Valero Texas Open interview: Padraig Harrington

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April 03, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Valero Texas Open transcripts archive

ROYCE THOMPSON:  We'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington to the media center.  Padraig, if you could talk about playing this event and maybe some comments about the golf course.
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
Yeah, I always like to play the week before a major.  I think, for me, anyway, if I'm at home, I'd be working on things and changing things and you turn up and all of a sudden you realize something isn't quite as sharp as you thought it was.  Whereas, if you get out and play 72 holes of golf, the golf course will find you out, the conditions will find you out, and you'll know exactly what needs a little bit of topping off for the tournament next week.
   
So, for me, it's definitely there's no other way.  I've got to come out and play and try to get competitive this week.  I'll try to peak this week knowing that I'll probably fail and hopefully peak next week.  That's the way it is.
   
ROYCE THOMPSON:  Your impressions of the golf course?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
This golf course is obviously difficult greens, some pretty treacherous bunkers out there as well.  It would be a nice week to have a good ball striking week and certainly hit lots of fairways and lots of greens.  Certainly, lots of greens because with the undulations in the greens and, as I said, there is a lot of sand in the bunkers, it's definitely a golf course if you're missing a lot of greens, you're going to find it difficult to get it up and down.  Even though the greens are very good, so there should be plenty of putt holes, but it will be tricky if you start missing those greens.

Q.  I know players like challenge, obviously, as professionals.  This course last year was the fourth toughest course on the TOUR.  A couple of years ago it was the toughest course outside of the majors.  Do reputations mean anything as far as when you look at a course heading toward it, your preparation, your mental game?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
Yeah, absolutely.  When you play a practice round in particular, you go around the golf course, and you're trying to get your head around what the winning score is.  So you're going, well, what won last year?  And if somebody turns around and says 20 under, you're kind of deflated.
   
So I think as a tough golf course, I think most professionals prefer to play the tough golf courses.  It's easier in our head to shoot 10 under.  But I don't know what was the winning score last year?

Q.  9.
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
9 under.  It's easier in our heads to shoot 9 under par, than if somebody said you have to shoot 22 under.  Okay, it is an easier course if you're shooting 22, and the winning score is the winning score, no matter what.  But, psychologically, certainly we tend to prepare tough courses.  And that is a good thing for next week.  If 9 under is the winning score here, it's, obviously, that's going to be a similar number.  You take that the following week at Augusta and sit in the clubhouse all week.  So in that sense, it's a good warm up.
   
It's quite a testing golf course.  You've got to mind where you hit your golf ball out there, and that is the same thing at Augusta.  At the end of the day, both of them are 72 hole tournaments, which you've got to get your mind in the right place and hole the putts.  Okay, the conditions of the golf course are different, but outside of that, if somebody plays well here this week and they're going into Augusta, they're going to be nice and confident going into next week, and that's the way I would look at it.

Q.  A few of the players have said this is so radically different from next week that it wasn't worth coming, Mickelson in particular.  Do you subscribe to that theory?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
As I said at the start, the most important thing for me is competitive practice.  A card in my hand, trying to shoot the score, 72 holes, preferably    actually, 54 holes would be ideal, but we can't have that wish.  54 hole finish on Saturday would be ideal, but I need competitive practice.
   
The last thing, even if I went to Augusta this week and played seven days in a row, I wouldn't be as sharp as I would be by playing here and competing.  You need to have a card in your hand to figure out exactly how things are working in your swing.  Doesn't matter how many shots, for me, anyway, doesn't matter how many shots I hit on the range.  It's only when I have a card in my hand that I truly see what my game is like.
   
There is no doubt in my mind, if this tournament is    this is a fine tournament in itself.  But if it was played out on the local runway the week before a major, I'd still be turning up.  I need competition.  I need to be competing against another 156 guys this week or 155 other guys in order to test my game going into next week.
   
There are obviously downsides to that.  If you get in contention, it's tiring.  It could be a big, long week.  You never know, and that is a downside.  Maybe some of the conditions, certainly the sand in the bunkers is nothing like Augusta.  There is a bit more rough, nothing like Augusta.
   
But outside of that, there is a slight downside.  The competitive part far supersedes anything else in my mind.  I've got to be competitive the week before a major.  As I said, I try to peak this week knowing I usually fail and get right the week after.  As a lot of people that play very well at Hilton Head will tell you.

Q.  What about the wind?  People have said if it gets really windy, it can wreck your swing going into Augusta?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
Wind doesn't wreck golf swings now at this stage.  That is an old wives' tale back in the amateur days.  No, especially if it's warm.  It's different if we were back at home now in the cold, miserable weather and you really couldn't afford to get the ball in the air for more than four or five seconds or you were doomed.  Yeah, that could change your golf swing.
   
But in the warm weather, yes, it will be windy, but it's not as bad.  You can still practice hitting the ball in the air and hitting it true to wind.  Nobody wants to be blown off the golf course.  But at this stage, professional golfers should have enough experience to be able to handle wind and not let it affect detrimentally their posture or ball position or swing.  So, hopefully, I'm big enough and old enough to manage that bit.

