August 23, 2001
GORDON SIMPSON: Thomas, very nice start today. 4-under par, round of 66. Everyone has been saying how long the course is playing. How long have you found it today?
THOMAS BJORN: Well, I think it's playing normal. It's certainly got possibilities out there. The greens are quite soft after the rain we had last night, and certainly got possibilities, but this is -- we know this is a tough golf course. We know you have to go out there and play well and do the right things, and I think, obviously we have the greatest players here. But it also shows that the golf course has probably played as easy as it will ever play because these greens are very small, and when they get hard, it's very difficult to keep the balls on the green. But they were very soft today and that makes good scoring possible.
GORDON SIMPSON: Is this the best start you've made in one of these World Golf Championships events?
THOMAS BJORN: I don't really know. It's definitely a good start. It's what I was looking for. I didn't play very well last week at the PGA and I struggled a little bit with my swing, and I've been struggling this week, and I hit a few wayward shots out there today, but I still got away with it and I kept my focus very well and I birdied 16 and 18 to get it to 4-under. I just kept my focus very well and if I can do that all week, I'll be all right but I still need to do a bit of work on the range. I still have that drive starting right, going right. So, I need to get that one out of my game.
GORDON SIMPSON: Some questions, please.
Q. How many fairways did you miss from the tee?
THOMAS BJORN: I don't know. Actually, I hit two -- two drives that were really poor on the front nine. They were going very wide. And I actually got away with -- I made bogey on 3, but I got away with parring 9. That par on 9 kept my round going. It was still a bit on the edge, how I was playing, and on the back nine I started playing some really solid golf. I missed a few out there but everybody is going to miss a few on these fairways. They are quite narrow and they are long holes. You just stand on those tees and give it a bit extra because you'd rather go in with a 8-iron than a 6-iron.
Q. How much of your mind is on the Ryder Cup at this point? A small part, medium part, no mart?
THOMAS BJORN: I don't really think much of it. It's still a good bit away. I've been on the team for a long time, so I cannot -- want to focus on my golf and I still want to achieve things. I still feel like I need to win more golf tournaments than I do, and I really want to go back to Europe in these next two weeks and put in some good performances and get my game ready for the Ryder Cup. I know I need to get my game ready, but I don't really think of the Ryder Cup at the moment. I think the only thing you really look at is, our team is shaping up nicely and we are getting the right players in there and we are looking forward to it. I think we're going to go in with a strong side and we are going to go in with a big chance of pulling off a good performance. As always, we are the underdogs, so there's some great players on the American side, but we are going to look forward to it. Hopefully the Match will be as tight as it normally is.
Q. One of the American players said that having such a strong team on paper, will only serve to motivate Europe; do you find that to be the case or do you need the motivation?
THOMAS BJORN: I don't think so. I think we know that -- we know the top four guys on the American team are four of the absolute best players in the world and we know that. But we also know on any given day that we can beat anybody. I don't think that's going to motivate us any extra. I think if you can't get up for the Ryder Cup, you can't get up from anything. That's the way it is. Ryder Cup is the biggest golfing event in the world, and that's the way you want to be, so you need to get up for that. I don't think we think of who we are playing against and what team we are up against. We are going to go out and give it our best shot and see what the result is on Sunday.
Q. After Dubai you wanted to be right in the thick of things in the majors. How disappointing were they?
THOMAS BJORN: It's been a disappointing year for me in the majors. I really feel that my golf game is a lot better than I -- than it's been showing in the majors. But, I don't know, I mean that's -- I just haven't got things right coming into the majors. I haven't been feeling as comfortable as I did last year going into the majors, and I just haven't gone in right. But that's the way it is sometimes. I still feel that -- I still feel like I belong in there, in the big tournaments. Golf is a funny game. I don't -- I don't look back at things. I really look to the future and I've been looking to the majors next year to go in and give it my best shot. I really feel that my golf game is good enough. I'm starting to know how to play the golf courses we play, and it takes a bit of time to learn how to play major championships, but I still feel -- I still feel I'm going in the right direction even though this year has not been great for me in the majors.
Q. You said a par at 9 kept your round going. Can you talk a little bit about that hole and what happened?
THOMAS BJORN: Well, I was kind of hitting a few loose shots in there on the front nine and then I made a few birdies and I was 2-under through 8. I hit a drive on 9; I almost made it to the first hole. I was just fortunate enough to have a good lie and get it up just short of the green and chipped it to about four feet and holed the putt. It was just kind of one of those where instead of going back to 1-under and you feel like anything can happen and you might not be striking the ball as well as you want and anything can happen on this golf course, it gave me a bit of a boost, and I hit some really good shots on 10,11 and 12 and didn't make the putts. All of a sudden, I felt like I was in control of my game; I was in control of the round. I felt like if I could just keep going, something good to come to me and it did in the end. Any golf round like that, I think you need to -- you need to get that momentum going and making that par on 9 was a big momentum thing for me after that.
