'I always have to have the last word' - Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington in depth with Paul Kimmage
Pádraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy have shared seven Major championships and were born just 100 miles apart but there has always been something curious about the chemistry between them. There was the North v South thing, obviously, but most of Rory's management team are southerners. There was the age difference, naturally, but Pádraig's wing-man on Tour was Shane Lowry.
Eleven years have passed since the Open at Carnoustie when Harrington became the first Irishman in 60 years to win a Major, and McIlroy served notice of his prodigious talent as the leading amateur. A few weeks later, Rory had travelled to Dublin and spent some time with Pádraig at his home but had they shared anything since?
A plane ride? Dinner? A tee time? Lunch? A practice round? Coffee? A text message? The evidence was scant. They played the same game and shared the same world but lived on different planets: Pádraig was from Mars, Rory was from Venus.
What if we brought them together?
The first surprise when we floated the notion of the interview was how amenable they were.
"I'd like to do it," Pádraig said, "but I'm not going to be your problem."
"I'm open to that," Rory said, "but our minds work very differently."
The second surprise was how jumpy Pádraig was once the venue - The Lodge at Pebble Beach on the eve of the AT&T Pro-Am - had been set.
"He's doing it?"
"It won't be as good as the one we did with Shane."
"What are you going to ask?"
Three days later, they both missed the cut.
I followed them south to Los Angeles for the Genesis Open at Riviera. They were both drawn early for Thursday's opening round. For Rory, that meant a 4.45 alarm call, a five-minute shower, a 15-minute drive from his hotel to Riviera, and a quick change of shoes before heading to the players' dining room for breakfast.
A minute later, Graeme McDowell arrived and sat down beside him. Five minutes after that, Tiger Woods rocked up and joined them. Ten minutes after that, Harrington walked in and pulled up a chair. As tables-for-four go, it was quite something.
"How many Majors?" I asked Rory, later.
"Twenty-two," he smiled.
"Christ! I'd cut off my right arm to sit in on that."
"Next time," he smiled.
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto
Let's call the whole thing off.
Paul Kimmage: Okay, gentlemen I'm going to start with a little tease. (I hand them each a blank sheet of paper and a pen.) I'd like you both to sign your autograph please.
Pádraig Harrington: Real ones?
PK: Yeah, your normal autograph.
Rory McIlroy: Okay.
(They both sign.)
PK: Now I want you to examine them, and while you're doing that I'm going to quote you a line from Johnny Sexton's book: 'Pádraig Harrington says you can tell the size of someone's ego by the first letter of their autograph.'
PH: Did you know that, Rory? The bigger your initials, the bigger your ego.
RM: Yeah, I've heard that.
PK: So that would suggest, looking at these, that you've a much bigger ego than Rory.
PH: (laughs) Yeah, but I knew that's what you were getting at so I went all out.
RM: My 'R' doesn't look like an 'R'.
PH: Yeah, it's a hard autograph to read, and you wouldn't think there were that many letters in your name.
PH: And it's round, mine is sharp. What does that mean?
PK: (laughs) I have no idea.
RM: Tiger signs his with a lowercase 't'.
RM: A lowercase 't' and a big 'W'.
PH: I didn't know that, although I'm sure I've plenty of his autographs from Ryder Cups and things like that.
PK: I'm trying to highlight some of the things that make you different. When is the last time you two sat in a room together?
RM: Hmmm . . .
PH: In what sense? There was (Rory's) wedding, obviously.
RM: Did we not go for dinner somewhere after that?
PH: We did actually, because we talked about the wedding.
RM: The Dunhill (Cup)?
PH: Yeah, we had dinner with the (Irish players) at the Dunhill.
RM: Yeah, the Dunhill.
PK: How many mobile phones do you have?
PK: What if you wanted to get in touch with each other for something. How would you do that?
PH: There would probably be a go-between. I'd send 'Ro' (his caddie, Ronan Flood) to tell Sean (Rory's manager, Sean O'Flaherty) or something.
RM: Yeah, to get it organised.
PH: Unless we bumped into each other.
PK: That seems a bit . . . odd?
PH: Well, apart from me being the age of his dad - actually I'm not quite the age of Gerry - I think we're very different.
PH: And we have a very different way of preparing for tournaments. He likes to play early, I like to play late. I'm not prepared to do his thing, he's not prepared to do mine. And that's fine because when I was his age I would do nothing for nobody in terms of (making compromises). Everything was: 'What was the best thing for me?'
RM: Yeah, what's the best way to prepare?
PH: I like a good sleep and to play later.
RM: I'm up at five every morning.
PH: I can think of nothing worse than playing practice rounds when you do.
RM: I'd rather get out early and get done by noon.
PH: We're very different in our approach.
PK: That's what interests me.
PH: From our perspective, and I mean the Irish guys (there were eight Irish players playing in Pebble Beach), we would like to spend more time with Rory in the evenings: "Are you coming out to dinner?" But we think, you think, it's harder for you to do.
RM: It is harder. I'm not saying I travel with an entourage but there's more people in my group.
