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August 1, 2012

Padraig Harrington


THE MODERATOR:¬† Go ahead and get started.¬† Welcome Padraig Harrington to the interview room here at the Reno‑Tahoe Open.
Padraig, your first time playing here at Montreux.  I know you had a chance to play the golf course yesterday.  If you could just start off with your thoughts on the golf course, and then we'll go from there.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Yeah, I played Monday and Tuesday; I played nine holes each day.  Beautiful golf course.  Really, really nice.  Greens are firming up.  Obviously there is quite a bit of altitude.  Not that we're at altitude, but there is quite significant changes on the holes up and downhill.  So a lot of calculations have to be done this week, and it will be difficult clubbing.
In the afternoons, it seems to get very awkward.  Played one of my rounds in the morning and no wind.  It was lovely.  Then in the afternoon the wind was just whistling and changing directions.  It was startling how much it would change direction.  In no more than a minute you could go from playing a hole straight downwind to straight into the wind.  I think the afternoons are going to be very, very testing here.
So, yeah, really, really nice golf course.¬† And as I said, you'll see some great opportunities for birdies out there.¬† Other times holes are going to play very difficult.¬† Mistakes are going to be made.¬† Probably the golf course‑‑ maybe not the golf course, but the conditions, probably certainly too the modified Stableford system.
THE MODERATOR:  We were just talking on the way up.  You've never played a tournament with that scoring system.  Any thoughts coming in on how that will go?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† You know, it's a little bit like changing from stroke play to match play.¬† You've got to be that bit more aggressive.¬† You know, if you look at the system itself, if you've got a putt for ‑‑ the difference between, you know, going from, say, a par to a birdie is two points effectively, and the difference between going from par to a bogey is effectively one point.
So it's nearly like a shot and a half a shot.¬† Missing par putts is a lot worse this week than‑‑ sorry, missing birdie putts is a lot worse than missing par putts this week.¬† It's an interesting way.¬† Normally they all count the same at the end of the week.
This week in particular you're really only losing half a shot if you make a bogey on a hole.  So you'll definitely be more aggressive and try to make as many birdies as you can.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions.  Use the mic, please.

Q.  You explained that well.  Have you adopted that thinking in your practice rounds?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  You know, I played two nine holes, and I tried to keep the score and play Stableford points and just try and get myself into that mindset.
But when I sit there and look at it‑‑ you know, if you can make an eagle that's a bonus any week.¬† So we're more concentrating on those‑‑ even though you will see there are a couple of par‑4s that with the right tee boxes can be driven.¬† They're very dangerous.
But you will see guys‑‑ like five points is like a massive gain.¬† You could come down the last‑‑ I'm trying to think through the scenario.¬† If you can come through the last here and play the hole okay, you know, make five and some guy is four points behind you and passes you.¬† You never lose a four‑shot coming down the last, but you could easily lose a four‑point lead.
And vice versa.¬† If you've got more than a five‑point and certainly more than and eight‑point lead, you could pick your ball up going down the last and just wave at the crowd.¬† That would be an interesting one, wouldn't it?
I've done enough guys.¬† 71 holes is all I have to play this week.¬† You know, so it's a fascinating‑‑ I'm all for variation on the TOUR.¬† We have plenty of big‑‑ you know, you've got your four majors and they're all stroke play and big grinds for the week.¬† You've got plenty of other events that are great events, difficult, tough, lots of things going on.
But it's nice when we play a match play event.¬† Then again, with this event it's nice to play something different.¬† I'm all for every week ‑‑ especially, you know, once you get outside of the majors, every other week you're trying to set yourself apart, trying to make yourself individual.
In some ways, when you're trying to make yourself individual you're trying to make yourself different.  This is what the Stableford points do.  I've often said when we come to a casino town like Reno, there should be a wheelbarrow of cash on the 18th green and they should be handing it out in real money rather than checks into the accounts.
You got to think when you come to a casino town that it's a little bit like that.  Maybe we should have a few dancing girls down the side of the fairways.  Who knows?  You got to have something different and set yourself apart.  As I said, Reno is doing that by having the Stableford points.
I never played the Colorado event, but a lot people, you know, wish they had that event.  Reno can fulfill that spot and set themselves apart, as I said, in a town like this where it is a casino town and it is already different.

