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March 3, 2010
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA
PHIL STAMBAUGH: We welcome Padraig Harrington into the interview room today. Padraig, your fourth appearance on the PGA TOUR this year. You finished T-16th at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Former win of the Honda Classic in 2005, and tied for 13th here at PGA National in 2007. A few opening comments about coming back this year.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm looking forward to playing the course again. Obviously the Honda Classic has been a good tournament for me. This is a very difficult golf course, PGA National. You really want to be on top of your game as has shown over the years. I know the Bear Trap, but there's a lot of seriously tough holes out there. I would definitely put it as probably the -- it's definitely one of the toughest regular courses of the year, if not right at the top of the list.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Maybe talk about your form right now.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's obviously very early in the season for me and I'm kind of caught at the moment between still tinkering on stuff and just getting out there and playing.
So hopefully this three-week run will get me more into playing and be ready to -- well, be ready for this week, let's see. But the idea of playing these three events is just get a bit more competition so that, you know, I'm ready to go. I should say ready to go now but ready to go anyway by the time the Masters comes around.
Q. Could you sort of compare where you are this year, as opposed to last year, in terms of what you've been tinkering with and how much more ready you are?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm a lot happier with what I have tinkered with. I sat down with my sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, yesterday, and he was sitting there look at me like a -- I could see him looking at me like I was a bad schoolboy. I was telling him what I was thinking, and he goes, this sounds very familiar. You're getting back into your old bad habits.
There's no doubt, like I've been home the last ten days and I've spent ten days hitting a lot of golf shots, and that putts a lot into the mix. It's hard to quiet down and things like that, and that's what I have to do to be competitive. So there is a little bit of, I've probably spent eight weeks of the winner doing that.
So it's kind of hard to shut my brain down at the moment, and playing more tournaments, the more competitive rounds of golf I play, the quieter my mind gets, and the more into playing I am and the less into, you know, the practice. So it always takes me a little bit of time. Last year it took me six months, I couldn't stop, but this year I certainly don't intends to go down that road.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: How was your weather back at home for hitting balls?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was cold. It was very unusual. We had some know. I read today it was the worst winter we've had since 1963, but there was no wind so that was fine. You could get out and practice.
Q. Since a young age, have you fought the tendency to tinker too much?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I really enjoy it, and that's -- I've always had that issue, I would say, for -- I would say for a good first, eight, nine years on TOUR, I spent every week getting ready to play the following week. As in I was never trying to play the week I was in; I was always trying to get ready to play the week afterwards or some future date, and that included majors, for a long, long period of time.
It's only changed around in the last couple of years, 2 1/2 years, three years, and even then, I wouldn't say 50 percent of them have failed miserably. I'm one of those guys that likes to get my game in shape for some undefined period in the future.
Q. That said, how important is it to win a tournament, a major or anywhere?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think for me personally it changes. I go through periods when I win, and then once I have that sort of results and that success, I always tend to get more stuck into the technical side, the practice side of it, because I feel like I have that leeway.
And then I go through lean periods, where, you know, I haven't had the results, and the results become important, become more important than anything else. You know, I tend to fight through that, get the results and reset back to the other one. It's always a constant battle. If you saw my results in my career or followed my career, and obviously I'm the only one who can truly tell you what's going on, but you will always see those. Even though there's been a gradual progression in my game, the results have always been in peaks and troughs because of the fact that I do tend to, when I have success, I really, really look at that as, well, now, this could be a good or a bad point; I look at that as breathing space to go and work on my swing.
Q. Considering how much you do like to tinker and do that stuff, at the time of the year that the Masters rolls around, have you ever been in what you would consider your top form going into that major, as compared to maybe how you feel when you go into the British or the PGA?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I would always say to get ready for the Masters is a little bit of a -- it's a harder battle than the other ones. You know, when you get to a U.S. Open, an Open and a PGA, you know, you understand where your game is at for that year. At the Masters, you know, you still are a little bit learning exactly where you're at. It's just maybe -- could be an argument for coming out earlier and playing in January rather than starting in February. That would mean not playing in November back home, back in Europe, which is something I still want to do. There's a lot of issues with that.
But definitely a huge amount the early season is trying to get enough competitive golf so that I'm ready; so that I feel ready and sharp for Augusta.
Q. Do you think that's an issue for you alone or are there other players, as well, who are trying to understand their game fully?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know. I think it's certainly -- I'm not sure what other players feel. Some players are good. You've got to remember, some players are very good at coming out reasonably cold and their game is pretty similar to the year before. They don't tend to do as much technical practice when they are off. They tend to be in warmer climates and play golf. I had eight weeks off and didn't play a round of golf.
