Padraig Harrington Talks: 2009 US PGA
US PGA Tour | 2009 US PGA Championship | Preview | 12 Aug 2009
Kelly Elbin: Defending PGA Champion Padraig Harrington joining us at the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Last year at Oakland Hills Country Club outside of Detroit, Padraig became the first European player in 78 years to win the PGA Championship.
I know you’ve had a chance to play nine holes; thoughts on what you’ve seen so far and thoughts on coming in as the defending champion of the PGA Championship.
Padraig Harrington: Well, obviously it’s nice to be back. It’s been a very good year as champion. I suppose as regards this week’s tournament, you know, I played nine holes yesterday, and probably after last week the key is not to overdo things these three days. I’m quite tired after last week.
After nine holes, the golf course is excellent. It’s a strong golf course. You know, it’s pretty much there in front of you.
I would say a quite fair course, quite testing, obviously reasonably long. I don’t know how it’s going to play in the tournament, if it dries out a little bit. I think it dried out a little bit towards the end of the last tournament, was it 2002 when we were here?
I don’t think the length is such a big deal from what it’s been made out to be. I think the golf course will play quite well, as regards its length. And it’s a good, strong course.
Q: We seemed to see last week the first evidence that these changes you’ve made are coming to fruition. Just how long do you think it will be before they really kick in and we’ll see you maybe winning majors again?
Padraig Harrington: Well, I think what you saw last week was more of a mind-set change. As I said, about six weeks ago, I kind of figured out ultimately what the move I was looking for to fix the problem I had. I haven’t quite corrected it or done enough work in that period of time, but it’s obviously put my mind at rest. And I’m focusing more on playing golf, and that’s what you would have seen last week.
I think ultimately, the move, while it should improve my game as I go on for the rest of the year, I would still think it will be through the winter, next winter, before I start to really have it grooved in. So it will be another six months.
But as I said, that doesn’t mean that what I had before that won three majors, I’m quite capable of performing well enough without that move to win this week.
Q: Just going back to Sunday, were you a bit surprised that Tiger sprung to your defense as much as he did, and to the point of he’s now going to be fined for his comments?
Padraig Harrington: I didn’t read any of his comments. As normal, I don’t read anything written about anything that I’m involved in. I haven’t done it since I’m 18 years, so I have no idea what was said. And you know, so I can’t comment because I don’t know.
Q: When you won your first major, some guys when they reach that, they sort of look at it like it’s been the pinnacle. Rich Beem won here seven years ago and has not won since. For you, it seemed to spur you on to greater heights and seemed to actually light a fire, burning brighter than maybe it even had before, if that’s possible. Guys seem to kind of go — it’s not one way or the other, but it seems like it’s not unusual.
Padraig Harrington: No, I think — I don’t think it lit a fire with me. I think I made sure beforehand that that fire was burning. I watched other players who had won majors, and I learned from them. I will always give the best credit probably to Phil Mickelson; anytime he was asked about winning a major, he always put it in plural.
He said, “I’m going to win majors.” So I copied that rhetoric and made sure that if I talked about majors, if I was asked about — because up to that, I would have been asked, are you one of the best players not to have won a major, and I would always put it into majors; to make sure that if you succeed, make sure it’s not the end of the road and there’s more afterwards. It’s all about preparing yourself before it happens, because it can be overwhelming when it happens.
Q: On Thursday, golf is a substantial favorite to be voted into the Olympics for 2016.
Padraig Harrington: I’d love to be an Olympian. Doesn’t that sound good? Imagine us being Olympic athletes.
I think it would be fantastic for golf. As a golfer, I would think we have all the credentials to be Olympians. We probably have one of the — how would I put this? Not very many sports — most of the time, we don’t have referees out there. We are playing away on our own.
It seems like it was always destined to be an Olympic sport. I’m sure there’s a lot of athletes out there that would never put golf as a sport, but trying to explain that to somebody that doesn’t play golf, they will never understand what goes into golf.
Most golfers realize what goes into it and will see it as being a natural sport for the Olympics.
Q: If you could please let me ask the question this time, I would appreciate it. (Laughter).
Padraig Harrington: What? (Laughter).
Doug, do you find people interrupt you when you’re talking? (Laughter).
Q: Just Steve Elling. Anyway, I wonder if you could put your hat on as a golf fan, and if you had any thoughts on what kind of year it’s been in the majors this year, from the standpoint of what could have been; we could have had a 48-year-old at the Masters, and a 100-year-old win the Open, either a Mickelson or Duval, what a great moment that would have been; it seems like the other guy keeps winning. Have you ever given any consideration to that as a fan?
Padraig Harrington: I suppose from a fan’s point of view, and this wouldn’t be obviously watching, maybe — I think it’s been exciting, very exciting.
