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Tuesday, June 15, 2010Padraig Harrington

BETH MURRISON: Good morning. Thank you very much for joining us at the 2010 U.S. Open Championship. We're here at Pebble Beach Golf Links for the 5th time and very excited to be back.

This morning we're honored to have with us Padraig Harrington, he's playing in his 13th U.S. Open. In 2000 he tied for 5th. Could you talk about being back at Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I know it's only been ‑‑ this is the 5th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but it seems a little bit like the home of the U.S. Open in the States. We come back every ten years, but it kind of ‑‑ it's a little bit like St. Andrews going back every five years, it looks like we're going back here, as an anniversary.

It's obviously one of the venues that I think stands out in most people's minds. Everybody remembers Tom Watson chipping in, Tiger winning by 15 shots. Tom Kite getting to 10‑under par. There's so many things that go on on this golf course. For all the venues of the U.S. Open this is more synonymous for the U.S. Open than any other one.

It is a great course to be back. Obviously in 2000 it seemed to be warmer. It seems to be windier, and it seems to be firmer. At the moment this is kind of like Irish weather out there. It's very pleasant (laughter).

BETH MURRISON: We understand a few weeks ago you had a minor knee surgery, could you talk a little bit about how you're feeling now.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, three weeks today I had, probably about eight hours ‑‑ probably exactly three weeks at this time I was having ‑‑ I was under the knife. I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee. It's responded well, I'm comfortable, while it needs a certain amount of minding, and I have to look after it, it's not posing any problem to me playing golf.

Q. Can you recall the events of 2000, what it was like to be in the middle of that show?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, obviously there were a lot of questions asked about this, like any tournament you're totally focused on what you're doing. And it was a pretty big deal for me. I think I was in second place with 12 holes to go. I was all wrapped up in what I was doing that week.

The only thing I recall of Tiger's 72 holes is the iron shot he had from the right‑hand side at the 6th hole out of the rough. Which obviously ain't going to happen this year, because it's all fairway over there. But, yeah, that was probably one of the most phenomenal shots ever hit in tournament golf. I don't think anybody else would have been capable of playing that shot. So that's what I remember. But obviously I remember a lot about what I was doing.

There were some good pairings that week. And I think I played with Ernie and I think I played with Jimenez coming down the last round and we were both under par with 12 holes to go, which was in second place.

Yeah, it was a good week. It was a tough week. Actually an interesting aside, that was ‑‑ I remember going out to the practice rounds and ‑‑ this is totally going off in a tangent, but the greens were very firm. And I couldn't get the ball to stop on the greens. So eventually I kind of got to my wits end and I eventually got all my irons, I had a spare set of irons, got my irons, and essentially regrooved the irons in front of the USGA official and handed him each club as it was regrooved. And it made such a substantial difference in my iron play, having the sharper grooves, so I probably spent the last 10 years pushing the grooves as far as we could with the USGA to the extent they've now changed the rules. So it was probably back in 2000 that I started a long road of sharpening up grooves. That's ultimately led to a few shots over the years that maybe caused certainly an eyebrow or two to be lifted and caused these new groove rules to be brought in.

Q. You mentioned that shot by Tiger on No. 6 and how they shaved that all down over there. Several of the oceanside holes are playing much closer to the cliffs. Have you walked along over there and do you think we'll see some guys hitting golf balls out of the sand this week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I don't think it's playable to the right of ‑‑ I'm not sure if it's playable to the right. I hit it in there on the ‑‑ I hit it in the right‑hand side of 6 in the hazard at the AT & T. It certainly wasn't playable then.

When you have a hazard I much prefer that the fairway to be cut up against it, as they've done on 6 and 8.

18 is the same thing. I think it looks a lot better. I know I hit one down on the beach on 18 yesterday and the guys went down there and said I could have played it. I was shocked at that. I never, ever thought a ball could be played from down there. They said, yeah, I would have had no problem getting it back to the fairway.

I don't know about the other holes, but it's always worth if you hit in the hazards out here, go out and check, a bit of discipline.

Q. Could you talk about the 7th hole, what you like about it, what you don't like about it. What comes to mind when you get there?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I like the 7th hole. It's ‑‑ you know, I suppose it's only treacherous because it's so short. You feel like you should play, you know, a little hole like that and you feel you should be making birdie on it or it shouldn't be that difficult.

From years of experience and watching other players, again, because the U.S. Open has a certain heritage at this golf course, a little bit like Augusta, we remember shots that other people have hit. And they tend to be not good shots that they hit, we tend to remember the bad shots that they hit. That carries a lot of baggage, and it's not my own baggage, it's everybody else's baggage when you go to the 7th hole. It intimidates you a little bit more picking the right club to hit. I don't think there's any player in the field that's not rooting for their playing partner to make birdie on 6 so that they get to go first on No. 7 and you get to see the club.

