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Padraig Ready for Rowdy Phoenix Open
Padraig Harrington has had his eye on playing the Waste Management Phoenix Open for years, but the Irishman has never been able to fit the tournament on his schedule. But the three-time major champion is in Arizona this week for the $6.2 million event, which starts Thursday at TPC Scottsdale.
The 41-year-old Dubliner is also making his 2013 American debut with a different look. Despite 20/20 vision, Harrington will be wearing prescription glasses. He's not sure how long the experiment will last, though.
"Well, I wore this pair for about two hours at Durban (South Africa) before they got the sack, and I have another pair this week that I've been wearing, and they've managed all the way through my practice round up until I started hitting wedges on the range, and I could have been sowing potatoes after a while in the divots I was taking," he said during a media session on Tuesday.
"I don't know if those glasses will make it. Basically I have 20/20 vision without glasses. These obviously improve my vision and just make - obviously reduce a bit of fatigue. They haven't really changed anything else, the glasses. They don't make me read the greens any different. This pair would, but not any different. I over-read a lot.
"The likelihood is you won't see the glasses, but I'll probably wear them just for fatigue and that," added Harrington, who's had four laser eye surgeries. "My eyes are probably a bit dry for contact lenses at this stage, but obviously it worked on other things about focus, and I changed my routine with them and stuff like that.
"It's kind of the way these days - you know, you're looking for specialists in every area of the game, whether it's short-game specialists, putting, long game coach, psychology, everything is par for the modern game, and this is just another - I suppose another little addition. We'll wait and see how it goes. But certainly I didn't putt very well last year, and I needed to do something about it. So far, so good."
Harrington is looking forward to playing in front of the massive galleries at TPC Scottsdale, a place that hosts upwards of 500,000 attendees during the four days of the tournament. He's already got an idea of what he'll do in case he aces the especially rowdy 16th hole where the fans loudly react - both positively and negatively - at tee shots on the par-3.
"I'm thinking about pulling a shirt over my head and running down to the green if I hole-out," the Irishman joked. "That's a soccer celebration, and with my six-pack and everything, it would look perfect. All I remember is Henrik Stenson got grief for his physique when he obviously stripped down to his boxer shorts, so I now realize no professional golfer should ever do that again. If he's getting grief, the rest of us are in a lot of trouble."
Here's what else Harrington told reporters about the state of his game and what it feels like to be playing for the first time in the Phoenix Open.
MODERATOR: We welcome three time major championship winner Padraig Harrington to the interview room. First start on the 2013 PGA Tour, first appearance ever at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Your initial impressions and a few comments about coming here.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, there's no doubt this tournament, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, is a tournament that you have to go and play it sometime in your career, and I've looked at it over the years, and it's never quite fit the schedule but I've always wanted to come and see what it's like in person, so delighted to be here this time. I'm looking forward to a nice week on the golf course, and obviously enjoying the week. I think it is one of those fun weeks in golf, and we do need them in golf. We need variation. It can't all be the same every week, and it's nice that there is going to be an interesting atmosphere around this event.
MODERATOR: Your initial impressions of the golf course.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I played nine holes today. It's a good test of golf. Greens are really nice. It's probably not quite what I expected. Obviously I knew I was coming to a desert golf course, and the front nine doesn't quite look like that most of the time. There's quite a lot of trees in the desert. It kind of plays and looks like a regular tree lined course, but obviously if you do go into that desert, it doesn't seem to stop running into it and finishes in a cactus.
Q. What's the state of your game right now? How are you feeling?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I wish I knew. Yeah, I'm quietly confident going forward. I don't know exactly what that means for this week, but in the weeks ahead, I'm very comfortable with where things are at. I felt I played nicely last year. I think I finished 13th in the stroke average putting badly, so I did quite a bit of work during the winter. I always do quite a bit of work. But I focused a little bit more on my putting, and certainly if the first two weeks are anything to go by, it was in good stead.
If I can play, swing and hit the golf ball like I did last year and putt like I did in those two events, things are looking good for me. You never know, though, but certainly I'm optimistic. But you're always optimistic at the start of the year. It's all ahead of you at the start of the year. It's only when you get halfway through that it sets in.
Q. Did you make more changes than usual in the off season or less?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't know if - I think the only - nothing different than in past years. There was a few things, yes. I worked on the long game, but probably most of the changes I did in the off season were more on routines. I changed my putting routine and changed a few things around in my putting. That was probably the biggest thing. And also did some changes on my long game routine.
