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July 12, 2010

Padraig Harrington


MALCOLM BOOTH: Ladies and gentlemen, let's make a start. We're joined by two-time Open Champion Pテ。draig Harrington. Pテ。draig, thanks for being with us.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Good to be here.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Two Open Championships under your belt and returning to St. Andrews, where of course you won the Dunhill Links. How does the week set up for you and what are your expectations?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, obviously having won a couple of these it's important to remember that when I go to play. At times you can maybe expect a little bit too much or push a little bit too hard. But it's nice to have won a couple of them, and I should try and be a little bit more relaxed about trying to win a third one. It would be nice to win an Open Championship. At the same time, there's no doubt about it. So yeah, it's a good week to play well, it's a good week to compete, and it would be a great week to win.
I have won a couple of Dunhills around this golf course, but it would be a different golf course when the Dunhill is on. The last two days have felt like I was playing in a Dunhill; it was cold and wet and soft. Actually the Dunhill weather was actually better than it was the last two days here. But the course started firming up again, kind of what I would have expected. Certainly in my mind playing an Open at St. Andrews it's a very, very firm, very, very bouncy golf course with incredibly tricky pin positions in terms of it's very hard to stop the ball on these greens. They get very firm. You can get 10, 12 yards with your first bounce. It wasn't like that the last two days, but certainly today it seemed a little bit more like it could be. But obviously that depends on what the weather is like the next couple of days.

Q. It's a bit different this year inasmuch as you have not had the Irish PGA as part of your buildup to this Open, so how have you kind of countered that? And does it make much difference?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: It's different. You know, I probably won't be able to fully tell you exactly until Thursday afternoon whether it makes a difference.
Ideally, yeah, I probably would have played the Irish PGA, but it couldn't be done this year. I came over here and played Saturday and Sunday here, didn't quite get in 18 holes each day. It was quite tough conditions. But I'm comfortable where I'm at. I do believe I will be ready to play on Thursday morning.
You know, if I had played a four-round tournament like the Irish PGA, there would be a little bit of fatigue setting in coming into this, so hopefully by not playing I'll be fresher. But also by not playing obviously you're not quite as sharp as you would be if you had just played a 72-hole stroke-play event on a links golf course.
There's pros and cons to it. Hopefully it won't make any difference at the end of the year.

Q. When you got here did you rush to see the 17th tee? And what did you think of it?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: I was interested, no doubt about it. I had seen it at the Dunhill. I stood on the tee. You know, it feels like it's not as far back as the tee I saw at the Dunhill. It's a superb -- it's exactly like I would have envisaged the hole played, probably like the hole played when I first played it in the early '90s. It's a tough test off that tee. You can't afford to leak it down the right. It's like 290 carry, so you've really got to stand up there and hit your drive and hit it well.
I think if you want to compare it to what I would have seen on TV in the '80s, obviously the fairway was a lot wider then on the left. The fairway, it's kind of cut -- the rough is cut at an angle to the tee shot now much more so. The fairway used to kind of go more the direction of the tee shot, now the fairway goes more the direction of the second shot, so it kind of cuts out the angle a little bit.
But it's a tight fairway. You've got to hit a tee shot, and the way I look at it, you always want to make sure that the guy that wins the Open Championship is tested at some stage coming down the stretch. There's nobody going to get through 17 without thinking about it, that's for sure, for four days. Yeah, like if it was a driver and a 5-iron, it's not that. It's a long hole. It's now one you're going to think about for 16 holes to actually get through it.

Q. Do you play any differently or just play the same as you did before except you've got longer irons in your hand?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: The iron shot, it's actually not the second shot at all that's the issue. I think at the Dunhill, it was more or less 3-wood, 8-iron type of thing and you were worried about even hitting your 3-wood into the bottleneck at the end of the fairway. It can be a difficult 8-iron, 7-iron shot at times because you've obviously got to fly it up on top.
Now you've got to hit driver. It's slightly -- you're certainly not reaching the bottleneck of the fairway at the end, and you're left with a 5-iron. I hit 7-iron, 6-iron and 5-iron onto the green yesterday all from the same spot. It was obviously a little bit downwind.
It's not that it's a big second shot. The second shot has always been intimidating whether you're hitting, as I said, an 8-iron or a 5-iron, and with a longer club at least it's going to run up there. It's the tee shot that may hurt, not anything else. It really is a tough tee shot, as in, I hit a couple of drives off it yesterday, and they weren't too dissimilar, and one of them was like a long way down the right half of the fairway and the other was out of bounds, and it wasn't like -- I was kind of expecting to find -- I wouldn't have been surprised if the two of them were within five yards of each other. So it's an intimidating tee shot. It's what you're used to seeing on TV years ago. It's exactly what they need.
It doesn't add a huge amount to the second shot. It adds a lot to the tee shot.

