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May 5, 2010

Padraig Harrington


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Padraig Harrington, thank you for joining us here at THE PLAYERS Championship 2010. You're playing in your tenth PLAYERS this year. You've had two runner-up finishes. Maybe just some opening comments about coming back to Ponte Vedra Beach and THE PLAYERS Championship.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's always nice coming back here. Obviously, my run was up a few years ago on a different grass. So I think most of the players are still trying to get a feel for the new golf course and the new grass that's on the course. So it's still kind of early in that sense.
But I think it's probably the third year now, so we are getting used to it. And I certainly am feeling a lot more comfortable out there and looking forward to the week.

Q. Earlier today we had Ian was in here and Rory. And Ian made a comment that it was good to see Rory "finally" win a golf tournament, of course two days before his 21st birthday. Is it almost that he's so good, but he's so young to think that you have kind of expectations before he's legally old enough to drink?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, he's old enough to drink in Ireland (smiling), legally old enough to drink in Ireland, too. I think I would have taken it a different way; actually I kind of was of the opinion that there was too much expectation and too much pressure being put on him. While he had all the ability in the world, it was hampering that ability. It's very hard to stay patient and let it happen when every week that focus is there.
So, yeah, as players we expect him to -- you know, he's already won in Europe, one of the bigger events in Europe, but as players, definitely we would have felt he was going to win. But I certainly was taking a more relaxed approach and just sort of assumed it would happen, you know, was assuming it would happen and more or less let it happen, and I think that was the tough part for Rory. With all that external pressure, it wasn't so easy to let it happen.

Q. Now that he has won, do you expect it --
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think it's a big step for him. I really do. I think with all that external pressure on him, I think it's very easy to, you know, to be a burden. Now that he's won, that burden is gone. You know, he can be a lot more relaxed about his performance, be a lot more patient. You know, and a lot of times it's -- like last week when you win, it's the week -- after 33 holes he wasn't thinking he was going to win that tournament, and sometimes he'll be a lot more relaxed in that sort of position going forward and it will happen more often, let's say. So I think it's a big stepping stone for him.

Q. Shifting the burden back to you, how are you coming along? You were up the board last week and showing some signs of getting back in the mix.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, as I said, I had a good run before the Masters, three tournaments where I competed. Last week was a good tournament for me because some of the parts of my game that I would consider weak were very strong, and some of the strengths of my game I wasn't relying on them and probably didn't perform as well as I would have liked to in those areas. So it showed a lot of potential last week. I left very happy.

Q. This is such a difficult golf course to predict a winner on. What do you specifically work on here with difficult par-3s, medium length par-4's to take the driver out of your hand?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think with the change of grass, it is essential to hit the fairways out here. I think if you're hitting in that rough, you're going to have very awkward shots with the fliers into those greens. You don't ever want to be -- once you start getting more than 25 feet away from the holes, there's always going to be a crown to putt over.
So I think it is essential to hit as many fairways as you can this week, and at times take a cautious approach off the tee, but probably be a bit more aggressive on the par-5's, and see where it goes from there. But definitely, it is about being -- you know, I suppose somebody's going to get away with missing a few fairways, but in general you don't want to miss too many fairways out there.

Q. Is this a course you look forward to playing?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah. I think it's an exciting golf course. I like coming back to any golf course every year, I've got to say. I think what makes THE PLAYERS Championship a bigger event is the fact that we come back to the same course every year and you do get an element of judging your game against where it was in previous years. You get an element of remembering how you played holes and remembering how you played holes or remembering mistakes you've made in the past or mistakes even other players have had in the past.
So it's similar to Augusta in that you carry a bit of baggage around this golf course. Nobody's going to win this tournament until they're through 17 and probably a tee shot on 18. It's a great course in that way, in the fact that there is some history there, and there is some intimidation from that history.

Q. With the exception of the year that Goydos and Sergio had their thing, the last couple years have been rather boring at the end. Does that surprise you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't remember.

Q. Isn't it supposed to be exciting at the very end?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, the guy plays great. I'd be happy to win boringly (laughter). I'm not worried about that. The holes are exciting, 16 and 17. Like the last six holes, 13, 14, you know, they've got water on them. 16, 17, 18 have water on them. You've got to play good golf through those holes. Yeah, okay, if you played the first 66 holes and you're so far ahead of the field, maybe you do deserve to win in comfort. But the golf course isn't boring. That is the last thing you could ever accuse it of.
I think you only have to go back as far as -- you can look back at like Len Mattiace on 17, there's plenty of -- and then Sergio was two years ago, wasn't it? Yeah, it's not that long ago when you had a playoff. What excitement?

Q. Well, the buzz around it though, Stenson and Ames and Phil.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Stenson played fantastic last year.

Q. Shame on him.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah. I think at the end of the day, Stenson didn't win it until coming down the back nine. So it was still quite exciting up until the last couple of holes. But there is no way you can call this golf course boring. There is no way you can call the finish boring. I think the likelihood is you're going to have a number of players in the mix coming down the stretch. And if that is the case, there will be a bit of excitement. Nobody's home here until they get through that 17th.

Q. You say that you enjoy the course and you have had the two runner-up finishes, but you've not played well here over the last five years. Is there anything in particular? Is it more than just the grass? Why have you not played better here in the last five years?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Maybe I actually excelled in those two years. I finished second (laughing). Maybe they're the outliers.
You know, definitely the change of date is significant for me. I think there is definitely a period after the Masters to the US Open where you're regrouping and you're getting your game ready after the Masters for the US Open. So that can be a situation like that where you do kind of get a little bit lost in the month of May.
Traditionally, if you actually really want to go back to it, I've never really played well in the month of May, and the end of the month of May and onwards. It hasn't been a great month for me all the way through my career. So maybe just to change the date could be it. Maybe it's the biorhythms; who knows. We're going to change it this week, though.

Q. After the good little run in March, how disappointing was Augusta? And what are you planning now for the US Open?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Augusta wasn't disappointing to the extent that I prepared the way I wanted to prepare. I just didn't play well. So I'm not looking back at Augusta and saying oh, I should have done something different, you know, when you make a mistake like that where you realize afterwards you just overdid something. I took a good approach to Augusta and I just didn't play great golf. That was it.
And I got myself, you know behind the 8-ball early on. I just was pushing a bit much, and it just got a little bit worse and worse.
I think I don't have much of an issue with Augusta. I think preparation for the US Open, yeah, that's important at the moment. But actually I'm quite focused on this week. I haven't won in a long time, so every week I tee it off I'm kind of desperate for a win (smiling).

Q. I just saw you on 17 playing with Rory and a rather distinguished group all the way around. Did you play all 17 holes?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I played -- well, I didn't finish 17, either. So I played no holes. I just went out and did a bit of chipping and putting and walked around. I had to go hit my tee shot on 17. But I hadn't hit a shot all day, so even that didn't. So no, I didn't play any holes today.

Q. The only shot I saw him hit was I believe a sand wedge to about four feet.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There lives the legend. It was a pitching wedge, yes.

Q. In view of the buildup to the US Open, are you going to play Celtic Manor? Is that now on the schedule?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Certainly on the schedule, yes. It's not 100% certain, but it's on the schedule, yes.

Q. The other thing I must ask you, with the Irish PGA now moving after the Open, what are you planning to do on the run up to the British Open?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, well, obviously, I'm playing the JP McManus Pro-Am that week, which has kind of meant I haven't had a -- I won't have a free run at -- certainly felt I've struggled to play a Pro-Am or things like that, and again, a second Pro-Am later in the week. So, don't worry, I'll be playing something that week. I'll host my own event if I have to (laughing).

Q. You could go to Loch Lomond.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I could, I could go to Loch Lomond. All I need is competition, that is the main thing for me. It is all about competing at the end of the week. Maybe I'll feel good enough after two days of the Pro-Am that I've got enough competition in as well.
Yeah, the Barclays is a strong possibility too, but just not sure. From having played the JP McManus Pro-Am in previous years, I know it does take a little bit out of you. Maybe it's not the right thing to have a long week afterwards. But I haven't quite -- I'll wait the next couple of weeks to see how I feel about that.

Q. Are you looking to put on your own event?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I might have a little event for my close friends, yeah. That is a possibility. I wouldn't be adverse to doing something like that, no, if it came down to that. It might be a 36-hole or 54-hole event or something like that just for 20 pros or something along those lines. I'm sure we could find 20 pros to tee off, maybe a few of the top amateurs just to make it competitive.
I don't know. I'm not 100% sure what I'm going to do. Certainly that's in the mix.

Q. You're always working on something in your game, trying to make some little improvement. What are you working on right now?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've been working a bit on the last couple of weeks of basically trying to keep my hands out in front of me, get my arms in front of me on the downswing. You know, I'm happy with how I'm hitting the ball, yeah. It seems to be good. Just trying to get it into the game. I'm pretty comfortable with what I'm doing and where I'm at and I'm taking a nice -- I've kind of got a nice -- a good attitude towards it. I don't feel like it has to all be done overnight, so I'm in a good position in that sense. Practice, while it's part of where I'm at at the moment, it's not the number one priority at the moment. Competitive play is more important to me.

