Feb
2
2013
VIDEO: Padraig Harrington auditions for the ’49ers on No. 16
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour
And it's good!

And it’s good!

Okay, not seriously, but Padraig Harrington had quite the day in the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Not only did he shoot eight-under 63 for a 54-hole total of 16-under, he kicked an American football for the first time in front of roughly 18,000 drunks fans on the famed stadium hole, the par-3 16th, at TPC Scottsdale. (Prior to Saturday, he hadn’t even thrown one before.)

The three-time major champ kicked about 8-10 Wilson (one of his sponsors) pro official footballs — the same kind that will be played in tomorrow’s Super Bowl.

His caddie Ronan Flood served as a place-holder and pulled the football away when Padraig ran up to give it a boot, like a field goal. On the second attempt the Irishman successfully made contact and kicked it in the stands, while fans chanted, “Ole, Ole, Ole!” He didn’t forget about the fans sitting behind the green, either.

Ready, set, kick!

Ready, set, kick!

 

He stopped about 30 yards short and punted it over the grandstand onto the 17th tee. It would have been a successful field goal from the 35- 40-yard line. Well done, Paddy!

Check out his first few kicks in the video below:

“As an Irishman, we enjoy when people sing, Ole, Ole, Ole. So that was the best part of the day,” said Harrington, who is tied for third going into the final round, trailing Phil Mickelson by eight shots. “There was a number of Irish people out there with flags. Yeah, I really do enjoy that.

“Having gone to football (not the American kind) matches in my day, I sang it myself, and when it’s sung to you, it’s a special occasion.”

Padraig, who is playing in the final group with Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker, plans to do the same thing on Super Bowl Sunday.

Harrington is making his debut this week at the event, and he’s clearly embraced the rowdy crowds, not to mention endeared himself to hundreds of thousands of fans (179,022 people attended on Saturday).

“I’ve got to say on the 17th I hit my driver as easy as I could,” said Paddy when asked about the finishing holes. “I was so pumped up at that stage after walking off the 16th. It is exciting.  You have to embrace that.  That’s what we’re here for.  We play a lot of events during the year and good events, but this is unique here.  This is completely  it’s unique in a great way.  I really do like the idea.  You know, you’ve got to enjoy it.  You’ve got to love it and, as I said, embrace it.

“Your emotions run away a bit.  Like at 16, I had 175 flag and I tried to hit a smooth 8-iron and hit it past the flag.  You know, it’s easy to hit the ball a long way over the last couple holes — you’re feeling the exact same emotions as you would be if you’re trying to win the tournament and you’re only out there.  It’s exciting.  You know, you’d love golf to be like that certainly a lot of weeks.

“Majors are slightly different, but certainly most weeks you’d love to have that sort of enthusiasm and excitement around any event.”

Harrington will attempt to accomplish the feat that defending champion Kyle Stanley pulled off. Last year Stanley entered the final round eight shots behind Spencer Levin and made the largest come-from-behind victory at this tournament.

He’ll need some luck — and help from Phil, who seems unstoppable at this point.

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Some people have asked why Harrington is wearing glasses during his interviews and press conferences. Well, he’s had Lasik four times. Yes, FOUR. While he leaves them in the bag when playing, he puts them on immediately after he leaves the scoring tent. His caddie said he does that to take the strain off his eyes.

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As diehard Paddy fans know, he tends to give errr…thorough answers in pressers. I had to include his two-page answer to one question. It’s classic, and some of you might find it interesting…

Q.  If you want to win tomorrow, it’s going to be written, that you haven’t won on a major TOUR in the last couple of years. 

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  That would say to the Asian TOUR that they’re not a major TOUR.

Q.  European TOUR or PGA TOUR.  Sort of insinuating in there you haven’t played well, which is not fair.  You finished 8th in the Masters last year and 4th in the US Open, made the cut in every major, played very well this year.  But nonetheless, you haven’t won in Europe or on the PGA TOUR.  I get asked this all the time, why hasn’t he?  I try to connect the dots.  

