have really come on leaps and bounds, the fact that they're brothers, the fact that they look so different, it's amazing. They both had phenomenal years. It was a great story to see.
It was unfortunate for Ireland, but probably the story of the week was the Italians. It doesn't always work out that way that the sentimental story wins, but it was that week, and it was great to see. The Irish guys were a little bit unlucky. They led from the front all the way and it was always a question whether they could hang on.
It's always easier in that sort of format for guys to be chasing. Foursomes is a difficult format on Sunday. It's hard enough to manage your own ball on a Sunday when you're trying not to make mistakes, but when there's two of you and you're trying to play for the other guy, it kind of heightens the pressure. It was always going to be easier for the chasing guys. It was proven the year before when Sweden came from so far behind.
I think it was a tough call for the Irish guys, but it was a nice story, in particular a great finish by the Italians, that bunker shot on 18. Yeah, I watched it, and I was intrigued by it. But it was going to be tough. Maybe the Irish guys needed another couple of rounds.

Q. Back to Tiger, you're known as one of the most open golfers in terms of discussing things. I wonder, why is that the case, and I wonder if you think that other golfers would benefit from being as open as you are.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know. I like to talk. (Laughter.) I think the reason why it is, to be honest, is I've had a very good relationship with the press from a very early age in Ireland. I would have been brought up certainly from the age of 14, 15 doing mainstream newspaper interviews all the way up from 14, 15 years of age. So you become very comfortable and assured with your press. You know who they are.
So when you progress out onto the Tour -- something that I do have a little bit of grievance against, like a young player coming out on the Tour, wherever he gets it from, he seems to have the mindset of I'm going to be snitched out by the press, whoever is telling them, management or something like that. But I would have come from a different scenario where I was very comfortable with the press, very happy with the press. So when I met you press individuals, I always assumed -- I would always assume they were like the Irish guys and continue on that way.
Plus I realize press is good. The level of attention you get can be correlated totally to how well you're doing in your sport and how much you're earning. The more attention you have -- as I said, I haven't read anything written about me since I was 18 years of age, so that also helps me not -- when things are written -- I learnt when I was 18 that a story can be written about you, and the way you read it when it's written about you and you're personally involved and how the next person reads it, you'll read things into that that the next person wouldn't see. It's incredible how people take it so personally.
The best way is to actually not read it and then you don't worry about it obviously. People do, friends and family do, but I have them strictly instructed not to inform me of what's going on. I just keep my head down and do my thing.
As I said, when it comes to -- like I often read stories about other golfers, and I think, God, this is great, look at this, and then of course I go back on Tour the following week and realize how there wasn't much truth to that after all, or footballers and things like that. That's what sells newspapers. There's no point -- there would be no point in you guys writing the actual middle-of-the-road stories because I wouldn't be reading it. I want to read the high or the low.
I'm just saying, I don't read my stuff because I'm involved in it, and when you read something that you're involved in, you have a totally different perspective on it. Like I could make a comment about another player that is neutral, but when I read it in print I would think, what's he think I'm saying there, whereas it is neutral. You just get too involved in your own stories. The best thing is not to read your own stories but obviously --

Q. (Inaudible.)
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, we won't know that for another period of time. You know, we don't know exactly what the story is, what's going on, and there are -- the situation is, I believe, and I get mine from the TV, as well, and the news that there is a citation for careless driving if that's correct. I don't know what the situation is, what you're meant to say and what you're not meant to say in these situations.
You could come out and say something that makes it worse. I'm not sure. I'm not sure -- each individual has to deal with those circumstances on his own. Certainly like everybody else, there's lots of questions that we're never going to get the answers to, and the fact that he is the No. 1 sports star in the world means that there is going to be a higher profile to those things. If Tiger Woods was the 120th -- I won't say 120th on the Order of Merit -- actually it was Ricky Barnes, so if Tiger Woods was down on the end of the Order of Merit, this wouldn't be a story. If Tiger Woods was not the No. 1 sports star in the world, there wouldn't be a story.
It is what it is because of how good he is, and he'll have to deal with it. I don't know exactly what the truth of it all is, and the thing is I don't think anybody is ever going to know exactly what's gone on, and that's probably a good thing. But it won't stop people from guessing and questioning and things like that, but that's human nature. So I think we all have to accept that that's what we're like as people. We like to -- we're intrigued by other people's lives I'd say.

Q. Will there be much talk amongst you 18 in the tournament this week, and is there a lot of locker room chatter about it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't met many players, but certainly -- I was traveling when this happened, and it's amazing how quick the news broke. I didn't have access to anything at the time, and I got a text message saying, Have you heard the story, and as I said, at the end of the day when you're the biggest sports star in the world, that goes with the territory. You create these stories, and in six weeks' time it might be somebody else's story. We'll have to wait and see what evolves. But the one thing that's for sure, we'll all be watching. As I said, that's human nature.
I don't know how it's going to evolve. We'll have to wait and see in that. It's not clear.
DOUG MILNE: Padraig, as always, we appreciate your time, and best of luck this week.

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