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January 7, 2014

Thomas Bjorn


STEVE TODD:  Many thanks for joining us and happy new year to you.  Down in South Africa and you have some happy memories from the end of last year.  Just start by giving us your thoughts on returning this week.
THOMAS BJÖRN:  It comes back quickly‑‑ if you go home, it comes quick.  It was obviously a great finish to 2013 as a year, played well through the last six or seven weeks and hope to carry that on to the new season.
Actually I was tired after Sun City, I have to say.  It was a break that was needed.  But it feels pretty decent and I'm looking forward to the season as a whole.  It's always nice to come down to a tournament with a small field and you have to play four rounds and you can work your way back into it.
It's hugely important tournaments that comes these first four weeks, and with the Middle East after this, you can pick up a lot of good World Ranking points and get yourself in position for the season and you've got a good chance of fighting for a lot of things.  It will come quick and we are going now into the major season, as well.
It's an important time of the year to get some confidence up and get a good start and feel like you can compete.  So you're looking forward to this week, it's a good golf course, it's a nice place to come.  With good memories from the back end of last year and the confidence should be there.
So got to go out and play the golf.  But I've played so well the last few weeks, that you know, I'd be surprised that there's not some good stuff left and just go out and try to get yourself back into it and hopefully come the weekend here, you'll be in with a chance, and the goal every week.  You play golf to have a chance on Sunday and try and just build the week like I normally do.  It's a little bit more than 100 per cent‑‑ but you go out and practise and try to build the week to have a good result and hopefully be there on Sunday with a chance.
STEVE TODD:  Perhaps some good memories from the finish last year.
THOMAS BJÖRN:  Yeah, I came in last year, really, really rusty and felt very uncomfortable with everything.  It was a good performance in all last year to play a golf course that should suit my eye.  It not the longest golf course in the world.  It's a little bit tricky and get yourself the furthest with a lot of greens.
That's the key to this golf course, and that's the way the game was at the back end of last year, even though that was really the way I played.  I played very solid, hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens in those last few weeks, and the only thing that really let me down a little bit was my putting.
But this week, it's about that, stay out of the trouble that's there and just try to get around in some decent numbers and build the week as I said.  You can lose everything on Thursday but you can't win it on Thursday, so try and build the week and be there with a good chance come Sunday.
But that's the way I feel every tournament last year and I'm going to continue that strategy this year, just try and build from Thursday through Sunday.  I think that's important‑‑ hopefully I can continue that and make it even better this season to try and continue a run of good play, even though I played decent in 2012 and played really well last year and try and continue that.
It's been three really good years for me, and hopefully we can continue.  I'm doing a lot of good work and that's paying off on the golf course and it's easier to be patient when you feel like the work you do is paying off.
It's a long season but I'm really looking forward to it.  I go in with a lot of belief that I can now compete with the best in the world again and that's been a long time coming, and especially the last two weeks last year, I felt like that was probably some of the best golf I've played since 2001.
So it's on a good track and I know what I'm doing and I can do my practise myself and that's also of importance to give you confidence that you might not need to hit balls for five hours; you might only need to hit balls for a couple of hours so you can feel rested and well prepared for tournaments.  I feel like I can put my energy into tournaments now and not so much into the practise.
STEVE TODD:  Just a quick word on Volvo's involvement with The European Tour and raising the prize fund substantially.
THOMAS BJÖRN:  It's brilliant.  You're laughing, it's a tournament that has got into a position that you want to be here for obvious reasons; you have done some things right in the season that's current, and it gives you a start.  I was there, a guy that believed in this tournament.  It gives the guys that had a good season last year to get that start that they deserve, and it's just a good event.
We are here, there's a lot of really, really good players here, there's a lot of our upcoming stars here, and you know, we saw at the back end of last year how many new good players we have coming through:  Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson did a lot of good things, and the future is going to try to carry forward this tour.
We all know who the superstars of the game today is, but we need a change all the time.  We need new guys from different countries, and then those guys come through, it great for the Tour, and they get another chance in an event like this, get themselves right in there with a good start and it builds their confidence.
And any player that plays on Tour, as soon as they get confidence, they can go onto great things.  Every player on Tour is a great player, but it's all about who gets the confidence and then carries it out on the golf course.  When we play in tournaments like this and you play in those Final Series, you play in the Nedbank, those things give people a feeling that they are taking a step in their careers, and that's‑‑ I see that in their attitude and the way they are starting to believe that they can actually play with the best and not just another guy on Tour.
This tournament is hugely important for this I think in the future; that our young players that win golf tournaments, they get a feeling that they are part of something that's a little bit special and a little bit different, and playing in a tournament like this provides that to them.

