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January 20, 2011

Padraig Harrington


SCOTT CROCKETT: Pádraig, many thanks, as always for coming in and joining us, and congratulations, an excellent start to your tournament here. Perhaps bogey-free was the most pleasing aspect or was it just generally.
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, it is nice to go bogey-free but I think I'm more pleased at the 65. I think I didn't play like it was bogey-free, at times, I managed my way around the golf course. I was very good mentally through the day, so, yeah, it was nice to be bogey-free. I hit the right shots at the right times and I hit a lot of particularly good shots when I had to.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Five birdies, but the one we are talking about is the eagle on 8. Take us through that one.
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: They moved the tee up a little which gave us a chance to reach. I hit a nice drive around the corner. I actually had an okay lie but at this time of the year I just got a bit anxious on it and gave it a dart, not to leave it behind me and it came out hot. I hoped it would hit the flag and stop beside the hole but it hit the flag and went in. Certainly it was close to a two-shot break, it was a two-shot break.
And 9, I would say I came out, it must have been an 18- -foot putt, and all I could see was me holing it, and another time coming out, you would be level par and you might have played a little bit better and you'd drop a shot at the last hole sort of thing, and you'd be standing there thinking you can hole it. I was in a good place today.

Q. After all of the work you've done over the winter and the many changes you made, how much is there a sense that this is a new beginning?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Actually felt like the same old, same old to me. (Laughing).
I obviously have tried to change a number of things, but you only realise when you get back out on the golf course that changing things can be particularly hard. And certainly at times, I felt like I was more like my old self rather than my new self. It's going to take time with the changes and I'll keep working them in.
Obviously in a situation like this, you kind of have to try and ignore it the most you can and get on with it. You know, I spent probably last -- 30 or the last 45 minutes, maybe last hour of my round, trying to convince myself and still trying to convince myself to not go near the range to try improving things. While it's not perfect, it seems okay.
As I said, the changes are still really a work-in-progress, and as I said, they reset to a lot of the old habits at times but I was encouraged by the fact that I hit a lot of the important shots as well.

Q. Which of the changes actually not quite bedding in? Which are the ones giving you problems?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, there was a lot of changes, and to be honest, I don't want to break down which one -- I'm trying to keep it out of my head at this stage, which ones are there and which ones aren't. I can see myself creeping into some of my old habits.
Now that I'm doing well in the tournament, I have to put up with it and keep going with it and not try and fix anything for next three days. Just leave it as it is and hopefully stay mentally strong to make the right decisions and will counteract any issues that, as I said, that things are not quite -- well, not quite perfect, anyway.

Q. Can you just give us an idea of what work you were doing during the winter break?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: We're going to have a while for this one. (Laughter).
First of all, I changed my grips on my clubs, which is a significant change, if anybody realised, I used to put my grips on 45 degrees open with a reminder. So I've gone to round grips, which is quite significant. I tried to change my posture; proved harder than -- proved difficult.
Significantly tried to change my routine that I don't waggle over the ball anymore. I only look up once; if I get it right, I only look up once, instead of twice.
I tried to take the club away with my arms more now than I used to, as in I leave my -- essentially I'm trying to leave my hips behind in the takeaway, trying to stop squatting in my takeaway, which I know is still there. I don't want to look at it but I know it's there.
I'm obviously trying to keep the club -- I had to change my plane in the backswing because I don't have such a big hip turn from address. Quite a significant one was I changed my shoulder turn. I used to try and clear my shoulders under my chin. I have recurring neck problems, so for that reason I'm trying to swing my shoulder into my chin now so I'm trying to tuck my chin in more at the top of my backswing rather than clear it.
And the downswing, I'm trying to cover, trying to get my hands a little bit lower. Try and keep the heel down a bit.
There was another one -- oh, yeah, try to stabilize my left hip. Trying to lose a little bit of -- I can do it all very nicely at about 75 per cent speed. I can actually make the swing look okay on video but when I go to actually play, it's not quite there.
So it's going to take time. And obviously then I had a knock-on effect, I had to change my chipping action and my bunker action. (Laughter) I had a good six weeks.

Q. All of that makes me wonder, how did you win three Majors before making these changes?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: In the end of the day, if I focus, I hit a good shot. If I don't focus, I hit a bad shot. All of these changes are to help me hit a decent shot when I don't focus.
It's kind of a bit -- I suppose some people would say it's a funny way of looking at it, but you know, you always want to get better. I was world No. 3 when I won three Majors and I didn't think I would get world No. 1 and I wanted to improve and try and get there.
So I felt I had plateaued at that stage. I had been working before that on trying to change things. A lot of this work is coming from two, three years prior to me winning the Majors. So I just haven't been able to really get to grips with it. I do feel like it's coming around now.

