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June 1, 2011

Thomas Bjorn


THOMAS BJÖRN: Yeah, it's been going on for what now, 11 years.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: This is the 12th.
THOMAS BJÖRN: It's a good event and it's grown. It gets decent support. Played this morning, the golf course is as good as ever. It's nice to be down here. Obviously for everybody that was involved in The Ryder Cup, it's good memories and you feel a bit that the golf course has recovered is probably the biggest thing. I think when we left it, I thought that's going to take a couple of years, but it's recovered well.
So, you know, there's an event going on this week and obviously a lot of minds goes back to the beginning of October last year. But I think in general the players are trying to concentrate on this week. But it certainly has a lot of good memories with it.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: What's your main one? What was your main emotion when you turned up?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I think when you're involved in the team, I think you get that -- there's so many things that goes on behind everything and that goes on at night and the camaraderie and how players react to all of the situations they are in.
And I find that that's probably the most you go back to; what happened on the golf course, that's what everybody sees, and obviously you know, Graeme's last few holes has got to stand out because it came down to the last match. You know, he just showed there what he was going through that whole season last year; the quality of the golf he played and the confident he had, that he was able to deal with that situation, because that's not for everybody, that's for sure.
But the way Monty handled the team and how people find their positions on the team, it's the things that I think about the most. I find that's where we get it right. We allow people to find their own position on the teams. There are certain players that just go about their own business like they normally do and there are a couple of players that do step out of their shell and become team leaders from within.
I said to Monty from early on, that's what you need and that's what you need to build, because Monty wasn't himself. Seve was; Ollie was; they were guys that brought the team together from within.
When I looked at the team last year, I thought, who is that guy going to be. That was certainly the feeling that we got from Valhalla, that there was not that guy on the team. But Lee stepped up to the plate last time, and was the one that quietly knew what was going on with everybody, and when it just got too loud, he brought people back and was good with getting them brought up if they were a bit down, and he really found his place as Europe's No. 1, but also Ryder Cup player No. 1 like Monty was in the years I've played.

Q. And did he have to be told to take on that role?
THOMAS BJÖRN: No. I think it comes naturally to Lee when he's comfortable in the position he's in. I think it was just kind of opening up for him to be that person, and Monty was very well aware of that and he brought him in. A lot of things from earlier on, what he was thinking.
I think I'll go back to 2004 in Detroit, that's exactly what we did with Monty. We brought him in on all of the decisions. We might not go with what he thought, but he was in on the decision making. Once he got in that position, he grew as a man, and then he would be better on the golf course and it was exactly the same with Lee. Take him in and let him be the senior player on the team, let him be part of it, and then he could go out and lead.
Because you've got to -- what's great about both of them is, unlike a lot of people when they come to The Ryder Cup, they want to be on the golf course. They absolutely find that their best moments in their golf career to be out there, playing against the Americans. They absolutely loved it, both of them. I think for that person to be the leader, then you can go out and lead the way on the golf course.
That was one of the big things I think, because you had in that team last time, you had some unbelievable talent the and great players. But you know, Rory and Martin, you can't put leadership on their shoulders yet. They have not been around enough and not played enough of it to be leaders. So it fitted perfect that Lee was the man, and he was, also, at the time the best player in the world probably.

Q. When you said that most players, that unlike most players, they want to be up there playing in The Ryder Cup, what are most players then?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I remember myself coming to The Ryder Cup. You kind of go, you're not quite sure. And you're so focussed on getting your game right and when your game is absolutely spot on, you want to be out there but if you're a bit uncertain to how you're going to react to how you're going to be on the golf course, you just kind golf into your shell and concentrate on making sure you are right.
I remember Lee at The Belfry, he was going through a horrid time golf-wise, but he still wanted to be out there. He didn't care how badly he played. He wanted to be out there winning points, and he would try and do that. He would try and do that no matter how bad it was. And I think that shows a lot about where Lee comes from with The Ryder Cup; that he just thinks it's the best thing that he can be a part of.

Q. Are there enough points on offer this week to get you into the Top-50?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I wouldn't think so. I haven't looked at it. I mean, I've had eight weeks completely away from golf, and you know, that is completely away from golf. So I just want to try to get back into playing golf and things will take care of itself at the moment.
In my career, I've obviously gone through a bit of a rough time, so when you come to a golf tournament like this and you are not prepared, you just want to play golf. The best way always for me is to be out in tournament golf and try and get myself back into playing golf.
So I'm just kind of looking forward to be part of the environment again and then it I'll start building on that. We've got a good, long summer ahead of us, and I've got a couple of events coming up in America. So got to try to get myself prepared for them and just try and enjoy the summer, really, and get back to playing golf.

