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May 18, 2016

Soren Kjeldsen

Straffan, Co. Kildare, Ireland

PAUL SYMES: Many thanks for joining us, Søren. Happy birthday from yesterday, hopefully life begins at 41.

SØREN KJELDSEN: Yeah, well, it started at 40, lit can start at 41, as well.

PAUL SYMES: You had a nice birthday, some of the locals baked you a birthday cake.

SØREN KJELDSEN: That was fantastic. Had about a thousand kids singing a birthday song, so that was pretty special. Good experience.

PAUL SYMES: I'm sure you've been looking forward to this week for quite a while.

SØREN KJELDSEN: Yeah, I have. Obviously last year was a fantastic win for me, and sort of a big turning point in my career, as well, after struggling for a few years. The last 12 months have been great, so I'm trying to keep that going.

PAUL SYMES: And nice score for you this week, playing with the tournament host. Should be some good crowds out there.

SØREN KJELDSEN: Yeah, I was very pleased to see that. I've always loved playing with Rory. He's a fantastic player and a great guy, I enjoy that, and Sullivan is pretty good to be out with, as well. Should be a good three-ball.

PAUL SYMES: Crowds in Ireland are particularly good. I know you enjoy playing here.

SØREN KJELDSEN: Great atmosphere always. I've been coming to Ireland for 18 years now on Tour, so I've always enjoyed that. Very knowledgeable, always got a sense of humour and create a good atmosphere, so for me it's a great week.

Q. You said "turning point." What was it that you realised that you had to do that you had not been doing until that point?
SØREN KJELDSEN: I think a big turning point for me was Alastair, that I've got on the bag. He started two weeks prior to Irish Open at the Spanish Open. Finished Top-10 there.

I had not finished Top-10 for ages before that, and Alastair has been huge in everything that's happened in the last 12 months. He came in first day and he said, "Why are you 350 in the world? You need to get back into the Top-50."

So let's say about nine months later, no, probably before that, after about five months or whatever, we are 40-something in the world and I text him. I'm like, Now we are whatever in the world, and he just texts back, "Okay." That's typical Alastair, down playing it. But he's been incredible.

Q. In what way?
SØREN KJELDSEN: I think without being disrespectful to any other caddie I've had in my career, I've never felt the sense of being able to lean on a caddie like I do with Alastair.

So if I'm a little bit uptight or insecure or whatever that you experience on a golf course, I just know that he's always right there and he's always so clear and sort of on the button on what we are trying to do.

So I haven't experienced that the same way before. Just he's so switched on, and Alastair, he's trying to sell the opposite sort of idea of himself. He always down plays everything and even sometimes looks like he's not interested, but he's so switched on and I haven't tried that before.

Q. With being in the Top-50 in the world, as you mentioned, that obviously gives you a chance to play a different schedule. How are you sorting it this year? Are you going to try to play the two tours, or are you mix-and-match? What are you?
SØREN KJELDSEN: My tour is still The European Tour, and it's going to be that, as long as I'm good enough to play out here. But I think the way that our schedule certainly has been this year, and most years, is that you have a time like probably around March, even April, where sort of we don't have the biggest tournaments in Europe, and where it's easy to go and play some in America, and I've done that and I've enjoyed that.

But after, well, from this point on, I mean, I'll play U.S. Open, I'll play US PGA, and I might play one more. But apart from that, I'll play in Europe.

European Tour is still my No. 1 priority, but being in the Top 50, it's nice to play all the big ones, as well. But I don't have -- the ambition I have regarding the PGA TOUR is that I would like to play maybe a full year on the PGA TOUR at some stage, but I'm never going to try and make it my home tour.

Q. Related question, Ryder Cup-wise, obviously you're in the team at the moment. How high a priority is that for you to get on to The Ryder Cup this year?
SØREN KJELDSEN: Well, I mean, it's massive for me and it's a huge ambition of mine to be on the team, but it's one of those things, the more I think about it, the more I like at it, the less likely it's going to be that I'm going to be on the team.

