What they said: Padraig Harrington

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February 08, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

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

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Padraig Harrington, thank you for joining us here, playing in your sixth AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. You haven't started on the PGA TOUR yet this season, but you've been busy on the European Tour. Maybe just some opening comments about the state of your game and coming back to the United States to start your season.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I always look forward to coming back here. I really like the golf courses. I feel like these courses and these conditions probably are the most suitable of the year for me in terms of being competitive. I may not be as competitive as much as I would like at the start of the year, but certainly this week and LA next week, I really love the golf courses and like the challenge that they present. They're good for me to come back. Obviously I play with my same playing partner every year for the last six years, so I enjoy the week here, as well. It is one of the more relaxed events, especially all around, on the golf course, off the golf course. It's one of the events you enjoy going to.

Q. Can you tell us about the little scare or big scare, whatever, leaving Abu Dhabi??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The one I didn't know about? That's Karl McGinty reporting. He was actually on the plane and I blame him because you should never travel with Karl McGinty. You know something is going to go wrong if you travel with Karl McGinty. No, he was on the plane.

No, look, we didn't know anything happened. It was a very foggy night. They aborted takeoff. We just went back to the lounge, and it was only the next day they said there was some damage to the runway. We assumed that there was a puncture to one of the tires. It was only the next day that one of the -- somebody that -- they weren't exactly telling people, but somebody who recognized me decided to tell me the story that they'd taken out a few lights on the runway, so obviously it had somehow veered.

The interesting side of the story, it was the Manchester city football plane with their colors and their name down the side. I was sitting with Blue Moon Rising which probably doesn't mean too much to you, but the poster of Blue Moon Rising was behind my head, so I don't know if they'll ever want to be back on that particular plane again.

They've been great since. They've been very good about it. It really wasn't as bad a experience as it's turned out.

Q. You blame Karl??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I blame Karl. You travel with Karl McGinty, something is going to go wrong. Maybe he should be banned. There's always excitement in Karl's life. Isn't it like that Chinese curse: May your life be interesting.

Q. How is it going with Pete, the new coach? What are you working on? I always ask that question hesitatingly. It's usually a long list of things.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I started working with Pete in August, and I'll tell you, I've spent -- I went over to see him for a few days, but outside of that, I've spent short periods of time with him because we're working on one thing, and it's pretty clear, so it hasn't been a -- maybe the early process was a little bit getting into it, but since then it's been pretty straightforward.

I'm just trying to keep my shoulders connected more. That would be it. Just trying to keep my -- it's reasonably straightforward, trying to keep my shoulders packed, keep my scapulas in place. It's the same way of trying to say the same thing, essentially staying connected with my shoulders. I used to get shoulder injuries so it kind of makes a lot of sense, not letting them be a little bit -- my right scapula used to lift a little bit in the backswing, and yeah, just keeping them in place basically, trying to keep my shoulders down all throughout my golf swing and not letting them rise up.

There's a bit more to Pete's coaching, but that's essentially what every lesson has been. It hasn't been hugely complicated and there hasn't been a massive amount to work on besides that.

Q. Do you think this is the hardest European Ryder Cup team to make in history??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Certainly from my point of view it's extremely hard. You know, there's no doubt I'm behind the 8-ball at this stage. I haven't got very many points up. I'm not in the -- at the moment I'm not going to be in the seven easiest tournaments to gain points, so I'm going to have to -- it's not going to be a year that I can play well and get into it, I'm going to have to play great to get into the team. I'm not going to be able to pick up easy points and qualify that sort of way. I'm going to actually have to really play very well to force my way in.

Certainly, yeah, it's an interesting one for me. Certainly I'm going to have to be right on form to get into that team. Without a doubt it's really strong, the European team, but as I said, not being in the tournament and not having any points up at the moment means I'm going to have to gather points very quickly and kind of -- it won't be a question of picking up five and six points and eight points; it'll have to be a question of winning some of those big points, which means winning.

Q. Are you in the world events??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I don't know what the story is with Bridgestone, but I'm not in the two coming up. They might have changed qualifications, I'm not sure. I'm not sure if I'm in Bridgestone. But I wasn't in the world event, HSBC, last year. I missed out on either Tiger's or Sun City, I missed out on the European Match Play coming up, U.S. Match Play, Doral. These are all events that you get points for turning up at. Some of those events you can turn up and finish last and you get more points than say finishing 15th at a major. Those are the ones to be in to gather easy points.

