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March 25, 2004

Thomas Bjorn


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Thomas, for joining us for a few minutes in the media center at THE PLAYERS Championship. 5-under par today, 67. Started on the back nine, played in the afternoon. You're the first player that has joined us this afternoon. Why don't you start with the conditions and a couple of comments on how you played today.

THOMAS BJORN: I thought the golf course was playing very good. They seemed to have gotten it exactly right with the afternoon tee times. It was playable. It was difficult but playable in the afternoon. It got very firm, but it was accessible, and you could get your way around the golf course if you thought your way around the golf course. I thought the last couple of holes the greens got very, very firm.

The guys coming in now are going to have a difficult golf course ahead of them. The wind has gotten up a little bit. I thought it was playable, and it is certainly nice to go out and see the golf course the way it's set up this week. It's probably pretty much the way you would want any golf course to be set up, I think. It's as good as they come. The conditions are just great. And if you play well you can get around.

If you struggle a little bit, then you're going to make bogeys. I found that today. I hit a lot of very good golf shots today and I had eight birdies in my round. And the poor shots I hit I made bogeys from. And that's what this golf course is all about.

To be honest, I didn't feel comfortable this morning. I stood on the driving range, and I did not hit it very well this morning. And I walked on the first tee and my head was spinning. When you're standing on the range, what can I do to keep the ball in play, and you know you're going to go out and play a difficult golf course. I picked up a swing thought, and I thought, well, the last time you found a swing thought that worked was in Bangkok earlier in the year, and I started a little bit with that and on the 10th tee actually.

And all of a sudden I hit a good drive there and a good 7-iron and made birdie. And then I birdied the next, and all of a sudden you're into the round and you think, well, hang on a second, 25 minutes ago you stood on the driving range not very happy with anything, and all of a sudden you're 2-under after 2. And what happened in the last 25 minutes, I kept with that swing thought. I tried to focus on trying to keep the ball in play.

I hit a couple of loose shots and made bogeys from those, but I made birdies to recover from them. I'm happy with what I achieved today, but I've got some work to do. Most people would come off the golf course after shooting 67, on this golf course especially, saying I really played great. But I know I've got some work to do. I'm not going to get away with the way I'm playing at the moment for four days. I need to go and do some work.

Hopefully this swing thought is exactly the right thing for me, and hopefully I can go on the golf course the next three days and perform well. I know I have work to do, but it was a step in the right direction from what was happening this morning.

Q. What is the swing thought?

THOMAS BJORN: I have to not move my hands. I tend to move my hands before I move the club away, and then I get into my right side too early, and all of a sudden I tilt on it and I start hitting it. I mean, I start hitting it way right. And so I need to just get a little bit quicker with the club head and keep my hands a little more still on the takeaway.

Q. How often would you walk off the practice range with your head spinning and shoot 67?

THOMAS BJORN: It happens quite a bit, more for some than others. It happens. I mean, it happens. I think when you stand on the driving range sometimes and you're hitting the ball really, really well, you almost go out and expect too much. So you go out and you think, well, this is almost too easy. And you go out and all of a sudden you're 2-over par after 3 holes, and you think, what happened? I was hitting it so well this morning, and now you're playing catch up.

And sometimes you go on the driving range not hitting it very well, go get into the attitude that you need to battle today. And you go out and battle away, and you get just a little bit more out of the round than you expected, and all of a sudden you get in a very good frame of mind and you get around the golf course better than you expected. I think that happens to a lot of players that you get on that driving range and you almost take it with you on the golf course what is happening on the driving range instead of knowing every time you step on the first tee, and especially on a golf course like this, this is a battle. This is not easy, it's never going to be easy on a golf course like this.

If you let up, all of a sudden you're making bogeys and doubles and the golf tournament just slips through your hands and you're playing catch up. Playing catch up here is very difficult.

Q. Was it a surprise to you to be hitting it so erratically on the range, given sort of recent form?

THOMAS BJORN: Yeah, I mean I've played all right last week at Bay Hill, I really did. There was a little bit of the same. I had a couple of poor holes here and there, but I made a lot of birdies, but I thought I was taking big steps in the right direction. And then I was a little bit surprised because I really found -- I thought I was hitting it really well on the range yesterday when I played my practice. I felt ready, and then I got on the range this morning, and I thought, what happened since yesterday I was here? But it was just a little bit -- I don't know where it came from. It just came out of the blue.

You get days like that, and then you've got to be happy with coming in the clubhouse with a 67. You've got to be very happy with it.

Q. What experiences have you had here in the past?

THOMAS BJORN: I've not had many good ones. I played here three times before, I think. And I finished 22nd twice, I think, and missed the cut once. It actually suits me very well. I really like this golf course. I think it's probably the best, the best we play all year. And I can see myself doing well here. I don't know, I just haven't had the form coming in here. I haven't found my game in the right way. But hopefully this week it will be a little bit better.

