#AfrAsiaOpen: What they are saying

Wed 06 May 2015

#AfrAsiaOpen: What they are saying

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Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha)
How do you feel being here for the inaugural AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open?
I feel excited. It’s the first time I’m in this nice island of Mauritius. Everything is nice, the hotel, the golf course, it’s in great condition. It’s our first time having a tri-sanctioned tournament and I want to thank AfrAsia Bank, Sunshine Tour and European Tour to give our players the opportunity to be here.
Must be hard to try to focus on your game in a place like this?
It’s good for me. I feel I can clear my mind. I’ve been playing serious golf for the last few weeks. When I got back my form, my fiancée and coach are with me and my game feels good. This helps clear my mind and helps me get ready for this week and the rest of the season.
You won in China several weeks ago. How is the game feeling?
I’m more than ready to play. My golf is solid. My confidence is ready to go. I’m looking forward to Sunday. It’ll be a tight tournament I think.
How important is it to have a first tri-sanctioned event, how important is it for world golf?
That’s great for Asian Tour players and for all the Tours. It gives us the opportunity to play overseas, especially in Mauritius. This is my second or third time on the Sunshine Tour and they’re getting bigger and bigger events. It’s nice to have a tri-sanctioned event. It helps a lot for the players.
What’s been working for you?
My swing. I’m working with my new coach now for two years and I have confidence with it. I’m striking the ball solid and I have confidence to play. The main thing is I know how to swing it and I can get back to my best form.
Is getting back into the world’s top-50 an immediate goal?
It’s one of my goals. If I can keep my form, I think I can get into the top-50 easily. It’s very close right now. I am hitting it good and I don’t think it’s too difficult to get in.
How about the Presidents Cup?
It’s one of the best team events. We can’t play the Ryder Cup and now we’ve got the EurAsia Cup (Asia vs Europe). The Presidents Cup is a big tournament, so it’s a goal for me to try to get into the top-10. Play well this week and the big events in summer, maybe I will get a chance to get in.
Could be fantastic to have three Asian Tour members in the International team as Anirban Lahiri and Thongchai Jaidee are currently in the top-10?
Anirban has done really well since we played junior golf together. He’s won two co-sanctioned events this year and we’re all so proud of his success. If he and Thongchai make the International team, it would be great. Having three Asian Tour players would be fantastic.
How is the golf course? Does it suit your game?
I quite like the golf course, it’s long and narrow but my driver is doing great right now. Hopefully I can continue to drive it well and have the opportunity to challenge for the title on Sunday. But if the wind picks up, it will certainly make it more interesting.
Will George Coetzee and Thomas Bjorn be amongst those that you think will be on the leaderboard come Sunday?
Yes, they are all great players. But the one guy that I have to fight is myself. If I can play the way I know I can, I will have a chance. Golf is all about you and yourself.
Thomas Bjorn of Denmark Thomas Bjorn of Denmark
Thomas Bjorn (Den)
I’ve not played much golf this year because of injury, and the tournaments I have played have been the difficult ones. So it will be nice to get out and play some golf again and be competitive. Hopefully I can do that this week and get those things going inside me when makes me compete. It’s a good place to come and I’m happy with the way my game is shaping up. I’m able to practice more after the injuries, so I’m feeling better.
It’s a funny course in the sense it is really difficult, or really easy. There’s not much in between. You have got to look to be prepared for those tough holes then take care of those short par fours and the par fives. It’s a good test of mental strength when you change round so much in a round.
We are three tours that work very well together and we have strong ties with players playing on each tour. We’re at a time now where we need to move this forward and strengthen those ties and move things forward. It’s important for the development of the game outside of Americas that we stand together and are strong with that.
There are good things going on with the tours right now, strong relationships and we are starting to understand at an executive level, but also at a players’ level, that we need to work together and stand together. That’s hugely important for growing the game around the world. It’s impossible for the various tours to do that individually and we are taking the first steps towards that now.
There is a lot of credit to our executives who have sat down to get us here this week, and hopefully we will have a lot more of it in the future.
It’s a fantastic place to come. The whole resort and setting is as good as it comes. We’re looked after well and everyone is enjoying themselves here.
If you come here with your golf mindset that you want to practice hard it is easy to get distracted, but if you come in thinking you’ll do your work at the course but also enjoy yourself, it’s probably a good approach. There are too many good things here not to enjoy some of them, but if you try to enjoy all of them then it will affect your golf. IT’s a balance, but what a place to come, enjoy yourself and play some golf.
I’ve had a lot of injuries this year and I’ve not played a lot of golf. I’m not 100 per cent but I like what I see in practice. I’m taking baby steps in the right direction. That’s important. It’s a long year ahead but I’ll take it one step at a time. I went to Indonesia and did well a couple of weeks ago, so it’s small steps. I still have to manage my injuries and keep myself fit to play, but I can put in more hours now which is important. I’m making good progress.
