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February 2, 2010

Padraig Harrington


DOUG MILNE: Padraig Harrington, thanks for joining us here for a few minutes at the 2010 Northern Trust Open. 2009 PGA TOUR Player of the Year. You obviously finished 2009 with a string of very solid Top 10 finishes. I know the goal out here for you is to win, but ending 2009 the way you did has got to at least get you in the right frame of mind here as you start 2010. Just a few comments.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It feels like a long time ago. Yeah, it's always interesting obviously starting out a new season. I've done a bit of work over the winter. I've been able to do good work, but while I'm keen to get back out and play, you're a little bit apprehensive about what your game is going to be like. I'd like to think it would be good right from the start, but I have to be realistic and realize that I'm not going to be as sharp as I could be this week, and the key would be to get sharp as quick as possible.
In a nice sense maybe that would be if I maybe -- maybe if I'm in there on Sunday afternoon and things start feeling good, that would be nice. But who knows, it may take a week or two or three weeks as it has done in previous years. But yeah, the end of last year gives me good sense that I have a good idea of what I'm doing, and hopefully I'll be able to replicate that going forward.

Q. A lot of talk this week about the grooves controversy --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Took long to get to that, didn't it? I'm sorry I spent two minutes talking. (Laughter.)

Q. But I saw you had a pair of the Ping wedges in your bag. You were trying them out yesterday. Are those likely to go in play? And what are your general feelings about McCarron's comments that it's cheating to do so?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Whether I'm going to use them or not, I'm kind of waiting to see what the TOUR's direction is this afternoon. What I'm doing is I'm preparing myself for all eventualities. It would be naïve not to.
I did some good testing yesterday. Unfortunately the testing showed up exactly what you would expect, and there's a significant difference. I think that significant difference depends on the players. Some players don't find that there was a difference between the old V-groove and box groove. Other players find that there is a big difference. I think they'll find that some players don't feel it's necessary in their game. Other players who are probably a little bit more aggressive do feel like this is something that they need, and the groove change necessarily is not helping their game, let's say.
As regards what I feel about whether it's right or not, I don't know what the direct comments were by Scott McCarron, but I think most of us were brought up that you've got to adhere strictly by the rules, and whatever those rules are in place, you've got to play by them. We've all played in our career where we've hit it on the cart path and got a drop, and that drop has been substantially to our advantage, and that's the nature of the game. Other times you get a drop and it's -- the rules are substantially against you. You know, it swings around about in that sense, that you can't -- you have to play exactly by them. You can't necessarily -- the interpretation of them, that leads to problems and has led to problems over the years, so that's why we stick by it.
I would like to see a clarification myself. I would like to see a situation. Legally I don't know how they can go about it, but maybe the PGA TOUR could play under the rules of the R&A, then we'd have no problem. Maybe Ping could forego the lawsuit, then there would be no problem. Or possibly, I don't know, this is what I would sort of suggest, is that maybe everybody sign up to a charter and say we won't use them. But while they're out there being used, it's a difficult situation not to -- for anybody who's competitive not to go out there and take full advantage of what you can if somebody else is.
It's an interesting one, and as I said, I did the testing, and I still -- every ten minutes it's in the bag, it's out of the bag. That's basically how it's been going. I haven't settled at all on what I'm going to do, but I'll have to -- it could be ten minutes before my tee time and not know what I'm going to do this week.
As I said, I'm hoping for some good clarification this afternoon from Tim Finchem. I'm hoping something comes out of that that makes the decision and takes the decision out of my hands, really.

Q. 60-degree, or what is it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: At the moment the only one I have that has a decent set of grooves is 60 degrees, so that's the one I'm considering.

Q. Where did you find it, eBay?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, a professional golfer friend at home Brendan McGovern. I had an interesting thing, which is -- when they changed this rule at home at the end of last season, I looked at all the golf clubs that I've built up over the years, and I sold them all. I sold them all for charity just before Christmas, cleared out everything I had. Then I find out -- amongst the clubs I sold were seven Ping wedges. And then I find out four weeks later at Hawai'i that you can use those clubs.
So I then had to go ask a couple of people did they have any. And I got some from my caddie's mother, she had Ping wedges, a Ping set; and I got some from Brandon McGovern. As I said, the lob wedge, some of them were too late, some were too early, but the lob wedge is within the time frame. And the grooves are reasonable without being absolutely brand new or anything.
It's amazing, you kept those golf clubs for -- I must have had them for 20 years, and I said I'm getting rid of everything, and I had a total clean-out, and sure enough, you need them next week.

Q. So you were on the shot monitor doing spinning and the whole deal and determined with your angle of attack it works for you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's essentially 200 rpms more out of the light rough and the heavy rough with short and long shots. No difference to my Wilson wedge off the fairway, none at all. It comes out the exact same. So that's a --

Q. Huge difference?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's significant. It's significant to distance control and that.