I think, yes, if Tom Watson won; yes, if David Duval or Phil won the U.S. Open, yes; Kenny Perry, Cabrera, I’m sure that’s kind of equal in the fans’ minds. But maybe it would have stood out more going forward. But I think the actual enjoyment of the event; like Tom Watson could not have created more, and Stewart Cink at the Open, more excitement than they did.
Okay. People would have remembered more if Tom Watson won. But it still does not take away from the quality of Stewart Cink’s win or the quality of the event. It takes a little bit from people’s memory of that, but their actual enjoyment, I don’t think it made any difference. It was exciting right up to the edge.
I know I sat and watched all three majors, or the final parts of them; so, yeah, it was exciting viewing. And as I said, the winners were quality winners. They deserved to win, and I think going forward, they will — well, Cabrera doesn’t obviously, but the other guys will prove themselves even more and in time they will be household names and people will expect them to win majors rather than thinking it was a little bit out of the blue.
You’ve got to remember, there’s always going to be the first time you win a major. So Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink had to start somewhere. Time will tell, when they win more, people will probably remember those, Lucas’ win at the U.S. Open or Stewart’s win even more, if they back it up in years to come.
Q: You got asked this in kind of bits and pieces last week. I was wondering, last year there were some pictures of you here during the back stretch with Sergio and Ben, and it was the pitched battle. And you started to get that thousand-mile stare that you get sometimes and biting the lower lip and those things that manifest themselves on your mug when you’re under fire. I’m wondering, are you aware when you’re getting into that? Do you know you’re doing it, and what kind of pushes the button, because obviously it’s not that way all the time?
Padraig Harrington: I think, you know, I think when you look at these things, I probably — best explained to you guys, Michael Jordan, I read a little bit about him, and he was known as the player who most got into the zone. When he talked about it after his career, he said 90 percent of the time he wasn’t in the zone; he was close. That’s obviously what anybody tries to do.
The ten percent extra time when you’re actually in the zone, that’s when you see the thousand-mile stare and whatever else, the other things that go on; that’s because you’re close, but then you’re nervous, you’re excited, you have adrenaline, and something pushes you over the edge. You always need — it would be impossible to get into the zone going out in a practice round.
You just need something, a little extra push. There’s no doubt — and this is why a lot of times you see great players tail off later on in their career; it’s not because of still levels, it’s because they are not nervous when they get up in the morning. There’s no butterflies, there’s no adrenaline, and you need that to truly pass into the zone. And it doesn’t happen unless you’re excited.
Q: Just talk a little bit about, do you feel more confident coming into this week after what you did last year, the performance that you had last year? Are you more confident?
Padraig Harrington: Yeah, I think winning any major, and winning majors definitely increases your confidence. You believe in yourself more. So, yes, I would think so.
I think that would be brought into every event I play. So, yeah, I would say yes. The win last year, being able to shoot the scores on the weekend, knowing that, you know, if I stay in touch, I can still produce the fireworks if necessary, as well, to catch up, and that’s an important thing I would have got from last year; that I think it’s nice to know that you can shoot two 66s on the weekend of a major and come from the pack.
And it’s also nice to know at Birkdale that I can lead from the front being in the last group and win.
So, yeah, there is confidence, definitely, from having done it.
Q: Getting back to an earlier question about Sunday and what Tiger said, it was along the lines of he was upset that the rules official kind of got in the way of the battle between the two of you and he wanted to see it come down to the stretch without having you get rattled and put on the clock, and he is going to be fined apparently. Is sometimes it worth taking that fine to kind of make a point, and was that a point that needed to be made to kind of just let you guys play it out, rather than having outside factors come into play?
Padraig Harrington: You know, we were having a great battle. I was enjoying it. I believe he was enjoying it. I think he was — we were both putting up to each other, and that was a good thing.
You know, I reacted poorly to the situation, and that’s my own fault. It’s part of the rules that these things are going to happen. It would have been probably better if it happened earlier in the round. It would have probably — you know, ultimately, the two of us getting into trouble on 14 pushed us over the edge, which was — you know, it was unfortunate that we both played the hole poorly at the same time.
As regards what he said, you know, I think it’s easier for having won the tournament, he can take the moral high ground and say what he wants. Having lost the tournament, I’m going to sit back and just — you know, there’s not much; I’m going to take it on the chin and say it was my mistake. He’s in a good position that when you’ve won the tournament, you can — well, what could I say? I suppose that’s best left said to him. As I said, he’s in a better position to say it.
Q: Just to go back to that Sunday round, it seemed like all of golf was waiting for you and Tiger to go head-to-head since he came back, with you having won three majors. I just wonder, it was pretty compelling for 15 holes; will you take a lot from it going forward, as well, and the way you’re playing?
