A Conversation with Paddy

By Casey BiererJanuary 22, 2009, 5:00 pm

Editors Note: Golf Channel reporter Casey Bierer recently sat down with Padraig Harrington in Dublin, Ireland for this interview. Since the interview, Padraig was named PGA Tour Player of the Year, European Golfer of the Year, and on Wednesday he picked up yet another accolade as he was named the 'Irish Independent's' Player of the Year.
Casey: Padraig, you recently made an exciting announcement regarding your relationship with Wilson Golf.
Padraig: Weve announced that were re-signing going into the future with Wilson Golf. Its great for me and great for Wilson. It shows their faith in me. Ive won three majors with them and am really looking forward to continuing on and hopefully winning more majors in the next number of years. And its certainly one variable that I didnt want to change. I trust them and what theyve done. Wilson has won 61 majors with their irons and over 80 majors with their wedges. So, they are a quality company that knows how to produce winning clubs and I am very happy to be with Wilson Golf.
Casey: Well, congratulations on re-signing with Wilson. Now, lets talk about the wild ride that is Padraig Harringtons career and life. Pretty big stuff going on for you, right?
Padraig: It is, I suppose, a dream come true to win three majors so quickly. In the last two, two and a half, three years Ive been thinking, yeah, I can go and win a major. I believed in myself more in those years; believed that I would do it. Winning at Carnoustie was a dream come-true, yes, but I felt that if it wasnt there it was going to happen at another major. But to win that one and then come back this year and win two so quickly, thats very special -- and certainly unforeseen. And I dont know where it leads to if you know what I mean. I know I can get myself in to contention, I know I can get myself in to the right place, I know Im getting better as a player so I do believe over time I will win more majors.

Padraig Harrington
Harrington hoists the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 90th PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. (Getty Images)

Casey: How did you develop as a player to get to the professional ranks?
Padraig: Thats an interesting question in itself that if you have to ask, its obvious that maybe at 15 or 16 years of age I wasnt tipped to be the next great star. You know, I started off as a kid. My father was a founding member of a golf club in Dublin. I started playing there when I was four years of age. As in, I just hung out there. It was my playground. I played all sports up until I was about 15 years of age and then I started taking golf as my number one sport. But it wasnt an automatic thing for me to become a professional. Far from it.
Casey: But, eventually, you must have known how good you were because you made the decision to turn pro, right?
Padraig:When I was 18 years of age I went to college to study accountancy. I had no idea. I had no thought of being a professional golfer at that stage. I wanted to be involved in the golf industry as a, you know, in the manufacturing area or managing a golf course, maybe in player management. But, I decided to turn pro because I was beating the other guys who were turning pro. I didnt think I was good enough but if could beat them and they thought they were good enough, well, Id give it a go.

Casey: Who were some of the early positive influences on your golf career?
Padraig: I think my family influenced me most as a junior golfer. My father was a low handicap golfer. My two oldest brothers were very low handicap golfers. A have another brother whos like a, well, hes actually a scratch golfer stuck in the body of a 7-handicapper because he can talk a good game. But, there has always been a lot of interest in the game in our family. And my dad, when he retired as a policeman, he spent a lot of time with me working on my game. Not my swing, mind you, but the game itself. Learning how to score as a youngster, that was very valuable.
Casey: What players have you watched closely? Maybe theyve influenced you in some way?
Padraig: Im very aware of this, actually. And I would have said somebody like Bernhard Langer would be the guy for me because I admired most in him what I wanted. Meaning, he was probably the professionals professional. Hes the guy who seemed to get the most out of his golf. But then other then Bernhard, I have to say Tom Watson. At Birkdale, hes the only guy I stopped to watch. He came out and he was hitting shots in the spot behind me on the range. You couldnt believe how well he hit the golf ball. He just had it on a string. I was trying to hit shots but every couple of minutes Id stand back and just pretend I was cleaning my clubs and Id be watching him hit it. He was so pure. It was unbelievable how well he had that ball under control. I dont think anybody could have hit it as well as he was hitting it that day. It was phenomenal to watch. There are very few people that can stop another professional golfer but he is one that players stop and watch. He certainly has had it over the years and I have admired him and watched him play closely.