I did a lot of practice, but if you're the type of guy who lives somewhere nice and your idea of when you have time off and you're working on your game is to go and play a fourball, well, you are not going to struggle to be competitive when you hit Hawaii, you'll still be well able to play. The guy who gets out and takes his time off and spends all that time on the range, he takes a while to warm up. Just like this year you have groove issues and things like that. There's a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing before everything is settled in and ready to go.
Obviously the idea of -- I felt I didn't play enough competitive golf, or wasn't as competitive in the first three events. So I've added this event in, and likely I'll play Tampa, as well. It's a question of getting -- I know the more I'm on the golf course, the more competitive rounds, the sharper I will be, and that might be just understanding that my -- as much practice as you do, you still don't understand how the new grooves are going to affect your 53-yard pitch out of the rough. You've got to actually hit shots in competitive play before you understand those things.
That's why I'm out here.
Q. You said you will play three in a row, will you be over here through the Masters?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I'll go home. If I play these three events, I'll go home the week of Bay Hill. I'll come back for Houston.
Q. Have you played Houston before?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I've played Houston every year. Wouldn't be great for me now to have a week off before a major. (Laughter) I'd be bringing a lot of trouble with me the following week.
Q. Forgive me if this has been asked already; there's a very strong European flavor to this event. Is it because of where it lies on the schedule, or is it more to that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it's because of where it lies on the schedule. You know, there are other issues. Ken makes everybody feel very welcome here. He has a good connection with the Europeans. I've known him for a number of years. He certainly has gone out and promoted his event very well. But I think there is -- it's a great opportunity, the date for the Europeans. We have gone through our Middle Eastern swing, and now there's tournaments, but there's a little bit of lull in those tournaments.
So the players can come across here and feel like they are building up for -- obviously you've got the two world golf events, but obviously building up for the Masters. They want to build them up for a major in the same country sort of thing. So I think there's a good opportunity, the opportunity presented here at Honda. And the Europeans, it's a good date so they take it up.
Q. Going back to the Masters for a second. At Augusta National, do you think the grooves issue will be lessened because of the fringes?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think the grooves issue on all of the golf courses we play this year, one of the ones least affected will be Augusta, because the grasses are in pristine condition. And the grooves are more troublesome when you have, I suppose rough. Like the rough is pristine in Augusta. It shouldn't be called rough, really. It's the first cut or something.
So because you've got a much more manicured golf course, much more orderly lies, everything is pretty much predictable there in that sense. It's difficult, but it's -- you know what you're getting. I think the new grooves have much more effect when you get a variance in your lies and things like that and would have a big effect in sort of bermuda-style rough, as well, have a massive effect. There's a lot of different places but you don't have any of that at Augusta. You have tight lies and you're going to get as much spin as you can off those lies when you connect well, and the rough, as I said, is very ordered, so it shouldn't be such a big issue there.
Q. Is it a lot calmer for you going into this major season than it was a year ago in terms of the attention that was --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, in the end of the day, I suppose I'm really trying to focus internally and not so much on what's coming at me. If I was sitting looking at you, yes, I would probably say it is. But I'm creating the same pressures internally as I would last year. You know, I know I have the ability to go out there and win majors if I bring my game. So the pressure is to get my game ready so that I turn up and give myself a great chance. So that's pretty much the same. But yeah, the outside stuff has changed a little. Yeah, definitely has.
Q. A way-down-the-road question, do you think the average guy, not a professional, just the regular golfer who goes to play St. Andrews, can't appreciate it like a top-level player? Do you know what I mean by that? Maybe they don't appreciate the nuances or why it's withstood the test of time.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't necessarily think you would relate that to the average guy. I think what you might relate it to is more of the average guys mightn't have seen the nuances everywhere, you if know what I mean. I think it's not necessarily, I'm sure there's somebody playing off a handicap who will turn up at St. Andrews and see if for what it is, see the beauty of it, see the difficulty, see everything about it. So it can't necessarily be based on his golfing ability.
But definitely, yeah, you've got to look deeply there. It would be very easy to see a rugged piece of land there and think a lot of the stereotype, it wouldn't be considered beautiful. But then when you get out there and play it, it's fascinating. I think anybody can find it fascinating regardless of their skill level, but yes, it's possible that there's -- well, I'm sure there's many professional golfers who won't appreciate it, either.