It was more to do with the good stuff, I suppose, during the winter. As I said, I was pretty comfortable with how I hit the golf ball last year, and most of my mistakes I thought were more mental than anything else. It was a question of doing some work on that. While I'm happy with where I stand at the moment, it still wouldn't be bedded in at the moment. It's not natural, some of the changes I've made. So there's still a little bit of conscious talk going on, and that's why I'm out here weeks like this. You're just trying to get a few more tournaments in so that you can make it more - get it more into the subconscious and make it a little easier.
Q. Being a member of two tours, you've spoken often during the years about how there's so many tournaments to play each year on both -
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: So many great tournaments, yeah. There's just a lot of choice nowadays.
Q. How difficult was the decision to come here?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, as I said earlier, I really have watched this tournament on TV, and I really appreciate what they've done here, and I feel like it was always an event I wanted to come and see and play myself. I'm a great believer that we have a lot of golf tournaments and a lot of golf tournaments that try and be - hold them out to be something, and it's nice to have variation. It's nice to come here and very much they celebrate the spectators this week, and that's a nice thing.
It's a great thing when you see golf tournaments that they get a little niche. It's very important in this day that all the golf tournaments can't be the same, and it's important that each tournament has to find a little niche in the market to try to strive themselves different. Obviously the Waste Management Phoenix Open has done that with their spectators. They created a completely unique event in golf, and that's a great thing. So that's why I'm here, because of that.
Plus I like the - I really do like AT&T and Riviera coming up, Northern Trust Riviera, and I always feel when I get to these events, I always feel like I wish I played a little bit more coming into it, I wish I had one more tournament under my belt. This year it was an opportunity, and if I played in Dubai, and I was considering playing in Dubai, it was a 20 hour flight to get into AT&T. As I'm defending in the pro am in the AT&T, I felt a 20 hour flight was not a great idea.
Q. Going into 2011, it seemed like your changes in the winter were more expansive than normally.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I've been trying to explain this at home, and I kind of got to grips with it maybe last year. I've made no more changes. Every year I make changes. Every year. It's what gets me out of my bed. I'd have given up this game a long time ago if I was just trying to stay still. Every year I'm trying to figure out how to get better. Every day I'm trying to figure it out, every year I'm trying to figure it out. Change in 2007 and 2008 and other years, I was just higher profile and people kept asking me about changes. I just kept changing; that's what I do, and I'll keep changing. The only thing I know is to keep evolving and keep changing.
Everybody else's perception of me changed after 2008, and certainly it put a lot of pressure on me when people kept asking questions about changing, changing, changing. I changed between 2007 and 2008. I won in 2007 hitting a draw all the time, I won in 2008 hitting a fade predominantly. I make big changes all the time. This year I started working with some eye people during the winter, last year I started working with Dave Alred. Every year I'll find something between now and the end of the season to change during the off period. I won't necessarily do it in season, but I'll find something this year that I think, you know what, I could be a bit better at that, and I'll go and work on it.
You know, I wouldn't say monumental - like I did change coaches about 18 months ago to Pete Cowan, that was a big change, but it fit in nicely. The change when I went to Bob Torrance in '99, I went from 8th in the Order of Merit to 30 something that year, I did take a big step forwards. Bear in mind when I turned pro in '96, all I ever did as an amateur is hit a pull cut off the tee, and I was quite short. By the time I made it through Tour school, they had an orientation week on the European Tour in January, and from January to the tournament, maybe a month later, I went from hitting a pull-cut to hitting a big huge draw and hit it about 40 yards further and was really happy. I hit a big sling hook. That's just who I am. I'll keep evolving and try to find something new. The good thing with this winter is maybe some of the things I was working on this winter, because I was more comfortable with my golf swing last year, the things I worked on this winter probably a bit more constructive in terms of getting value out of them, as in I spent a lot of time on my putting, and I spent a good bit of time on my routines, as well.
Q. It seems you play a lot of desert courses. Do you like desert golf?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I like golf. To be honest, if they were playing for $6 million out there on a runway out there at the airport, I'd still tee it up. But I do, I do like - it's amazing how much easier, like out on the range today I started hitting golf balls. It's amazing how much easier it is to hit golf balls here than even a nice day at home at the moment. You're hitting a wedge and it's going 100 yards. Like here you're out on the golf course and you hit pitching wedge and you've got 135 yards. The ball just flies better. It just flies easier. You mis hit it slightly at home, and it squirrels off into the rubbish on the right and moves 20, 30 yards in the air, here it moves five yards. It's just easier to play golf in the desert.
