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February 8, 2011
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
ADRIAN FLAHERTY: Lady captain, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and a warm welcome for the official prize presentation for the 2011 OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic. We would like to introduce the top table this afternoon. Firstly, on behalf of golf in DUBAi, the Vice Chairman and CEO Mr. Mohamed Juma Buamaim. To his right, defending champion Miguel Angel Jim√É¬©nez, and to the right of Miguel is the current world No. 1, Lee Westwood. And finally golf in DUBAi Ambassador from America, Mark O'Meara, welcome, all.
Mohamed, if I could ask you to address the conference.
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: Welcome. I thank the top panel here, world No. 1, Lee Westwood, our defending champion Miguel Angel Jim√É¬©nez and our golf in DUBAi Ambassador, Mark O'Meara. This is the 22nd year of the Desert Classic and I'm sure you want to ask questions, but I have to run through certain things to do with the public. The tournament week is obviously starting today with the Challenge Match. Tomorrow is the Pro-Am with 52 teams playing in the morning and afternoon, and then the tournament proper starts on Thursday it day the 10th and the 13th Sunday. We are very, very proud to have the top three players joining us this year, Lee Westwood No. 1, Martin Kaymer No. 2, and Tiger Woods No. 3. I think it's going to be an exciting tournament for all.
Just behind the media centre we have what we call the public village. We try to encourage all of the families to come and enjoy the Desert Classic through other activities rather than golf, so there is a lot of activities for children and there are drinks for the adults for whatever they fancy.
We also have the metro open now in front the clubhouse so we urge you to use that simply because there's a lot of traffic on the streets of Dubai and also there is not enough parking in this facility anymore. As you know, there are some villas being built around so we encourage the public to take the metro if possible.
Tickets are available, of course, as usual on the website which by the way they are doing very well, 30 percent ahead of year-to-date from last year and the year before, so we are going to have a big crowd.
I think it's fair to say thank you at this stage to our chief marshal. They always do a great job, and also our chief scorer always does a good job, and we wish them the best of luck the rest of the week and we wish you guys the best of luck as well.
ADRIAN FLAHERTY: Like to ask each person to say a few words about their participation this week. Miguel, defending champion, would you like to say a few words?
MIGUEL √É¬ĀNGEL JIM√É‚ÄįNEZ: Well, I've been playing here since almost the very first tournament in Dubai, and I think I missed only one or two times the tournament. And it's always nice to come here. I saw this place how it's growing from the very first tournament we come in here. There was only one road here and you see more camels than cars. Now after 20-something years, it's amazing to see all of these changes. To me, it's nice to come here and especially this week, defending my title. And I bested Lee Westwood last year --
LEE WESTWOOD: (Turning away from Miguel).
MIGUEL √É¬ĀNGEL JIM√É‚ÄįNEZ: Don't look at me like that (laughing). You made these two putts from the edge of the green (laughter).
LEE WESTWOOD: I'll get you back. Nice for you.
MIGUEL √É¬ĀNGEL JIM√É‚ÄįNEZ: You know, it's very nice, very happy to defend the title. Always very nice, and I feel good every year I'm coming here and that will be a good point to start. Last year I start fantastic and I hope it will go in the same way.
ADRIAN FLAHERTY: Miguel, thanks, and wish you all the best for the week and we hope you will be the first person to defend the title twice.
Mark, 2004 Champion and playing on the PGA Champions Tour, welcome.
MARK O'MEARA: Thank you, Adrian. Like Miguel said, this is a special place, special tournament. This is my 13th year to come and play in the Dubai Desert Classic. There are so many great memories I have playing here, certainly with my counterparts at the table here, and I've always been so welcomed.
The golf course, what can you say? It's matured so much. I hear it's in great condition this year, and to see as Miguel pointed out the growth of Dubai. I remember in '04 when I was fortunate to win, not too many high-rises around this area and now it certainly has expanded. But just to be a part of this team, I feel very fortunate, very, very lucky, and every time I come back to Dubai, I'm so welcomed here. It just makes it such a great treat.
So when I travel around the world playing, and even though I'm playing more on the Champions Tour now, it's still quite an experience to see the changes and the reception that all of the players get when I come to Dubai.
