May 24, 2001
MODERATOR: Who did you practice with today? I didn't see your name on the list?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I played with Nick, Forsbrand and Joakim, the four of us.
MODERATOR: No bets?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: No. Good thing. There was no bets.
Q. Who is the fourth one you mentioned?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Joakim Haeggman and Nick Faldo.
Q. What do you expect to see out of this meeting tonight?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: At the meeting? Just a lot of friendly faces. I don't think today is all that important. I don't think we are going to see the full report until three weeks time, so this is like a preliminary thing. I think that the whole numbers are not done yet.
Q. So, you don't have questions about tonight's meeting?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: We'll have to wait and see what they come up with, and then if we feel like we have to ask something, we will.
Q. Have you been happy with the way things have gone so far?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, I haven't put a lot of attention to it, but I suppose that with Arthur Andersen doing the numbers, I think that we should be all quite confident that they are doing a good job about it. I don't think it should be any other way, and so in that sense, I shouldn't be worried at all.
Q. Can I ask you a question as one Spaniard to another? Should Sergio be here for the premier event in Europe?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I don't know, I mean, should he -- I don't know how to answer that question. I don't think he's obliged to be here. I think he -- you know, it would have been nice for him to be here, but at the same time, he won last week. He knows pretty much what he wants to do. Most probably, he wants to play a few moreover there to make sure about the number of tournaments he's going to play over there. Maybe he will try to play more around the British Open here and try to make the team for the Ryder Cup. He's playing really well, so, you know, most probably he knows his chances better than I do in that sense.
Q. Did you send him a congratulatory message?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I didn't get one from him -- (Laughter.) so ...
Q. Did you do it all the time?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: He knows we are all pleased to see him win over there. I would say that in person when I see him the next time.
Q. When you left The Belfry, you were making optimistic noises about your driving.
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I've come up empty-handed with them.
All I can do is just keep working at it. You know, for whatever reason, it's hard for me to do it on the golf course, and that's where it counts and that's what I have to achieve. As simple as that. It's very simple, but it's very difficult to do. You know, that's the idea. That's the intention. All I can do is just keep trying on it. I've tried to call Butch a couple of times, he was busy so I couldn't see him. I'll see him on sooner or later. I'll be going to the States in a couple of weeks time, so I'll see him over there and try to spend as much time as possible and see if we can really point out what the problem is on the golf course.
Q. This is a course that needs long, straight driving?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Sure. Especially, they lengthen a couple of the holes, like 15 and 18. And especially, you know, you have certain holes where you really have to hit a driver really straight, No. 1, 3, 4 and then 9. From then on, all the way on the back nine, you are needing to hit good drives, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18. So, you have to hit the driver good here if you want to score well. Plus, the fact that the golf course, I think this year, we don't have any rain during the week; it's going to be playing more difficult than any of the last few years. The greens are really firm. The ball is bouncing quite hard on the greens. It's very difficult to stop, and you're going to see a lot of shots, a lot of good shots that are going to end up far away from the hole. I think it's going to be a tough, long week.
Q. Your stay in America, has it proved to be as good as you thought it would?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, overall, it was quite positive, I think. I played nine tournaments; made the cut on seven of them. Finished Top-15 I think in four of them. I think it was, you know, positive in that sense. I know that the parting -- was not good and that caused me quite a few shots, but I think it was good.
Q. Monty has been dominant here for the last three years, but he comes in not playing so well. Do you think it is going to be very open this week?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I think every time here has been very close. You see the player that wins here usually wins by one or two shots, something like that. Usually it's quite close. I think this year is going to be as close as the last few years, if not closer, because of the conditions we are going to be playing on.
Q. And what do you think of the change they have made at No. 12, with the ditch there? Is that an improvement?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL I think it makes you think a little bit more about your second shot. But, I think the ditch may be should have been a little bit wider. You might get blocked in bounced short of the ditch, get over it, because the ditch actually is like, I don't know, four or five feet wide. If you make that ditch a little bit wider, I think that would be even better.
Q. Have you ever been asked if you wanted to be captain of the Ryder Cup Team, and would you?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Not right now, anyway. (Laughter.)
Q. Would you, one day?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I suppose so, yes. Why not? The Ryder Cup is a very special event. I would rather play in it than be Captain of it, but obviously, years go by and the chances of being a member of the playing group are slimmer every year once you get a certain age. Once you get over 45, you know that, you know, you are more likely to be a Captain of the Ryder Cup than a player of the Ryder Cup.
But, sure, I know it's a lot of work, but obviously, it will be a nice experience, I suppose.
Q. You are one of the four or five players that a lot of people, including Curtis Strange, have mentioned is playing mainly in the summer; and, therefore, will have difficulty perhaps in qualifying.
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I'm going to play the month of August over there, but the only other two tournaments I want to play there are going to be Memphis and U.S. Open. So, I will have a stretch of tournaments; the month of July I'm going to play over here. And hopefully if I make the Top-12, I will be playing on the NEC, which even though is playing in America, comes before the Ryder Cup, too. And if I get in the American Express, here we go again. It's a tournament that we play in the States, but it counts for the Ryder Cup. So, in that sense, if I manage to get in those two tournaments, I'm going to have my chances.
Q. Do you think Monty will be remembered as a great player without having won a major?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I will consider him a great player, always, but he won't be the same; that is true, also. He is not the same having won the Order of Merit seven times and having won -- I don't know how many number of tournaments, but, you know, to have a major event under your belt makes your career a little bit more special. And I don't think anybody will question that.
Q. Time running out?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Time running out? Well, Mark O'Meara won two when he was over 40. If you look at the number of players that won major events over 40, well, he still has a fair chance.
Q. How much more difficult is it to win them now with Tiger raising the bar and players trying to match those standards?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: It's more difficult to win these days, with no question. A few years ago, you could have a group of, let's say, I don't know, 50, 20 players that you could really think that can win the tournament, and nowadays, you've increase that number almost by double or even more. Virtually, almost every player can win these days. I don't think it's just because of Tiger. I think that had started to happen just before Tiger, but, obviously, Tiger has raised the bar considerably, and he's making everybody work harder and try harder and play more aggressive on the golf course, and that's why the scorings are going lower and lower, and that's why it is more difficult to win these days than it was before, with no question.
Q. Yesterday there were people queuing to get on to the driving range. It seems everybody is really working so much harder now, aren't they?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Yes, I've said that before when I came in on tour in '86, you could play a round of golf in the morning, have lunch and go to the driving range and virtually, there were like three or four guys hitting balls. You know, you had the whole range for you. Now, you have to send the caddy half an hour before, he has to get a spot by the time you get there. It is like that, yes. I think everybody is working harder, but not just on the game itself. You know, everybody is working harder on the physical part, on the mental part. I think that's the reason why you see more and more young people better prepared now than, say, 15 years ago.
Q. Were the only queues in '86 for the Sausage Hut?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: No, not for the Sausage Hut. Also, for the beer, would be more fair to say. (Laughter.)
Q. Sergio said he was going to call you at four in the morning when he won in America.
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: He didn't. Liar. He's a liar. (Laughs).
Q. Did you speak to him since the win?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I haven't, no. But hopefully I'll see him -- I'm not sure if he's playing the Memphis. If he's not playing the Memphis, I'll see him at the U.S. Open. That's in three weeks time.
Q. Are you relieved or just pleased for him?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I was pleased for him because I thought this year he was playing -- he was having great rounds, and during those great rounds, he might have a so-so round that cost him the chances of winning the tournament. I felt he was really close of achieving that first victory in the States. I think he needed it, in a way, just to get rid of that little extra pressure that is on his shoulders anyway.
Q. Talking about number players that can win majors, does that also apply to an event like this week, does that double the number of players?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Yes, with all question, sure.
Q. Thomas said yesterday he would like to see more World Golf Championships, maybe 15 or 16 events played around the world. Would you like to see more?
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: We played the Grand Slam in '94 and Greg Norman brought that onto the table. I agree with him 100%. On the European Tour nowadays, we are travelling as much as possible. I don't think anybody travels as much as the European players do. So, to play 15 or 17 tournaments all around the world, that will make no difference for us, anyway.
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