Casey: I asked Tom Watson a few years ago if he had a swing key he relied on in pressure situations.
Padraig: (smiles) This I am waiting to hear the answer to. What did he tell you?
Casey: He said spine angle. He told me that if he maintains a consistent spine angle all throughout his swing, he knows he will hit it solid. So, do you have a swing key you rely on?
Padraig: Keys for myself? Believe it or not, no. No. If I want to hit a shot under pressure all I think about is where I want to hit it to. I have no physical key, its just a pure mental thought. Where do I want to hit it to? I think of my target and go with that. I trust that. I think the key for me is I accept the outcome before I hit whether its good or bad.

Casey: Ive been told you are a great observer. What does that mean?
Padraig: Ive always had the ability to watch other people and see what makes them tick. I looked at everybodys game and I said, well, if hes beating me, why is he beating me? Well, hes a better iron player than me. But, if I can beat him at his iron play that means Ill be better than him. And I just continually kept copying whats best around me. And I continue to do that as a pro. If I see somebody whos got a better short game than me that makes me want to practice my short game. If I see someone whos a better putter than me I want to go practice my putting to make it better than him.
Casey: You obviously work very closely with your caddie. How did your brother-in-law, Ronan, become your caddie?
Padraig: I married in first. Ronan married in second. Were both married to sisters. But, we grew up at the same golf club. Hes the younger brother of somebody who was one of my best friends as I grew up. And, after I went to the Tour and things like that, when he started dating the sister of my wife, I got to know him better. And he took up the job temporarily. He was going to do it for a couple of months as I was in between caddies. And it worked out so well that he stuck on the bag and it really has worked out well. He works hard. He does his job on the golf course. But the minute that bag goes in the boot of the car in the evening time, thats it. Thats the end of the caddying relationship. Hes my friend. And its wonderful to have a good friend to go out to dinner with and do stuff with. I dont sit in my room after the golf and do nothing.
Casey: No sulking.
Padraig: No sulking. Its great to have somebody there with me. My family travel all through the summer, but, its great to have somebody with me when my family isnt there that can make sure I dont get in to that sort of brooding frame of mind which is so easy to do if you are by yourself all the time.
Casey: We all remember your 2007 campaign at Carnoustie. Will you describe for us the range of emotions you experienced during the final hole in regulation of that Open Championship?
Padraig: Gosh, yeah. Ive hit the ball so well that day. I just walk on to that 18th tee and Im thinking Im going to just rip this driver down thereI was just so confident. I hadnt missed a shot. I had driven the ball as well as I had ever driven it. I get on the tee. Im really happy. I pick out a target and off I go. As Im in mid-swing, theres a little bit right to left wind and I think to myself, dont draw it on the winda little bit distractedand you know, sure enough, I always succeed in what I want to do and I didnt draw it on the wind. I hit a big, big block right. I accepted the fact that I had hit a bad shot and I walked after it. I knew it wasnt the end of the world, that I could still win the Open from there. I went down and dropped it out of the hazard. I probably made my first error in that I seemed to have dropped the ball in to the grain of the grass. I dropped it in the first cut of rough. I probably should have gone back farther and dropped it in the fairway. But, I was still confident. At 229 yards, downwind off the right with out of bounds left, and I cant miss it right. Im trying to hit it to the front left hand corner. I caught the grass coming into it, essentially, it came out heavy and obviously came up short left in the hazard. I was devastated. I thought Id lost the Open. I thought Id thrown it away. I was embarrassed which is even worse. The worst feeling you can ever have is being embarrassed on the golf course. I thought I choked. I felt I really let everybody down. I was spiraling. All those thoughts were going through my head. I was spiraling downhill. But thankfully, my caddie Ronan, he had the wherewithal and the discipline to go through what he would normally go through and he started talking to me. After about 50 yards I started to listen. After about 150 yards he had me convinced. And by the time I got to the ball I was back in the zone.