Part of making the Ryder Cup team is about gathering up those easy points when you can get them, and obviously you've got to play well at other times. But in my case I'm obviously going to have to play very well all year, or at least for some of the year.

Q. Would you ever want to be a Ryder Cup captain, and what do you think makes a great Ryder Cup captain??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I'd love to be a Ryder Cup captain. I haven't had -- I don't have it on my radar at the moment. I'm hoping to play for numerous ones going forward. But yes, down the road I would like that challenge. It's kind of a poisoned chalice. If you have a winning team you're a successful captain; if you have a losing team, you're a horrible captain. It doesn't necessarily go on the ability of the captain -- say, for example, you're the greatest captain ever and your team was just -- the U.S. Team was just better than the European team was. It kind of goes down that you're a losing captain and you weren't very good at your job. That's certainly how it's gone over the years. There have been captains that the players have come back and said they didn't enjoy playing under them but they had a successful team, so all of a sudden that guy was a great captain. So it's an interesting job to take on.

I said this to Monty after the last one. He put his whole career on the line by taking the Ryder Cup captaincy because a huge amount of Monty's career, the eight Order of Merits and then Ryder Cup player, and obviously if he was a Ryder Cup losing captain, he couldn't have really put in, I've never lost in the singles type of issue. So it was a big risk for him. So there is a -- certainly in Europe it's not quite -- probably in the States, as well, it's not quite just turn up and wave at the crowds when you're captain. You are putting a lot of -- I'm sure it was kind of that way 20 years ago, I'm sure, but nowadays there's a lot of pressure on the captain, and if the team doesn't perform, the captain is the one who takes the fall for it.

What makes a successful captain? I've played six now, and there's been a lot of variations, from Bernhard Langer, who really took control of the situation down to the extent he -- I got told off at the first team meeting for laying up into a water hazard. Bernhard was very much like that.

Sam Torrance, when you lose, he puts your arms around your shoulder, you're great, I believe in you, I trust you, go out there and do it.

Nick Faldo took an interesting tack. He was very much about the individual, what lets you play the best golf, you do what's necessary for you. Exactly -- he was trying to get a team to play like he would have played, I think. If you need to do an hour and a half practice, you go and do your hour and a half practice. It was very much about the individual in that situation, which I would have -- his one and Mark James' one, both of those at the time you didn't necessarily -- you didn't doubt the procedure, but afterwards I don't think people would go that route again.

Certainly Mark James was one of the best in terms of how we enjoyed the week as a captain. But even the U.S. Team have learned from that one. I don't think the mistake made on the Sunday will ever be made again in Ryder Cup history. He took one for everybody else there. But if he had won on the Sunday, he would have been the greatest captain of all time.

So it's a difficult position to be in, obviously, Ryder Cup.

I think the U.S., the great thing about -- the greatest credit Europe can take when it comes to Ryder Cup is it's made the U.S. care about it. 20 years ago it was-- probably a little longer than 20 years ago, but it was -- could I use the word exhibition? Would that be -- whereas now I think the Europeans by putting up to the U.S. have made the U.S. players, team and public care about the Ryder Cup. The Europeans can pat themselves on the back for pushing it to where it is nowadays, which is -- it's a great match.

And it's kind of evolved, too, that the players, we've kind of got past necessarily the media side of it, whereas it's pretty tough play when we're playing, but we don't take it past the golf course if you know what I mean. It's much more sporting I would think, the last couple of years.

You know, it's really tough on the golf course. You'll often see -- I played a match last year, and the match was really just winding down, and there was a free drop casual water, and if it was the PGA TOUR, player says to me, casual water. I'd go, yeah, you know what you're doing, go ahead. It's five minutes at least trying to find a spot. To be honest the players weren't involved, but there was referees, they were pacing back and forth, and there was all -- we were just laughing. That's the Ryder Cup. He was an experienced player. He knew what he was doing. Any other day, it would be, look, we know you know what you're doing. If you tell us it's casual water, we believe that. But if it's Ryder Cup, things are checked.

But the players don't take it off the golf course now. I think years ago the conspiracy theories were carried off the course. Nowadays the players realize that, yeah, we're out there trying to win, and we want everything, serious stuff on the golf course, but off the golf course, as you've seen the last couple of years, afterwards the players mix and things like that. I think even when I started playing, I don't think we would have mixed afterwards. But nowadays they do.

