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August 3, 2010

Padraig Harrington


COLIN MURRAY: We'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington to the interview room here at the Bridgestone Invitational. Tied for second here kind of started a nice run of Top 10s to finish the year for you. If you'd talk about being back here in Akron and then we'll open it up to questions.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's obviously nice to be back. It'll be interesting to see how the year goes. Obviously I come to close last year, brings certain expectations coming into this year. Previous years I've been so-so, so I'm not really sure what to expect this year. I find the golf course is obviously one of the -- I haven't seen it this week, but one of the tighter courses on TOUR with the heavier rough, fast greens, so you've got to really play well during the week to compete here. But I look forward to that challenge.

Q. I read somewhere where you thought you made some pretty spectacular shots last week. Was that an encouraging sign?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there was a couple of saves last week that were right up there with some of my best of my career let's say. Is that encouraging? I don't know, they're kind of one-offs. I'd be more encouraged by solid up-and-downs and solid play. The spectacular stuff is nice when it happens. You kind of know it doesn't last forever. But yeah, I enjoyed it last week, and it was -- yeah, my short game was sharp. I've got to keep working on that.
Greens will probably be a little quicker here. I suppose you need a sharp short game to get up-and-down, but certainly it's a tough golf course for getting up-and-down all the time with the speed of the greens. Better policy is to hit fairways and greens this week.

Q. Five of the last six majors have been won by first timers. Is there a trend there? Do you see a trend there? And do you think that that'll continue?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I suppose the fact that five of the last six were won like that, that is a trend. That's a fact. As regards will it continue? There's probably quite a broad depth to players at the moment without any one person dominating. So it's quite possible -- especially when first-time winners, when guys see their friends winning or individuals winning who they can associate with and consider themselves their equals, it's easier for them to go out and win the first time.
When you have one player dominating and winning consistently, there's very few people who are gaining confidence, and if anything it's going to work in the opposite way. Yeah, there's no doubt that there will be a number of Europeans who have seen Graeme win and who believe, yeah, we can play golf like Graeme McDowell so we can win a major. There will be a number of young South Africans who know Louis and know his game and say, yeah, I go out and play golf with him on a Tuesday and have an even match and some weeks I beat him and some weeks he beats me so I can win a major.
Yeah, it only encourages guys to open up a bit more and be a bit freer and win when they see their friends do it. As I said, nobody is quite dominating at the moment.
That leaves two things: One, players aren't scared of; and two, there's more of them to win.

Q. Are things still buzzing about the state of the Irish golfers?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there was quite expectation last week. The Irish Open was like the Irish Open of old. There was record crowds, tremendous atmosphere, lots of players to follow. It was great for my perspective. I found the Irish Open for a number of years very difficult because with so few Irish guys maybe with the potential of winning, there was always a lot of pressure, whereas this time around there was several players that were grabbing the limelight, so that essentially made it a lot easier to do your own thing.
Yeah, there is a great buzz about Irish golf, and we're just trying to keep up the great buzz at the moment, golf across the world over in England, and there's a great buzz about European golf. So we're kind of working in tandem with those things. Especially young European golf seems to be very strong at the moment.

Q. You had the Claret Jug two consecutive years. Could you refresh my memory and tell me what all went into the Claret Jug that you drank out of it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think just about everything went into it (laughter.) The very first drink was because of a bet with a friend of mine, and it was John Smith's Smooth Bitter, and it sounds a lot better than it tastes. (Laughter.)
Yes, begin necessary went into it and a lot of whisky went into it. Champaign went into it. I'd say -- I suppose it was out of my sight a few times. I'm sure a lot of other things went into it, too. I can certainly remember drinking some of those four out of it anyway.

Q. Anything your boy put into it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, ladybirds and things into it. Ladybugs as you call them over here. He wanted to store his ladybugs in there. To be honest, when it comes to drinking out of trophies, I've heard a lot of stories about other trophies. There's some famous stories. When you are taking your first drink out of it, you are very aware of who had this trophy before you. (Laughter.)
So yes, I do mean as you're drinking you're aware of it. I'm thinking, should I sterilize this first? Yes.

