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July 5, 2010

Padraig Harrington


SCOTT CROCKETT: Padraig, thanks, as always, for coming in and joining us and welcome to the J.P. McManus Pro-Am. It was five years ago, but we welcome you as defending champion. Give us your thoughts at being back at an event that I know you enjoy.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, obviously I love the Pro-Am here. It's been good for me. It's a good couple of days. Everybody seems to enjoy it. It's a very relaxed atmosphere. The nice thing is it's an atmosphere you tend to play better golf, good golf, and certainly in 2005 it seemed to kick-start a good roll for me. So maybe we'll do the same this week.
SCOTT CROCKETT: A relaxed atmosphere about the whole place and everything that goes on on the two days.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's done fantastically. Might be two days for some. I'm here since Friday, so five days for me; I'm making sure to get the full value this time around. I remember the last time, sometimes you kind of leave early on a Tuesday or whatever, but it's about the whole thing here. Yeah, I've been enjoying myself down here for a few days so far.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Give us your own take on the game going into the first couple of days.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've been very happy with the game during the year. I've been doing a little bit of work with Bob the last couple of days, so I'm not quite sure how it's going to be the next couple of days. That's never introduced -- it's not exactly ideal preparation for the next two days, but I'm very comfortable with where my game is at and where we're going.

Q. (How do you account for 11 of the top 15 players in the World Rankings turning up this week)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. 1, and foremost, the personal relationship with J.P. McManus. I don't think anybody keeps -- under estimates the work that he himself, personally, has put in over the last five years. He travels to half a dozen events at least, a year, meeting players. You know, at the Masters, he has an Open house where numbers of players will come in the evening time to have dinner, and just generally, you know, face-to-face contact with players, it's an exceptional amount of work he putts in, travelling the world. Once you know people come face-to-face with JP and know him, it's very easy for them to accept an invite to the tournament.

Q. When do you go to St. Andrews?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm going to go over on Friday, play practise rounds Saturday and Sunday, based on the fact that I'll be quite busy Monday, Tuesday Wednesday and I don't have to do as much. Traditionally, it's a tough golf course for the practise days because of the crisscross of the holes, it can be a long, arduous day. So hopefully I'll have most of my work done so I can ease my way in.
I am feeling good about where I'm at now, knowing that I've got to get the next ten days right to get ready for the event, and I can't -- the next ten days I've got to be disciplined in how I prepare; and if I prepare properly, which I know how to do, I'm sure I'll be well capable of winning again when the tournament starts. But a lot is to do with what I do over the next ten days.

Q. (Do you think the swing changes over the years have cost you majors titles)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No doubt I'm too intense. Has it cost me major titles? Probably not, not majors. It's cost me many titles over the year, many, many titles over the years; you know, I can look back at the last time my intensity level cost me tournaments is the last tournament I played in two weeks ago, so, you know, it's a habit of mine that I always have to watch.
But as regards majors, very rarely does it catch up with me there. Certainly don't look back at that and say it cost me, but I would have said early on in my career, where I would have made that mistake time and time again, I don't think I was ready to win a major at that stage or capable of winning majors at that stage.
Later on in my career when I have been capable of winning major, I have got the good sense to back off a little bit when it comes to the major tournaments. I have been doing that over the last number of years, and that's why I've had the success I've had.

Q. Thinking of Oakland Hills, do you think it's hurt you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: If there is a misdemeanor in that statement, "that since Oakland Hills"; I've been doing this all my life. Howard Bennett was out here watching and he will tell you at 15 years of age I was trying to change my golf swing. I've always been trying to change my golf swing. I've always worked like that. I've always needed that approach to lean on. I've always wanted to do it. All that's happened since Oakland Hills is there's been a bit of spotlight on it. The way I go about things has never chained. It's got me to where I am.
Yes, it's hurt me at times, there's no doubt about it. But that's just me. You know, in the end of the day, if I wasn't -- to win three majors, I got there by trying to change things and trying to improve things and continued in that vein.
Yes, at times, I do need to step back and back off and not overdo things. It's a lesson I've learnt hundreds of times, and I will learn it again and again and again. It's not that -- there's loads of things we learn in life and do it again. I've not done it as often in tournaments or majors events obviously, because they are the ones I'm primarily focussed on and they are the ones I set my year up for.
.but as regards -- I have to be careful. The biggest danger of me performing at St. Andrews is the next ten days, me going out and practising six hours a day beating golf balls. That's not going to help me in ten days' time, and it will actually do me harm. But I love doing it, so I have to avoid that temptation.

