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January 27, 2004

Thomas Bjorn


GORDON SIMPSON: We have Thomas Bjorn with us. Thomas thanks very much. Another season and what are your thoughts going into 2004?

THOMAS BJORN: Well, I changed my plan a little bit this season. I'm going to try and play both tours a little bit more. I'm going to have quite a hectic schedule early on here playing here and then I'm going three weeks to America, back to Dubai, play five weeks in America. I just thought it was time for me to try and play all of the bigger events in the world and not just sticking to one tour.

I'm really trying to get myself playing with the best players on a weekly basis. I'm looking forward to this season. I've had some good years over the last, really, my career on the European Tour the last six or seven years. It's been good for me. I'm really just looking forward to trying something new, get a little bit of new inspiration. It's very easy to get into the same kind of schedule every year and the same routine and then it just goes a little bit stale.

So I just feel I need some new inspiration. It's going to be nice for me to go to America and play a little bit more golf. I won't be playing Pro-Ams on Wednesday. I'll almost feel like I'll come out as a younger player trying something new and I'm really looking forward to that.

I feel I have a very main focus on my schedule in Europe. The early part of the season I'm really focusing more on America. But when we come through May, I'm still doing what I normally do in Europe and I've always said I have all of my heart is in Europe. I really enjoy the European Tour. I'll always support the European Tour. It's done a lot of good things for me. That will still be very important, too. But it's time for me to also try the other side of the Atlantic a little bit more and give myself some more chances in the biggest events in the world. I always feel like I'm lagging a little bit when I come to America because I don't feel like I play there enough.

I'm really looking forward to doing those things, but trying to do more of the same of what I did last year and then hopefully a few times go one better than that. I had a good year last year without winning too many golf tournaments, but you're going to have years like that. I've played good golf, I've played solid golf and then you can only keep trying.

I feel my game has been coming on now through this year. I'm swinging the golf club well, and it will take a few weeks to get back into the swing of things but I feel very comfortable with it.

Q. Would you consider playing solely in America?

THOMAS BJORN: I mean, I'm not going to say never, but I will always be for the European Tour. My family is in Europe, I'm happen any Europe and that will -- the summer months will always be for me in Europe. I can't see myself playing a full schedule in America and move my family to America. We are very happy where we are. But I would like to compete more in America, but fortunately, the schedule, the tournaments I want to play, really from now to the first of May, there's a lot of good tournaments in America you want to play. And then over the summer, I will always play my European schedule.

Then when we come to the fall a little bit you can play in America again, but it always revolves around the majors anyway. So if you play well and you're in the major championships, it's easier to play both tours. But if you're not, it's a tough thing. But I really want to translate both tours and try and be a worldwide player instead of being a European or a U.S. Tour player. I just really go around the world and play the tournaments I want to play in.

Q. Talk about your equipment changes.

THOMAS BJORN: Well, I've been with Trixon for five years, and it's been a very, very strong, healthy relationship. I feel that there's so many changes in the golf equipment side, there's been so many changes in the golf equipment side the last five or six years that really now it comes down to using one brand was maybe limiting yourself a little bit and I felt I wanted to go the corporate route.

Then this Barrows (ph) golf appeared literally out of nowhere. I tested the drivers this winter and I've been finding them very, very interesting and very, very good golf club. It only limits me to the driver, and I can use whatever irons I want to. That gives me -- I mean, it just gives me more opportunities. I've played the golf equipment right now that I really want to play instead of limiting myself to what somebody else tells me. That's what I wanted to try and see, if that could give me an edge over other players. And only time will tell. But I really feel happy with what I've got in the golf bag.

And I left Trixon in a very healthy way. The last golf tournament, or the second to last golf tournament I played was their own golf tournament in Japan and I won it. And I couldn't leave them in a better way.

But it's been a great relationship. Fortunately, it came to an end in a good way; that we felt that we could have continued. I mean, it was my decision. I wanted to try something else. I really feel happy with what I've got in the bag now. I'm really excited about this new deal with Barrows back in America. It really looks like it could be a revolution of the drivers in the game.

And the drivers have come a long way over the last five or six years. Now it seems like there's something new out there that really is going to make everybody take a good look at what this is. Because the technology and the way they have done it, it's taken a long time to develop and it works. There's a lot of golf clubs out there that, I mean, you make all of these things and it doesn't really make any difference. It's just marketing things. But this driver does work. It does improve. Not only our game, but everybody's game. And that's a special thing.

But to go into detail about what it really is, it's a lot for me to do here. But it's for anybody to go out and take a look at it, it's very interesting.

Q. (Inaudible.)

THOMAS BJORN: What it does is it gives my off-hits, it gives it some distance. So it comes closer to my good drives. I think that's what you always try to achieve in your good game is get your bad shots a little bit better, and that's what this driver does. I don't lose as much distance on my off-hits that I do with any other driver and that's really the key to the whole thing. And then they have a fitting system that makes it -- you can stand on the driving range and actually with the pitching systems, you can change shafts and drivers in five seconds on the driving range. So you don't have to go and try and find something else. If you like a head of a driver, then it's a question of finding a shaft that it fits you, and then you can stand there until you've got the perfect shaft.