So Mohamed, on behalf of the players, like you said, we are excited about this week. And certainly having Tiger back playing is going to be special. And Lee has been playing some terrific golf the last three or four years and that's why he deserves the No. 1 ranking in the world.
You know, the guy right here, the defending champion, every time I turn on TV and watch the GOLF CHANNEL, Miguel is up there fighting for the championship, too. So it was not surprising to see what he did here last year. I wish everybody a lot of luck, welcome, and thanks again for letting me be a part of this.
ADRIAN FLAHERTY: Thanks, Mark.
And finally Lee, we have always had great fields here and it's an honour to have the world's No. 1 here, so welcome.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, thank you. It's nice to be back. First can I say it's nice to be the youngest in a fourball for a change. (Laughter) With Miguel playing so well here last year, beat me in a playoff, and Mark still playing great golf, it gives me a lot of hope for the next ten to 15 years. (Laughter).
But it is great to be back. My first time here was 1994. It was my second-ever event on The European Tour and I enjoyed it then and I still love coming back now. It has changed a lot over the years, and for the better I think. Everything has improved. It's somewhere I love to come, even when I'm not playing this tournament, I come back, the facilities are fantastic. It's a pleasure to be back.
I'd like to go one better than last year obviously. But you know, what can you do. Miguel deserved the win last year in the playoff, and I'll be trying hard to get my year going with a win.
Q. Starting with Lee, your season has probably not got off to the way you wanted, if you can talk about the first couple of tournaments, you Tweeted about how you had done on the range and sorted out your swing so maybe talk about where you're at and what you're hoping to see this weekend?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I was just saying outside there, since June last year, I think the longest practise session I've done has been about an hour and a half due to injury. Just not been able to put that kind of weight through my leg. It's still not quite right, but it's good enough now that I can stand up there on the range and hit balls for 3 1/2 or four hours, and that's what I've been able to do the last couple of days really.
The first part of the year was consumed with working out and getting into shape and I didn't really have much time to work on my game. I think last year, I didn't play a lot, but when you are playing well and you're playing regularly and just ticking over, you can keep the rhythm in your swing. But over Christmas, I had a break and hardly hit balls for six weeks and just lost that rhythm a little bit. When you don't work on your swing, you go back to your faults, and that's what's happened the last couple of weeks on Tour in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. I needed to do a little bit of work on that and starting to get a bit of it in place. My game feels like it's almost ready to go this week.
Q. Lee, there will be the inevitable side issue again of the No. 1 ranking with Tiger here, as well as Martin, what is your state of mind regarding that? Are you feeling any extra pressure or are you coping well with it?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, there's no extra pressure. I think it's why you work hard. If you're a professional golfer, you put in all that hard work on the range and then back that hard work up with good performances and wins, and it gets you to No. 1 in the world, why should that add any pressure. It's something to enjoy I think.
Q. And is it something you're happy with? You obviously want to keep it for as long as possible.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I'd like to.
Q. Has it affected you in any way?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, I don't think so -- well, it's affected me. The demands on my time have increased but it's not affected the way I approach the game. You just go out and try and play well each day, and the No. 1 World Ranking comes as a consequence of that.
There's no real short route to it. You have to go the long way around and put the work in beforehand. And anybody that plays well and gets to No. 1 in the world deserves it, and if you don't play well you drop down in the rankings. That's the beauty of them; they reflect how people are playing at the time.
Q. You started the season pretty well but you had a meltdown with your putter in Bahrain, are you happy with the way you're putting in the last four or five days after that, and what's the state of your game right now?
MIGUEL √É¬ĀNGEL JIM√É‚ÄįNEZ: The history in these three or four weeks is in Abu Dhabi, I'm putting very well. My driving is going all the way over the place that it's not used to. And I played well, and I finished second in Bahrain. I played so good, and the difference of watching the putter that I can hole many putts; the hole is moving, you know. (Laughter) I got desperate on the Friday there on the 13th hole, and just when I'm walking there, the putter is a boomerang and hits the bag and breaks in two. But it's not that bad with my lob-wedge, it's working better than the putter, no.
But now I have a new putter yesterday and I'm going to practise with it later on again. And I hope they are coming back. I think these greens, they are very good, and probably my rhythm will get back this afternoon.
