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January 28, 2014

Padraig Harrington


THE MODERATOR:¬† We'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington to the interview room.¬† Last year Padraig, T‑9 here, your first start of the year.¬† This is your first start of the year again if you want to give us opening comments about that.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Yeah, you know, first tournament of the year is always a great tournament.  You know, the year ahead's potential, it's exciting.  You never know what you're going to get.
It's always nice your first week out.  It's one of those things every year you're never quite sure, you know, where the game is going to be at and how big a year you're going to have.
It's nice when you're ‑‑I'm a pretty optimistic person.¬† First week out, I'm certainly excited about it.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up for some questions.

Q.  How much did you enjoy playing here last year for the first time?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I loved it.  Really did.
We play a lot of golf events throughout the year.  And not taking away from if any event, there is plenty of great events, but this one is unique and there is nothing like it in golf.  It's a great atmosphere all week.  It's a party atmosphere, and, you know, for a professional player, I have been out here a long time, it's nice to see something different.  I really do enjoy that.
I think, you know, golf shouldn't be the same every week.  You know, here at Phoenix, Waste Management has done a great job.  You know, it's definitely different.
You know, you've got to look forward to it  and embrace it, but I've got to say golf should be more fun, and this week they certainly do fun in a big way.

Q.  The football on Saturday, how long had that been planned or was it impromptu?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† Hadn't been planned at all.¬† I think I was asked on the Friday evening if I would do it, and, you know, I had no problem ‑‑I'm smart enough to not throw it.¬† (Laughter.)
I grew up as a goal keeper so I can kick a ball, but I'd never kicked an oval ball, not a rugby ball or American football, before that day.  So I was thinking about it a little bit and I was happy that I didn't embarrass myself, let's say.
Interesting, the next day, I again kicked on the Sunday, and I was in the last group, so my intention was, yes, I'm going to kick the ball, but, you know, you know, don't pull a hamstring, don't do anything like that.  It's quite important.
But the minute I got the ball, I kicked it as hard as I could.  I hooved it.  I just couldn't resist.  It's actually quite exciting down there on 16.  You know, as much as I was trying to be calm and collected, just tap the balls up there, not with the crowd cheering, I have to give it a big punt.  That was it.

Q.  In that vein, if you were to describe 16 to somebody who has never played it, with one word, what would you use?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I'd like to see somebody describe it in one word (laughter).  Okay, you know, this isn't English class, is it?
I don't think one word ‑‑I can't even say it‑‑ encapsulates the whole thing.¬† Couldn't say it in one word.
For a golfer, it would remind me a little bit like when I played team sports, you know, if you're in like a football atmosphere.¬† The Ryder Cup comes close to that, as well.¬† It's a similar sort of thing where you're genuinely in a situation where you have ‑‑what's the exact number of people around 16?

Q.  20,000?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  20,000.  It feels probably more than 20,000 at the time, but that's like a football atmosphere where people are cheering and shouting.  You know, golfers don't get that.  Maybe the Ryder Cup is the one where we actually get that sort of  arena type of atmosphere, and for sure you get it on 16.
So it's so different, so unique, but to describe it in one word wouldn't do it justice or else I'm just not intelligent enough to do it.

Q.  16 gets all the attention around here, but 17, with that risk/reward, can you talk about that and how underrated that hole seems to be?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Well, you're really looking at 15 and 17 being very similar in that sense.  15, you've got a lot of water.  You've got a great chance to make a birdie.  17, exact same thing.  If you hit a great tee shot, you're in position, you can make an eagle.  If you hit an okay shot, you can be slightly out of position, and this is probably sometimes that you hear this back, but you can look very foolish very quickly.  You know, you can comfortably chip it into the water on 17.  You can comfortably putt into a bunker on 16.
It happens.¬† You know, 15 probably not as ‑‑it's not as stark as that, although obviously your second shot, it's practically an island green, you can hit it in the water.
All three holes there, you know, it's a strange feeling because you're trying to play well.  But there is a little bit you try not to look foolish.  You don't want to mess up, either.  Certainly on 16 at times, it's a hole that you're happy to hit it 15 feet, roll your putt down stone dead and tap it in.
I know last year I hit a really nice tee shot into the back pin one of the days and left myself 15 feet uphill, something like that, got a bit excited, and knocked it by six feet.¬† I've got to say, to leave yourself‑‑ you can leave yourself a six‑footer out in the middle of the golf course and it's just a six‑footer, but a six‑footer on 16, not to three‑putt, that's a totally different thing.¬† (Laughter.)
The last thing you want to do is three‑putt on 16 and have everybody shouting and cheering at you.¬† That's the beauty of the hole.¬† It certainly brings in different emotions.¬† There is no way you can stand on the 16th tee and not feel excited, a little bit of a tingle, a little bit of nerves.¬† You just don't want to mess up.
It's a pretty straightforward hole.  If there wasn't 20,000 people gambling on what you're going to do, it would be straightforward.