Q. What's your assessment of where Tiger's game is at and can he perform at St. Andrews?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's no doubt -- if Tiger hits form at all, you know, he's comfortably the favourite to win any of the majors and St. Andrews sets up very well for him. I think a lot of times, people are trying to say, well, St. Andrews sets up because you can be a long-ball hitter there and carry some of the trouble. If you're a straight hitter, you'll be adequately long to face St. Andrews.
But Tiger has an advantage, I feel, on a course like that is that he spins the ball very well. You know, he gets the ball probably -- he's the No. 1 player at getting the ball to finish closest to where it lands out there, and St. Andrews requires that so much because of the firmness of the greens and how tight the pin positions will be.
So I would think St. Andrews sets up well for him and he's well capable of winning without hitting his very best form.
Is he about to hit that? I wouldn't write him off, that's for sure.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Again, would I have won majors --

Q. If you had waited.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. Actually I give credit to my brother, Tadhg, for this. He came up with the thing, at the end of the day, the intensity on my work ethic and my practise created what I am, but it is my poison as well, there's no doubt about it. It's got me where I am; it's made me win those three majors, but it is the thing that needs the most management in my game, not a shadow of a doubt about it.
But I don't think it has done as much affect on me winning major tournaments as -- well, majors are hard to come by, but as I said, yeah, I've had a big drought and I haven't won any of the last six, seven, eight -- well, not quite sure how far, seven tournaments, is it six? I haven't won any of the last six.
It hasn't been a big drought. It's hard to win. It has not affected that so much. But certainly when I look back at the run of second places I had at one stage on the European Tour, there was a lot of them. But you know, it was being too intense and over -- just wanting to get everything right, and that like little bit of perfectionist in me and things like that that would have cost me a number of those events, but not major tournaments. I've won my fair share and hopefully there will be more to come but I think three is a good return so far.

Q. (So when you don't win a major now, does it become a bad year)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know about necessarily being a bad year. I think because of the player, you have to get away totally from judging everything on results. I think I would look at my four majors and if I feel like I've got my preparation right, then that's slightly different, because as I said, slightly different obviously than playing well. Like you can get your preparation right and go into a major and just not play well; you know, your game just isn't there.
But I know if I can get my preparation right for the four majors each year, I'm going to probably turn up in good form three times, two of those three times; one of those three times, things won't go for me, so you can probably write that one off. The other two times I'll be in contention and if I'm in contention two out of every four majors, there's a fair chance I'm going to knock some off.
Like obviously in 2008, I got two of them and that was obviously a good -- a very, very good year. But if I keep myself in contention two out of four times, you're going to win majors over the years.

Q. (How concerned are you that you've fallen out of the automatic Ryder Cup qualification)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, being in the automatic qualification for quite a bit of time and obviously some very good playing has just knocked me out, and it does concern me, there's no doubt about it.
You know, I've left myself in a situation that qualify on the World Ranking position, with half a dozen tournaments left or so, is going to take a bit of work. Obviously a win would help in that sense. But it's going to take a bit of push. To get into the top four is quite difficult because you have a number of players who have been playing well and have dominated in that.
That means, you know, pushing on the money and again, for me, unfortunately, I'm quite close on the money, as well, but it's the same sort of events. You know, I've probably got four or five events and I do need a couple of performances in those events.
It's a precarious position because you know, there's a lot of good players who are not in the team. It's not like other years where maybe all of the good players -- it's a great time for The European Tour, for The European Team. There's a lot of good players. If you went to look at who is not automatically qualified, there is half a dozen, if not more, players who you might have picked on the team at the start of the year.
So it's going to be a tough one. The situation I'm in is I want to make sure I'm automatically qualified. I don't want to put it down to the captain's choice. You really want to make sure that you're in there.

