- What do you think of Henrik’s chances?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, if he plays like he played at The Open, we’re all playing for second place. Yeah, he’s proved very similar conditions in terms of it looks like it will be a little bit of breeze and some nice weather outside.
So yeah, he’s in good stead, good form and maybe the man to chase this week.
- Anything you can learn from the other sports?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I’m not sure what you learn from the actual sport. I think you learn from interacting with other athletes and seeing how they go about it, and maybe not this week, but in other weeks, seeing what they do training‑wise. That’s usually the most fascinating thing is seeing how different athletes prepare for their own sports. This week, it’s just fascinating seeing athletes at the top of their game competing, clearly under a lot of stress and pressure.
So you know, even going around the international village, the training in different spots ‑‑ the great thing is, also, it’s amazing, they will train anywhere in the international village. You see a spot and they are out doing their stretching and exercises randomly.
So it’s kind of fascinating, that. There’s no, I suppose there’s no luxury to it. Wherever there’s a bit of space, that’s where they will do their exercising. You do, you see people stretching. Obviously there’s a track for running. You see a lot of walkers. But you also see there’s a few tennis courts near us and very different sports out on those courts doing their warmups and coaching, and people just get on with it.
- You’re one of the folks who was involved in pitching the Olympics to the IOC back in 2009. Did you think back then you would be here?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I thought absolutely I would be here. But that’s the nature of sport, when you’re at the top of your game, you don’t believe it’s ever going to change. You think it’s going to last forever.
But hindsight says that’s not true. You know, you look at it for all manner of athletes, and that would be interesting about the athletes who turned down coming here this time. Some of them might not get the opportunity again. You’d be surprised how it does change.
So it is, you know, for me, clearly this is ‑‑ it’s pretty much an opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t know, even though I feel good about my golf and I feel good about where I’m at with my golf, logically, it would say, hmmm, will I get another chance in 2020, logic would say. So this is an awfully big deal that I’ve got my opportunity and I’m keen to take it.
- You’ve been very open about what this opportunity means to you. How has the energy been the last few days compared to a major for you?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: All the golfers here, everybody here is loving it. I don’t think I’ve seen as much inter action between the players ‑‑ like at a major, there wouldn’t be interaction between players, at all. Everybody is really going about their business.
Here, we’re going about our business, but everybody is talking about what they have seen and what’s been happening, what they went to, what athlete they saw and what they saw them doing and what they looked like.
Like you go for breakfast, lunch or dinner in the international village and instead of it being 20 minutes, you’re there an hour later watching people. All you really want, and it would be great if they did this, if you saw the person coming towards you and on their back it said what sport they played, because everybody, you wonder what they play, I wonder what they play. There’s all shapes and sizes in there, littlest to the tallest, wide, everything’s there. So it is fascinating for everybody to look and wonder what the other sports are.
I think there is more interaction with the players this week in that I see more players enjoying themselves this week than maybe they would at a regular event and embracing what’s going on. I think from that side of things, I think some players will actually probably play, will, go out quite relaxed tomorrow; the fact that once they tee it up, they are Olympic athletes and might actually be relaxed and play their best golf.
So it would be interesting to see. I think some people would be in a good frame of mind to play good golf this week.
- There’s been a lot of negativity surrounding golf and the whole process get to go this point. What do you think is the best thing that could happen this week?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Me winning. (Laughter) for me, that’s the best thing that can happen.
You know, yeah, it is fascinating that some of the negativity, like I didn’t see this myself but somebody was telling me there was a big story about an infestation of alligators on the 10th here. I think there’s an alligator in the lake, I think.
Well, there wouldn’t be a golf course in Florida that doesn’t have a lot of alligators. How could that be a headline back in the States? How can they make that as a story? Obviously there’s persons like looking to make a story out of it and looking to expand on a story.
If you look for the players, and certainly the players who are here and the people who are here, they are loving it. They are having the greatest time ever in terms of a golf event and really enjoying the experience.
I have never met my playing partner this week, Seamus Power. I now have a new friend on Tour. That’s the way it is. This is an experience that will never be able to be taken away from us, a fantastic experience.
I think there was negativity because it was easy to write negativity and print negativity, because it’s a story. We never want to read what’s boring, do we. We always want to read either side of the story. We never really want to read in the middle.
