You competed in the Turkish Airlines Open here in Regnum Carya in 2018 and finished in 7th place. What was your first impression of the resort?
It’s a great resort. Everything you could ever really want you can find in one place here; this makes it a really nice place to actually come and play. A great week to bring families, like we did. The golf course I think surprised a lot of people in how challenging it was for a start and then how much fun it was once you learned how to play and figured your way around and realised how good the golf course really was. Great golf courses produce great champions and obviously this course is a pretty good one for the tournament.
You recently won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on your birthday at St. Andrews. How important was that championship for you?
It has been a strange 2 years for everyone with the Covid pandemic and everything that has happened. Nothing was going right for me, we had Covid in the beginning of the year, I had my appendix out later that year. Whenever the game felt like it was in a nice place something happened, something came along that held back the progress so it was really nice to come through at such an iconic venue where I’ve always wanted to compete and play well. Winning on your birthday is very special, something you rarely get the chance to do. So, it was a fantastic weekend.
Winning the Masters must be your career highlight so far today?
I’ve been fortunate enough to win some great tournaments around the world, if I were to retire today it would have been a special career. Wining the Majors is what golfers play for, it’s what we practice for. 2016 was a long time ago but I still have such vivid memories, I could actually go back and re-live that weekend.
Going to the last round, you were trailing behind Jordan Smith. What did you think you had to do to win?
I didn’t actually think I could win, he is so good around that golf course, his record from previous years is simply incredible. The thought of winning never really entered my mind, I don’t know whether this helped but I thought if I kept trying to press I might be able to finish second easily. The thought that he would ever let slip a five-shot lead is unheard of in his career, he was playing great. How everything unfolded over that afternoon was nothing short of a miracle, it was remarkable.
After winning you became an Augusta Member. What is the best thing about becoming an Augusta Member?
As past champion you can go back whenever you want and play the golf course, I have been able to do so couple of times. You get to play with members, its good fun. I find it interesting to go to a golf course out of tournament. But Augusta is interesting because it doesn’t change no matter what month, the boards are still up, the clubhouse looks exactly the same, the staff is the same. It still is a beautiful and special place to go out of the tournament week. Fortunately for me, I can do this pretty much whenever I want to.
The Master’s Week is a very special week, one of the most special events in the year. Other than playing the course at Augusta, during Master’s Week, what is the off-course highlight of the week?
For me, I enjoy it because I always take the family. We always do the par 3 course on Wednesday, that’s one of the highlights for me. The kids get in their boiler suits, run around the golf course, my wife caddies, it’s a really special family environment that day unlike any other tournament in the world. My family have all grown up being at the par 3 every year. When I retire and look back at the pictures I will see the kids crawling in their boiler suits to probably being bigger than me. I’ve seen that with other past champions with their sons and daughters caddying for them as they get older so it will be nice to see how that goes over my career.
If you were play to play at Augusta in the Masters what would be your dream four ball?
I think it would have been amazing to play there with Seve, Ben Hogan and Arnie. That would have been a cracking four ball between us. It would have been great to have seen how different guys from different eras played there.
Who is your best friend on tour?
I’ve got a few really. My close friends are either caddying or playing so we get to spend a lot of time together. I’m very fortunate because my best friend actually caddies on tour for me, for the past 12 years we’ve been on tour the same time.
Which is your favourite course when you play on tour?
Augusta obviously is my favourite. I love the Wentworth field, it’s a great golf course and being on British soil with the home fans is great. It’s a really special week being on an iconic golf course in the European Tour.
You have won 8 of the biggest events on tour. Which event do you really want to win?
I’m slowly ticking off the ones that I want to win. Valderrama would be a great one for me, a really iconic golf course. I love that place, love the feel about it; that would be a fantastic one to win. Each year new golf courses come on the scene, some golf courses drop off the scene. It would be nice if the Turkish Airlines Open comes back again and we can come back to Regnum Carya.
You chose Regnum Carya for a family holiday as well as to play and practice on a well-deserved week off. Do you ever have a week off?
Very rarely. We play a really hectic 26-to-30-week schedule during the year, travelling hundreds of airmiles. So, I really think you need these kinds of holidays especially now that the kids have grown up and are aware that you are gone most of the time. This week we made sure that we got to spend quality time with them, enjoying a fantastic facility for the kids. Taking time off the golf course is important to refresh so that you get the fire to go back to practice. The timing especially has been perfect, I got to relax and enjoy and celebrate the win as well as reset everything to get back to work again for a really strong finish.
You travelled the world and have stayed and played at the best resorts in the world. How does Regnum Carya rank for you?
It’s got to be top in terms of an all-round facility with everything you want to do. We had the ability to do anything this week. We took the kids paragliding, you can do that and then go to the beach, have a beer, relax and chill-out, have lunch, play golf, go to the gym, go to the spa. Every morning we would say, so what do you want to do today? Very few hotel facilities give you the chance to literally do anything you want. This week has been amazing, the kids loved it every day, it was a very much needed holiday.