When you look at some of the different players that have won majors recently, Ben Curtis and players like that, is there a sense among all players that anybody could win this thing?
Well I don't know about Ben Curtis. Obviously Ben came out of the blue. I wasn't familiar with his game. Certainly the players who have won majors before, you know, your Jim Furyks, Mike Weirs, David Toms, those are the guys that are assured of their own games. Week-in week-out they wouldn't necessarily be the sort of glamorous players on the Tour. They are not the ones taking out the headlines week-in and week-out. They have to be comfortable doing their own games and doing their own things. That has to be the best way to try to win majors. Players who are comfortable with their own game, who are assured of what they are doing week-in, week-out, not only taking all of the headlines, but when they get into that pressure situation in a major, are able to keep going in that frame and not get distracted.
So it's probably, the less flamboyant players are the ones that are seeming to come through more in the majors. The way they are setting up the major golf courses is really for those players who are determined in what they are doing, very repetitive in what they are doing, comfortable in what they are doing and just repeating that for four days, rather than necessarily the more flamboyant players who, you know, obviously can really light it up, but it's tough in a major to do that. It's tough to do it for four days in a row. You prefer the solid player for four days in a major and those are the guys that are coming through.
Would you consider yourself one of those players, that has a solid game?
No. I wish I had a game like some of those guys, the way they have been playing. But it is certainly somewhere that I would try and move my game to. It's definitely the way to go. Those guys are proving that it's not necessarily power hitting, or that you can overcome a golf course. It's definitely much more. They talk about it being a big-hitter's game with the way equipment has gone. It might be proving the other way, with the guys who are winning.
Are you saying there's less pressure on these less flamboyant players?
No; I'm saying the opposite. They are able to handle it because they do it every week. When they go into a tournament every week, they are never “the ones” - they are always slightly the underdogs. They always have to overcome something and they are used to doing that. So when they get in a major and have to overcome, it's the same as any other tournament.
I'm saying for some of the more flamboyant players, they are always in a situation where maybe they are expected to win and coming into a major, it's hard for them to do that, where maybe these players are always a little up against it and trying to prove something. You know, that's a good attitude to have. If you have that every week when you come into a major, it's just another week and they can maintain their game throughout. So it's not that they are under less pressure; they are under more pressure. It's just that they are under the same pressure week-in, week-out because they are possibly trying to prove something all the time.
Can you just bring us up to speed with the situation at home and when you decided to come over here as early as you have and what happens from now on? Do you keep a pager on you?
I do have my mobile phone on at the moment and I will obviously only turn it off during rounds.
The situation is that Caroline is due next Monday. She went to her doctor on the Friday before I came out and the doctor was of the opinion that if anything, it will go late, the pregnancy will go late. So there was no point in waiting at home. I decided the worst thing was if I was sitting at home all the way through the PGA and nothing happened. So we decided that I would travel and I might as well travel early, because nothing seems to be happening. That can't be guaranteed or anything like that, but we just take the best opinion we can get, and probably we are erring on the side of, wouldn't it be silly to be sitting at home if nothing happens. We are taking a slight chance, obviously, but that's got to be the way.
And if you do get a call?
Well, yesterday would probably be the worst day. These days are the worst. Obviously if it happens in the tournament, I'm a lot better able to decide whether I want to go home or not. So it's not guaranteed. If I get a call on Saturday and I'm doing well in the tournament, I'm going to hang around on Sunday.
So, I can't really make that decision until it happens, and again, we're relying on how Caroline feels and what the doctor feels about when it's going to happen.
Assuming you've seen a little bit of the course, some of the other guys were saying the tee ball might be the most important shot as you go around. Would you agree with that?
Well, it's second. I still think the guy who putts the best is always going to have a good chance.
Definitely, there's a bigger emphasis on your driving out here than most tournaments. It puts it right up there. A guy who drives the ball well and putts well, is going to do very well, there's still a lot of long irons; you want to hit the middle of the greens too.
There's more of an emphasis on driving on this golf course but there's 3-woods off the tee as well so it's more of an emphasis of getting it on the fairway, just like a US open, I would suggest.
And as usual, putting is of extreme importance. I' don't think the winner will win if he doesn't putt well.
As great as Tiger is, for all the things that he has accomplished - why are you smiling?
It's just a leading question
You're right, it is. Do you see the gap closing a little bit between Tiger and what used to be the rest of the field, which was way behind?
Yes. I think attitudes have changed. I think that as we spoke earlier about the type if players who are winning majors, players who are used to doing their own thing are continuing to do that and other players are seeing that that's how you compete against Tiger; that just as he's doing his thing, you do your thing and at the end of the day, you total up the scores and see how you got on.
Before I think, there was an attitude that you had to play really well to beat Tiger but now players are taking the attitude, "Well, I'll just play my own game and let him play well if he wants to beat me." They are putting the emphasis back on Tiger, whereas before Tiger had the emphasis on the opposition. Now players are saying, "Well, if he plays great and he wins, fine, but let's see him do it." rather than the other way around.
Do you think that that attitude has an effect on Tiger? Does that out pressure on him?
You know, I can't get inside the head of Tiger Woods, I'm not trying to. I really don't know.
Does it put pressure on Tiger? You know I'm not sure. As I say, we are all just trying to do our own thing and I'm sure Tiger is as well. It's possible; he's not used to the situation. He certainly had a few good years on Tour where most of the opposition capitulated against him rather than the other way around. I think it is being put up to him more and more, yes. It's just the more steady, solid players are putting in the scores and they are the ones that seem to be coming out on top more and more, and that certainly does put pressure on everybody else. Whether it is affecting him, I have no idea.
73 years since a European player has won this championship. Would you attribute that to anything in particular and do you feel an added pressure coming from Europe?
It doesn't add any pressure. If anything, it takes the pressure off. I would say this event traditionally has been more like a US Tour event than anything.
Now saying that, I think with this golf course we are now getting to a stage, in the couple of years that I've played, that it is starting to look like a US Open; maybe softer greens.
Over the years it's been more like a regular Tour event. The scores have been like a tour golf course rather than the extremes of the US Open. It is more like the home turf for US players over the years. But I think looking at a course like this; this is nobody’s home turf. Nobody is used to playing a golf course like this; certainly not week-in, week-out.
So it does bring it back to more like a US Open, which obviously Europeans have struggled on too. But it's not familiar ground for anybody, I would say, so it does give, say, foreigners, a better chance.
Does it surprise you that a player as little known as Ben Curits could win a major? Does that have an impact on you?
It doesn’t affect me going into them, no. It was a surprise that Ben came – nobody really knew of him, certainly from our side. I think the reality of the game is that young players don’t believe that they have to serve an apprenticeship to win a major. Most players now think that if they get in a situation, I’m going to take my chances just like anybody else and try and win.
I think most players, even though they are young, have come from somewhere where they have been winning and know how to win. So, okay, maybe it’s a bigger stage, I don’t know Ben Curtis’s track record but I’m sure he won plenty of other days. He probably knew well how to win. He played great that win. He knows how to win. Obviously it’s a bigger stage, but if you’ve won before and you’re a winner, I’m sure you can get over that hurled of being on a bigger stage. It has to happen at some point and as I say, most players now don’t believe that they have to lose a few before they win some.
How would I put this, there wouldn’t be any respect for your elders. Just go out there and try and win. That’s the way rookies on the European Tour perform and win tournaments. If it’s my week, it’s my week. That’s the way guys look at it, and most guys, as I said, are winners somewhere else along the line and have learned to win.
The only surprise is we don’t know, but the fact of the matter, I’m sure Ben Curtis is looking at his game and it was no surprise to him.