The players who are here couldn’t be more positive and couldn’t be enjoying it more. I sense, as well, I think the players at home are pretty quiet on social media. You sense that maybe some of them would like to be here. You know, certainly I think some of them would definitely like to be here and they are missing out. There’s no doubt they are missing out, that’s for sure. And as I said, you just don’t know where this game is going to lead and where they will be in four years’ time or eight years’ time or whether golf will be in the Olympics in eight years’ time.
I can’t say it’s a once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity because we’re obviously in the 2020 games, but it may be a once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity for a lot of people.
- But what’s the best thing to happen ‑‑ for people watching, what’s the best thing that can happen?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I think the golf course is fantastic, so they are going to have a very exciting event. Gil Hanse has produced a really exciting golf course.
So if you genuinely want the best thing that’s going to happen, you’re going to have four or five players in with a chance of winning with three or four holes to go, five, six holes to go, and Pádraig Harrington finishing eagle, birdie, eagle to win it outright. (Laughter).
- Will you attend any other events in the evening?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I’m staying for a full week afterwards. So I have bought tickets for I think ten events next week. I’m not under any more stress to go ‑‑ I don’t have to get anything in.
I know I’m sitting there with my caddie in there and Paul and they are all arranging to go to a couple of events tonight, but I have an early tee time. I will take it easy for the next couple of days. And if I’m still in contention, I will continue to take it easy, because I have that opportunity from Sunday onwards. I’ve got seven days of events to go to, so I’ll have enough.
But all the players are going to events. Like you know, there really is ‑‑ it’s very easy when you’re out there at the Olympic Village to get around. It’s very easy to get in a shuttle and it brings you there. It’s been I think much easier and much better than expected in that sense for the players.
- Is there anyone you know that would be a good story ‑‑
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Probably from hearing a bit of the media, maybe Ben An would be the best, considering both his parents were Olympic athletes. The way sport has moved back 25 years ago, golf would have struggled to be included as a sport. People who don’t play golf don’t think it’s a sport. But you can see there’s two athletic people who there are somewhat down to play golf, and they are probably fully aware of the intricacies of golf and how much of a sport it really is.
Yeah, that might be a nice story in Ben An won, clearly because of his folks and the Olympic heritage that is there. For me, as I said, I’m concentrating on my 72‑hole tournament and I’m hoping I write a nice story for Pádraig Harrington. If I do end up, birdie on the last to win the tournament, that would be great, but certainly making a bogey down the last to win the tournament (laughter). Whatever it takes to win, you know, when it comes down to it.
I know you guys would love the exciting event and we all would love the exciting event is right at the end of it. Clearly if I was sitting watching on TV, I’d want two or three players; you would want somebody like Henrik coming down the stretch, and if he was beaten by ‑‑ if Henrik wins, it’s obviously great. But if he’s beaten by a lower‑ranked player, it shows how exciting ‑‑ I was surprised.
I think I was told that the Netherlands didn’t send a second player because he was outside the top hundred in the world. It’s amazing how different golf is. Clearly if you’re outside the top hundred, nearly in any sport at the Olympics, you have no chance of winning, except for golf. I’m outside the top hundred and I believe I have a chance at winning.
So it is interesting how golf gives you an opportunity; nearly every athlete who is here has a chance of winning. I won’t say everybody, but nearly athlete has pedigree and has won tournaments, and on their week can go out there and beat anybody.
So I really don’t know what the story is going to be in terms of what’s going to happen. But in my head, I’m going to write that story with me winning some way at the end.
- Growing the game has been a subject, and Rory was saying ‑‑
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Was he critical of the Olympics, or golf in the Olympics growing the game?
- He was saying it wasn’t his role.
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Golf is in the Olympics because it benefits both the Olympics and golf. We want to grow the game of golf. I don’t think anybody can argue that golf in the Olympics clearly is going to bring more profile, brings more funding into so many countries.
As I pointed out, I’m a three‑time major winner. If I went to the population of the world and said I was a three‑time major winner, at least 90 per cent of that population would not have an iota what I was on about.