Q.  Can you talk about the work that you're doing to get the driver right for the foreseeable future?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
Yeah, my driver, I was using an old model driver, the crack dummy.  The face eventually gave in.  So I've had to change driver.  My old driver was set up very much for me.  The new model, I could have set up the old way, but probably in hindsight it has a little bit too much bias in it, so trying to go for a more neutral driver, which is better for my golf swing long term.  So it's a question of working on something like that.
   
I've changed back to an absolutely neutral driver rather than a toe weighted driver, and it's good for my golf swing.  I just have to get used to it and know when I hit a left, it's exactly where it's coming from.  And if I hit it right, I know where it's coming from.  Whereas, with the old driver, every shot that came out, it was very much a question with the old driver of it being the Indian and not the arrow, because I knew exactly this causes this effect.
   
When you get a new driver, there is always an element of, okay, I see this happening.  I didn't think I did that.  It just takes a while to get used to knowing what a golf club does.
   
So, in my case, as I've said, I've moved to a different setting, a much more neutral setting.  So it's taken a little work in terms of swing as well.  Then I'll only be able to tell when I get the card in my hand.  Hopefully, I'll have to hit a straight shot down the 18 on Sunday, and then I'll really know how good the driver is.

Q.  You've talked about the fact that you like to play in the week before a major.  Does it make any difference the fact that you're going to Augusta next week that you know so well, compared to say if it was the week before Marion, or the week before Muirfield or the week before PGA?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
Yes, it does make a difference.  Competitive practice for me supersedes everything else, so, if it was Marion next week, I'd still be playing here this week because competitive practice always for me is far more important, a competitive tournament is far more important than anything else.

Q.  I meant in relation to the fact that you know Augusta so well as opposed to the other venues that you might not know so well?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
It does make a difference.  Competitive practice might make 50% of the difference and knowing the golf course might make 10%, so it's five times more important for me to turn up and try to be competitive.
   
There is no doubt knowing a golf course is very important.  But one thing you'll find with a lot of professional golfers, and certainly with me, on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I'm 20 yards shorter than I am in a tournament.  So if I turned up and played the golf course and played Augusta this week, wow, I'd find it long.  It would be really, really tough for me.
   
You get into the tournament and the tee is moved up five, six yards on some holes, and you get a bit more rain, and the fairways are cut a little bit different, and you're a little bit more pumped up, that can make a difference of 30 yards a hole, which is significantly different.
   
So I have found at times that playing practice rounds, it's nice if you don't know the golf course, but the practice rounds the week before a tournament are not the same.  We all know that at Augusta, because everybody with experience knows now that even the test that they say Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, is not what's presented on a Thursday.  They change up the tee boxes.  There are a lot of things that go wrong.  All of a sudden, as I said, you're pumped up and ready to go, and you're hitting the ball a bit farther in the tournament.
   
So at this stage with experience, I don't even take my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday practice as serious as I certainly would when I first am starting to play.
   
I'm sure when I first went to Augusta, I played 18 holes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and some more, and now I probably play 9, 9, and 9.

Q.  You were in Thailand and played in Malaysia.  Were you pleased with your efforts there, and what have you been doing since then?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
I was home for a week.  Just practiced.  I was struggling with my wedge play in Thailand and Malaysia, so I was really struggling.  So I hit a lot of wedge shots last week and continue to do it this week because I know it's so important at Augusta.  So that's a real place of concern for me at this moment.
   
As I said, I'm not    I'm looking to do some work on it this week, and looking to build a bit of confidence back up on it in this tournament because it was very dodgey the last two weeks.

Q.  I think it was the second Open Championship you had won at Birkdale?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON:
  Say that again?

Q.  I think it was the second Open Championship    oh, yeah.  All right now.  I get you.  Anyway, that final round you played with Greg.  I remember you talking a lot about it.  Did you pick up anything from him on that day in terms of philosophy of golf, maybe design that you see reflected here on this course that he designed?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
No, not that day.  We were competing to win an Open Championship.  We were, well, both of us were busy doing our thing.  It was a tough, windy day.  But I had played with Greg in the past.  I remember playing probably one of the more    obviously, a lot of Greg's time was before my time, so he would have been somebody I would have seen on TV and you build up an impression.
   
But I remember him coming and he played the K Club at home in Ireland, the European Open at the time, the Smurfit European Open.  I don't think he made the cut.  The following Monday we did an exhibition on his golf course down at Doonbeg that he designed there.  Wow, it was interesting how good a player he was.
   
He played awesome on the Monday because he was on his golf course, and he wanted to    he was enjoying it and loving it, and his interest was really peaked.  He played great golf that day.  It was interesting to see how motivation can really, really determine a lot about how a guy plays.  And he was every bit of it    he had been in semi retirement a good few years at this stage.  He played to an unbelievable standard because he had the interest on his own golf course.
   