Q. A Ryder Cup question: The European team obviously is on form, pretty much top to bottom, and appears to be the favorite by most accounts. How do you think that makes a -- what kind of an effect does that have on a team, favorite versus underdog, in the Ryder Cup?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think Europe have used the underdog tag very well over the years and used it effectively and definitely has made the team play better as a whole than as an individual. I think the U.S. the last time around, they certainly went in -- they weren't the underdogs in ability, but they felt and they played up to being the underdogs in terms of they hadn't won it for a few years.
I think the teams will be evenly -- pretty evenly matched this time round. It's hard to say. I know we're very positive in Europe and talking up the good young players in Europe and the strength of European golf, but it still isn't -- maybe that's because I'm in the midst of it. It still doesn't feel like the strength that we were maybe at in the 80s when we had like five guys that were winning majors.
It's very strong, but the U.S. team will probably be equally strong or certainly stronger in places. It should be even, but yeah, definitely the press and the people will probably give Europe the edge in the betting. And I think maybe the venue will be that edge. I think that will be the -- that might be the significant thing to push two themes that are really 50/50, put it the European way.
We need it again. After losing the last one, not that we're ever not motivated, but we've got that little bit of extra motivation to get the trophy back.

Q. What's your take on Louis Oosthuizen, his game and what kind of guy he is?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, it's hard to talk about Louis Oosthuizen without talking about several South African players. They're certainly -- Charl Schwartzel, Richard Sterne, Louis Oosthuizen, I think there's another one, there's a group of them that are very similar. They all hit the ball fantastic, they all have great games, have struggled a little bit to adapt coming out of their home country enough. But they're very young, so they're just gaining really experience. It would be very easy to say that they're struggling to adapt, but they actually are very, very young. They've got long careers ahead of them.
It's been hard for any one of them to distinguish themselves from the others. I think Charl Schwartzel obviously started doing that during the winter. He had some fantastic wins and that, but Louis has stolen the farm from some other guys winning a major. I think that gives them confidence, and there could be a real resurgence.
Not that it ever went away, but I think South African golf can look to a very bright future with these guys. They are very good players. If they believed half of what they've got. They'd be some of the best ball strikers that are out there. They certainly have the ability, and a win by Louis like that will only encourage himself and the others that they are good enough to be out here winning major tournaments.

Q. Wondering what you remember about the fourth round last year here at the Bridgestone and playing with Tiger in those last nine holes?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I wouldn't remember a huge amount past -- I actually couldn't tell you anything past 14 onwards. I remember 14, we both struggled on 14. I made a good up-and-down out of the bunker. Was it out of the bunker? I remember I made a good up-and-down anyway to get me right in there, then 15, and then obviously I had the troubles on 16. And then I did quite well to par the last two holes when I wasn't feeling the way I needed to hang in there. Yeah, that's probably what I remember. Pretty much 14, 16 -- I remember 17 because I was struggling after obviously taking the 8 down 16 to get my mind set, and I made a good 4 on 17, and I know I parred the last, but I don't really remember it.
So 14, 16 and 17 I remember. That would be my memory for the whole of last year. A lot of golf played since then.