Padraig Harrington: I learn from all situations, and I obviously see — I could see how quickly I got knocked out of the zone on 16, and that’s something that I have to be very mindful of going forward. That’s an area I can definitely improve.
Kelly Elbin: Question on mic two in the middle.
Padraig Harrington: I kind of lost track, as well. (Laughter) I had forgotten the question. (Laughter).
Q: You mentioned the length on this course and that it might not matter as much as people are making it out, can you explain that a bit more? And do we get hung up by the yardage?
Padraig Harrington: Assuming that the weather is decent for the week, if we were playing this golf course in Ireland, you know, it would be a long golf course. But in the heat, the ball goes a long way.
And as I remember the last time, the ball went a long way when we were here. It won’t — I think major golf courses need to have this length. Since Augusta lengthened the golf course, it’s become a better golf course. It has more options. I believe the tournament committee have got to work with those options.
If the forecast was for a cold, wet day, it’s not much fun playing a par 4 530 yards, but if it’s for a sunny day, we are hitting the ball 320 yards, so it’s not such a big hole.
I think depending on conditions, it gives them options. I will say, the most interesting thing, the 12th hole, it’s 536 yards; it was a far tougher hole off the forward tee. It’s a really tough hole off the forward tee.
Off the back tee it’s a long hole and it’s still a difficult hole, but off the forward tee, when you can reach those bunkers on the right, it gets very narrow because it doglegs slightly at the right of driving distance.
So, you know, you can run it into the left rough if you hit a straight shot. And if you’re trying to hold it up, you can easily put it in the right-hand bunkers, and that little bit of water comes into play. I think it was the toughest hole on the course the last time for me, because of the way the tee shot — and now it’s a straight drive, it’s an easier hole from the back tee.
So sometimes length doesn’t add to certain holes, but I don’t see it being a big factor this week, the length.
Kelly Elbin: For the record, Padraig tied for 17th in the 2002 PGA Championship.
Q: You just said you reacted poorly to the situation on Sunday. Did you ever consider after you were told on the 16th hole of just ignoring it and going ahead? You’re playing for $1,400,000. You’re playing for a title. If you incur a penalty, it’s just going to be a $20,000 fine before they take a penalty stroke, did you just consider ignoring it and continue playing?
Padraig Harrington: You don’t think like that in that situation. No, definitely not.
You see, the time allowed to hit a shot is bundles, they give you 45 seconds or something like that. It takes about 20 seconds — it takes about ten seconds to hit an iron shot and takes about 20, 22 seconds to hit a putt. So you have bundles of time. I got out of position. When you get out of position, you take an extra practice swing or two when you’re out of position and you have to struggle a little bit more with the yardage.
And even though you are allowed more time to get your yardage when you’re out of position and things, you’re not sure and it’s the doubt that creeps in and you end up making a little mistake because you are not settled on it.
I should know with experience that in the end of the day, like you said there, I know myself. I’ve worked at this, it doesn’t take that long to hit a shot. It takes 22 seconds to hit it.
I’ve got another 20 seconds if I want to decide the shot. And if I stayed focused and relaxed, I would have known that. But in the end of the day, you rush it a little bit and you just don’t quite make the right decisions. And that’s what happens.
You know, such is life. If you get out of position on the clock it, it can be awkward. But as I said, with experience, I should have. I know that it’s not as big an issue as sometimes I would end up rushing, as most players do when they get put on the clock.
But you know, it’s our rules. It’s a part of the game and you’ve got to put up with it.
Q: Your profile shot up last year winning two majors. How much has your life changed in the last 12 months, and what are the pros and cons of those changes, and do you recognize that Padraig pre-2007 had 30 second places, do you still see who he is?
Padraig Harrington: Yeah, you know, I probably — I don’t think I’ve changed any. I don’t think the way I go about things — I think it is the same. I do believe that people’s attitudes to me has changed.
When you win a major tournament, as a number of milestones in my career, whether it was winning my first tournament or maybe making The Ryder Cup, people believe when it happens on that Sunday that you’re a better player than you were the Monday before. But I know that it’s the ten years, 20 years before that that has gradually brought me to that point.
So in terms of my golf, I don’t believe I’ve changed any. There is a little bit of confidence from the fact that you know that you have done it. As regards my life, yeah, there’s a bit more attention, a bit more focus. I kind of showed that up this year with the fact that as I was changing things, there was a huge spotlight on my changes, which was different than previous times.
You know, I would make these changes before, I’ve done similar things in the past, but much more under the radar. This time it was out in the spotlight.
When I will find, I have to — what I do find fascinating, and you alluded to my 30 second places there, it was actually 29 before I won a major. Of those 29 second places, I was getting a hell of a hard time.
I finished second last week and I got everybody saying “Well done.” It’s amazing how a second place can be perceived so differently.