Q. Has it been frustrating at all to know that this course suits you and to have not done well?

THOMAS BJORN: Yeah, I feel exactly the same about this golf course as I do about Augusta. I feel like I should be able to do well on those golf courses because I have -- I feel I'm very strong in the short game department. I feel like I chip the ball well, I pitch the ball well. And I think you need those two things around here and you need them at Augusta, and I've never performed too well at either golf course.

I just feel like anytime I go there I really look forward to them. I'm really excited about playing those two golf courses, but I just don't perform. I don't have the form that I want and not been playing my best going into those tournaments.

I'm changing things around a little bit. I'm playing more golf here early on to see if that can benefit me this week and at Augusta. But you've got to mix it up and you've got to try things. I know my golf is good enough to perform well at these golf courses, I just haven't.

Q. How excited do you feel now? Obviously you talked about the excitement of playing this event, but now with that first round and what it's done for you in terms of the leaderboard, how does that affect your emotions?

THOMAS BJORN: My focus is what I'm going to do in the next 25 minutes on the driving range, and I'll maintain that the whole week. I can't -- I've played one round of golf, and there's a lot of golf to be played, and I still need to do that work. I can't start looking at what anybody else has done. It's difficult to get grounded out here, but I need to focus on my golf and go and do my work, and hopefully it will get better and better and better. My golf needs to get better, and if I can maintain the short game as I did today, I'll be very, very happy. But I need to get a little bit stronger in my game.

Q. Is your family all back in London?

THOMAS BJORN: They're all back in London.

Q. (Inaudible).

THOMAS BJORN: I not easy. It's not easy. I've got twins that are one year old next week and I'll be away from them, and that's not the easiest thing, but I've done it all my life. I've traveled with golf clubs since I was 14 years old. I used to be away from my parents. I've been away from my family. I've done it all my life, you get used to it and you know that's what you do. So I don't think a lot of people feel sorry for us, with the lifestyle we live.

Q. What did you think of Bernhard Langer's decision to appoint Anders as the vice-captain?

THOMAS BJORN: Not really. It was mentioned the other night, and he deserves the right to be Ryder Cup captain. The vice-captain is somebody they trust and believe in and has a good relationship with. And in my opinion you don't need -- some people say do you need to have been a Ryder Cup player to be vice-captain, and I don't think so. You certainly need to be a Ryder Cup player, and more than that to be Ryder Cup captain. But vice-captain is more a guy that the captain believes in, he trusts, is a friend of his. And Bernhard and he have been close friends for years. We saw it with Jimenez and we saw it with Seve in '97. The vice-captain has a role to play, but the captain is playing the big role. So I don't think there's too much to be put in that. I think they will work well together, and that's the important thing.

Q. I just wanted to go back to you talking about playing more over here, and I presume getting more prepared for the majors and just playing better golf over here. Why do you need to do that? Is it strictly knowing the courses more? Is it less travel or is it just being here?

THOMAS BJORN: Certainly less travel. That was one major thing for me. I went over and played three weeks in California. You get comfortable, you're right there. And this trip, it's hard to get on an airplane in this trip. That was a major thing for me, that I wanted to just be a little bit more -- a little bit less time zone, and just feel I'm here to play golf for three or four weeks, and I'm almost in the same place. I certainly think that the competition over here early on in the year is very, very strong. I think that prepares you well for the season.

I think when we get into our summer in Europe, I think the competition is very strong, and I think the golf courses we play are very, very good, and I enjoy that time. I said all along that I wanted to play golf over here because I want to play against the best. But I also feel an obligation to go back to Europe and play golf because Europe has done a lot of great things for me, I feel a lot more comfortable in Europe. I feel happy with my times in Europe, and I will never let go of that. I'll always maintain my membership with the European Tour.

But if you want to achieve things, and you want to go -- where I want to go, the ambitions I have are high. I don't know if I can achieve, but I have high ambitions, and if I want to achieve them I've got to play with the best. So I've got to come play here more. The European players are now realizing that the golf game is to be played all over the world. Ernie Els is probably the best example of how international players will play in the future. They'll play everywhere.

Q. You think you guys will pass that on to the Americans?

THOMAS BJORN: They don't have a reason to travel. I mean, they don't have a reason to travel. And that's -- it's as simple as that. Why go and play for $3 million in Europe when you can go and play for $5 or $6 somewhere over here? They don't have the reason to travel. Some of the guys that travel it's because they want to see the world. Some guys feel very comfortable being at home, and I don't think you can blame them for that. You choose your life the way you want.

Q. It might make them better?

THOMAS BJORN: It might prepare them better for some sort of tournaments, and actually traveling might prepare some guys better for the British Open. If they went down to Australia and played fast golf courses, very fast greens, hard, bouncy golf courses, maybe they would do better at the Open, some of the guys. But then the British Open is one tournament, and they can look at it and say we've got three majors over here, let's prepare us for them.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Go through your birdies and bogeys, starting on 10.