And at this time of the year, it's ideal for all the players. This is one of the big things with the Middle East Swing and Europe, it's ideal when your game is not quite right. This is a perfect place for working on your golf swing in these conditions. It's ideal. As much as we'd like to turn up and play well every week, if you don't play well in the desert, there's perfect practice conditions, as there is out here. There's a number of tee boxes, there's chipping greens everywhere, there's a lot of areas to work on your game. These are perfect golf courses to come to at this time of the year when you're trying to get your game in shape for the year, and the bonus is if you play well, you're playing in a big event.
Q. Saturday is the big day here -
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I hear they're putting green on for the Irish fellas. There you go. Had they told me before, I would have turned up earlier.
Q. When you get to 16 on Saturday are you going to pull anything out of your golf bag for the fans or is that a closely guarded secret?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It'll absolutely be a closely guarded I'm thinking about pulling a shirt over my head and running down to the green if I hole-out. That's a soccer celebration, and with my six-pack and everything, it would look perfect. All I remember is Henrik Stenson got grief for his physique when he obviously stripped down to his boxer shorts, so I now realize no professional golfer should ever do that again. If he's getting grief, the rest of us are in a lot of trouble.
Q. How much did it hurt not playing in the Ryder Cup, and how much is it a motivation going forward?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I would be motivated full stop. Obviously it's very disappointing when you miss out on something like that. I watched Friday and Saturday, and I'm sure I sat there and watched it and I second guessed a lot of it and said, oh, if I was there or what's happening there, and on Sunday with the way it went, it was just unbelievable watching. I got totally drawn into it on the Sunday, and it was incredible how much even sitting in your sitting room at home, the atmosphere was so exciting watching it. Yeah, there was a good part of me that wished I was there, no doubt about it. But I think the way it happened, in that moment you were just enjoying that moment and you weren't really reflecting on it.
I think on the Friday and Saturday I was certainly, oh, why didn't I play better, why wasn't I in the team. On Sunday I was just wholeheartedly behind the team rooting and getting into it. Afterwards, yeah, you look at it and say, it's a missed opportunity, you want to get there again. And I realized one of the big reasons I didn't make it, it's tough to make any Ryder Cup team both in the U.S. or in Europe, and I didn't play - I only got a chance of making it on the World Ranking points with the schedule I keep, and I didn't play I think the seven biggest events, the seven events I didn't play that basically give you points for turning up, and I wasn't in any of those.
I realized in order to make it easier you have to be in those events, and to get into those events I need to play well this year before the qualifying so that I'm in the likes of HSBC and China, I'm in the likes of either Sun City or Tiger's event, I'm in the two Match Plays, all the events that it's actually easy to pick up points in because you're guaranteed when you pick it up. I wasn't in any of those last year, and it put a huge amount of pressure on my game because two or three guys are going to have exceptional years, win big points, and then you're really only playing for one or two spots, and you've got to gather those points in events like the Match Plays where you're given points when you turn up, really.
Q. Having Paul as the next captain, how much does that increase the determination?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I was determined full stop. I think having Paul as the next captain, I don't think it motivates me more to get in the team. I'm absolutely delighted for him. I'm fully motivated to get in the team full stop. I played World Cups with Paul, I've known him for a long time. It would be fantastic. It's going to be fantastic having him as a Ryder Cup captain. It would be fantastic to be in the Ryder Cup no matter who was captaining the team. Probably it does make it more special, yeah, no doubt about it. But I'm as motivated as it gets. Once you get to saturation point you can't add any more in, so I'm already in. I want to be in that Ryder Cup team.
Q. You've played on many winning Ryder Cup teams including playing for Monty in 2010 at Celtic Manor. What do you make of McGinley as a leader, having known him for as long as you have known him?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I said this at home: Paul is a strange character playing professional golf. Professional golf is obviously anybody involved in it, it's one of the most selfish games that you can play. It's an individual sport, and we play in it for a long number of years, and it's all about managing ourselves. Paul McGinley loves team golf, loves teams full stop.
He's always been more of a team player than anything else. Throughout the years, for him the World Cup was such a big deal, the Vivendi Trophy, the Ryder Cup, but also football when he played as a kid. It was all about teams for him. He's probably sacrificed the last three years of his playing career and the next 18 months of his playing career for the Ryder Cup. It's been all about the team for him. It's unique amongst professional golfers, as I said, because most of us you do need a team grounding as a kid in order to have some balance, but then you play a selfish individual game for 25 years, the teams just tend to go out the window. But for him his whole focus has been on teams. It's a big deal for him, no doubt about it.
