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July 5, 2011

Padraig Harrington


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thanks for coming in, welcome to The Barclays Scottish Open. A change of venue this year, I think we've asked everyone this first question but we're going to ask you, as well. What do you make of the golf course?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously the first thing is, I'm here because it's on a links golf course. I've always said that I like playing the week before a major tournament, but when it comes to playing links golf, even though I grew up playing links golf it's distinctly different, getting used to it again, and it takes some time. And the fact that we are here now at The Scottish Open on a links course is fantastic.
The golf course itself, we were not sure what to expect coming up here. I had heard it was good. But you know, who knows until you get out there yourself. It's way above expectations. It's a fantastic golf course. It's as -- somebody described it and I would have to agree, I'm not going to take credit for it, but somebody said it was the best new-built links golf course out there, and you would have to think it's right up there in that category.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: In what sense is that?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: There's so many options out there. There's so many things happening. There's so many things going on all over the place. Just, you know, there's many ways to play the same holes. I will say, you know, obviously Kingsbarns is the forerunner to this and we enjoy playing Kingsbarns, but for me they seem to have taken the slope out of the green and put it outside the green here.
So nobody minds, if you miss the green and your ball gets stuck behind some mound and runs off 20 yards, you know, that's punishment for missing the green. But if you had hit it on the green here, the greens are putting beautiful and you've got good birdie chances. There are some very big greens at times but there's some small greens. There's great variety out there.
But it really is, I like what I see outside the green structures, it spills the ball very nicely and you're left with a lot of options, whether to putt it, whether to chip it, chip-and-run it, play a lob shot. There are some of those very quirky little -- it's like they have cut the bank, and they have left a little wall, which is ideal for modern golf because you don't want to see it -- what you will see happen this week but you won't see it happen all the. Time, you don't want to see somebody miss every green and use a putter every time. But these little quirky -- you have to either play a pitch-and-run and chip it over or lob it. So it's asking us a few more questions.
I think it's nice when you go to a green structure and you find a run-off. I don't like rough at all. I'm all against rough around the greens. I think it nullifies the skill and it plays into the hands of bad chippers. So now we have a situation where you have tight lies and okay, if they can putt it, it plays into the hands of bad chippers. But with these little sliced banked and things like that, they are going to have use their lob-wedge and they are going to have to play chip-and-runs and that really brings the skill back into the game.
So I am excited about the golf course, that's probably my best way of saying it. I'm excited about the tournament. Doesn't mean I'm going to get the breaks this week. In the end of the day everybody who plays is going to get a number of bad breaks and a number of good breaks.
You're going to see golf shots out there this week, guys hit a pretty decent shot and they get a kick forward and it goes over the green and they end up making bogey and be in a lot of trouble and getting very frustrated but you'll also see guys getting good breaks at times, maybe hitting it ten yards left of where they want to, but it's breaking in off a bank and comes back down to ten feet and they make a birdie. So at the end of the week, hopefully all of those good and bad breaks add up. The guy who wins will probably get a few more good breaks, but it really is back to playing very traditional links golf. It's a great set-up for next week.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: That and the combination of a strong field make it a very potent mix for a first class event?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: There's lots of guys who are here because we are here playing a links golf course. There is an argument to be said that Scottish Open should always be there.
I really think that they have got the field here based on the fact that, you know, they have always got a strong field but they have really got everybody wanting to come here, and I think that will even increase over the years, especially when people see the golf course. It's a fun golf course to play. It's completely unique compared to every other golf course we play.
Bar playing The Open Championship, and in this U.S. maybe playing when we get to play Whistling Straits, outside of that, we never get to play a test like this. So it's fantastic that we get that opportunity to enjoy this style of golf, because it's really different to what we are used to. Takes a lot of getting used to.

