Thursday, 12 July 2001


Did Portrush survive on Sunday night?
The K Club did, just about, on Sunday evening. I didn’t go back home until Monday morning. We stayed and had dinner and a few drinks.

Have you had many days as good as that?
Not really. I was doing the usual stuff, playing one hole at a time and not getting ahead of myself. The only time I really thought about it was when I finished and was coming off the 18th green. I just stood there for a minute or two, but that was about it.

You seemed pretty emotional?
Yes, it was obviously a big day for me and to do that at home, the first Irish winner in a long, long time, was fantastic.

Did you go home to Sunningdale?
No, we have a house at Portrush so we drove up there on Monday then flew over here yesterday afternoon.

Was there a reception waiting?
I couldn’t really speak for most of Sunday so thankfully not. I popped a few Nurofen.

Did you buy drinks for the pub like you did once before?
I was too busy buying myself drinks on Sunday night.

Back to back wins – it is possible the way you’re playing?
Yes, it’s possible the way I’m playing. Chub and I had a good discussion abuot whether we should come and play this week or not, or take the week off and get ready for the Open. I decided to come here and play and hopefully the weather isn’t going to make that choice a bad one. With the forecast not being very good you don’t want to end up playing 27 holes a day round here, which might affect me for next week.
The way I felt on Monday in the car I definitely didn’t want to play! But the way I played last week and the way I have been playing, and this being one of the bigger tournaments on the European Tour. If I had the choice to compete the week before the Open especially on a Links course I would play but, again, as I just said, this is one of our bigger tournaments and that’s why I decided to come and play.

Will it be difficult to keep things going, given the euphoria of Sunday?
Hopefully not. We’ll find out. Everything feels the same as last week, so if I continue swinging the club as I have been, I’ll be fine.

Does your win take the pressure off you?
Last weekend was a big monkey off my back, because being in Ireland and having been close two years before. I wanted to win so badly.

What you have done otherwise?
I usually stay at home and practise in Portrush, hitting balls there, but Chub and I talked about the schedule and this was in it. I played two or three years ago, I can’t remember. I got blown away that year.

Are you thinking about next week already?
I am thinking about it a little bit. I would much prefer to play well next week that this week, not taking anything away from this tournament. But getting back to Lytham where I’ve played well in the past, I’m looking forward to getting back there. It’s a case of keeping my game ticking over. I think I finished about seventh at Lytham last time.
I am really looking forward to it. It’s probably the first major I’ve gone into looking forward to it as much as I am.

Do you regard the Open as your best chance of a major?
Most definitely. I grew up playing links golf and enjoying sometimes landing it 50 yards short of the green or putting it from 40 yards from the green. Because I grew up doing that I enjoy the chance to go back and play that way again.

What does it take to win round here?
I think you might be asking the wrong person as I haven’t won round here. The course is quite generous of the tee, so I think it’s a case of getting it to the right side of the fairway to go for the pins. The greens are quite slopey in a couple of areas and if you do miss them on the wrong side then it’s going to be very difficult to get it up and down, so course management is going to be the most important thing this week.

What you think went wrong at Troon?
Maybe I was a bit overawed by the position I was in. I hadn’t done an awful lot in the European Tour at that stage. Obviously I am a lot more experienced now than I was then, both in terms of trying to win tournaments and the experience I’ve gained from doing so. I think I am a much more ready for it next week than I was then.

Are you a better player on links courses than inland ones?
I would like to think so, but because we don’t play as many links courses in tournaments as I would like, I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t get back home that often to play Portrush. Probably a couple of weeks in the summer but not this year. I am back for Christmas for four weeks and I play quite a lot then. I played Portrush two weeks ago, before the Irish Open.

Where do you think the 2009 Ryder Cup should be played?
Wherever they deem fit to have it. There is a lot to be said for what Dr Smurfit has put into the European Tour. He has supported the Tour with the European Open now for a considerable amount of time and he’s put a lot of money into the European Tour. So I think if people are prepared to support the Tour and give everybody the chance to play big tournaments at their golf tournaments then they should have the chance to host the Ryder Cup.

Could you play at Gleneagles instead of the NEC?
I don’t know. I would like to. They have done a fantastic job to get as big a prize fund as they have but the NEC is where more of the best players in the world are going to be playing and because I want to get as high up the world rankings as I can, that’s a better opportunity to do that. There are more points available. Certainly I’ve enjoyed playing Gleneagles in the past. It’s one of my favourite places.

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