He's an interesting guy because he's a real fighter, and he's quite an organized person when it comes to teams. He'll be trying to manage the team and take control of a lot of things it would seem, kind of like a Bernhard Langer, but he also has a - he has a little guy syndrome. He's a little fella, and he likes to fight. He really has that little bit from his football days. He's got it inside him and will lead the team well in that respect as well as being organized. There's two good sides to him in that part.
Q. You mentioned working on something in the off season and said you were working with an eye specialist. Obviously you're wearing glasses right now. What did they find, and will you be wearing glasses on the course?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I wore this pair for about two hours at Durban before they got the sack, and I have another pair this week that I've been wearing, and they've managed all the way through my practice round up until I started hitting wedges on the range, and I could have been sowing potatoes after a while in the divots I was taking. I don't know if those glasses will make it. Basically I have 20/20 vision without glasses. These obviously improve my vision and just make - obviously reduce a bit of fatigue. They haven't really changed anything else, the glasses. They don't make me read the greens any different. This pair would, but not any different. I over-read a lot.
The likelihood is you won't see the glasses, but I'll probably wear them just for fatigue and that. My eyes are probably a bit dry for contact lenses at this stage, but obviously it worked on other things about focus, and I changed my routine with them and stuff like that. It's kind of the way these days - you know, you're looking for specialists in every area of the game, whether it's short game specialists, putting, long game coach, psychology, everything is par for the modern game, and this is just another - I suppose another little addition. We'll wait and see how it goes. But certainly I didn't putt very well last year, and I needed to do something about it. So far, so good.
Q. Even though it was only a four man event, what was the importance of winning the Grand Slam?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: It's always nice to win. You know, the winning feeling is the same no matter where you play and how you're playing. You're trying to - you're coming down the stretch and you're trying to hold on to a lead but you're also trying to go forward. All those experiences, whether you've got 155 guys chasing you or you've got three guys chasing you, it's the same thing in the last nine holes. Yeah, it was a nice feeling. It's nice to know - and I holed a couple of crucial putts at the right time, which you always do when you win.
I'd like to say I felt good in that position, being in with a chance to win, and I handled that very well in the sense that I hadn't been there in a while. As I always say, the key is to get yourself in with a chance to win, and I responded well to that, so I look forward to giving myself a few more chances. I hadn't forgotten how to win let's say, which is a nice thing.
Q. How did you make the determination that the eyesight was the problem with the putting?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, I lost my confidence in reading the greens essentially. So it was pretty easy to figure out that it was my eyesight that was giving me - I really did lose my confidence last year. That was essentially it. I second guessed a lot of reads, and ultimately then hit a lot of tentative putts. I spent a good bit of the season working on my putting stroke, trying to fix the tentative putts, but the tentative putts were really coming from just my lack of commitment and doubt of my reading of the greens rather than anything else. I was thinking, and I briefly had a conversation with the people who work with Ernie Els January last year, but I was doing other things and didn't feel like - I didn't want to put something else into the mix at the time. And I was considering going back this winter to - well, I needed to do something, and then there was a group based in Northern Ireland who came to my attention, and obviously being closer to home, they were easier to work with.
Q. And are these the ones that did the surgery?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I've had four laser surgeries, and as I said, I have 20/20 vision. I was laughing in Abu Dhabi with the light there, guys in my playing group with no glasses I could see the golf balls landing and nobody else could. I'm perfectly fine in terms of what I can see. These make it better, but really I have astigmatism like a lot of people. I grew up with a bias to reading putts right to left, so if I saw an eight foot putt that was straight, as a kid, I'd aim right half. That's where I would see it.
For the last number of years, if I saw that same eight footer, I'd actually look at it left half. Now, that's just how your eyes have how my eyes have changed. I was used to it for 20 years of my life having a right to left bias, now I have a little bit of a left to right bias, and it's been a little it's just something that I suppose if I grown up that way, it would be fine, but my eyes changed that way, so in fairness I have a left to right bias, and I just have to work on it and get on with it.
Q. The people in Northern Ireland, are they the same as Sherylle Calder's group?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No, that's totally different. This is a different group altogether. They work in a number of sports, so they would be - I have no idea what Sherylle's - I didn't get into detail with what they do, but I'm sure it's a similar thing in terms of eye exercises.
You know, I've touched on these before, I've read books on it and looked at it, but this is - it's easier when you have somebody else organizing it for you and managing it sort of thing, and certainly I'll be interested to see how it goes. So far, so good. As I said, a couple of good weeks down the first couple of weeks, and we'll have to wait and see. But certainly I could have putted better in a few tournaments last year and it would have made a big difference. We'll see if it's - I think it's explained very nicely, your eyes just change over time, so I'm just working very hard to get them back to where they were.
