Padraig Harrington Interview - US PGA
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2008 US PGA Championship | Round Four | 11 Aug 2008
Kelly Elbin: Padraig Harrington, ladies and gentlemen, the 90th PGA Championship Hills Country Club Champion, joining us here.
Padraig, you established a number of records today: You are the first European since Tommy Armour in 1930 to win the PGA Championship. You are the first European ever to win the British Open and the PGA Championship in the same year. And you’re the first European ever to win consecutive Majors in the same year.
Congratulations on making a lot of history today at Oakland Hills.
Padraig Harrington: Obviously things like that will take time to sink in. At the moment, I’m just enjoying the PGA win for the PGA win.
I did; of the three you said there, I really DO like the fact that no other European has won two Majors consecutively. Because obviously I obviously hold a lot of European players who I grew up watching in high esteem. To believe that I achieved something that they hadn’t is very special.
Kelly Elbin: Can you go through your birdies and bogeys, please, on a very dramatic day.
Padraig Harrington: Yeah. Obviously this was a different win today than the win at Birkdale. I was very comfortable with my game there. Very happy about what I was doing.
Here, it wasn’t the case. I wasn’t happy with how I was swinging the golf club this week in terms of my focus or maybe dehydration or tiredness, but something had me a little bit off my stride this week. My coordination wasn’t quite there.
So once I got into the weekend and holed a few putts, it really was a question of the adrenaline keeping me going, keeping me focused, keeping me pushing along.
I went out this afternoon not a hundred percent sure what lay ahead. As I said at Birkdale, I think I was quite assured of what I was doing. Here, I really didn’t know. So I kept to my game plan; kept hitting my shots. Obviously, as well as I felt I was doing, obviously I was trailing Sergio from early on.
And the only thing from experience that I know is that in a Major, nobody goes without making some mistakes. So as long as I could hang in there, I knew that I would get my opportunity; and if it was going to be my day, I would take that opportunity.
So I was patient in that sense that even though I was 2, three shots behind in the middle of the round, and through the turn I started playing the golf; and Sergio was got up-and-down on 8 and 9 from awkward positions, and it was looking like his day. I just kept in there and said, look, if I hang around, I will get an opportunity. And obviously that opportunity came.
As regards the actual scores, I hit it in close at the first. Hit a nice putt and missed.
Made a good 2-putt on the second. From the front edge of the green.
Had a chance for birdie on 3 and 4. Again, I hit a good putt at 4. Surprised that missed.
5, I hit a poor shot. I let it go in the wind when I was trying to hold it up and didn’t get up-and-down.
6, I was very happy with the birdie. Hit a good drive and a good bunker shot from 35 yards to four feet and holed the putt.
7, 8, well, 7 I made a good up-and-down again, and from about 35 yards, as well.
8, I played well.
9, I hit a decent shot into the bunkers got up-and-down, holing a tricky 3-footer.
Then you get to the back nine of a Major where it all starts. I hit a nice 8-iron into 10. Probably a little unlucky to come up sort of 15, 18 feet short. But I holed that putt and it got me on a run.
A little bit unlucky on 11 for it to hang up on the right-hand side, but a good birdie on 12 from in trouble.
I took the shot on. I knew I had to from in the trees. It was a tight second shot. I had to – it’s awkward when you’re trying to hit a shot around a tree. But you can’t, the tree was actually blocking where I was aiming because it was – so I literally had to hit like I was hitting through the tree for my second shot; which is an intimidating shot, but I knew I needed to take on the shot at this stage and there was no backing off.
Hit a nice shot over the green and played a nice pitch shot. Unlucky to go three feet by. Holed the putt. Actually thought I might hole that chip.
12, 13, has been a difficult hole all week, and with kind of thinking, you know, do we want to play short of the pin, and it’s very tight up the back there, but it worked out nice yardage just a little 5-iron for me. I could keep it down under the wind and hit it to about 15 feet, and my eye was in at this stage. And the putts, there was no question I was just fully focused on holing them and nothing else was in my mind. So I rolled that one in.