Q. Obviously we've talked to you many times about the changes that you've tried to put in your game and the ups and downs. Did I see somewhere recently where you said you think your only mistake in that regard is talking about it??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I'd actually go as far as to say the only one, yeah. I've always changed my golf swing. I've always worked on my golf swing. Obviously I've made some massive swing changes. As one person once described me, another pro, he said, there's only two professional golfers he's met in his career, and one was Nick Faldo and the other was me, that when they made swing changes, it actually really looked like a different golfer. I've made massive changes, whether it was when I turned -- like when I turned pro between when I qualified in the Tour school I used to hit like a choppy cut over the top, I started my first two years hitting a huge draw off the tee. That was like a phenomenal change in the way I played golf, all in the course of a month between qualifying and going out there.

I made a massive change with Bob Torrance in '99. I've made changes -- when I won in Carnoustie I was playing with a draw. When I won in Birkdale I was trying to play with a fade. You know, so I continually changed. But after 2008 I talked about it. As you know, I talk too much. It's an Irish trait. I did what I normally do: I talked.

I think it's interesting what I'm doing and I hope other people think it's interesting. Maybe it's my ego, but I like to tell people. But the difference is there was more people listening. I had a bigger platform. So over the other years when I talked, I didn't get as much noise back.

Q. Well, you won majors, so people are, wow, what's he changing??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was always changing. I changed between majors. I couldn't handle the bad drive I hit at the 18th at Carnoustie, so that was it. I wasn't going to try and hit -- I was hitting a different shot the following year. So I always change.

But having a different platform meant I got more back, which was the harder thing. Normally, as I said, I've never read anything written about me since 18 years of age, so as much as I gave out information I wasn't receiving much back because I wasn't reading about it, but I continually got questions back. So I was much more aware of what other people were thinking.

You do your best job. You really do the best job you can as a professional player not to allow outside influences, but I was getting a lot of outside influences. And the interesting thing about that was I'd say I could have believed it. People kept saying, you're changing your golf swing, and I kept talking and trying to explain it.

But it came to a head probably at the U.S. Open last year. You know, I sat down, because somebody again -- somebody in my kind of close team were sitting there -- it was actually the guys from TPI, we were sitting there talking, Dave Phillips, Greg Rose, and we were going through it, and they were trying -- because obviously they're getting some information from me, some from the media, and they were trying to rationalize why are you working on your golf swing, why are you changing things. And it came to a head and I sat there, and I thought, hand to my heart, I can go back and say for the last two years, which is about two years since I had won the majors at that stage or a little longer, every tournament I've prepared the exact same way as I prepared to win those majors.

So actually as much as the media were creating an unfair change in my golf swing, when I was playing tournament golf, I was actually doing the same things I was doing that won me the majors, but I was struggling to do it. It had gone stale. That's what we kind of figured out at the U.S. Open. It had just gone stale.

I said it to a guy sitting there last night at dinner. I was sitting with an experienced guy in the game of golf, been in the game for 20 years, and I looked at him, and he was taken aback, I'm a pro 16 years. 15 years ago I read Bob Rotella's "Golf is Not a Game of Perfect." In 15 years I have never had a swing thought on the golf course. So everybody thinks I'm changing my golf swing.

Not once have I ever stood on the golf course and tried to do anything with my golf swing. Every time I play on the golf course, I look at where I want to go and I hit it, nothing else. And yet I'd be pigeonholed as the guy that would be trying to do something on the golf course, and never, ever, in preparation for tournaments or on the golf course, do I work on technique.

And yet -- and maybe I got a little bit distracted or whatever, but essentially what happened is it had just gone stale. And I can put that down to the fact -- I think it could be this: If you have something that works, which obviously -- like for the three majors I won, I prepared for and I peaked for those tournaments, so I actually had a form that could get me in form and get me ready for the event. It wasn't turn up, get lucky, play great; it was actually prepare, build my game up and peak during those weeks. If you have that answer, can you imagine what -- well, obviously, this is what happened: The pressure for me to get it right every time. Knowing that if I do it, it works.

It actually is being -- it's just gone a bit stale. I kind of got maybe a little bit too much absolute in terms of perfection when it comes to my mental game. Either I purely focused on the target with no distractions or I'm disappointed, because I know that works. So when you know something works, it can sometimes make it all the harder to do it.

Put it like this: There's no innocence in the way I approach it. There's no naïvety in me. I'm not a kid out there. There's no freshness to it. It just went a little stale.

