MARK STEVENS: Thank you, Padraig, for having us on today. I'd like to welcome Padraig Harrington to the call. Padraig, we want to thank you for spending the time to talk about the upcoming Masters. You're going to be going for your third straight major, so obviously there's going to be a lot of lead in to this. We're going to take about 30 minutes on this call, and we're going to start out with some general comments coming into the Masters, your year last year, and then we'll turn it over and do some questions.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, obviously, first of all, it's nice that I am going for three in a row. It means I did something right in the last two majors. To me obviously my golf is all about performing in the majors, but saying that, I'm not going to this major and thinking it has to happen. I'm going to this one and I'm working on the principle that there's a number of major championships ahead of me. If I can win some of them, that's fair enough. If you said to me I was going to miss the cut at this Masters and win the Masters next year, I'd be very happy with that, I'd take that. So while it is nice to be going for three and if it happens it will be a bonus, I'm not going to put my pressure on my ability to win this one, so at least I'm going to try and play down that pressure and distraction. So a lot of my rhetoric and talk is about trying to manage this as a standalone event on its own.
Obviously coming into it, my form hasn't been 100 percent early on in the season, but I'm comfortable where I'm at now and believe that given the next through weeks going into the Masters I should be ready by the time I get there to the Masters.
Q. After you won the U.S. PGA, you thought and everybody thought that this Masters would just be obviously the focus would just fall on you and Tiger. There's been a few other story lines emerge like Phil Mickelson going for the World No. 1 now and obviously the rise of Rory McIlroy, and obviously Greg returning there. Are you glad this has happened?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I couldn't have asked for more. Tiger is back playing, Phil is obviously playing great golf and winning and potentially getting to No. 1. You've got Rory McIlroy taking a lot of the attention at home in Ireland, which is great, and in Britain, as well; you've got two time major winner Retief Goosen back in form; you've got Greg Norman sentimentally coming back. So all of this is helping take a little bit of the attention away from me and distracting a bit, which is good. It means that I can get back to doing my thing and get back to a little bit of normality in my preparation.
Most players obviously you can get to a level where you can manage all that and you'll only get to that level through experience of this, but most players will play their best golf in a given week where they're absolutely let's say where they're allowed really to do their own thing and not get involved in outside stories. So it will help.
But there's still going to be enough distraction for me to have to manage, and certainly I'm keen to do. I'm keen to make sure I say the right things in the buildup and talk the right talk really to make sure that I don't add to it. If anything just play it down a bit and try and get in there with a semblance of normality that I'm going to play just another major, not trying to play the third in a sequence of try and win three in a row.
Q. Is there any sense of you sort of being the forgotten champion?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Not in my world. I'm getting 10 interviews a day asking me about the Masters. So no, it doesn't certainly feel like that to me. As I said, no, definitely not.
Q. Just on the comment you made about having the attention taken away from you, we've just witnessed an Irish rugby Grand Slam, which I'm told people "went mental" was the phrase. I just wondered if you had witnessed any of that, whether you knew any of the players.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I do know some of the rugby boys. I follow them quite closely. My trainer actually does some the training for them, so yeah, I'm interested and well aware of it. I could have gone to the game but I decided to watch it on TV so I could stay home and practice and do some work on my game.
But the hype was unbelievable afterwards. It was very exciting to see. And then Bernard Dunne went on to win a world boxing title that night and I sat up to watch that. So sporting Ireland has been doing very nicely. It's certainly getting the coverage at home and maybe as I said, but the interesting thing is I certainly read the coverage in the papers of both events, and they were sort of saying, we've got the Grand Slam, we've got world title, what's next, a Masters title? So even with that brings its own expectations. Now when people at home have seen the success, they'll think of that.
But again, as a sportsman, as an individual, it is a boost to see fellow countrymen win, there's no doubt about that, just as me winning majors would make it easier for other Europeans to win majors. I think Irish people being successful will make it easier for other Irish people to follow. There's a feel good factor for me going into the next number of events that maybe we're on an up in sporting terms in Ireland.
Q. Just following up on that, I wonder whether you've tried your hand at either rugby or boxing and whether the celebrations were on a par with the celebrations after the first of your Open victories.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I think the celebrations would have been on a par, that's for sure. You know, 61 years is a long time it's interesting that it was 60 years for the Open and 61 years for this. It was 1948 when the last team won. Yeah, the celebrations were incredible at home and the coverage, and it really does make it all the more exciting to be involved in sport when you see it. Bear in mind I try and avoid that when it comes to my own stuff, so it's great to see it with the others and to be involved in sport and see how sport can move a country, when like everybody at this time in recession times, it wouldn't be that positive, yet sport can change all that.