14, coming out of the rough, wasn’t quite sure it was a 9-iron or an 8-iron. I tried to hit 8-iron and it came out a little bit quick, and went over the green and got in an awkward lie. Tried to play the safe chip shot, give me some more room. I chipped it to about eight feet and I just hit a weak putt there. Yeah, tried to help it break when it did break itself.
15, obviously hit a nice 7-iron in there. Had a good opportunity for birdie. Hit it through the break.
16, hit a good tee shot there on 16. And it’s an awkward hole. There’s no doubt on under pressure, with that wind, you just are not a hundred percent sure what yardage you’re going to play the second shot there. I had about 135 yards, and I tried to hit a three quarter 8-iron. Hit it in there low. But I knew if I got it up in the wind, I was going about 20 feet left of the flag, and I knew if I got it up in the wind, it would obviously spin back, and come back in the wind.
So I tried to draw it, and obviously I overcooked it a bit and the wind seemed to change a little bit and it moved it left as well.
Wasn’t happy. Obviously. I had a 29-yard bunker shot, and but again I decided I got to take the shot on. I was looking; first time I looked at the leaderboard, it was at 16. I was aware that Ben was up there, and I felt that I had to take the shot on. Unlucky, I caught a stone between my ball and the my club, and that’s why it released so much.
But again the 20-footer, I was just, “Got to hole this, got to give it a chance.” There was no sort of anything but knocking it in the hole. Some days when you get your eye in like that, you do hole putts. So I rolled that one in.
17 was a – I looked at 17 at the start of the week, and we knew the pin would be back right, and on the last day and when the green was firm, we decided that the play was to the front of the green and try and putt up over the tier.
But with a little bit of softness in the green, we knew we could take it on and hit a nice shot straight down the pin. And I kind of felt like I had won the PGA at that stage, and thinking, “this is it.” I didn’t know how close it was, but I kind of felt from the way the crowd was, hopeful it was four feet and maybe six feet.
And I really felt positive that it was going to be my day there. And obviously Sergio followed it up with a great shot.
When I got up to the green we had no idea which was which, and obviously I’m 10 feet and Sergio is four feet. And but I did see, you know, I knew that I had the opportunity to get the putt in first. And that was important. I knew if I holed this, I probably would win the PGA. If I missed, Sergio would probably win the PGA.
So it was down to that. And I hit a lovely putt. Read it exactly how I wanted it, and it did exactly what I expected.
18, I hit an okay drive down 18. It was hanging down the right side. Looked like it could get the edge of the fairway, or the first cut of rough. Was a little, you know, lucky to finish up on the upslope underneath the fairways of the bunker. If I was a foot further right, I could have gone for the green. Tried to hit an 8-iron out about 120 yards, but because of the awkward stance, I hit it a bit fat; I did get a break. I got a nice lie in the rough. The ball obviously pitched and spun back on to the top of the grass in the rough there.
So that was; it was sitting pretty good. I had 142 yards and I hit a full 7-iron. It came out good and we watched it in the air, and it was hanging a bit and we were saying, well, you know, after seeing plenty of balls coming up short in the colder temperatures, it was very happy to see it come down pin-high.
Had a look at the putt, and it’s nice when you’ve got to hole a putt that you read a putt and you see the line straight away. It was an easy putt to read. It was a double-break: I hit it a cup right of the hole, and it was slightly downhill. So I didn’t want to hit it too hard, and I rolled it down there and it broke from a cup right to just outside the left edge.
And now I knew the pace was just about right, so as it was just getting to the hole, I wanted to see it break, and I could see it breaking, and I was just saying: Go on, keep going, keep going, break. It broke on the right left, and thankfully just got inside the left half and dropped very nice, as I said, to see the line on a putt when you’re under pressure like that. And that’s probably why I holed it.
Q: How long was that putt?
Padraig Harrington: It must have been 15 feet. Maybe 16, 17 feet. But around 15 feet.