So my No. 1 job, apart from working really hard on my golf game, is try not to took too much at it. So that's how I look at it. But I don't want to keep it a secret that I'd love to be on that team, and it would be a highlight of my career.

Q. Scandinavian golfers have an exceptional record in the Irish Open, including Danish golfers, yourself, Thomas, Søren Hansen, Mikko Ilonen, and Patrik Sjöland going way back. Is it the magic of The Irish Open, or is it the bad weather?
SØREN KJELDSEN: Absolutely. No question about it. The golf that you need to play here is the golf that we played when we grew up. Conditions are the same: Wet, soft, as in just like heavy, and just the type of grass, everything, the strong winds, the four seasons in a day, all that stuff, is what we are used to.

I think we feel very much at home when playing in Ireland, so I think that would be the main reason.

Q. Have you played consecutive years here or have you missed out?
SØREN KJELDSEN: I think I've played every year.

Q. And what do you feel was the main factor that won it for you last year in such difficult conditions in Royal County Down? Was there a turning point in your week or in your --
SØREN KJELDSEN: I think it was a combination. I think first of all, like I said, with Alastair made a huge difference.

Beginning of the year, I sort of had to look myself in the mirror and going like, right now, it's about -- I've got two options. Either I play the Tour at 95 percent, enjoy my life; I've got three wonderful kids, all this, and I'm going to accept whatever results I'm going to get. Or I'm going to go down the different path and I'm going to give it 100 per cent.

I'm going to work harder than I've ever done and I'm going to see how good I can get, and beginning of that year last year, I said, if I'm going to play out here, there's only one way. I can't play at 95 per cent, because I just can't live with that.

So from the beginning of the year, things didn't turn around straightaway, but I think as a mind-set, I knew that now is the time, and if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it 100 per cent. When I got to Ireland, things had already started to change. I think that mind-set that this is my time made a difference.

Q. You say you're going to give it 100 per cent. Is there any one part of your game that you feel is further below the hundred per cent than all the other parts?
SØREN KJELDSEN: Not really. I love my game. For me, I think the whole way that I look at golf has changed the last 12 months. I think up until 12, 18 months ago, I think I looked at it in pretty much the same way as 95 per cent out here do. But I had to change my point of view. I had a problem with my driving that I had had for a few years. I tried to go about it like I think most people do. I tried to look at the video, I worked with my swing coached, tried to sort it out and I couldn't do it. I could do it on the range, and I got on the course and I felt tired and I couldn't do the things that I did on the practice range, so I had to change things up.

In the last 12 months, I've changed the attitude, like I've got a much more sort of playful way of practicing my golf. I'm not as much in right and wrongs as I was before. It's not a matter of looking at a video and saying, this is right, this is wrong. All that's gone. I don't have very many right and wrongs in my game anymore. I can play around. I can find solutions playing a round, not even having like going to the range saying, this is what I'm going to do. I'm not really doing like that anymore.

I go to the range and try to explore things, try to experience things that I haven't tried before. And the whole thing about getting away from right and wrong has freed me up tremendously; and therefore, I feel like I'm whatever, 40 in the world now, but basically I've really just been practicing this for 12 to 18 months, so I'm just starting out, so the sky's the limit.

Q. I think I read on your blog, it was something about being very honest with yourself about what you want to do in your career and your life. Just wondering, looking at the players from your area of the world, why do you think it is that none of the men have won a major championship yet? Your own performances in the majors recently have been pretty good. Do you feel that you're at a level now or getting close to a level where you can possibly have a chance to win one?
SØREN KJELDSEN: Yeah, I do. I think I played really well at Augusta this year. Obviously a lot of things happened there on Sunday, but I didn't finish -- I bogeyed 16 and 17. I had a great birdie chance on 16. So I was pretty much right in it, you know, up until 69,70th hole of the tournament, and I played really good. I didn't play exceptionally well. I can play much better than that.

