#HIO2017: What they said

Wed 08 Mar 2017

#HIO2017: What they said

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Preview Interview, Scott Hend (Aus)
Thoughts about the course?
I think the course is much better than what it used to be. It’s very challenging, it’s a very good course. I think first and foremost, you need to know where you’re going to hit your tee shots. I think the greens are quite simple after what I played last week (in Mexico). You just have to hit it in the right sectors, it’s good.
Happy with your form?
My form is very sketchy. I’m not playing really well, I’m still searching for a driver which is a big thing for me. You never know, I’m here this week with a goal. I need to make up another four or five spots to get into the WGC Match Play in a couple of weeks’ time. That’s pretty much the reason why I’m here.
Is wind going to be a factor?
Someone told me it’s not going to be blow! Today was really blowing but I’m told it’s not going to be blow for the rest of the week. But if it does blow, it’s going to be really difficult.
What are the changes you’ve noticed on the golf course?
There’s about 100 feet of soil being put into 16, 17 and 18. Before it was very flat. And now there’s so much soil there and it’s totally different. You just wonder how on earth they’ve moved so much soil to out here. 17 and 18 are totally different. 16, 17 and 18 are going to provide a very demanding finish.
"I think it’s going to be tough for these guys too as I’m not sure how many times they’ve played this golf course. Like the Delhi Golf Club and Jay Pee Greens, they’ve played those courses a lot but this is different.  They’ve not played here 100 times or 150 times, they’re learning like we are." - Scott Hend

What’s the story with the driver?
My driver broke in DP World last year. The shaft came loose and I re-glued the shaft. And all I kept hitting was snap-hooks. Now I can’t find a driver which actually performs the way I want it to perform. I’ve not been able to get used to the equipment, I’m still working on it.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand
Thoughts about the Masters?
First things first, if I can get into the Match Play, then I might get a chance to get into the Masters. Last week, I sort of ruined it for myself as I didn’t handle the course very well. There were a lot of world ranking points up for grabs there and I managed to get zero. If I can have a decent finish here and get into the match play, then possibly I can force my way into the Masters.
Do you know what you need to do to get into the top-64 for the Match Play?
I’m 69th right now I think. I haven’t seen what points are up for offer. I pretty much think a first will certainly get me there.
You’ve played all over the world, how’s the journey been?
I’m always learning every day. I just appreciate being able to play golf and in all the places I can play golf. It’s a privilege which I don’t take lightly. It’s something that I enjoy doing. If I can’t play somewhere, I’ll play somewhere else. I’m not picky about it. As long as I can play golf for a living, I’ll play anywhere. I’m never picky.
What drives you to do that?
Trophies …
After the best season of your career, how do you move forward?
Win …
How do you see the local challenge this week?
I think it’s going to be tough for these guys too as I’m not sure how many times they’ve played this golf course. Like the Delhi Golf Club and Jay Pee Greens, they’ve played those courses a lot but this is different.  They’ve not played here 100 times or 150 times, they’re learning like we are. Obviously, Anirban is a class player and SSP, who plays in Europe, can play great golf. You never know when Arjun, Daniel or Jeev will show up. There are a couple of other guys lurking there and trying to get to the next level.
What’s going to be your go-to club?
Hopefully the putter the least and maybe the two iron quite a bit as the fairways a quite firm and there’re a lot of downhill shots where the ball is going to run out.
Why is Australian producing so many good young golfers?
It’s quite surprising. We now have the world number two and we had the world number one and the world number four. We pretty much have three events which is quite absurb as we have so many good players but not as many tournaments. It’s surprising that our players are flourishing as they’re not many opportunities anymore. So they must be doing something right in the coaching system with the amateurs. By having world number two and world number five, all the guys are looking at the top players and aspire to get there.
Preview Interview, Kiradech Aphibarnrat
You’re just from the pro-am, how’s the golf course?
The course is fantastic, it’s in good shape. The first time I walked into the club, I can’t imagine this course is in Asia, or in India. It should be a course in Europe. It’s in such good condition from tee to green, some of the greens can be too tough but it’s going to provide the challenge this week.
Back in the Hero Indian Open for the first time since 2011?
When I committed to the event, I just felt excited. Back in 2011, I haven’t come back for the past six years. My first win on Tour was in this country and I always look forward to coming back here to see my friends and golf fans.
What do you remember from your first win here at the 2011 SAIL Open and how did that impact your career?
The win at the SAIL Open meant a lot to me. I had been playing for about two years and I was trying so hard to get my first title. When I broke through, it unlocked everything. I got my second win, got my European Tour card and got into the world’s top-50 and then also nearly top-10 in the Masters. Everything came from that first win. Being in this country means a lot to me. Just feels like I’m back home again. I’ve got a lot of friends, whom I’ve played junior golf with like Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Ajeestesh. It’s like coming home.
Did you know who designed this course?
I heard it was designed by Gary Player. I was told they renovated the course but I didn’t have any idea. When I walked it, it couldn’t be a redesign as it’s a completely new course. It’s completely different. It has to be a new course. It feels like we’re in Morocco or somewhere in Europe. The bunker is the signature, it’s huge and nice and clean. If you watch it on TV, you can’t guess it. Five percent will get the correct country!
What is the strategy for this course?
On this course, you have to stay out of trouble. It’s narrow and the greens are tough. You have miss the right side if you hit a bad shot. You can easily three putt for sure. You can’t get up and down on some of the greens. Just get into the right position and stay away from the bunker. Just hit the greens. 17 is a short hole and when you see on the book, it looks like an easy hole. But when you stand at the tee, you don’t know where to hit. Hit it 160 and have another shot from 160. But let’s see tomorrow.
Thoughts on Indian challenge?
India has great players. I want to congratulate all the events in India as most of the local players win them. That’s the best thing to get players on Tour. Players like Anirban win locally and then become great players. This week could be a good week as Anirban is back from the US. My goal is to win this week as I want to win this week to get into the WGC Match Play and also maybe the Masters. Maybe it’ll be good find if I can fight with Anirban again in a Major. It’s been like three years we’ve not played together. But he’s on fire right now and I’ll have to play my A-game this week to upset him.
How is your work progress with coach Pete Cowen?
The golf swing takes time. I think it’s getting better and better as you’ve seen in the first few results this year. I’m striking the ball and green in regulation is better than last year. It takes time to get used to the swing although it’s a slight change. To get it consistent takes time.
"It’s completely different. It has to be a new course. It feels like we’re in Morocco or somewhere in Europe. The bunker is the signature, it’s huge and nice and clean. If you watch it on TV, you can’t guess it." - Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Why the change?
To improve. I’ve been playing the same for nearly two years, I’ve been between 40 and 70 in the world for a while and I wanted to see something new. I’m looking at top-30. There’s nothing to lose. I believe Pete is one of the best coaches in the world. I want to learn something new and improve.
Did you expect the old course when you came here?
I expected to play the old course or some new holes being redesigned. I’m really impressed after seeing the first hole. I’ve no idea how they’ve done a great job changing the entire course. It’s fantastic. You guys can’t imagine how the players feel, it’s a nice surprise.
Anirban Lahiri of India Anirban Lahiri of India
Anirban Lahiri (Ind)
Intro: Welcome Anirban. This is a tournament that you know well, but a different course. You were out there this morning, how did it feel, how was the course playing?
Anirban Lahiri: Today was quite different actually from Monday, I played 18 holes on Monday. We had the opposite wind today and a much stronger wind. It was playing quite hard. It’s a tough golf course, it’s a very challenging finish. It was actually good to go there and play completely differently from Monday. It was a good day out there.
You were vital to the skills challenge yesterday. What do you have to say about that?
AL: (Laughs)I mean it’s a great bit of fun. For us, we look forward to it. It’s a great opportunity to have some camaraderie and rivalry all thrown in. At the end of the day, we’re trying to make it entertaining. Yesterday I enjoyed myself, hit a couple of good shots. The putt, that was a fluke. Nobody plans on holing 120-footers. But when it does happen it’s a lot of fun, so I really enjoyed it.
"I expect nothing but the competitor that SSP is. Obviously the Indian Open brings out the best in him. He is really gritty, he’s like a bulldog. He gets in there and he doesn’t let go. And that’s a really good quality t have especially on this golf course." - Anirban Lahiri

