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THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP


July 17, 2012


Padraig Harrington


LYTHAM ST. ANNES, ENGLAND

LYNN WALLACE:¬† We're joined by two‑time Open Champion, Padraig Harrington.¬† You've had a great season so far, tied 8th at the Masters, tied 4th at U.S. Open.¬† Does that give you a lot of confidence coming into this week?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Yeah, I suppose it does no harm, anyway.  Yeah, I think it's nice being in contention at the Masters and in early contention at the U.S. Open.  So showing decent form coming in here.  It remains to be seen how we go this week.  Yeah, I suppose in nice form.

Q.  What's the biggest challenge for you here this week?  Is it the tee shots that seem to be particularly demanding?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† I think that possibly the biggest challenge on the golf course is the tee shots.¬† If you've got it in play for the‑‑ hit your‑‑ I suppose 60 tee shots you've got to hit this week.¬† If you hit 60 fairways you're going to be doing very nicely.¬† I think any major, though, the biggest challenge and the biggest challenge for myself would be managing my game mentally and obviously putting well.¬† I think those are the two big things you want to do every major tournament.¬† It generally comes down to those things at the end of the week.
Yes, tightness off the tee, the difficulty off the tee with the bunkers and some heavy rough would suggest that you would like to drive the ball very well.  But I think everybody in the field would want to do that.

Q.  Obviously you don't get to choose the way the course will play, but it looks like it's going to play a little bit soggy this week with some challenges of the weather.  Does that favour you a little bit with the experience and everything that you have?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† Yeah, it's still not soggy out there. ¬†The fairways and the greens are plenty firm.¬† There's no‑‑ the ball is still releasing so that's certainly not an issue.
The dampness certainly makes the bunkers a lot tougher.¬† When you get the bunkers‑‑ when the sand is wet in the bunkers it's‑‑ I don't know how to put this one.¬† When it's nice and dry and fluffy, the ball comes out of it very high.¬† When it's wet, it's hard to get the ball up and out.¬† Depending on when you get in those bunkers, because there are some steep faces on getting some nice lies in there.¬† If you get a bad lie, it's hard to get the ball up quickly.¬† So that's one difficulty of the wet weather.
Obviously the next thing is which holes‑‑ if it's going to be showery, which holes you play in the shower, because you could lose‑‑ nothing to do with the wind‑‑ well, if you've got a hole that's into the wind with the rain, your tee shot is going through 240 yards, 250 yards, maybe, or even less at times.¬† You're certainly not carrying it that far.¬† So you'd like to get the right breaks that when those showers come in you may be on the first couple of holes going downwind, because certainly coming back into the wind it can be difficult if it's raining.
So, you know, there's going to be ebb and flow and that during the week.  You're going to get some good breaks and some bad breaks.  You're going to be walking on some holes and you're going to see that rain coming in and you're going to be hoping that it holds off until you get through that tee shot.  But that's the nature of links golf.  You tend to be able to see the bad weather when it's coming at you.
But I think, yes, I would like some of the golf to be tough this week, some of the conditions.  But I know myself, if you have 72 holes of a rainy tournament, it's nearly last man standing at that stage, and that's really difficult for everybody.  I would like to see certainly 18 holes, if not 36 holes of difficult conditions because that will cut enough of the field out, and hopefully I won't be one of those.
But it does get‑‑ if you've got 72 holes of a wet and windy week, wow, it's hard to hang on through that.¬† It's a massive drain on the resources that will be.¬† But 36 holes is certainly manageable.¬† So I think the forecast is for‑‑ I haven't really looked, but it's showers during the week.¬† So it should be okay.
As I said, whatever you get you've got to take anyway.  If I could control the weather, I probably wouldn't be interested in playing professional golf.  Or maybe I would, but I certainly would be in a different place.