I probably took the eye off the ball, as in not realizing that was what had gone wrong, because all of a sudden I was thinking it must be something to do with all the technique or whatever, but it really was the other side of the game that wasn't working, as well.

Q. You talked about Ryder Cup and selection. Are you going to change your schedule in any way, shape or form to try to get the right points??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, you know, as regards my schedule, you know, I think it's down at this stage to me -- I think yes, if I was able to gather points, some of those easy points, I definitely would have gone to the ones and will go to the ones if I can. But in general, it's going to just come down to me winning tournaments. I have a quantum leap to get into the team. It's not one of those years that I'm going to just play nicely and gather points.

Whether I win in the U.S. or win in Europe, you know, it will come down to just winning. So my schedule, like I'll play the bigger events, that's for sure. I'll obviously play the BMW PGA in Europe and things like that. If I got into the Match Play in Europe, I'd definitely play that. I haven't played it in the past. You know, events like that.

The only schedule change at the moment really from other years is I think I'd like to take one out. My son is wanting me to go to his first holy communion, so that's one week done, and I might add another in for that. But outside of that, it's pretty much the same as other years, just go out there and try and win events in order to get the big points.

Q. If you didn't make the team, would you like to be involved with the team in some way, shape or form like Sergio has been in the past??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Hmm. Yeah, I haven't thought about that. I'm focused on playing. I'm really focused on playing, yeah, definitely. But it would be interesting to be involved. There's no doubt about it, being in the background, seeing what's going on. Yeah, very much so. Obviously I think anybody wants to be captain of the Ryder Cup team has to be vice captain a couple of times or at least once in order to -- it's one thing being a player, but I think it's another sort of experience when you're actually involved as vice captain in terms of understanding the -- it wouldn't be the politics -- I suppose the politics behind the scenes of telling a player you're resting him because you want him to play tomorrow, not because he's not playing well today.

Q. Your R&A ambassadorship sleeve, the belly putter thing has come up again over the last couple weeks. You might have seen that Tiger had some comments on it yesterday.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't see Tiger's comments.

Q. He said he's talked to Dawson several times about it over the past couple of years, and he said his preference would be the putter could be no longer than the longest club in your bag.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: That is certainly one that has come up. Yeah, I think at the end of the day, if we started fresh tomorrow and somebody tried to get the belly putter passed, not a chance. You know, the fact the belly putter has got in there, it got in there 20 years ago when the players who went to it were -- certainly the established players who went to it were great players, nice guys, and nobody wants to end their careers and say, no, we're not letting you. They all just said, look, go on, it's okay.

Nowadays things have changed, like clearly the rules of golf say you can't attach a putter to your body, clearly it is attached to your body, and if somebody was asking for a ruling tomorrow and we'd never seen it before, there's no way it would get by. But obviously it's in there now.

Yes, it's inevitable it's going to get changed. I think the rules aficionados have a few other things. They have priorities and they understand when it comes to the rules of golf, it ain't that easy just to go and change them all at once. So yeah, I think it's becoming -- like we had this conversation last year, I think a lot of -- it certainly wasn't anywhere near as high on the radar with the rules a year ago. They're more concerned about the ball going far, the driver going far.

I certainly tested some stuff for the R&A in terms of what they're thinking about going forward with. I have no idea if I can tell it so I'm not going to say.

But I definitely hear -- and this is not true by connection with the R&A but just true in golf: There's more players, there's more officials focusing on the belly putter. I think you've got a couple of issues with the belly putter. It's like -- if the standard of putting goes up because of it, that actually puts more pressure on people who aren't using it and makes their standard of putting because of standard of pressure go down. It has a negative effect on the people who aren't using it as well as a positive effect on the people who are using it, just to the extent if somebody else is using it and you think they might be getting a benefit, that kind of is not great for you, if you know what I mean.

Like at first, I'm -- look, at the end of the day, the grooves really made -- really hurt me big time. A couple of the other ones that they're thinking of going to, I wouldn't be a great fan in terms of it wouldn't suit my golf. Yes, I don't use a belly putter, so it would suit me if it's banned, and I think probably it's hard for the likes of the guys who don't use it to be necessarily calling for it. It's really going to come to somebody who's out there who is using it saying, hey, look, this isn't right, it's connected to my body.