It's probably a hole ‑‑ you know, it's ‑‑ you have to wait and see. It all depends, it's like, with no wind yesterday it was, you know, a little sand wedge, and it was a birdie opportunity. Get a strong wind there, I think Tom Kite hit 6‑iron the year he won the U.S. Open.

So, yeah, it can be a daunting hole with a 6‑iron, it's a small green. It has to be played ‑‑ I love short par‑3s, and some of the best par‑3s are short ones. I tell you what, No. 5 as a par‑3 before, is as tough a par‑3 as you're going to get, and that's not a particularly tough one either. It seems the shorter the par‑3s the more intimidating, because the players feel they should perform on them. And it's harder for us sometimes to control those short irons into the wind.

Q. You mentioned in '92 Gil Morgan getting to double digits under par, and obviously Tiger Woods in 2000, is that something that's possible this year, to get into double digits?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it's possible. You know, the conditions as they stand at the moment, I would suggest the USGA over the last maybe five years had set up the golf course actually typically fairly, I say fairly in that they're probably not as tough as they were back in 2000. The rough isn't as heavy, it's very playable.

I think, you know, to get a score in around level par, winning this week, it would have to be firm, drier, and windier. The conditions as they are somebody could challenge 10‑under par, it's been done before, and it will be done again. So whether it's this week or not, I don't know.

The golf course, you've got to remember, if you set a golf course up in good condition, good fairways, good greens, somebody is going to play well enough during the week, and if the conditions aren't that windy, somebody is going to hit fairways and greens, and hole putts and it's a sign of a good golf course when you have players shooting good scores.

Q. You said you'd be able to get your ball back on to the 18th fairway off the beach. Would you be able to get yourself back on? How has your practice been affected by your knee, and how many holes have you played and how significant is that in your effort to win this week?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I think I don't know my answer to the question, whether I could have climbed up, but I assume I could have. I certainly would have made the effort, if it was the 72nd hole in the U.S. Open, that might have made the difference. As I said, just somebody went down and picked it up and said, oh, yeah, you could have hit it, which I was surprised about it.

As regards my own preparation I played 13 holes yesterday and I'll play nine today and nine tomorrow. That's plenty. This is a golf course that's ‑‑ that is there in front of you. It's a very fair golf course. It's not one of those courses ‑‑ I think that it could be played from experience and without too many practice rounds. I think it is ‑‑ there's nothing tricky about it. It's there in front of you. It's not a course you need a lot of practice rounds on.

As regards my knee, as I said, it needs minding, it needs me to ice it and get physio on it and to do my exercises and all that sort of stuff. But it's not affecting my golf. Maybe I'm not hitting the ball as, you know, jumping at the ball a bit or going at it as hard as I could because of that, but, you know, that's not needed, either. It's delicate, but it's not inhibiting me.

Q. Have you noticed that some of the greens are more open in the front, in particular 5, I think, and 8, from what they usually are at the AT&T. Have you noticed? At 5, will you play that hole to the left front and try to bounce it into the back end?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I think there has been a number of areas that have been tidied up around the greens where they've produced more fairway at the front, and a little bit more runoff.

5 is an example of where it actually runs on to the green, which is unusual for tournament golf these days. And, yes, I think a majority of players will play that hole to pitch it at the front of the green and let it release down. I think most players will be aiming left half of the green, away from the hazard on the right. If you go through that left half and finish in the bunker, there's very few pin positions to get it up and down.

So I think most players will play short left and try to get it to release down there. It seems the sensible play. And that's certainly what I'll be trying to do. I'll be trying to hit the green, not left of the green, but I'll definitely be trying to hit the front left half is the play there.

Again, it wasn't too bad a shot yesterday, without the wind, but I know that from experience certainly in 2000 it had a strong crosswind from the right and a lot of players, including myself, managed to hit it long left, which is not a great place to be.

Q. In regards to the 15 stroke victory, do you ever see anybody ever challenging that mark again or is it one of those records that will never get close to?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Is there any record that stands forever? No. You know, at the end of the day, while it's phenomenal in this day and age, it's going to change. That's the nature, people get bigger and stronger and better at everything. There's many records set, we look back in times, we thought would never be broken.

So I have to think, yes, it will be broken eventually. And do I think it's going to be broken this week? No. But there's kids in college now who, you know, phenomenal talents and maybe they won't break it because there will be two of them playing that well. But certainly he was more than a step ahead of the rest, he was two or three steps ahead of everybody in 2000. And that is unusual, but as I said, you know, records are there to be broken and it will ‑‑ it eventually will be broken.

