What they said: Padraig Harrington

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February 09, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am transcript archive

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington into the interview room. Padraig, thanks for coming by. Making your first start on the PGA TOUR. Already been an interesting year for you, I know, but just comment on being here at Pebble Beach.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I always like coming to Pebble Beach. Good week for me. I like the pro-am format. I bring my own partner, J.P., and we have a good time no matter what.

I feel at this time of the year, while I'm not competitive as I could be, I do feel like the golf course suits me very well. The conditions suit me very well. So it gives me a chance to be competitive, and hopefully I'll have a chance to win.

JOHN BUSH: Okay. And the state of your game coming into the week.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: As I said, I'm happy with it. I'm happy where it's going. Yeah, I could be a little bit more competitive; few more rounds under the belt wouldn't do me any harm. Overall, I like what I've seen. Just really need to get into playing and getting as many rounds under my belt as I can, I suppose.

That would get me competitive and making the right decisions at the right time.

JOHN BUSH: Questions.

Q. Just curious as to your schedule. What is it right now??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I play the next two after this, go home for a week, play two, go home for a week, and play Houston and the Masters.

Q. (Question regarding Baharain.)

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I played in Baharain and finished 58th.

Q. Were you surprised outside by the backlash and the fallout and everything from the rules and...

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think it's neither a backlash or a fallout. I think most people are brought into their limelight, and there's a lot of discretion on us. It's one of those topics that's very easy to -- I think everybody's falling on the one side, and it's very easy to go with, Oh, we've got to change this rules.

On the face of it, you could sit down over dinner and you come up with a number of ways to change the rules. When a committee actually sits down and examines it, I think they will find it very difficult to find a new rule that covers all angles.

The old rule does cover all angles, albeit harshly at times, but it covers every eventuality. I think any new rule brought in, they're going to have to work hard to find one that encompasses every situation you can envisage.

Q. Would you be against it if they did find something where added some subjectivity to it, meaning the committee can make a decision? Would you be in favor of that versus how the rule is now?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I would have to actually see it. Somebody would have to actually present me what they're going to go with before I would really be able to make that call.

Yeah, I can certainly understand if they have -- you know, maybe the best one - albeit a bit awkward to do - would be have a video ref sitting there, and he signs off at the end of the day and that's it.

There are so many options. But subjectivity, yeah, that would be fine. Yeah, and certainly in our level events. But it would have to be back and white down the road, like in normal amateur tournaments and things like that.

But in professional events where they do have the cameras and the ability to have qualified professionals ruling on this all the time, then subjectivity could be brought into it. Wouldn't be a -- you know, when it comes to tournament referees, there's no bias at all.

So, yeah, it's possible that they could do that job, yeah. Wouldn't be great to have a local match in your club and somebody's brought in to have a subjective opinion. I don't think that would work too well.

Certainly in our instance where the referees do a professional job, they would be well capable of making that call.

Q. As far as protecting the field, have you ever felt awkward having to call something on someone else??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: All professional players, we have -- probably one of the toughest jobs we have is out there to call the rules on another player. It generally upsets your own game when you start getting involved in what's happening.

I suppose the most common one for us will be where a ball crossed into a hazard. That comes up regularly. You know, you've got a clear view and did you have a clear view? A there are lot of things going on. As I said, you start getting into discussion and it upsets your own game. Where do you draw the line is the question?

We've certainly -- we rib a player just as much as for the guy who pulls somebody off nearly as the guy who's getting pulled off. So it really is an awkward one. Thankfully, most players - and really I'm talking most players - it's and absolute minority who turns their arm out there.

Most players can be let loose and trust that they're going to apply the rules as best they can. Yeah, it's not something normally have to do but it's very awkward if you do have to pull somebody off because maybe the ball didn't cover the hazard or something along those lines.

It's very rare, as I said. Usually it's something you do because you are protecting the rest of the field. It's not just you out there.

Q. Just curious, much is being made that Nos.1, 2, and 3 are playing in Dubai this week. To the PGA TOUR, a tournament like this carries a lot of...

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's very important to me, personally. I love playing in the pro-am format. I like the idea, and I'm all for both the PGA TOUR and the European Tour having events that are different. There are too many 72-hole events. You need to set yourself apart and do something different, something exciting. A pro-am is definitely different.

There's a lot going on this week that sets it apart. By any shape or means, you could never call the AT&T a normal event. I know some players don't like the format, but it's a good week. It's a week that you can come here and enjoy. There's a lot to enjoy, not just playing golf this week. There are other things happening.

So I appreciate that and like that. I like the fact that, as I said, it gives me an opportunity to play with a friend. In some ways actually helps me play better golf playing in the pro-am format.

Q. (No microphone.)

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think players, yeah, younger players will have to build their own relationships. You know, how they react in a normal way in a pro-am, and then once they start coming and playing in this, then if they do a good job, they find they get a regular partner every year, and that's how a relationship builds.