PH: Yeah, and there was a time when that was the case for me.
RM: And Erica is on the road with me, so I'm not going to go out with my wife and eight lads because that doesn't quite work.
PH: No, it doesn't, and you have to be selfish enough to do your own thing. I've got more lenient as I've got older, but five to 10 years ago, when I had more people with me and it was all about trying to win Majors, I set the agenda.
RM: Yeah, for example, I've rented a house this week and I have a chef and everything revolves around that house. I get back (after playing) and there's six people in the house and that's my week: I don't see anyone else; I don't want to see anyone else.
PK: Why are you laughing?
PH: I rented a house for myself and Shane (Lowry) this week and there was a can of Coke in the fridge - that was it! He has gone to the shops now to get some stuff in.
PK: Pádraig, were you not a bit like that in your early days? 'This is what I'm doing. I'm not interested in anyone else.'
PH: Des Smyth ran the show when I first came out on Tour. Everybody (the Irish players) went out for dinner at seven o'clock and you had to go; okay, you wanted to go too, but the bottom line was you were going. I would have changed, later, when I got more established and would have completely changed when I went to the States. It was just me and my entourage and my family every night. Because when you have family with you, you don't make the decision.
PH: You don't.
RM: I feel as well, and this has happened over the years, that it's whoever Erica is friendly with. We had the Snedekers over for dinner last night - and I love Brandt, he's a great guy, but Mandy and Erica are quite close.
PH: It's gone full circle for me. I went back four years ago and played some events in Europe with Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane, and we went out every night and had these great conversations - gossip, rows, everything. And now I crave . . .
RM: The togetherness?
PH: Yeah, and the craic you can have with the lads.
PK: Did you ever have that Rory?
RM: Maybe early on when I was with Chubby (his former manager Andrew Chandler) and Clarkey (Darren Clarke) and G-Mac (Graeme McDowell) and (Lee) Westwood.
PH: Chubby had a different clique of guys. I'm with IMG and it would have been heresy on both sides if you were seen mingling with the other.
RM: (laughs) 'Why is he spending time with him?'
PK: Would it be fair to describe Shane as your buddy out here, Pádraig?
PK: What about you, Rory? Any player you're close to?
PK: I'll take that as a no.
RM: Not particularly, but I think that's more to do with the stage I'm at in my life. If Erica wasn't with me, I'd reach out to some people or play a practice round or whatever. But I wouldn't be particularly . . .
PH: It's not easy when you have two players with different agendas. I'm with Shane quite a bit but if he has an early tee time, and I'm out late, we'll just go in different directions. I think the real difference for me is that I'm prepared to (compromise) now. When I was playing my best, I didn't want to be committed to anything. That's the problem.
RM: It's either that or you make a plan. For example in Dubai I went out for dinner on the Wednesday night before the tournament started with Thomas Bjorn and Ollie Fisher.
PH: You're good friends with Ollie.
RM: Yeah, there you go, Ollie Fisher. We go back a long way.
PK: When is the last time you two actually played together?
RM: A looong time ago.
PH: Thanks Rory.
RM: No, I don't mean it like that.
PH: I'm clearly the one sucking the hind tit here.
PH: When is the last time we played together? Could it be as far back as Fota Island?
RM: Yeah, 2014. There you go.
PH: Did we never get drawn together over here? I remember playing with G-Mac in Memphis one year. Did you play that? I think the three of us were drawn together.
RM: The last time I played Memphis was 2012.
PH: (incredulous) Do you seriously remember the year you last played Memphis?
PH: And you remember that Fota Island was 2014?
RM: I would know every winner of every tournament of every year, and where the golf course was.
PH: I couldn't even tell you the years (of the tournaments) I've won. I'd know some of them, but I certainly couldn't tell you the tournaments I've played.
RM: What year did you get beaten in the final at Wentworth by Woosie (Ian Woosnam)?
PH: No idea.
RM: I watched it. I was there . . . 2001.
PH: Was it? I'd have said '99 or something. I can't believe that.
2 The Ties That Bind
The difference with Harrington was his mental strength. I don't think I have ever seen - and this is a pretty wide thing to say - such heroism in any sporting environment as Harrington on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie. Think about it. The shame! To have the Claret Jug in your hands and do that! If it were me, I'd have thrown the club there and just run for the nearest exit to bury my head. And what happens? He pitches from 49 yards to five feet and holes the putt for a six - probably the greatest six we have ever seen in Major golf!
PK: Okay, we've talked about what makes you different; let's talk about things you share. Where do you keep your Claret Jug?
RM: (Nods to Pádraig) Ssss . . . plural.
PH: Sitting on the breakfast bar in the kitchen at home.
RM: I don't have it on display. I have a trophy room, but if you were in the house you would never find it.
PK: Go on.
RM: I don't know, I just . . .if someone wants to see them, I'm happy to bring them up and show them. I'd rather display things that are more personal to me like pictures, or stuff that's not connected to what I do.