Q. You probably don't look at the World Rankings as closely as you do now being on the Champions Tour but you've been a regular visitor to The European Tour events. How would you explain the fact that European players are dominating the top of the World Rankings, at least at the moment?
MARK O'MEARA: I certainly think it's been coming, no question about it; 20, 25 years ago, the U.S. players, American players, tend to dominate the top ten spots. But you know, you can see that golf over the last 15 to 20 years has certainly become more of a global game and The European Tour has been no exception to that, with the success The European Team has had in The Ryder Cup, the confidence of coming over and playing a lot in America.
Certainly Miguel and Lee know that, they have come and played in America, not only just in the Majors, Ryder Cups, U.S. Tour events, the World Golf Championships, and they have performed at such a high level, it's only just broadened the quality of the play in Europe.
Certainly we have seen in a in the major championships where the European players have played in the Majors, and that's why you're seeing that reflected in the World Rankings. So it's not really surprising to me. I think it's going to be a motivating factor for some young American players, maybe like Billy Haas or Anthony Kim or some of the other young American players that have come along and said, hey, we have to step up our game.
I think in general it's just been great for golf to see what's happened in the game for sure.
Q. You are very close personally to Tiger, and how do you look forward to this year for him? Have you had an opportunity to play with him? What do you think where his game is?
MARK O'MEARA: I haven't really seen Tiger much. I saw him at his event out in L.A. in December, and other than that, I haven't really spoken to him or seen him very much because I'm living in Houston and not in Orlando anymore. I believe in my heart that Tiger has been great for the game. He's brought a tremendous amount of excitement, a lot of notoriety to the game that maybe 12, 15 years ago was not there, and so relatively, everybody has benefitted from that, himself included.
And you know, it's in his DNA to win golf tournaments and play and compete. He's a competitor. And I realise that's what's transpired in his life the last year and a half has been very difficult for him and his family which obviously has an effect in one's golf game in a professional career but slowly and surely, I believe he's starting to try to get those things in order and hopefully he'll play well again because I think that's good for golf.
When Tiger plays well, all of us -- I'm not a huge historian of the game, but yet, I'm a big Tiger fan and what he's accomplished in the game has been tremendous. And it's good for golf when Tiger plays well, so hopefully this year will be a good year for him.
Q. Can I get your reaction to the draw for the first two rounds, and perhaps some thoughts on highlights of playing with Tiger?
LEE WESTWOOD: I haven't seen a draw. Is it out yet?
ADRIAN FLAHERTY: It's not out yet, no. (Laughter).
MARK O'MEARA: Good one, though. (Laughter).
LEE WESTWOOD: Can I just add to Mark's comment on Tiger there; that I think in any sport if anybody takes the sport, which Tiger undoubtedly did, to another level, it makes everybody else up their game, as well, which is good for the golfers that play, the sport itself, and the people that watch it, as well, as an entertainment spectacle.
Q. And if you happen to be drawn with Tiger and Martin Kaymer for the first two rounds, can I get your reaction to that?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think that would be a fantastic draw for the tournament and for people watching. I think that's what people like to see. Certainly at other events where you draw the three main champions together in the PGA Championship, that's always exciting; the U.S. Open, the top three in the world. But I don't think it's ever happened on The European Tour.
And certainly for The European Tour itself, having the top two in the World Rankings, sort of the person that's dominated the game over the last 15 years, playing in the same three-ball would be great for the Tour, great for golf and very exciting and would draw a lot of attention to The European Tour in a period where sponsorship and things like that is very competitive. Sponsors have options; I think we want to be making our game look as attractive and glitzy as possible. I think by doing that, it's the ideal way. Especially if we all did well to perform.
If that were to happen.
Q. You know about Tiger and what makes him tick more than anyone; if it was to happen, this draw, how would that fire him up, to have the two blokes in front of him playing with him?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, you know, I'd have to say that these two gentlemen know, because they have played enough golf with Tiger. It's not like Miguel and Lee have not played a lot of golf with Tiger. He wants it as bad as anybody; to be near the leaderboard, to have chances to win tournaments. The year that he lost to Thomas in the playoff here, he was shellshocked. He didn't hit the good shot in the playoff. He wanted to come back and prove himself. I just never underestimate what he's capable of doing, what Tiger is capable of doing.
