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A Quick 9: Padraig Harrington

Padraig Harrington developed a knack for winning in dramatic fashion last year on his way to recording his first two career PGA TOUR victories. The Irishman, who has nine career international victories, won last year's Honda Classic after forcing a three-way playoff with a final round 63, then won again three months later at the Barclay's Classic when he holed a big-breaking 65-foot eagle putt on the final hole to win by a stroke. We caught up with Padraig for a Quick 9 as he defends his first PGA Tournament victory this week...

Defending Champion, 2005 Honda Classic

1. A lot of people in sports talk about being "in the zone" and it appeared you were there last year when you fired a final round 63 on your way to winning at Honda. Can you describe what it's like to be "in the zone?"
PH: I think most players have been in it at one time or another. That's why you see a player winning one week and missing the cut the next. I believe you can only try to get yourself close to that zone. The closer you are to it, and the more often you're there, the more likely you are to cross over into it. You can win tournaments being close to the zone, you don't always have to be in it. Once you get in the zone, like during the final round last year, that's when you start firing low scores and everything just feels easy. I won a tournament in Ireland once by six shots and I couldn't figure out why everyone else found the course so difficult. I was obviously in the zone at the time but, of course, didn't realize it. It's usually only when you look back do you see you were in the zone. A huge amount of being in the zone is how you prepare for a tournament. Preparation really is the key.

2. You play in a lot of pro-ams. What's the number one swing fault you see in the amateurs you play with and what advice do you give them to correct it?
  If there was one tip I could give amateurs, I'd like to see them hold their balance after they hit the ball. In order to do that, you've got to do a lot of things right along the way so if they can finish with nice balance - weight on the left foot with the right toe up - it means you've done a lot of things right and they'll notice more consistency in their swing.

Probably the tip I give the most relates to the short game. On chips, I like to see players get their sternum or their center of gravity left of the golf ball instead of keeping your weight back which leads to all sorts of inconsistencies.

3. Is there one swing tip someone gave you along the way that maybe you go back to when you're struggling?
I suppose I've had a few over the years as I've worked quite a bit on my swing, especially since 2000. I work a lot on my balance and foot work, to make sure I'm moving my weight back-and-forth through the ball and coiling, not just sliding my way through it. For most players I think the advice they give people is a good reflection of what they're working on themselves. For me, that's balance. 

4. Who was the best celebrity you have teed it up with in a pro-am? 
I played with Kevin Costner last year during the dunhill Championship Pro-Am on the PGA European Tour. He was really able to hit it. Interesting guy to play golf with because, he's obviously got the physical skills to play the game, but you can tell he just doesn't have the time to play as much as he'd like. He could really play some fantastic golf though. He played nine holes at Carnoustie at 1-under-par. If anyone had done that during The Open Championship, they would have won the thing!

5. How important is nutrition and hydration out on the course and what do you eat/drink while you're out there?
  I'm the king of that, I think. I get a lot of stick from other players telling me it looks like I'm carrying around a fruit and vegetable shop in my golf bag. I eat three cereal bars and a protein bar, starting 20 minutes before the round and finishing immediately after the round. I think it's most important after the round, to make sure you're taking on plenty of energy since that's the critical recovery time. During the round, in addition to what I eat, I'm obviously taking in plenty of water and then, depending on the temperature, I might have one of the electrolyte drinks.

6. How important is it to work out and exercise to stay competitive on the PGA TOUR? How do you prepare on tournament days?
 It's an interesting point, because over the years we've seen guys who aren't the most physically fit be successful on Tour. I really just started to get serious about fitness in 2000, so it is possible to get by without working out, but I think most people need to work out to at least maintain flexibility. I went through a phase where I did a lot of cardio but I think I realized I don't necessarily need to be "cardio fit." I still do some cardio and strength training, but I mainly focus on stretching, working with bands, etc. I can do a lot of my work in the hotel room and do about an hour a day. That keeps me going.

On tournament days, I get up about 2.5 hours before my tee time and do about 40 minutes of exercises on my own. I'll also do about 20 minutes with my physio (trainer). We do some stretching and he checks a bunch of my muscle groups to make sure they're functioning properly. Then I'll hit the practice range about an hour before my tee time. I hit 29 full shots - two shots with each club and five with my driver. Then some chip shots, bunker shots, and some putts. I try to get to the tee about 10 minutes early. There's no sense in rushing up there. You want to make sure you're nice and relaxed. 

7. You play on both the PGA and European Tours. With the length and the grind of the season, how do you stay motivated or passionate about what you do?
  I set a lot of goals during the year - some are easy, others are very difficult. I would never tell anyone what my goals are because some of them are way out there and I don't want to be judged on my goals. It helps if you can look at the season or the year in parts and then set goals for each part. You might set a goal for the first three months and, when you get there, look at the next three months. Setting goals, and objectives for how you're going to reach them, helps keep you focused and motivated. The end of the year is easy because you know you have the Order of Merit (on the European Tour) and the PGA TOUR Money List but you really need some solid points of reference to aim for throughout the remainder of the year.

8. What do you do to try and stay consistent as a player at the highest level?
  I keep track of what I'm doing. After I play tournaments, I go over all my stats for the week to find out where my weaknesses are. I'm always working on my weaknesses to keep them in check as well as working to make my strengths even stronger. It's just a matter of doing your homework, paying attention to your game, and making sure everything is up to standard.

9. How important is it to have confidence in your golf ball?
  It's ever so important to have confidence in your golf ball. You've got to know you've got the best product out there and that you'll always have the best product out there. With Titleist, you're assured of that. They're putting the effort into R&D to make sure they're always going to be one step ahead of the competition. Others will follow, but I've got the confidence that I'm going to have the best ball out there.


10. Favorite Tour stop?
There are a lot of good ones out there, on the PGA Tour and the European Tour. For sheer excitement, I'd say the Masters, but my favorite stop is St. Andrew's. It's just such a great town. The golf course has amazing history, it's a great course you can score well on, but the actual town is fantastic. It's a university town, it's got a great buzz about it.

11. Favorite City?
I have to say Dublin, but in the States, I like Miami. Great atmosphere there. It's nice, when you're at a golf event, to be able to completely remove yourself from that environment and Miami allows you to do that. 

12. First car and current car?
The first car, that I owned, was a Mercedes SL-500 so I got in at the top. I own a BMW 645i at the moment.

13. What was the last book you read?
It was a book of short stories from all the major wars. I like a bit of history and wish I paid attention more in school. I like some fiction, but I'm more likely to pick up something historical or maybe a self-improvement book. Short stories are the best, especially when you're traveling because it's hard to really get into a long novel.    

14. When you have downtime on the road, how do you spend your time?
The cinema. I like the cinema. I like movies that don't tax the brain. You just sit there, eat your popcorn, drink your soda for two hours. It's a real escape. I like the big budget movies where you just switch the brain off. There's always a lot of hype behind them but more often that not, I enjoy them.

15. Favorite movie?
Pulp Fiction

16. Favorite actor/actress?
I suppose I like John Travolta now that I say it and you can't go past Angelina Jolie.

17. If you had a dream foursome to play with, who would the other players be, dead or alive?
I'd probably go for guys I've never seen play - Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Sam Snead.

18. Do you have any superstitions or rituals out on the golf course?
For my golf balls, I use a #1 the first day, a #2 the second day, #3 the third day and #4 the fourth day. Also, if I make a bogey I change the ball. I won't use a ball that's made a bogey, that goes into the crowd or back in the bag somewhere. It's not going to be hit again, that's for sure.

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