That's what I saw with this fitting system when I tested it in Dubai. It really, really worked well. That's something that has always been a trouble for us to find a driver, and then all of the sudden we find a shaft we like we didn't like the head. Then it was difficult to match the two. With this fitting system, you can match the two in half an hour, and that sometimes took you weeks to get right with any of the other companies.

Q. Have you used it in competition?

THOMAS BJORN: I haven't used in competition. I've worked with it for the last three or four weeks. I'm very, very close to really feeling comfortable with it. It will come into competition when I feel really comfortable with it. It's a big thing to change. But we have put some time onto change it and I really feel like we've come a lot longer now than I thought we would have. It's a toss of a coin at the moment to put it in the bag.

So I'm really happy with it. We've come a long, long way.

Q. The way you're talking, you sound as if --

THOMAS BJORN: It is with the fitting system. It comes with a fitting system. The fitting system has to be seen. I don't have it here. But when they come with a fitting system, they actually come with about 20 heads and 25 different shafts. The shaft has a screw at the end and when you stick it in, you just have a key and you turn the key and then the shaft comes up thin.

So you can do that in five seconds. You just take the key out, turn the shaft, take the shaft out, put a new shaft in and turn the key and the shaft is in. That's how you shift the shafts with the head.

When you find the one you want, you order it from the factory. That's how it works and that is -- I mean, I've never seen anything like it. And I've talked to people that have now seen the system working, and they have never seen anything like it. Teaching pros have been in the game for many, many years and this is going to -- this is going to move the way we fit golf clubs to amateur golfers, this system. And that's very, very big key, because there's a lot of golf clubs lost in trying to fit it. I mean, if you go out and see how many drivers the companies out here on the Tour, just to find the right drivers and how many actually never get used, and that happens at golf clubs, as well. You try and mix and max things and they never work. Then they are used and then they don't -- this, you will always be able to lock in on some really, really good equipment straightaway, and what fits a single person.

I tried a head in Dubai, and I was standing there and I was really hitting it not very well with that shaft, and we changed the shaft and put two pieces of lead tape on top of the drivers and this was the 32nd process to do that. I hit it about 60 yards further with a perfect flight, from changing the shaft, but this was the same head.

I mean this, took us -- it took us three days to find a driver that was fitted, fits me pretty much perfect. I get more distance, I get more control with this driver than I've done with any other driver. This was a three-day period. Normally it would take three, four, six months. Sometimes you go through a whole season without having a driver you're really comfortable with. We heard it all the time, somebody breaks their driver and they go, oh, they can't find one that's similar. But with this, it just makes it so much easier.

Q. (Inaudible.)

THOMAS BJORN: They have found a lot of seniors in America.

Q. Where is it based?

THOMAS BJORN: California. They have done a lot of work object getting the teaching pros in America into this. They are sending the Fits System around the golf clubs in America and really getting them into it. They are going about it a different way and trying to get all of the grass roots into it first and then go into the professional game. I'm the first PGA TOUR player on both sides of the Atlantic that is contracted to them.

Q. The fitting version, once you've found a fit for you, the shaft --

THOMAS BJORN: That's putting it in a conventional way, yes.

Q. What do you call the driver?

THOMAS BJORN: The max driver.

Q. What do you know any of the Thai golfers in the tournament?

THOMAS BJORN: I don't really know any of them. But I would have to say that Asian golf has come a long way over the last few years. We see Asian players appearing not only in Europe but also in America now.

And the Asian Tour seemed to produce some really, really good players now. It's nice to see that these players can go around the world and be successful, and there's no -- I mean, we come out here at a time of the year where a lot of European players are rusty. There's a couple of guys that come in from America that's played a little bit of golf, but this is a good chance for anybody on the Asian Tour to really make an impact on an international stage in a tournament like this. It's nice to see that they are coming on and not only being a threat once in awhile. They are a constant threat worldwide in golf at this moment in time and it's just nice to see that the game is spreading out.

Q. Do you feel any pressure from them?

THOMAS BJORN: Any player from this field can apply pressure. They would not be here if they were not good players. So there's no -- there was a time when you could say that one of these ten players is going to win this golf tournament, but that's not the way the game works today. Anybody that tee it up in a field like this, at some stage in their career threatened to do something on an international stage. So they all got their chance of doing well this week.

Q. Do you feel you need to play more in America?

THOMAS BJORN: I don't feel I need to. I feel I have proven I can play at a bigger stage. A couple of times I could have gone one or two better in tournaments, but I still think I've proven that I can play with the best at any given time.