Q.  In that vein, have you given Lee any advice who is here for the first time?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  You know what?  I only just saw him last night out at the restaurant.  I haven't talked to him about the golf course.  You know, I don't think you can describe it to people.  And I do believe that every person reacts a little bit different to it.
But, you know, you have to go through it rather than describe it to people.  For golf, there is nothing like it.

Q.  When do you start thinking about 16 in your round?  Are you thinking of it on 15?  How much does the crowd affect you once you get there?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I think only probably coming through 15 you would start thinking about, you're listening to the cheers a little bit, you're wondering who's ahead of you, what's happening, that sort of thing.  Definitely going down 15 you're thinking about the reception you're going to get on 16.
I think when you walk through the tunnel and you come out, then it does change.  Your emotions change at that point in terms of the noise level goes up and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
It is pressure‑filled.¬† It's a slightly different pressure, but, you know, it's a pressure to‑‑ okay, I'm very happy if I make four 3s very easily this week and just ‑‑not very often with a 9‑iron in your hand are you thinking I'm happy making 3 every time.¬† On that hole you want to make it as easy as possible for you.

Q.  Is adrenaline part of it?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† Yeah, no doubt about it.¬† As I said, you're nervous, you're excited on the tee box.¬† You know, there is a lot going on and you have to, you know, figure out a way to deal with it.¬† You know, you kind of feel like you would, you know‑‑ as I said, it kind of has a similar feel to like when you're in a Ryder Cup something like that or coming down the last couple of holes leading in a tournament.¬† You're anxious not to mess up in front of people.

Q.  Regarding the Masters, you're needing a win pretty quick?

Q.  Is that the immediate goal for you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Win, win, win.  That's pretty straightforward for me.  It's a pretty long shot, you know, to get into Masters.  Only goal is I have to go and win.  It's tough to shoot 28 under par.  You stand on the first tee this week, 72 holes in front of you.  If you have to shoot 28 under par, a lot of things have to go well for you to get to that number.
Clearly that was some score by Phil last year.  But you never know.  It's going to be 156 guys this week.  It may as well be me.

Q.  As you try to regain your previous status, have you been happy with your progress of late?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† I can't say I have been happy with my progress in terms of results, but I'm very happy with how I'm playing.¬† You know, a lot of things ‑‑I've been pretty upbeat about my game, for sure.¬† I played well last year, but I didn't putt and the short game wasn't as good.
It's not that I have done more work on it, but I do seem to be turning a corner with those parts of my game.  I'd be happy if I hit the golf ball like I did last year, and as I said, putting it and chipping it a little bit better, and I seem to be doing that.
Yeah, I'm in a good place, no doubt about it.¬† But I do need results.¬† It's not all about ‑‑not always about how the player feels.¬† The results are important, as well.

Q.¬† How difficult is it to handle that ‑‑you were one of the best three, four players in the world four, five years ago, and you have been struggling significantly since then.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† Yeah, see, I wouldn't ‑‑players have to look at it differently.¬† I tell you I hit the golf ball better.¬† I probably hit the golf ball the best I hit it in 2009 and it was when the groove rule changed in 2010 that things changed for me, so I have been trying to deal with that for a few years now, and it makes a big difference to my game, no doubt about it.
So, you know, Titleist has brought out a new ball this year which really does seem to suit me.  It's a bit softer, it spins a bit more, which hopefully will make up for the change in grooves which has been really tough for my game.
So, you know, in many ways I think I play better, but I don't score as well because of those grooves.¬† So it's just one of those things.¬† I certainly don't go around there thinking that ‑‑what was the term you used?¬† "Significantly" something?¬† Something significantly.¬† That really harsh, hurt me (smiling).
No, I'm tougher than that.  I can tell you that for sure.

Q.  Last year you spoke at some length about your fascination with making daily swings, changes to your swing.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I enjoy that side of the game, but I don't have much to do now on that side.

Q.  Really?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† No.¬† As I said, I hit the ball last year.¬† Put it like this:¬† There's nothing they're going to find in my golf swing that will make me a substantially different player.¬† You know, I can find it in my routine, I can find it ‑‑they're still searching for things, no doubt about that, and I still will be changing things because that's what I do, but I don't feel like there is a big change out there that's going to make any difference.

Q.  So you're pretty much leaving it alone?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† I'm doing what I always did, what I have done for the last 25 years of my life, which is continue to tinker away.¬† It's not like I'm searching for anything or anything like that.¬† I'm pretty set in my ways, but for sure there's always ‑‑ you know, the only way of staying constant is to keep moving.¬† I know that sounds...¬† But change, you know, nothing in this game stays the same.
It's Yin‑Yang.¬† It's the constantly changing that keeps you in constant.¬† There is no way ‑‑ anybody out there, if you try and do something the exact same every day in golf, that's not going to work out.¬† You've got to be continually evolving, you know, continually moving forward.
This game does change.¬† Like we just discussed earlier, they changed the grooves.¬† There is a lot of things that wouldn't be ‑‑ you know, they will be changing the putter rule, so whoever uses a long putter will have to respond to that.¬† The game is about who can handle the changes.¬† Tiger has gone through many changes.¬† Everybody.¬† That's part of the game.