Q. Have you played the Scottish Open before?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I played Loch Lomond a few times. I couldn't tell you the years I played it but I played Loch Lomond.
I don't think I played -- I'm trying to think, the last time it was on a links was at Carnoustie when Gordon Sherry finished third, so we were both amateurs at that stage. So I would have played Loch Lomond early on in my career. So, yeah, I would have -- it might be as far back. Somebody will have to look at the record.
It would be nice to -- it's great to be back, as I said, for me, as regards the tournament, we come here and everybody I think everybody will be more in the same scenario as me, when you tee it up, all you're thinking about is winning the event.
Obviously at some stage, if you are not in contention, you are thinking about getting your game ready for the Open. So maybe Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you're thinking about the Open, too, but the minute that tournament starts on Thursday. And I said this the other day, if on Sunday I have a chance of winning, this is a big enough tournament, if I had a chance to win in this tournament, I'd put all my effort into this tournament and next week, you forget about next week. It's more important to win this week and take your opportunity in that sense.
And up until your opportunity of winning this week, it really goes that that's when you start working on the following week and hitting shots. But it's all about The Scottish Open at the moment and playing as well as I can Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I could tell you, I know I won't feel like this next Thursday week, but if I was to win here on Sunday night, I wouldn't be too worried about going to the following week.
And it would be nice to win, as you said, won The Irish Open, won The Open, would be nice to have another one of the home nation's titles.

Q. What is it about playing or not playing the week before...
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: It wouldn't be me at all. You know, there's guys that like not playing the week before and they get ready very well doing that. But everybody is different, and for me, I need the competitive practise to sort out my game. I need -- if I have too much time on my hands, as in a week off, I'll actually do too much technical practise, which is a poor way of preparing. You need to be getting your head in the right place this week, and that's why I need to be on the golf course and being tested with one shot at a time and not have the ability to rake another golf ball in behind the first shot and hit it again.
This is the sort of test -- and I also feel, even if you had a preparation for another major where you didn't play the week before, when it comes to The Open, if you're not playing links golf the week before, you just can't -- I cannot emphasise how different it is hitting an iron shot off the turf on a links golf course than on a standard parkland course we play during the year. Like it is significantly different. Some irons go further and some irons go shorter because of the turf.
It's harder to get the ball -- you know, like in the States, a lot of times I might hit a -- I'll work off hitting my lob-wedge 90 yards in the air. Off that turf out there, it's 80 yards in the air at most so I lose ten yards. But then I hit a 5-iron today that went 240 yards with a bit of run.
So I hit another 5-iron straight into the wind on No. 3, and it went -- I hit it beautiful, too. It went 175 yards. Just try to get your head around -- with the same strength wind and the same strike playing in 90-degree heat, say in the U.S., that 5-iron would have went, that went 175 yards, that 5-iron definitely would have went 205, 210 yards. So it's amazing, it takes a lot -- even though I've played links golf my whole life, it takes a huge mental shift to get back to understanding that.
Another example, you can hit a flat-out 6-iron into the wind that might go 160 yards and you might hit a little punch 6-iron that might go 180 yards into the wind because it's going to release lower. There's so many different aspects to it. And the reason why I come and play a tournament is you can get some of that when you're out there playing a friendly golf, but you really learn your lesson when you're out there and hitting a golf shot and you want to hit it close and hit a good shot and all of a sudden you're scratching your head why you're 15 yards short of the pin. It gives you that, okay, you've got to be disciplined here and understand that yourself iron is pitching on with 155 yards this week. It ain't going 180 yards. You only get that really by being out in the golf course and being competitive. For me, anyway. That's where I'm at.

Q. Do you think this event can get even bigger when the word spreads about Castle Stuart?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I think you've got to think it's there already when you look at the field that has come here. Barclays have done a tremendous job at Loch Lomond. You only have to come into our players' lounge this week, and like the standard, they treat us just so well in there. You've got like -- there might be at least half a dozen food stations and there's somebody standing there serving you, the food is coming out fresh. Like the standard of this event is second to none. We are on a fantastic links golf course and to be honest going down the road, some people are going to love it and some people, they are always going to find links golf difficult.
But the event, there's nothing about the event that could be run any better or done any better. That has always been the case at and that was the case at Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond was always a beautiful place to be and play golf.
In that case being on a links golf course will bring more players in over the years, but it's hard for Barclays to do anymore than they have done in the past and going forward. There's a few people who will come in here who wouldn't be used to it, and you wouldn't want to get used to this, it's just as good as can be.