PK: The follow-up was going to be: "When is the last time you picked it up?"
RM: (Long pause)
PK: (laughs) Don't tell me it was in Hoylake?
RM: Yeah, it's been years. I'll tell you what I found in my mum and dad's house the other day: they have a little trophy cabinet with of all my junior wins and stuff, and right in the middle was the gold medal I won with the Claret Jug. I was like: 'What's that doing here?' I didn't even know they had it.
PK: When is the last time you picked it up Pádraig?
PH: People calling to the house who have never been before always ask to pick it up, so maybe a month ago. I've no trophy room. They have one in Stackstown, a nice one, but I've got stuff all over the place. You could find a really good trophy in my house that's in a box, or a poor trophy that's on display because it looks nice. I don't decide what goes up or where they go. I would have no idea where things are.
RM: I know exactly where all mine are, I just don't make them very visible.
PH: I have the 'Player of the Year' trophy in the entrance hall with all sorts of things hanging out of it.
RM: What one is that?
PH: The Jack Nicklaus one.
RM: Oh, yeah the Jack Nicklaus.
PH: And to be honest, I have no problem being reminded of it.
RM: Yeah, 100 per cent.
PK: I guess the magic of the Claret Jug is the history of it. That's you, immortalised.
PH: We won it. We did it. It doesn't matter what we do from here, they can never take it away.
PH: I'm at a stage where I've done what I need to do. You're at a stage, Rory, where you're still trying to get more . . . actually, I'm going to say this, and it's probably not what you want to hear, but four Majors for you is a failure.
RM: I 100 per cent agree.
PH: Three Majors for me was an over-achievement. I love what I'm doing and I'd like to win another one, but I'm well aware that I'm not going to change my legacy at this stage. Whereas you're still on that path.
PK: Do you not think you're being hard on yourself, Pádraig?
PH: Ah, Jeez, I'm 46 years of age! Although I've probably still more hair than him. How are you doing under that cap?
(Rory smiles and removes his baseball cap)
RM: I'm doing okay.
PH: Are you sure you're not receding a bit?
RM: No, no, just a bit of grey . . .
PK: Rory, when did you first become aware of Pádraig Harrington?'
RM: When did I first become aware of Pádraig?
PK: Yeah, you watched Faldo and Tiger winning the Masters as a kid. What about Pádraig?
RM: Did you play in '97 (Ryder Cup) at Valderrama?
RM: You played in '99 at Brookline.
RM: So it would have been right around then, '98, '99, that's when I was really getting into golf.
PH: What age were you then?
RM: I think that was Clarkey's first one in Valderrama?
PH: It was.
RM: So that's when I first became aware of Pádraig. And I would have gone to the World Matchplay at Wentworth and watched you with Woosie.
PK: Pádraig, when did you first become aware of Rory?
PH: I think he was about 12. My brother Tadhg followed all of the amateur golf and I remember him saying: "You wanna see this kid!" I was like: "Yeah, yeah, I've heard that before." But he wasn't having it: "No, I'm telling you, this kid is unbelievable." And true enough, it started to . . .
PK: When was the 'true enough' moment?
PH: I probably wouldn't have believed it until he won the silver medal (for leading amateur) in Carnoustie.
PK: That's interesting, because for a lot of people - and I remember Graeme McDowell saying this - it was when he shot the course record in Portrush.
RM: The 61?
RM: That was in '05.
PH: Yeah, I was aware of that, because I was the course record holder up to that with 63.
RM: Were you?
PH: I know I held it for a long time.
PK: So surely that would have been the moment?
PH: Yeah, maybe because it's the sort of thing my brother would have been excited about: "HE SHOT 61!"
RM: I remember meeting your brother, actually.
PK: I watched some footage of Carnoustie recently and what's magical about it, apart from your win obviously, Pádraig, is the fact that Rory was there.
PH: He baby-sat!
RM: I did, yeah, I was looking after Paddy (Pádraig's son). He was running around everywhere.
PH: Not a bit interested in what his dad was doing.
RM: (smiles) I remember watching it from the back of the green - McGinley was in his leather jacket.
PH: (laughs) I'm surprised he wasn't at the front.
(Pádraig's phone rings. He excuses himself and steps out of the room to take the call.)
PK: Keep going, Rory. What did you make of the drama on the final hole?
RM: It was dramatic. In fairness, I didn't really know Pádraig at that stage, and Sergio was one of my favourite players . . .
PK: Don't tell me you were rooting for Sergio!
RM: (smiles) I was torn, definitely torn, but it was weird. We were sitting on that wall at the back of the green and you had Sergio's family on one side, and Pádraig's family on the other. Caroline is there, and McGinley is there, and Paddy is running all over the place and I'm sitting in the middle going: 'I'm just waiting for this to finish so I can get my silver medal.'
RM: But to hit it in the water and then to get it up and down was just . . .
PK: Anyone watching would have said: 'He's blown it.'
RM: Yeah, it looked another (Jean) Van de Velde moment for sure.
