This is your first Open at Royal Liverpool. Have you had a chance to play here before as a junior or amateur or have you had the chance to practice much? What are your impressions of thecourse?
I played18today and I played a Brabazon trophy here.I can’t remember the year,it was a good 11,12, 13 years ago. It’s funny because a lot of the names in that tournament on the leaderboard are names that you see nowadays. I likedit from the beginning, itwas one of my first experiences of links golf. It’s a little bit different to what we play inTheOpen rotation.Thosefairway bunkers, a lot morepenal, a lot of those greenside bunkers, a lot more penal.You have to obviously hit it really well.Tee togreen, it’s a bit of added pressure. It’s a lot of holes, we’re onhole14 right now. This 14th hole is a very difficult second shot,hole12 very difficult tee shotandsecond shot.Atfirst glanceI amsurprised of how low they’ve shot here in the past, but really happy because I like the golf course.
Famously, Tiger Woods’ only hit his driver once over four days when he won at Hoylake in 2006, even with quitebenignwinds. What will be your approach to playing this course?
It was very dry and firm and yellow that year, you could get away with not hitting drivers in a lot of holes. Today, I played early, it waswet. There were some holes where I hit drivers and I didn’t get into any bunkers. I was hitting it on the same spots he was hitting the irons. I understand what he was trying to do, which is basically keep it just short of the bunkers and take on with longer clubs that givehimself a more percentage shot. When the Greens are firm,it makes sense,have a little bit more control of the fairway. I don’t know what I’ll be doing.Thegame has evolved since then. When Rory playedand wonin 2014, hehita lot ofdrivers.It isgettingto a pointnowadayswhere if you can hitadriver, you’re going to have to. Notonlybecause ofyou, but somebody is going to be able to do it.It’s a little bit different game than what was played in 2006.
Conditions are key to how an Open venue plays–what do you make of the forecast weather and speed of the course going into the week?
It’s England. It’s right nextto the channel too.I don’t really look at what the forecast says becauseit changes so fast. I’m hoping we still see certain weather conditions because it’sTheOpen.There’s always going to be a wind. Hopefully rain is fairbut there’s always going to be a wave that’s benefitedonemore than the other.Itdoesn’t look likeit’sgoing to play extremely fast or extremely firm just because the rain and a little bit of the moisture should stay aroundbut you never know. I think it’s going to play somewhat similar to what it didin2014.
What would it mean to you to claim the Claret Jug as the first Spaniard sinceSeveriano Ballesteros in 1988?
Any time you can do something for the first time since Seve did it, it’s obviously a very big deal. It’s crazy that SergioGarciaand Ollie(José María Olazábal), many other great players that had a chance, didn’t get to do it for Spain, but it’s not easy.I would be a true honour to be able to join Seve’s(Severiano Ballesteros)name on that list of The Open champions. Even aside from that, just being able to call yourself an Open champion is so unique, so special.To me, it isthe most prestigious tournament we have in golf and there’s nothing like it.
We are expecting over 250,000 passionate fans to cheer you on here this week–what are your expectations about the special atmosphere when the Open comes to Liverpool?
It’s always amazing when we come to this side of the world. The respect and knowledge for the game is so much higher than anywhere else and the fans know it. The only tournament in the world where we get celebrated for hitting a shot, sometimes even a wedgehitto 30 feet,just because they understand the conditionsand how difficult it can be.Youjust hit it on the green no matter where you are, most of the timeyou will get claps. Sometimes you make a five or a bogey and they understand that it was a good five.It’sdifferentand it’s really, really fun to play here.
Although Rory won here in 2014 and arrives here this week witha win atthe Scottish Open and some recent strong finishes at the US PGA and US Open, many have you down as the favourite to win. How do you manage the pressure going into a Major?
Whatever people say,it doesn’t a really make a difference. Most likely I am going to have higher expectations than most people have about me either way. Luckily, I’ve been playing good for the last few years, I’ve heard that a few times, so you get used to it. Whether peoplethink, if you’re going to win or not, I still come out here to win.Obviously,Rory and Scotty might be more of a favourite because they’ve been playing better lately, but I’m glad people still think I have a chance.
