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August 13, 2002

Thomas Bjorn


JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thomas Bjorn is with us at Hazeltine National Golf Club playing in his sixth PGA Championship. Thomas, welcome to Minnesota. If you would not mind giving us some thoughts on the golf course and we'll go to questions.

THOMAS BJORN: Well, it's a very, very good golf course. It has a very, very tough back nine, I thought. It's like any PGA Championship. You need to be on your game and you need to drive the ball really well this week. The greens are not that big and it's firming up pretty much out there. It certainly feels that you can shoot numbers here, but you have to be on top of your game. It's a golf course that suits players that really just drive the ball well. It doesn't feel as long. The ball rolls pretty well out there. If you keep the ball in play all week, I feel that you can shoot numbers. A guy that is a bit off-line off the tee is going to struggle this week. It's tight, but good.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks.

Q. I understand that this week, for you, represents a chance to break through and win your first major championship. There's no lessened expectations from your point of view, about do you sense that there's any difference versus the British Open, where Tiger's chance to win the Slam was still alive, where this week, it's gone; any sense of a less expectation surrounding the tournament?

THOMAS BJORN: Not really. I think it's a major championship and any time you go into a major championship, it has that feeling, that different feeling about it. Obviously, there's one guy out here everybody is going to be looking for and he's just won last week. That gives him a lot of confidence and a big advantage going into a week like this, when he's starting to -- like last week, he dominated the tournament, and I got over here and actually read papers and saw a bit on TV and people were saying that he probably didn't play his best golf either, and winning by four shots. That just shows how good the guy is. But I think a lot of focus is going to be on him to see if he can be the first guy to win three majors twice in the same year, and he's a dominant player. I think we saw at the British Open, if you go out there and play your game and he doesn't play his best game, well you've got to be there to take the chance. He goes into any tournament as a big favorite. But I don't feel -- I don't feel it's any different at this tournament than any other tournament. I feel that this is a major championship, this is why it's all good. It can't get much bigger than this. One thing this tournament has got going for it is it has the strongest field, probably, ever in a golf tournament. Everybody is here, everybody inside the Top-100 in the world is playing in this golf tournament. That's a pretty strong test of golf. If you're going to win this week, you're certainly going to be on top of your game and it has that special feeling.

Q. Growing up in Denmark, I don't think there's all that many great courses. Can you talk about how your game developed?

THOMAS BJORN: It's like anything, really, any sport. You play the game, you play what's in front of you. You try and -- when you're a kid, you try and invent things that might not exist. You try and hit different kind of golf shots, and I grew up playing probably one of the tougher courses in the country and a very tight golf course and that certainly helped me when I came out as a professional, that I was used to playing a tight golf course, a difficult golf course. So I was used to hitting a lot of different kinds of shots. There's no doubt my game started to improve when I got out onto the professional tour and started realizing what you had to do, playing the best players in the world. I felt like I just probably developed my golf game a little bit later than most because I didn't have the competition, I didn't have the experience as an amateur, when I'm playing. We all develop our games at different times and I just developed a little later than most. I certainly felt my first couple of years on the European Tour, my game stood up and that gave me a lot of confidence that I could play and be among the best players in the world, and I just have taken from there, being one of the best players in Denmark and one of the best players in Scandinavia. My ambitions go beyond that because when I came up, being the best player in Denmark would not take me very far. I felt if I was going to live up to ambitions and beliefs I had in myself, I had to look a lot higher and I've done that. I always feel that anyway you aim yourself, you're going to end up somewhere around there, and that's -- my goal has never been to be the best player in the world. My goal is to become as good as I can be. We live in a time now where it's very difficult to be the best player in the world because as a guy out here that does things better than we have ever seen in the game and that takes a lot to stand up to that. You can only become as good as your talent can hold off, and I try -- you try as hard as you can to develop your game and see how far it takes you. Maybe 8 years ago that would take me to No. 1 in the world and now it takes me to number 25 in the world, you never know. I don't know how good other guys are and how good they will be. But I can only be on my game and become as good as I can be.

