The Odd Couple: Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy sit down with Paul Kimmage
Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy, the two greatest Irish golfers of the modern era, have barely shared a conversation in the last decade and in an exclusive interview in tomorrow’s Sunday Independent, they explain why.
Last week, at the onset of a massive season for both, they sat down with Paul Kimmage at Pebble Beach in California to discuss the pursuit of genius and the perils of fame; the things that unite them and the things that set them apart.
The first time Harrington and McIlroy shared the spotlight was the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland 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. Life would never be the same for either of them, and in the decade that followed they shared seven Majors and all the trimmings greatness brings: private planes, plush houses and wealth beyond their dreams. But rarely, bizarrely, much time with each other.
Harrington says: "We would like to spend more time with Rory in the evenings. But 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?’. . . I’m prepared to compromise now.”
And Harrington says that he prefers the version of McIlroy that he occasionally comes across in private to the public face.
"I wonder sometimes about how you present yourself to the world,” he says. “It always seems much colder than who you really are. 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."
Harrington says he enjoys being recognised on the street, while McIlroy resents elements of his celebrity.
McIlroy explains: "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.’."
In a wide-ranging discussion, the pair, who have won seven Major championships between them, talk about their early impressions of each other, explore the differences between them and highlight the characteristics that they admire in each other.
They both admit to being delighted that Tiger Woods is back on the Tour and Harrington reveals a recent conversation he had with the former world number one on the practice range in San Diego.
Read Paul Kimmage’s full, exclusive interview with Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy in the Sunday Independent.