Q. In light of what happened to Tom Watson last year, nearly winning, do you have any thoughts on age and what the limits of age are in your sport, what they might be?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: How long have we got? Generally if you look at the careers of professional golfers, they last about 20 years before they burn out, and golfers finish up their careers when they lose that little bit of adrenaline, that little bit of buzz.
Some careers, some of the great players, some people come back for a Senior Tour run or for another part of their career, depending on -- usually depending on financial circumstances, it gets them motivated again and they come back in after maybe an Indian summer.
Physically, you can keep going, but mentally it's very hard to keep going in this game. As I said, 20 years, getting up at half 4:00 in the morning to warm up for a half 7:00 tee time, it just plays on you after 20 years, and you do need that bit of buzz. When it comes to certain golf courses, though, the physicality of the game isn't as important, so as long as a player comes along and is seriously motivated, has that adrenaline -- Jack Nicklaus was the one that said it, you know, if you don't get up in the morning with a little bit of butterflies in your stomach, you just can't compete at this game. If you look at a lot of the main careers, they tend to last, whether they started at 20 years or 25, they tend to last about 20 years before it burns out a little bit. You know, they lose a little bit of that buzz.
Obviously with Tom Watson, he had quite a period in his career where that wouldn't have been there, where it wasn't as exciting to get up there. But obviously in the last couple years, he's had a second look at it, a second wind, and there's no doubt he plays phenomenal golf. I played with him a couple of times now in major championships, and he just rips it, just keeps going after the pin like -- I'm sure he'd love to have had the opportunity he has -- I'm sure he did have that attitude for a while as a pro, but I'm sure he'd love to have the attitude he has now for the whole 40 years of his career, because it's a phenomenal -- just hit it and find it. I know if I see him playing, I always step back to have a look because he really does look like a guy with all the experience in the world that's just hitting it and finding it and going from there, which is a tremendous attitude.
One thing with golf, experience will always, always counter talent. Talent, yeah, it's good. It's nice to have it. It will certainly show up unbelievable on some days. But experience can always match it, certainly on certain golf courses, and links being those courses. I'm sure if Tom Watson -- I'm sure if he putted better, he'd be even more competitive. He knows that. So there's no doubt a player that stays physically fit can keep competing, but really does he stay mentally winner sharp, does he have that adrenaline, and as I said, it can do -- Nicklaus won at 46 at Augusta, so yeah, you can keep going.

Q. Circle back around on 17 for a follow-up, but I know a lot of people, yourself included, thought they needed to stretch it out a little bit so it was more reminiscent of the challenge that it created formerly, but can you understand why some of the purists think that's a little bit akin to putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa, changing a hole that's that famous even if it was just for a week?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: You do realise they used to play this course from the greens to the tees, so they've changed that many times. You look at those sheds, everything was different, the hotel was different. There wasn't a whole wing at that hotel ten years ago. Anybody goes on about they don't want change, it's changing all the time. Everything evolves. So they're really -- they're picking on one little aspect. Since I've been playing the course, and that's only since 1994 or something, there probably is ten new tee boxes. There's substantial changes going on all the time.
I know 17 is very high profile, but this is the modern game. I'm sure originally they moved to that -- the old tee was probably not there 30 years ago. They probably used a tee just in front. Everything has been evolving, so it's -- I say to those guys, five years' time they won't be thinking about that. They'll just see it as the hole it is. It has to change at some stage, and that's part of golf. All golf courses, and this one particularly, has evolved over the course of time.
And probably this one is the best one of all. It really has evolved over time. I'm sure if you went back through the history of this course, not only when we were playing the reverse way around, I'm sure there have been plenty of bunkers that have been added, taken away. So many changes would have evolved this course, and that's all it is. It's a new tee on the same line, it doesn't change anything except for it asks the modern player in good condition -- now, I'm not suggesting if we get a howling gale and it's running that we should be playing off the back tee, but right at the moment we're playing off the back. In the tournament if we're eight yards further forward that will make a difference, as well. It's no problem with length, and it's the same angle, so that's just playing as a big hole as it should be at the end of championship golf. Nobody ever wants to see someone win a major championship without being pushed to the limit right at the end.

Q. Do you hit it at the hotel still?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Actually practise rounds I always go along the limit so I hit it down along the hotel to see how far right I can go. It's one of those things, you want to know how far you can go right, and it's not that far. (Laughter).

Q. Just going back to your comments about Tom Watson, having won two Opens and won them back to back, do you have to engage in the kind of inevitable psychological battle where you're never going to hit -- it's going to be hard to hit those heights again, particularly in this tournament, and get yourself up for the 4:30 a.m. --
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I would say I'm in the opposite battle. I want to go out and win more majors, and if anything I'm too pushy, too hard, and trying too hard, and it's all about getting the next one. It's not about sitting back and doing your normal thing and relaxing a little bit and enjoying it, let's say. I definitely would be of the other camp of overdoing things.
No, I haven't made it to the stage that I'm not excited about the game. There will be a few years left for me before that happens.