Q. Significant enough you can get over what it looks like down there at the end of the stick? That's a very un-traditional looking club.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I played a Ping lob wedge for a number of years in my amateur game, so it's not an issue for me or a problem for me at all in that sense.

Q. Does the difference have anything to do with a player's angle of attack?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It does indeed. It has a huge difference the way a player swings a golf club. Obviously the narrower he is on the way down and the steeper he is, the less need he has for super sharp grooves. But we could have had this discussion for the last number of years, because many times over the last number of years, the comment about box grooves or sharp grooves would be built up, and there would be a significant number of professional golfers who said it makes no difference to their game. To me like the difference between a box groove 7-iron and a V-groove 7-iron, at least not getting a flier, is 30 yards in distance. I could explain that to a lot of professionals and they'd look at me as if I had two heads.
That's why I've carry two sets of golf clubs for the last six, seven years, to make sure I always have the right grooves for the right grass.
But it makes a significant difference. But then, as I said, there are players who generally don't miss too many fairways and don't miss too many greens, and you know, and other players who are steep that it doesn't have such an effect. But if you're aggressive and you're going at par-5s maybe when you should be laying up and things like that, it certainly takes the aggressive club out of your hand. You can't afford to miss those par-5s coming up short with a -- if you miss the green 15 yards off the bunker, maybe you've got 35 yards to the flag, that's where you're in trouble now. Not necessarily those five-, ten-yard shots. It's sort of the 35-, 40-yard shots out of the rough, and it basically means that you'll see a lot more of conservative play, a lot more laying up, and players will have to play a different way.
As I said, those guys who have already played that way are all in favor of the -- were in favor of the change, and other guys who are a bit more aggressive certainly would like to have what they used to have.

Q. Listening to you talk about this, you've given this a lot of thought, and it's an interesting topic and a lot of people view this as a negative discussion, but it's actually an interesting conversation, isn't it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It is interesting, because there is no -- even going back to the actual change, you know, it was -- you've got to think that the rule was changed because it was a soft one to change. Nobody could come out and say, oh, no, we don't want the players -- we don't want any advantage given to a player that's hit it in the rough and we want the guy who hits it straight -- it was a very easy rule change to make. It would have been a lot harder rule change to go and say, well, we're going to ban long putters because then you would have had people coming out and saying no.
But there was very dissenting views, very few people who had a dissenting view, and certainly a dissenting view publicly to the groove change. But it is a significant change to a lot of people. I know I've been testing during the winter, and it's quite significant.
You know, I'm surprised that -- I don't know, when did it first come up that this was going to happen? I only heard it in Hawai'i, as I said. I finished up last year selling them off thinking that was the end of those clubs. It does seem like we should have been prepared for this. That's probably the -- who had this idea first? I'd love to know who was the person --

Q. You mean the Ping part?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, did they know six months ago that there was going to be an issue with these box groove clubs?

Q. Well, it was announced in August of 2008 that these would be okay.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It wasn't announced to me.

Q. When the USGA announced the rule it was right in the rule, August of 2008, but it just seems to have come up in the fine print.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: So even when they were changing the rule they knew this was going to be --

Q. An exception, right.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's interesting. As I said, there really isn't -- because of the fact, because of the way we govern ourselves when we play golf, we strenuously stick to the rules. You have to. That is the whole idea is that you have to stick to the rules. It has to be black and white, it really does, and the problem here is that it is black and white, that it's legal. So that means there has to be something else done about it. What can be done, because it was a Supreme Court ruling, wasn't it? Is it Supreme Court? It's not like the PGA TOUR, you know, who do we think we are if we can overrule the Supreme Court.
It's not like that. We have to go some other way. I'm not sure what that is. But a charter amongst the players would seem like a logical thing, if everybody signs up and says, look, we won't do it, then I don't think anybody would do it.

Q. A little bit about you. Last winter you did some things with your swing and you came out and you had -- a long and mysterious route. Did you do anything comparable this year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I did the same stuff again this year. I was trying to get to the bottom of something in my golf swing. Again this winter -- I put it on hold for the last couple of months of last year, and again this winter I went down the road of trying to sort it out. I've made a couple of significant changes to my swing.
The only difference is last year I came out at this stage and I wasn't happy with the changes and what they resulted in, and I kept working on it. This year I'm not in that mindset. I'm happy with what I've done, and I'm going to just play with that.
While it was the same work, it's finished at the moment and I'm ready to go play golf, which is what I didn't do last year. I just felt it was still very much a work in progress. It's a work in progress now, but I'm more comfortable what I worked on, so let's see how that works for a while, and I'm sure through the course of the year I'll look at a few more opinions about my golf swing and things that need to be changed. But hopefully I'll keep them ready for next winter again.
DOUG MILNE: Padraig, as always we appreciate your time, and best of luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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