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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 October 2007, 21:01 GMT 22:01 UK
Padraig Harrington Q&A
Padraig Harrington
Harrington is the Open champion
Open champion Padraig Harrington was competing at this week's HSBC World Match Play at Wentworth and he took time out to answer a selection of the hundreds you sent in.

Q. Who were your golfing heroes when you were growing up?
Darren Ewen, 21, Cheltenham

A. Jack Nicklaus. I saw him win the 1986 Masters and it was such an exciting event, very emotional. When I really started getting into golf, Bernhard Langer was my hero. He was the professional's professional, he got the most out of his game; he was very disciplined and worked hard.

Q. What's your favourite golf course?
Brian, Glasgow

I've re-set my goals, though I don't tell anyone what they are

Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland is one. While it's a beautiful and testing course, it's still playable and you can shoot a good score.

In the States it's obviously Augusta. I play there all the time, but St Andrews has to be number one. There's nothing like it for tradition, history and mystique. If I only had one round left, it would be probably at St Andrews but it's a toss up between there and Augusta. What I like about them both is that they change every day. Changing a pin position or a shift in the wind totally changes the nature of each hole.

Q. How have you set new golf goals now that you have achieved your dream?
Ronan O'Flynn, Dublin

Probably the most important thing for me right now is to have some clear goals. A lot of players have won one major, but as it's the pinnacle of your career you tend to tail off. So you have to have objectives. After winning a major it's so easy to get drawn into thinking that there are only majors, there are only big events, whereas often it's the little things - shooting 74 instead of 75, or reaching the turn in 39 instead of 40 that make you into the player you are.

I've re-set my goals, though I don't tell anyone what they are. I don't want to be judged. But I'm always very careful to say that the Open is my first major and hopefully won't be my only one. It's time to knuckle down.

Q. What part of your game has developed the most since your amateur days?
Mark Carwood, 26, Greystones, County Wicklow, Ireland

A. My golf swing. I swing the club a lot better, more orthodox and it's a lot more predictable and more consistent from week to week.

I always used to be better in matchplay as an amateur, now I'd prefer to play in 72-hole strokeplay so I've changed a lot as a golfer.

When I first turned pro, every week I'd spend Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday trying to find something to play with for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Now, I can still have periods when I'm not swinging well but generally my swing is predictable. I understand it a lot more and I hit the ball a lot further.

I worked on the mental side of my game a lot as an amateur but probably much less in my first years as a pro because I was so fixated on working on my swing.

There was a far bigger disparity in my scoring when I first came on Tour. Then it was 64s and 65s followed by 75s. Now it's between 68 and 74. As I've got more mature as a pro, I'm steadier. I used to go round links courses in really tough weather in four, five or six under par. If you asked me now I'd be happy shooting level par.

I always used to be better in matchplay as an amateur. I was four or six shots better than I was at strokeplay and when I first turned pro I would have relished the chance to play anybody in 18-hole matchplay. Now I'd prefer to play him in 72-hole strokeplay. I've changed a lot as a golfer.

But it's kind of come full circle in that I'm now trying to regain the attitude I had as amateur, that natural flair, and marry it in with my professional ability, in terms of swinging the golf club.

Q. Did you ever put ladybirds in the Claret Jug?
Lee Rhodes, 26, Runcorn

A. By the time I got home and tried to get some the ladybirds had all gone in, it was too cold. There's been plenty of stickers and ornaments and cards and things with ladybirds on but no real ones. We'll have to wait until next summer.

But the first drink I had out of it was John Smith's Smooth Bitter on the Sunday night in Carnoustie. I'd made a sort or promise/bet with my manager at the start of the week.

Q. What's the most important thing an amateur can do to improve scoring?
David Kelleher, 37, Teddington

Padraig Harrington
Harrington gets in the swing of things at the 2007 Irish Open

It's quite straightforward. By practising their swing and technique they'll enjoy hitting the golf ball and the beauty of making a good strike and they'll spend hours doing that. But if they practise the short game, they'll spend less time and get better results in terms of handicap and scoring.

So people have to ask themselves what they want. Do they want to be someone who hits the ball well but handicap-wise is not as good as they should be?

Or, if you want to be a clever golfer and get the most out of your game you should spend 20 minutes a day practising putting and chipping, especially anything from inside 60 yards. You'll improve immensely. You've got to give yourself a chance of getting down in two and never taking more than three.

If I could walk with an 18-handicapper and I hit all his shots inside 100 yards he'd be playing off below five. The long game is where the aesthetics and beauty are but the short game is where the nitty gritty and scoring is.

Q. How do you maintain your concentration after a bad shot?
Jack Bust, 72, Nottingham

A. The key is to do the same thing after a bad shot as you do after a good shot, and vice versa. Approach every shot, whether the last was good, bad or indifferent with the same routine. Don't take fewer or extra practice swings, for example. It's about being able to do the same thing when playing on your own, on the range or when playing competitively. If you do the same thing each of those times you won't have a problem with concentration. The guy who is always changing his routine or running up and hitting shots when it is not important will suffer the day it is important.

Q. How did you feel when your tee shot on the 18th went into the water in the Open at Carnoustie?
Dan Wilmot, Bristol

A. In hindsight I was lucky that it didn't bounce across the bridge. If it had, I wouldn't have been given credit for winning the Open. I would have been considered lucky.