Q. Does Ronan help you read putts at all?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: If you see me ask Ronan to read a putt, it's not a good sign. He actually had laser surgery during the winter. He was really blind before that. Now he's got good eyesight. But it doesn't matter - the problem I will ask my caddie to read a putt if we average once a round, but it means I have doubted the read, and essentially anybody - the best way to read a putt is get in there, read it and believe in it, as Bob Rotella - it's far more important to be committed to your line than to be right, and when you ask somebody else for instruction on reading the greens, their pace - everything they do, as much as Ronan, he can help, it's just not a good sign when you start relying on your caddie. You're really not taking responsibility in that situation for what you see.
Yes, once in a blue moon, but it's not a good day when you start asking your caddie. As I said, you're abdicating your responsibility. We're professional golfers; we should know what we're doing at this stage. Yes, I will ask him once or twice when I get distracted or lose my way I will ask him, but not as a regular deal.
You guys don't play snooker, but it's like snooker; nobody can tell you the shot to hit, you have to see it. It's always second best when you're asking somebody else. The absolute best way is to have 100 percent confidence. If you have 100 percent confidence in your caddie, maybe that's - I suppose I do, but at the end of the day, his perception of a firm putt right lip or an easy putt outside the hole, we all see things a little bit different. So best thing is to trust your own reading of the greens and be able to commit to it and go with it, which I was sorely lacking last year. I was really bad last year. I was just so bad.
Q. What's your measure of a good year, and have you ever gotten to the point in your career where you got worried about a year?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: No. You know, winning is the ultimate measure, but there are secondary goals, playing well, playing consistent, playing solid, getting yourself in contention a lot, because winning is obviously a result, and sometimes you can do everything right and not quite get there. But there's no doubt, in terms of outside pressure and people - outside judgment, most people would judge you purely based on whether you won or not, so in that sense, you could miss nine cuts and win a tournament, and it goes - if I - hopefully not, but if I miss - say I play 20 times on the Tour over here and I miss 18 cuts and win twice, I'll have 18 Friday evenings where I'll be a sorry person to be having dinner with. I'll have two great weeks. So in terms of the year, I'll have 18 lows and two highs, which would be pretty miserable. But in two years' time, all I'll remember is the two wins, and my record will remember the two wins.
As much as we try, we spend all our time trying to be consistent, it's the inconsistent wins that are probably the most important thing. Yeah, I would put down wins - especially for me, as well, like when I finish up, they will always go for me at the moment, well, he won three majors. Hopefully when I finish up they won't say he won three majors. He won eight majors. (Laughter.) And he won 40 events. So my CV will always start with that, so that's - it won't go down, he made 20 cuts in 2013 or something like that, as much as it's a measure of consistency. It's not a long term measure of us. Winning is the most important thing.
Q. Players from time to time over the course of years change equipment, yet you've remained pretty loyal to Wilson. Why has that been the case? Why have you stuck with them, they've stuck with you?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: There's lots of reasons for changing equipment at different times. But whatever equipment you have, you've got to have absolute belief in it. You've got to believe you have the very best equipment at your disposal. I've been very lucky in that sense. Wilson have won the most amount of majors, their irons have won the most amount of majors. They make a superb iron. They're very focused on their players. They have small number of players, and so that means if any one of us goes to them and says, we'd like this, they can actually do it.
They can actually move production and make sure that the club is focused on their players. So they will move mountains for me and do anything I want necessarily, so they tend to produce the club - they produce a great iron, but they tend to produce an iron that the player likes first and then sell it to the public rather than necessarily producing a club that the public likes and trying to make us play it. They concentrate on the Tour player because they know that's where they're at. As I said, they have the most majors won by any iron brand in the game.
Luckily on top of that I've got the freedom to play - I play Titleist Pro V1x, the best ball in the game, no doubt about it, which is a great variability for me, to be able to put that ball into play. You know, that's the great thing, great thing for me. I have enough maneuverability and Wilson have always allowed that with the ball and things like that, so it gives me the advantage that I have. I feel like I tee up there with the best equipment you can have.
But every player has got to feel that way. You can't stand on the tee box thinking you can give away anything. It's tough out here to win. You don't want to give up one inch, so you've got to have that belief, and as I said, Wilson and Titleist, what two better brands could you ask for? I'm pretty happy when I tee it up that I've got the equipment to go out there and win tournaments.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Padraig. Good luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.