Q. All players are different but a lot of players say that they don't like to play with any swing thoughts. Have you been like that?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: That's the problem. I don't play with swing thoughts. I haven't had a swing thought on the golf course in 14 years. I've just spent six weeks with ten swing thoughts and it's very hard not to have any. That's the difficulty of changing things and that's why you need to do it with time off and you need to get a good balance to it.
But as I said, I spent the first four weeks like immersed in it and the last two weeks half and half, and maybe coming into this week, trying to get away from it a little bit. You know, of all of the time I've spent on the range this week, I'd say only a 10th of it has been with swing thoughts. Rest of it has been just trying to get back into playing.

Q. And the battle out there today was to deep the demon swing thoughts away?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I actually was good at keeping them away. The battle was to stay focussed and not lose your focus out there and as I said, I know at times I'm not doing what I want to do in terms of technique, but if I focus, it's fine. I can work with that. I hit plenty of good shots when I get that right, as we all do, when we are in a good place, we hit good shots.
At times, I'm not distracted, as I say, on the course, I just at times don't do the focus as good as I could do.

Q. Martin and Louis are obviously powerful guys, long hitters, but you seem to be the consistently longest of your three ball today. Just wondering whether some of the changes you've made have added some yards to the driver?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I was surprised. Yeah, that surprised me. I actually -- I've got a much tighter coil but a shorter swing. As this works its way in, my swing will get a little bit more fluid and a little bit longer.
So, I don't know, I think both of the boys have a bit of speed in them. This is one of those days, maybe I was getting -- it's an interesting course. I would have said the three of us hit it the same length hitter, so, but a couple of times, like on 8, I took a little tighter line and it's amazing significantly, you gain 20, 25, 30 yards on this course by cutting the doglegs a little bit and there's a lot of that out there.
I was quite pleased. I was thinking I was going to be 20 yards short of them all day so I was quite happy about that. Didn't do me any harm in my scoring either.

Q. You talked about world No. 1 and making changes to get to world No. 1. How much of a motivating factor in that goal is Lee Westwood getting to No. 1?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, the circumstances now are different to when I would have been doing a lot of the -- you know, going after these changes. So like at the time I had -- when I was third, I probably needed to win three times the points I had to be world No. 1.
Circumstances are different, it's more of a level playing field at the moment. Lee is comfortably the best player in the world based on consistency, day-in and day-out. You've got to look at maybe the other two guys, Phil and Tiger, when they hit form, they are close to -- well, I wouldn't say unbeatable but they are pretty much up there.
But between the three of them, they are significantly -- you could argue the toss for who is the world No. 1 sort of thing. But Lee has definitely proved it with his consistency to be there and I think he's going to be there for a long time.
As regards the rest of us, I'm probably closer to world No. 1 now at 26 in the world than I was when I was third in the world. So the incentive is out there for any of us to have a bumper year. If I get out of the blocks this year and win half a dozen times, come the end of the year, I'll be world No. 1.
It's a great situation to be in; that the game has certainly opened up a lot at the moment and I'm sure there's -- I'm sure there's a lot of players in the game that are resetting their goals and they have world No. 1 as one of those goals.

Q. You were talking about the importance of staying focussed on the course but are you focussing on the ball or target or what are your thoughts over the ball?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Lewine, next you're going to ask me, if I'm breathing in on my backswing.
I'm just focusing on the target. That's the Bob Rotella way and that's the way I've tried to do for 14 years, and some days I do it well and some days I don't. Today was up-and-down.

Q. Can I just get your thoughts on where the tournament is compared to previous years, course, course setup?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I played -- I actually played Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and all three days I've gone around the golf course thinking, how am I going to shoot 20-under par around here because every year 20-under par wins and it just seems to be such a tough course. The fairways are certainly 50 per cent narrower than you would see in the U.S. The rough is substantial. It's a windy golf course. There's a lot of cross, little doglegs. It's a tough golf course.
I think the fact that it's in good condition, you're going to get guys playing well, and obviously guys playing well on a course in good condition will shoot low numbers.
But it doesn't feel like you can go out there and shoot 20-under for four rounds. It feels like a course that should be, you know, 8-under par, maybe, to 12-under par as the winning total. I can only put it down to the good greens.