I would consider I messed up last week and some of those 29 second places I actually played quite well and somebody just beat me. So it’s amazing how perceptions change; depending how we look at things, we come up with the answer we want.
As I said, I would see last week as a mistake on my behalf and some of those other ones were pretty good.
Q: Do you feel that you’re playing more against yourself or against the other players? And should you win this one, would you be looking forward to going to Bermuda in October?
Padraig Harrington: I always feel like I’m competing against myself. That’s the only way I can feel I can do it.
A lot of the players I’m competing against I watched on TV, growing up even, and there’s a lot of stars out there. And if I looked at their games I would think that they are all phenomenal players and how could I ever beat them.
So if I start concentrating on them, I would feel inferior. So if I concentrate on myself, I look after myself, that’s controllable. I can’t control them. And if I do that, from experience, I know that it will actually do fine. So definitely focus totally on myself and not worry about the opposition at all.
As regards going to Bermuda, I would be thrilled to be going to Bermuda if I won this week, it would be a very nice bonus.
Kelly Elbin: Padraig was runner-up to Jim Furyk at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda last week.
Q: How do you get something like 16 on Sunday out of your system? There’s no way you can bottle it up, even if you’re a saint, do you go back to the bedroom and punch a hole in the wall? You can’t let it fester.
Padraig Harrington: You obviously talk about it with people that are close to you who have a slightly different understanding, who you can discuss these things with, and whether that’s my family, my caddie, Ronan, and Bob Rotella, very close people who you can talk about it and you analyze it and take the positives from it. I can see myself becoming a better player because of it, and you move on.
As I said, the great thing about golf, there’s always next week. That’s the fantastic thing. Like the minute I hit the practice round here, I obviously didn’t sleep great Sunday night. I was tired but struggling to get to sleep. I woke up early still thinking about it. But the minute I hit the practice round, I’m thinking about the PGA. It’s all about the PGA.
Q: What was the most profound thing that anyone has said to you, your kids or your wife?
Padraig Harrington: My kids, they have no — (laughter) — they weren’t interested at all. (Laughter).
Let me see, I don’t know what the most profound thing was said to me, but I think the general thought was a bit like, isn’t this a crazy game, that people can be so positive about me finishing second, that it seems like there’s been a massive shift from the first six months to this tournament, that this tournament makes all the difference; and the focus that was put onto it in that sense, how like everything just changed in the week.
Well, it didn’t change in a week. It changed over time. And it’s all part of a process, and kind of the focus that you did great, you finished second; if I finished second a year ago, people would have said, “Oh, he finished second again.”
So it’s fantastic that, as I said, these things change all the time. And when you’re aware of it, it doesn’t hit you as hard, and I think that’s the key thing that you have got to take. You’ve got to balance all of these out and not allow the highs and the lows.
Q: I know it’s the last question, I don’t want to make it a boring one. Here goes.
Padraig Harrington: You’re under pressure now.
Q: After winning three majors, when — why did you decide to tweak the swing that had brought you three majors?
Padraig Harrington: One, I’m not happy unless I’m changing, I’m working on something. I wouldn’t be — how would I put this; I wouldn’t be motivated to get out there and practice unless I thought I was getting better.
This was an area of my game that had annoyed me for 2 1/2, three years, all the way through those majors I had won, it annoyed me. You can’t believe how annoyed I was at — let me see, at Carnoustie.
I walked off Carnoustie hitting the ball pure after the last round and basically I hit everything three or four yards right of the flag. You know, I just hit it dead straight right of the flag, and I’m looking at that going, well, why do I hit everything a little bit out? You’re just gradually trying to improve.
I would look back at every round and see what could be better. It had been annoying me for quite a while and I had to go and change it. The fact that I had won three majors probably gave me, in my mind — and this is — it probably gave me that leeway to go work on my game.
You know, if I had won no majors, maybe I would be thinking, well, I had better get one in the bag before I start doing these things. When you have won three, you think, I’ve got a bit of space now and I’ll go and improve this game. Maybe that’s a bit of what happened.
I’m always trying to get better. I couldn’t — there would be no point in trying to stand still. For motivation and for the adrenaline and the excitement and all of that, you’ve got to be trying to get better.
Like I go from being — I could go from finishing on Sunday night, devastated about losing, to going to the range and being the most optimistic person in the world, especially when I when I go to practice that I’m going to find the secret.
I will say that I watched — about two years ago, I watched Arnold Palmer, and it is only two years ago, at a Seniors event being interviewed afterwards, and he was buzzing because he thought he had found the secret. That’s why we are where we are. We are always thinking we are going to get better. We are always motivated to get better, and that’s certainly me.
Kelly Elbin: Defending PGA Champion, Padraig Harrington, thank you very much.