Kelly Elbin: For the record, Padraig shot 66 in each of the final two rounds. He’s won three Majors now, all in the last six Major Championships played. Open it up for questions.
Q: Going back to 12, you said that you were talking about having to take that shot on. How far did you look at what other options you had?
Padraig Harrington: I didn’t. I knew the situation. I knew what I have to do. You get chances in a Major tournament on the back nine, and you’ve got to take them.
You’ve got to realize that, and I was in a situation that I got to take my chances. I knew I was playing catch-up somewhat, and those are the moments that change tournaments when you take shots on like that and they come off.
I’m a great believer in making it your own responsibility whether you win or you don’t win. So that’s why I took it on. I realized it was the same 5-wood that I hit to the 17th at Birkdale. And so, yeah, it was one of those shots that you like to have that responsibility in the final round. It’s all about that in a Major. It’s to get to the back nine in the last round and have the responsibility that it’s on your head whether you win or you don’t win. You take the shots and you take the responsibility.
Some days, it won’t go for you and you have to be prepared to handle that. But you got to be also prepared to take those shots on and take that responsibility and the consequences that go with it, whether you take it or not. But you’ve got to know, you’ve got to take them on on the back nine. You’re not going to win any other way.
Q: On Friday, you basically sounded like you were done. You pretty much said you didn’t have it. Did you at any time let yourself think that you were, or did you regroup that night? How did you get to this point from there?
Padraig Harrington: It’s a fascinating thing this week that I definitely didn’t have my golf swing. My coordination was out all week. Friday on the – I couldn’t – and on Thursday I couldn’t get to the clubhouse quick enough. My game was going downhill very quickly out on the golf course.
I think on the 17th hole, or the 8th hole of the golf course there, I hit it well into the compound on the right-hand side off the tee. It made my tee shot at the 18th at Carnoustie look straight.
And then on 9, I managed to hit it 40 yards left of the green with a 4-iron; and 40 yards, it was a good 40 yards left. So I just finished off with the biggest block-hook and the biggest pull-hook, and I felt tired.
Now when I went back and had a look at it, and had a discussion with my trainer at home; it was possible that I was dehydrated. And that’s what was the lack of coordination.
So it gave me something to focus on. I focused on Friday evening and Saturday, and all through Saturday and Sunday in rehydrating myself. And at least whether that was the cause or not, whether it was it might have been tiredness, as well.
But at least I had something tangible that I could actually pin it on and try and put some effort into it and give me the belief that if I can get my hydration right, basically my coordination would come back. And whether it was the answer or not, it certainly helped me focus on something, and that was the important part of it.
Q: You talked about your shots that you’re taking, that you’re putting on your shoulders and the Majors, more importantly, you’re making these shots, do you feel, you know, with the shot at the Open Championship to wrap it up, the shot today on 18, are you feeling like you’re ready to challenge for the world’s best golfer?
Padraig Harrington: Well, you know, that’s a nice question to ask. That’s one, I’m – it’s a good situation that you can ask that question. It’s a big step.
I’ve been, I have probably been the leading player in Europe for close to six years. And I probably still get asked, you know, am I the leading player in Europe. But it’s six years that I’ve probably maintained that arranging more or less. A couple of times, I might have lost it, but more or less for the close to six years.
It is a big step now to move up now and start competing on a different level. I’m world No. 2. I’ve got Phil; I’ve got Tiger ahead of me. I don’t necessarily pay attention to what they’re doing, I pay attention to more to what I’m doing. Do I believe I can improve as a player? Yes. I do believe I can improve as a player? There’s plenty of my game to improve.
There’s lots of stuff I can work on. And I am maturing as a player. I have always been throughout my career, I have been a learner in the game. I’ve always applied myself, looked for what would improve my game, found that, and worked on it to improve it and have improved it.
But it’s always taken some time. Many periods in my career, I’ve had lulls where I’ve been in between things, and come out stronger. I’m looking at this period as one of those that I am coming out stronger with experience and I’m putting a lot more things together. I’m making things happen on the golf course and applying myself.