Q. Tournament as a whole?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Tournament is getting better every year. It's a great tournament. It's unbelievable to see the field that's here the first week of the year. There's no doubt it's the best tournament in the world this week. It's got the best players, most World Ranking points. There's nothing you would ask for about this event. HSBC do a great job, and Abu Dhabi, they have really put together a first-class event.
It's kind of perpetuated itself; over the years, Abu Dhabi have brought down the best players, and with HSBC here now, they really have got the best players, so that means everybody else has got to come. Once you have a field like this and you're delivering the World Ranking points that this event will deliver this week, it's encouraging more and more people to come along and this is where you have to be at this time of the year.

Q. I was going to ask you a very similar question but maybe another one instead. How low could you actually get to in terms of morale and confidence during the barren period?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I won three months ago, so it wasn't that barren.
I didn't get throw at all. Ten Top-10s last year, plenty of top 5s, in contention a lot of times. Yes, I didn't win, but anybody who knows me, the minute I hit the practise range or the minute I'm going into anything, I'm the most optimistic person you'll meet. I'm always looking forward, always excited about getting out there.
Last year, as I said -- the year before, I was six in the FedExCup. I was still well inside the Top-10 in the world. Last year, I had plenty of good performances, but if you looked at the difference between my year last year and my year in, say, 2008, I think it was 2008, every Sunday in 2008, I went forward. Last year, every Sunday I went backwards.
So I just didn't deliver for four rounds last year. While it was frustrating, no, I don't get low. Probably it was good to see the end of the year and have a break. But we still had the high of The Ryder Cup. We still had the high of winning in Malaysia. Overall 2009 won't go down as such a bad year, or 2010 went go as such a bad year as I get further away from it.

Q. Do you over-analyse every tiny detail when things aren't going your way? Is there some fear in your head that if all of the changes you're working on don't get you to where you want to be, what do you do then?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: See, I know a lot of people, they go back to -- they see the highs and the results of 2007, 2008, and they go, oh, you started changing things it.
I have obsessively changed things since I'm 15 years of age, obsessively changed things with my swing, all the time. I obviously haven't got it right at times. But like if anybody saw my swing pre-Bob Torrance, if anybody saw my swing, when I qualified for the Tour in 1996, I could not draw the ball. I made it on to the tour and I could not draw the ball. I played three Walker Cups and all I could hit was a little chop slice.
I turned up my first year on Tour and after getting a lesson from John Jacobs and I hit it with a 40-yard draw all year, and I was the happiest man out there because I hit it 30 yards further.
After two years with that, I played in a U.S. Open in '97 at Olympic Club, California. Finished 27th, and I tell you, I maxed that out. There was no way anybody worked as hard to finish 27th in an event and I knew I had to change things.
I went to Bob Torrance, and I had finished like 11th, 8th in European Order of Merit and I finished 29th in my first year working with Bob Torrance. That was a big change and massive. And it gradually went back and back and did a lot of work on that, and then about -- probably about 2005, I went and had a swing analysis done, biomechanical analysis, and it pointed out something else that was wrong, and I have obsessively tried to figure out how to change that and struggled to do it over the last five years.
But any change that I was trying to make after 2008, I was trying to make before I won The Open 2007. It's just I was making it in the spotlight, and found it hard to do and still found it hard to do and still trying to find a way to get it done. It keeps me interested. It gets me up in the morning. It only keeps you focused on what is important in your game. I realise if you want to look for anything in last year, my game, I think my stats from six feet and out and putting, I was 150-something in putting, from six feet and out all year.
So if I want to find somewhere to blame, it's not swing changes; it's not holing enough putts.

Q. What was the starting point before you embarked on the latest swing changes? Do you have a meeting with the two Bobs?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: If it was left to Bob Rotella, you don't do technical practise very much, or any of it at all.
You know, Bob was very keen; the stuff that I've always worked on with Bob and I actually do more of it at this very moment.
But the big change in terms of physically, for me, what I'm trying to get to grips with is my posture. I just squat, I stand up before I take the club away and I tend to stand up again coming into impact and my hips actually move lateral rather than decelerating.
So this is stuff that I'm -- the club is actually moving okay on plane, but my biomechanics are not functioning properly and the longer I stay in that, the more injury-prone I am, and even it does improve your golf swing, too. So I've been trying to get my way to get my hips to function properly in swing and not move laterally and not decelerating with a large hip turn essentially before, I think that might be the issue.
So it's going to take me a while. I'm told of the relative people, that it takes six weeks of technical practise to change something, six weeks of competitive practise where you go in and out of it, and then hopefully it should be reasonably in your swing that you don't have to think about it.
So that is my thinking on it. It's going to be six weeks where I do it good and do it badly. But I will probably be the whole year trying to figure out -- it will be the little things that I work on for the whole year probably.