Q. Your preparation coming into this week, how much work have you done with Pete Cowen, what work have you guys been working on?

THOMAS BJORN: I felt very tired after the Open. I felt that I certainly let a good chance of winning my first major championship slip away at the Open. I felt that I needed a bit of time to just reflect on that tournament because I felt -- I certainly felt that I could have won that tournament very easily. I've taken quite a bit of time off. I've played one tournament since, didn't play particularly well. I took a lot of time off last week just to really get my mind ready for another major championship. So we've been doing a lot of work at the moment. We're trying to get my swing back to the way it was at the Open. I was playing very well that week. That's a lot of work going on out there, but it's very close. I feel fresh in my mind, and I think that's one of the things you need to have when you come into a PGA Championship; this is very tough on you, mentally. I feel fresh in my mind and I feel I'm looking forward to it. I don't feel worn out. I don't feel that I can go out and perform. Obviously, you need to have your A Game with you. But that develops at the tournament. I think if you get in there and start getting good shots, you just work your way on from there. I've prepared myself in previous years to this tournament, but haven't gotten the results. I feel that I can work my way into the tournament and I certainly feel that I'm hitting enough good golf shots. There's a lot of hard work to be done today and tomorrow, but I certainly feel like I'm going to be ready on Thursday.

Q. Given Ernie's win at the British Open and however familiar you are with how he's been playing, to now, is he becoming more of the foil to Tiger, or is that something that just changes week-to-week, tournament-to-tournament, whoever can step up?

THOMAS BJORN: Well, there's certainly a thing going on at the moment, and anybody that wins any certain week is suddenly the world's No. 2. I think we're talking about a guy that's always been -- he's always been mentioned when we talk about guys that have got to stand up to Tiger. I think we talk about something that's not really there, because Tiger is as good as he is. We see time and time again how good he is. I think it's difficult for any of these guys to stand up to him. But I think if there's anybody that has the game, and certainly the mental attitude to go out there and challenge Tiger, it's Ernie. I, for one, felt very happy for him when I saw him win that British Open. I felt that it must have been a big thing for him. He's won two U.S. Opens, but it's the same major championship, and it's always big to win a major championship, but I felt he was a good enough player and has been a good enough player for a long time to get that other major. Certainly, he was a guy that played the best golf at the British Open, and he let it slip a little bit over the last few holes, but I was very happy to see him go out and win that playoff and do the things that we've seen over the years. He gets tough when it gets really tough, he plays hard golf and he's -- I think he's the second best player in the world. He certainly has the second best game in the world, and I think it was nice -- I don't only speak for myself, but I think a lot of people felt it was good to see him win that British Open.

Q. You mentioned how close you came at Muirfield and there were probably a number of players, much like yourself, that left there kind of thinking that it was a chance that went begging. Talk about after taking some time off, talk about how difficult it is to win a major and how difficult it is to have everything come together, to have the stars aligned, so to speak, and get a major championship?

THOMAS BJORN: It was a funny week, because I felt everybody came in and thought that even though the rough was thick and high, they felt it was a very generous golf course and everybody was talking about 15, 18-under par winning the tournament, and all of the sudden, 6-under won the tournament. I think everybody felt, well, hang on a second, I could have shot 6-under par around here if I had known that was going to be the winning score. I think everybody was surprised and I think a lot of guys did go away from there thinking, how did I not win this golf tournament? But that's a major championship for you. It was a giant, it was a sleeping giant. It was right there and if you hit a bad shot, you got penalized. I think in practice, a lot of the guys feel that the golf courses are a lot easier than they really are. I think this golf course will show that as well. When you go out there and you can hit a few shots, it doesn't really matter if you hit it sideways, you feel this golf course is very playable. But when you only get one chance, it gets a little bit tougher. I certainly felt that a lot of guys could have won that golf tournament, but a lot of guys with a big chance at the British Open -- I still think it probably would have been a bit of a different story if we had not gotten that weather on Saturday. A lot of the players that were playing really well got caught in that weather, and couldn't produce a decent number in that weather and a lot of guys lost their golf swing on that Saturday, as well. All of a sudden, they could not get themselves back into the tournament. That was a major factor in that tournament, that Saturday afternoon. But that's the British Open. That's what that tournament is all about. The good thing about that was that it was a guy that played in the weather won the tournament. He played in the toughest conditions and went out there and won. It was a strange feeling, going away from there -- when I was going way from there, I really felt that I had let one slip away. But I gave myself another chance, and the more chances you give yourself, eventually, one is going to fall yourself. It's a question of having the right breaks and taking your chances on the weekend, and I didn't -- I didn't. When I look back, I needed to find three shots to win the golf tournament, and I found those. I can still find those in two seconds. But that's what majors is all about. I think you've got to be tough and you've got to realize that these golf courses are a lot tougher than they appear. If you go out with that attitude and play a bit more conservative golf, you might actually find yourself in there more often.