Like I said, I've only been working this way for 12 to 18 months, so I'm just starting out. So I was thinking about it recently, and it's difficult to put numbers on these things, but I think if I had to give a number, I think I can improve about 30 per cent right now from where I am to what I can become.

So 30 per cent is quite a big improvement and I think if I manage to do that, I think I'll be very close and hopefully win a few.

Q. Just another Ryder Cup question. Would you have been involved in the dinners with Darren Clarke last week, and if so, what did that mean to you and what did you take from that evening?
SØREN KJELDSEN: No. 1 is getting the invitation is a good thing, because then you know you're sort of in the mix.

Secondly, I thought it was a really nice evening. I thought the atmosphere was really nice. I sat across the table from Rory, and he was telling me about some of The Ryder Cup moments that he had had and how important it was for his career, and Darren did the same thing.

It was just a lovely, lovely atmosphere, and it's going to be a very strong Ryder Cup Team. The Europeans are going to be underdogs again, because the Americans are desperate to win it, and I think that's a good thing. I think the main thing for me, getting from that evening, was that the European Team is going to be very tightly connected. They are going to be in that, all of them, and they are all going to die for that same thing. And I think that's the strength that the European Team has. I'd love to experience that. So like I said to you, I'm not going to look at it. I'm going to try and work out and make the team.

Q. From the sound of it, you were keen before to make the team. Did that give you extra motivation, desire to really be part of it?
SØREN KJELDSEN: Yeah, it did, because I think Darren's going to be a fantastic captain, and for him, it's very important that we get that strong bond, all the players, and to be part of that is extra special. It's not just making a team. It's creating a bond that's going to last for a lifetime.

Q. Kind of related to The Ryder Cup, do you think maybe perhaps there should be one or two competitions during the year where players will play in foursomes for fourballs, or would you like to see more alternatives to stroke such as match play or modified Stableford, or are you happy with the way the schedule is now?
SØREN KJELDSEN: I think the fourball, foursomes, is very difficult sort of in the world of golf. I think it's very tricky to make tournaments like that.

I would say I think the Paul Lawrie match play is a great addition to our tour, and you've got the Match Play in the WGC there. So I think we've got to just about right.

Match play is very different. It's a little trickier for TV in general. You don't know when matches finish, and Ryder Cup is special. I think one tournament on each side of the pond is probably about right.

Q. Darren Clarke is going to be a fantastic Ryder Cup Captain -- what have you seen from Darren so far? What leads you to believe that he's going to be a fantastic captain?
SØREN KJELDSEN: I think he's very good at creating that right atmosphere and creating that camaraderie between the players. I think he's very switched on when it comes to that. He was the captain at the EurAsia Cup. I thought we had -- I thought we had, first of all, a very strong team, but I thought we just had great atmosphere in the team room all week, and for me, it was nice to see him in that role and I think he did an exceptional role.

I think looking back at that tournament, you know, I sometime got the impression that the Europeans are going to win easily, but if you look at THE PLAYERS, the guy that's won the last two tournaments on The European Tour, he was on that team, and we could see how good he was. It was by no means any walk-over that tournament, and we performed really well. I thought we performed exceptionally well.

That time of year, in Asia, against a strong Asian team and I think a big credit to that has to go to Darren for doing the job he did.

PAUL SYMES: We've been joined by a winner from the trophy competition. Well done. Do you have anything you'd like to add?

Q. Do you think you can win The Irish Open again?
SØREN KJELDSEN: Good question. Tough question. I've got tough competition this week, but I feel really good about my game. I feel very comfortable about the course, and I love playing in Ireland, so I don't see any reasons why I can't. It's going to be difficult, but I'm up for the challenge.

PAUL SYMES: Thanks very much, Søren. Have a great week.

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