Q. A lot of guys who have played in the Ryder Cup talk about the pressure involved, and I'm wondering if you can recall the most nervous you've been.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The most nervous I was in 1991 playing the Walker Cup in Ireland. My playing partner opted to let me hit the first tee shot, which was very nice of him, and we've been joking at the trials and things like that, that the sea is on the right-hand side, the clubhouse is on the left-hand side, and we've been reminded many times by the locals that you can hit the clubhouse. I was very nervous. By the time I went to swing the club, I definitely couldn't see the golf ball. It was a question of I might as well swing away because it ain't getting any better, it was so bad at this stage (laughter.)
I did hit it down the middle of the fairway, and that was the same as my first Ryder Cup, was a 7-iron into the first green at Brookline, and you get so nervous that it just all goes into a blur, and you just kind of have to go with, I've got to go. It's not like you're going to stand there all day, so you might as well hit it. So yeah, the height of nervousness, as I said.
The one thing with the Ryder Cup which makes it different to all other events, and I think people definitely miss out on this, you can be coming down the stretch in a tournament and it's very important to you so you get nervous. But when you're nervous, you're backed up by the fact that you're coming down the stretch, you've played well that week. So you're having a good week and you're nervous. Whereas at the Ryder Cup you stand up on the first tee, and it might not be a good week and yet you're asked to hit the same shots.
So you get the same pressure or more pressure but without the confidence that you would have built up by playing the first 63 holes of the tournament and knowing that your game is in good shape.
One of the true tests of somebody as to regards to their bottom is their ability to play good golf when they're not playing well or their ability to hit a golf shot after they've hit a bad golf shot. It's a little bit like that in the Ryder Cup because often times -- you look at any given week, if you picked up the 12 Ryder Cup guys in any given week who are going to be on the team, six will have a good week and six won't have a good week.
Say this week, six will do well, six won't. But in the Ryder Cup you're asking all 12 to perform well and to have the faith and trust and confidence in their game like they're playing well, but half a dozen guys on the team wouldn't be playing their best golf that week, and they'll have to hit the golf shots like they are. That's what makes the Ryder Cup so tough. You're not being asked to play your best golf on your good week. You're being asked to play your best golf on a week, as if you're told to turn up and perform, which is a tough test as opposed to turning up in general and hoping to have a good week.
My coach always said it like this: The difference between the good and the great player is a good player can play great on his week; a great player can play good when he wants to, and that's the difference. The Ryder Cup is asking for players to play good on that given week, whereas to win a tournament, you're asked to play great, and you just have to turn up and hope. The winner this week is going to have to have a great week, but at the Ryder Cup you get 12 guys turn up and have good weeks, you're going to have a winning Ryder Cup team. Even though you will have one or two guys have great weeks, it's more about asking guys not to have great weeks. You need to have guys manage their game, manage their -- just manage to perform even if they're not on their very best form, and that's a tough thing, and there's a lot of pressure involved in doing that.
You know, it is a lot easier to play good golf and to handle the pressure when things are going for you, but that might not necessarily be the case at the Ryder Cup. You can go out there in singles as has been proved over the years and not be playing well, but you're asked to go out there and perform like you're on top of your game, and you might not be on top of your game, yet you still have to go out there and hit those shots under the same pressure as anybody else even though you've got some baggage coming in from the previous two days. That's what's tough about the Ryder Cup.

Q. When we were talking about Charl Schwartzel and the success of the South Africans this year, what have the South Africans and the Australians and even the Europeans done so well in the States this year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, South Africans have done well in the States since Ernie, I assume. Ernie is the only winner over here, right? The Australians, Adam, Stuart have won --

