An interview with: PADRAIG HARRINGTON

MARK STEVENS: I’d like to welcome Padraig Harrington.  Padraig, you just got done with your Pro-Am round.

If you want to talk about the course — this is your first start here at the Wyndham Championship — then we’ll take some questions.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  The golf course is in great condition.  I played 9 holes as well yesterday.  There wasn’t a blemish on it.

Obviously the rough is very heavy so you don’t want to miss too many fairways.  If do you miss them, you want to be wide rather than just off them.  The ball certainly sits down.

The greens are in great shape.  Obviously lots of nice pin positions and you can see how the golf course can get a lot tougher depending on how firm or how tricky they get with the pins, let’s say, but I can also say if you’re going to hit the fairways out there you’re going to hit it in the greens, guys are going to hole putts.  I can see how the scoring gets to 20-under par.

You got to make sure you hit the fairways and hit the greens.  As I said, with the nice condition, you’re going to hole some putts.

MARK STEVENS:  Questions?


Q.  Padraig, you talked about pressure a moment ago.  Do you feel under any additional pressure given that right now as far as the FedExCup is concerned, you’re on the outside looking in?

Do you change your game, be maybe a little bit more aggressive or stick with what’s been working year after year?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  The great thing, I’m in a position with the FedExCup that if I can get myself in contention this week and focus on winning this tournament, the FedExCup will comfortably look after itself.

It’s not like if I’m in — got a chance of winning that I have to defend 2nd or 3rd or 4th place to make sure I get in the FedExCup.  The goal is to focus on getting myself in contention, focus on trying to win this tournament and that will easily look after the FedExCup.

Obviously the FedExCup comes into my mind if I am struggling to make the cut or just make the cut and I need a decent weekend.  But, if I obviously play well and get some good scores in the bag, it’s not going to be an issue at all.


Q.  Can you talk a little bit about your decision to play here?  I think you might have been going on vacation this week.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  You know, family holiday booked down at the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas.  All set to go and I never mentioned — I knew I was on the bubble.

I thought I was going to get through last week, done enough, but my wife actually made the decision, she says, “I think you got to go and play.”

So she was the one who — I have a 7 year old and 3 year old.  We only had to tell the 7 year old we were changing the plans.  The 3 year old didn’t — one swimming pool is the same as the next to him (laughter).

Why don’t you spend two days in Wet ‘N Wild here.  They’re not going to see too much of a difference.

Yeah.  It wasn’t a decision I was going to make and tell the family we’re not going but it was a decision my wife was happy to make on my behalf and say, “I think you should get up there and qualify.”

Q.   As a follow up to that, can you possibly comment on Tiger Woods deciding not to come play at the Wyndham?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would assume he did well to make two weeks with his leg.  You know, he wasn’t very sure on his leg last week.  I know — I don’t think he mentioned it or anything but, you know, you can still see that it’s not a hundred percent.

Might be a hundred percent but certainly pushing it another week wouldn’t have been good for him physically.  I can understand him not pushing the boat and coming here.


Q.  Padraig, you’re the last person to win back to back Majors and that was several years ago.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Three years ago.  It’s the not like that long (laughter).


Q.  Nevertheless, what do you make of the current state of golf right now?  Lot of people are ready to give Rory McIlroy Tiger Woods’ reins and he has played well but haven’t quite been the next edition of Tiger.  Some people still think Tiger will come back to being Tiger.

Is golf in a transitional period right now, do you think?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Well, you know, I think in terms of record, two greatest players that have ever played golf in terms of numbers is Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods at this stage.  Jack won 18 Majors over a career that was slightly less than 30 years it took him to win 18 Majors.  Less than one a year.

Tiger, up until say last year before he was injured had won 13 Majors in 13 years.  So one a year.

Doesn’t matter how prolific a winner you are, they don’t come around that often.  You don’t get somebody who is winning two and three Majors a year.  It might happen once or twice but it doesn’t happen consistently through the career.

Like you look at other great careers, I’m really talking, I’d be more familiar with the European guys, the most Majors ever won by a European is six Majors by Faldo.  That probably took him 25 years of a career.

No matter what, you’re always going to have first time winners.  To be honest, we can count at any stage in golf in golfing careers, you can go back as we are now or go back 10 years or go back 15 years or 30 years and less than certainly two handfuls of players playing at any one time have won more than one Major.

Certainly at the moment you start with the name — I don’t know.  Certainly not ten players who are actively playing golf who have won a second Major on the first one.