PK: Dermot Gilleece described the mental strength Pádraig showed that day as one of the greatest things he has seen in golf.
RM: But that's Pádraig, he doesn't let a bad shot faze him. It's almost as if he takes pleasure in thinking, 'Okay, I'm going to figure this out. I'm going to find a way.' And that's been his whole career - finding a way, a different way, and always thinking about it. That's him.
PK: We were on the range the other day at Spyglass Hill and he was hitting a driver with a range basket between his legs. Adam Scott was practicing alongside and at one stage he stood back and stared at Pádraig almost in astonishment.
RM: (smiles) Yeah, he's the ultimate . . . at 46, I'll probably be at the point where I accept what I have - he does not accept it. There's always something to work on; there's always something to get better at. That's where we differ as well; I don't know if I have the mental capacity or the mental stamina to get up every morning and do that.
PK: You don't?
RM: Yeah, to practise like that. The way he goes about it is too mentally draining for me.
(Pádraig has finished the call and re-enters the room.)
PK: Pádraig, we've been talking about Carnoustie and the bit you missed when you were out of the room was an admission from Rory: "I was rooting for Sergio." (Laughs)
RM: I didn't say that. I said I was torn.
PK: (still laughing) Sorry, I'm being facetious.
PH: That's okay, Sergio would have been more his era. I mean you were probably hoping to be Sergio?
RM: Yeah, it was one of the reasons we went over to Wentworth each year. I wanted to see Sergio.
PH: He didn't see himself doing four years of accountancy and then trying to do it as a pro.
RM: (smiles) A different journey.
PH: You were never looking for my journey.
PK: Eleven years have passed since Carnoustie, Rory. What if someone had told you that day, as you were waiting for the silver medal and watching Pádraig and Sergio going head-to-head for the Open, that both of them would attend your wedding?
RM: I know, yeah.
RM: It is mad - even madder because they had a great time (laughs)!
PH: It was a great wedding.
PH: Nobody has really talked about your wedding but I'm going to put this on the record - it was not the wedding you expected. It was very much a private, family wedding that was great fun. It was not . . .
RM: It wasn't over the top.
PH: No, it was a romantic family wedding, very surprising. It wasn't . . .
PK: An event?
PH: Yeah, an event. It was just a lovely family gathering. I had a great time with Erica's aunts and uncles. I was in my element (laughs).
PK: Okay, but I have one question.
PH: No, I'm not going to talk any more about it.
PK: You have to answer this.
PH: No, not about the wedding.
RM: Go on.
PK: What does a three-time Major winner buy a four-time Major winner for a wedding present?
PH: There were no gifts.
RM: We said our gift was people spending the weekend with us.
3 'He's trying to be Tiger Woods'
I'm pretty much a normal teenager. I like to go out and go to the cinema, try and think about golf as little as possible when I'm off the golf course and just try and lead a normal life. I think I've pretty much done that for the last 18 years. I'm a normal teenager, but I'm a pretty good golfer as well. I think my friends will say that as well: I'm a pretty normal guy.
PK: I've asked you about this before, Rory, but that 2007 Open was your first big press conference and the word that jumped out when you were asked to describe yourself was normal.
PK: I also asked when your life stopped being normal. You said: "Probably that week."
PK: What about you, Pádraig? Your life was also very different from that week.
PH: Yeah. Did it stop being normal? I would say I embrace it.
RM: Embrace what?
RM: You embrace fame?
PH: I love it. I mightn't be that famous in the wider context of things, but I have no problem if somebody with a few drinks shouts at me as I'm walking down the street in Dublin at night. I'm delighted. I'll wave back to them, "Yeah!" (he raises a thumb) and remind myself that the more that happens, the better I'm doing.
PK: I'm sure we had a conversation last year about how difficult it was being the centre of attention when you were on the range at your peak?
PH: Yeah, but I don't have that anymore.
PK: No, but you had it.
PH: I had it.
RM: I don't mind that; put me in a golf environment; make me the centre of attention; I love that. That's me. That's what I'm famous for. Put me walking down the street in Dublin and someone shouting at me and I'll be (he shields his face with his hands): "No! Go away."
RM: Yeah. It's happy days when I'm the centre of attention on the golf course, but I want to walk into Brown Thomas get a shirt and not be seen.
PH: It's not a question of wanting to be seen, but if somebody says something I make sure I enjoy it.
RM: Of course, but there's ways to do it. If someone says, "Well played last week, lovely to meet you" and walks on about their day - great. But I don't enjoy when someone makes a show of it.
PH: The one I find hard is when you're with a group of people at a table but the only 'person' is you. So if the table is loud it's 'Harrington's table' - not the other nine people who are sitting there. And sometimes you will try to take too much responsibility for your group.
PK: So you're admitting it's hard?
PH: Oh yeah.
PK: There's a good story about Martin Kaymer in John Feinstein's book on the Ryder Cup. He said that when he got to world number one, the only people who spoke normally to him were his father, his brother and his girlfriend.