Again, he had a bunker in the middle of the green on that golf course, and there was a lot of    as I've always said about Doonbeg and the way he designed it:  It took a man of enormous stature to do what he did there.  There are a lot of people that couldn't get away with designing a Links golf course the way a Links is meant to play.
   
A huge amount of golf, especially with Links golf, it's not meant to be a fair game.  It's not meant to be a just game.  It's meant to be get some good bounces and some bad bounces and the likes of a bunker in the green.  There were some par 4s a cross set of par 4s, a 90 yard par 3.  There is another par 3 that had a green that was nearly a complete half-moon.  There were a lot of things going on.  And that's what you want on a Links golf course.  You want it funky.
   
But very few designers could have the gumption to be able to do something like that.  You've got to have a lot of    yeah, gumption, basically, which, obviously, Greg has.  And it was interesting to see that reflected in his design.  He wasn't backing off.  He was designing a big, bold golf course, and not necessarily worried about what some guy was saying, well, that fairway isn't level.  Why is that there?  There were plenty of things going on in Doonbeg that is very much in the tradition of Links golf, but wouldn't be in the tradition of modern design.
   
You see a little bit of it out here.  As I mentioned earlier here, you really don't want to hit it in the green side bunkers here because you're unlikely to get a decent stance and lie the way they're shaped.  Which, again, that's very unpopular amongst us professional golfers because we like to have nice lies and we like to have everything perfect.
   
But Greg is man enough to realize that he's not trying to keep us happy.  He's trying to test us.

Q.  You beat him that day too?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
No, he beat me.  Positive, absolutely positive.  I am a perfect guest.  He was the host.  He beat me by two shots, 68 to my 70 or something like that.  Absolutely, 100% certain.  You can check it.  I am a lovely guest.

Q.  Another player that is here this week trying to get his game kind of focused a little bit is Rory.  Can you talk about from perspective    I don't know how much you watch other players, but certainly a very talented player, but about a guy trying to regain his stroke as he is this week?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
If you think he's trying to regain his stroke, he won the last major we played.  That says he's a man in current form.  It's only the media that thinks that golfers can peak every week.
   
The fact of the matter is if you peak, it's impossible to peak all the time.  That's what a peak is.  It's when you play better than the Norm or the average or the median or whatever you want to call it.  All Rory has to worry about is peaking the right weeks and his game is plenty good enough as he's shown when he does peak, he can lap fields.  Wouldn't you love to just be patient and wait for those weeks to turn up?
   
Consistency is highly overrated.  We all want to be consistent as professional golfers, but generally people that are consistent are mediocre.  So if you want to have the really good days, it's unlikely.
   
Consistency is one of those things.  I know everybody wants it.  As players we go out there and practice all day looking for consistency, but consistency actually is boring, so you want the exciting peaks, even if that means that there are going to be some frustrating days afterwards, so be it.
   
You're going to be remembered in your career for the high points, not for the mediocre ones.  So if I was him, I wouldn't let anybody get in his head and just go about his business and stay patient.
   
As I said, those majors will roll in when they're due.  You can't really force things like that.  As I said, nobody wins them one a year no matter how good they are.  Just let him have time.  It's not a question of    and he hasn't played much this year.  He knows that.  That's why he's here this week to get a little more competitive.  We can all do.  It's a fine line for us to balance being competitive and playing in enough tournaments and not overdoing it, and getting enough rest, getting time for training.
   
There are a lot of things going on in a professional golfer's career.  A lot of other sports there is less competition during the year.  Whereas, in golf, there is a lot of competition, and when you're world No. 1, every time Rory plays or Tiger, the focus is there and people want them to play absolutely to the very best every day of the week which is just not a reality at all.

Q.  When did you first stumble upon the idea that you like to have competitive practice before a major?  Was it trial and error?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
I'd say when I was 14.  Bear in mind when I played a tournament as a 14 year old, it was a major every time, and you knew that if you didn't    the most important thing to do before you went out and played was go and try to get competitive practice.
   
So right from the age of probably not 14, but certainly from the age of 15, I played every time there was a big tournament.  I played the week before.  I made sure I played a competitive, smaller event.  As I said, the ideal situation would be it wouldn't be 72 holes because 72 holes is obviously a longer week.  A shorter, less stressful tournament, a little less profile would be ideal.  That is a perfect warm up.
   
But you do need to have a card in your hand and you need to be tested one ball at a time.  You cannot have that ability.  Oh, I'll just drop another one and hit it.  That isn't practice.  Well, that's practice, but it's not competitive practice.

Q.  Did you fear that if you didn't play the week before that you would tinker and something would get off?
   
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 
I just know from experience that if I spend the week off beforehand, I'm going to start working on things, and I turn up thinking that everything is in place.  Mentally your routine isn't quite sharp or there is some little element that you didn't realize.  There is only one way to know where your game is at and that's to hit a shot under pressure.  That's the only way to find out.
   
I do believe there are guys who are good at managing that, not playing tournaments and figuring out how to create competitive practice.  You've got to say Tiger has done a great job of it over the years, but it's not for me.  I need competitive practice.

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