Q.¬† As you know, you're the last player to win back‑to‑back majors, and since then there's been 14 different winners, and Tiger and Phil and Rory have all mentioned that fact.¬† Do you think there's a greater strength and depth in the fields than ever before, and do you think you can look forward to different winners in majors?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† I think golfers are evolving.¬† I think when I came out on Tour in '96 you kind of felt like you had to learn how to win and maybe lose a few tournaments before you were allowed a win.¬† At that stage you could be patient in a regular tournament and just‑‑ I think Monty will often say, he's probably the most prolific winner, he would always say that he just wanted to be on the leaderboard and he'd be happy that when players when they see him there would fall away.
I think in recent times that feeling of patience and the feeling of a tournament being like a marathon has gone away.¬† It tends to be a sprint from Thursday morning in a regular tournament.¬† If you're not 3‑, 4‑under par after nine holes you feel like you're out of the tournament at regular events.¬† And I think what you're seeing is that's gradually seeping into the majors.¬† Guys are turning up now at regular events and they're just hoping to hit their week.¬† And if they hit their week, they run with it and they shoot the 20‑under par and win.
So you're seeing more of that coming into majors.  Guys are turning up and if it's their week, they can win any week.  Rather than the attitude of I've got to be there all the time and serve my apprenticeship nearly before I win.  Guys just turn up, if it's my week, I can beat anybody.  If it's not my week, so be it, I'll play the next week sort of thing.  So it's a much different way of playing golf then, as I said, when I was there 15 years ago.  There was definitely an element 15 years ago of sticking in and staying in.
Others say that majors are more like that than regular events.¬† But definitely I see that influence of a regular‑‑ it's definitely harder to win a regular event, because there's 150‑‑ well, 156 guys playing, there's probably 100 guys at a regular event that are just charging at the finish line.¬† You're seeing that coming into majors, maybe not so much.¬† Some of them require that patience for the whole week.¬† I think any player in this field‑‑ well, not any player, but you're probably looking at 50 players in this field that if they hit form this week, they're not going to‑‑ they feel they can carry on.
It's not a situation of guys getting into the lead.  There's plenty of guys that can get into the lead that the regular people might not even know their names and yet they're quite happy to keep charging and not back out, which is why you're seeing a greater variety of players winning.
But I do‑‑ I think we were spoiled with Tiger winning 14 majors in 15 years.¬† People began to think that was predictable.¬† I think before Tiger's reign, I think you'll find there was another period of where there were 14 different winners.¬† You guys have those stats.¬† I think you'll find where 14 different guys won 14 different majors.¬† I'm sure somebody out here has got to have done their homework and checked that out.
Even though everybody thinks that's unusual, what is unusual is that Tiger won 14 during that period of time and people started to think that you could dominate, which he did dominate, but probably not going to happen again in terms of is there a player going to dominate like that with so many guys coming on with such a good game?  Dominating, it's a hard thing to do, just too many good players out there now, too many guys with a good chance of winning that it's hard for one player to be able to win as prolifically as Tiger did for those 14 wins, 14 tournaments.

Q.  You played the Scottish Open last week.  I was wondering how you assessed your form that week.  And also, what's been the reason for your slightly improved form over the last few months?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† I played nicely at the Scottish Open.¬† It wasn't a very stressful week, which is‑‑ I always like to play the week before major tournaments.¬† And when I'm playing that event I want to win it, both‑‑ if you lead from Thursday through to Sunday at an event, that certainly drains your resources for the following week.
So last week I was pretty stress‑free for the whole week.¬† I played nicely, which is what you want to do, but I didn't put myself‑‑ because I wasn't in contention really, I didn't put myself under too much stress.¬† So it was good preparation for this week.
As regards my form, yeah, I've been putting better.  That's essentially it.  I'm playing better, too.  But the putting really does help.  I'm very happy with the way I'm playing.  It's interesting, a lot of areas of my game I would say are better, but I'm still not winning.  It's a strange game, golf.  You can play better and not win.  I would have said I played well over the last couple of years, too, at times, but I certainly didn't putt very well.
So it's nice to see the putting has returned in its own shape or form and the rest of the game is pretty solid on top of that.  So hopefully it will be good enough this week to get me across the line.

Q.  Rory McIlroy was in here earlier talking about the difficulties he had with the commotion at Sandwich last year.  How much harder is it to win a second major when the scrutiny and public attention is really on you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† Well, there's no doubt that‑‑ I think Rory's case is definitely slightly different than other one‑time major winners.¬† The other one‑time major winners the spotlight is incredible.¬† And it's hard to be under the radar, there's a lot of different stresses on your time.¬† So, yeah, it's‑‑ that's why you don't see too many guys‑‑ you see a lot of guys with one major, and you find it hard to see a guy with two majors.
I think in Rory's case he'd be under that spotlight anyway.¬† He is unique that it was no surprise that he won one.¬† And it won't be a surprise when he wins two.¬† I think for him the great thing is he won his first major at 22 years of age, was it, 22, 21.¬† 22 he won his first major.¬† So he's going to have plenty of years to enjoy majors ahead of him where he‑‑ I could fully understand that Sandwich would have been a nightmare for him because, as I said, the expectation is very hard to deal with when people want you to win but you feel like they expect you to win.¬† And it's difficult.¬† But the great thing for him is he'll probably play for the next 25 years, four majors a year, so he'll get well used to it and he'll be comfortable in that position.¬† And he'll grow with the experience that it won't be an issue.
But I could definitely say for anybody the first time back after winning a major is a big issue and obviously Rory, in particular, because there is massive hype when you win a major at 22 years of age; there's a lot ahead of you.  As you guys know, you love to talk about the future.  He has a bright future ahead of him.

