AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL
MARIA ACACIA: Thank you very much for being with us today. Good practice day
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, it was a tough one. Good practice, but it was a very windy one. And I see the weather forecast is not very kind this week, so have to fight hard, I guess.
Q. How did you spend your week off?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I didn't practice pretty much at all. Had to be in Vienna -- well, actually as you know, Saturday and Sunday I had a Baptism.
Q. Your own?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: (LAUGHS) Yeah, could have been.
MARIA ACACIA: Were you the Godfather?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I was. I have to -- I didn't practice much at all. I came here yesterday afternoon, couldn't play. I practiced a little bit, and I have been taking it quite easy, to be honest.
Q. You still see John Jacobs?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I saw him today. I had a little chat with him.
Q. About your game?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, no. Just, I mean, that he was happy to see me playing well, and to say hello to Butch from him. I asked him how his wife was and how he has been doing. Just normal conversation.
Q. No instruction?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No.
Q. How long do you practice for each day?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: It depends. Tournament days obviously harder than when I am at home. I haven't been able to spend too many weeks at home, so I am trying to take it easy when I am at home. During tournament days, well, it depends, I was here 8 o'clock in the morning. I am still here. I hit a few balls, play 18 holes, break 50 minutes for lunch. I was practicing up to now, and I still haven't finished.
Q. Safe to say in the past, because of the problems you have had off the tee, that perhaps the U.S. Open wasn't your tournament? Did that change now because of the way --
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Still have to prove that I can drive the ball well. That's, you know -- that's not the question anyway. You still have to chip and putt well and usually hit your irons very well at the U.S. Open because the greens are very small. But to be able to hit those shots into the green, you have to put it into the fairway. You need your game really sharp for that week.
Obviously, if you drive the ball well, it's a bonus. That's what you have to do when you play tournaments like the U.S. Open or the PGA.
Q. Feel you have a better chance now than say in past years?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I would say I have a better chance, but I still need to improve, still not at the level that I would like to and I think is needed to. I have improved, but I still have a bit of work to do.
Q. With the strength of your iron-play, this course should be a place that you should do well at. Do you feel you should play well?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, this is a golf course where you -- well, it has changed through these years since the first time I came here the golf course has changed, firmer now than it used to be. Fairways have been much narrower the last few years. Actually this year they put a few new bunkers in some of the holes, 13, and to drive the ball well, hit a lot of fairways is the primary goal if you want to do well on pretty much any golf course now. You will see that in this golf course too. The player that hits a lot of fairways will have a much better chance to do well because the greens are quite as small. As soon as you start missing those fairways, you are going to get fliers. You are not going to be able to control the ball, even in the rough, you are going to be struggling. So I think the game has changed all through these years. That's why I emphasize on driving. Obviously -- I mean, I am not kidding. We all know that chipping and putting is very important. You need to make putts. You need to putt under -- you need to have under 30 putts every round pretty much everyday if you want to have a chance of winning, but that's the game of golf. That's the game that's played today. Simple as that. I think if I am able to hit more fairways, I will have a pretty good chance. But if you look at how I have played here, I have managed to win here but it has been touch and go. I had a good few good chances that I spoiled the last few holes, but because of my driving. For me, my case, as an individual, driving the ball, well, is very important.
Q. Is it a difficult decision to choose to play here over the Memorial?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, it has been -- it has been a decision that I had to make. In the past it was not so, but this year it has been a decision that I had to make. Jack Nicklaus, every year, is approaching me and asking me to play his tournament. I have played his tournament in the past. When a player like Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer, whoever, of that caliber, asks to you play in his tournament, I mean, you think about it twice before giving an answer, obviously. On the other hand, because of Mel Pyatt, because of Volvo, they need support in this, not just this tournament, but this Tour for many years and, you know, overall that's pretty much the reason why I am here. But it will be nice if somehow they could manage to -- well, to make it possible for some of the players to play in both tournaments, maybe not much in the same week. That will help, yeah.
Q. Good idea for both Tours to perhaps cooperate more and look at the schedules so many players like yourself and Retief, international players --
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: For instance, I don't think Bernhard is playing here this week. No Sergio.
Q. Or Vijay.
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Right. I am pretty sure all those players, if they had the slightest of chances of playing both tournaments they did -- well, in this case that is why I think you know, as you said could be a good idea to for both Tours to maybe work together in certain dates, especially -- not all through the calendar, obviously, but certain tournaments maybe.