Q. As I say, have you tried your hand at either boxing or rugby?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Besides the school playground, no, not the boxing; and rugby, no, I never had an opportunity to play rugby. Gaelic football was my sport at school.
Q. Just on the theme of the success of the Irish, when you won the Irish Open at Adare, it rather triggered everything off for you, and this time, I guess, this year's Irish Open at County Louth at Baltray, you're probably going to have the strongest of Irishman ever to play in the Irish Open. Is that something you're looking forward to again?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, it was interesting in an Irish context, when I won the Irish Open a few years ago, I had to set my run off, I would put the Irish Open as my fifth major. At the time I suppose the common theme was Irish golf is in the doldrums. Since then we've had Darren won twice last year, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane won, Graeme won twice, Rory won this year, and we had numerous wins on the Challenge Tour and sundry tours. We had an incredible run.
And it does lead success by your peers leads to more success, and it is something that in the rugby and in boxing as a country, you know, people become more positive when these things happen, and there's no doubt that going into the Irish Open this time around there's probably rather than going back if you went back three or four years ago, you might have said there was two or three Irish players capable of winning. This time around you might have eight players who are capable of winning the Irish Open, which is fantastic.
As players it's fantastic, but we've also got to realize that there is ebbs and flows in these things, and we're certainly at the top a bit of a spike at the moment with our talent pool, and Rory looks like he's going to be adding substantially to that over the next number of years.
But it's good times for Irish golf. Even going into the Masters we probably have certainly talk of more potential expectations for a win than we've ever had in the past. So it is good times to be a golfer.
Q. What's your record at that golf course? Is it a course you've played before?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's a course I've played many times as an amateur. I lost a final of the Irish Close in 1990 to Darren Clarke there, and I've played a few events but was never too successful. I didn't win one anyway. But I've played quite a lot there. It's a golf course I like. Nobody can ever play Baltray and not like it. It's one of those golf courses that everybody loves.
Q. A couple of questions. You said you watched the rugby the other day. I wonder whether Patrick is old enough now to watch this stuff with you and whether he's aware of what you're doing.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, he didn't watch the rugby, but he is taking he went from the stage of being interested in it from maybe two to four and a half to being really disinterested and seeing it as a game that takes his daddy away. But now that he's a little bigger and can go out and play and participate he's getting quite keen in the golf and what I'm doing in the golf. He is interested in what's happening, and he likes when his daddy gets the trophy on Sunday. He's taken more of an interest. He's five and a half now, and he has a fair idea of what's going on. He's going to caddie for me in the par 3 tournament at Augusta, so that's going to be the first for him.
Q. Is he aware that a major is this big of an event?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't think, no. I don't think he's really aware that it's any different, bar when he's there and sees the hype. No, I think he thinks all the tournaments are majors.
Q. And on a maybe more prosaic level, can you give a sense of how important putting is Augusta relative to other tournaments, how important putting is in the general tournaments, and then does it change a level at Augusta?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think like all tournaments who wins the tournament needs to putt well for the week, and no more so that's a must at Augusta. You've got to be in top form with your putter the week of Augusta to be in contention because you're going to get some difficult putts and you're going to leave yourself more and more short putts than you would at a regular event because you can hit a good putt at Augusta from an awkward spot, and if you got it to six feet you're happy or four feet or five feet, whereas on a regular flat green if you're outside two feet you'd be disappointed. I think you've got to putt well and it's an accepted fact.
I think the other thing at Augusta that is different to most golf courses is you've got to make the right decisions. Strategy is probably the biggest play at Augusta, certainly the biggest difference in Augusta from all other golf courses. You see golf courses where every player will hit the same club off each tee and every player will hit to the same pins and whatever. Augusta it all changes. Some pins, when to go at a pin, when not to go at a pin, playing safe, where is the place to play safe, all the options, it gives you so many options that you've got to be right on top of your mental game that week, your thinking and your strategy, and I think the two things about that week are to putt well and to make the right decisions. If I do those two things, I know I'll have a good week.
Q. How much are you doing on the mental side of your game to prepare for Augusta, and is that just with Bob Rotella or are you seeking advice from other sportsmen or people at this point?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The run between now and Augusta is definitely more about the mental side of the game, make sure that's right for the tournament. I have to accept that which I do have things that I want to work on in my game that I've got to accept that it's probably not going to get changed in the period up to the Masters, so just accept what you've got and make sure that you're ready to play when you get there. So it is about the mental focus at the moment.