Casey: What was Ronan telling you?
Padraig: He came out with the standard clichs all the way up there but he kept hitting me with those clichs. He kept going and going and going. And afterward I asked him about it. I said, you know, it was unbelievable what you said to me all the way through there. You really stuck to your guns. What were you thinking about? And he says, I was thinking I cant believe wed lost the Open, but he never let on to that and he didnt say it quite politely as that either. But, he never led onto the fact. He stayed as if, well, he stayed as neutral. His perception to me was as neutral as could be. He never looked down about it and without a doubt he brought me back from the abyss. I hit that pitch shot like I was kid showing off when I was 15 years of age. I just wanted to hit it in there and spin it back and do all the things a kid would do. Obviously, I hit that. And then , the five foot putt was a tough putt because the read was very difficult. It was a strange cut in the hole there. And to knock that in was a nice, solid, satisfying thing. I was satisfied with myself and then I looked at the leader board which I hadnt watched all day. And again, I started to regress in to the, Ive just lost the Open Championship. I turn around to walk off the green and Im going downhill. And my son, whos running on to the green, and he has this great big smile, he just looked at me like I was the champion. And from that moment on I believed, I convinced myself, I had just won the Open and I wasnt going to let it go. Even though it wasnt even in my hands at that stage. I walked off the green believing I had just won the Open or was going to win the Open. And, you know, I can get my son to run on to any green again when I three putt but it wont work. It just happened to work that day.

Casey: The conversation of Jack versus Tiger comes up a lot. Do you come down on one side versus the otherJack versus Tiger.
Padraig: Well, I think Tiger wants to go and beat Jacks record and when he does that then I think its easier to have the conversation. Tiger is potentially the greatest golfer ever in the game of golf. I think Jack, what he did in the game, was unbelievable. Jack is a great champion and the best champion in the game up to now. Tiger may well surpass him and if he does, well, well have to put Tiger at that level. But I think the majors are what we use as a yard stick to judge it and Tiger does look like hell make it and he looks like hell make it comfortably. But, if Tiger does surpass Jacks majors, well, someone will beat Tigers record some day. Its gonna happen. Its the natural order of events in all sports. Sportsmen just keep getting better and better and better.
Casey: Do you think that Colin Montgomerie will get, or should get, into the World Golf Hall of Fame?
Padraig: I believe he should. Theres no question Colin has, from a European stand point, added greatly to the game of golf. Hes added to the stature of the game in Europe and in Britain and Ireland itself as well. So, yeah, I believe hes deserving of the Hall of Fame. Hes won so many tournaments around the world. Hes performed so well in the Ryder Cup. I think hes very deserving of it. If it was my vote Id give him a yes.
Casey: You would be considered a shoe-in for the World Golf Hall of Fame at this point, right?
Padraig: Do you think its likely? (laughs) Really?
Casey: Do you let yourself think about it?
Padraig: Seriously, no. I dont even let myself think about the three majors that much. I consider myself a current player. I look at myself as somebody who is looking to improve his game, somebody whos going to move forward and try and win more tournaments and more major tournaments. I believe the minute you sit back and start thinking about what youve achieved and you start comparing it to others is the minute youre starting to retire.

Padraig Harrington British Open
Harrington celebrates with his wife, son, and caddie Ronan at Royal Birkdale after his 2nd Open Championship victory. (Getty Images)
Casey: Alright, Padraig, lets play a little game. I say a word and you give me a one word answer back. The first word is golf
Padraig: Fun
Casey: Winning?
Padraig: Fun
Casey: Majors?
Padraig: Determination
Casey: Ryder Cup?
Padraig: Team
Casey: Tiger?
Padraig: Champion
Casey: Padraig Harrington?
Padraig: Thats one word? (laughs) Im meant to respond to that? Eh, ehdetermined.
Casey: Ireland
Padraig: Beautiful
Casey: Family
Padraig: Home
Casey: Last question, Padraig. You lost your dad in 2005. What would he think of all your recent success?
Padraig: God, yeah, you caught me a bit there. I dont think he needed me to win majors. Geez, you really have caught me here. He didnt need me to do anything in the game of golf. He never put me under any pressure. You really have got me. I wasnt prepared for this (pause). He never put me under any pressure. He was comfortable with who I was. He had his own career in sports so he never lived his life through me. I never felt under any stress to do anything. And I think while he enjoyed me winning ' and he really did enjoy me winning ' he didnt need to be around for the majors. The majors wouldnt have changed anything between him and me.
Casey: Padraig, youre a great champion and a gentleman. Were lucky to have you in the game. Thanks for your time.
Padraig: You kept your best question for last, Casey

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."