PK: Then Feinstein uses a quote from you, Rory: "I realised at a certain point that I'm not a great judge of character. If you live in a world where everyone treats you well because they think you're a star or important, it's tough to judge who is really a good guy and who is not. At least I've figured out that the real test is how you treat people who you don't think are important or can't help you make money."
PH: Sorry, the real test is how you treat them or how they treat you?
RM: No, for example, if someone says: "Oh, you met X. How is he?" I'll say: "I think he's nice - he was nice to me." But everyone is nice to me! The real test is the private moment. How does X treat the waiter who takes his order in the restaurant? Or the guy who can't do anything for him? That will tell you if he's a good guy.
PH: Yeah, I've had that too. I think the only people you ever get a sense of reality from are your close friends.
RM: Or your family.
PH: That's it. Your close friends are the ones that will take you aside and say what needs to be said: "You can't do that, Pádraig." They're the ones that will give you a bit of stick.
PK: When is the last time you got stick?
PH: I get stick every day from Ronan.
RM: I got stick today.
RM: My dad. I think I three-putted three times in a row today in Monterey.
PH: Oh, they (the greens) were dodgy, weren't they?
RM: Oh my goodness.
PH: Fast and bumpy.
RM (laughs): Fast and bumpy. But I three-putted and he says: "Do you need me to give you a lesson?"
PH: I get stick every day from Ronan, or my mother, or Caroline.
PK: What's the hardest thing about being Rory McIlroy at this moment in time?
RM: Realising that not everyone lives a similar lifestyle to me, not necessarily monetary or financial-wise, but in terms of the lifestyle that we lead. I guess it's trying to relate to people, or to get people to relate to me in a way that's . . .
RM: Exactly. And I'm not saying that I'm normal. I live an abnormal life - but my values are normal. So it's trying to connect all that.
PK: What's the hardest thing about being Pádraig Harrington at this moment in time?
PH: (Pauses) I think the hardest thing for me is trying to justify, although I'm not sure justify is the word, being away from home. I worry that in years to come I might regret being away from home at this time of my life.
PH: I love playing golf. I have a great time, my family are very good with it, my kids know nothing else, so there's no pressure or stress. But I do worry that I might look back on this period of time, because I've pretty much done what I needed to in golf, and wonder: 'Should I have been there?'
PK: Is the worry rooted in your relationship with your family?
PH: No, I actually think it's more selfish - it's about me. I think my family deal with it very well.
PK: So is the issue fulfilment?
PH: The issue is whether in hindsight, for this period, I will wonder if I might have had a more fulfilling life if I'd stayed at home. I love doing what I do, and everybody is very comfortable with it, but for purely selfish reasons I wonder if I'll look back in five or six years and think: 'God! Why did I play (so much)?'
PK: Worry is an interesting word. What do you worry about most?
RM: Honestly? Probably how long my parents are going to be around.
PH: Wow! I couldn't bring that up.
RM: Yeah, it's . . .
PH: My mother wouldn't want it mentioned but yeah, that would be my biggest worry.
PK: You've already lost your dad, Pádraig.
PH: That was probably the most interesting experience I've had as a golfer. When I lost my dad I had to do interviews, and just because I was good at golf people assumed I was going to be able to handle . . .
RM: Talking about losing your dad?
PH: Yeah, and grief. Because how people deal with grief is so . . . individual. And it's not like you get a few gos at it. So that was my weirdest experience as a pro: you're at a press conference and you're being asked these questions, and normally that's not a problem because we're experts when it comes to golf. But nobody is an expert when it comes to grief.
PK: Rory, you were asked a couple of great questions about your dad at your press conference today. The first was: 'Who has played the most golf in the last year? Yourself or Gerry?' And the second was . . .
RM: 'Who would you rather come back as in your next life? Rory McIlroy or Gerry McIlroy?'
PK: Yeah, that was it.
RM: And I said Gerry but post-50, because his first 50 years were very tough.
PH: But do you know what? I'll bet he looks back on them and says they were good days.
RM: Yeah, because when I told him about it later he said: "Rory, I loved pulling pints. I loved the crack. I loved talking to people. That's what I did."
PH: That's just his personality - if he didn't have that personality he probably wouldn't be enjoying this (second part of his) life.
RM: Yeah, it's like Niall Horan's dad. Niall is so successful that his dad could easily leave his job but he won't do that. He still works night shifts. He's happy: 'This is my life. This is what I know. This is what I do.'
PH: You have to have purpose.
RM: Of course, big time.
PK: What is the quality you admire most about each other?
RM: It's probably what we were talking about when he left the room - that mental capacity he has to be always searching for ways to get better. I've tried to get better at that and to leave no stone unturned but it requires a lot of mental stamina. I mean, you love the game Pádraig.
PH: I love it. I just love it.
RM: And you love finding different ways to improve. So the pursuit of getting better would be the quality I admire in you, and that mental stamina that takes . . . although it's probably not hard work for you?
PH: Well, obsessiveness can be as harmful as good so there's two sides to it - the positive and the negative, and I'm sure you recognise that.
RM: Of course, everything needs a balance.
