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January 8, 2013

Padraig Harrington


PAUL SYMES:ツ Nice to come back to Durban Country Club, as you made your professional debut on Tour here.
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ It was the first event I played on The European Tour as a professional.ツ I qualified for TOUR School in 1995.ツ This is a long story‑‑ I was going to go with my New Year's resolution of only yes and no answers.ツ It didn't really last a long time.ツ It's a good story, I think it's a good story.
I qualified, I went to play in Nairobi in The Challenge Tour event and I think on the Tuesday, we got word that this had been a withdrawal and I think three players didn't want to travel, so I was happy to travel.
I got here Tuesday and practised all day Wednesday, which is what I would have done at that time, and certainly probably put the 10, 12 hours in on Wednesday.ツ I got severely dehydrated.ツ I assume to the extent that, I was shaking at the end, and nowadays, you hear guys off to the hospital putting a drip.ツ Back then, there was nothing; it would be a, you‑were‑okay sort of thing.
I had got a new set of golf clubs, as you do, just turned pro.ツ Even though I had practised for a couple of weeks at home, only when I got here, I realised that they were four degrees too upright.ツ You know, they were those that had short hosels, so they weren't very easy.ツ So to bend and snap them, couldn't be done back then, so I had to play with that.
But obviously I played‑‑ from tee‑to‑green I played horrendously, and I couldn't have been any worse.ツ On the upside, the golf course at the time, incredibly it suited my game incredibly and I got up‑and‑down on every single hole possible and holed every single putt that would go in.
So at the end of the week, the way I felt about it was, oh, look, I played as poor as I can.ツ I had as many‑‑ been sick, lots of things put in my way that yeah play well.ツ I took for granted that I was going to chip‑and‑putt on every hole, and if you look at anybody, if you have a great short game‑‑ at that time it was as good as anybody's.
So I walked away, anyway‑‑ the punch line.ツ I rang my mother, I rang home and said, "Mum, I've just finished 49th, and I won, 1,480 pounds.ツ I couldn't have played worse.ツ They are just giving it away."ツ I won 1,480 pounds; it was a fortune!ツ Obviously as an amateur, the most I had ever won was 300 Euro.ツ 1480 Pounds Sterling, it was a fortune at the time.
The great thing about that, and I look at other professional golfers coming on, it gave me great momentum, because having played‑‑ overall, it didn't play poorly, but the fact that I took the short game for granted at the time, I played poorly tee‑to‑green, so I walked away from the tournament thinking, wow, I can play a lot better, and yet I still made the cut, I still made money.
So I really felt like I belonged.ツ Whereas, if my first tournament were, say, at Wentworth, I might shoot 72‑73, miss the cut, be 20 shots behind and feel like I should never go play with the pros ever again; it wasn't good enough.
So it was a big plus for me to make the journey.ツ I'm going to come back here‑‑ no golf course in the world could have suited me as much as this course suited me being a windy course, tricky, a lot of elevated greens.ツ It was my style of golf course back in '96, and it was a big start.ツ I made seven cuts in a row, so I made the next six cuts and then I had three Top 10s in a row and then I won an event.ツ There was tremendous momentum picked up, as I said, from just feeling comfortable based on turning up on a golf course that really suited my game.
PAUL SYMES:ツ And fast‑forward 17 years, does it still suit your game?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ Hard to believe, that long.ツ I must have played here in '96‑‑ I must have been about 11 years of age.
I'm a totally different player.ツ I'm nothing like the golfer that played here in '96.ツ 17 years, as you say, it softens my confidence a bit, yeah, I can hit lob‑wedge here and don't worry about it.ツ Shots I would have played back then‑‑ being a pro this long has definitely knocked the edges off.ツ You're not as fearless as you would have been at that age.
So I'm a different player and I'm a much better player from tee‑to‑green and because of that, you know, I still think that I have a good short game but I don't have the short game I had back then and, you know, there's always hope that we get back to that level but certainly, I'm a different style of player now.