Q.  I was just wondering if back home in Ireland if you have any courses that play at this kind of elevation?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† No, no.¬† Not at all.¬† I come from a‑‑ my golf course is in the Dublin mountains.¬† If any of you have ever been there, you mightn't have noticed them.¬† I'm sure it's about 300 feet of elevation where I am, so we don't really have‑‑ we have a couple mountain ranges, but they would be called hills if they were in the U.S.

Q.  Do you feel like you're maybe behind the eight ball a little bit because a lot of guys here have played this golf course?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Yeah, okay, I don't know the golf course.  There is no doubt about that.  That's always an issue if you don't know the golf course.
In terms of playing at altitude, I've played many golf courses in altitude over the years.¬† We have a good event in Switzerland every year, and if you play in South Africa, anywhere in Jo‑Burg is similar attitude.¬† So we're well used to the altitude.¬† Not a problem with that.
Just not being familiar with the golf course you're always going to give up a couple of shots during the week.  But hopefully, you know, you get the breaks here and there to make up for that.

Q.  Obviously every year I believe you've been in the Bridgestone NEC.  This year close, but not quite.  What made you decide to come out to Reno anyway?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I always play the week before a major.  If I was to practice at home I would get all mixed up.  I just wouldn't be competitive for next week if I didn't play this week.
So I did a long week's work last week, and now I'm trying to get my game game‑ready, really.¬† I want to be competitive.¬† When you hit a lot of shots you're breaking down some of your competitive instinct; whereas on the golf course you've got one chance, card in your hand, and you've got to get your mind in the right place.
This is what it's all about.  I'm trying to get there for Thursday morning.  If you don't get there for Thursday morning, hopefully Friday and pushing on.  But I know it's a little awkward coming three hours time difference from where we're going to play the PGA Kiawah Island next week.  It's a little awkward traveling back on Sunday night.
But saying that, I would rather be competitive, and Reno gives me that opportunity.  That's the most important thing.

Q.  Since you're in a gambling town here, have you gotten any poker playing tips your cousin, Dan?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Yeah, well, I kind of take the attitude that don't play with Dan.  That would be the best tip.
No, actually I wouldn't have taken any tips directly from him, no.  You know, like anybody else, we talk about it, we read about it, you watch it on TV.  So, yeah, we all pay attention to it nowadays.  I don't think I'll be sitting down to play any poker this week.  One, I haven't got time; two, I would be a little bit intimidated.  Maybe I'll play some blackjack.

Q.  What is your stance on the long putter controversy that seems to be spilling all over the place?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† I would put it in there with the grooves.¬† You know, they changed the rule on the grooves which detrimentally affected me in a big way.¬† So I don't see any reason why‑‑ if they turned around tomorrow and invented the long putter, there is no way it would be passed in the rules of golf.¬† So if there was no such thing as long putter and somebody came out with it tomorrow, no way would it be let in.¬† There is no way the belly putter would be allowed to start tomorrow.
It got through years ago because it went under the radar.  Players who were using it were generally older players retiring from the game and nobody wanted to be harsh and tell them, Look, that's it.  Your career is finishing if you can't go back to the small putter.
I think if we had a clean sheet and were starting tomorrow, not a chance would they let it through in hindsight.  And similar to the grooves, they eventually had to take a stand on that.  Eventually they will take a stand on the long putter, I just hope they don't wait too long.  I don't want to be 50 years of age when they ban it.
You've got to bear in mind that if the long putter improves the standard of putting, which it looks like it has, that means it puts more pressure on the guys that are using conventional putter, which means that their standard actually goes back a little bit because they're under more pressure.
So somebody who might have been 10th best putter in the game with the conventional putter is now the 20th best putter, and he's pressing hard to become to 10th again.  That pressing might cause him to go back to the 30the best putter.
So it has a detrimental affect on other people, too.  It's an interesting one, no doubt about it.  My attitude is, as I said, they banned the grooves, which was tough on some players; other players aren't bothered.
Pretty similar with the long putter.  Some players will be devastated when it goes a way, and other players some won't be too bothered and others players will gain from it.
If we start tomorrow, I don't think anybody in the game would believe they would allow it in.