Q. You said you were struggling with your game. Can you be more specific, driver, long irons, everything?
THOMAS BJORN: I'm not driving the ball well at the moment. On any tee, I still feel like I have to work to hit a good drive. I feel like when I'm driving the ball well, you just stand up there, see the spot you want to hit at and you just hit it. I still feel like I need to work a lot on my driver. There's a lot of good things in there, as well, and my driving is definitely better than it was yesterday. I worked hard on it last night on the range and I think the guys I played with in the practice round would not believe what they say on that leaderboard today because they were laughing a bit, going around at the places where I was, and it cost me a few dollars, as well. But no, I'm working hard on that. I know what I'm doing wrong and it's just getting a bit of confidence back into it. And today is going to give me a bit of confidence, to go out there and shoot 4-under par is a great score. Any time you can shoot 4-under on this golf course, you're doing well.
Q. You said you flared one on No. 9 --
THOMAS BJORN: What happens a lot of times, when you don't drive the ball very well, you start to grip it tight and you start to hit the ball a little bit harder because you are so anxious. I just decided on the back nine I was going to take some distance off my driver and try to keep it in the fairway and that's what I did and I succeeded. Now, I just need to go over on the range and keep doing that, and try and maybe take a little bit of distance off but try and keep the ball in play.
Q. Who did you practice with? Who were the people laughing at?
THOMAS BJORN: I played with Ernie and Vijay and Nick Price, and that was an expensive round. (Laughter.)
Q. You were paired?
THOMAS BJORN: It was me and Vijay against Ernie and Nick, and those two guys probably had a good dinner last night.
Q. Ordinarily, how far do you hit a drive and how much did you take off to keep it in play?
THOMAS BJORN: Well, I average about 280 on the driving stats, and I probably have taken about 25 yards off it on the back nine today. I didn't hit it very far but I kept the ball in play and that goes to show how the golf course is playing now. It doesn't really matter how far you hit it, as long as the greens are soft. But if you come here on Sunday and it is harder, you want to hit it out there and you want it, get the length back in your game.
Q. Did you just shorten your swing?
THOMAS BJORN: I just started to hit it a lot softer than I did early on.
Q. Hit any wrong fairways yesterday?
THOMAS BJORN: I was close. No, I don't think I did. But they were off-line.
Q. 9 today was probably the worst?
THOMAS BJORN: That was a bad one. No, there's still some good ones in there, and I'm not going to sit here and talk myself down. I shot 66 and I've done some good things out there, and that's what I need to keep doing. Sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don't. You need to take advantage of when you get away with it and that's what I did today. My game is improving all the time, and we all know that you can wake up today and all of a sudden the game is there and you go out and play great. Hopefully for me this week, I can just keep playing and wake up tomorrow morning and start feeling a little bit better about my golf game. Then I know I'm good enough to be right in the thick of things.
Q. Is this the longest golf course you've played with smallest greens like this?
THOMAS BJORN: Yeah, I think it is. It is very long. It's a par 70, as well, and these greens are not very big. There are some very, very small ones out and there, and that's what you need sometimes. It was funny coming here on Tuesday, to see the golf course, and after last week, you had these massive greens, and every time you stood there with a club in your hand, you're just looking at a huge green and all of a sudden you come here and it feels like it's a quarter of the greens of last week. And it's nice to have that, but this golf course benefits good ball strikers. It benefits the guys that want to take on the golf course, and that's what you need sometimes. You need guys -- you need golf courses where you can go out and attack, and the guys that attack it are going to win the golf tournament
Q. I watched your practice round yesterday with Price and Vijay. It seemed like they were all swinging so smooth, all of them. Is that good for you, a practice round like that?
THOMAS BJORN: It's always good for you, a practice round like that. You learn a lot from players like that. I learn a lot from especially a Nick Price, a guy that's been out here for so many years and been through it all. It's nice to play a practice round with these guys to just talk about things. They are very helpful in that if you are not playing very well, they will come with their comments about your swing and what you do wrong. Both Nick and Vijay did that yesterday. That's what we do out here. That's the way we get through the weeks. We try and help each other out even though we are competitors. It's nice to have those guys around you. When you are a little bit down, there's always somebody there to give you a bit of a push.
Q. Are you hanging out with any of the European guys this week?
THOMAS BJORN: Now we are getting into it. Yeah, I always hang out with a few of the guys from the European Tour. Lee and Darren and myself are very good friends and we do spend a lot of time together on a week-to-week basis. But, no, this week I'm very much on my own and I work really hard this week and I really want to work hard. And some weeks, we spend a lot of time together and some weeks, we go out our business the way we want to. But we are very good friends, both on and off the golf course, and that's the way we get through the Tour and the everyday life on Tour. We treat each other as friends.
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