Q.ツ Do you worry how youツ致e lost your competitive edge after six weeks off?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ No, I would say it took me at least 13 years I would say before I could come out off my winter break without the fear of it all being gone or it all disappeared.
I'm a little more comfortable now at this stage that I can turn up, not playing well‑‑ that it's going to come back sort of thing, whereas my first 13 years on Tour were based purely on fear, fear of losing and fear of it going away.ツ I'm certainly more comfortable now as a player.
But sometimes that's not a bad thing.ツ Certainly motivates you when you're afraid of it all disappearing.ツ You certainly get out there and grind away at it.ツ I enjoy it more now and it's a different sort of enjoyment now.ツ I'm a bit more relaxed.

Q.ツ But youツ池e still driven by fear of failure?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ Yeah, I would think so, yeah.ツ Absolutely.ツ Every time I've different worked with a sports psychologist, I've had many conversations with people in that field that I have not worked with, and every single book will tell you that fear is not a good motivator, but it seems to work very well for me.
I always play the holes‑‑ if you look at out‑of‑bounds on one side of the hole and water on the other, I tend to play that well.ツ If you put me in a big field, I tend to play badly.ツ It's a strange way of doing it.
I don't have as much fear now, but‑‑ it certainly works, but it will burn you out if you're always kind of that way.

Q.ツ You said on the range that you consciously put on 20 pounds of weight‑‑
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ I think I went to the effort to put on weight, yes‑‑

Q.ツ What is the thought behind that?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ Well, you know, there's many reasons, but you know, if you're looking at‑‑ very important in this day and age to hit the golf ball a long way.ツ Power is based on speed.ツ I have spent a long number of years working on the speed part of the equation.
So in the last, say, since middle of the summer, probably the whole of last year, but since the summer, concentrated more on the strength part of the equation; and hoping that if you can maintain the same speed, that would give more strength and obviously it should equate to more power.ツ So it's working on a different part of the equation.
There are things that I work on my game, I try and work on connection with my irons, having a bigger upper body won't do you any harms in your golf swing, in my golf swing, anyway.

Q.ツ A number of players that could have played here but didn't‑‑ what is the biggest attraction for you playing here besides your past experience here?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ One of the keys for me is basically I had six weeks off for the winter break.ツ The Race to Dubai finished very early last year which allowed me exactly six weeks between the two tournaments.
So it was a question of, okay, take six weeks and probably go from as much as nine weeks, and nine weeks, it's been a long break.ツ Six weeks, maybe you're a week too close to Christmas; it's a little bit awkward going through Christmas and new year knowing there's a tournament around the corner.
But I really do like starting a tournament where there's no cut and no matter what happens this week, I'm going to get four rounds.ツ The worst thing you can do is start the year‑‑ it's the momentum.ツ You can start off‑‑ one of the reasons, often times I avoid coming down here because you can come down to South Africa at times, and obviously it's the South African players' summer and they are all ready to play and you're a little bit rusty.
You start, you shoot your 72s, you're not playing too badly and you miss the cut.ツ You spend another weekend on the range, which is not really helping things.ツ You need a card in your hand; whereas this week, if I play well, I have a chance of winning the tournament, and if things don't go well for me on Thursday and Friday, I still have Saturday and Sunday to find it.
If you shot 75‑75‑75‑65, I guarantee you're feeling pretty good about your game.ツ Whereas if you shoot 72‑72 and miss the cut in another event, you're feeling miserable.ツ So it's huge getting that extra couple of rounds no matter what.ツ I think a lot of players know they will get a nice start to the year with bringing some momentum.
So it's getting as many competitive rounds under my belt early on in the season.ツ And often times, I've got to the Masters and felt that I haven't played enough tournaments.ツ I'm starting earlier this year, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Q.ツ As an Irishman, do you feel any sympathy for Rory McIlroy's dilemma about who he's going to play golf for in the Olympic Games?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ Massive sympathy, massive sympathy as a Irishman and massive sympathy, more so as a sportsman.ツ No sportsman should have to make that decision.ツ That's it, straightforward, nobody at 23 years of age should be asked to make that decision.ツ And the reality is, there's been people in politics for the last hundred years have tried to negotiate that and haven't been able to negotiate it.ツ So why would you ask a 23‑year‑old just because he's going to hit a little white golf ball?
It's very unfortunate, and I think it is unfortunate in the sense that it means a big deal for golf for him to play.ツ It's a very big deal because golf is only a trial period in the Olympics.ツ We have two runs at it the next two Olympics, and we do, as golfers, have to perform and put our best foot forward.ツ So it would be nice if the world No. 1 is there and he's supporting the event.ツ It's an extraordinary difficult decision.
I really don't know‑‑ unselfishly, I would say he's probably making the right decision, what he said the other day was actually probably trying to let‑‑ for the game of golf, golfers need him to play.ツ We need our best players to play in the Olympics to show that golf is serious in the Olympics.ツ It would be nice if the Olympic council would just clear up and say, here we go, you can play in the Olympics, or make the decision on their behalf.ツ I don't know.
But then again, I'm sure the Olympic council‑‑ it's only one sport and they have issues in many sports and they can't just jump in and start making decisions.ツ There's going to be no winner out of this one, whatever.