This is a wonderful golf course. It is a little bit different in that there are a lot of tough holes and some stretches where it isn’t that difficult. It’s a mixture between the two. You’ve got to manage your way around the course and not get too frustrated as you will get a stretch where you’ll do well to come out level par, but there will be opportunities. You’ve got to manage you game, your brain, and your expectations. Mentally it is more testing.
Rahil Gangjee (Ind)
It’ll be really exciting if I can win. It’ll be like being back in Calcutta and winning the match play tournament there as an amateur. The excitement that you have to win your own home event creates the excitement. Mauritius is partly my home because I’m half Mauritian. It’s going to be a great week.
A lot of Mauritians are mainly from India. The food is very similar to Indian food. My mother Nazirah is a great person to be around. If you meet her, you’ll fall in love with her. I asked her to come but she just got back from the US recently and she didn’t want to travel so soon as she’s getting on now.
As a kid, when we came here, we had a lot of family here. We would get together with the extended and every family we go to, there will be like 11 to 12 people staying in one house. I always looked forward to come back here. I never imagined that we would come here to play in a golf tournament, which is great for us.
This opens up so many more doors, two more doors for our players to try to beat players from other Tours. We’ve been affiliated with Europe for so many years and we’ve seen so many of our guys have success. This tri-sanctioned event, it seems like the golfing world is coming together a bit more which makes a bit of a difference for Asia. It gives us more opportunities to come to new countries like Mauritius.
Rahil Gangjee of India Rahil Gangjee of India
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Anirban Lahiri, Scott Hend and Andrew Dodt have won recently the co-sanctioned event with Europe. It was like initially it was Arjun Atwal, Jeev Singh and Jyoti Randhawa who did the things that we never thought was imaginable.
Players like Thongchai Jaidee have shown us that we can do it. When I played in America, it was like a mental barrier that we had to face and break down. Once we break down this barrier, we can see more Asian Tour players winning easily. It doesn’t surprise me to see our guys winning. We’re at a stage now that our players are winning easier, once we know that we are as good or better than players from the European Tour or PGA Tour.
My mum was a great influence. As a kid, I took part in all sports. When I started playing golf, the course was like 30 minutes away from school. She’ll take me straight from school and lunch will be on the way to the course. While I play, she’ll take a nap in the car at the parking lot which happened for years until I was old enough to go to the course on my own. She did a lot to make sure I had everything that I needed. I guess I played a lot of golf when I was in school, and she made sure I played a lot of sport. She always encourages me in whatever I did and dad was a bit more apprehensive as he was the decision maker.
Back in the day, golf wasn’t as lucrative as it is now. When I won my first event, I made something like US$2,000 which was a lot for a 22-year-old but it wasn’t enough to travel Asia. But my mum always encouraged me to go out.
In Indonesia, it’s going to be windy here as well, hopefully consistent wind and not gusting. Fairways are wide enough and if it rains again, it’ll be a bit soft. It’s a fair test, there’re enough hazards out there to test us.
The game is feeling better, I was practising back home with my irons. The irons were off the last few tournaments and I wasn’t playing great. I put in a lot of work with the irons and feeling a bit more control. We’ll see how it goes.
It’ll be a dream come true if I can win here. My aunt, my mum’s sister, she still lives her. I had dinner with her on Monday and she was saying “you can do it, it’s your home.” There’s a bit of pressure but it’s fun to have some support here. She should come out at the weekend to watch me play.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s almost there but I think there’s still something missing. Every time I play well or go into the lead, something happens. In Delhi (Panasonic Open India), it was pressure all the way from day one to day four. Everything was on me and I’m thinking about it. I guess for the guy who won, it was the last moment. SSP Chowrasia had more energy going into the play-off.
It took me a while to overcome the loss. It was physically draining. This was as good as a win but I didn’t win and mentally, I was affected. I was thinking about it a lot. As everything else, you get over it and try to get your game back. There’s always next week but you always have to work hard enough for that next week.
I don’t think I did anything wrong. I don’t think there was anything much more that I could do. The more you get into contention, the easier it is the next time you’re in that situation. When I won in 2004, I didn’t know anything and it was like “boom”, it just happened to me. I didn’t worry about the result. But now that you have your game in order, it’s about winning, and you want to find a place in your mind to try to stay within yourself and let it happen.
Scott Hend of Australia Scott Hend of Australia
Scott Hend (Aus)
There are a few shots that you have to place on the fairways. I’ll play another practice round tomorrow to learn more about the golf course. Some greens are tricky and the grass is a bit different than what we are normally used to. But the ball is rolling fine. Trying to judge the grains is a bit difficult but you can score out here. There are two drivable par fours and the par fives are reachable. It’s out there to be had. You just have to get the ball under the hole.