I'm sure nobody ‑‑ when Jack finished 18 Majors, nobody thought that would ever be challenged. And for a long time most people think Tiger, it's not even a challenge. Obviously these things, records, are always going to be broken. They give a goal for people to chase. And sometimes it's like the four‑minute mile, once it's been done, everybody else follows suit a lot easier.

Q. You mention how the USGA set up the courses, could you talk about the approach you have to take coming into a U.S. Open and how it maybe differs from a normal PGA TOUR event?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, I think the setup of the golf course, I don't think the players could ask for anything better. It's as fair as can be.

The rough, if you miss the fairway, the rough is reasonable, that you have some sort of chance of moving it forward. Obviously on the very longer holes you're in a lot of trouble. But the rough is playable. If you hit it wide you get heavier rough, that's fine, everybody accepts that.

I think the real crux of a U.S. Open is the firm greens. And nowhere suits that more than the small greens at Pebble Beach, once they get firm and fast, you know, if you get it in the rough or out of position it's hard to keep your ball in position on the greens. And several of the greens, probably ‑‑ you know, maybe all of the greens you can ‑‑ there's definitely a point where you can short side yourself and your next shot is not getting within 20, 25 feet of the hole.

So I think that's the key to a U.S. Open is they try and set it up around the greens that if you get in the wrong place, if you get out of position, you know, it's not so easy to get up and down. I think with this golf course, it is very, very fair.

I think maybe you're going to go to ‑‑ 14 is probably, the approach shot on 14 is incredibly tricky up the hill, with such a small landing area, but that's the golf hole itself. And it certainly ‑‑ you would be happy to get through every day without too much drama.

But everywhere else out there is a good solid test. And I don't think ‑‑ I'd be surprised if anybody has anything but praise for the setup.

Q. More so than any other week in the season players will talk about par being a target and the patience that it needs in a U.S. Open. Is this golf course easy to be patient on or is there a chance that there are things that you could do at the AT&T when conditions may not have been set up more difficult?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, realistically par would be a very nice score to shoot this week, but it ain't going to win the tournament. 72 pars isn't going to be what you want. You've got to make some birdies at some stage. You've got to take the attitude that if you make a number of birdies that allows for a certain number of mistakes.

Yes, you have to be patient, and when you have bogeys you've got to roll with it, and take it on the chin, but at the end of the day you are going to have to make some birdies out there. And there are certain holes that are good birdie opportunities, but also there's other holes that, depending on the pin positions, can go from being, let's try to make par, to if they put in an easy pin, this is a birdie chance. So each individual hole and the pin position will determine a lot about how it's scoring.

But I think with the size of the greens out here, anytime you hit a green out here you have a birdie opportunity. At the end of the day, compared to other U.S. Opens, it's not like, you know, hitting at the middle of the green at an event, you're going to make a par. You hit it in the middle of the green at a Pebble Beach green, you're probably only going to be 20 feet from the hole. The greens are small and limited where the pins can be.

So I think you'll see more birdies this week. And I can see that that's, you know, see how Gil Morgan got to 10‑under par, if you play good golf, you're going to create a lot of birdie chances.

The problem out there is if you play not so good it's not an easy golf course to recover from, from an errant drive or a missed green.

I think I would be more this week for, yes, you can play conservative, but I think it will be more about making as many birdies as you can this week, to counteract a few of those bogeys

Q. It's been four years since a European player has won this tournament. Do you have any thoughts on why that is, and if that streak may end?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: How many years?

Q. 14?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: 1972? 38. 38 years, yes, since a European has won. Was it '72? That's a coincidence. That's all it is. There's nothing more to it. The U.S. Open is no more ‑‑ it's no tougher a Major to win. That's like, why are so many U.S. guys winning The Open. It's just a coincidence. It's the way things have run. I don't read anything into it.

If Europeans had won the last 39 U.S. Opens, would it be that Europeans are going to win this week? No. It doesn't. It's the best player going out this week, regardless of where he's from.

I think the European players, and more so nowadays, are playing all around the world and very familiar with all conditions, so it's not like a lot of them are coming over here and thinking, you know, these golf courses don't suit us.

Just pure coincidence at this stage. There's a lot of good European players. One of them is going to win a U.S. Open pretty soon.

Q. Do you think the setup of the course this week suits your game especially well? Do you think you've been playing well enough in recent months to take advantage of that?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I couldn't see the setup of this golf course ‑‑ there's nobody that should be here that's thinking anything about this setup that's not ‑‑ it's as expected. It is a fair setup. If you don't like it, you know, there's no point in being here, basically. It's as good a setup as could be.