Q. What are the main differences between the European Club where you prepared before your two Open wins and here?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: They are actually distinctly different. There's a completely different turf at The European Club, would actually have a softer turf than this. This is a much firmer turf out there. The ball releases a lot more. One of the -- this is far more open a golf course, far more run-offs around the greens, bigger greens, a lot more humps and knolls and things like that. The European Club is very much a pretty level playing golf, fairways and greens golf course, still playing amongst the dunes, it's incredibly scenic. But even though they are both links golf courses, they are miles apart. Significant difference. The big reason why I would have played links golf courses in Ireland at The European Club, it's getting used to how far the golf travels in the sea breeze. That's the distinct difference. Here the turf is adding quite a difference to how far. I had a shot today downwind on one of the par 5s, the tee shot is downwind, it's fast, it's probably 360 yards, and I'm trying to hit an 8-iron about 175 yards downwind. So there's a bit of wind behind me. And it's really hard off the tight lie to get the ball flighted enough and in the air enough with enough spin to carry that distance. The same amount of wind in the States, and you'd be hitting it 190 or something like that.
So links golf, it's just the lies are quite -- the fairways are tight to hit off and you will see, it's easier to hit the ball low out here than it is to hit it high, that's for sure. And it's probably as traditional a links as you can get.

Q. How are you on your own game - still tinkering or happy?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I've come to this conclusion I will always be tinkering. I'm excited about my game. I've seen a lot of good things during the year, I've had a little bit of erratic times and trying to get the grips with why I tend to play better in practise than I do in tournament play. Whereas traditionally I always play better in tournament play than practise.
I believe I'm getting there, very excited about it, and I'm looking forward, I've all been pretty optimistic so you can't really read too much into me saying I feel good about my game or where it's going. I can tell you publically, don't put a bet on me, that's public knowledge, so I can actually say that now. I feel good where I'm at. I'm looking forward to the challenge this week, and you know I'm a pretty good guy on the Tuesday and Wednesday. So are most pros, though.
We'll see, but I am happy with my game, but I will always be working on things and tinkering away. If I'm looking for reasons I didn't wouldn't have performed to my own standards over the last period of time, it would be much more to do with the mental side of the game than the physical side. I know I need to get to grips with that and I have been trying to get to grips with it and probably the end of the day if I am going to pinpoint one thing, it's over-trying. It's a question of getting the right balance and attitude of these things and I do feel like I'm in a good place.

Q. Tiger has just announced his withdrawal from the Open?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I have to say that it's unfortunate for the game of golf and more unfortunate for Tiger Woods. He is still the name that people look out for. I think, as much as you try to avoid looking for any other player, he is still the name you look at the most. We all like to beat him when he is in a tournament. It's not that we want him to turn up and win next week but it would still be nice if he could bring the buzz he does to the event. Let's just hope the injury is not that bad because it has been a long time out with an injury. Let's hope he recovers and we see him back on the course because it is a good feeling when you go down the stretch with Tiger and a great feeling when you go down the stretch with him and beat him. He pushed us all along and helped everyone else with their games.

Q. How difficult was it to get your head straight again after the first Major win?

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I think the hardest thing, and I can recognise it in other players. I see it a lot in other players. Very easy when you're watching everybody else. It's harder to see it in yourself.
I think some of the hardest things and some of the stuff, it's your perception of how you played and everybody else's perception of how you played is put far higher up on a pedestal than it is, and sometimes you're trying to -- like if I was going to give advice to any player who has won a major, I would say, look, the way you think you played, the way everybody tells you you played, that week, that's the time that you're going to create a false reality down the road. You're going to put yourself up there.
Like I don't remember hitting a bad shot at Carnoustie or Birkdale or -- well, I did hit lots of bad shots at Oakland Hills, but often times you think you never missed a shot or hit a bad shot. Your own perception, you're trying to pace your game. It's like the guy that goes out and shoots 62 on a Thursday, how many guys can back that up on a Friday because their perception is they never missed a shot the day before and sometimes that expectation makes it tough on yourself. Certainly I would have gone down that road of wanting to recreate the feelings and the game that I had those weeks. But trying to recreate something that even I can't -- I was there and I still misjudge it.
Like the old story, when you talk about, if there's a story about any of the greats when they won their majors or they did something, like they will say, oh, he hit 52 woods in a row on the range all inside 15 feet on to this flag out there 250 yards. Right, yeah you do. Not a chance you did. But we like to build that up story and you do that a little bit about yourself, there's no doubt about it. And certainly I could accuse myself of maybe believing that I played better than I did, and you know, the fact of the matter is, you've got to realise that even if I did play to whatever standard, it's not going to be there all the time and you just have to be a little bit more patient.
And I definitely see it in a lot of other players. I've seen guys, Major Champions hit a shot and say, that's not the shot of Major Champion. Well, you just hit it, so it must be. There has to be a little bit of that in there definitely. I would accuse myself of getting a little bit too -- which is always my problem, too much into perfection and believing that maybe I did have it in those weeks but the reality is probably didn't.
I think your issues after you've won a major is probably getting yourself back into those positions with a chance to win it. If you've won a major and got a chance to win with nine holes, it's easier to win the second major, because you've already done one, so you're not under as much pressure.
It's probably harder to get to that last nine holes because anybody who has won a major, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of a major, there's a lot of pressure on them from outside sources, from inside sources, because they know it's a big week, they can win another major.
Whereas if they haven't won a major and going under the radar, it's possible to play a tournament and not get any of that focus until the last day. Whereas I can't go into a major tournament now without believing I do things Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I have a chance of winning. So I'm already putting pressure on myself, and outside, there's external factors putting pressure on me and all thinking, do you have another chance of winning another major. And it builds up, more interviews, more things to do. Even if 20 years ago you won a major, people are still going to come up and ask you, what do you think it takes for this guy to win a major.
So there's always that external stuff that's building up and it does make it harder. But, the advantage is, if you get through that and you get to the last nine holes and you are in contention, the fact that you have done it before and the fact that you have already got one, certainly eases the pressure on you to win one.
The first-time major winner, the difference between having no major and one major is startling and the difference between one and two, yeah, it's a different but it's not startling compared to zero and one. I don't know where -- losing my mind now. (Laughter).