You know, I don't think anybody teeing off at the AT&T Pro-Am this week as an amateur that's been dragged in off the street. There are a lot of people here who are seriously -- are seriously achieved in their own field. It's one of those weeks where there's a lot of things going on.

A lot of times it's not the professional players who are the ones who are being listed, it's the amateurs players that are the ones to be listed there. That's a nice way to have it.

As I said, there are a lot of things to be gleaned in a week like this, whether it's one line here or there. You meet great sportspeople from other fields, and you can always learn from them. And the business people are so successful, you can always glean something from them that will help you in your own game.

There's a lot to be learned from the game.

Q. In terms of the monotony of a 72- hole competition, what would you like to see??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I like 72-hole competitions, but I like the idea that we have the odd one that's different.

Q. (Question regarding what kind of format he would like to see.)

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, if I knew that, I would have it, wouldn't I? I would be running my own event if I could come up with something so exciting that it would set itself apart. I leave that for other people to figure out.

I definitely feel that when somebody comes up with a new idea it's good to embrace it, whether it's like the old points system, and the international to the pro-am format. I actually taught the pro-am format they held in Baharain where the pro-am was on Saturday. It was great. It was refreshing and it was new. Doesn't affect the professional. It's a great way to have it.

You know, there are a lot of ideas like that that you have to just -- you know, every event needs to stand on its own and figure out a way to put itself out there. Sometimes that's by having a slightly different event.

I don't see it affecting the integrity of the event. There are so many types of events. That would be like saying we should turn up and play the same golf course every week, or every golf course should be 7,600 yards. You know, that would be wrong. You got to have short courses, long courses, tight courses, open courses. You got to give everybody an opportunity in different conditions during the year.

It would be an awful shame if we played the same style of golf course every tournament. That would make it hum-drum. That's a little bit like having the same 72-hole event every week would be hum-drum. If we had the same venue every week, no matter how good it is, it's nice to have something changing it up a bit.

Q. You are one of the players that is a member on both sides , and you've been that way for a long time. Are you feeling like there is I guess a competition that you perceive between the European Tour and the U.S. TOUR??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: We've got a chip on our shoulder, a point to prove.

Q. Are you feeling different pressures to play in different places now??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Always, always. Yeah, there is a lot of demand to turn up and play on both tours. No doubt about it. My schedule is definitely asked about and quizzed and cajoled in different directions at different times. There's no doubt about it.

Every tournament is a good event, so you would love to play -- some weeks there's three good events, and you would like to be able to play in everything, but you can't. So it's a difficult task.

Both tours do a good job in encouraging the best players to turn up in given weeks. They got to fight their own corners in that sense, and a player has to try to help out as much as he can, but also do what's best for his own game as well. It is an awkward situation.

And if you think it's tough for me being European, try being a South African or an Australian where they're asked to play -- they have an affinity with Europe, they're maybe on the tour playing over here, and then during the winter they're asked to go play in their own home country. They're really getting pulled around to play.

I only have two tours to have a demand on my time. They sometimes have three.

Q. (No microphone.)

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think what's happened, you know, now obviously the PGA TOUR in the last 10 years have made great strides in opening up the PGA TOUR to foreign-based players. There are a lot more foreign-based players playing on the PGA TOUR.

So in that sense, yeah, it has changed a little bit. As I said, if they're over here, the European Tour has to make sure they work harder to make sure they come home and play the event.

You know, I would have said six or seven years ago, every single member of the European Tour would have played the PGA Championship. Over the last number of years, even though it's one of the biggest events in Europe, players have started to miss it here and there. I've missed it a few years.

It is harder. The European Tour has to work harder to make sure all the players come home. It's easier at this time of the year in the middle east because the conditions are ideal at this time to attract people. At the end of the year, European Tour has a good run, but after the U.S. TOUR has finished up at that stage.

But, yeah, for the prime events in the middle of the summer, okay, around the Open they can do some good work. But it's tough work for them to really attract the best players, and they have to work harder.

Q. (Question regarding swing changes, et cetera.)

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You mentioned them.

Q. The question would be, why change now??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've always been changing. Since 16 years of age, I've been changing all the time. Always changing. I've made some massive changes at times. You only have to go back to when I started working with Bob Torrance in 1998. Which is something you very rarely ever see -- a lot guys change their golf swing, but physically if you look at them -- I physically changed the complete look of my golf swing in '98.

I can really only think of Faldo is the only other person who completely changed the physical structure or the look of the swing.

But every player out there working is on their swing. The difference between me is I was under a spotlight. And the difference with Tiger is he is under that spotlight as well. I'm sure if you go out into that range, there's 156 guys -- are there 156 playing this week?

156 guys playing this week, I can guarantee you you would probably go 150 plus that are changing something in their swing. It's just who's going doing it in the spotlight and who is getting the attention for doing it.