No, I think it's pretty much the same percentage all the way through who will appreciate it and who don't appreciate it because there are certainly as we no he over the years, professional golfers who can't understand it at all.
Q. Where did it rank or you or how did it hit you the first time you saw it and over the years?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The first time I saw it, like a lot of the guys, my hair good up on the back of my neck when I teed off the first hole. And the first and 18th are very special because they are in a town, like it's -- that's so unusual. You're actually in a town when you're playing those holes. Then you get out and play the golf course, and what really happens with St. Andrews is you grow to love it, because it changes every day. That's what's impressive about it. It's not that -- the first time you play it, you enjoy the experience because it's St. Andrews and you love the whole feeling and the heritage, as I said, the hair stands up on the back of your neck, it's all so exciting.
But every day you play that golf course, something happens, something new about it, something is thrown up, and you can have one of the easiest holes in the world with a certain pin position. And then the following day, or even the following afternoon, or certainly following day if they change the pin position, the golf hole is like, just a totally different golf hole. It just could be the toughest hole.
I think the more you play St. Andrews, the more you appreciate, might give you something one day or some holes might give you something, but there's an awful lot of holes that are there that can catch you out if they want to and I think that's what's fascinating about it is the variability of the golf course; the fact that every day, there's a new challenge and it very rarely plays the same. You can get some absolutely manicured beautiful golf courses, and you know, you'll hit the same drive and 7-iron into the 14th every day. Just doesn't happen at St. Andrews. It just doesn't happen.
With the size of the greens, the different pin positions, the changing winds, getting a good bounce or a bad bounce, every hole has something about it. I think players like, some players, anyway, like the idea of a golf course that is never -- you know, is continually changing. And you know, great stories there, guys can go out in the morning and have one downwind and turn around and the second nine is downwind, as well, and other players will get it into the wind both times. Some guy will say he drove one par 4 and the next guy will say, I was hitting 6-iron in there.
That's what's great about it. It just changes all the time. It really is a strong test. Even though it can be -- you've said it up easy, it can be an easy enough golf course, but it will be a strong test at The Open.
Q. When was your first time there?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: First time I played there was at the St. Andrews Trophy, which is a tournament run by the Links Trust there. About every June, amateur event, two-hole event, you played the New Course and the Old Course, and the New Course is really scary. There's just gorse everywhere on that course.
Q. Do you think that because of your mind-set, because you like to -- like golf is a puzzle, you like to figure things out --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think that helps me. As I said, there's no doubt there's players who don't appreciate it and prefer the professional model of playing golf, which the professional model of playing golf which is the guy that swings the golf club and hits the ball the best should win every week and should get all level, flat lies and good lies and should never get a bad lie, he should never get a bad bounce, and you know, should hit it on every green and should, you know, roll it up beside the hole. That's the orderly way. I think professional golf tends to go down that line; that every week, they want everything so perfect so that it will lead to the best player winning. Whereas, traditional golf was testing your mental strength and being able to handle good and bad bounces and throwing a little bit of the vagaries of, I don't know of golf, of life, into it. Links golf and St. Andrews is very much about that.
You've got to hit the ball well, but you've got to get your breaks and you've got to work with your breaks and you've got to accept your bad ones. I think a player, if you're brought up playing a lot of amateur match play as I would have been growing up, you learn to live with that and deal with that, and I suppose learn to love it.
But if you were brought up playing a lot of stroke play and then golf courses without too much wind, nice conditions, you know, you get drawn into the fact that the guy who should win the tournament is the guy who hits all 14 fairways, 18 greens, two putts them all and it's all very nice, but that's not the way golf was designed. It was designed to be an unjust game and it was an ability to handle that.
Q. You just finished an Olympics here, and golf is --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The great thing is we have nothing else to do. (Laughter).
Q. Golf's got seven years, six years to get ready for its debut in the Olympics, and the format that they have talked about so far is 60-man, 72-hole stroke play which has drawn some yawns from a few people, including myself. Do you think that they need to try to come up with something maybe that would incorporate guys into a team element, even though --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The Olympics, absolutely strictly said to the government bodies that they did not want a competition that was individual that totalled up the guys scores and became a team event. So if it was a team event, it would have had to have been a foursomes event, where there actually is a combination of people hitting shots rather than individuals going out there and playing on their own and adding it up. So there was no choice in the team element.