I don't work with anybody else but Bob Rotella, and my own experiences over the years, I think what I've done for certainly the last three years has served me well. I've got into contention probably in greater than 50 percent of the majors I've played in that period of time and won three of them, so a bit more of that won't do me any harm.
So I know what I need to do. It's just a question of doing it, and that's always the hard thing. Yeah, I'm comfortable that I've got to get on top of things now and be disciplined and get it right in the lead up for Augusta, so that will be right when I'm there.
Q. And a quick follow up, having done what you've done over the last nine holes of The Open and the PGA, how comfortable would you feel if with nine holes to go in a couple weeks' time, it's you, Tiger and Mickelson all tied for the lead, and what would it take to win?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I wouldn't be a bit comfortable, but I'd be loving it. I'd be nervous as hell coming down the stretch at Augusta. The shots you have to hit there are so intimidating, so precise, and I'd be panicking big time, but I'd also be loving and relishing the idea. It would be a lot easier to come down the stretch against Tiger and Phil than it would be coming down the stretch against one of them because if I came down the stretch against Tiger and Phil, I know I could be the forgotten man and just play my game and that. If you come down against one of them, obviously it's a different story.
So I would be fearful, full stop, being in that situation. I'd be nervous and that, but I'd also be loving the idea of it. I probably would relish the chance at going up against Phil and Tiger more so than anybody else in the sense that if I was going up against somebody I should beat, the pressure is on me, if I'm going up against Tiger and Phil, well, the pressure is on them because the expectation is they should do the job or whatever.
That's the sort of scenario that as a kid you dream about going up against the giants of the game sort of thing and overcoming it. So different situations will present at the time. But the key for me is to play the first 63 holes so that I'm competing against somebody to win the tournament in the last nine holes and that I'm not just watching the leaderboard to see how the tournament is going as I'm sitting in the clubhouse.
Q. I just wanted to ask you is there anything or anybody that you'll be scared of or intimidated by in a major these days, having won three of the last six?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yes, me. I'm very afraid of myself, and that's who I have to look after. I have enough fear going through my own head to manage without worrying about the other side, and I think that's why I have done well in the three wins I've had is because I'm so concerned about managing my own emotions and my own fears that it's kept me busy and stopped me watching and getting distracted. I think there will be more of that situation coming down the stretch.
I think the hardest thing coming down the stretch is thankfully I did it nicely at Birkdale, but the hardest thing is to come down the stretch when you should win because when you should win obviously the pressure is on you. When you're coming down the stretch and it's 50/50 or you're the slight underdog, it's a lot easier to be a bit freer about what you're doing because you don't fear losing quite as much. So coming down the stretch with it may be somebody who hasn't won before let's say, that would be a situation where I'm expected to go and do the job, and maybe that would make it a little tougher.
Q. Just as a follow up to that, I was just wondering just on the mental side with Bob Rotella, is there anything specific that you've been working on at all in the last while?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. The great thing with Bob Rotella is everything I work on with Bob Rotella between now and the Masters is the same stuff I've worked on for the last ten years and it's the same thing that's written in his books. There's no magic. It's all there out for public digestion, and it's a question of having the discipline to apply it. There's no secret, unfortunately. There's no magic pill that you can take to sort it all out. It's a bit of discipline and hard work over the last number of years and the next couple of weeks that will see my mind in the right place for the tournament.
Q. I was just wondering, you had a bad wrist at Birkdale and you overcame dehydration in Detroit. What's going to be wrong with you at Augusta that you're going to have to overcome?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Beware the injured golfer. Phil was on an IV drip or something at Doral. Golfers are very good when there's a distraction. But what affects golfers the most at a tournament is their mental game. When they get injured, whether it be a physical injury or a sickness, obviously their mind is taken away from their physical game and it lets them accept it a lot more, and they're not as I suppose it's a little bit of a, how will I put it, they're not under as much pressure because of the fact that they have there's a reason if they don't perform that week. They don't have to blame themselves. They can blame an injury or an illness and that makes them relax a bit more and be a bit more accepting.
These are the mental states that we try and get into without the injuries, and this is stuff that I would work on with Bob Rotella is to make sure that I am in that state of mind. But an injury or an illness or something like that, how many times have guys gone out to win tournaments where they didn't think they were going to tee it up on the Thursday morning because they were sick all the night before, all those things. And yet they go out and play because it feels like a new lease of life for that week, and it feels like they're on a shot to nothing let's say.