I don't have a problem with it. I know the chest putter doesn't touch your body, so that's a different thing. But certainly connecting it to your body gets you in the same setup. It's very different because it has the same setup on a right- to- left putt and a left-to- right putt and the ball position moves around a lot. With the belly putter that might change over time depending on the guy's eating habits, but it's set day-to-day-to-day.

Q. You have an appreciation obviously of retooling your swing. Tiger is sort of coming out, finalizing his retooling of his swing. Do you have any expectations for him this season? Do you have any idea what he might -- PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, my attitude is Tiger and his game is -- he's going to win plenty more tournaments. I've played with him, and the way he hits the golf ball, there wouldn't be very many players who wouldn't want to hit the golf ball like him. Certainly when I played with him last year, I was looking at it and saying, he certainly dislikes it more than anybody else. If somebody hit a golf ball like he hit at the PGA, he was just fine there.

But he's obviously -- I would say he's lost a little bit of his -- just like I have, a little bit of his innocence when it comes to it.

But when he plays well, he'll win majors, no doubt about it. He'll win plenty of tournaments. There's no question he will win plenty going forward.

Whether he dominates -- dominate the way he dominated, that did take a little bit of purity, let's say, or -- innocence is the kind of way I'm saying it, as in when he -- the fact he has not played as well, sort of going forward there's always that little bit of scary. So I don't see it week in, week out. You know, over the years I'm sure he came down the last hole in many tournaments just believing that he is going to birdie it, full stop, because it's happened so many times. Maybe over the last 18 months it hasn't happened, so that leaves a little bit of doubt the next time he's in that position.

But he's going to win plenty of tournaments. I'd be certainly -- I'd be still backing him, as I said, to beat Jack's record, absolutely. I think if he gets another five, motivation could hamper it. If he turns up and plays well, he's going to win. He's in the position that he knows his best game is a winning game. There's other guys out there, their best game ain't going to win them. His is still a winning game, but obviously he doesn't have the fear factor and the dominance as much to do it every week. But he's certainly going to win plenty of tournaments.

Q. There have been some pretty high- profile final round meltdowns the last six weeks in the States, six-shot lead blown by the leader, five-shot lead blown by the leader. You put a lot of weight into the mental game. How do you deal with that??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's substantial. But then again, different people react differently to those situations. I know myself, I've got to give you a story.

Q. Please do.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: When I was 18 years of age, I played the Irish Youth Championship, big tournament for an 18 year old, under 21. I'm two shots ahead with three holes to play, and the news filters back, because you wouldn't have had leaderboards, you're two ahead. The last couple of holes, I've done the work, the last couple of holes aren't the hardest, so I completely relax, bogey the last three holes to lose. Now, I relaxed. I didn't do -- it wasn't the pressure, it was the opposite. I thought I'd won.

So I walked in there, and with kids -- and I say 18 years of age, I thought I was a man, but when you look back when you're 40, you're only a kid. So kids can be very cruel, so they don't say things behind your back, they say it to your face. So I cried. That's how bad it was. I cried afterwards.

Six months later I went back to the same golf course, and I'd been changing my golf swing all winter, I was trying to hit that draw that I couldn't hit. I came to the last hole with a one- shot lead in a smaller event, I blanked out and had the greatest choke of all time on the tee. I had no idea what shot I was trying to hit, where I was trying to hit it. It's a horrible hole in terms of I didn't know if I was laying up, trying to carry it, trying to hit it right. I just completely choked, had no shot.

I hit it straight right into the trees. Luckily it hit the first couple of trees going in, so it only went 10 yards in when it should have gone 40 yards in. So I go in and have a swipe at it. I hit it, and everybody goes -- and it's up there, and it feels like it's up there a minute because it's hit a tree and just gone straight up in the air. The next thing, it comes down, comes down in the rough between the fairway bunkers that I didn't know whether I was laying up of or trying to carry or hit right of. Still to this day I didn't know what I was trying to do. In the rough.

So I have 110 yards, hit a sand wedge, flier, up in the air, to that (indicating distance to cup), right? No idea, like no control whatsoever. It was close enough that I couldn't have missed because I was bleeding so badly, there was no way I would have got it in from here.