PK: Pádraig, what quality do you admire most in Rory?
PH: There are two things that stand out with Rory; the first thing kills him but it also makes him and that's his belief: when it's there it's phenomenal, and when it's not there it hurts him. When he has it he sends people running scared, and when he doesn't have it he fades - you can see that from the sideline.
RM: Yeah, yeah.
PH: The greatest thing you've ever done is have low points, because you've come back from them and you've learned that it's a cycle that loops and loops. And you're patient in those areas when it isn't going so well. The second thing that stands out with Rory is (pauses) . . . I wonder sometimes about how you present yourself to the world. It always seems much colder than who you really are.
PH: I don't think I've ever been in your company where I haven't walked away thinking you're a nicer guy than I thought beforehand. And yet, media-wise, you can sound quite cold and clinical at times and I think: 'He's trying to be Tiger Woods.' Because you present this . . . wall.
PK: Give me an example of the wall?
PH: I mentioned it earlier - we don't see enough of Rory, that would be the wall. It's being professional and it's being aloof, and that was Tiger Woods. We discussed this earlier. Tiger Woods in his heyday was a good guy to play with but he didn't hang around talking to people. He didn't talk on the range or high-five people.
PK: Would you accept that, Rory?
RM: I accept some of it. I go on the range to work; I'm not there all day. So if I'm working and someone comes up to try and chat, whether it was JP before (his former caddie, JP Fitzgerald) or Harry (Diamond) now I'm like: 'Look, tell them to go away. I'm practising.'
PH: Ronan does the same for me.
RM: So I get that. And I don't want to let everyone into everything in my life because there's parts of me I feel I need to keep for myself.
PH: Okay, maybe what I'm saying is that we - the Irish guys - would like a bit more of you.
RM: Okay, yeah.
PH: (laughs) You're good crack to be around. Do you remember we had that night out in Belfast (in 2015 after the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards)? That was fabulous. And when we have dinner it's always good fun. So that's what I'm saying - you keep the two quite separate. But maybe I was the same.
"If Donald Trump paid a State visit to Ireland and the government asked you to play a round of golf with him, would you play a round of golf with Donald Trump?"
"Let me see if I can get this right . . . What is the difference between a smart man and a wise man?
"Talk to me."
"A smart man knows the answers to all of the questions; a wise man avoids the questions."
"I can guarantee you, if the government asked me to do something I would do it."
PK: Pádraig, you said Rory can be a bit cold at times with the media. I think he's great.
PH: He's very straight with the media.
PK: I like straight.
PH: I know that but . . .
PK: Jordan Spieth tells a story in the Feinstein book about the Open in Troon. He announces at his press conference that he's withdrawing from the Olympics for health reasons - the Zika virus - but he sprinkles a bit of sugar on it. This is what he tells Feinstein: "I meant what I said but I was also being PC, which I know I do at times. Unlike Rory." He's sharing a house at the Open with Zach Johnson and Justin Thomas and the following afternoon they're all watching Rory's press conference on TV when he gives it both barrels. When it's over, one of them tells Spieth: "You need to send Rory a really nice bottle because no one is going to be talking about you withdrawing from the Olympics after that."
RM: (smiles) Yeah.
PK: So you both withdraw but you take the heat?
PK: That seems to happen a lot with you?
RM: Yeah, sometimes I just bottle things up and that was just one Olympics question too many. But I thought the biggest thing I said at that press conference was about drugs and the lack of testing in golf, but no one batted an eyelid!
RM: I'm not afraid to give an opinion; people can think what they want.
PK: You were slaughtered last year for playing golf with Trump. Pádraig, you said you'd have done the same and you got a free pass.
PH: You heard what I said on The Late Late Show?
PK: You fudged it.
PH: (laughs) Of course I fudged it.
PK: Is that another difference between you? You (Pádraig) fudge and you (Rory) don't?
RM: I don't fudge because . . .
PH: I don't think I fudge, but I definitely . . .
PK: You calculate?
PH: I calculate more, yes. (He nods at Rory) You let your emotions take over at times.
RM: Everyone wants to be liked, it's a human instinct, human nature, but I've realised over the years that not everyone is going to like me, or agree with what I have to say. So I may as well be me.
PH: What I said on the Late Late was . . . I was basically trying to avoid the Trump question.
PK: Are you still avoiding it? Would you play with him now? Because a lot has happened in the last year.
PH: A lot has happened
RM: Would I play with him now?
RM: Well, from a self-preservation point of view probably not. But I have no problem saying I had a great time. I really enjoyed it.
PK: And that's your argument, Pádraig? It's self-preservation?
PH: Well, I'd think about it more.
RM: I shoot from the hip a little bit, which is not necessarily a good thing sometimes.
PH: On the Trump thing, it's different if it's an official invitation from the United States of America, or the Irish government, or the British government. It has a different context than if he asks you personally.
PK: I guess the question is the same one we discussed last year, Pádraig. Do sportsmen not have a responsibility sometimes to take a stand?