So I don't think I need to play in America. But I think that you have any ambition in the game, you want to play at the highest level. I think for me not being American, that's the best way for me is to play both tours, to try and see how I feel in America, see if that works for me. It's very few players have been very, very successful doing that, playing both tours over a period. Ernie is probably the only one that I would say has consistently performed by doing it.

There's a lot of players that has struggled by going to America and then trying and play in Europe and play Australia, South Africa and Asia over the winter. I just think that -- I don't know if it suits me, but I don't try it I'm never going to find out. So I'm going to try this and see if it is for me and hopefully it is.

Q. Did you talk to Ernie about it?

THOMAS BJORN: Yeah, I mean, we're good friends and we talk about a lot of things. There's a big difference between playing golf in Europe and in America. In America, you -- the depth of the Tour is just a little bit stronger. So sometimes you don't -- you get away with it sometimes when you're in some of the smaller ones. You might not play that well and still can grind out a result. In America, you've got to be on top of your game to get results. That's pretty much what's his version to me of it: Just make sure you're ready when you go and play in America. Don't feel like you can go into a tournament and feel like you can be a little bit rusty on your game and play your way into the tournament. Just make sure any time you go that you're ready to play.

Q. When did you arrive to Thailand?

THOMAS BJORN: I came Sunday night.

Q. What do you think about the course?

THOMAS BJORN: I think it's a great golf course. It's a very -- it's a tactical golf course more than a -- you don't have to overpower this golf course. You have to position yourself right.

And I mean, the greens, the hardest part for a lot of European players is always the greens when you come here. There's a lot of grain in the greens. You've got to get used putting on that sort of greens. And that's going to be the hardest part.

But it's a tactical golf course. Get yourself in position and always leave yourself below the holes because when you get above the hole, you often get the putts downgrain and then it becomes very difficult to hole putts. Leave yourself below holes on this golf course.

I played nine holes yesterday. I think I hit driver on two tees. It's very much get yourself in position off the tee and not trying to overpower the golf course.

Q. What do you think the cut will be?

THOMAS BJORN: I think that depends very much on the weather here. I played nine holes yesterday and it was very windy and then it gets tricky. If it's good weather like it's been this morning, the scoring can be quite low on this golf course. Because it not the longest golf course, but it's a tricky golf course. But when you've got a field of this size, somebody is always going to play really well and then you're going to get a fairly low score.

Q. Playing in Europe and in America, where will that leave you for the Ryder Cup?

THOMAS BJORN: I played in two Ryder Cups and it's been two of the best experiences of my golfing life. I wouldn't miss it. But as it's been before where it's been the essential thing for me to do, it's not the essential thing for me to do anymore. I'm focusing on what I want to do, what I want to achieve in my career. And if I achieve what I want to achieve, Ryder Cup takes care of itself no matter where I play in the world.

With the new system, with the World Ranking points, I mean, if you play well, you're going to make the team. It's as simple as that.

And I'm not going to -- I'm not trying to make my way into the team in the top five in Europe. I'm not trying to make myself into the team by playing well. And my play well, then I get in through top five and through the World Rankings, as well.

That's really the way I look at it. It's not wanting and planning, how do I make the Ryder Cup best way, because then I'll play every tournament from now until the first of September. It's going to be a great experience for the 12 players that go and hopefully I'm there and I want to be there. But there's other things I want to achieve.

Q. (Inaudible.)

THOMAS BJORN: You talk to people and people have their own opinions about why they have struggled and why some have been successful and why some haven't. I know I need to consult whenever I need some advice. There's not a lot of people that I would go to when it comes to that. And if you're going to seek advice about something, you more often go to somebody that's successful in doing it than somebody that's not successful.

So I think the game of golf applies in any way, you've got ways of doing things in this game. Monty was very successful going out and hitting a practice balls. I don't think Faldo would have been that successful if he had not hit a practice ball and they were successful in their own right and their own way. They did things their way and they found a way that worked for them.

I think when it comes to playing two tours, when it comes to practicing, when it comes to anything, you've got to find the way that works for you.

But, I don't seek advice from any other player as to how to do things because I don't think I can do things -- they would tell you how they do it. And I can't use that. I'll find my own way.

But I can use that I need to be ready to play when I tee it up in America and not try and just kind of wing my way through it one week. Over there, it's just a little bit more demanding in the way that you need to -- you need to be on top of your game. If you have a bad day with your putter, you've slipped on the leaderboards and you slip out of contention. In Europe, if you have a bad day on the golf course, a semi-bad day where you don't hold that many putts, you can still stay in contention sometimes. We.

Don't do anything without -- we go through it all. My family won't go to America. They won't go to America because they are very happy. It not because we don't like America. It's because we're very happy where we are. We are very happy in England. Our children are happy and our daughter is really, really happy in school. We don't want to change that. I'll travel and they will stay where they are. That comes with this game. That's the way I do it. Somebody else would do it a completely different way.

GORDON SIMPSON: It will be interesting to see how it all works out this week and maybe you'll pull off the big one this year. Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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