And the amount of people who came up to me afterwards and said what goods I shot under the pressure I was unbelievable. And the year before, I hadn't choked and the amount of people that told me that I choked. So we're never sure what's going on when we're looking --

Q. Only after their round.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You might lose a six-shot lead because you think you're way ahead and you get defensive, you might lose a six-shot lead because you get nervous. There's no doubt about it. The stats would say we're not allowed to gamble, but the stats will say that you're better off chasing on an easy golf course and you're better off defending on a tough golf course, because if you're on a tough golf course, hitting to the middle of the green 20 feet away from the hole, the guys chasing the pins are going to make bogeys, so they actually go further away, and you'll hole the odd 20-footer. Whereas on an easy golf course you have to go at the pin, so under pressure you might get a club wrong, get a bit of adrenaline, miss a bit. Plus on an easy golf course when you have a 20-footer and you're a little bit cautious and you're leading, you might leave that putt just a little bit short where you might have to make six or seven birdies on an easy golf course.

That's tough under pressure. It's a lot easier to shoot 72 on a tough course when you've got a lead than it is to go out there and maintain it with a 66 or something.

Golf courses have a lot to do with it. You don't want a one� shot lead going down the last hole at Carnoustie; you want a two-shot lead. But then I think a lot of people would take a one- shot lead going down the 18th hole at St. Andrews. Golf courses have a lot to do with it.

There is no doubt, the hardest thing is when you have a lead and it starts to slip. That's the hardest thing. When it starts going away from you, your mind starts running amok, and that's when you need a good caddie and good experience to realize, you know, there is ebbs and flows at times in a final round.

But I've had 29 second places -- I might have 30 now at this stage, and I can say you wouldn't pair two or three of them together in terms of similarity. Some I've played great to finish second, some I got unlucky, some I relaxed maybe. Well, no, I can't relax -- I'm the only guy -- I went to the fourth playoff hole in 2007. I had a ten-footer, if you ever want to go back and look, eight� footer on the third playoff hole to go three shots ahead. I hit the most wishy- washy putt ever. I totally relaxed over it. I had no intensity. I totally -- but thankfully because I lost that youth tournament, the minute it happened, I walked to the 18th tee -- well, the fourth playoff hole in 2007 trying to put myself under pressure, trying to make myself nervous because I know if I'm nervous I'm going to be focused, whereas if I don't have that intensity you could lose your focus.

That's experience, and these guys -- Kyle Stanley can perfectly understand, the only way you're going to learn is by putting yourself in that position. I know we're going on a little bit of a tangent here, but that's -- for the U.S. players going forward, that's a big issue, because there's so many international players, the U.S. Tour is so strong, that there's not as many opportunities for a young player to learn to win.

You know, I love the fact -- if you want to see it done perfectly, Rory, every week he's in contention, whether he's shooting 65 in the last round just to give himself a sniff, or he's right up there. Every week he's in the position of learning to win, and that's when he gets his chances, he's learning from that.

Losing is -- winning is a habit, but losing is where you learn from. This is the reality. The more times you get yourself in that position, the better. The less times that you pat yourself on the back for finishing 13th at an event -- you've got to put your neck on the line if you want to get better at this game, and that means putting yourself in a public position that, you know, you can make a mess of it. That's how you become a better player, by embracing it and trying to get in the same position the following week, keep pushing yourself out there.

But it's hard over here. Some years Tiger has won ten events. That doesn't leave very many for anybody else. You have other international players taking up some spots. Obviously they would say here, the Nationwide Tour is the grooming ground, but once you play well there you're straight onto the main Tour. It's not like you get three or four years of continually competing and learning, learning to see the signs. If you're not experienced -- you can win because you're really good, but sometimes you just have to read the signs well. Yeah, the guy has a two-shot lead, but he's not the guy you're worried about sort of thing, so you don't go chasing too early or you stick to your game plan or you do go chase him. You can only gain those experiences by competing.

That is a -- when you're playing on the U.S. Tour, you've got to turn up with your game. You ain't coming here to learn your game. You've got to turn up with it. It's no development Tour out here, that's for sure.

Q. You're one of nine guys who have won a tournament when Tiger was at least tied for the lead going into the last day PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I didn't know that.

Q. Well, that's why we're here. Now that you know it, is it a feather in your cap or no, or do you not like being compared with Ed Fiori??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I could say -- there's many ways you control -- I tried to come out with this statement last year. I did get it wrong. But I'd better get it right now. You can use stats like a drunk man uses a lamppost: For support rather than illumination. And many times when we come up with stats we have the answer and we go back and we get the stats and we figure out, well, that stat means --well, we've already got the answer. So it doesn't necessarily work.