Q. Did you sit down at the end of last year and say, you know, how do I get better?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: What was frustrating for me about last year was that I actually played very well on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And I might have played well on Thursday but if I did play well Thursday, Friday, when I had expectations, my game went off.
Like I had a number of people who would come out and watch me play at different times, and they are looking at me playing on a Tuesday and Wednesday, and I'm striping it and they are just thinking, wow, he's going to win this week and I end up missing the cut or something.
The frustration was the consistency in it and you're always looking -- the interesting thing about the game of golf is we are never looking to try and hit -- we are always trying to figure out how to not hit our worst shot. In the end of the day, you're looking for that consistency when your game is slightly out, and when things are going for you, it's easy to hit a good shot.
Like I said, the difference between -- a Bob Torrance quote here. The difference between a great player and a good player is, a good player can play great when the feeling is upon him; whereas, a great player can play good when he wants to. I'll leave with you that one. (Laughter).

Q. Is there a battle of the two Bobs? Is one pulling one way and one pulling the other?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: There's always a battle with me on either Bob, because I'm always a little bit, you know, Bob Rotella knows that I get caught up on my swing technique more than he would like to. Bob Torrance knows at times that I could spend more time on the range -- well, actually I couldn't spends more time on the range. I could spend more time working on my technique to make it that bit more solid, at times, but as a player, I have to be the final.
The great thing is I'm not managed by anybody else. I manage myself. I have to make the final decision on what I need to do to play well and what are my goals and what am I focussed about doing and sometimes I have made sacrifices at tournaments where I've gone down the road of maybe doing more practise than would be prudent in keeping me fresh to win a tournament.
At other times, I get it right. The one thing is I have the experience to know -- I have the experience to know, okay, sometimes I don't do it, though. I do know it the right way and the wrong way, but yeah, at times I can get drawn into the wrong way at times and quite happily get drawn into the wrong way and get drawn into that rode at times, for a few weeks, anyway.

Q. Do you view yourself as an eccentric from the outside, if you're looking at yourself?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Complicated but not eccentric. When it comes to golf, you know, as I said, the day I don't have something to work on, I probably won't be as excited to get up in the morning to go out and practise. This is what motivates you.
If you look at careers, most golf careers last 20 years where they can be there for a little bit longer but 20 years where they are competing. If you look at any of the guys who won Majors in the 80s, their careers were 20 years and you get burnt out. You don't have the butterflies when you get up in the morning.
I was nervous coming to the course today. I'm thinking, first round of the year, is the game going to be there, what am I going to shoot. And it's a great feeling. It's exactly where you want to be. I got up at 4.45 today and might as well have been the middle of the day, I was jumping around the room. That's a sign that I'm ready to go.
I will say at the end of the year last year when I got up for a 4.45 wake-up call, I wasn't bouncing off the walls. I was tired of the game a bit by the end of last year but it is important to have something.
I said to Mark, we were discussing it coming down the ninth, and it was an interesting point of view. He was saying that it's nice to find something to work on your swing that you can never actually get, because that means you can keep working on it. So you always have something to go back to on the range to keep working on, to keep working on and keep going forward. Whereas if you get it to 100 per cent, if you go to the range, you try and find something else.
So every player out there is working on something to a different degree, and I've watched them a lot and I can tell which guys -- the greatest example of this, ever, was Tobias Dier beat me in the West of Ireland Classic. You'll have to find the year, maybe it was 2000 -- no, that was actually Ryder Cup year, '99. Beat me by a shot coming down the stretch. I think he missed every putt until he won the Dutch Open the final year. And I'm sitting on the podium, again, at the Dutch Open, on one of my lovely runs of 29 second places and we are all sitting there and going, well, Tobias, you won, you missed every cut, you won, so what happened?
He says, "Well, my friends told me this week that I do too much practise. I work too much on my game. So I took it easy. I didn't do any this week."
I smiled at that statement, because I knew he would be back on the range the next week. Even though he knew the answer, he couldn't resist the temptation of going back to the range. So we are all in that model somewhere. We all have to manage it out here on Tour; how much practise we do, what we do it on, whether it's technical, whether it's mental, and the difference between -- the difference, as I said, between the really great players is they find that they get the right balance.
And there's a lot of good players out there who don't do enough on their short game, but there are a lot of players out there who do too much, as well.
I have actually seen more guys lose their card by doing too much than guys lose their card by doing too good. So it's an interesting one.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Certainly is. Pádraig, thank you very much as always.

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