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  This is a long question.  Gonna be a long answer.

Q.  Did you change your golf swing? 

PADRAIG HARRINGTON:  No, I must admit  yeah, I’ve changed my golf swing, but I change it every day.  I changed my golf swing this week.  That’s what I do:  I get up in the morning, and I change.  That’s who I am.

If I had a problem since 2008 going down the road of changing, I’m a person who has always managed never to read anything about me.  I keep the media, certainly what people are saying about me, out of my world.

So since 2008 I’m on a higher level and I keep getting asked the same questions.  Eventually if you keep getting asked why you change your swing, again, you start explaining yourself and it turns into defending yourself.

Probably last year I probably  late last year I came to the conclusion, you know, I didn’t actually change, because what I do every day is keep trying to evolve, and that’s what I do.  Every day I change is being me.

People’s perception of me changed because they assumed that because I won and peaked in 2007 and 2008, they assumed I was at a level I wanted to be at or had what I wanted, and they assumed why would you keep trying to change.  But the only thing I know is changing.  It gets me out of my bed in the morning and gets me motivated.

I’m 41 years of age and I think I’m a kid, and the reason I think I’m a kid is I think I’m going to find the secret every day.

I hit eight bags of balls before my round Thursday morning working on my swing.  I just love it.  That’s who I am.

As regards to my form, I peaked obviously in 2007 and 2008.  Everybody peaks.  Professional golfers tend to last about 18 months when they peak and drift back to who they are.

Now, if that was a peak, and then you have an average play, yes, probably in 2009 or 2010, anyway, I played below average.  You have to play below average if you are going to peek as well.  The way I look at it, and maybe this is a mistake I made, you’re trying to compare yourself to your absolute peak in 2008, whereas I should always be trying to work off my base, my average play.

If I can improve my baseline, that means when the peak comes around, it will be a little higher, probably a little bit longer.  You know, that’s the game.  It ebbs and flows.

You know, I’m watching a lot of players, and I see consistently it’s about 18 months where they really have the game easy, you know, things good happen to them.  Then they go into a period, and it depends how good they are, they reset to who they are for a while.

You know, if they’re a really good player they will come back and peak again.  That’s just the nature of the game.  I won three majors:  one in 2007, two in 2008.  Was I gonna win three in 2009?  You know, when you look at the players out there, there’s only two players, three players in the modern game who are playing at the moment who have won more than three majors, and it took Ernie 20 years, it took Phil quicker in terms of when he won his first one to the last one.

So, you know, if I’m to get out there and win more majors, logic would say it ain’t gonna happen in 2009 necessarily, but it will happen eventually.  When the good times come around, you know, I’ll take my chances, and hopefully it will happen.

You know, I have to be patient, but it really is a question  it’s ebbs and flows in this game.  I’m fascinated that, you know, the easiest thing to analyze myself is to actually watch other people, understand when you’re watching other people how, you know, when they’re on form how easy it is for them, how  you know, they go out there and play like they shot 70 and they’re signing for 68.  When things aren’t going for you, you play like you shot 70 and signing for 72.  That’s the nature of this game.  We all go through that.

I did have big problems last year with my putting.  I lost my confidence reading the greens.  I think I was 13th in the stroke average last year.  So I remember being told at one stage by somebody how I played bad, bad, and bad three times.  The interesting thing about it was at the time I was like 9th in the stroke average.  I hadn’t putted well.  I had a chance at the US Open, a really good chance at the US Open.

At the time I was the best wedge player on TOUR, and I had to get up and down on the last hole from 125 yards, 116 it might have been, something like that.  To get into it would have got me into the playoffs.  I had a genuine chance at the US Open.  The US Open I had two 4putts and a number of 3putts.

I can’t remember  4putting, I’m going back to being a kid.  I could see the good play there, but perception is when you got to a certain height, there’s a massive perception when you don’t play to that level.  Nobody can play at their peak all the time.