Q. Do you do a lot of the video stuff and watch your swing and all that? Have you ever mapped out a golf course by playing video games like some other guys do?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, no, don't have time to be playing video games. Video my own golf swing? Yeah, I video my own golf swing now and then. I don't generally do it at tournaments. Don't get involved in that too much. But when I'm at home I put my swing on video and have a look at it, make some checks, and have my coach look at it little things like that.
But I certainly would not be -- I certainly don't walk around with my video camera checking it every day, no.

Q. As someone who knows what it takes to win The Open Championship, why do you think Americans historically do well at The Open? Because by rights, what they're used to, it shouldn't really work on the links.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know. Just sheer numbers? Is it more than playing it -- are there more of them playing in it in general, what percentage of the field they make up? As regards to conditions, most of the American players who are going to come and play in The Open, most, I'd say all of them, are good players. It's not as easy for them to qualify, so the Americans who do travel are actually the absolute cream of the crop. They're well capable of playing golf all around the world. Most of the winners have played for a number of years in The Open Championships so they've learned.
Maybe they go in there with a little less -- maybe a little less focus on them, maybe a little less stress in that given week. They're away from home. Maybe their own expectations are a little bit lower. Maybe Europeans and certainly some of the guys from Great Britain probably feel that it's their home open, so they might try a little bit harder. It's always tougher to win your tournament in your backyard.
Certainly the Europeans might come into that a little bit more stressed, a little bit more focused. That is for sure for the British players. There is obviously an awful lot of focus on those guys.
It's been a while since -- well, Paul Lawrie in '99, I suppose. So yeah, it is easier to win an event when there isn't such a spotlight on you. And certainly there is a lot of Americans who can travel a little bit under the radar to The Open and probably produce their best golf because of it.

Q. Could you explain the opposite happening here from the last eight years to the Europeans?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That could be the explanation. You know, the Europeans come over here and they obviously get a great opportunity to come here in numbers. They might feel a little bit less stress. You know, they're not the center of attention, let's say, and because of that maybe they go under the radar and can produce. It could come to something as simple as that.
Besides that, it's probably just coincidence. You know, you've got the winners and you're looking back and you're trying to make something up with who has won rather than -- it's not going to make it any easier for a European to win this week. Or maybe it is. Hopefully.

Q. I'm assuming you went to Rory's party last night. Just wondering if there are any stories you can share from that.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Like what goes on TOUR stays on TOUR? You've never heard of that?
Yeah, it was a nice party. I'm sure you should ask Rory about any stories. It was, yeah, just a normal 21st -- well, I don't know a normal 21st birthday party. It was a nice party. Big turnout. Nice relaxing, good food, very nice dessert, so...

Q. What was for dessert?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was an ice cream cake. It really was nice. It was chocolate, chocolate ice cream cake.

Q. If you were a spectator and had to sit behind one hole to watch all day, where would you go?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Has anybody ever said anything but 17 to an answer? Of course you'd say 17 and watch it. Because you can see 17, and you get 16th, as well. But 17 is the one because there is glory and some horror shows there. And we all, as spectators, that's what we want to see; we want to see the highs and lows and the emotions. You'll see a lot of them on 17. Seen a few today with the caddies.

Q. I can't remember whether you were there in 2000 at Pebble Beach at the US Open the last time around, and if you weren't, did you watch it on TV?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was in second place after 60 holes.

Q. You were there?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was there. I was playing in the other tournament.

Q. The way that thing ended up, since you were obviously there in the mix for a while and you knew how the course was playing and what that final number turned out to be, where do you think that performance ranks in the modern pantheon and why?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I think at that very moment, you know, I think professional golfers were wondering would they ever compete again with Tiger. He had taken such a leap. Nobody else was capable of doing that. Obviously it was a good week for Tiger, but 15 shots was a big spread in the field. I don't think anybody at that time felt they could have done that even on their very best week.
So he did look like he wasn't just one step, but he looked like he was probably three steps ahead of everybody else. I think, you know certainly for a number of years afterwards, he dominated based on the fact that most players would have taken the opinion that he was three steps ahead. I think after a while people have started to play their own game and figured out that that's all they can do and it has brought it back to maybe one step again.
But certainly at that time it was an incredible feat. You look back at it on video or tape and there's some shots, like the second shot up the hill on 6, there were some golf shots that were hit there that certainly made the rest of the professional world feel inadequate.

Q. Obviously he was the only one who finished under par that week. Can you recall how difficult the course was playing? Obviously, if you take him out of it the winning score is over par.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it was playing real firm. The greens were very firm all week. The rough was heavy. It's obviously a tough course to start off with. I don't remember if there was a bit of breeze, but I remember holes like number 12. If you carried the front of the bunker on the par-3, it was tough to stop the ball from going over the green. So there was a lot of real difficulty out there.
Yeah, I think it was probably a fair golf course, but certainly one of the toughest golf courses that we've come across. Obviously, since Shinnecock, the US Open have actually made their golf courses a lot friendlier. I don't know what Pebble's going to be like this year, but certainly their setup has been just excellent the last four or five years. It will be interesting to see and compare it. But I would suggest the golf course would be itself, and they'll probably try to get the greens as firm and fast as they can. There is quite a bit of undulation in them.