But in saying that, golf is a lot about confidence and confidence comes from seeing good play. You know, he certainly has not played up to his ability, and you know, a lot of things about this, that, swing; I think you just let Tiger play and he'll figure it out. He's just way too great of an athlete not to get back closer to where he once was. Is he going to dominate like he did? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Probably not because the other players have all stepped up their games a lot, and that had to happen.
I just think that when he plays golf well, all eyes are still paying attention to what Tiger does. He's got an opportunity to catch Jack. He's got four major championships to go to tie his record. You know, he's not getting any younger. He knows that. And so he's going to focus as hard as he can on trying to get back to a level that he would like to be at contending and winning tournaments.
Q. Tiger comes in No. 3, he had his struggles last week and obviously last year. Can you compare to maybe going up against him last year or the year before, do you approach him any differently or do you think he's as dangerous as he ever was? What's your approach to him compared to what he was the No. 1 golfer and you were further down in the ranking?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, we know he has not played his best recently for various reasons. But the one thing you do know in any sport is class is permanent, and sooner or later, you have to putt -- I know as well as anybody from sort of eight, nine years ago when I went through a slump. It's not only a matter of going on the range and clicking your finger and it all comes back. It's a matter of putting building blocks in place and building up gradually, which he'll be doing. It's about hitting one good shot and feeding off that. It's not going to explode into life and shoot a 63 and it's going to be playing safe from there; no, you take a couple of steps forward and you take one step back but it's building all the time, and.
Tiger will be going through that sort of process I suppose now. But you know not to underestimate him. Even if he doesn't play great, he has far too good of a short game to not contend. But obviously like Mark said, everybody else, because he was so good when he was playing well, everybody else upped their game, to try to compete with him. No doubt about it. He's the level -- he's the reason why we all play to the level we do nowadays.
Q. Just to follow up to that, I asked this question of Martin. I mean, he's kind of -- in some ways, he has dropped down the rankings. I jokingly said a little bit, but is there not a killer instinct to put the final nail in the coffin and get him out of the way?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, not at all (laughter).
When I'm not playing a tournament and I'm watching, say, somewhere in the States, I'm watching how Tiger is playing. I'm seeing if he's playing well. He's exciting to watch for everybody. It's not a matter of that. Golf is too much of an individual sport to worry about one person. Martin Kaymer is playing great golf. Like for me, getting to No. 1 in the world, you have to work hard but to stay there, you have to work even harder.
So the only thing I can control is myself and what I do and the way I play. So really what anybody else does, has no effect on me. But certainly I like to see Tiger play well as much as anybody else. Just not when he's up against me (laughter).
MIGUEL √É¬ĀNGEL JIM√É‚ÄįNEZ: And everything is getting very tight. It's like they said, Tiger is the middle for where the young guys, like Kaymer, Marcel, all of these guys coming out in the world of golf. And now he was coming with all of the strength and all of the power, you can see all of them all of the new ones is coming with all of the strengths and power and much more confident. Probably it's going to be difficult for him to get there.
But like they say, it's going to be very good if Tiger is still playing at a high level because he's been amazing for golf. We would like him to stay here, you know, and the best in the game. We don't want him to move away at all. No, we need those kind of characters on the golf course. People follow him, people follow the new era of players coming, but it's good to mix, and I think it's great for golf.
LEE WESTWOOD: You've got to remember, these kids that ten years ago when Tiger was winning by 15 at Pebble Beach, these kids were 12 years old watching him and getting a work ethic and looking at a level that you had to play the game. Now these lads are 22 years old, 23 years old, and they have been doing what Tiger has been doing for ten years.
So they come out here professional athletes and get straight into it. It's quite amazing the likes of Manassero, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and needed a bit of a bedding in period, and now they are just straight back into it. And because they have got Tiger to emulate over the last ten years through growing up and watching it.
Q. Lee, you said that some of the questions this morning at the school were particularly good. Were there any --
LEE WESTWOOD: I was only joking. Don't feel under any pressure.
Q. Was Tiger still a reference?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah in a couple of the questions they asked me about him but not really anything controversial for you. (Laughter).