I explain at home very simply in Premiership Football.  If you score 30 goals in a Premiership Football, you’re going to be signed up for  you know, some team is going to buy you for 40 million.  But if your average is 20 and you scored 30 this year, well, that’s 10 goals coming around the corner pretty soon if your average is 20.

But I would have been  where I might have gone wrong  well, where I probably went wrong, one, as I said, I was defending myself the at times, and two, I was trying to improve on the 30, whereas realistically I was trying to improve on the 20.  This is where Dave Alred, I work with, has really helped me.  It’s about just improving what you consider your baseline.  It’s not about going out there and trying to improve the very top end, because, you know, as I said  I went down a No. 13 today.  Myself and Hunter Mayhan hit pretty similar shots.  He’s three yards left of me.  He’s in a bush.  I hit 5wood 15 feet.  You know, nobody can legislate for that in golf.

There was not a difference between our two shots off the tee.  He’s in a bush.  You know, that’s golf.  Golf is like that, and you get on a good run, and, you know, you don’t find yourself in the bush.  When things aren’t going for you, you know, you do find yourself in the bush.

Again, that’s life.  You know, as a player you have to under that, and sometimes it’s hard to understand that.  There’s no doubt at times I went from explaining myself to defending myself, and for a person like me, who I have kept the outside world way out of my inner circle, I have never let really, really work hard and not trying to let outside influences affect me.

But there is no doubt over those years when you are continually being asked the same question, all of a sudden you understand what people are thinking.  Even though I haven’t read it, I now understand if I’m continually asked, Why are you changing your golf swing, I’m thinking to myself, you ought to see the changes I made in my golf swing at different stages during my career.

Like when I turned pro  I know I’m running on here.  When I turned pro in ’96, all I had ever hit in my life was a pull cut.  I was short and hit a pull cut off the tee.  I could not draw the golf ball.

John Jakes (phonetic), the orientation week at the European TOUR, taught me how to draw the ball.  That was one month before I went out on TOUR.  I qualified a month before I went to that.  I played my first three years on TOUR with the biggest hook you could have.  It was fantastic.  I hit it 40 yards further and it was great.

’99 I finished 11th and 8 in European order of merit, and I came to the Olympic Club, US Open, and I played my best golf to finish 27th or something like that.

I chipped and putted everything to finish 27th.  I walked away.  Okay.  Clearly if this is as good as I am, and I want to be better, well, I’ve got to change something.  I went to Bob Torrance.  Dropped back to 32nd in the order of merit.  I didn’t win for a couple of years, and then all of a sudden, you know, I had a period there, 29 second places on the European TOUR, and all of a sudden I started winning again.  Things came back.

I obviously peaked in 2007, 2008, and, you know, 2009 wasn’t so bad.  2010 was a little bit iffy.  2011 definitely was a bit of a slump in there.

As I said, I saw some good signs, but in 2011 I got very frustrated that I kept playing well in practice and not bringing it to the golf course.  So I again decided to make a big change.  I started working with Pete Cowen on my swings, and that was a big change.

Then, you know, at different stages I worked with a psychologist in Europe, worked with Bob Rotella, I now have Dave Alred on my team.

About the only thing  my physio and trainer are the only ones that have stayed constant over those years.  This winter I started working with eye people.  I’m always looking to what’s the next thing to do.  This year I will find something in my game and say that’s not quite right, and we will endeavor to change it.  I will say in 2007 I played with a draw to win the Open.

I was so frustrated with the tee shot I hit on the 18th hole that in 2008 I played with a fade.  I made a change between those.  And you know what?  I’m going to change.  That’s who I am.  You know, I like it.

You know, I saw Arnold Palmer when he was 70 years of age being interviewed after a Champions TOUR event, and he came off the golf course absolutely brimming smile from one ear to the other, saying he’d found the secret.

I want to be that man.  I want to be 70 years of age out playing golf and just loving it, just the excitement of it all.  The possibility of it getting better is far more interesting to me than the realization that it’s never going to get better than this.

(AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher)