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July 14, 2011

Thomas Bjorn


LYNN WALLACE: Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined by Thomas Björn who scored a 5-under 65 to be at the top of the leaderboard. Fantastic score today. I think that's your lowest Open round, if I'm right. How does it feel to be back at the top of a major leaderboard?
THOMAS BJÖRN: It was quite nice to see that name on that leaderboard all day. That tends to happen when you tee off at 7:25 in the morning. (Laughter.)
No, it was a good day. I promised myself today I would go out and focus on every single shot ahead of me and go after every single shot, and I did that. Rolled in a few putts here and there, and it turned out to be a day of just feeling really solid with everything I did. I did some work with Pete Cowen yesterday on the range, and there was a couple of things there that started to make sense after a few tough weeks on Tour. I felt comfortable yesterday, and I felt comfortable on the golf course today. I hit pretty much all the shots I wanted to hit, and I walked off with a round of 65, which is very pleasing.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the dynamic of getting in so late, and with not a chance to prepare as much as you maybe normally would, and what your emotions were about getting into this field at this venue where you obviously have a lot of history?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Well, you know, I was asked last weekend if I would go if I was reserve, and I said I would definitely go down here if I was first reserve, and that kind of materialized through the weekend there.
I came down here on Sunday night, and Monday wasn't the greatest of days. You don't really know what you're doing. But when I got in Monday night, it gave me a couple of days to prepare, and I just kind of promised myself to try and enjoy it. I wasn't really over-expecting to play in this championship. There was a lot of pull-outs in the last week leading into this.
So I never really expected to play in it. So there's no reason to get too uptight. I knew I wasn't coming in in the greatest of form, so just try and enjoy really being down here and try to use it more to find some form.
Today was a massive step in the right direction for me because mentally I was very strong on the golf course, and I stayed with my golf all the way around, and that seems to be the problem. One thing I've been struggling with of late is to get off to a decent start, and that also happened today. So it was a good day in a lot of ways.

Q. Talk about the emotion of coming back here where you've come so close.
THOMAS BJÖRN: It was eight years ago. A lot of people have asked me about what I feel about 2003 Open. I mean, it's in the past. I've worked very hard in my career to get myself in them positions. I got in that position in '03, and that was my biggest chance to win a major championship. I got close in '05 at Baltusrol, but that was my biggest chance. I've always promised myself I'll keep going and keep going. People can do whatever they want, write you off, and they can do whatever they think is the right thing of looking at you, but when you live in a career that's there ahead of you, you try and make the best of every single day. And that's what I've done.
I don't at the moment play the golf that I used to, but I did today. But most of the time I don't. That's down to a lot of issues, I think. Losing the golf swing over a couple of seasons where I found golf extremely difficult, where when you were younger you probably found it a little easier. There's a lot of issues that goes on with what happens in a golf career. But I look ahead and I always look ahead. I'm 40 years old, and there might just be a little bit more in me.

Q. You got a nice little bounce on that shot on 16 today. Does that hole and this golf course maybe owe you one, or can you allow yourself to look at things that way?
THOMAS BJÖRN: No, you can't. That hole owes nobody anything, and no hole in golf does, and no golf course does. I played that Open and I played fantastic the whole week. I tried to hit the right shot every single time, and I didn't hit the right shot on 16. That happens in golf. That's the nature of this game. You've just got to deal with them things.
Does that hole owe me anything? No. Today I was in between clubs, I was in between a little 8 and a big 9, and I went for the big 9, and when it started climbing a little bit on the wind, I thought it was in trouble. I thought it was going to struggle to carry that bunker, and it just did and rolled down nicely. I just holed two decent putts on 14 and 15 and I went down and rolled that one in. That gives you the trust and belief that sometimes things can turn out your way, and it does that in links golf. We all know what it's like; a bounce here or there and then it goes either wrong or right. And today it went my way.

Q. With the Open coming back here, it was always inevitable that people would want to talk to you about the last time. Was there a part of you that wouldn't have minded giving --
THOMAS BJÖRN: Absolutely not.

Q. How nice was it to birdie 16 today?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Any birdie is nice on any hole in a major championship. A couple of people asked me that question, would you not just want to go home? This is The Open Championship, where else do you want to be?

Q. In the way that you were describing not feeling in the greatest of form and coming in late, you might have expected after, say, getting to 3-under to be a bit defensive, to try and hold onto that lead, and yet you seemed to keep on attacking there. What was your mindset?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Well, it was one of those days where I just saw the golf shots I needed to play. I saw the golf course how I wanted to play it, and some days you pull off the shots that you want to, and I did that today. And some days you still see the golf shots but you're just not able to pull them off.
Today I hit good numbers on the right holes. When they were downwind it was full shots. So all those things that you need to go your way went my way today. But I played really well on top of it.
My mindset was really just to try and just hit every single shot where I wanted to hit it and not so much look at flags and not so much at all the trouble that's out there, just find those places on the green where you can hit it to, and I tried to do that. And for most of the day it went the right way.

Q. How much links golf did you play growing up and early in your career?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I didn't play a lot. We don't have any links golf courses where I'm from. But I've always enjoyed it. It suits the way I play the game with a low-ball flight. I like it the way it is around the greens. You know, there's a bit of imagination involved. And when my short game is good, it can be right up there with the best in the world, and then I see the shots around the greens. You need that this week. The shots you normally hit into 6, 8 feet, they can be 40 feet this week. So you've got to have a good short game. You've got to be able to imagine how you're going to hit every single shot, and that suits me down to the ground.
I've always enjoyed links golf. It's the type of game that I think suits me very well.

Q. Just from the way you've talked about how well you played today, I'm wondering what you feel is a reasonable expectation from yourself.
THOMAS BJÖRN: I'm always honest with you guys. I've been very uncomfortable on the golf course for a long time. I'm not really knowing where the ball starts and I'm not really striking the ball the way I wanted to. As I said, I did a lot of work with Pete yesterday, and some things just started to make a little bit of sense. You know, I was opening up in my shoulders way too quickly and I couldn't get the pressure on the golf ball, which you need in these conditions. So we talked a bit about that, and I'll go over and see him now. That's not something you fix in a day. So we'll try and keep on top of it for the rest of the week and make the most of it.
If I can last all the way until Sunday, well, only time will tell. But I'm very, very delighted with today.

Q. Just remind us if you could when you took Wobbly on the bag again. And how much help was he today?
THOMAS BJÖRN: He's one of the best caddies in the world, no doubt about it. He's caddied for great players, and he sees this type of golf very well. You can't praise him enough. He's one of these caddies, he wants to be in there, and today he was very good in the end. He made me keep going, and that helped me pick the shots that needed to be hit.
He's a fantastic guy and a very good caddie, and you need that. There's no way you're going to do great in these championships if you don't have somebody that's there by your side that knows what they're doing.

Q. When did he come back?
THOMAS BJÖRN: He's been back -- well, this is the fourth week. This is the fourth week in a row I've played, so this is the fourth week he's working for me.

Q. We know you were deeply affected when your dad passed away. How much has that contributed to your struggles? And was there a point maybe during today's round where you might have thought how proud he would be?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Well, he meant a lot to me (tearing up). He would have been very proud of what I did today. That's all I've really got to say.

Q. It started raining a bit on the 17th and was raining very heavily by the time you finished and the wind picking up. Did you feel grateful at that point that you had a 7:30 start? And what role does the luck of the weather play in winning this tournament?
THOMAS BJÖRN: This is about the only championship where I look forward to a tee time before 8:00 (laughter) because you know how much the weather can play, certainly most often in the afternoon. So when I saw 7:25, I was quite pleased with that I have to say. It's not the easiest to get up at that hour and get yourself ready. The body is a little bit stiff and a little bit -- takes a few extra balls on the range in the morning to get going. But I was quite pleased with that tee time. We never know what the weather is going to do in this championship, but more often than not it's better in the morning than it is in the afternoon.