Q. The point about Tiger is he's this figure that everybody looks up to. He's not here just to win the tournament. He's barking some money to be here; he's still a big sell, huge sell for the whole game.
LEE WESTWOOD: He's the biggest draw in the game.
Q. And that is still the same, but is he still -- as kids were coming in, were they looking at Tiger or Rickie Fowler?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't know. You'd have to ask them. You'll see the crowds over the first couple of days.
Q. It will be huge.
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, there you go. You've answered your own question.
Q. For Lee, the more clear and present danger for you is Martin Kaymer; your thoughts on Martin.
LEE WESTWOOD: Let's ignore the World Ranking. The clear and present danger is not Martin Kaymer. The issue for me is to play well, get my game in better order than it has been the last two weeks and try and win the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic. End of story. I'm not thinking about the World Rankings or who is right behind me. It's irrelevant. The World Rankings are irrelevant if you don't play well.
Q. I just wondered your thoughts on Martin as a player.
LEE WESTWOOD: Martin is a great player. He's one of those that's come straight out and competed straightaway. He's got a very rounded game. He's got that sort of Germanic professionalism about him that Bernhard Langer had. He's very focussed; you can see on his face. He's a great front runner, as he proved it in Abu Dhabi. Not too many weaknesses to his game. That's the secret of being a world-class player. It's not your strengths; it's how strong your weaknesses are, and he doesn't have too many, as all of us don't. And then after that, it's a case of confidence and how well you putt.
Q. Obviously when Tiger had his sabbatical from the sport, he came back and said he was looking to be a better father, a better person. Could he be forgiven for focusing on his private life, as opposed to his professional life, being more focussed on being a better father, being a better person, and if his hunger and appetite waned there after.
MARK O'MEARA: I think you learn in life that everyone, whether you're a professional golfer, media, whoever, you have your up-and-downs in your life. You have moments that you are on top and you have moments when you can be down there on the bottom. Tiger being the competitive person that he is, I think he hopefully, for him, I would say that because I haven't really lived in Florida for the last two or three years, so I haven't really been around that much.
But I know in the back of my heart if I need a favour or a call, he would be there for me, even though we don't speak that much any more and we don't really communicate that much and I'm playing a different tour than he plays, I still know him a little bit as a guy who doesn't like failure. Certainly he's fought a pretty big battle the last year and a half in his personal life. And sometimes when you struggle a lot, you learn more about yourself than whenever everything is going your way and we have all been through these types of issues, more than different elevations or different levels than some people because he has a very public life because of his professional life. All of those things are exposed more.
But I do believe that he loves his kids dearly. Elin is a great mom and is going to do the right thing and I think he's going to do the right thing as a father. Hopefully as a parent myself, that's what you have to do. You have to just really try to teach your kids to do the right thing, because they are an extension of you, and then they are going to have family some day.
So I believe, you know, he's learned a very difficult lesson for himself, and I think he is trying to do the best he can to become that better person and better father.
Q. Miguel, the selection for The Ryder Cup 2018 is very close, do you think Madrid has a chance?
MIGUEL √É¬ĀNGEL JIM√É‚ÄįNEZ: I think to have the chance to host The Ryder Cup, I think the first time being out from the British Isles is 1997 it comes to Valderrama, and hosted with a good feeling of the people who was coming to play there.
Madrid I think is one of the great places in Europe to go. It's one of the south-est cities in Europe that is going to be for 2018, and you have got everything, culture and everything that you need. They are going to build a golf course especially for The Ryder Cup, and I think probably it is the best bid, yeah. I know it's going to be tough, French do very good things, Portugal with their bid now. But I think for all three places, Madrid is probably the best one because you have got everything there in the city, you don't have to be far away, you have the hotels, restaurants, everything.
ADRIAN FLAHERTY: Thanks. Just before we close and wish everyone the very best for the week, just like to say a big thank you to all of our sponsors who are represented today. Without them an event like this does not happen and we thank you for coming today. And Chris May, on behalf of Emirates Golf Club, the golf course from the players so far is arguably the best condition the course has been in since the tournament started; and Chris, thank you to your team for preparing it.
And we wish Miguel every success in defending the title. Thank you, Lee and Mark and moment for your time. Ladies and gentlemen thank you very much.
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