PH: Well, as I said, I'm a great believer when it comes to politics that sports people are often given this big soapbox to stand on when there are other, more qualified people out there. Although I was amazed at what you said about Eamon Dunphy.
RM: What was that? What did he do?
PK: Dunphy refused to play (for Ireland) in Chile because of Pinochet.
PH: And there were a couple of other things he did.
PH: And I admire people like that, believe it or not.
PK: But you wouldn't do it?
PH: I think I'd be too selfish.
RM: It's hard. I haven't studied politics and don't know enough about it. I'm a golfer, all I know is what I hear in the news and the articles that I read, and that isn't enough knowledge or a basis to do something.
PK: Pádraig, you mentioned Tiger and the way he used to be. How is he now? You said you found him much more affable recently in San Diego?
PH: The old Tiger used to walk onto the range with a presence that would intimidate people. This was not the old Tiger. He was talking and smiling and joking and high-fiving. I had a chat with him on the range.
PK: You had a chat with him?
PH: I spent longer talking to him on the range in San Diego then I ever have (on the range). I think we're both at a stage where we realise: 'You know what? You've got to make an effort to enjoy what you're doing out here.'
PK: Do you think that's what it is?
PH: I believe that's what it is. I believe he needs that at this stage of his life.
PK: A sense of perspective?
PH: He's needs the camaraderie of being out on Tour. He needs the friends and the fun and enjoyment at this stage of his career. He's like myself - he can't be the guy he was 10 years ago. We used to stand side-by-side on the range and give each other a nod and that would be it. It was strictly business. Now we're like two old fogies remembering old times. So we've both evolved.
PK: Okay, indulge me. Tell me exactly what happened in San Diego?
PH: I was at the top of the range doing my usual stupid things in a nice quiet spot and he walks over and pitches up beside me. I looked at him (smiles): "I can't believe you've brought all these people and cameras over here. I don't need this." Because you know the razzmatazz that follows him everywhere.
PH: So he turned around and we had a few words. He asked me why I wasn't playing in the Middle East and I laughed and said: "You know very well why I'm not playing in the Middle East - it's the same reason you're not playing in the Middle East. I'm not getting any love (an appearance fee).
RM: (laughs) I've no idea what you're talking about.
PK: Rory, what's your take on Tiger's new attitude?
RM: Well, it's interesting to hear him talking about missing the brotherhood and the camaraderie, but he never experienced any of that when he was at his prime.
PH: That's true. He was never in the locker room.
RM: He never did any of those things.
PK: So what is it?
RM: I think, as Pádraig says, he feels like he almost missed out on that part of it. And I think he missed the game. He's at a place in his life now where golf isn't the most important thing and he's happier for it. He's got two children and by all accounts is a great father. And I think with age you mellow and find a different perspective. But he's still as competitive as ever. I played with him in the middle of November.
RM: Yeah, on Thanksgiving morning.
RM: I drove away thinking: 'This is unbelievable.' It was the best I've seen him play.
PH: You never saw him play in his heyday.
RM: No, but in terms of how he drove and controlled the ball - he didn't miss a shot for the first 10 holes. He was five-under par and I was like: 'Where has this come from?' From a guy that I heard was struggling to walk at the Presidents Cup! So yeah, great. It's good to have him back. I think the game of golf is always better with him around.
PH: But he can't be the guy he was. He can't have that intensity he had when he was younger. That's just the way it is.
RM: No, but he knows that. He knows he's going to have to do it a different way. And he knows that the people he has to beat are different, and that the game has changed since those days in 2000.
PK: Can he do it?
RM: Do what?
PK: Win another Major?
RM: I agree.
PH: All of the great champions got a Major late in their career - Jack won one six years after he had basically retired. So he can. His physical game is good enough. But it won't be like it was in his heyday when he would turn up every week with a chance to win.
RM: From what I've seen, and it's probably what you're going to see from him over the next few weeks, he'll be one of the top-five favourites at Augusta.
RM: One hundred per cent.
PH: My mum is chuffed. That's what I told him on the range.
PH: My mum is so happy Tiger is back. I had a long chat with him about it.
PK: (laughs) Really?
PH: Yeah, she is genuinely chuffed that Tiger is back. I'm not sure why. I've been trying to tease it out with her and narrowed it down to: 'If Tiger can come back, maybe Pádraig can come back.'
PH: I'm still trying to figure it out.
RM: On the night before we played (in November) Tiger sent me a text: 'Why don't you bring your dad along?'. Dad wasn't sure. "I'll leave you two to it," he said. "I don't want to get in the way.' So I sent him a text: 'No, I don't think he is going to make it.' He texted me back: 'Oh, come on! When he is ever going to get a chance to play with two former number ones?'
PK: That's brilliant.
RM: Yeah. But dad and I both drove away thinking: 'That was pretty good.' I think, what remains to be seen is how his body handles playing two weeks in a row, or playing four out of seven weeks or whatever his schedule will be. Because I think there's a balance to be had between being fresh and being ready. But you still need to play.