Q.  Would you give us a sense of what it's like to work through those groove changes?  Two years seems like a pretty long time to do that.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Three years now.

Q.  Three years.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:¬† Yeah, I just don't hit ‑‑I used to carry two sets of clubs to every event.¬† I don't think anybody else did that.¬† One with one set of box grooves and one with V groove, and I'd mix and match them in each round depending on what I wanted.¬† Depending on the length of the rough, sometimes you want the ball to come out spinning.¬† Sometimes you want the flier.
So like at a U.S. Open, you tend to use the V grooves to get the ball to move out of the rough.¬† A tournament like this you'd use more box grooves.¬† If there's trees in the rough, you can't get a box groove over of a tree‑ it just comes out so much lower‑ whereas a V groove will jump up or go over.¬† There is many combinations.
I used to bring two sets of golf clubs and manage my way.¬† I might have a box groove 7‑iron, a V groove 8‑iron, box groove 9‑iron, all sorts of different combinations.¬† So, you know, that changes.
You know, where I see the biggest changes is the consistency in the flight I get with my chip shots and my pitch shots.¬† That's really been tough for me to try and get a consistent‑‑ you know, I hit one chip shot really well and it goes in there long spinning and the next I kind of float in there without any spin.
While neither is wrong, it's trying to figure out to get the consistency between the two, whereas with the old grooves, everything came out low and spinning, so it was a big advantage to me to be able to work it like that.

Q.  Other than hoping your short game is a little sharper this year, is there any other changes to strategy you are thinking of doing differently or the same?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  No, no.  No, not really.  Do everything the same.  Just try and putt a little bit better, chip a little bit better.  You know, the great thing is when you've played well and you watch other people playing well, you understand how much momentum has to do with a run.
A lot of players play well for about 18 months.¬† You know, things are going for them.¬† If you hit an average tee shot off the first today in the first cut and you hit an average second shot, runs down a little bit 30 feet by the hole, and you hit a poor putt that goes six feet by and you knock that six‑footer in, I can tell you you'll stand on the second tee thinking you're playing great.
Against that, you could hit a good tee shot and finish in a divot and you hit a good second shot and it just comes up short and you've got a tough chip but you play it well and it lips out and goes three feet by, you miss that three‑footer, you think you're hitting the golf ball terrible.¬† That's just the nature of golf.¬† Momentum is a massive part of the game.
I have had very little momentum over the last two years, butI know it can change around very quickly.¬† And again, I watch a lot of players, and it's surprising, you know, what experience when you can see this how much momentum has to do when players are playing well.¬† They're knocking in those 8‑ and 10‑foot putts and makes them feel like they're driving the ball better and hitting the irons better.
That's the nature of the game, and that's why, as I said, my experience, you tend to see players, they play about 18 months really well and then they settle back to who they are.  And if they're good enough, they will come back and have another run.

Q.  Do you have anything planned for Saturday?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Footballs again.  Not very exciting, is it?  But footballs.  We have actually the replica ball from the Super Bowl final.  It's a pretty nice ball to catch if you can catch it.  Hopefully we'll have plenty of them.
Wilson also, it's their 100th anniversary this year, so you will see a new bag and new logo and things just for this year.  But they produced, like their tennis ball, they produced an oversized golf ball.  It's a proper ball actually, like has the valve and everything.
If they produce 500,000 of them, I'd be able to give away 500,000 this week.  That's the nature.  Many footballs they give me on Saturday and Sunday, I'm sure I will be able to give them away.

Q.  Any Super Bowl plans, watching?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I hope to be celebrating with the Waste Management Open trophy (laughter).
Yeah, I hope I'm doing some interviews with you guys at that stage.¬† Golf finishes about 3:00?¬† Super Bowl starts 3:30?¬† 4:30 here?¬† And the golf finishes about 3:00?¬† So you will actually be hoping ‑‑not hoping for once, maybe hoping all the time that I actually I stop talking.

Q.  If you don't win, what do you hope to take away from this week to start building that momentum you're looking for?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Well, if I don't win, I hope I finish second.  If not second, I hope I finish third.

Q.  (Indiscernible).
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  You know what?  Yeah, pretty much so at this stage.  I have always said that results aren't that important to players, that we need to feel like we're playing well and momentum and build that sort of stuff, but you know what?  I have been saying I have been playing well for, you know, a year, so I better back it up with some results.
Yeah, results would be nice, and I think that's important at this stage.  But for sure getting yourself in contention is always a nice place to be, and outside of that, playing nicely, you know, holing a few putts, that will be nice.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Padraig.  Good luck this week.

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