I’m here for two reasons, one to try and win and get more years exemption in Asia and Europe and also to get my events up to secure my spots for the HSBC Champions and CIMB Classic later this year. I don’t necessarily have to be here but I want to be here to solidify my position on the Order of Merit.
Off the course, the beach is nice, the pool is nice and the hotel is fantastic. The people are friendly and all the South African guys that I know here are good. I like playing golf tournaments rather than sitting at home. It’s good to be here.
I battled a hip injury the last few weeks. I was playing baseball with my son in the front yard and caught a ball and landed awkwardly and did something to my left hip and had a bit of a back injury as well. The hip is feeling good and the back is about 70% now. Hopefully when I get to Europe in a couple of weeks, I’ll be 100% fit.
I’m playing here, Spain, Wentworth, Ireland, US Open qualifying and Sweden before I go home. I’ve got five solid weeks ahead. I’m not good when I have a three week break and I find that I’m good when I’m playing on a five week stretch.
Guan Tianlang (Chn)
It’s a nice golf course, a bit soft now because of the rain but overall, it’s a great course which is pretty fair to everybody. I received the invitation and the event fitted into my schedule as it was after the big tournaments in China. I’m really excited to be here. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Mauritius, the beach, the sea, we’re enjoying it so far.
I just want to enjoy the week, play some good golf and get a good result. The first event in Shenzhen, I struggled a bit but I played better in Shanghai although I missed the cut by one.
I think all my game, all the areas have improved. My body has gotten stronger now and I’m hitting the ball further. I’m trying to keep everything well.
I’m in 10th grade now. I’ve got two more years before I go to college in 2017, ideally in America. We’re not sure what we’re going to do, I’m looking at colleges now. There’s no hurry for me to turn professional. I’ve got a long way to go and I want to go to college and get more experience and get myself ready.
I’ll be looking at a good college with a good golf team. I feel I’m playing good to make the halfway cut. I’ve got to play really good to have a chance of being in contention this week.
All areas I’m getting better. My putting has been pretty consistent, pretty consistent. All around, I still need to get better.
Jason Knutzon (USA)
I’ve been playing in Asia for a long time and it’s always neat to see somewhere new. I didn’t really know about Mauritius, so it’s pretty cool to show up and see what it is all about. I think it’s something that is new for the Tours, the Sunshine Tour is a very good Tour too and it’s nice we can get together in a cool spot like Mauritius. I think it’s going to be a good week.
I’ve been battling some injuries with the neck. I had a week off in Bali last week, my wife came over and hopefully it’s got things going in the right direction. I have to tell the wife I’m really working hard this week but there’ll be a lot of time at the pool and the beach.  Sometimes it benefits to be a professional golfer.
Berry Henson. Berry Henson.
Berry Henson (USA)
It’s beautiful. It’s great to come to a new place and an exotic place. Everyone is excited to be here. The staff at Heritage Resorts has been world class and today is my first look at the course and it looks really pretty and kind of reminds me of Hawaii. I played good in the past in Hawaii and hopefully it will bring back some good memories for this week.
It’s the first ever tri-sanctioned, it’s great for golf. It’s going to show that there is talent all over the world this week. To put three tours together for an event, I think we’ll so more of these in the future for golf.
I’ve been struggling with my health a bit. I’ve been diagnosed with Colitis which I’m trying to deal with. I’ve not had symptoms till last Friday, I feel good today and hopefully I can get it to stop and feel good for the rest of the week.  It’s a bacterial infection in the colon, got hospitalised and I thought I was fine but it kind of crept up on me again.
I’ve got to go back and check it out again in Thailand and see if there are any other issues. All my tests that we ran came back negative. They think it’s just a bacterial infection. Just need to keep track of it better.
It was a great result in Indonesia. I didn’t play my best but mentally I had one of the best weeks in a long time. I was a lot sharper than I’ve been in the past year, I started to think better on the golf course, my mind was clear. Just trying to get a better balance in my life and that week, I managed to focus better although I wasn’t totally on top of my game. I just felt comfortable.
There wasn’t pressure on me to perform and I kind of played golf and enjoyed the challenge of the conditions. Just enjoyed golf a little bit more. That’s why I had the result that I had. I’ve always played well in places like this. I probably feel a bit more relaxed and I’ve played well when I have been sick before. This could be a good combination for me this week.
Rashid Khan of India Rashid Khan of India
Rashid Khan (Ind)
It’s been great, it’s my first time to Mauritius and I’m enjoying it. The view from the resort is amazing and I’m looking forward to the week. I think it’s important to see such new events come on board the Asian Tour. It’s really good that we have new tournaments in different countries this year. It gives us a chance to get to know the countries and it’s really good for the future of the game.
I think it’ll be fun this week playing with the other two Tours. I think we will see how we play against each other and I think I’ll just look forward to play in this event and try to learn from the other players.
It’s a good sign that Asian Tour players are winning on European Tour sanctioned events, like Anirban (Lahiri) who has done so