PH: A balance you need to find, Rory.
PH: That's the biggest thing for you.
RM: Yeah, and I said that in the media (conference) today. I've done it both ways: I've played in the weeks before and won, and not played and won.
PH: But you need to find the one you believe in the most.
RM: I don't know if I'm that person though. I'm the sort of person who believes that I can enter a tournament next week and go there and win.
PH: Yeah, I get that, but sometimes I look at you and think: 'He's just not tournament sharp.'
RM: Of course. I mean I wanted to play a heavier schedule last year leading up to Augusta but injury didn't allow me. This year will be better. Augusta is going to be my ninth event. I've played two in the Middle East and I'm playing six out of the next seven weeks.
PH: Yeah, I think that's a more positive way of going about it.
RM: Of course.
5 The Last Word
Thursday morning at the Genesis Open. They've been hitting balls close to each other at the far end of the range. "Play well," McIlroy says, as he heads for the tee to begin the opening round. "Play well," Harrington replies, reaching for another club. A reporter who has been tracking them all week is following McIlroy off the range and Harrington can't resist the jibe: "Hey Rory," he says, nodding at the scribe. "I bet he's sorry he can't split himself in two."
PK: Pádraig analyses everybody, Rory. But I'm sure you've worked that out.
PH: I do analyse, but it doesn't mean I'm right.
PK: I think you're pretty good at it.
PH: Well, you know what they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
RM: There you go.
PK: What if he said: 'I want to manage you, Rory. Take me on board for six months.' Do you think you could survive six months with each other?
RM: It would certainly be interesting.
PH: You don't have a guy (manager) around you much?
RM: Sean would be the guy, but I like being the navigator of the ship, and it's the only sport where you can be your own boss. There are no designated times for when or how long you practise. It's all up to you. And I like that about golf.
PH: The only system that works is a benevolent dictator.
PH: No committees, nobody telling us what to do. We tell ourselves. You put the time in and you get the reward. Managers are only a recent phenomenon. Sometimes they (IMG) will send one out to me and he'll be standing there waiting for me at the recorders' hut. And I'll look at him: 'What are you doing?' I don't need somebody to tell me I have to do an interview.
PK: You were a bit jumpy about doing this one. I've never seen you like that before.
RM: Why was that?
PH: I don't know.
RM: (laughs) The self-preservation thing?
PH: Well, I think the reason was . . . There's a bit of distance in our relationship.
PK: That doesn't make sense having listened to you both for the last two hours.
RM: I've never tried to create distance between myself and anyone on the Tour.
PH: There are a couple of reasons for it. I'm too young to be a father figure in the way Des Smyth was for us. Des was great. He looked after us. He was 'Dad' on Tour but I've obviously never been in that position with you. I am with Shane. Shane would ask me a lot of stuff but that was always harder with you because in many ways we were competing. There was a changing of the guard, a passing of the baton, and I've had to listen to people at home going: 'He's gone past you now. He's won four Majors.' But you winning four Majors doesn't mean I haven't won three.
RM: It's not a competition.
PH: It's not a competition in any sense.
PH: But I've had to remind myself of that at times.
PK: That was one of the attractions of getting you together - seven Majors in the same room is phenomenal.
PH: We could not have believed it.
RM: Three Claret Jugs, three Wanamaker trophies and a US Open!
PH: And let's not leave the other lads out - we've another two Majors out there which Irish guys have won. It is phenomenal.
RM: It is.
PH: And it's all down to me.
RM: I remember lying in bed watching that play-off at Oakland Hills. Actually, I think that could have been one of the first texts I sent you. I said it was inspirational.
RM: It was. It was unbelievable. That started the ball rolling.
PH: Michael Campbell winning (the US Open) was a big thing for me.
RM: G-Mac winning (the US Open) was a big thing for me.
PH: I think the young guys over here should be paying Jordan Spieth a retainer. He plays with all of his mates . . .
RM: Justin (Thomas) . . . Rickie (Fowler).
PH: They are all much better golfers because of Jordan Spieth.
RM: I had a chat with Brandt Snedeker last night and we both said it: "Jordan Spieth is the most underrated player in the game." When you look at what he's done, and what he's achieved, but all you hear are negatives.
PH: People don't rate the X-factor.
RM: 'He doesn't have this and he doesn't have that.'
PH: They can't see the X factor. Dustin Johnson hit a drive a few weeks ago (in Hawaii) and one of the main TV commentators said it was the greatest shot ever hit.
PK: Brandel Chamblee.
PH: Talk about hyperbole.
RM: It was nonsense.
PH: What about Jordan Spieth's chip at the Open (last year) to get up-and-down on the 13th hole?
PH: That was one of the greats. And to follow it up with the iron shot into 14!
RM: And then the eagle at 15!
PH: That's X-factor. It's nothing else.
PK: Okay, we're done, thanks to you both. That was fascinating.
PH: And you've got the bottom line?
PK: Yeah, it was all down to you Pádraig.
PH: I always have to have the last word.
Belfast Telegraph Digital