That inevitably means four Majors a year, lot of first time winners and one time only winner Majors.  I think we’re making a big deal of the fact that we, over the last number of years, we had a bumper time that Tiger Woods going into every Major was the favorite and in contention.

He basically delivered every time.  He might not have won every time but he certainly delivered every time.  He put himself in the hunt coming down the stretch.

Phil, as good a career as Phil has had, and he gets himself in contention, it’s still only four Majors.

So, you know, ultimately that means there’s a lot of single Major winners and a lot of first time Major winners based on that fact.

So I think we’re reading a lot into the fact that, you know, over the last two — since I won the back to back ones that everybody else — well, since then, Phil has won one.  More or less everybody else, it was their first Major.

That’s the nature of the game.  There’s some great players that have only won one Major, will always be like that especially when guys do win Majors it is hard to back it up afterwards.

It brings a lot of pressures.  Lot of highs and lows after winning a Major.  It certainly — it’s hard to see anybody being a prolific winner.

I do believe somebody like Keegan Bradley who is only 24, Rory McIlroy, is only 21, so they have long careers ahead of them where they can win a lot of Majors.

It’s harder when — to win a lot of Majors you need a long career, certainly a long period of time.  Keegan will probably be competitive for 20 years.  He’s got 80 of them.  Rory has probably got 25 years of Majors.  He’s got close to a hundred.

He’s going to knock off a few more.  Both of them are going to win some more Majors purely based on time.  But, besides that, it’s hard not to be a first time Major.  It’s rare for a second time winner.


Q.  Could you talk a little bit about where your game is right now?  I know you had a good start at the PGA.  The week might not have been what you wanted.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  My game has been strange compared to other years as in generally I’ve played better at the start of a week in practice and gradually not played as well later on in the week, whereas you could look at, say, probably my best year on Tour, 2008, I improved every Sunday I played that year.  Every single Sunday I went forward, whereas probably I only done that once or twice this year.

I’m having an interesting period that I seem to play nice golf early on in practice rounds and then it tapers off, whereas, you know, I would have been a player in the past who couldn’t hit it on Wednesday, couldn’t find it on a Wednesday and I would put something together on a Thursday and gradually get better through the weekend, whereas I’m kind of going the other way at the moment.

Hopefully, you know, that’s going to level out this week and it will be a good week for me but there’s nothing to a miss with the game.  Nothing that a couple of, you know, birdies get the confidence going, you can really carry it forward from there.


Q.  I wanted to ask you about your playing partner today in the Pro-Am, Kevin Harvick NASCAR is kind of a big deal in North Carolina.  I don’t know if you had ever heard of Kevin Harvick or the Sprint Cup Series.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Plenty of times.  I met him before.


Q.  How did he hit them and are you a big NASCAR fan?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I wouldn’t say I’m a big NASCAR fan but I like all sports.  If it’s on TV in front of me, I’m going to it, watch the highlights.

Obviously when you get paired with another guy who is involved in a sport there’s a lot of questions, what do you do for fitness, what’s your schedule like, what you do corporatewise?

There’s a lot of similarities and a lot of questions we were both asking each other out there to find out generally what another sport is like.

As regards to his golf game, yeah, the best part of his golf game is the most important part.  He’s got a nice touch around the greens.  He’s a good putter.

Probably you know, you can hit it, he definitely can hit it, no problem with speed and power.  He’s just maybe probably putting a little bit too much — probably thinking a little bit too much about it.  That would probably be the best way to describe his longer game.

He’s not letting the natural side come out in the longer game became but, thankfully, he does what is important and that’s the most important part.  He can hit it.  No matter where he goes playing golf in the world he can look to — he’s got a good posture, hit plenty of good golf shots.  He can tee it up in any Pro-Am and look okay.


Q.  Speaking of playing golf around the world, have you ever played golf in Iceland and do you know that there’s a kid playing in this tournament from Iceland?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I didn’t know there was a kid in this tournament from Iceland, and I have played golf in Iceland.  Who is the kid from Iceland, is he a Tour player?


Q.  College student at UNC-Charlotte.

MARK STEVENS:  First ever from Iceland to play on the Tour.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  Is he a professional?  He’s an amateur.  Okay.  Yeah, I have played up there.  Obviously they have a limited schedule of the year weatherwise.

Yeah.  The heat must be different for him for this tournament.  You know, that’s the nature of the game.