Q. Geoff.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, if you want to put it as why have the international players done well? You know, I think we need a longer period of time to look at this to say that the international players are doing well as against the U.S.-based players. If there is an issue going forward, and I would say the U.S. Tour is so strong with the international players coming here and playing as often as they do, the strongest fields they have on the PGA TOUR really means that the young player, the young U.S.-born player doesn't get the opportunity to learn how to win as much as an international player playing on his home Tour before he comes out.
So the likes of -- before I came to the States in 2004, I probably won 20 times, or close to it. I'm not quite sure how many times, but a lot of guys before they come to the States, they've won. So when they get that chance, they have won before, they know how to win, whereas a U.S.-born player, especially since he gets his card very quickly on the Tour -- even if he doesn't, if he wins on the Nationwide Tour, he's likely only there one year.
A good season over here for a young player, he might get in contention three or four times, might win once, whereas a good season for a young player in Europe, he gets in contention 12 times and wins twice, two, maybe three times, and those 12 times he's in contention, he's going to learn a lot from those. He's going to learn a lot about himself, and that will help him grow as a player.
Yeah, there's no doubt that this is a tough thing to say, that the strength of the U.S. Tour doesn't help grow young players. If Vijay, as Vijay did a few years ago, won ten events in a year, it doesn't leave very many events for anybody else to win. That's a perfect example. If he wins 10 out of 45 events, that's 35 left. And if Tiger and Phil take five each out of that, and now the rest of the field are playing for 25 events, there's not a lot of events for players to win out there, a young player, whereas young players coming through the South African Tour or Australian Tour, Asian Tour, Japan or Europe, we all get our chance to build up our competitiveness, our ability to win down the stretch on numerous occasions before we come over here to the PGA TOUR where there is a lot more depth.
So I think, yeah, it's definitely -- if going forward -- you've got to be absolutely exceptional as a U.S.-born player to make it to the top, whereas I think you're given a little bit more time as an international player to learn your trade. It's not as cutthroat, as I said, in Europe or the rest of the world where you can learn who you are and come to the States when you're 30 years of age or so.
I'm sure there's great players coming out of college in the States who at 22, 23 years of age don't quite make it over their first five, six years and are probably burnt out or lost their confidence by 30, whereas a similar player, international player, has won 10 events by that stage and is chomping at the bit to get out here and do it on a different stage.
Yeah, I think the PGA TOUR is not a breeding ground. That is going to be an issue for -- it's a breeding ground for absolutely exceptional. But I know some players on the Tour over here and I've said to them that they'd be better players if they actually got out and played a bit more around the world and learnt a little bit like we talked about there with the Ryder Cup. If I turn up and play an event in certain -- if I go to certain places and turn up, there will be half a dozen guys that are the spotlight of the week. We have to do things for sponsors and things like that, but you have to play and perform based on that. They put your mug on the front of the magazine and the posters going in all up the roads on the side and do all the stuff at the hotel and all the stuff that goes with that, you have to perform, and you're there.
Playing in a U.S. event, it's a bit of a sprint. Everybody starts out 156 guys, and we all go flat out from day one, and if you're not 4-under par by nine holes, you feel like you're going backwards, whereas playing around the world, you go, okay, I'm here, I've got to -- I see this with U.S. players coming out and playing around the world, too. They get treated like a star for the week, and the payback is if they're treated like a star, they perform like a star. Whereas over here it's much more of a print, who played the best this week, and if it doesn't go fine, there's always next week.
Sometimes if you're playing around the world and you're brought in there to perform on cue, there is a little bit more patience in their game, and if things aren't going very well, you aren't thinking you're hanging in there and you're working with what you've got because you know you've got to hang around there and you know you have a chance and you actually learn a lot more about your game, as I said, purely because you've been in contention more often.
So it's a very long-winded answer to your question, but as I said, and this could be a controversial comment, but the PGA TOUR is very much -- it's not anywhere like -- by strengthening the TOUR as they have over the last ten years particularly, it is not really the U.S. Tour; Tim Finchem has made this as strong as possible a Tour. He's encouraged as much as possible the international players. He's made it as easy as possible for the international players to join. Is that to the detriment of the U.S.-born players? Well, it would be a closed market if it was, and it really would bring the very, very, very best to the top, but yeah, there is a little bit of a lack of giving the young U.S. born players the opportunity to learn their trade. They're not going to stick on the Nationwide Tour if they can get out on the Main Tour. They're just not going to do that.
But as I said, guys would be better playing ten years around the world and learning how to win 20 tournaments and coming here then or playing for ten years on the U.S. Tour and having one or two wins, and that would be a successful career out here. It is -- by strengthening the TOUR, there's no doubt what strengthen the TOUR, it's giving a little bit less opportunity -- if there's 50 international players every week on the U.S. Tour, that's 50 less spots for U.S. guys, and at the end of the day, it's also -- those 50 international players are the cream of the crop. It's the very best of the 50, so they aren't going to finish -- those 50 are generally finishing high up in the event, so it's even reducing the opportunities as I said even more.
And then if you have Tiger on form or Phil on form or somebody else on form who's taking a large chunk of the wins out there, it gives you even less opportunity. But as I said, if you're really, really good, it doesn't make a difference. You'll get to the top anyway. It's just some of the guys who are good who could do with that little bit of learning.
PGA TOUR is not the place for learning. That's essentially it. You've got to have your game when you're out here.
COLIN MURRAY: Padraig, thank you for joining us. Good luck this week, and play well.

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