Does it suit my game? As much as any other week, yes. Am I capable of winning? Yes. No problem about that. I've probably shown better form coming into this Major than I have any of the three I've won.

So, yeah, it takes a lot to win a Major tournament. It's not as easy as just shaking your fingers or anything. I've probably played a little bit better on the range than I have on the golf course. But I've shown enough form in a number of tournaments that, yeah, it could take place this week.

But it does need to kick into place. It's not like I'm carrying in unbelievable form, I'm just trying to hold it together this week and get through one more week. I am looking for something to fall into place and to get me across that line. But it certainly ‑‑ I'm hopeful, rather than expectant.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you thought 72 pars would not be the winning score. Do you have a score in mind across the line?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, no. I'm sure there's plenty of scores, if somebody offered them to me now and I didn't have to go out, I'd take them. But that's not reality. There's no point in me predicting the score. Because if I turn around and say, well, 6‑under par is going to win this event, what do I do if I get to 10‑under par like Gil Morgan? Do I stop?

So you can't have that sort of thing. But I think you've got to be realistic that ‑‑ the whole thing that level par is going to win, the USGA will probably look for a score about 4 to 6‑under par to win. I think that's generally what's going to be perceived as a winning total. But it totally depends on the condition. If we get nice calm weather, with a little dampness in the air, that's going to slow the greens down and keep them a little more moist, obviously the score would be better than if it's windy and dry.

At the end of the day you've got to shoot the best score in the field and nobody is that good that they can predict the winning scores every week. It can certainly be a hindrance to have that score in your head.

Q. You said earlier that year that you were desperate to get another win, I don't know if that was a slip of the tongue or whether you really meant that. Is that still the case?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm not so good at my math today. It's been six Majors since I won or so? 2008. Yeah, so I'm pretty keen to try and get another win. When you win tournaments like that you want to get out there and win another one. And it feels like a long time, even though, as I said, it's really not that many events.

Obviously I haven't won any sort of regular events, either, but at times I can be distracted at those events and maybe focusing my goals elsewhere.

But certainly a win would be nice. It would be great if it's this week. But any win would be nice. It's kind of overdue at this stage, yes.

Q. What are your key thoughts this week, what are you concentrating particularly on doing well?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, you know, I know when it comes to Majors if I apply myself correctly to the week I will walk away from the week comfortable with whatever my performance is.

So it's not so much about trying to get results‑oriented. I know if I do ‑‑ I know this is all cliches and it could be Bob Rotella sitting up here speaking, but if I go through my process for the week I'll be happy with myself. A huge amount of that is, if you can walk away on Sunday and feel like you did everything you could for the week and you didn't get distracted somewhere along the line and go down the wrong road, if you approach the event correctly, you have no regrets, and it's lovely to walk away from the tournament feeling like, yeah, you gave that a hundred percent. The results follow when you do that.

If you go chasing the result in the first place sometimes, you know, you'll be left very frustrated at the end of the week. So if you go along with the process you'll be happy leaving.

Q. You joined Ben Curtis and Joseph Bramlett yesterday in your practice rounds. Bramlett is an amateur in this tournament, did you interact with him or say anything to him yesterday?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, he seems to play very nice golf. He certainly, for the five holes we played, he striped it down the middle and hit it on the green. A good striker of the ball. Looks like he finds the long game pretty simple.

Obviously you can never tell fully about a player until you see him in competitive form. He asked me what he should do this week, if I had any tips for him. Unfortunately or fortunately a lot of the tips are going back to cliches and enjoying yourself and being patient and things like that.

But I think, you know, I talked to him a little bit about you're going to get spells when things are going to go against you for a few holes and if you can stay patient in those holes and take those bogeys, there will be opportunities later on to play good golf and make some birdies. It's not going to be the same all 72 holes. There's going to be different spells and there's going to be ebbs and flows and things like that.

But essentially in this day and age, you know, I think it was good of him to ask. It shows he wants to get the most out of it. And it shows he has confidence on his behalf. But I also think that a lot of this stuff his coach was probably ‑‑ when it comes to playing a Major it's probably not rocket science, it's just hard to do. It's pretty easy to say, but it's not ‑‑ it's a lot harder to do. If everybody in the field stays patient this week and was very accepting and all that, you know, we'd have a different type of U.S. Open. But the U.S. Open tests us different ways, tests us mentally, and ultimately a lot of people fall by the wayside because of that. But it is easy to say I'm going to be patient all week, it's hard to do.

BETH MURRISON: Thank you so much for joining us today. We wish you well this week.

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