Q.ツ You've spoken about looking for the secret to the game; why do you think golfers appear more than other professional sportsmen to constantly be worried about fear that tomorrow, it could all end?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ I think with golf, it's a much longer career and it's a much later career.ツ So as I said when I came out here, 24 years of age and certain parts of my game being my short game, completely‑‑ I didn't know any different.ツ And when you're playing, when you're 18, 19 years of age, that's how you play all sports.
Golf is different that, you know, you're 30 years of age and you're only coming into maturity or you're still playing at 40 years of age and 50 years of age.ツ So you have longer time to dwell on it and you've got a history of you build up a lot of history.ツ You remember a lot of shots.ツ Unfortunately you tend to remember some of the bad ones more than good the ones.
So you're always looking to figure out how to get more consistent so that you're more dependable and you're more reliable.ツ Strangely enough, as much as we try and do that, the erratic golfer is obviously going to win more.ツ He's just going to have more disappointing weeks.ツ If you end up with reliability, you end up being quite boring and not winning that much.ツ But if you end up being erratic, you're winning or miss the cut and get more weekends off.ツ What other job in the world would you not want more weekends off?
But we are all looking for reliability and that's why we are looking to‑‑ with golf, you find it.ツ You do find it for very short periods of time, and that's the problem.ツ We are teased at times that we think we have it and then it all goes away.ツ So ultimately the fact that you have it for a few days or even a round, you just want to have that feeling back again.
As I said, just because we have a longer sport‑‑ probably longer to think about it.ツ It's not a reaction sport.ツ That's a big difference to a lot of our game.ツ It's controllable and you think about what's happening whereas most sports are reaction and there isn't that time to get involved.ツ And if you do get involved in a reactionary sport, obviously you're getting your right brain involved ‑‑ or you get your left brain involved, you're going to be slower, so that's the last thing you want in a reaction sport.
In our sport, there has been very little successful people playing with both sides of the brain, and you can think your way through it and you can play with freedom, as well.
So it's just one of those games that anybody plays it or the amateur that plays it, you just compete and you can't get away from it.ツ We are no different than the pros and no different than the amateurs.

Q.ツ Coming back to this week, you've played this course and you've been out there already; what have you found different from the last time you played?
Pテ.RAIG HARRINGTON:ツ I really don't remember from back in '96.ツ I remember the place in terms of the elevated greens, the windy ‑‑ first couple of holes being very windy and getting a little calmer down there.ツ I remember, but I don't remember the individual‑‑ I remember the 18th hole and I remember the first hole.
I remember No. 12, the par3.ツ That's a fantastic par 3.ツ That's a great golf hole.ツ There are a lot of really good golf holes out here.ツ And it just proves, you don't need massive length.ツ That hole, they are making it easy for us because there is rough around the greens.ツ If you cut a bit of the rough back, and if you hit the green, you're 20 yards away from the green and trying to chip it on to the green, not just chip it close.
So that's a fantastic hole.ツ Some of those holes, I remember things like that.ツ But overall, you know, 17 years, a lot of golf courses since then.ツ

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