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An Interview With: Padraig Harrington

JULIUS MASON: Padraig Harrington, making his sixth appearance in the PGA Championship. Welcome to Wisconsin. Some opening thoughts and we'll go to Q&A, please.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Happy to be here. Interesting, obviously, I suppose the links style of the golf course and the Irish influence around us with the Irish course next door. It's interesting coming here and seeing it after hearing a lot about it.

Q. Is there a dominant player on TOUR right now, or is it a case when you guys come to the majors where you really think that anybody can win?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I definitely believe that the vast majority of the field can win. Anybody who plays well can be beat the best of the players.

As regards actually winning, there is a dominant player, but there are dominant players as regards who is in contention all the time and who are up there all the time and who you expect it be in with a chance coming down the last nine holes. You know, that doesn't mean that they can't be beaten by a rookie first time out and who is playing well.

I think over the years, players felt they had to lose a few majors before they win one, they come out from college having won college tournaments and use the same ideas and methods to win pro tournaments, so there's no -- the learning curve is not as big now, I don't think. I think you can -- players are capable of winning and they will take that chance when they get it. But there are dominant players who are there all the time, it's just that it's hard to win every week.

Q. Could you just talk about the course and how it might compare to any courses back home, and if it does compare?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It does have a very links?like feel. You do feel like you're playing on the ocean, not the lake.

But as regards comparing it to home, it's not that comparable. The bunkers at home are -- I don't know links that really doesn't have the bunkers that define a hole much more. So these are much smaller and not cut as sharply, let's say. So maybe not -- to that extent not like a links at home, but obviously with the rough and the grasses, the greens are probably a bit bigger and more severe than most links. Most links in Ireland would have reasonable size greens and to be honest pretty flat because when you get that wind whipping across the green, it's pretty difficult to putt across slopes. Link greens tend to be flat and make putts fast or slow.

Obviously you have a lot of undulations in the greens here, but some of the greens here tend to be down and dipped so they don't get as affected by the wind. You look at 9 and 18, they are windy enough holes and can be windy, but once you get it to the greens they are reasonably calm. It's not as big of an issue to have the slopes being affected by the wind, whereas in Ireland you really cannot afford to have too many slopes in the greens because on a windy day the ball will roll off the greens.

Q. At the end of Irish Open you were virtually on the point of physical breakdown. What's happened to you since, and let's have a report on everything.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: After two weeks off, I did some practice, and it's a different sort of practice, I suppose, when you're at home. You're not sort of practicing on top of playing and that, so, yeah, I definitely had a good break and feel my neck isn't giving me any trouble. My shoulder ability, I worked on that to support the muscles around it. It was a good two?week break to build those things back up. I hopefully caught it in time where it got to a chronic stage that I didn't need to take too much time off because of the neck inju

ry.

Q. You were talking about the dissimilar ties to links courses at home. Can you play run?up shots here or is the turf too soft to do that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think you can. I know I tried to play one yesterday out of the rough. The greens are firmer than maybe the run-up areas. There was a thunderstorm yesterday morning, and just short of the greens, they have cut it nice and tight but it absorbs the water more. So you try to play a pitch-and-run up there, the ball will stick more so in the upslopes into the greens than they will on the grains.

If you get stuck in the rough and you feel you can't land it on the green, it's an awkward shot trying to run it up, as well. So, it's not exactly like a links course in that extent. I'm sure you can run it up with a 4-iron or something like that, but it doesn't bounce up by its own accord. You have to make it bounce up the hill. It's not quite like a links at home, no.

Q. When you had your break, did you go and see Bob?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I had two days with Bob.

Q. Work on anything in particular?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Just same stuff, just trying to get it done, just the same old stuff.

Q. Yesterday Darren described the course as brutally difficult. What's your assessment of it and what's in store for players this week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I had a chat with Darren yesterday and we were talking about a few things about the course. Obviously I had heard a lot of things about the course coming in, and brutally difficult would have certainly been the phrase coming into the event.

But yesterday it was a nice, warm day, a breeze and not a strong wind. The course was very playable, very, very playable yesterday. It was an excellent golf course yesterday. Maybe having a look at it, 18 looks like the green is extreme and there's nowhere really to lay up into the middle of the green. You've got to go at the pin, and unfortunately, if you bail off your tee shot, you can be hitting a very long iron, even a wood in there. So 18 green is an extreme green, and maybe the par 3 12th, as well, trying to get in at that back pin, it's a very small target with the wind.

But I found the course very playable yesterday. It's not like when you play in 80 degrees of heat as it was yesterday afternoon, I think it was about 80 degrees, the ball travels well. It's going out there over 300 yards off the tee and you can hit it into the wind and it will still get up there.

This course, if you've got -- if it got very windy or if it got cold or if it rained, then it's going to be really brutally difficult. But, in normal conditions, it's a great test. It's an interesting test, in good conditions. It was definitely playable, very playable.

Q. The course, obviously you like it and that's good news, but should it suit European players, and can you explain why no European player has won this tournament in modern times?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I can't explain why somebody else hasn't won the tournament; who knows for those things. Maybe it's because the U.S. PGA's setup of the four majors is usually the most -- the one that's most similar to the U.S. Tour golf courses. So, you know, familiarity, maybe the U.S. Tour players have had an advantage over the years. But obviously Europeans playing the U.S. Tour should be used to it to that extent.