Q.  You mentioned this is a good tournament with a good field; you've also been a good supporter of the playing with the pros concept?
THOMAS BJÖRN:  It's one of those things when they came to us, you kind of looked at it and the more you thought about it, it's a special event and Volvo has been a huge supporter of us over so many years, not just now, but for such a long time.  Ever since I came on Tour, they have been a huge company for us.  It was a bit like, they have done so much good for us, let's give them something a little bit different.
And to be honest, the first year, it might have had a few things about it that might not have been quite right, but as its developed, the players come in knowing that it's there, so you take it for what it is.  We have more events like this around the world, as well, so you're used to it.  And the ones I've played in‑‑ it's been great.  Sometimes you might feel they are a little bit in the way but you go out and have a good time and enjoy the day and they walk away‑‑ I have a good relationship with Volvo.  All of the amateurs have really enjoyed it, and that's a credit to the players, they go out and they give it the time it deserves, and it makes it easier‑‑ it's just a nice thing to do, and you know, it's mostly down to Volvo has been such a great supporter of us over the years that they deserve to get something that's just a little bit different and a little bit special.

Q.  Can you tell us about the whole Danish invasion the last couple of months?  Do you feel like you have acclimatised‑‑ and what retaliation do you expect to get from Charl Schwartzel?
THOMAS BJÖRN:  Danish golf has gone through a huge development over the last few years and we have some very good young players coming through.  They have worked very hard, extremely hard and they know what it takes and they are not scared of asking questions and taking advice.  You know, they are young, but when they get on the golf course, they are not scared of saying, I want this, I want‑‑ when I get a chance, I really want‑‑ in the South African Open.  But there's a lot that are like that.  We have a great new player coming out that got his card at Tour School, Lucas Bjerregaard, which is going to be a very good player.  And Thorbjørn last year showed that he had all the qualities to become a world‑class player.
There are some good players, and it always helps when there's a group of them; they give each other a little bit at stake and it helps them trying a little bit harder, working a little bit harder.
But in South Africa, I think it's more a coincidence that both of us showed some good form at that time, but for me, it's a question of, I've played a lot of good golf a long time, and when you do that, eventually it all comes together, and then I know that when I get that kind of form going, I can compete with the best in the world and that showed in the Nedbank; but that might have been in Australia two weeks before, I came very close there.
That's always coincidence a little bit when you win golf tournaments and somebody finishes second‑‑ Charl is the best player that's here in the field this week.  We know what Charl is capable of.  We know what kind of player he is.  He's a world‑class player and he's shown that over the last few years that when he plays his best, he's very difficult to deal with and in South Africa, him and Louis are very difficult to deal with.
So they come in, they just spent Christmas in the summer, and a lot of us have spent our Christmases in the winter.  So they have probably played a little more golf than the rest of us.  But you come into a golf tournament, and there's six guys here this week‑‑ they have all shown that they can win and it's going to be tough competition from more than one place.
But the South Africans, we always know what they are capable of doing and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them wasn't there by the end of the week.

Q.  Talk about winning in Switzerland and also winning Nedbank, you've had such great results since turning 40; what's the motivation to push on now?  Is the 40‑year‑old golfer now sort of the new 30‑year‑old golfer?
THOMAS BJÖRN:  Well, I don't feel like that necessarily but I think it's your own inspiration, you play for this many years, where you get the inspiration from is competing.  So you know that if you don't do the hard work and you don't get yourself stuck into the game, it can disappear very quickly.
You see that with a lot of players that come into their 40s and might not work as hard as they used to and it goes away very quick.  So you've just got to keep focused and maintaining your hard work, and usually experience will grind out results and you get the inspiration from that.
I play golf to compete.  I don't play for any other reason.  If you ask me if I get up on a Sunday morning when I'm at home and the first thing I think about is to go and play 18 holes, that's not really the case anymore.  It might have been 15 years ago; today it's a job and it's hard work and I know that.  But I do those things and because I really enjoy competing and I enjoy being out here and being in that scene where ‑‑ it's a little bittougher a little bit, but that's where you want to be.
And that's how I live my golf life now.  I don't live it for the pure enjoyment of playing the game.  I think when you play as many rounds of golf as I have and hit as many goals as I have‑‑ you suffer a little bit but you also realise what you're missing.  But you do it as a hard job where you work hard and you get a bigger enjoyment out of competing in tournaments.

Q.  Your aspirations for 2014, are you still looking‑‑
THOMAS BJÖRN:  You wouldn't look back‑‑ in my mind, I'm playing well.  I said a couple of years ago, I'm going to play in tournaments I enjoy playing in and I'm going to focus my life on doing what I want to do, and with The Ryder Cup, I've always said that's a gift that's given to you if you play well over a long period of time.
And I got off to a fantastic start‑‑ and I've had it in the back of my mind I always wanted to play in another one and I've got my chance this year but I still have a lot to do to get there.  I've stayed very focused on what I'm doing this week and what I'm doing for these four weeks.  I kind of divide my season into three or four weeks and decide what I want to do with them; so going into these four weeks, wanting to get back into competing and get some points under the belt as we move to America a little bit.  That's my focus; my attention is on what's right in front of me.  It's not on something that happens at the end of September.
But it sits there because you're right there on the list and people are going to talk about it and I'm starting to get the questions, especially at home; is it there for you, and I'm going to get asked.  It pops into your mind.  But my focus will stay on the very short future and not something that happens in eight or nine months time.