When I was growing up, I saw my swing — my first lesson when I was 15.  That was the first time I had ever seen my golf swing on video, and I probably didn’t have — I didn’t have much of an understanding of where — of what you do technically, how are you to swing a golf club.

Kids today, they have access all the time when it comes to the Internet of lessons and swing videos and this is how you swing a golf club and they can watch the best players.

So like if you wanted to see a good golfer when I was 15 years of age you had to go to an event basically to see it or pretty much so.  But now you have access all the time.

People can analyze, say, Tiger Woods’ swing for the last ten years.  You can come from a country even with limited playing time and learn how to physically swing the golf club.  Obviously the competition end of it and the short game and things like that, yes, you can learn that technically but you still need some competitive background in order to become good at that end of the thing.

I’m not sure where this lad lived in Iceland all his life and just come to college over here, maybe moved like Carl Pettersson when he was 9 years of age or 11 years of age from Sweden.

But certainly that would be the difficult part and I know some of the Icelandic teams and some of the Northern European teams have come and played in Ireland in our amateur events to get that sort of competition, because it is hard to find a real competitive schedule in such a small community of golfers as there would be in Iceland.

It’s easy to become the big fish where the best players are always — are kind of just slightly outside that trying to prove themselves.

You know, that’s a little bit of a burden on him.  But I’m sure if he’s in college over here he’s doing the right things, he’s getting the competition.  He’s obviously a good player if he qualified for this event.


Q.  Just picking up on that, I’m from Iceland, we came here just to follow him because he’s our first player on the PGA.  We remember we saw you when you were playing in Iceland.

How did you like playing golf in Iceland?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  It was interesting.  Yeah, it was a fascinating place.  I never been.  It was actually for Canon, it was a corporate event.

And, yeah, it was — obviously it’s basically all lava, isn’t that correct?  It was interesting, very — obviously the daylight as well was another factor to it.  Daylight 24 hours a day or close to it.  So a lot — it’s certainly different.

The golf is the same at the end of the day, the golf course — no matter where you put a golf course, it’s the same sort of thing, 18 holes with greens and a hole in it.

As golfers, especially international golfers, I’ve played anywhere in the world.  I’ve experienced all sorts of conditions but certainly — I’m glad I played.  I’m glad of the experience and I’m glad I can say I played golf in Iceland.  I’m sure I’ll be back there one day.

MARK STEVENS:  Take a couple more.


Q.  Padraig, just wondered if you could expand a little bit on your mindset going into the tournament this week, especially knowing with The Playoffs obviously looming ahead, if it’s different in your approach and what your mindset would be?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  I don’t think my approach differs at all going into this event but it may change during the event.  I think like any event, you’re going in there trying to get your game in the best possible shape to start Thursday.  You’re trying to go out there and win the tournament.

Obviously if I get myself in contention this week I don’t have to think about qualifying for the Fed Ex because I’ll be well inside the mark.

If, per chance, you know, I’m struggling to make the cut or if I’ve only just made the cut, yeah, I am thinking about the FedExCup.

But I’m a pro, 14 years.  I’m playing competitively probably another pretty close, probably 30 years in total.  I’m competing out there and I don’t think I’ve ever hit a shot in that time where I haven’t been trying.

It’s not like I’m going to try any harder at any stage this week.  I will be more aware of the FedExCup position if I’m not playing as well but if I play well, you know, I’ll be well inside the mark.  Doesn’t matter.

The interesting thing, you know, I’ll be the fairy tale story.  Any of us guys who are slightly outside the FedExCup at the moment, if we qualify, we can go on and win the FedExCup which, you know, I think that’s the whole idea of the FedExCup is the fact that anybody who is in the Top 125 has a chance of winning it outright and being, you know, the best player of the year.

So, if myself or Ernie or any of the guys actually make it in and then we hit our A games for the four weeks, all of a sudden we can be the FedExCup Champion, and that’s what a playoff is about, it’s giving everybody — and not quite an equal start but it’s given us a fair run at it, more than we deserve, to be honest.

If I only struggle into the Top 125, it’s nice to have a chance of winning the overall title and I definitely do because if you’re in there and you win the first event — it only takes two wins to win the FedExCup, two of the four weeks.

I’m quite looking forward to — I’m looking forward to qualifying and if I do qualify, I’m really looking forward to the fact that I can be the underdog and come through and win it outright, which is a bit of — I suppose that’s what the FedExCup was designed for.

MARK STEVENS:  All right.  Thanks a lot, Padraig, and good luck this week.



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