A Conversation with Paddy

RSS

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
 

Email your thoughts to Casey Bierer