Q. What distinguishes the PGA from the other three majors?

THOMAS BJORN: This is the tournament with the strongest field. I always feel that's one thing the PGA Championship has got going for it really good; if you take the World Rankings, we've always got the best players in this field. There's more players in the Top-100 always playing in this golf tournament. That's a great, great thing to have for a championship. If you look at all of the tournaments that's been playing throughout the world over the whole year, well, this has got the strongest field. That's got to account for a lot. There's a lot of talk about which is the most prestigious major championship to win. Well, all of the players out here will give you different answers, but, it's a major championship. I'll tell you what, if I should win one major championship, I wouldn't mind which one.

Q. You split your time between the U.S. PGA TOUR and the European Tour. Have you considered playing full-time here in America, and, would a win, would that change your mind to spend quite a bit of time here in America?

THOMAS BJORN: You know, I'm thinking about taking up my membership in America and playing both tours. I'll never give up my membership in Europe. I'll maintain my membership always in Europe. I feel that that's my home, that's where my family is happy, where we feel good. That's one thing that I will always keep. But I'm certainly considering playing two tours at the moment. That would be difficult to do, because at times, you'll be contending for Money Lists on either tour, and then you'll find yourself in a situation where it's hard to focus on both tours. But I feel that to become as good as I want to be, well, then I'll probably have to play more golf in America than I do. So I'm very seriously considering now playing both tours.

Q. Were you surprised after your practice round to see that this course doesn't play quite as long as it looks on the score card?

THOMAS BJORN: Well, there's one thing about this golf course that people tend to forget when they look at the score card, it's got four extremely long par 5s and that makes up a lot of yardage on this golf course. So the rest of the golf course doesn't actually feel that long, but the par 5s, we are talking about par 5s in between 550 and 650, and they are really, really long par 5s. They makeup the yardage and the golf course is more tricky than long. But the good thing about it is those par 5s actually doesn't favor the real long hitters, because even those guys are going to struggle getting to them in two. So it's going to be a question of iron play, who can try and dominate the par 4s this week. That's a major thing this week; that you've got to make a lot of birdies on the par 4s this week to win this golf tournament.

Q. Apologize for asking you about somebody else, but Sergio Garcia, he's been in 11 pro majors and has not won one, and there is this perception of when is he going to break through and he's only 22 years old. Do you think he's under undue pressure from people like us or do you think he's moving along at the rate he should, as far as majors, etc.?

THOMAS BJORN: I think he's gotten close, and that's a lot for a 22-year-old to get close. I have no doubt that he will win a major championship. He's that good of a player and he's got high thoughts about his game and other people have high thoughts on his game. We've seen it; when it's good, it's very, very good. I'm quite sure that the guy is going to win major championships. It will happen when it happens. I think it's difficult when you're 22 years old to try and force winning majors. He will win his majors and he's a good enough player and he will grow -- he will grow more mature and you'll see him play -- when he plays his best, he's a fantastic golfer to watch. He's one of those guys that everybody loves to watch. He can do things that are just a little bit different than most other guys in the world, and that's nice to have guys like that. But he will win his majors. As you say, he's only

22 years old and he's got a long career ahead of him.

JULIUS MASON: Questions? Questions twice? Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts...

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