As regards the individual, 72-hole event, I do believe that the Olympics will add enough to it to make it exciting and make it different from every other 72-hole event. I don't think we need to change competitive format to make it different. I know that would, like I could -- if you turned around to me and says, look, we have got -- we are going to have an event in the fall and instead of having 72-hole stroke-play, like the old INTERNATIONAL with the point system, we are going to have a similar format. Well, golf might need that at that time of the year. A normal event might need something to set it apart but the Olympics sets it apart.
I was watching the hockey game, the Winter Olympics, I was watching the hockey game on sun did a I and my brother was sitting with me and he is just looking at me going, "If you're playing in the Olympics in 2016," he says, "I want a ticket now. I'm absolute first in; I want a ticket." There is somebody just getting excited. He is watching one Olympics and saying, I would love to be there for Rio. So he's putting his name down on the list for a ticket for 2016 if I get there.
I think that's the sort of -- that's what's the Olympics is. There's a certain passion to it, and I think that will make the event exciting. It doesn't really matter the format.
Q. Can you talk about your conversation with Bob, what are they like when he sees you being a bad school boy?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, he was looking at me, I was just chatting away, and I'm saying, oh, I'm in trouble, I should go to the bad boy corner here. A lot of conversations, a huge amount of working with Bob is he listens and you ask a lot of questions and you answer your own questions, as well, at times. As I was going through the different feelings and thoughts I have at the moment, you know, I could see, hang on a second, this sounds familiar, I've been here before. I've done this before. And the one thing I have had success in the past at doing the right things, so understanding what the right thing is, is not very hard for me. I know what it is and I trust what the right thing is. Doing it all the time, that's really tough for me. It's so attractive and it's so easy to get drawn into wanting perfection, and for me wanting perfection is in my longer game, and that's obviously a big danger for me.
I was brought up on a golf course that you could never have perfection in the long game. It was a tricky golf course, but you really had to have an unbelievable short game. It didn't have practice grounds that was 130 yards long. So I never got to practice as a kid, you know, working on my swing, and I think the minute from 16 years of age when I got exposed to practice grounds and driving ranges and things like that, I've always had a fashion nation for trying to get better and better and better in terms of my technique, and in fairness, it has improved over the years and it has got me as far as I can.
The difficulty is the balance. As I said, I worked on a number of substantial, substantial changes during the winter. And then you come out, at one stage you trust your changes; at what stage do you keep working on the changes? I can it tell you, if I was to hit a hundred golf balls working on my technique, the 100th shot would be superb. But it's difficult maybe for the first shot to be superb working on your technique, and you only get one shot every time out on the golf course.
So, you know, when do you trust it? When do you say I've done enough work, it's going to be out there and go out there and play with it, and that's a hard thing to do, because there is such -- it is so enjoyable to hit shots, working on your swing when you're feeling like it's getting better every time. I think when I go out there, like I could have the worst -- I've lost some tournaments at times and had the worst experiences. And I go out on the practice round the following Monday and I'm just the happiest person in the world when I'm on the range. I'm always looking forward when I'm working on my game.
I like practicing. That's probably the worst part about it at times. Well, I like practicing and trying to get better, and sometimes I just need to be a little bit more disciplined about how I practice. That would probably be -- and when Bob Rotella is around, I am a bit more disciplined. But I can't always have the schoolteacher looking over my shoulder.
Q. You've played this event a number of times and you've played across the street a couple of times; how has this event evolved since the move to PGA National?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I liked Mirasol, but that was a much more -- like we just discussed golf courses, that was one of those golf courses that I could see a lot of players not enjoying because it really did serve up a lot of bad breaks at times, with the greens the way they were; the ball, could you hit it to the middle of the green and end up with a 40-yard chip shot, and a difficult one, at that. It was difficult in a traditional way.
This golf course is just a big, tough golf course. Every golf shot it asks you to hit out here, it's a strong shot, but there's no rebound, you know if you hit it well, you hit it well and you're going to get the result. That wasn't always the case at Mirasol. Here, as I said, it's one of the toughest courses, but nobody -- if you don't like this golf course, your game isn't good enough and that's it. That's the reality of this course.
I could understand people going to Mirasol and people loving it and some people not loving it because of the way the course it, but this golf course, there's no golf shot out on it that nobody can't hit, but there's a lot of golf shots that are really tough to hit on a Sunday afternoon when the pressure is on. It's a big course that I would definitely say it is an intimidating course that would have players not turning up not wanting to be tested the way those par 3s test you on the way home.
So there's a lot -- it's a big, strong golf course. I think for me, this is the golf course that if you played on this golf course every week, your golf game would be a lot better.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Thanks for your time.
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