Q. U.S. money list still a target this season, trying to win the U.S. money list?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, I don't put myself to those targets. Everybody is talking about, you know, winning both Order of Merit, things like that. But I don't put, you know, those targets on myself. I believe on how good you play the game. If you are playing good, things will come. Simple as that. You don't have to worry about what the goals are. You do have certain goals, obviously, but to achieve those, you need to really play good golf and that's the primary concern.
Q. If you had a choice, would you rather win the U.S. money list or win another major?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I would go for a major without a doubt.
Q. Played lately with Justin Rose?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, I haven't but I have seen that he's playing really well.
Q. Do you know anything about Seve's movement? He's not playing here; not playing next couple of weeks in England...
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: The news that I have is that the next tournament might be the Irish Open, so he's taking quite a long break, I think well, he's thinking about what is going on with his game. It's very hard on him the last few years. I thought that Seve's difficulty came up because he won the two matches that he played at, but obviously he was quite disappointed on the way he stroke the ball. But even though, you know, he's a great fighter. That's the only reason why he managed to win his matches. For me it's very hard to see that to be honest.
I have spent a lot of years in my career watching him, learning from him, being supported by him. I have seen him play at the highest level. I know what he is capable of and to see him struggling the way he is hard on me, to be honest. I guess has to be very, very hard on him and that's why he's taking the break. But I keep my fingers crossed and hopefully he will make the right decision and be back playing, he will regain some of the form that he had in the past.
Q. When did you last speak to him?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: The Seve Trophy was the last time I spoke to him.
Q. Did you speak to him at the end of it about what he might be doing?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No. No, about the way he played and all that; not about what his intentions were for the near future.
Q. Butch Harmon has done a lot for you and your driving- yet there's not a lot wrong with Seve's game. Is it part of your frustration that you could possibly see the solution and yet he doesn't seem to listen to people when they offer him advice?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I think sometimes he gets too many advices to be honest. But if you could give him a ball in the middle of the fairway, off the tee, he will be winning tournaments. That's for sure.
Q. Isn't that what you were looking for although not as desperate?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well that's pretty much what I am looking for, but I have never been known by the driver all through my career, that's my target, sure. But Seve I mean, he's 44, 45, he does have those many years you know, I think -- he most probably would be thinking about what to do next step to take.
Q. Would it come as any surprise for you if he almost withdrew from golf and just, say, played 4, 5 tournaments a year, would that surprise you?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I don't think Seve would do that.
Q. What do you think he will do?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I am guessing here. I don't want to do that. I want to leave him alone and you know, he knows what he's going to do; he will make the right decision.
Q. Did he seem to be in the opposite mood to what you thought he might be at the end having beaten Monty again; did you expect -- when you finished your match that he would be more bubbly?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, he was quite cheerful. Obviously he was really happy about him winning the match. He was sad because we lost the tournament and he was hurt because the way he drove the ball that day, simple as that.
Q. Going back to America?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Yeah, next week I will play Kemper and then the Buick and the U.S. Open, next few tournaments over there.
Q. Europe again?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Loch Lomond most probably. I will take a break of three weeks, going to be the first time I will do that in the middle of the season but I feel that I need it. I have been playing quite a lot, and you know, when you play well, it is nice, but at the same time there's a lot of pressure playing on the weekend. From time to time you need a good break, that's why I am taking a few weeks off.
Q. Retief and you, you are two guys who plays both tours. One would guess that starts to become fairly tiring?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Not so much physically, but more mentally most definitely. Physically Retief, he has been working hard. I have been working hard, but he's -- it's more the mental part than anything else. You have to be careful with that, also very difficult. Sometimes you realize it is just too late, get into the middle of the season and I think a break of three weeks will do no harm.
Q. You won't play either of the Irish tournaments?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No.
Q. Loch Lomond ---
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I love the country. I love the people. But I am going to play two tournaments in Ireland anyway, so you know, plus the fact that I need the break somehow. I will be there.
Q. Any hand stands this week?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: It depends on how I play. I might need some help. I hope you are close by.
Q. What are you going to do if you win, cartwheels?
JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: No, I am not that young.
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JM Olazabal - 22.05.02
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