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March 10, 2010

Padraig Harrington


PAUL SYMES: Thanks for coming in, Padraig. In your two previous visits here, you finished in the top 20; a course you feel comfortable playing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, there's not that many in the field. Yeah, it's a good, solid golf course. I think everybody who plays this course is reasonably happy with it. Maybe it does have a slight vice, you need to hit the ball a long way on the course, so maybe doesn't quite suit some of the shorter hitters. So it's a good golf course and if you play well, you do well in the event.
PAUL SYMES: With the Masters just a month away, is that something that's on your mind?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it is on a certain number of players' minds, and definitely it is a goal, we like to go out and win every time we tee it up and at this time of the year there is an emphasis on making sure our game is ready for the Masters.
PAUL SYMES: You fell out of the Top-10 on the World Rankings last week, obviously important to your --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You never look on the way down, you only look on the way up (laughter).

Q. You're in a slump?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That's it. (Laughter) yeah, the World Rankings is that sort of system. I obviously don't play a lot of golf early in the year, and you know, traditionally I will always have my -- well, hopefully my low point of the year at this time of the year, and then I build back up through the season.
So I tend to get to my highest point towards the end of the year. It's just the nature of the beast that it swings in roundabouts. As long as I'm still in touch. I'm sure a win this week would jump me a long way back up. I kind of look at it -- I haven't looked for a few weeks, because as I said, you don't look as you are going backwards, but you generally have a feel that a couple of wins will get you back up to certainly inside Top-5, and then you know, another couple of weeks on top of that, and you're challenging second place. I think it's about ten wins I need before I'll be challenging first place, but you know, that's how you look at it rather than necessarily what position you're at.
PAUL SYMES: Maybe a fairly slugging, slow start to the season by your own standards?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a normal start for me. I've played five events for me, pretty normal, just the nature of the game. I've done a lot of work over the winter and just takes time to get back into competitive play. Very happy with what I see, and as I said, I'm working on the right stuff at the moment to get myself competitive. I'd like to say competitive this week, and if not this week, next week; and if not next week, Houston; and if not Houston, then the Masters.

Q. You moved up The Ryder Cup table last week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I moved up The Ryder Cup table?

Q. You did.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Did I get points last week for 4th?

Q. Yes.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There you go. Don't look at that, either. It's amazing what you look at. I'm sure my wife has it all figured out now. (Laughter). And she has the good sense not to tell me I've dropped to 13th in the world.

Q. Tell us about the trip you're making next week. A bit special?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, obviously I got an invite to go to the St. Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House, so I won't say it's perfectly convenient, but it's worked out that obviously as I'm in the States, I can fly up and come back down in the same day, and you know, meet the President. Very nice.

Q. I know you were saying a moment ago, slow start, you've grown accustomed to them with your work in the off-season; how would you assess your ball-striking? I know the scoring wasn't there last week, but how did you hit it up there?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: At the moment, as regards to my ball-striking, I've definitely improved from last year. I'm hitting the ball better, straighter, but actually not as long. So that's an interesting thing. I've made quite a few changes, and I'm assuming and hoping that the length will come back into it. I'd say maybe four miles an hour slower clubhead speed at the moment. Hopefully that will come back up with play and things like that. But in terms of accuracy, I'm a lot better, and I'm very happy in that sense.
To be honest, though, that end of the game affects me -- my ability, it might be five percent of my game. 95 percent of it is my short game and my mental game, and that's what tends to go off. I've been concentrating in the winter on the five percent and now I'm back playing and I'm concentrating again on the bigger stuff and try to build that up. That's why I would have a slow start. It's just getting it all together and making the right decisions when I'm on the course.

Q. That invitation to the White House, when were you first invited and how quickly did you accept?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'd been away a couple of times -- I had been away actually during the initial contact and the actual invite. My wife has been doing the acceptance on my behalf, and so it was maybe six weeks ago the initial contact, and the invite came last week.

Q. Was it gold-embossed?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't seen it. I haven't been home. I don't know. I'm sure when I -- well, I don't know. Actually maybe I need it to get in the door. Who knows? (Laughter).

Q. Are you taking a club with you to show the President how to improve his swing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: He's a left-hander, isn't he? Well, I suppose. Obviously he is very keen on golf. I don't know; maybe we will talk about golf. Who knows.
I don't know how much -- I honestly have no real concept of how much -- I know he's hosting a party for our Taoiseach, Bertie -- Brian Cowen. He's hosting a party for our Taoiseach and his wife and we are guests at that party.

Q. Caroline is coming?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I'm on my own.

Q. Is there anybody else who will be there who you know, sports men?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I know Katy Taylor got an invite, so she will be there, and besides that, I don't know anybody else. I'm sure there will be plenty of people. I'm sure there will be plenty of people I'll know when I get there, but as I say, because of being on the road and travelling, I haven't got too much into the details. Just know I'm going.

Q. How much of a thrill is it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm looking forward to it. It's something different. You know, obviously President Obama is one of the most charismatic people of the world, one of the most powerful people in the world; you want to meet these people and see what they are like and get your own judgment on things, if you know what I mean. And you can tell a lot when you meet somebody, so I'm looking forward to that.
Plus, I've never been to the White House.

Q. Is there a particular question you'd like to ask? Everyone likes to think they will meet somebody powerful one day and bring up a point and see how they react; have you thought of that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I've got over a week now to come up with something interesting. I'm sure everything's been asked before. No, I'll wait and see. I'm sure -- now you're putting me under pressure. I was going to have a lovely, relaxed time at St. Patrick's Day for the party. There you go. I'm not meant to be working. It's my day off. (Smiling).