This golf course obviously is not like anything else. It's unique over here. I think we're all coming into this course not knowing exactly who it suits because it definitely requires you to hit the ball well in the wind. Because of the greens, you still have to play target golf and you can't exactly run it up. Whether certain aspects of it will suit players who have been brought up in windy conditions, ultimately I think the golf course will suit the guy who strikes the ball well, rather than being a European or American or anything like that.

A good striker of the ball will do well out there because you have to hit it a long way and you have to control your ball flight whether it's left-to-right wind, right-to-left wind, low or high. So a good ball-striker and good short game, as well. You have to expect to miss a few greens out there.

It will be interesting to see. The pace of the greens at the moment are very -- they would not be overly quick, which I assume is based on the fact you can't have overly quick slopey greens in the wind, or else it might be just it's early in the week. But if they stay at this pace, you know, the greens, as I said were very playable, yes, at that pace. You would get them, if they got very quick, like to what some of the paces at other majors, maybe the pace at U.S. Open. With the slopes in the greens, that pace and the wind would become -- yesterday the pace of the greens was a nice pace that the course did seem playable and you could putt over the tiers and not have a problem, where if it did get quick in the wind it would be very difficult.

Whether it would suit Europeans -- sorry, I wandered away on my own there (laughing).

You know, I keep saying this, these are individual events. It's not Europe against the U.S. That's only one week of the year. At a tournament like this, it's much more about -- it's an all or individual thing. I know you guys care whether it's a European winner or not, but it would be nice for us afterwards, but in the week of the tournament, I want to see a European winner, but only one of them (laughing). It would be nice to see some friends win as well, but then again, I have some U.S. friends, so it would be nice to see them win, as well. It's not the U.S. versus Europe this week.

Q. Do the players expect Tiger Woods to regain his dominating form any time soon, and does it affect your outlook when there are several great players on TOUR vying for a win?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I got to see some of the Buick Classic there two weeks ago, and you know, Tiger looked like he's right back where he was a few years ago. He really looked on top form. So it is -- I would say at this moment more than maybe six months ago, Tiger really looks like he could be coming back to his dominant form.

Will he ever be as dominant? I think a lot of players have caught up, so I don't think that's possible. He could have runs of a couple of months and things like that, but I don't think 2000, when he was way ahead, he's never going to be that far ahead, even if he got back to playing as well as he played in 2000. I think the players have closed the gap.

Yes, he looks good. He looks like he's coming back. There's a lot of other good players who are capable of competing with him. You know, I don't see a dominant player -- you know, dominant over ten years, yes, as in consistently, but dominant as regards every tournament every week, I don't think you can in this game. As we were saying earlier, young guys coming out are prepared to win straight away. They are not too worried about who they are competing against. There's a lot of other good players playing well. Like Vijay was dominant there last year for a good period of six months where every week he was either winning or was top-fiving it. You know, it comes and goes and there's ebbs and flows, peaks and troughs, whatever you want.

So Tiger does look good again, yes, but on a golf course like this, you know, it's a lot more down to the mental game than anything else.

Q. Just to follow up on that, what are some of the trademarks that you can see that say that Tiger is in better form, maybe things that you see that we don't see?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I think if you watched the golf, you hit all of the fairways and greens and miss putts, that has not been what he's been doing.

It was just obvious. He played the most -- how do I put it -- the most consistent, the most standard golf in that final round. He hit all of the fairways and he hit all of the greens. He wasn't playing recovery shots. He was playing very standard golf and just didn't hole those 10-, 15-footers. Doesn't matter how good of a putt you hit from that range; they can miss.

He really looked like he was on top form. You know, it's not for me to -- I'm just looking at the results and he just looked like he was playing well, in control of his game compared to maybe other periods where he had been tinkering and working on his game; he was playing more recovery shots. This time around, he was not playing any recovery and he was unlucky not to hole a few putts.

Q. Considering the difficulty of this golf course, is this the type of course that could give us a surprise champion like we had last year, or in your opinion would you expect a higher-ranked player to be the winner here at this course?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, if you're a betting man, you could go for the higher-ranked player. But 156 guys are going to tee it up, and, you know, to be honest, in the law of averages, I'm sure the first-time winners and the surprise winners, probably just about have done enough of those for two years now at this stage. So I would be going with maybe one of the more established players, one of the favorites this week.

But, that's just -- this is an independent event. I'm sure all of those things and statistics say they have just as much of a chance this week of winning. You know, it really is one of those things. It doesn't really bother me. I'm not too interested in whether a rookie wins this week or a guy who has not won before, that's great. If one of the established guys wins, that's fine, too. I don't really mind if it's new guys or not. It's just a pure question of I'm just concentrating on my game and if I don't win, hopefully a nice guy wins it.

Q. You mentioned earlier the effect of temperature. It's cooler today and the forecast calls it to get down to the low 60s and then slightly warmer on the weekend. Will that alone have an effect?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The weather is going to be a huge determinant on how the players enjoy this golf course. This golf course will all depend, it's set up for needing to hit the ball 300 yards plus off the tee, and you just can't do that if it's cold and wet and windy and all those sort of things.

So, if you're not getting that now, you're getting soaking wet rough down the fairway, it does become brutal. 60?degrees, yeah that, would make a difference. Yeah, it would make quite a difference. It would make as much as 20 yards on a drive, I would suggest, 60 to 80 degrees. I could see it making the golf course a lot tougher. But we're really talking about if it kind of came in a bit more wind and a little bit of rain with that, the fairways are wet or the rough was wet, then you're really starting to struggle, making the golf course exceptionally difficult.

JULIUS MASON: Questions?

Thank you very much, Mr. Harrington.

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