Like I could turn around and tell you, I've won the most majors in the last five years, so I must be the best player in the world. You know, that's my stat. I could hang onto that, couldn't I? I could tell that as -- well, the last five years, we've got to be current, and obviously -- I have to think about this. Keegan Bradley, he can say I won the last major, I'm the best player in the world.

So we can all come up with a stat. Beating Tiger, all it is is a stat. It really doesn't mean -- it's not more than just -- as I said, you're trolling the statistics to try to find something of interest, I'm sorry to say, rather than something -- it's difficult because I would always -- I do my own stats when it comes to tournaments, as in my own -- how I performed each week, I do my own stats, because as we all know, we're struggling to make meaning of the stats that are out there.

You know, I'm sure now because of the movie there, "Moneyball," with the different stats, we're still trying to find out what stats matter in golf. Everybody here will come up with -- my favorite one is how many times you hit your first putt from inside ten feet. That to me determines how well I've played, whereas nobody else will throw that in as an important stat.

But every time -- the percentage of holing from inside ten feet is so high, the more times you hit your first putt in there, whether you've chipped it in there or holed it for par or you've hit it in there close, there's loads of different ways of analyzing it, but we have never really nailed down what's the most important stat.

When I'm writing my bio and my CV, I might remember that one and put it in there. You know, I do need my ego built up.

Q. Robert Rock just got it done.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I just heard that he's only one with a better stroke average playing with him; is that true? That's probably true. I don't know. As I say, when I'm competing against somebody, I'm competing against myself every day. As I know, the battle is inside my head big time.

Q. I was curious, when you were talking about the big leads, I'm sure you watched the '96 Masters with Greg and Nick, the six-shot lead. A year later when Tiger had a nine-shot lead, was there any part of you as just watching on telly of wondering if that lead was safe??

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, it's never over until it's over, and certainly if I had a nine- shot lead going into the last round, I'd be happy, but I would be trying to put myself under. I'd be trying to go through the scenarios and put myself under the pressure to keep the intensity. I think Tiger was new, fresh, he was buzzing going out there.

Greg, unfortunately, there was two scenarios going on there. Greg is going to carry in some scar tissue, big time, and you have Nick Faldo, who was probably the best man in the world to exploit it at the time. It was not a great situation.

If Greg had a six-shot lead over -- if Phil devoured a six-shot lead, it would probably be because of Phil's good play, whereas Greg would have been more worried about Nick because Nick just going to wear him down. Nick was going to put Greg under pressure, whereas Phil was putting the pressure on himself to shoot the score. Phil's fate was in Phil's hands, where in some ways Greg was worried about Nick and the fact that -- Greg knew if he slipped up that Nick was going to be just hanging in there, and that's -- there's an intimidating pressure from that. There's no doubt about it.

It makes a big difference who the other guys are. You know, you have to read your opposition when you're going into these final rounds in these situations. I've been in situations where I have guys who take an early lead, and you're generally going, well, I'm not worried. You know the ebbs and flows are going to come back. But then you have other guys who you just know, it doesn't matter how far you get ahead, they're going to stick with you, and they're going to hang in there. That was the problem Greg had with Nick. He was not going to let go. And as it turns out, if Greg --

The interesting thing, it's hard, but Greg had a great chance of winning right to the death. But anybody who watched it, right from the start, it was, oh, no, it was going away. But he still had that chance at the end of the day. But I'm sure if it wasn't Nick Faldo opposite him, it would have gone a different-- well, I surmise it would have gone a different way, but it's hard when you've got somebody relentless on your shoulder.

Again, it would be hard -- the great thing about Tiger, as well, anybody who's come down the stretch with Tiger is always worried about Tiger doing something spectacular at the end of the day, which that brings its own pressure. Jos Vanstiphout explained it to me, if you know Jos he's very ill at the moment, so we have to wish him well, but I worked with him for a while and he gave me one of the greatest things. At the time Monty was the best player in the world. He was the best player in the world, in Europe, and he was the man to beat.

We're sitting there and I was in contention one time with Monty, and saying, yeah, I really want to go out there and beat him tomorrow and play better than him. You know, he says, you can't try and play like somebody else. We get caught up in that. I had Monty up there on a pedestal, and I was trying to play up there, which was two steps above me.