Q. (Regarding advantage over the U.S. Team).
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Absolutely not. You know, the underdogs have won so many times, and Europe will be under a lot of pressure. Obviously the home advantage is substantial this time around. I think home advantage is a big factor, but I would believe that that little bit of -- I can only think that if the Europeans continue to play the way they have, over the last number of weeks, all year, that will only make the U.S. Team all the more determined. Very similar to how things would have gone ten years ago for Europe.
So it will come down to who plays the best in the week, who gets the most out of their team, who gels the best together and who creates the best team. That was very evident the last time around. Azinger did the best job with his team and got the most out of it. Europe has done that for countless number of years where the team has played better than the individuals. I think that would make the difference again and this year, whoever has the best -- not the best players going in there, not the best players in the best form, but the players who work together -- the team that works together the best will be the winning team that week.

Q. (Will you make changes to your schedule to qualify)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Consider; of course, I've considered everything. Let's hope I'm qualified. Let's hope I do the job over the summer and don't have to put myself in that position. It's one of those decisions, certainly it's crossed my mind. Yeah, it's crossed my mind, no doubt about it, but at the moment, I'm working on the principle that I'm going to get the job done before then.

Q. (Were you considering playing Loch Lomond)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As I was saying, unfortunately with the Irish PGA and JP's Pro-Am and things like that, it was very difficult to commit do they have moved the date to later in the year. As much as I would like to be playing competitive golf at end of this week, I'm going to St. Andrews on Friday and play two practise rounds on Saturday and Sunday.
The difference is, playing tournaments and, say, the Irish PGA, makes me be more disciplined about how I approach my game. Having time off and more time to practise just makes it harder for me to be disciplined but it doesn't mean I can't do it. It's just one of those things over the next ten days or so, I have to make sure that I concentrate far more on ability to play, let's say.
I'll play more rounds of golf in the next ten days than I would normally if I wasn't. It's about me getting out on the golf course and hitting one shot at a time rather than hitting ten buckets of balls in a row.

Q. (Was it an issue of travel that you didn't play in France or other tournaments)?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's no issue as regards me playing a qualifying number of events in the States. I do travel to them purely because I was playing here and if I didn't play Travelers, I would have a complete break between the U.S. Open and the Open. So I had the choice of obviously playing immediately after the U.S. Open, playing France, which backed into this, and playing Loch Lomond; one of the three had to be picked.
Yeah, you know, it was a very close call with France, there's no doubt about it. I felt in the end, I would rather go for performance, which tournaments would I likely be prepared to play the best golf in, and I felt not having jet-lag going to Travelers the one was going to give me the best chance of performing and winning.
Coming home for a week, I was better prepared to play Travelers than I would have been to play France, and that's what it came down to at the end of the day. And it showed up in Travelers, and even though I made a few mistakes, again I was in contention.

Q. Thoughts on Graeme's win?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It was fantastic. What I really liked is he played the best golf, the clear winner, was in the position all week, was under pressure all week, he led from the front all week. These are all of the things that are hard to do for somebody who has not won a major. He did everything that could have been asked of him, and even though he won by a shot, I daresay if somebody was 3- or 4-under par, I think he would have been there with them, too. I think he was the clear winner.
He's always been a very good frontrunner. That's the one area of his game that impresses is he has a consistent, solid game, no doubt about it. But when he plays well, he runs out front very well, and that's a very important thing as a professional golfer that when it's your week and form is there, that you can carry it through, and Graeme has done that nearly in all his wins.

