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June 20, 2007

Niclas Fasth


KLAUS WAESCHLE: Welcome, Niclas. After the Pro-Am today, and surprising you are the first to tell us that 16th hole, that the bunker now, you think it's playing more easy even.
NICLAS FASTH: Yes, for a pro it was very tricky before, but I must also really stress that I like the other changes of the course. It's beautiful. And also it seems that playing this time of year, the condition of the course is even better.
So it's really lovely out there today. Playing a bit tough with the big, heavy rough coming in a little bit closer to the fairway now, and we'll see what it does to the scoring.

Q. You played a wonderful U.S. Open, and compared to the conditions at Oakmont, how easy or difficult is this course for you now?
NICLAS FASTH: Well, it's very different. Different is the word. You can't -- even in general, it's hard to compare courses. This is obviously a much easier if you mean in the way that you -- it's much easier to shoot under par here than at Oakmont. Oakmont is the hardest course I've ever played, and it's the hardest course the U.S. Open has ever had.
So the challenge here is different, but it doesn't mean it's going to be any easier winning this thing, because again, good play here is rewarded with birdies, and good play at Oakmont was rewarded with pars.
But the challenge is effectively the same that you need a very, very good score to win it. There's a lot of good players here, and inevitably, some players are going to shoot very low scores if they are -- the thing here is that you get punished if you miss the fairway. There is a lot of rough. There's a lot of water that's really in play on this golf course. You do get punished. But as always, you put this many good players in one spot, somebody is going to be on form and shoot a lot of birdies and a lot under par.

Q. Do you expect low scores like in the past years?
NICLAS FASTH: I'm sure there's going to be somebody shooting low scores, but how low, you never know. I've always felt that -- I've been on Tour for effectively 15 years now, and the courses have become harder and harder all the time and the average and even the individual courses are set up to be harder and harder. And this course is no exception; that there's more and more good players, and well, even equipment has been better. But it's more that so many players now are developing their game and everybody is working out, everybody is practising a bit more. So inevitably somebody is going to shoot a low score.

Q. How close are you to winning a major really in your own mind?
NICLAS FASTH: Well, you know, I played quite a few and I've only been in contention twice. The only thing that makes me feel if anything is that when I get in contention, I'm very good. And I obviously realised this years ago, and I've tried to develop my game to get in contention more, both in normal tournaments and in majors.
I know and, well, I guess you know, too, now, that I don't back down when I get a chance, and I can do it. But whether I'm a good enough player to really get in contention often enough in majors, that's something that I will have to prove.

Q. You obviously enjoyed the finish and the money that came with it, but did you actually enjoy the week? Can you say you enjoyed playing this course?
NICLAS FASTH: Well, I did, because I managed to have a good mental approach last week, and that was probably why I did well and anybody who is there can play good golf. It's hard to do it on this course. You've got to somehow create room that isn't really there. The only way you can do that is in your head.
I did very well last week in that respect; and therefore, I could to some degree enjoy being out there, but it takes a lot of energy out of you, because you are not given any breathing room at all. There is no letup. Once you step on that first tee, it's absolutely brutal until you're finished, and it's very tough, it's very hard, it takes a lot of energy.
So if you let it get to you, it really will. So that's what, you know, 95 per cent of the players by the end of the week, just probably got there and I managed to stay out of that group this time.

Q. Is this a kind of occasion now coming to Munich when you see the differences, how big the U.S. Open are, how big is the difference and how is it for you, more relaxing?
NICLAS FASTH: Well, yeah, it's like coming home in a way. I don't know what you compare it with. You come and play the World Cup in football and you come home and play at your (local club) again. It feels like coming home. It's no less important. This is a tournament that has established its profile since many years now, and it's always included a lot of big players, the arrangements have always been good. There's many things you can do to attract players, but this tournament always has. I've always come here and I've always enjoyed it.
I was looking forward to this time. It's very different, the U.S. Open, but this is really what our professional life is about. The major championships, there's a few every year and we love to play them when we get a chance. But if you want to do that every week, you wouldn't last very long. It's very hard.

Q. Because of your performance last week, do you hope Carnoustie is set up as difficult as they can make it?
NICLAS FASTH: No. I didn't play the last time there. But very few of the players appreciate it when it goes over the edge, and obviously I would imagine that a lot of players would say it was over the edge last week. It was certainly very much on it, and I'm sure it will be at the British Open, as well.
But you want it to be playable. All of the players would appreciate I think that if they have a good round of golf, they break par. Because they feel somehow reasonable -- they are the best players in the world after all; if you push it too far, there's always the question of, do you get the right winner or not.
I should stress that -- back to the U.S. Open, it wasn't the setup. It was just a typical U.S. Open setup on that course, was extreme, because the course is extreme. And if you look at Carnoustie, that course is very, very difficult when we play it with a, shall we call it, normal setup during the Dunhill every year. And it's very much a challenge at the Dunhill, and there's always a risk that one or two of the world's best players are going to be totally on form that week and shoot 10-under par. That doesn't make it a bad golf course. It will always be a great challenge.
As a matter of fact, Carnoustie is one of those courses, too, where you don't really get a breather. Every shot has some pressure on it.