Q.  The four Majors this year‑‑ a big plus‑‑

Q.  Being in the four Majors is a big plus.
THOMAS BJÖRN:  If you make the cut.  In a major championship if you play well, that's not going to be the only thing‑‑ it can be extremely hard work.  We have to be very focused on what we have to do. I found myself at certain‑‑ when I lived in those short spells on Tour, I don't have the time to plan five years out in the future.  Really the plan for that‑‑ I used to do that when I was a lot younger and you really need a long‑term plan and now it's very short‑term plans and what's around the corner for you.
But I've enjoyed these last three years, probably more than any years I've had on Tour, because I've allowed myself to actually enjoy them.  That's a very positive thing for me; that I actually get on an airplane now and enjoy going out on Tour and enjoy playing and I enjoy competing and that's the main focus for me.  I can't even think all the way forward to the Masters.  I can't really think much past the Dubai Desert Classic at the moment.  That's really my main focus at the moment is just these four weeks.

Q.  Just curious, is that something that just comes with age, you suddenly realise what suits you, or is it something that you heard from someone, or is this the reason for the career flourish at this stage that you changed this attitude?  Where does it come from?
THOMAS BJÖRN:  It comes from myself really.  I have so many injuries in my career, so I've learned that I don't know what's going to happen next month.  I can be out of the game for long spells at times.  I really try and be in the moment that I'm in and try and take advantage of that.  It's not something I sat down and talked to anybody about or I heard from someone.  It's just the way I see it.
I turn 43 next month, and I'm very well aware that at that age, there's certain limitations to what you can do.  And age‑‑ at some stage in my career, you go 50‑‑ looking at Miguel, but he's not been through the injuries in his career.  But I've been injured on and off since I was 18 years old, and I still wake up every morning with pains and aches that are a problem for me and that can put a stop to my career any day, so why not enjoy the moment that I'm in.
I've got good people around me and to be honest, last year was probably the best year that I've had with pain, and I played good for the most part of the season.  That's a positive.  But I'm very well aware that at my age, you can't allow yourself to get too far ahead of yourself.  You've got to try and enjoy those moments that you have.
You know, two years ago, I really sat down at the U.S. Open and I said, right, the one thing, I want to give myself a chance to compete with the best players in the world one more time.  And you do that on a bigger stage‑‑ you're in the World Golf Championships and you're in the major championships, do you that and I've given myself that chance going into 2014 and I'm going to enjoy that, because I don't know the limit or if that's the last time I can do that.  I'm going to enjoy the time that's left in my career, hopefully six, seven, eight years, I don't know.
I've got to be realistic with myself, that I start out on my 19th season on The European Tour, that's a long period by any standard.  So I'm realistic and just try and enjoy everything that's in front of me.

Q.  Is it a specific injury‑‑ what do you do to get out of bed in the morning?  Do you have to do one or two hours of exercise every morning?
THOMAS BJÖRN:  Not too early a tee time‑‑ (laughter)‑‑ every day I work with him in the morning and I work with him in the evening, and we have control over what goes on and at times, enough can just not be done.  I wore myself down and that's why in practise‑‑ that's why I get very positive with where I am, because I don't practise like I used to, because I know what I'm doing and I don't need to which is a very positive thing.
I've worked it out over the years of dealing with injuries and dealing with myself and dealing with the lows and highs of the game.  You just get to know yourself better and better by the year, and that's‑‑ now I'm in a very comfortable place where I know what I can do and what I can't do and that's‑‑ I'm happy that I'm in another place and hopefully it will last for a few more years and hopefully I can enjoy that, because it's been a long stint and hopefully it can just‑‑ go on and then say thank you for me.

Q.  You've been paired with Louis; are you looking forward to playing with him, and can you see the both of you sort of shooting it out in the fourth round for the lead?
THOMAS BJÖRN:  He's one of the best players in the game of golf, he's a fantastic guy and we have been close friends over the years, but I think we both have the attitude that Thursday is Thursday and we set out and try to focus on our golf and compete for the week.  If we are there on Sunday, well, then it's a question of trying to shoot it out.
But Thursday is just a round of golf that needs to be played and hopefully we can turn out a good score so you give yourself a chance to compete for the tournament.  But we are used to playing together, so it's not really one of those where you‑‑ I'm not bothered about who I play with on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  It becomes a little bit more interesting who you're playing with on Sunday and what time you're teeing off on Sunday.
STEVE TODD:  Thomas, thank you very much and we wish you the best of luck this week.

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