If I went to the rest of the world and said I was an Olympic Gold Medal winner, you’d probably find that only ten percent wouldn’t know and it would be reverse; 90 per cent would know what an Olympic Gold Medal winner is. It’s massive for golf in the Olympics. It’s massive in so many countries.
When you consider, you go to, the legitimacy that it brings to a sport when you go to a country like China where often times we hear, we’re not giving lies ens to build any more golf courses. Well, it’s an Olympic sport now. It has got to help when it goes to government level and somebody wants to build a golf course.
Well, it’s an Olympic sport and it gets funding because of that. We have very little penetration in Europe, into Eastern Europe, in terms of golf. It’s seen as a very exclusive game in the former Eastern block countries. But clearly being an Olympic sport, it changes a lot.
I think people who are thinking it doesn’t make a difference, golf being in the Olympics, are living in a very Westernised world where golf is a big sport. But it’s such a small percentage of the people in the world who would recognise it. Whereas being an Olympic sport, it automatically jumps a barrier that includes it in so many state programmes, state funding, which can only be good for the game. Can only be great for the game.
- What is your record playing in South America?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I played in Rio in 2000 and the following week in São Paulo, I played two 72‑hole tournaments on The European Tour, and over 72 holes, I wasn’t beaten. I lost in a playoff in the first one to Roger Chapman, and in the second one, I won it outright. I think Alex Cejka was second. It’s been a very happy hunting ground for me. 16 years ago, really doesn’t feel like that. I will say, it was a distinctly different golf courses to the one we have here.
I’m very impressed with the golf course they have built here in terms of, I believe the Brazilian Golf Federation will take it over and it will do a lot to help the players progress in this country. The style of golf that’s out there is unlike anything else they would have seen. This golf course really encourages good ball‑striking, good short game.
A lot of questions are asked out there, and for this to be a home federation golf course, they are so lucky to have it. It will really help progress the variety and standard of play of young Brazilian amateurs coming up to becoming pros.
- Do you have any close friends from South America who are golfers on Tour?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I’m trying to figure out if I do. I’m probably going to leave somebody out ‑‑ no, probably not any like close friend. We all get on; the golfers get on very well. I don’t think there’s certainly no issues in terms of that.
But we tend to hang out, like in Europe, you’ll see the Irish go out together and the Scots go out together, French. The Americans tend to stick together.
We all play together so much and mix on the golf course, yes, but no particular buddy from South America that I can think of. Somebody’s going to catch me on this and say ‑‑ but at the moment, no.
- Have you had any moments where you felt, welcome to the Olympics ‑‑
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I think every moment is a welcome to the Olympics. You get there and it’s a bit of a whirl. I arrived in ‑‑ I probably got to the Olympic Village about 8.00am Monday morning, and Paul McGinley was there to meet me. We went straight down to the dining hall, and that’s probably the most fascinating thing. It’s 300 metres long of people, lots of people. Lots of people doing their own thing.
You think, as I said earlier, you think you’re going there for a quick breakfast, 20 minutes, and for an hour and a half after there wondering what do they do; look at this person. And there’s people who are relaxed and there’s people who are stressed. There’s all sorts of things going on.
Yeah, it’s a different, really different experience. Probably an experience that will be better enjoyed once you’re finished your own event, but at the moment, it’s certainly ‑‑ it quite colossal the organisation and the structure of everything, the transportation, just everything that’s going on. We would never have seen anything on that size before. So that’s the magnitude of it is quite amazing, and it’s functioning. Seems to function very well, at least for us so far, everything has gone exceptionally smoothly and it’s been top‑notch.
- What events do you have tickets to see?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Pretty much you name it. My kids, we’re going to the Velodrome for the cycling, gymnasts, athletics a couple of times. We’re going to basketball. We’re going to beach volleyball (laughter).
- Men’s or women?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I don’t know. I left my kids and my wife in charge of that. There’s six or seven, we have ten sets of tickets ‑‑ boxing. We’re going to the boxing. Hopefully we’re going to catch some Irish medalists. That’s about eight I’ve named. So a couple of gymnastics and a couple of ‑‑ we would have gone ‑‑ swimming is probably the only big thing I’ve missed out on. That might be something I could make an effort over the next couple of days.