Q.  How much of a relief was it to put your finger on what was not really working with your putting?  I think it was quite recently that you discovered that.  And what did you learn here last week when you came out with the spirit level and you had the spirit level out on the greens?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† Yeah, my putting has‑‑ you know, like anything else you try and improve.¬† If you looked at my stats, I'm not a lover of stats, but looking at it over say 2009, 2010, I would be excellent short range and not great medium range.¬† I'm particularly trying to improve my ability to hole 15‑footers, and I did a lot of practice on them.¬† But I ended up with a 15‑foot putting stroke for a four‑foot putt, and I didn't realise that.¬† But I was just classic decelerating the putts.¬† I had no idea that's what I was doing, but that's what it turned out.
And it's helped me a lot, because you miss a few putts, short putts, you're losing confidence, you're wondering if the air is gone sort of thing.  So it's nice to find it was more physical than mental, let's say.  And as I said, that's helped me on certainly putting better.
As regards using the spirit level, I did go out and pick a number of pin positions on each green and took a spirit level out and measured the straight putt on basically all those positions trying to find the low point.  I was actually more practising my reading of the greens than expecting that I can pick out where the pins are exactly going to be.
But if I get one or two pins right the whole week, it will be worthwhile.  But it was really more an exercise in this is what I see and this is what the spirit level says I see, and just calibrating my eyesight more than anything else.

Q.  I have two questions.  Firstly, as a strategic challenge, where do you put Lytham on The Open rota, please?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Everybody looks to compare The Open Championship golf courses.  But they're very unique.  They are all links golf courses, but they really do change from one year to the next, depending on the weather conditions.  This is nowhere near the golf course, nowhere near like the golf course we played in 2001 here.  It's so different that it's untrue.
So it's hard to compare each one.¬† Now, I will say there's an awful lot of options on this golf course, and that can be confusing for a player, depending on the weather.¬† I always think that's a good sign of a golf course, but you watch a3 threeball play off a tee, and they'll hit three different clubs off a tee.¬† One guy will hit an iron, one guy will hit a 3‑wood and another guy will hit a driver, which is a good sign for the golf course.¬† And there's a lot of holes like that.¬† Like 18 here I'd say if you went out there, there are so many options off that tee box.¬† Like usually you come to the 18th hole at a major championship and you go, okay, what am I going to do if I'm one shot behind?¬† What am I going to do if I need par?¬† What am I going to do if I need par but don't want to take more than bogey, let's say?¬† What am I going to do if I've got a two‑shot lead?¬† And it also crosses your mind what you're going to do with a six‑shot lead.
But there are options you have to pick out how you're going to play this hole coming down.¬† It's so difficult on 18 here.¬† Just there's no particular place that you think, well, that's a cast‑iron 4, if I hit it.¬† If I lay up here it's‑‑ the easiest shot, let's say.¬† Whereas every shot seems to have a similar amount of risk off the tee, whether you hit driver or 3‑wood or even lay up completely off the bunkers, it all has a level of risk that doesn't necessarily mean the guy coming down the last‑‑ you know, you nearly would rather play 18 here if you're trying to make birdie‑‑ I know this is really Irish, actually.¬† You're nearly try to play 18 if you're trying to make birdie.¬† It's a harder hole if you're trying to make par, because if you're holding onto something on 18 there's a lot of trouble you can find, whereas if you're chasing you're not so worried about the trouble in it.¬† It does give a genuine chance of a birdie.¬† If you hit a good tee shot down there, you have a great chance of a birdie.¬† But it's certainly a more pressure‑filled hole for the guy who's trying to make par coming down the last.
And there's a lot of holes like that out on the golf course.  I just played a fourball there coming home.  We were picking different clubs off the tee quite an amount out there.  So you will see a variety.  If you're confident off the tee, I think you're going to have a lot easier week this week.