Q. After a mentally exhausting week at the U.S. Open, how challenging is this course? Is this a holiday trip for you pros?
NICLAS FASTH: Not at all. You shouldn't go to a tournament unless you want to compete, because you wouldn't be doing yourself any favours. If I didn't feel that I want to come here and try to win this thing, I'd probably be better off going home.
We don't have any amount of energy. You have to play, no more tournaments that you can do every year, and the ones you do, you've got to make them count or try to. And I think it's very important. This is very important to me. The U.S. Open is -- this is what my professional career is -- like I said earlier, it's about playing The European Tour. That's where I've chosen to play. I love to go play the major championships, but they are sort of on top of the regular events. I am even lucky enough to pick the best events, the ones that I love to go and play, which this is one of them, and I'm very happy about that.
So this is important to me. I've chosen this because I like to come here and play. Yes, I was tired after last week and I have to make preparations for this week, and on the other hand, I've been here I don't know how many times.

Q. Who will be the last two or three finishers be on Sunday, do you think?
NICLAS FASTH: The safe guess is that, you know, you look at the biggest names who are at the top, like Henrik and Casey and then you look at the players playing well, which very often is the exact same thing. I'm playing well now. I would imagine without having started the tournament that I would probably play all right this week. But, you know, I'm not much of a speculator.
But as I said, it's very likely that some, if not most of the top-ranked players are going to be there Sunday. Obviously subpoena others, as well. I don't think -- it would be a typical scenario. There's one or two, maybe surprises and the top three.

Q. How about Ernie Els?
NICLAS FASTH: It slipped my mind but obviously he would be one of the guys normally. I don't know, he played last week, he made the cut, didn't he? Yeah, I mean, he obviously has not been on top form lately but he's still one of the greatest players.

Q. Would Bernhard Langer be a surprise?
NICLAS FASTH: No. Certainly not?

Q. Of course, Stenson, too?
NICLAS FASTH: He's pretty much one of the top seeds. He's experienced, he's one of the top names. You'd be almost surprised if he was not up there on Sunday, wouldn't you.

Q. Maybe a back-to-back Swedish winner?
NICLAS FASTH: Oh, yeah, it would not be unlucky at all. He's played fantastic all year. He probably had his only bad tournament of the year last week, and as we all saw that could happen to anybody.

Q. And what is the secret that you Swedes compete so well?
NICLAS FASTH: Can you can he fine doing well?
There's no secret behind that. The Swedish Federation has a good organisation that gives a lot of young players a chance. So we're lucky to grow up in Sweden where we're given a chance, and this would be true for a lot of other sports, too. That's all they can do. They can give us a chance. They can give us education, and support us and we can go play amateur golf tournaments. And if you give a hundred people a chance, somebody is going to be good.
And a lot of people have been given the chance, are still being supported and given the chance, and now we have 25 guys or however many there are on the Tour and that's simply a result of math. I mean, you give ten guys a good chance and one may be good.

Q. Do you think it could be the same for Germany?
NICLAS FASTH: It should work the same everywhere I guess. Germans have the same talent as Swedes I'm sure. If the organisation is there -- some money is required, shouldn't really be a problem here, more so than in Sweden; and good organisation and possibly, possibly, also good tradition with the sport. And the sport being effectively young in Sweden, that has not necessarily been the case when I grew up. But I guess that would help.

Q. Has development in Sweden changed from Björn Borg and the other big tennis players and now Sweden has not much of those qualities but much more golf players of the highest rank.
NICLAS FASTH: Well, I think it's a fact -- I may be venturing out here -- but I think that tennis has not grown as a sport in the same way golf has for many reasons. Yes, Sweden doesn't have the world No. 1 right now, but not more than a few years ago, at least there was someone who reached No. 1 briefly. And only one country out of the 200-odd countries in the world can have a No. 1 player. So Sweden is not doing badly in tennis. It's just effectively considering the population of Sweden, they are doing well in every sport. I think it's due to good organisation more than anything. What else could it be? I mean, we are not more talented than anybody else.
KLAUS WAESCHLE: Thank you very much and good luck for the official round starting tomorrow.

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