Q. What else are you playing before Augusta?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Going to play Houston. Going to play Tampa next week and then Houston. So a week off in between that.

Q. If you should win here, would that be a triumph for Ireland or for the British people?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, obviously if you're -- by asking that question, you haven't shown very much insight into anything, so I'll let you go do the homework on it.
That would be like if a Canadian won here, would it be a triumph for the Americans or the Canadians. If a South American won here, would it be a triumph -- it would be the same thing.
I'm not from Britain. I'm Irish. It's never been -- I think you want to talk that to maybe one of the guys from Northern Ireland. I'm from the other side of the Republic: Green, white and orange.

Q. Is the build up to Augusta already different from last year when you were going for three in a row?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm trying to do the same things I do every year. Obviously I got caught up in a lot of stuff last year. I'm trying my best not to get caught up in it again this year. I really did -- even though I would have done okay the week of the tournament, I can't just turn up the week of the tournament -- I need to do things right at least a month in advance like I'm trying to do now. I'd be better for it for making the mistakes I made last year, but there's no difference in the pressure, because the pressure to go win a major tournament, certainly for me, it's all internal. I want to win it badly, so it's not like any outside expectations is affecting me anywhere. It's all about my internal expectations.
So the pressure is the same, but hopefully I've learnt a few things from last year.

Q. What were the mistakes?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I practiced easily into six months of the season last year instead of -- I didn't start playing golf until Augusta. I have to clearly define my times I'm working on my game and I'm playing and competing.
I did the right thing at the majors, but I just didn't do it in time. My game wasn't in shape for really too many of them.

Q. You might just have answered it a little bit, but I wanted to ask you why you abandoned the policy of the major being the third week in a row?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Because of Akron last year. I competed well in Akron last year, and I felt it was tough to follow a week after having -- it was tough, but it was okay, having a big week the week before, and then -- you know, my Sunday performance, I genuinely had a chance to win there on Sunday. I just wonder how strong and sharp I was on Sunday, so the key is, I don't want to throw another tournament in front of that.
If I competed two weeks before a major, that would really take a lot out of you. So I need to play one week, because I haven't got the discipline if I was off; some players have great discipline on their weeks off, but I know I get very involved in my technique and my swing and things like that. So I need to play a tournament for that reason. But, yeah, definitely having two big weeks before a major would get me too tired. Mentally it would catch up, getting into contention.
I definitely think it was a little bit of an issue -- maybe it was an issue at the PGA and something you have to be wary of. The three tournaments in the past have been because, as I said, my discipline has been poor enough and I need those two warm-up events. And I'm getting better and I'm suggesting I only need one and if I was really good, I wouldn't even need that one and probably have that week off. But that's for another day in the future. Not ready for that yet.

Q. What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of the Augusta National?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, you're asked to hit a lot of golf shots out there, really precisely. You know, it's not good enough to hit the ball, especially with your approach, it's not just good enough to hit it straight. You hit it straight, land it in the area you want to land it in and strike it good enough that the ball stops in that area.
Another golf course, you know, you're trying to avoid a little bit of trouble here or there. If you hit a shot slightly thin and it goes straight, well, you get the same rewards. At Augusta, that shot is a double-bogey, and that's one of the issues; if you hit good shots at Augusta, you're making birdies and if you're hitting bad shots, you really are bringing double-bogey into play.
And it has to be really, really precise. I think you want all parts of your game firing, and making putting your priority and making the right decisions is important as putting, those two are top of the list. But when you actually hit the shots, you have to hit them pretty well, strike them well, not just straight. Control your distance, control your trajectory and you've got to be strong mentally. It's one of those golf courses that tests every part of your game.

Q. Weather conditions are forecast this week for a soft golf course with some rain over the weekend, and with wind; with those conditions, how low do you think the scores can go on this course?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, the scoring tradition here has been quite low. As a player, you can't really start the week thinking you've got to shoot X. You have to go out and play it as it comes and let the scores total up, rather than you could go out there -- who knows. Like if I set a goal at 20-under par, do I stop if I get to 20-under par after three rounds? There's no point in setting those sort of goals. You've got to play each hole as it comes.
As I said, that's probably the -- any player here, as I said, it has been close to 20-under par winning here, and if you stood at the first tee at the start the week, 72 holes, wanting to shoot 20-under par, you're going to be under a lot of stress right away. If you don't birdie the first hole you're going to be thinking, how am I going to do 20-under par. Whereas if you stay patient and you play each hole as it comes, it kind of adds up at the end of the week.
I think that's the only way to do it; not get focused on the total, just get focused on each shot at a time. I know it's a cliché and it's a bit boring, but it really is each shot at a time and see what it all totals up to at the end of the week.
You know, the pin positions, obviously if they know the weather is like that, they will put tougher pin positions and things. There's a few holes over there that no matter what -- 18, there's a number of holes out there that no matter what the conditions are, are basically going to be strong tests, and if you can avoid it and play those holes under par, and there are some birdie holes. But in general, it's a good, solid golf course in in good condition, so you're always going to have scoring.
If you want to have bad scoring, get the golf course in bad condition and nobody would like it. Put it in good conditions, the greens are perfect out there and that's why the scoring is as good as it is. Plus they have generous enough fringe, as well, out there which make quite a significant difference. Every green has at least two paces of fringe, which instead of being able to put the flag three yards away from the bunker, that means it's five yards away from the bunker. That does affect the scoring in a big way out here. They can't get pins as tight as they would if they were cut with no fringes I would say.
PAUL SYMES: Thanks, Padraig, good luck this week.

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