THOMAS BJORN: I hit a driver and a 7-iron to eight feet.

On 11, I hit driver in the left hand rough, hit it out and hit a sand iron to 4 feet.

13, I hit a 8-iron down on the bottom tier and three-putted it.

14, I hit a driver and a 9-iron to six feet.

15, I hit a drive, 9-iron in the left hand bunker, just out of the bunker, chipped it to a foot.

16 I hit a driver and a 3-iron left of the green, chipped it to three feet.

18, I hit a driver, wedge to four feet.

1, I hit driver, wedge to eight feet.

2, I hit a driver and a 3-iron left of the green, chipped it to 20 feet and holed it.

3, I hit a 7-iron middle of the green and three-putted it.

5, I hit a driver and a 7-iron to 15 feet.

Q. Is there any wow factor for playing for an $8 million purse?

THOMAS BJORN: You're getting to a stage where it's just another million put on top. If you win $900,000 or $1.4 million, you look at it and go, yeah, it's nice to win $1.4 million, but, I mean, you can take the $900,000 any day. You're getting to a stage where the money is so big that you don't really -- you don't really look at it anymore. I mean, there was a time when we actually looked at specific golf tournaments and said these have a massive impact on what happens for the golf year. But it's not like that anymore. It doesn't have the impact anymore. And now it's just -- now it's just nice.

Q. You'll take it?

THOMAS BJORN: You'll take it anytime. And we're very fortunate. And I always say, we're growing up in a sport where the money is great. We make a great living. We have a great way of life. We make more money than we could ask for for what we do. And -- there's a lot of sports where they work maybe even harder, do a lot more and they get paid nothing. We're just very fortunate we were good at golf.

Q. A question, if you don't mind, for a magazine feature on the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup foursomes match that you've played at the Belfry Friday morning, 10-under par beating Woods and Azinger, one of the best performances in that format, can you remember specific shots that were great in that round and how you felt when you hit them and what Darren did for you as a partner in that round?

THOMAS BJORN: I holed some very crucial putts on that back nine, on 10 and 12 and 15, and obviously on the last. Darren and I have been good friends for -- ever since I came out on Tour. I've known him since we were amateurs, as well. And it was very comfortable to walk out on the first tee with somebody you know very well, that you're very comfortable around. We see each other off the golf course at home. We see our families together, and we spend a lot of time together. That's very nice to have that as a partner.

One thing that stood out for me in that whole match was the shot Azinger hit into the last -- I was just walking up and I just hear Curtis saying to somebody else, that's why I picked him. And the only thought I had was Curtis, it's not over yet, you've not won this hole yet. But it was one of the greatest experiences I've been a part of, that match. Both sides played very well and the interaction between the four players was really, really good. We got on very well on the golf course, it was very relaxed.

It was played the way I think it should be played. And that was -- that was a special moment for me. I mean, it was certainly a special moment. It was a great day out, and that's what you want from it. It was played hard, and it was played the way the Ryder Cup should be played. It was played fair and square. We were very good friends when we stood on the first tee, and we were afterwards. There was never a feeling that this was actually the first match out in the Ryder Cup, that everybody had looked forward to for a long, long time.

Q. If you were to play a good European Tour event, not a flagship, do you think the world ranking points that you get are too little, too few? That seems like it's a great debate over here. Do these guys get too much?

THOMAS BJORN: There are guys over here that think we get too much, and there are guys that think we get too little. I think the world rankings are pretty spot on at the moment. I saw a press conference yesterday, and -- if you don't perform in major championships, you don't deserve to be in the Top 10 in the world. Go out and perform, go out and show how good you are, and you can talk about it. There's one way to get in the Top 10 in the world and that's play well. We don't have any Top 10 in the world right now. We have guys that are capable of it, and we certainly have a bright future ahead of us, with some of the guys coming through.

But at this moment in time, we are just not playing the golf that we're capable of playing, and that's just the way it is. Go out and play better.

Q. It's all the majors, isn't it? If you don't have any Top 10, the ranking points won't be as high?

THOMAS BJORN: We're coming over, Tiger comes over and plays a few, and we've got guys coming over, Vijay, and playing the PGA, you've got guys coming over that you should get excited about, and say hang on a second, here's my chance. Here's my chance to go and get myself some world ranking points and get up that world ranking because now they're here, so go and beat them. If you can't beat them, well, then you'll be 15th to 20th or 25th in the world. You have to beat the best to go up the ranking.

Q. (Inaudible).

THOMAS BJORN: No, I don't particularly look at this that much. I think it's a good indicator of how you're doing over a period of time, but it doesn't matter. If you're 25th in the world, if you're 100th in the world, you're still capable of winning golf tournaments and playing with the best. So you can go and do it from there. So don't look at it -- but it's a nice indicator to see over a period of time where you are with your golf, and I think it reflects pretty well how well guys do.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you for joining us.

End of FastScripts.

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