So we're all trying to get better to different degrees. Just as I said, it's not something new to me. I was changing my swing when I won the three majors. Before, during, and after. I will always be continuing to do that. I am, a believer that all golf games are -- we all get some parts of the game that we're pretty talented at, and other parts we're not so talented at.

Some guys will work on their weakness, and I often think that I would like to swing the club better, strike the ball better. So it is something for me to do.

But other guys find the long game pretty easy, and they need it spend more time in the short game. I can't think of anybody that has every part of the game.

Q. (No microphone.)

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think I'm changing. Yeah, I will agree that maybe of those 150-something guys, there's a few of them are finding things. Most people are certainly working on something. Yeah, I'm probably changing.

Q. Is there any part of you that envies someone like Fred Couples??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Just exactly as I said, you know, as much as I would love a low-maintenance golf swing, which is what Monty had. I admired Monty's swing. He hasn't had to do any work on it really over the years. Every week he turns up it's pretty much the same. It's probably as low-maintenance a golf swing as we've ever seen.

I admire that, but then there are other sides of the game that I got that maybe Monty would have liked. So everybody gets something.

And I'm not talking results. I'm talking purely in terms of the physical aspect of the game. Everybody seems to get some part of the game. They're a great putter, great short game. Or they're great iron players and can't drive the ball. Or they can drive the ball or hit their irons but -- everybody just has something that they're not quite 100 percent at.

I personally would like to be the guy that good at the short game. Thankfully that's where I got my talent. Sometimes the longer game is a process. It's something that you want to work on and things like that. I enjoy doing it. Gets me up in the morning, gets me excited, and gets me out there and keep to go want to play these games. A lot of those attributes are needed to keep going.

Q. (No microphone.)

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm a great believer. I really do believe that your game is based a lot on the physical place you were brought up playing golf. I was brought up playing golf on a very windy, tricky golf course. It was impossible hit more than six or seven greens in a round of golf.

It was absolutely folly to hit the golf ball for more than three or four seconds in the air. Because if it was in the air for that length of time, it was getting blown off course. You had to keep the ball down. So there was no point making an unorthodox swing.

But if you were brought up in a desert in warm conditions, I guarantee you'll boom the golf ball out there. Probably never knew how to knock the spin off a shot or how to manage it in the wind on a cold day.

So we all get something. I've often said the ideal conditions to learn how to play golf, it's probably warm, windy conditions. Cold, windy conditions is not great. My practice ground when I grew up was a 134 yards blind straight up the hill in the most exposed area on the side of a mountain. I can tell you that is not conducive to hitting 3-irons or anything like that.

The only way to hit a golf ball in those sort of conditions is to manufacture a little knock-down shot. That's one of the reasons I like coming here. You have to hit a lot little knock-down shots and control the ball in the wind. It's not regularly on tour that you have to hit those shots. On tour you're asked to hit -- can you it out there 300 yards in the air? Can you hit towering iron shots in over the bunkers, over the water to stop them?

That would have been completely alien. I think I was 20 years of age before I played a golf course that had lakes on it. I never saw a lake in my life. I know guys that were brought up in that and wouldn't even notice that. I'm like, Oh, there's a big lake down on the left. I wasn't brought up with that.

Conditions determine a lot. The golf courses I was brought up on taught me how to score. Taught me a great short game. I'll never find a green anywhere in the world that had as much slope as the greens I grew up on. There's nothing you can put me on as a short game that I didn't see as a kid. That's where I got my advantages.

You know, when it comes to golf swing, I like doing it and I've done a lot of the changes, but as I said, I wasn't brought up in the desert. So you'll rarely see somebody with a good golf swing coming from a windy golf course. Rarely see it happen.

Q. (No microphone.)

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, any time I'm approached, you know -- the tougher, the trickier the golf course, the more at home I am. The tougher the weather conditions, the more at home I am.

I spend 99 percent of my time preparing for the conditions I see regularly on TOUR. One of the big changes for me when I came over to the U.S. -- probably my best golf shot is like a low punch shot into the wind in the mid-iron. So you get somewhere in around that maybe 130 yards to 170 yards controlling a low shot. I would have been brought up hitting that shot time and time and time again.

Even if I get a windy golf course over here, there's no point in hitting it because the greens are firmer than they would've been at home. I can hit the most controlled, low shot in, but it's still gonna run to the back of the green. So if the green is firm, I've got to hit it up in the air and hope that I don't spin it too much.

Whereas as home I don't have to hope. I just hit a low spot and I know the green is soft enough that the ball will stop within five, ten yards, you know, a reasonable distance that can be worked with. So that's quite alien to me. It is.

So what's natural to me, I have to change a lot. Not in a week like this. The greens are firmer than normal. Certainly over the years when you come here and the greens are soft, it's exactly like playing golf at home. You know, as you said, I gain some weeks and I lose out other weeks.

JOHN BUSH: Padraig, we appreciate your time. Play well this week.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Thank you.

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