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August 22, 2000

Thomas Bjorn


GORDON SIMPSON: Okay, Thomas, welcome. You've had a second in a major this year, third in a major. How about first in one of the World Golf Championships events?

THOMAS BJORN: That wouldn't be at all bad. I think my performance in those two majors, and probably also at Pebble Beach, has shown me that I'm not very far from the top range of players in the world. And I think I put a lot of hard work in, preparing myself for the majors this year; and it shows me that when I get my head into doing something and really want to do well in special tournaments, I can actually go out there and feel relaxed because I feel prepared. And I think that has been the key at the British Open and last week; that I actually felt very relaxed on the golf course and felt prepared for the week and felt like I could go out and perform and put in a good performance.

GORDON SIMPSON: What was the difference between last year and this year where you did not make the Ryder Cup team and struggled to qualify, and this year you have done so well in so many tournaments?

THOMAS BJORN: I think one of the main reasons is I have been mostly injury-free this year. At the end of 1998, I had a long period with neck injuries. And also, during the season in 1999, I had a couple of times where I had to pull out. So I think being injury-free gives me the chance to just go out and be prepared, do the work. And all the work that I had done actually prepares me for golf tournaments, where before I had been preparing myself, and all of the sudden run into injuries and be out for two or three weeks and you feel like you have to start all over again. I said before the Ryder Cup in 1999, I definitely think the European Team would be better with me in it than with me not in it, and I definitely think I am among the 12 best players in Europe, and I think I have been certain of that for quite a bit of time now. But that was not the way it was going to be. And it came down to injuries; it came down to me not being able to play the tournaments that I needed to play to get myself into the team.

Q. That's a big thing for you, Thomas, to get back in, isn't it?

THOMAS BJORN: I think there's more important things in the world than the Ryder Cup. But I definitely want to be there. I think the way I'm playing and the way things are going for me, I'll be very surprised if I am not there, because, I said there's three world-class players in Europe, and they have got everybody else by a little step. And I think me and maybe a couple of other guys, just that tiny little step behind them. But I think I am closing the gap at the moment. I definitely think that there are only three players in Europe that on a consistent basis will compete on the world scene. But I think there will be two or three other guys that are just closing the gap. I think my major performances this year shows that I am getting very close to them.

Q. (Inaudible.)

THOMAS BJORN: No, I am very happy in Europe. My family is very happy in Europe. I will probably play more in the States. I am not sure I will take up my membership over here, especially because of my wife who is 31 years old who has lived all over the world, and we have a little daughter. And I think for her to pack up and move over here, I think she would feel like she's out of place. We are very happy in London, and we feel like when we get back to London, we are at home. I think that would be our place to live. I would probably play more, but I am not 100% about my membership.

Q. When will you make that decision?

THOMAS BJORN: I don't make that decision until some time in September, October.

Q. Have you sold the place in Dubai? London is your home?

THOMAS BJORN: London is our home. We've still got the place in Dubai for the winter. My wife's parents are there. We will be there two or three months in the winter when the weather is not good enough in Europe. But London is home, and we will be there for some time. We are very happy there and have a lot of good friends there. I think that is a key element for our lives; that we feel happy at home. And I'm not sure that I could feel happy -- I could feel pretty much happy anywhere. But I'm not sure my wife would feel happy having to move again.

Q. Your trips to the States, will they depend on how well you do in your qualifications for Ryder Cup?

THOMAS BJORN: I'll play enough tournaments in Europe next year and early on to get myself on that Ryder Cup team. And a lot of people talk about, well, it always comes down to the wire. But there are always six or seven guys that are in by mid-season, and I have no other plans than to be in very early on so I don't have to consider where to play, and I can go and just do whatever I want to do and prepare myself for the Ryder Cup and for the majors in the right way. And so I need to get out of the block quick this year, and get myself into that team very early on. So I don't have the pressure of having to play all of the tournaments in the summer.

Q. Does that mean that the traveling next year --

THOMAS BJORN: Yeah, I am going to go to Australia and play the World Golf Championships in Australia. I am going to play a couple tournaments in Australia early on, on the European Tour, and we'll see if I feel that -- if I don't feel any pressure to play in Europe, I'll come over here and probably play all the way up to the Masters, and then I'll probably be back in Europe when the big tournaments start in Europe.

