Padraigs pre tournament interview courtesy of Europeantour.com
On the eve of his title defence at The Irish Open, Padraig Harrington reflected upon the importance of his victory 12 months ago.
The 36 year old cannot stress how important his victory at the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort last season was in the grand scheme of a season that saw him add The Open Championship to his Irish Open crown.
Harrington took a huge mental step to overcome all of the distractions attached to being Ireland’s Number One player trying end the 25 year wait for a home winner of The Irish Open last season.
“You couldn't underestimate how important winning here was in terms of going onto win at Carnoustie,” said Harrington as he put the final touches to his title defence preparations.
“It did give me a lot of self confidence winning here, kind of against the run of things in terms of, you know, preparation and things. It told me that I could go and win a tournament under a lot of focus, a lot of pressure, a lot of distress and a lot of distraction and that gives you a lot confidence when you can come through something like that.
“I was so confident afterwards that I that if anything, I was over trying, and it was only when The Open came around at the right time where I kind of had got away from the Irish Open, still had that element of self confidence, but wasn't losing my patience.
“I felt comfortable all week last year. Once the tournament started I was very happy with my game, and I think I started nicely and just felt assured that I would be in the mix at the end of the week.
“As the tournament progressed, I felt comfortable that, you know, I was going to be on top of the leaderboard and that was kind of it. I thought it was totally within my own hands, the outcome, the results of it.
“You don't often get that feeling on a golf course, because I didn't find the course difficult last year. You get those tournaments only a couple of times a year where everything seems easy to you and everybody else seems to be struggling, so I was very much in the zone last year, very comfortable on the golf course.”
Harrington missed the cut at the US PGA Tour’s Players Championship last week, but he is not the kind of man to dwell one poor performance coming into defend his National Open Championship.
“I always analyse my week gone by and work from them,” he continued, “but I'm not going to hang myself up on missing a cut. That's going to happen. You know, you've got to put that down to these things happen as you go along. If you're going to be a professional golfer, you're going to expect that things are going to against you and it's going to happen.
“I don't see it having any effect on this tournament. I'm motivated with The Irish Open. To be honest, it has zero effect on this week. It would have an effect on a regular tournament, but not when you're coming into a big event."
Padraigs Tour Diary...
It doesn’t seem like a year since I was writing this and saying how much I would like to end the 25 year drought of Irish winners. Now I am here writing about the week with a view to defending my title, I thought when I won last year that the pressure was off because I had won my first Irish Open; but there is as much pressure now to defend as there was last year to win for the first time. After winning here last year I got a huge confidence boost, I came away from here feeling great and sure about my ability. I felt that I had won the event playing well within myself and having not gone through my normal preparation for a tournament due to the distraction and other commitments that come with an Irish Open. After it I felt so confident that I was trying to hard to win everything and it wasn’t until the Open that I got back to doing my own thing but with an added amount of confidence.
There is no doubt in my mind that winning here had a huge bearing on me winning the Open. My win in Adare last year showed me that I was capable of turning up at an event and performing when I was expected to and without my normal build up. I was able to draw on the experience during the week of the Open and use it to my advantage.
This week I am here as defending champion, and under the same pressure that I would feel at any Irish Open. Playing in front of my home crowd is as much pressure as it gets, if it was a regular event then being the defending champion would add more hassle to it but not this week. As soon as I got here I realised that it wasn’t going to any less pressure than last year, especially as I know how much I want to win it again.
I am coming into this week after missing the cut at The Players Championship, it is not ideal preparation but it is not something that I am worrying about. It was just one of those weeks where things went against me and there is nothing I can do about it now. I am here to concentrate on the Irish Open, I am very happy with my game and everything is in good shape.
I travelled to Adare on Monday afternoon and took it easy that evening. I played the course on Tuesday for the first time since the final round last year and it was every bit as good as I remember it. As I said last year this is a place that I really enjoy playing, not just for the golf course and the setting but also because of the crowds. This is my third tournament here at Adare Manor, every time I have received great support; it makes such a difference to have the support of the crowds.
I have played thirty-six holes in practise this week, once on the Tuesday with Paul Broadhurst and Peter Baker and then in the pro-am on Wednesday. In the pro-am I was playing with two guys that had won a competition to play with me so I wasn’t even the biggest celebrity! I haven’t done much practise this week, partly as I am happy with how everything is going and also because I haven’t had that much time due to all the commitments of an Irish Open. The fact that I can’t get to the practise range is probably a good thing as I would only find something to work on if I was to spend any time there.