It is a long way to catch Tiger at the top. But I know that the only way of focusing on doing that is focusing on me, what I’m doing, controlling what I can do; I can’t control Tiger or Phil. So just pay attention to what I’m doing and continually try and strive to improve. That’s the only thing I can ask of myself.
Kelly Elbin: For the record Padraig is also the first Irishman to ever win the PGA Championship.
Q: The way the draw worked out today, do you feel that events at Carnoustie last year gave you an edge? And were you engaged in the match-play situation toward the finish?
Padraig Harrington: My caddie warned me of that on 16. He says, “You can’t get into a match-play situation.” Up to that, yes, I was engaged in a match-play situation, because Sergio was in the lead, I was chasing.
I did tell myself all along that even when he had a three-shot lead or a two-shot lead, that it could be just one hole could change that around. So most of the time, I was trying to stay patient and hang in there, trying to take my chances. But I knew that there’s no question I had one eye on Sergio and had to be disciplined to try and not focus on him too much; to try and have him as a playing partner, rather than necessarily as a competitor on the day.
And it is difficult in that situation because you don’t want to necessarily get involved in somebody else’s game that you have no control over.
Q: Did you feel an edge?
Padraig Harrington: Did I feel an edge? I felt an edge in terms of my experience. I felt an edge in terms of my ability to take an opportunity when it comes around. I didn’t think I would be too sentimental to think that if there was going to be an edge, you would think, well, I won the last one, he should win the next one.
And I think that there was a certain amount of that from, you know, I think from the support out there, that there was quite a bit of I would say of you know, people saying, well, he’s got one; maybe it’s time for Sergio to have one.
Obviously, you know, you have get yourself away from that. You can’t – it’s bit like the Greg Norman story at Birkdale. It’s a great story, but you can’t let yourself get drawn into it, and you’ve got to do your own thing.
So probably not an edge because of Carnoustie, but an edge because I won at Carnoustie and I won at Birkdale.
Q: Couple of things there. When you’re not injured, when you’re not drained and when you feel good about your game, how many shots will you win a Major by?
Padraig Harrington: No, no, no. It doesn’t work like that. You did see my shot into 16 when things were comfortable. I actually struggle with things are comfortable. And I always – it’s something that I work with with Bob Rotella. I’m better off; I definitely have a little bit of the, I want to be fighting it.
And I want to be – and that’s why I have done well when things like this week when I’m not quite on my game. I’ve won many a tournament where I felt I wasn’t swinging as well as I could; and performed poorly sometimes when I felt I was swinging well.
So I’m a bit, a little bit of a contrast like that. But I’m getting better. As I said at The Open Championship I did it when I felt good about my game, and that was important to me.
Q: And can you tell us, do you think your game is at the stage now where perhaps opponent are intimidated by you when the pressure is this intense?
Padraig Harrington: I don’t know how other people are going to feel. I know I love the idea of the back nine of a Major on a Sunday. I love it so much that I’m actually disappointed I’m seven months away from the next Major, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.
And it is something that I have – I have struggled in the last – I’ve really focused hard on the Majors the last two years. My whole schedule is built around Majors. And definitely I’ve turned up at other events, and unless I get into contention, you know, sometimes it feels like a race; like a sprint. Whereas, a Major feels like a marathon. I feel like I can be patient and take my time. And I love the feeling of knowing that it’s going to come down to the back nine; it’s going to come down to who can do it under pressure in the last nine holes.
And that is an issue for me that I do have to play better when I feel confident about my game when in a normal week when I have plenty of good performances, but I really need a little bit of – I need the adrenaline. I need to either be in contention or have something up or something wrong in order to get that bit of excitement going in me.
Q: You’ve been on the 18th green two times now with Sergio, and you’ve come out the winner, and two very different reactions. I wonder if you could comment on his reaction today at the end of the round versus his reaction at Carnoustie.
Padraig Harrington: Well, you know, it was very evident at Carnoustie that when I won, I was so focused on what I was doing on me, the high of it; when I turned around, I saw Sergio and I could see the disappointment that there was somebody; that there was a loser that day.