Q. Just as hard to win the second?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I was playing well. I played -- there I'm going again, played great at Birkdale. I was playing well and I hit good shots and I went very quickly into the PGA, so form was good. I played awesome for nine holes on the Thursday morning and awesome for nine holes -- maybe it was Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, nine holes of each and played as bad of golf as you could for the last nine holes. I actually got dehydrated and lost my coordination.
So I was a damaged man going into that weekend, I didn't have any expectations and I shot two 66s, and the people that have come up to me since that have said, you shot two 66s. I'm going, I didn't feel like that. I really had a lot of -- I would say I never played with more fear than those two rounds of golf. I hit some wild shots through the course of that week and just had to deal with it.
It was more, the second one came very quickly in that year and it was more a case of just running with the ball and keeping my head down and not thinking too much about it. I think it would have been tougher -- I think it is, you know, I suppose a period of time -- it was so quick, it happened the second one, I can't really say that I did anything brilliant between tournaments and I can't really say that I was fully in control of everything and it all went to plan. No, it didn't. It was like in the end of the day, if you look at the tournament, I stole it. It's as clear as that. I was the last person that deserved to win that and I just grabbed it and took it.
It was very pleasurable, I've got to say, but it wasn't -- Birkdale was a very ordered win. I played great golf. I felt I deserved to be the winner that week and I played the best golf and I played orthodox and I did everything right. Oakland Hills, I just grabbed that tournament, but I don't think I wouldn't have been able to do that if I had not have won two majors before that.

Q. What made you not play Loch Lomond?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: It's just hitting off the turf. I can make the exact same swing on a parkland course with my lob wedge, and the ball will go 85 yards and make the exact same golf swing, speed of swing, everything about it on a parkland golf course and it may pitch 80 yards. There is a significant different. You can't hit the ball as high off the turf. A sea breeze and a Loch breeze probably are different, but the warm breeze, the ball cuts through it. There's just significant differences from your -- and it takes me more than a few days to get used to that, and I don't want to give up.
I'm the type of guy that feels if I want to win, I want to take every shot -- I don't want to leave any stone unturned and leave any shot out there. I can't afford to spend Thursday of any tournament giving up a couple of shots because I wasn't quite familiar with, hang on, you get serious flyers out of this sort of rough or this rough isn't getting a flyer and chip-and-runs are actually releasing a bit more. There are a lot of things to get used to and it takes me more than a couple of days and I like doing it on a links golf course and this one is ideal.

Terribly frustrating on a Sunday afternoon watching somebody else win a big tournament and you're thinking, that could have been me. When you're not playing a tournament, you always think you could have won it.
It's amazing how many tournaments I've sat home and gone, wow, that looks easy. But yeah, it was frustrating and Loch Lomond, you know, is a beautiful place, Barclays do a great job there, have done a great job there. I would have said it was a pity and a shame to miss that event.