I try and create that sense anyway with Bob Rotella, but it's easier when you're pushed into it by an actual physical happening.
Q. Do you think the new test for Augusta suits you more than say it did five years ago?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think the new Augusta is a tremendous they've made tremendous improvements. When I first went in 2000, the golf course got short and the pin positions were tricky. I remember hitting sand wedge into the 1st and lob wedge into 18 and 9 iron into 11, and it wasn't what I had seen on TV in the '80s.
Now it's back to being a big, strong golf course, and the pin positions are much fairer because of it. The golf course itself is protecting the scoring. They don't need to put the maybe in 2000 and 2001 they might have put a pin a yard over, and now it's three or four yards over the slope. So the golf course itself is just a stronger challenge but a much fairer challenge, where back then it really got to the stage where it was to protect it, it got tricky. So it's a much, much better challenge now.
Q. So while some of the other people in the field might be (indiscernible.), you won't be doing that with the new Augusta?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It depends what you want in golf. If you look at a perfect example is the 4th hole. The first couple years they put the pin on the back left. It was practically on the slope, in my opinion six inches over, whereas the last couple years it's been a good two yards, three yards over the slope, and I prefer to hit a hybrid into the green and two putt to a pin that I feel a good putt is going to finish beside the hole, whereas the time before an average putt was running 15 feet away from it. So I much prefer that challenge when it's fair but it's all in front of you.
There's no question it's long and tough, but one thing the committee at Augusta, and this is always good for an event, they're totally in control of what score we're going to shoot this week. They can determine at any stage during the week what score they want to have and how we'll go about shooting it. They've done their homework, they know exactly how the course plays, what the pins play like, the firmness of the SubAir, they have everything under control. If you remember six, seven, eight years ago we were getting to the stage that tournament committees were losing control of the golf course and they weren't sure what was going to happen both on the upside and the downside, whereas Augusta have absolute control. If they want us to shoot 10 under par, we shoot 10 under par. If they want us to shoot level par, that's what the winning score will be. All they have to do is tweak a few pin positions, soften the greens up, whatever they need to do. They're in total control, which is great.
That's exactly what you want. You don't want the situation where they lose the golf course because they're trying to get it right, and you don't want a situation where it's too easy, either.
Q. I just wondered, before you won your first major where you would rank the Masters among your sort of list of the most likely for you to actually win? Also, you've always had a superstition about winning the par 3 contest. I wonder if that still applies and whether you have any other superstitions?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I really want to win the par 3 tournament and then go on and win the tournament. I think that would be very nice. I don't believe in that superstition whatsoever.
Secondly, I hope in a few years' time we'll be doing this phone call and you will introduce me by saying, "when you won your first Masters," which is what you nearly did there. But before I won any major, where would I put the Masters? The Masters is very close to my heart in terms of obviously the Open is what we watched at home, but the Masters started the year off in golfing terms. We didn't play much golf in Ireland until the Masters in April. Once the Masters came on TV, everybody seemed to it's the golfing season and the evenings started getting a bit longer, the weather is getting better, off we go. So the Masters started the golf year in many ways, certainly competitively, at home.
So yeah, it's one that, as I said earlier, I think the golf course itself, if you can play this golf course, if you've got the game to cover the challenges, to cover Augusta, you can play any golf course. So whenever I'm practicing, I'm always thinking, is this up to the standard that will get me around Augusta, and if it is, that means it would cover any golf course. If you can play Augusta, you can play anywhere.
I would highly rate it in terms of somebody who can win at Augusta, you're not going to win by luck, you're going to be on top of your game, you're going to have the ability to play golf in all departments of your game. It's not just somewhere you can get away with you're not going to get away with just being a good putter or a good chipper or a good driver. You have to have all departments that week. So yeah, I rate it incredibly highly. The Open is very close to my heart, but in terms of sternness of test and ability to play golf, if you can win at Augusta, win the Masters, you can really play this game.
Q. Are you normally a superstitious person?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. I have one big superstition. It is unlucky to tell anybody you're superstitious. That will end all superstitions forever because if somebody who's superstitious can't tell somebody else they're superstitious because it's unlucky the only way a superstition happens is because it's passed on from person to person, so I've just ended it all. I'm starting a campaign to end superstitions forever.
MARK STEVENS: Sounds like a great way to end the call. Thank you very much for spending your time, and we appreciate you enlightening us on superstition. Thank you very much.
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