Q. When you got to second place, how far behind were you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was level par.

Q. And he was?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I guess he was -- I don't know. I have no idea. He could have been 13, 14, 15. Did he get past 15? I don't know, honestly.

Q. But you didn't stop to think, if I birdie every hole --

Q. Everybody was playing for second that week pretty much, weren't they?

Q. It's hard to say, but it's reality?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, we certainly knew that at the end of the week. We didn't know it quite at the start of the week. But, yeah, certainly when everybody walked away from that, I think I summed it up earlier by just saying the rest of the professional world felt like we weren't capable of competing and beating him at that very stage.

Q. Is that the only time you felt that?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think everybody goes through different phases in their own personal thing. I think in general everybody would have been in that mode; will there ever be anybody as good as him? I think ten years down the road, you know, people have dared to write newspaper articles saying that somebody else would be world number 1 and things like that in the near future. That sort of mystique has, in terms of -- yeah, people feel they can compete if they play their best golf. They know they're up against it if Tiger plays his best golf.
Yeah, after that Pebble Beach, I think there wasn't anybody who would have thought even their best game was good enough.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: At this time we have a very special announcement. I'd like to invite to the podium, Mary Davis, the managing director of Special Olympics Europe and Eurasia.
MARY DAVIS: Thank you very much. Just to say I'm absolutely delighted to be here to make this announcement and absolutely thrilled that Padraig Harrington has agreed to be a global ambassador for Special Olympics worldwide. And it's just fantastic to see the Special Olympics logo on your shirt today, Padraig, and many more times that we'll see it in the various tournaments that you're going to be participating in.
Padraig is really building on his previous involvement in the Special Olympics; he's been involved in the Special Olympics program in Ireland; and he raised considerable funds in 2003 when we hosted the World Games there through a Padraig Harrington Golf Classic that he organized for us.
Of course, we're all aware of what he has given to various different charities, not just in Ireland but around the world. He has his own charitable foundation, the Padraig Harrington Charitable Foundation, and he's given much needed funds to various different charities.
He's also a great role model and fantastic mentor to many young golfers. And of course, now that he's going to also be a mentor to our Special Olympics golfers is just fantastic.
We have four golfers here today, and we have Kyle and Carl and Nicole, and Caroline. Delighted that you're here. Afterwards, after this announcement, Padraig is going to be organizing a clinic for the Special Olympics golfers.
And indeed in his capacity as global ambassador, he's going to be organizing many other clinics and trainings. He's going to be helping us to raise awareness. He's going to be assisting our sports resource teams, as well. And he really is going to be spreading the message of inclusion and involvement in Special Olympics for all of our athletes.
We have a great golf program right around the world. We have over 20,000 golfers that are participating. But we always want to reach out to more. We want to get more coaches involved in the Special Olympics programs because we've got good quality coaching. As Padraig knows, we can have fantastic Special Olympics golfers also.
So absolutely fantastic that Padraig has agreed to do this. We look forward to his involvement. I want to wish him the very best of luck. May is going to be a great month for you, Padraig, and we're looking forward to the celebrations at home certainly when you return and wish you the very best of luck in this tournament.
And I want to thank the PGA TOUR particularly for their help, both in facilitating this announcement, but also, they have been a tremendous support to Special Olympics around the world and helping us to develop in the way that we have today.
So thank you very much. We look forward to the active role that you're going to play. We are aware of the active role that you play in your charitable foundation, and we look forward to you playing that same active role with the Special Olympics. So thank you very much again, Padraig. It's a great day for us in Special Olympics.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mary. I have to bring an Irish woman over for that. I'm delighted to be associated with the Special Olympics. As I said, before in the past I helped out when the World Games were in Ireland. I think it was then that I realized how rewarding it was to be part of it. The opportunity has now come up to be part of it again and to help out on a global scale.
There is a great movement in Ireland, and it really is very impressive, the profile of the Special Olympics in Ireland, the work that Mary and the other volunteers do in Ireland. It's nice to be part of the global scene, and hopefully I'll be able to raise the profile and help somewhat with encouraging volunteers and coaches to help out.
It always amazes me, if anybody works with the Special Olympics athletes, how they get back so much from it. These are some of the most enthusiastic people who give so much back. It's amazing. Volunteers or coaches, it really is something that you get so much from from helping out these Special Olympic athletes. It's actually one of the great benefits, as I said, I would have got back in 2003. So I'm glad I can be here to do it again.
MARY DAVIS: Thank you.

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