Q. The golf course setup ...
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I tell you what now, I've done a fair job here, I would think it would take -- if I was involved in a piece of land like this, I would want to have a lot of help. My ego doesn't stretch quite that far. I don't think I could start with a blank canvas like this. I'm very interested -- I'm more interested in the playability of a golf course.
As I said to you earlier on, I don't like rough on a golf course. I like golf courses that professionals find difficult and amateurs find easy. And I think that's much more to do with the setup of the golf course and how the golf course is maintained afterwards. There's a lot of stuff, I see as a professional golfer as I go around. You can see things put in for difficulty for a pro and you're going, that's a non-event and yet it's really hampering the amateurs.
So there's so many hazards put in, and not just talking like water hazards and bunkers, but things put in in golf courses and you're thinking, you know, that's really a non-event for professional golfers. We would ignore that. We don't even see it, it's so far off our radar and yet amateurs are getting penalised every day with that.
That's what I'm interested in when it comes to course design, but this course here, I suppose it's nice to have a totally blank canvas like working in the desert, but it's a fair job to design -- much harder to design a links golf course than a parkland golf course. Parkland golf course, it's the natural trees and the terrain will come up with a lot. Links golf course like this, you've got to have serious imagination and you know, definitely I would think there's a lot more judgment goes into a links course after it, as well. That's by it's nature, some people will not like it.

Q. Have you seen the draw --
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I haven't seen the draw.

Q. Are you horrified by your World Ranking?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I see that as part of the nature of the game. I don't believe I deserve to be by right have anything else. I'm not a person who thinks, oh, I should be Top-10, Top-5 in the world, I should certain it. I don't deserve it by right. Nobody deserves it by right. You are what you are in the world, and this is, you know, it's been tough, people have been questioning who is world No. 1. They earned that right to be world No. 1 and at the moment, I've earned the right to be world 54. I've earned it with stripes at the moment.
The great news is, there's room for improvement, 53 spots of improvement.

Q. Do you think people are doubting you --
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: That's fine. People doubt me when I won three majors. People who doubt you at all stages of your life -- as a professional golfer, I cannot allow any external factors to affect what I believe about myself. Any guy out here, well, it's not determined necessarily by this, but longevity is determined by your self-confidence, not your confidence. People's confidence, it would be very easy for my confidence to get knocked on, 54th in the world, oh, well, I must be doing badly, I must be playing badly or whatever. But that's all results-orientated. It's all outside; it's somewhat outside my control. I have to care about what I can control, everything that's about self-confidence, your internal thoughts, what you're doing, your preparation, your process how you're going about things.
There's nothing I could physically do that would be -- when I say this, it's not like I can practise more. It's not like I can try harder. It's not like I can really -- I can do something different and I intend to do something different but it's not a question of me doing something different in the sense of I'm not going to turn around to you, say I'm going to work harder, because it ain't because of a lack of work or anything like that.
It's getting the right balance and doing those things and allowing results to happen. Actually, be interesting to see, over the last couple of week, I've realised something, that I've been kind of -- yeah, I think I'm going in the right direction.
So as regards to World Rankings, I fully believe I've got lots of room to go forward and I will go forward. Need to go and win a few tournaments and that will take care of it. Playing good golf takes care of the World Rankings. It's interesting, though, you don't look at it as much when you are going backwards as when you're going forwards. I haven't looked at the World Rankings in a long time (chuckling).
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Last one in the first chapter of the Harrington epic.

Q. Do you think Rory's preparations are right or wrong for next week?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: It's impossible to say right or wrong. I don't think it's black or white. There's pros and cons to it. He's very familiar with links golf, and he will play quite a bit of links golf in those three weeks at home. In terms of getting used to it, that shouldn't be an issue. He doesn't seem to have any issue in terms of competitiveness not playing. I would have terrible problems if I didn't play the week before, I would get totally distracted. He doesn't have an issue with that.
So that's fine. He'll have to deal with it -- it's an issue he'll have to deal with. When he turns up, everybody is going to want a minute of his time. Everybody is going to want to congratulate him, give him a piece of advice, wish him well, whatever it is. And that's mentally time consuming, mentally draining for him. So he'll have to figure out.
But the likelihood, he did such a good job going into the U.S. Open, and the key with him at U.S. Open, he played his practise round well in advance, he didn't really play too many practise rounds Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I don't know how many holes he played, spent a bit of time chipping and putting and I think you'll see that at Royal St. George's. He'll have done his practise, turn up, do a little bit of chipping and putting and probably not spend too much time out on the golf course and be ready to go on Thursday.
So he knows what he's doing. It worked the last time and why would you -- I certainly wouldn't doubt, if you can win by eight shots by not playing the week before, I'd stick to that routine.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thank you echapter one and we wish you good luck in The Barclays Scottish Open.

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