Q. Are you Open Qualifying?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I am, obviously with these eight weeks, in doubt of qualifying for The Open, so I have to go there on Monday and try and do that. I've got a bit of perspective in my life over the last few weeks, and if that doesn't happen, I'll be -- I won't be happy, but it's what it is. I can't really do anything about it, and there's more important things in my life over the last couple of months than playing golf, and I needed to focus on that.
And now I can get back to playing golf. Golf, for my golf career, it's a little bit of a setback, but I played well early on in the year, and if I can get back to be comfortable on the golf course again, then there's no reason why I can't pick up good results and get myself back in the Top-50 in the world and then start looking towards 2012 rather than looking at what I can try and force my way into now. That will just frustrate me. I'm just going to try and enjoy playing golf.

Q. Obviously St. George's, if you did get the inevitable interest and questions --
THOMAS BJÖRN: They don't even know I'm not there (laughing).

Q. Is that something you're dreading or want to go near?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Oh, I've got no problem. You've got to face it. You can't hide behind what happened. It's eight years ago and my golf career has gone on from there. You can't hide from things that happened. I'm not really too -- today I'm not really too focussed on it. And you know, it is what it is.
Obviously it would have been nice to have won an Open Championship and get your career on from there, but it didn't happen. You know, just got to try and concentrate on getting myself back to playing the golf that I can do.
I played some of my best golf of my life that week, but I just didn't finish it off. That's what happens in golf. But I don't dwell on it at all. I think when I got in the situation at the US PGA a couple three years after, I knew with myself that I put it to rest and I just kept myself right in there in big tournaments there, and there I did play good golf right down to the end. But when you go up against Mickelson, it can just fall out on the wrong side, and it did that week. I'll put it to rest. But I knew in 2003 that the next time The Open Championship is at St. George's, I knew it was going to come up, but what can you do about it.
I'm grateful that I in my golf career have been able to put myself in those positions and know what it's like to be in those positions because most guys out here never get in that position. I just haven't done the business when I needed to, and obviously that's what it is. I've always said this will lie with me until the day I won a major championship, if that day comes. And if it doesn't come, if I haven't achieved what I set out to do when I was an 17-year-old by, I will think of the things that did happen and think of those things that didn't happen.

Q. Has Qatar shown you that you could still achieve?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Yeah, obviously. I played fantastic down the stretch. Yeah, I know what I can do. There's maybe different thoughts as a 40-year-old than there was when you're 28. I think that happens to any golfer, and I know I can achieve things. I know I can play the golf.
The way I played there, and the way I played a lot of times in the last 12 months, I know I can compete with the best in the world. And that gives me a belief to go out and do the practise and keep going. I've got a few more years left in me and I'm going to try to get the most out of them.

Q. You played in Tucson, you played with Tiger and you were very keen to encourage him and say, you know, "the great player is still in there." Do you feel that since then, the signs are that he's getting even worse? Do you fear for his future?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Well, on the golf course he's obviously not performing to the levels that he wants to. I've gone through bad times. You've got Lee that's gone through bad times. A lot of good players do go through bad times in their career, and he's obviously going through a spell at the moment we never thought we would see.
But, the qualities that he has as a golfer and the qualities that he has mentally; if he just starts finding himself on the right track again. He was so good and there's so much quality about him, there's no reason he doesn't get back to being world No. 1 and winning golf tournaments.
I think for Tiger, it's a matter of winning one golf tournament and then he'll start getting on the track again and then he will start moving up the World Rankings. But he's not the luckiest of guys at the moment. He's trying to get himself back and injuries seems to pop up at the moment, and that knee is obviously playing a big thing on him.
I saw it in Tucson. You know, he was limping a lot and I asked him about it. And Tiger is always a tough guy: "I'm good; I feel no problems from my knee." And we go on a few months later and he's had an operation.
He's not been lucky, either. It's difficult to once -- you're in that period in your career, it's difficult, if you can't get your practise in and you can't be doing it every day, then it's difficult to get the confidence up. Because he's like anybody, I think they get their confidence from practise and getting that feeling standing on the range that you can't do anything wrong, well, then you believe you can take it to the golf course. But it's probably longer back than I thought that it would be for him, but I think he will get there.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thomas, many thanks.

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