Which other players in the field do you think have the game and the momentum to perform well this week?
It’s golf,all 150 of us have a chance. That’s a beautiful thing about this game. When you tee off on Thursday, we’re all on equal ground and that’sit,weather aside.There’s a difference in weather, but nobody would have expected, let’s say, Tom Watson to do as well as he did in 2009, Greg Norman to do as well as he did in 2008inBirkdale.Those are the circumstances that you can’t foresee and can only happen inOpen golf.IfI have to say one player, you have to say Rory(Rory McIlroy)because of what he did last week andhow he is playingthis year.
Ahead of adapting your game tolinks golf, do you chat to any of your fellowplayers or friends on tour about the best strategies for posting a low score at The Open?
I like to get advice from past champions and players that have done well. We all hit the golf ball in a different way, we all play golf a different way, but there’s always little things that you can learn. It’s always nice to ask for a little bit of advice to see what they consider they did well that week or what they think that needs to be done.
Threemonths down the road of another stellar year for you. Can you share some more reflections on winning the Masters?
Sometimes I still wake up in the morning andrealizethat I won the Mastersthis year. It’s crazy. The one thing I keep thinking about is just being able to join my other three fellow major champions from.Becomingpart of the fraternity of golfers is veryspecial.The only majorthat is playedon the same golf course every year.It is a bit of adifferent feeling to it, just because we all know the golf courseandjust to come out on top is veryspecial for me. If we’re talking especially about the week, just the weather conditions I had to deal with and then play as good as Idid iswhat makes it so special.
After the last Major of 2023, all eyes will turn to the Ryder Cup and you will be a leading figure in the European team. What are your thoughts and expectations looking ahead to Rome in September?
My thoughts:Winning. Expectations:Winning. That’s all I can say.It’ssuch a fun event. It’s so different to what we do throughout the year.Tobe able to represent our continent, our countries, and play golf for European golf and do an exhibition.Atthe end of the day, it is an exhibition. Nobody’s getting paidand we’re playing for the love of the game and the love of our nations. It’sa lot of fun to be able to be a part of that. We haveteammates celebrating with each otherand we’re looking forward to getting that cupbacktoEuropean soil.
For many people, a good way to unwind and relax is to take themselves off on a drive. What car are you driving here this week? Are you able to carve out any time to hit the road for some headspace or are the demands of a Major pretty all encompassing?
I have aMercedes–BenzGLS this week. It’s not relaxing when I’m driving on the other side of the road. It’s very stressful but after a few days, you get used to it. In my case, my favourite car to drive is still at home. I know it’s not the most popular choice, but it is stillthe G–Wagon. That’s what I’m going to keep driving until I can get my hands on the EQG. It’s still a G–Wagon but a little different one.
Carlos Alcaraz made history yesterday at Wimbledon in a thrilling win over Novak Djokovic. You must feelproud to see the success of your fellow Spanish sport star–hopefully providing some extra energy and inspiration going into this important week for you? Have you ever met Carlos and if so, can you describe your relationship?
I’venot met himbutI followed his career.The last few years havebeen incredible,to be the youngest number onetennisplayer in the world. This isn’tlikely with the three great players we had ahead and with Rafa’s(Rafael Nadal)shadow on Spanish tennis as well.Togo and win the US OpenandnowWimbledon and still stay the number one with Novak playing atthelevelhe’s been playing.Hisfirst finalon Centre Court and Wimbledon and beat basically,andthis ishard for me to say as aRafafan,the best player ever in tennis after losing the first set sixtoone is quite incredible. Thedetermination and strength he showed in all thosesets,even afterlosing the fourth andcome back in the fifth one and get it done was quite impressive.Hat’s off, his future is very, very, very bright.Asa tennis fan, you’re kind of wondering, Rafa is coming to an end, Federer is done,Djokovic obviously might have afew years left.Alcaraz might bethe next big thing,for somebody like him to come up and just burst into the scene like that was very, very special. SoI’m really happy for himand hopefully he has a very long and great career