Q.  How does to give a player an advantage using a long putter?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Well, why are they using it?  There's nobody using it that doesn't think he's getting an advantage.  That would be bizarre.  Everybody that's using it believes they're better with that than a conventional putter.  Maybe it's psychological.
It certainly gives them the advantage that they get into the same setup position all the time:  ball position, eye position, hand position, physical body position is easier to repeat time and time again because of the fact that it's attached to the body.
So in that sense, yeah, you got to see it helping there.¬† But I would think psychologically it gives ‑‑ you know, a lot of players who have gone to it, they're looking for something new.¬† They're the type of players that would change putter ten times a year, you know, these guys.¬† Sometimes four times a week guys change their putter.¬† They're the type of people who try something new and then try something else.
They see somebody else putting well with it and they believe it in it.  They don't have any past history with it.  So everybody has a burden to carry with 'em when it comes to the putting, a missed putt once or twice in their career.  Well, when they go to the long putter, that obviously that takes that away.
So there are lots of reasons why you could see it being a better putter.  You know, who knows?  I kind of put it back very similar to the groove rules.  As I said, some players didn't even register the groove rule changing, and yet it was a massive change to other players.
They have done it before.¬† Shouldn't be a big deal to go back.¬† As I said, I don't think there is anybody in the game that if the belly putter was to be invented tomorrow, I don't think it wouldn't be even close ‑‑ would be 99% of people would believe, Oh, no.¬† That's not going to on allowed.¬† That would kind of be my attitude.

Q.  How do you set up your schedule at the start of the year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I like playing golf.  That's the first thing.  So if I physically could and not have a detrimental affect, I would play every week.  I love playing golf.  At the end of the day I enjoy it out here, but I understand that I need to rest and I need to get time away from it, practice, and get time in the gym.
So all those things come into your schedule.¬† So essentially you start golf with what are your goals for the year.¬† With me, obviously the majors, and then you're looking at things like ‑‑ in a year like this, you're looking at the Ryder Cup, FedExCup, Race to Dubai.
So there are basically seven areas of focus.  You build your tournament schedule around those.  After that, you look at tournaments you've played well in.  You look at tournaments that you like going to.  Believe it or not, quite high up on the list are tournaments that your family like going to.  That could make a big difference to whether you go to an event or not, whether you enjoy an event or not.
Again, good fields, good golf courses, good tournaments, that's in there as well.¬† I put that slightly behind‑‑ you know, if you play well in an event, you know, if you were playing well in an event and you've done well in an event or you've won an event, you would turn up and play on any golf course.
You know, it is nice to play good golf courses as well.

Q.  Going back to the Stableford scoring system, do you think other players are adapting a different mindset as they prepare for this event because of the scoring system, or do you think that some other players are taking the mindset of it's still golf and ultimately the same?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† I think you got to find a variation.¬† You know, I don't think anybody should get‑‑ I'm no expert.¬† At the end of the day, I'm going to try and treat it a little bit like match play.¬† Every hole is individual.¬† Yes, you're being a little bit more aggressive on each hole, but you're not‑‑ you know, like in a match, you're nottrying to ‑‑ if you're 3‑down in match, you're not trying to win the next three holes in one hole, you're trying to win one hole at a time.
With Stableford, you could be 10 points behind quite quick, but the to make up those 10 points is one hole at a time.  Yes, you've got to be a little bit more aggressive, no doubt about it.
As I said earlier, a bogey is only worth half a shot compared to a birdie.  You'd rue the guy who is going to have 18 pars this week, because it ain't gonna be much fun.

Q.  You mentioned it's important to play the week before a major.  But at the same time, you mentioned some differences at this tournament with the scoring system and the elevation.  Do you think that'll be difficult for you in terms of preparing for the major?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† Look, I would play a 72‑hole tournament around the Ocean Club at Kiawah Island this week.¬† That's ideal, actually playing on the golf course.¬† So everything from that is less than ideal.
I've actually played 54 holes the week before.  I've finished on the Saturday the week before.  If was up to me, these are the things I would do.  Obviously you would like to play in the same conditions, same grass, everything the same.
So all these things are trade offs.¬† I still want to play a tournament.¬† That's top priority, is play a tournament.¬† So there are trade offs.¬† It would be interesting to see ‑‑ so many drives you hit here going up the hill that you look like you've hit the ball really flat with no spin because of the elevation change and because of the altitude.
So by the end of the week, it's likely players will be spinning the ball more and hitting it higher, which I don't want to do next week.  So that could be a trade off.  I have to be very wary of that.  This is a big golf course that you're standing a lot of times at the altitude and you're opening up your shoulders and giving it a hit, you know next week it's likely to be windy and you're likely to be trying to keep it a little tighter.  So there are changes.  Just have to be aware of them.
The key for me is getting my head in the right place, getting my routines right, getting my processes right.  The only way I can do that is with a card in my hand where I care about the score.
THE MODERATOR:  Anything else?  Padraig, thanks for your time.  Best of luck this week.

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