Q. How about September? Are you going to Switzerland?

THOMAS BJORN: I'm going to Munich next week and going to Switzerland -- I'm planning on playing every tournament from now until the World Match Play (Wentworth). I feel that I need to play. I feel very comfortable playing. I need to give myself chances to win golf tournaments now. I feel fresh, and I feel the more tournaments I play, the more chances I have to win. And that's what I want to do now. I've done well. I finished second and third in major championships, but I still have not won this year, and that's -- that's the next step. I want to win tournaments before the year is over, and I need to win more than one.

Q. You're in the World Match Play?

THOMAS BJORN: There's a big chance I'll be in it now. I haven't had a call from Mark, but I would think with my World Rankings and the way I have done in the major, I would think there would be a big chance that I would be in.

Q. You say you are closing the gap, do you think that is because of consistency or ability?

THOMAS BJORN: I think I have the same ability. I don't think any of the three has more talent and more skill than I do. I think a lot of the other guys -- there's a massive amount of talent in Europe. I just think it is a question of using it the right way. I think the way -- especially Lee and Monty goes about doing their thing is very -- they are very consistent in what they do. They come out every tournament, every time they tee it up; they are there for one thing and one thing only, and that is to win; and they do it on a regular basis. I think it is the approach that's important. And I think they have shown the way it could be done, and they have done it in two different ways. I mean, Monty is not as relaxed as Lee. Lee kind of has the attitude, I feel, that he goes out there and if he don't win one week, well, he knows he's going to win within the next four weeks, so it doesn't really matter. So he has a relaxed approach. And I think when you start winning regularly and you get out to so many golf tournaments worldwide, I don't think you put the kind of pressure on yourself to win golf tournaments. When you have not won that many, the desire is still so big to win that you almost throw away tournaments because the desire is almost too big instead of just relaxing and playing. I think one of the main reasons I have done well in the majors is because Tiger has been up there. And it makes me relax that his name is up there, because nobody expects you to -- nobody expects anybody else to win but him, so you can't just go out there and play the best you can and see if it is enough, and it has not been enough. But it makes you relax on the golf course if his name is up there. If you have two or three names up there that you know you should beat, maybe you'll start beating yourself up, up on the golf course if things are not going your way. As long as he's out there, you just go out and play the best you can.

Q. Having seen Bob May get so close, do you get the feeling that maybe he's not invincible and he can be caught before too long?

THOMAS BJORN: Oh, definitely. I don't think he's -- I mean, he is by far the best player in the world, and he does things that nobody else can do. But this won't keep going. I mean, he's on a confidence ride at the moment that is unbelievable, and I think that's what makes him stand out that much. But he won't keep going. He'll run into trouble, and he'll start losing tournaments. And I think when people talk about him beating Jack's major record and all that, you've got to remember how many times Jack finished second as well. And Tiger is going to finish second, and he's going to lose tournaments. And I think when he starts losing major championships, that's when we're going to see what he's made of, really. I think we can all play fantastic golf when we are on a confidence ride. I think when he runs into trouble, that's when we're going to see what he's made of. I'm convinced that he's going to turn everything around and be the best player ever, because he's so good, but that's when -- that's when we're really going to see what -- the way things are going to go. Because Jack finished second more times I think than he won the major championships, and that's -- that just shows how good he really was. And Tiger seems that every time he is there, he wins them.

Q. In view of everything you've said, what are your reasons for considering coming over here?

THOMAS BJORN: I think if you want to be the best player in the world -- and growing up, that's always been your dream, or my dream, and I think every golf player out here -- your dream is to become the best. And the way it is at the moment with a large number of the best players in the world playing over here, that gives more World Ranking points to this Tour as well. And if you can do well over here, you've got a bigger chance of getting to the top of the World Rankings. And that's the only way you can measure if you are the best is where you are in the World Rankings. And it is literally impossible to get to almost 1 and 2 if you play all the time in Europe. Monty has been very close, and he has been in second at one stage. But you've got to remember how good he has done and how well he has performed over seven years, and he has never gotten to No. 1 in the world.