Q. Tom Watson was just saying that looking back, he felt he didn't enjoy his victories at golf because he was so hungry to get the next one.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I would certainly suggest that's the case of anybody who wins a major championship. How will I put this? I would deny anybody who didn't enjoy their major victories as much as I did. I certainly enjoyed that. I made sure to enjoy that. I've won plenty of tournaments over the years that I could be sitting in the hotel room at 10:00 at night looking at the four walls after winning a tournament and thinking, what about it. But the major ones I didn't do that. I certainly enjoyed the wins. But afterwards no question one of the biggest issues of winning majors is the fact that you focus on them, you think about them, and you just want to go out and win another one, and that I think was what Tom was alluding to. Having won the three that I have, it's all about winning the fourth. Well, I'm sure when I had zero, if somebody told me I was going to win three, I would have said, thank you very much. I'll take that.
But there's a certain nature of pushing on and pushing on, and that can be a destructive force, as Tom has said, and there's certainly an attitude -- I know I talked to one of the more experienced European winners at one stage, and he was coming to the twilight of his career, and I was playing a practise round with him at a major. I just asked him because he was a very intense individual, and I was asking him, you know, why don't you sit back and just give it, I've won all these majors, I did well, thank you very much, and enjoy it. And he was saying, just one more. I was looking at him, going, madness, like you've done it all.
Now of course I've won three, and it's all about, just one more. That's human nature. I suppose it's what got us -- certainly it's what got this individual to his majors and it's what got me to my majors is that drive, but certainly it can be a little bit -- when you've won them, you can ease off a little bit. That's certainly something I will be focusing on this week is maybe trying to take a more balanced attitude out to the golf course, relaxing, enjoying it, all those clichテゥs that you hear said about golf. As I said, if I take a better attitude out there, I'll just let it happen.
I actually don't need my sports psychologist with me anymore this week and going to work with the journalists. (Laughter).

Q. Together with Tom Watson and yourself, the two great past champions, young Japanese player Ryo Ishikawa is grouped together for the first two days --
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, I didn't know. I didn't see the draw.

Q. Yes, it was just announced this afternoon. Do you have any impression of him?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: He's a phenomenal talent. Obviously everybody gets to see him. There's a big circus behind him, so he stands out when he's out there. But from when I've seen him play - and I haven't actually played with him on the golf course, I look forward to that - he hits it great. I would actually say, and I don't fit in there, but I would say he's a young Tom Watson, as in he just -- certainly from the little I've seen of him, he just seems to go after a lot, play without fear, which is certainly a trait of Tom Watson's. So I would think he's a young Tom Watson. He really goes after it, rips it, and plays from there, which is a tremendous attitude normally reserved for the young, but Tom Watson has it, as well.
I certainly don't fit into that category whatsoever, but it will be a joy. That's actually a lovely threeball. I've got to say, I've got two ends of the spectrum to look at, certainly a lot to learn from Tom Watson and certainly a lot to watch with Ryo Ishikawa.

Q. Would you have enjoyed being on the Tom Watson bandwagon last year? And would you like something like that to happen again this year, or does it matter to you?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I know it's hard to say, but I think everybody wanted Tom Watson to win, even Stewart Cink. It's a fairy tale. I think Tom Watson has given a lot to the game of golf, and I think that's why people want him to win over and above -- he was 59 last year, wasn't he? If it was a random guy of 59 I don't think people would have been as keen. But it's Tom Watson, he's given a lot to the game of golf, he's held up the traditions of the game, and I think that's why people would have loved to see him have a win.
Yes, I wouldn't go as far as to say -- I'd be happy to see Tom Watson win if I don't win, but I'm not quite going to go -- I still want to win this. But definitely he'd be somebody that I would watch and follow and wish to do well.
We crossed tee boxes. I was playing the 4th hole at Pebble and he was playing the 17th. I didn't realise it, but somebody pointed out, everybody in my group on the 4th hole walked back to the 17th to watch Tom Watson hit. It was just -- if you get an opportunity -- it's the one thing I've got a great opportunity tomorrow. Lee Trevino, I never saw him in his heyday, and I was disappointed in that. But Tom Watson, we still get to see him, see a little bit of what he was like in his great days. These are pretty good, as well, but it's something that's nice to see, and as I said, Tom Watson is somebody that every chance you get to watch him, there's something you will learn from him.

Q. Just an Irish question: How happy were you to see Darren Clarke get into the field? And from what you know of Darren and his experience at the Open and your experience as an Open winner, is there an Open win, an Open victory in Darren Clarke?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, Darren came so close at Troon. Yeah, Darren has always been a great streak player. You know, when he gets on a roll, he can hit every fairway, he can hit every green, and he can really hole the putts. The thing with Darren is he needs to be patient to wait for those streaks to come along. Obviously he's on one of those streaks. He won the JP McManus Pro Am. He came close last week. Inasmuch as Molinari played great golf, Darren would have had a chance if he holed a few putts, a few breaks.
I definitely think Darren can play if his form is on as he proved when he won the Bridgestone. When Darren is playing good golf, he's a match for anybody in the world, whether it's a major or any other tournament.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Pテ。draig, thanks very much.

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