- Do you think that as long as golfers are attached when they come to almost event, when you come to something like the Olympics, Martin used the word humble ‑‑ you realise you’re part of a broad story.
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, it is interesting, because as I said, that was one of the things when you’re in the Olympic Village, every single athlete here is at the top of their game. Every single athlete has spent their whole life being told, “You’re the best.” And clearly they get here and some of them are still the best, but some aren’t.
So the confidence level of how people carry themselves around there; the ego, you know, that’s what I’m looking at. I’m looking at people, and you know, it’s hard to, Martin is saying he’s been humbled. And to be honest, you know, Martin needs to walk around like he’s the man. If he’s going to play good golf, you’ve got to think you are the man, and not to be shying away from that.
But it’s hard to do that in this environment because there’s so many accomplished athletes around you. That’s one of the things I’ve certainly been looking at is who is strutting around and believing in themselves and who is affected by the fact that there’s other great athletes and they are only just one of many. But inside your own head, you’ve got to believe you’re the man, and whatever it takes for you to believe that, you’ve got to get into that mind‑set because that will help you play your best golf.
I know what you’re saying in terms of how we’re looked after, and there’s no doubt, I can travel ‑‑ I travel the world. I go to many places and some people say, oh, you’re going there; you’re going to have problems with, say, security or whatever.
Golfers travel five‑star all the time. We stay in five‑star hotels. It’s pretty nice at the top. I will say when I was at the very top, whenever I went to a tournament, I wouldn’t be far off the penthouse. At this stage, I’m probably on the third or fourth floor (laughter). I can see the difference, but it’s still pretty nice where I am. It is still pretty nice, and we have to appreciate that; that that’s the one benefit I always say to young pros who are turning pro. You know, you can play golf and travel the world on a shoestring because of the fact that nearly everywhere you go, people involved in golf will kind of help you out and look after you. So it’s a good sport for the young kids.
This is much tougher for the athletes. Like they really have to make ends meet. You read and see the stories of people who have to go collecting and do charity ‑‑ not charity, but fund‑raising to play to come here, which is incredible. You can be at the top of your game and clearly it doesn’t ‑‑ none of these people, even after winning Gold Medals are settled for life, unlike golfers. There’s a difference. There’s an incredible difference.
But happiness is playing well at your sport in that moment, and these athletes give it 100 percent because that’s what it means. That’s what their lives mean at this moment in time. And as I said, you go around that Olympic Village and there’s a great buzz about the place.
- Also wanted to ask you, the golfers here seeing all the different events ‑‑ do you think other athletes will turn up for the golf?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: It would be my goal in life to get them all to try golf. Because most people who don’t have a very little understanding of the physicality of golf. You know, it does get a bad rap at times, because often times, people look at golf and say, well, my grand dad plays golf, and he’s 65 years of age.
Well, I saw a 65‑year‑old run for the bus the other day. He ain’t a marathon runner. And that’s the problem with golf. Sometimes it’s perceived in that way, because somebody who is 60 years of age, 70 years of age, can kind of enjoy and play the game, sometimes it’s seen as not an athletic endeavor.
But clearly, you know, there’s many things in life that people do throughout their life, but wouldn’t make them Olympic athletes. So I often think, you know, yeah, come and try our sport and see how hard it is, and then judge it on its merits.
So would it be nice for other athletes to turn up? I certainly have been getting ‑‑ I’ve been surprised. Quite a few people have done up and done quite a few selfies in the Olympic Village. I’ve been getting like reasonable recognition, which is good for my ego.
- Who wanted a selfie?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Nobody big. Just regular athletes. I wouldn’t be able to name them all. I wouldn’t be able to name very many of them actually. They were from different countries, and a few Irish people, yes, but from outside of Ireland.
In that sense, it’s been good for me. But yeah, I’d like to see some athletes come out. But golf is a very strange sport, because until you actually play it at the top level, you don’t realise the genuine physicality of the game and what’s required.
- Along those lines, having won three major tournaments ‑‑ how much weight does that carry ‑‑ with what you’ve accomplished at all?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Just like I just said. I’ve been surprised that I have been, as I say, recognised and people have come up and asked for selfies, and outside the Irish side of things. Yeah, I’m surprised that I have been. I would have thought most would look at me and says, “Wonder what he’s coaching.”