But the fact of the matter is I probably had him too high up there. He probably was one step ahead of me. And if I played my game one step behind him, all of a sudden Monty is not used to somebody hanging in there like Nick Faldo and Greg, just hanging in there always being there, and all of a sudden he's not normally experiencing what he always has, and if he doesn't play his best he does come back that one step, and maybe I beat him. But if I try to play like my imaginary what I thought he was like, I'd have failed because I'd put too high a standard, I'd have failed nine times out of ten and I'd end up playing my own game, maybe three steps behind Monty and he has an easy day and runs away with it sort of thing.

Coming down the stretch, you can only be yourself and play your own game. You do have to evaluate the other guy and take necessarily steps at the death but not at the start.

I think -- I don't know what Greg went through, but I'm sure after one or two holes he was more concerned about what was happening with Nick and the fact he was there than necessarily just staying and doing his own thing. It's tough, but as I said, he would have had that scar tissue, and I kind of alluded it to myself or -- as you get experience in this game, you do build up some scar tissue. You're not 20 years of age and can't see the water on the right- hand side of the green and the out of bounds on the left. You do see these things, and you play accordingly.

With experience there's some benefits, and also it does knock a few of the corners off you and takes away a little bit of your innocence. Experience is good, as I said, but we can improve in certain aspects, but in other aspects, as you said, you just don't have that naïvety about your game.

Q. Just curious, was there good reaction to your comments about the Olympics? You just had some recent comments about the Olympics.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I don't really -- I heard one comment back. As I said, I don't read the stuff, so I don't know. The comment that came back clearly -- people haven't read the rules. The rules are -- when you read the rules, the rules are heavily biased towards -- it's an anomaly but it's heavily biased towards Ireland, the Republic of Ireland in that sense. I was making the point, I was actually trying to throw a lifeline to any of the lads from Northern Ireland who continually get frustrated by being asked political questions when we're not political. We may have a platform to talk, but our platform certainly doesn't put us in a position to comment on political matters, and yet they continually get asked, how will I put it, I'm looking for the right word, not double-sided, but they're being asked questions when there is no answer to the question essentially. It doesn't matter how they answer that question; somebody is not going to be happy with it.

I was making the point that they don't have to answer the question. There is nothing. It's a logical decision at the end of the day that no emotions come into it. There's nothing -- there's no point in them ever even having to discuss it again because all they have to say is have a look at the rules. If you're in the top 15 you can have as many players as you like represent your country. In four years' time, the likelihood is that two other guys, both managed by Horizon, you've got Shane Lowry and Michael Hoey, two of the very up� and� coming players in their stable. So if they're standing in four years' time, it's likely Rory and Graeme could be in the top 15. If they declare for the Republic of Ireland, it means two of their stablemates don't get to go to the Olympics? Do you think that's going to happen? Like two of their best friends? Well, Shane Lowry I know is very close with them, so it would be� � well, declaring for Britain, which is logical, nobody loses a spot for Britain, they can get as many players as they want once they're in the top 15, will clear more spots for the guys to declare from the Republic of Ireland.

It's in the rules basically. There's no emotional decision. I was pointing out sort of they don't have to make it because any decision they make, it's the wrong decision. In four years' time they're going to have to make a decision, and there's going to be people that are going to read so much into it.

We've seen it over the years. It's amazing the amount of times we've played in the Dunhill Cup, and if one of our players wore the wrong color sweater, he was making a point. He was trying to make a political point. Come on. As I said, we hit little white golf balls very nicely, but that doesn't make us capable of commenting on political matters. Or at least� � we can comment in private and over dinner. I'm not saying we're not capable of making it, but it doesn't give us that right. It gives us a platform, but it doesn't give us the right to make statements like that, and it's wrong for those guys to be asked to do it. And they will be� � at the time when it comes around, there's going to be people who are going to read so much into what they do, and no matter what they do, they won't be happy. But here at least they can make a logical decision and get away from making any sort of emotive decision, which saves them that sort of� � saves them that trouble.

It's a pity that we're in that situation, but for once it will actually benefit us.

Now, obviously if neither of the boys are in the top 15, the only way they're going to play, assuming that they're the top two players in Ireland, is going to declare for Ireland, so the logical thing is to declare for the Republic. But let's take the emotions out of it and what it means, because we're golfers. It doesn't mean anything. We're not capable of� � we shouldn't be capable of meaning greater things.

When it comes to politics, that's for the politicians and the people who have spent their life qualifying to deal with that. Hitting a little golf ball very well, it gives you a great soapbox to talk from, but it doesn't mean you have to use it.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Padraig, thank you very much.

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