My own feeling was that it was a tough tee shot and I hit a bad one, but I've hit bad shots before. I knew I still had a chance of winning the Open so I didn't really worry that much. I just accepted it. Nobody plays this game without hitting the odd bad shot - it's about your ability to recover.

I still haven't seen Andres Romero hit a shot at the Open Championship - I'm looking forward to sitting down and watching 27 hours of it on DVD

So that's why I was disappointed when I hit the second shot, my third after the penalty, into the water. That hit me much harder.

I was very much in danger of spiralling downhill, thinking about what had happened before [with Jean van de Velde], thinking what an idiot I am and that I've lost the Open.

It's only my caddie who dragged me back out. He had words with me going down the fairway. He said that there was no point worrying about it now, there are more shots to play, we'll figure out what it means afterwards, stick to your routine, one shot at a time - there were a lot of different statements made. It was all one-sided but it certainly did the job. By the time I got to my ball I was back in the zone and focusing on the shot.

People have said I looked different that day. It's a cliché, but I work very hard to get in to the "zone" and the odd time I do fall into it, it's very evident in my eyes. My wife has spoken about it for years. But I have only watched five minutes highlights of it so far, and the only my shots. I haven't heard the commentary, I haven't seen other people, and I still haven't seen Andres Romero hit a shot at the Open Championship. I'm looking forward to sitting down and watching 27 hours of it on DVD.

I haven't spoken a word [about it] to Sergio since - I'm not the person to console him, someone close to him, his family yes, but not me.

Q. Would you have seen your career as a success even if you hadn't won a major?
Howard O'Neill, 27, Kildare

A. If I contend in 20 more majors and don't win another one then probably no, my career would not have been a success. People will think I should have done better. But if my career ends tomorrow, or I never contend again, people will say, well, at least he won one.

It's only at the end of my career when I will be able to tell. But I never contemplated - though I dreamt about it - being good enough to win a major when I turned pro. Being a successful European Tour pro was even overstepping the mark.

Q. In matchplay, I struggle to come from behind but I can play solid golf when I'm in front - any advice on how to come back?
Nick Clayton, 17, Keighley, West Yorkshire

A. I personally struggle being in front. I lose a little bit of my intensity. Even in the play-off at the Open I did, when I missed a putt to go three shots up on the 17th green. I was thinking how great it was to be three up and how I couldn't lose. I would have holed it if I was one behind. But at least I spotted it and regrouped.

Padraig Harrington falls foul of the water at Carnoustie
Harrington falls foul of the water at Carnoustie, but still wins

I just find it easier to be behind. It's part of my make-up. I'm a better player when my back is to the wall. I don't do comfortable very well, or confidence. They are my two worse traits. I'm a strange person.

I play better when I have the fear, though it's not a good emotion to work off because it's a lot more stressful. I've discussed it with my mind coach Bob Rotella. It's nice to be confident and we've got a few things to work on but that's just not me.

But generally when you're behind in matchplay, you've got to decide on a point at which you are going to take on shots. If it's an 18-hole match, you might play the first 15 the way you'd always play them, but then if you're down you might have to be a little bit more aggressive. If, for example, there's a par five over water, you might have to take it on. But know that if you do and you miss you're giving the match away.

Basically, make the other guy win, rather than going after too much early on and letting him win holes easily

The key is to begin by playing your own game but have a little eye on your opponent. If he makes a critical error it might change your strategy. But basically, make the other guy win, rather than going after too much early on and letting him win holes easily, especially if you're playing a guy supposedly better than you. Make him prove it, even if he hits it close - make sure he has to hole that putt to win.

There will come a time when you're down and faced with a 20 ft putt and the only thought is holing it, whereas if you're up you have a secondary thought that you don't want to leave yourself too much work to do - leave it stone dead.

It's not all about being gung-ho. What you think your opponent is going to do is never the case.

Q. What is a typical day's practice session?
Steven Fraser, 18, London

A. If it's a real day of practising I'll do three two-hour sessions a day. If my coach is there we might do three three-hour sessions. If it's just a casual week off I might hit three one-hour sessions. If I really don't have much time I might do one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon.

I always start with putting, then bunker play, chipping, pitching then full swinging. I try to get a bit of everything done in each session. I also do 40 minutes of stretching every morning and continue stretching throughout the day, even before I go to bed.

I have a weights programme but that's a bit more ad hoc, depending on how I'm feeling. If it was a training week it could be up to six times a week but in general it's two or three heavy sessions a week.

Q. You've said in the past you didn't feel comfortable at Wentworth. Is this still the case?
John Crabb, Chelmsford

I could line up 50 guys who will tell you that they don't know how I beat them

I've always done OK here at this time of year. The greens are softer, there's more moisture and less people on them. During the PGA Championship they are firmer and faster and I find it difficult to read them.

But tee to green it's a fantastic course and I love the changes Ernie Els has made.

I prefer bigger targets with more trouble than small targets. I think that's a fairer and much better test of golf.

The first hole here used to be 27 yards wide, now it's 35 with bunkers. The 17th used to be 22 yards wide with a huge slope and rough. Now it's 40 yards wide with out of bounds.

But by becoming more steady and consistent as a pro, it's knocked the edge off my matchplay golf a bit. Certainly the last few times I've played it (WGC and Ryder Cup) I've struggled to raise my game when I've needed to. I didn't make anything happen but as an amateur I always would. I could line up 50 guys who will tell you that they don't know how I beat them.



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