You know, normally, I had no preparation for it. I had no concept of the fact that there was going to be a winner and a loser that day. And when I saw it in Sergio’s face, I could see the sheer disappointment. And today, my own emotions, I didn’t really notice. I was concentrating on Ben Curtis.
Yeah, I wasn’t as much into it today. I could see it clearly at Carnoustie but today it wasn’t the same. I think that maybe it got away from him at 16 or whatever. But I just didn’t – it wasn’t the same sort of feeling, anyway, on my behalf. I couldn’t tell you what he was thinking or feeling.
Q: Speaking about such commitment over the shot and such positive attitudes in this environment now, if we go back two years and you were trying to win your first Major, say, at Winged Foot, trying to close the deal, were you the same player in terms of commitment and attitude that you are now? And if you’re different, did it take winning at Carnoustie or something else to change that?
Padraig Harrington: I walked off the 18th hole, the 72nd hole at Winged Foot, Bob Rotella was there. And I said to Bob Rotella, I says, “Now I know I’ll win a Major.” So Winged Foot was pivotal.
Even though I finished with three bogeys, I played awesome for the first 15 holes at Winged Foot. I putted terrible. If I put the putting I had on today on the round at Winged Foot, I would have been so much better. As in, I played the golf; and sometimes I questioned whether I would play the golf in those situations.
Yeah, I’ve known in the past that the tougher things get, the more I’m going to hole putts; but I questioned whether I had the – whether I put the consistency on the game, and I did at Winged Foot. And it was there that I actually at Winged Foot, as much as I lost it, even though I had a great opportunity or a kind of an opportunity at Muirfield, I could never replicate Muirfield for so long, The Open Championship at Muirfield.
But Winged Foot was probably the first time I did replicate it, knew what I was doing, and felt like I could do it again, and again and again.
Yes, I lost. I was one of the losers at Winged Foot. There was a number of losers. And in many ways, I dodged a bullet because there was some more high-profile losers that day. People didn’t really know that Harrington bogeyed the last three holes and probably pushed too hard on the 17th hole, thinking that 4-over, I needed to get back after making my first bogey of the day, I think on the 16th.
But I walked away from that tournament knowing I could win a Major. And you’ve got to sometimes, you know, you got to lose them to know that you can win them. I’ve always been that sort of guy that I’ve got to put myself in the position and learn from it and understand it before I actually go and do it. And that’s what I did.
Winged Foot is pivotal in terms of my belief in my ability to go on and win Majors.
Q: Can you walk us through what you heard and what you saw when he hit that approach shot on 15 that got spit back out, and whether you had any Carnoustie flashbacks at that point? And then secondly, does any part of you as a sports fan feel sorry for Sergio?
Padraig Harrington: I think that as a sports fan, you’re always going to feel sorry for the guy who finishes second. That’s human nature.
As a professional golfer, as a fellow professional golfer, of course I feel sorry. There’s enormous pressure on his shoulders. On the golf course, as a competitor on the golf course, no. I’m focused on what I’m doing.
But as a fellow professional, yes, as a sports fan, yes, but not as a competitor. You can have – you can play your golf, and that’s it. You can’t let any emotions get in the way when you’re on the golf course.
You know what? The shot on 15, I can’t – I did, when he did hit the flag, I did think back to the shot on 16 that hit the flag in the playoff. But I was very pleased that I stuck to my guns and hit a really nice shot in there after him. Didn’t panic. I looked at that pin the day before, and realized that the best place to putt at the flag was from about 10, 15 feet right of the hole. And it was very pleasing that I was able to follow-up his shot and hit a very determined – probably one of my best iron shots of the day I hit there.
And that’s important and gave me the confidence – obviously both of us would have liked to holed our putts and moved away from Ben Curtis. It would have suited both of us if both of us holed, but both of us missed, and obviously kept the door open for everybody else.
Kelly Elbin: Padraig Harrington, the Wanamaker Trophy is yours as the 90th PGA Champion. Thank you.