Q. Going back to '03, how long did it take you to get over the disappointment of not winning that one?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Quite quickly, I thought, and I probably didn't dwell on it as much as some people thought. I think the only really hard time I had with it was when I came back to Troon the year after. I felt that was difficult because it just became so fresh in the mind, The Open Championship.
Other than that, I haven't really -- I don't really feel like it affected me a lot. I got close at Baltusrol, as I said, in the PGA, and that was kind of why I could put it to bed and say, that was that. I know I can still myself in it in a major championship on a Sunday, and there I felt like I played really well all the way down the stretch, and Phil was just that one shot better. I went home from that championship knowing that I've got the game to win major championships, and hopefully one day it'll just fall out the right way.

Q. Is your brother still living in Oakland and is he playing any golf at all?
THOMAS BJÖRN: He actually lives down by Pebble. If he's playing a lot of golf, I don't know. I hope not; he's got a family to look after.

Q. Your one bogey was 18, was that in any way allowing your mind to wander once the round was almost over?
THOMAS BJÖRN: No, when I got up there on 18 I had one of them shots where people will question, why didn't you putt it? Well, I had one of those big, steep hills with a big break right to left, and I just felt like if I don't hit this, if it just grabs a little bit of that fairway grass, it might not get to the top, and then it's just going to swing off and then I'm faced with the same putt again or one a little bit straighter up the hill.
If I had been five yards further up I would have putted it, but it was one of them that on links is just a little bit tricky, and you just maybe hit it a little bit too hard when you get there. But I have to say it was probably the best putt I hit all day, and it's still a miracle it didn't go in.

Q. You haven't really looked at the leaderboard, have you?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I was quite well aware of where I was, you know, but that's all right on Thursdays. On Sundays you might just want to keep your head a little bit more down.

Q. Had you been back to Royal St. George's prior to this week since 2003?

Q. How many practise rounds did you get here this week?
THOMAS BJÖRN: One. Short week.

Q. Was the tee shot at the 11th the quintessential links wind shot, and what did you hit?
THOMAS BJÖRN: You liked that, didn't you? I saw you over there. Well, it was quite a -- I actually three-putted 9, and then I was close to making a mistake on 10. You know, you start feeling, get back on track here, and then I hit that shot and it kind of made me realise that you're swinging the club pretty well and you're getting the club head on the ball, so just keep going after these shots. I know on that hole you certainly have to hit it full out and go after it, and I did that. When you get that feeling, well, then you think, well, just keep doing that, keep getting it -- go after the shots 100 percent, and then you'll be all right.

Q. What did you hit there?

Q. Given how you got in this tournament, if you could get a message to Vijay Singh, what would you like to tell him?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Well, you don't want to see anybody pull out of major championships. That's the first thing. And I certainly didn't want to see anybody pull out for this. I think people that's qualified on their own right should be here. But injuries happen in the game of golf, and sometimes you just can't make it. We just want him to get better quickly and get back to the health and fitness that he's always been one of the top guys on, and if he can get back there, we all know what Vijay is capable of golf-wise, and that's why you want him. You want him back competing, and hopefully he'll be healthy soon and be back out competing.

Q. Because of the circumstances, were you most proud of the mental strength you showed up there today?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Yeah, I'm proud of how I carried it all the way to the end. I never really let my mind wander, and I stayed with my golf. I'm quite proud of that, and mostly because when you struggle on the golf course like I've done the last three weeks, it's difficult to just find that mental strength. But again, for me it shows that I -- when I know what I'm doing, when I know that I can hit the shots, then I can stay very mentally strong, and that's -- that can be the best part of my game, that I can stay with it all the way to the end. I was very pleased with that today.

Q. At the 16th you had a huge grin on your face. Had somebody said something, or was it just relief?
THOMAS BJÖRN: No, it was more when I hit the shot, I thought, this is going to struggle. So when it just made it over that bunker, that was just a smile of knowing that things were going my way today.

Q. You mentioned a couple times your struggles recently, but you did win earlier this year. Did you just have difficulty sustaining momentum from that victory, or could you just talk about what's happened since?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Not really. I mean, I played pretty decent in the period after, and then obviously all the things with my dad in eight weeks, totally away from golf, kind of halted everything that I was doing. And from there it's been kind of a start-all-over process and try and get back to where I was early in the year. But it's taken longer than I wanted it to, but that's part of it. And I certainly realised this year that there's more important things to life than golf.
LYNN WALLACE: Thanks for joining us. Good luck this week.

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