Q.  If you'll forgive a leading question, in view of your performance at the Masters and U.S. Open, do you feel that the major contender Harrington is back?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† Yeah.¬† Yeah.¬† I suppose so.¬† Yeah.¬† I didn't think right away.¬† Certainly the majors have been‑‑ I look forward to the majors and I would find the majors easier than regular events, there's no doubt about that.¬† Yeah, I mean I'm in good form and I'm in a good enough place that it is about managing where my head is at going into this tournament.¬† That's what you want when you're going into a major.¬† You don't want to be here searching for your putting stroke or your swing or anything like that.¬† You want to be turning up and just trying to get yourself, get your head into the right place for the week.

Q.  People talked at Olympic Club about how important it was to hit the fairways and how hard it was to hit those fairways.  I know they're totally different golf courses with different hazards and whatnot, but is this course, is it tougher to hit the fairways, even tougher than Olympic, or is it similar in any way in the degree of difficulty off the tee?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† You know, I thought Olympic was very generous off the tee.¬† I really enjoyed my week off the tee there.¬† The rough wasn't too heavy.¬† You could get away with missing it.¬† I was very comfortable.¬† Here, it's quite a bit different here.¬† You miss a fairway here, depends‑‑ an element of luck is involved.¬† If you miss it slightly and go into one of those bunkers, well, they might as well have red stakes around the bunker, because you're coming out sideways.¬† It's like hazards all the way around.¬† There's no bunker you hit it‑‑ well, it would be very rare to hit it in a bunker here and have an approach shot into the green.¬† Most of the bunkers, like I said, they are genuine hazards.
The rough is patchy.¬† It's heavy but patchy in that you can hit it in the rough and have a shot, you can hit a 5‑iron, 6‑iron out with a flier.¬† You can get the ball 200 yards out of the rough at times.¬† And there's other lies in the rough similar to a bunker, you're just trying to get it back on the fairway, you're trying to hit it 30, 40 yards or sideways, even.¬† So I would think it's much tougher off the tee here.
I thought the U.S. Open‑‑ you know, I was surprised there was very few lies that you found in the rough that you couldn't advance it to the green.¬† And the difficulty at the U.S. Open was the firmness of the greens.¬† But here I think it is tougher off the tee because every one of those bunkers is pretty much‑‑ it's pretty simple to hit in a lateral hazard.¬† Not far off it.¬† You might advance it 40 yards.¬† Even trying to do that, you might leave it in once during the week.¬† That might not even be the brightest thing to do.¬† So I think here is tougher off the tee.¬† Depending on the weather, too.¬† If it's nice weather it's not so bad.

Q.  You were talking before about how in the old days you kind of almost needed to lose a few and go around the block a bit.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  There was a feeling of that I would have said.

Q.  I think you played 35 majors before you went into that golden spell.  Did you feel that sort of 35 was a good number to be ready to achieve what you did?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  No.  Everybody matures at a different speed.  Some guys come out, find it easy and win straightaway.  Or other people take a long time before it eventually dawns on them.
So, no, I can't say there's a golden rule for things like that.  As I said, I would say thankfully I play a sport that you can mature a lot later and you can develop your game and continue to go on and get better as a player as you get older.  So 35 wouldn't be a set rule.  And as I said, I think it's changing now.  Keegan Bradley last year won in his first major or pretty close to it.
So guys now are‑‑ they're not‑‑ it was just a different game 15 years ago.¬† Guys‑‑ I know when I came out on Tour in '96, I put Monty up on a pedestal, Ernie Els up on a pedestal, Goose up on a pedestal.¬† They're all up there.¬† I don't think young guys are like that anymore.¬† They're happy to just play their game, and if they get a chance to win, they'll win.
I missed at Carnoustie‑‑ sorry, I missed at Muirfield by a shot, the playoff.¬† And then at Winged Foot, I needed three pars to win at Winged Foot, as well.¬† So I had two big experiences in majors where I was right there at the death of it.
For me it took‑‑ I've always been that player that needed to do that.¬† But other people don't seem to‑‑ we're all different.¬† Other people don't seem to need those learning experiences.¬† They're happy to win straight out.¬† So there's no rule.¬† We're all different, which gives you something to write about.
LYNN WALLACE:  Thanks for joining us, Padraig.  Good luck.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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