This course is in very good condition; the rough has been cut back a little from where it was last year. However the key to playing this course well is definitely to hit off the fairway as much as possible. If you are coming off the fairway then you have good opportunity to fire at some of the pins. The rough is not as severe as last year but you can still get some very bad lies. There are plenty of very good holes on this course and plenty of holes that will have a big bearing on the outcome of the week. Some of the key holes for me are the 15, 16th and 18th.
The 15th is a great par four, measuring 378 yards it is one of the shortest par fours on the course. The reason that I pick this one is because it runs down along the Maigue and is over looked by the Manor. It is definitely one of the more picturesque holes on the course but you can’t be fooled by this. The water is looming for any tee shot drifting right and then the green is so big it can be hard to judge the second shot.
The 16th is a tough par three at this stage of the round; it is 167 yards all over water and to a narrow green. The problem here is that you are always going to make sure that you have enough club to carry the water but then the green is so narrow it is hard to hold it. This is a very tough hole to get the club right; four shots to the middle of the green would be perfect here.
The 18th is the feature hole of the course; it is a 548 yard par five that runs along the Maigue with the green on the far side. Last year it was nearly impossible to get up in two as the wind was always off the left. This year the wind has been down off the right and so it has played much shorter and easier. To give yourself the best chance of getting up in two you have to drive it close to the water which can be tough. Most people will end up bailing out right which means that it becomes a tough three shoter. This is a great risk reward hole and one that will definitely have a big bearing on the outcome. It did for me as I won it in a play-off on the 18th.
I am looking forward to trying to defend my title, however I have learned over the years that I have to remain patient and not try and win it on Thursday. I am looking to give myself a chance with nine holes to play and then hopefully I can take it.
Coming here as the first Irish defending champion of the Irish Open in twenty-five years was a great feeling but I really wanted to defend my title and unfortunately I wasn’t able too. Looking back on the week I probably fell into the trap of trying too hard and then as a result I got frustrated with myself during the rounds because I wasn’t holing putts and burning up the course. I know from previous experience that trying too hard makes me perform worse but it is very hard to stop myself from doing it, especially here in Ireland. I was very happy with how I played all week the only problem that I had was getting the ball in the hole; it wasn’t that I was hitting bad putts it was just a case of them not dropping. I hit the hole so many times during the week it was actually getting annoying.
For the first three days I played very well but only shot rounds of 72, 70 and 71; in the final round I didn’t play quite as well, which was probably as a result of frustration more than anything, and ended up shooting 76. I finished on one over for the week, which considering how I played for the week, was a particularly poor effort. The final round was very disappointing as I knew heading out that I needed to shoot a good score to have any chance of winning and in my effort to find the birdies I pushed too hard and ended up making a lot of bogies instead. While this was bad enough I also hit my worst shot of the week on the par three 16. I totally fell asleep over the ball and had no idea what I was doing and ended up hitting it in the water and taking a triple bogey six. I wasn’t annoyed when I got off the course as I realised on the course that I was trying too hard and being a little too hard on myself. I was beating myself for not hitting every iron shot stiff and birdying every hole I played.
It was definitely a disappointing week as regards how I performed, especially as this was my first tournament in Ireland since I won the Open. However after a few days at home I have realised that it was definitely a case of trying too hard to win for everyone else instead of doing my usual thing of playing one shot at a time and trying to get myself into contention for the Sunday afternoon. I was definitely trying to win the tournament from the very first hole and as a result I was getting myself more and more frustrated as every hole went by. I find that I get into this frame of mind when I playing well much more so than when I am struggling; when I am struggling I tend to feel that par is a good score and try not to think about making birdie on every hole that I play.
When I look back on the week there are a lot of positives for me to take from it; I made plenty of birdies even considering how many putts I missed. The biggest positive for me was how I hit the ball over the course of the week and the number of birdie chances that I gave myself. I know that if I continue to hit the ball like this and keep giving myself chances that I will eventually hole the putts. It is a strange feeling for me to be saying because ever since I started golf I have struggled with the long game and found the short game relatively easy. Because of this I tend to get more frustrated when I am not holing putts.
As ever I really enjoyed playing at home in front of great crowds. No matter where I go during the year I always look forward to coming home and playing the Irish Open. It really is a big thrill to stand up in front of an Irish crowd, but the only problem with it for me is that I tend to try too hard to win it for the fans. The other problem now is that I have to wait another year to come back and try to win it again.
I am not playing in the BMW PGA Championship this year as it just doesn’t fit into my schedule. I like to play two weeks before a major and if I was to play this week it would mean that I would be playing five tournaments before the US Open.
I will be doing a bit of practise this week and working with my putting coach to sort out any problems that have crept in, but the main thing for the week is to ensure that I am fully rested for the next three weeks so that I am in the right frame of mind for the US Open.
Talk to you all soon,