Q. What conditions would you like to see at St. Andrews?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I will go for the mixed bag. Like all professional golfers, if you throw in very windy conditions, it does bring in a little bit of a lottery to it.
So whereas I feel best -- I feel very capable of managing that; managing over four days is a lot. So as usual, maybe one, maybe two days of a good, stiff winds and then reasonable nice, sunny weather for the other two.
I think four days of it, wow, it's a lot of work when you have four days of a tough, strong wind. But definitely one or two days would be good. I think for me, St. Andrews poses a totally different test than any of the -- certainly any of the links that I can think of. The pin positions on the greens -- well, the greens get so firm, like firmer than any greens that we'll ever play during the year. And the pin positions, even though the greens are very big, they get exceptionally tight, exceptionally tight.
So you've got to hit the ball actually into the greens very high in order to stop the ball, or at least -- well, very high. There's no point in hitting with a lot of spin if it's going to jump 15 yards forward when it lands. So the ability to stop the ball pretty quickly from where it's landing is key in St. Andrews. Obviously if it's very windy, that's not so easy to do, and as I said, it becomes a little more guesswork if you have to throw the ball up in the air in a strong wind.
But certainly my thought of St. Andrews is the pins will be very tight and you've got to make sure -- you're going to have to play more target golf into the greens than most people would imagine. Yes, you can bump shots into the greens, but when you bump them into the greens you're going to be hitting it to 30 feet, and if you want to hit it inside 15 feet you're going to have to hit a lot of high shots in; high, soft shots. That would be my thinking of how it's going to be played.

Q. (You've won there twice, seems to suit you more than everyone else).
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't necessarily think it suits me more than other players. I like the golf course. I know the golf course. It will be slightly different than when I've won it, and still in my head, I'm toying with how aggressive I'm going to be, and a lot of that will depend on how I feel about my game.
But, you know, like simple example of that is do you stand up on the second hole, hit driver down there and leave yourself, because of the firm conditions, assuming it's not straight into the wind or something, you will be leaving yourself pitching wedge or less. If you laid up in the bunker on the left and leave yourself 6-iron in there, 6-iron in there into the firm green with the pins at least two days the pins are going to be back behind that left-hand bunker, the best you'll do is 30 feet. It's a reasonably safe play, but if you hit your driver down the right-hand side and you have sand wedge in your hand, you can make birdies.
So decisions like that will have to be made during the week, depending on the wind direction and things like that. That's where I am at moment is getting my head around how I will tackle it. When you play it in the Dunhill, the pin is easier, they put it towards the back nearly every time and it is accessible with a sort of 8-iron, anyway.

Q. Inaudible.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know I'm not a great person for stats but the odd time, somebody says something to me -- I'm top in stroke average in the States. Every tournament I've played, every second tournament since a year ago, I've been in contention, Top-10, every week.
What I've intended to do in the last year is strange -- not strange, but you know, it happens at times; every week, one shot more, one place better would be twice the World Ranking position. I end up finishing tied sixth with four people instead of one shot better being third or something.
You know, I've been right on the cusp of making, in terms of automatic positions for Ryder Cup, making twice the points nearly every week. I've tended to get into contention where I've gone into the last round a lot of times where a good score like 66 -- some of them I've been in contention better than that, but a lot of them I've been in a situations going into the last round, well, if I shoot 66, I've got a chance of challenging the leaders. I end up shooting, you know, 71 and finishing eighth, which is distinctly different than shooting 66 coming from 20th position and finishing eighth. Being in contention and finishing eighth is actually where you want to be, or you're kind of learning about your game in that sort of situation and I've done quite a bit of that in the last year.
Like in terms of, I just haven't had any of the big performances, but like if you looked at the readout in the World Rankings, there's an awful lot, as I said, there's at least a dozen events in my last 24 events where it's there, but consistency-wise, I need the push over the top to get the good result.
Certainly, nothing wrong with my game that doesn't require a bit of patience, a little bit of easing up; don't try too hard, all of the things that you could be pushed into by focusing on results. I just need to let it happen a little bit.
You know, as I said, like Travelers, it's easy to go out there and shoot a good score on a Sunday when you're tied 15th or tied 20th, because the game is easy in that position. But a lot of those tournaments, as I said, I've been going out where I'm inside the Top-10 knowing that if I really push hard today, I can make it happen. That hasn't quite happened, as I said, and you kind of have a Top-10 that's only the same as the guy who is shooting a good last Sunday and getting in there.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Padraig, many thanks, as always. Good luck the next two days and of course good luck next week. Thank you very much.

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