Q. Considering what you said that Tiger might have a period where he is down, do you just think that's inevitable, the swings in people's golf game, or --

THOMAS BJORN: I think that's the way golf is. I don't think -- Tiger is 24 years old. He is going to be out here for a long time. And I don't think for over that long period of time you can just keep dominating the game as he is. I think every great sportsman has one who appeared in a period in the sport where they just have not performed as well as they would like to. And I think Tiger is going to do that as well at some stage, but he will be a dominant force. But the problem -- he probably felt last week that he didn't play his best, and still shoots 18-under and breaks the scoring record in a PGA -- PGA Championship. So you feel the guy can do very special things. But I think Pebble Beach and the British Open is something that he's going to do from time to time. But I don't think that's what we're going to get used to. I think last week shows more the way it's going to be in the future. And I think Bob May showed a fantastic heart last week and showed that it is possible to put pressure on Tiger. And when the pressure is on, he is not as impressive as he was in the other two majors, because all of the sudden he's running away with it. And he is good, and it's easy for everybody when you're leading by 7, 8 shots. And last week, he was under pressure. He pulled it off in the end, but he hit a lot of poor shots coming down the stretch, and especially in the playoff. The playoff reminded me of the playoff at the British Open last year. It looked -- it wasn't pretty, but it was the two best guys of the week fighting it out for a major championship, and everybody would be nervous in that situation.

Q. Do you think Europe ought to look at the situation of only two wildcards in view of how much a lot of people, like yourself are going to be playing?

THOMAS BJORN: Well, I think we are going to -- we are going to struggle to have the best team available for the next Ryder Cup. If Olazabal and Jimenez are serious about playing more and more in the States, and with Parnevik and Garcia over here, Paul Lawrie is trying it, he has not decided that's going to go back to Europe, but more and more are going to see what it feels like to be over here. And we'll struggle to have the best team available, and I think that is a shame, because we definitely need the best team available to have a chance. So, I don't know what -- I think you should be rewarded for playing in Europe. I think you should be rewarded for supporting the European Tour. But I still feel that the Ryder Cup will be against the United States and it's not the European Tour against the PGA TOUR, because then you wouldn't -- Ernie would not know where to play, because he is South African and he is not part of it. You've got to say it's at the Tour against the Tour; it's Europe against the States. And it doesn't matter if Jesper and Sergio plays -- if they play golf over here, that didn't make them less European than anybody else. They should be on the team because they are definitely among the best players in the world.

Q. What about Jimenez' idea was to count all money wherever you play?

THOMAS BJORN: I think it's very easy to make a good living in Japan -- (laughter) -- so if you want to make the team you could go to Japan and make the team. You've got to find a way around it. You've got to look at the World Rankings at some stage and say, is this World Rankings -- do they reflect the best players in the world; and if we think so, then we need to take the World Rankings into consideration, but you definitely need to reward the guys who play in Europe. So you might say the top six European Order of Merit and say the top six that are not exempt on the team after that. But there's one thing you've got to remember: A football manager, he sits there every Saturday and Sunday and he's got to put 11 players out, and he's got to decide which 11 players and it all comes down to him. It could be the other way around, and say, well, let's give the captain 12 picks and the captain decides who plays. They take on a job and they -- they obviously want the best team there, and sometimes we've been in that situation that we feel we don't have the best team, and there's been guys out of the team that probably should have been in and it's always like that. So, there's a lot of options, but I don't know, it's all for the committee to decide, which I think is -- which is not really the thought that I -- that I would have in mind. I would think it would come down to the captain to decide how he wants it instead of having people that's not going to play in the team decide the team picked.

Q. Do you think it is urgent enough that we need to do something before next year's match?

THOMAS BJORN: Well, if Olazabal and Jimenez decide to play in the States next year, then we have got players over here that are good enough to play on the team and should be on the team, then we have a problem, because then we are going to be at the Ryder Cup at The Belfry with two guys not on the team that probably should have been there. That's not the way to win the Ryder Cup. We need to have the best 12 guys. That's what it's meant for, the 12 best Europeans against the 12 best Americans, and that's what it's all about. The Ryder Cup will lose value if the top guys are missing.

Q. So basically we should do something before qualification starts this year?

THOMAS BJORN: Well, I think so. But it's all to Sam to put the pressure on the right people to do that. And if Sam doesn't want to do that, we'll just settle for the team. And we might be in a situation where it's the 12 best players and hopefully it will, because I think that is the only way we will win.

End of FastScripts....

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