How do you see the course now? There has been a lot of talk about the sloping greens.
AL: It’s going to be a challenge for sure. I mean it’s not something that you come across very often. I would say there are two factors that would be interesting to see. One is how they set up the golf course. If you really wanted to be really aggressive you could make the golf course really, really hard. Pace of play is going to be a concern and if it gets windy it’s going to be extremely hard. I think they are going to set it up for scoring, which is a good things. But yes, it’s all about placing yourself. You might be on the fairway, you might be 150 yards from the green. There will be times when you play away from the hall. Because you know that if you go for it and miss it by two yards, there is no chance of you getting up and down or even making a putt. There are going to be certain sucker pins, or pins that are going to be inviting, but you got to play away from. And also the wind. They’re saying that it might rain. It would be interesting to see because the greens are rock hard right now. If it does rain and it softens up, that might change the dynamic a little bit. It’s basically a ball-striker’s course.
Is it going to make it difficult for the Indians because no one has played here?
AL: I think it’s a blank sheet for everyone. Nobody really know what to expect. At least as far as the whole field is concerned, no one is going out there saying “I’ve got to shoot a number” you are going to try to gauge it as you go along. The dynamics of it is very different from Delhi Golf Club, which has been the home of the Indian Open for many years. You do need length, to be able to control the all in the wind. You need to be able to shape it, because if it’s going to blow 20-30km an hour with side winds. It’s going to need a lot more versatility. I keep saying it’s a ball-striker’s golf course. It’s not necessarily a European’s or Indian’s or American’s golf course. Anybody who can strike the ball well will have a good chance this week.
You’ve had a few top 25 finishes in America. How do you feel, particularly because you’ve been striking the ball so well?
AL: I’ve had a couple of weekends where I feel like I’ve let it go a bit. Most of it has come on and around the greens. That’s the one area that I’m working hard on. With my coach, we’re putting in the hours. We’ve identified a couple of things that may have caused that to happen and are in the process of fixing. I feel like I’m making progress. It also comes down to your confidence. You make a couple of six footers and a 15 footer and suddenly you’re putting great. I think that’s what I need to do a little bit more of. I feel like my game is in good shape. Some of those top 25s were about as bad as I could have finished, given the way I played. It’s a good sign for me, but it would be good to put all 72 holes together and come in strong on the Sunday.
Do you have an eye on the MatchPlay as well?
AL:  My primary target is obviously Augusta, but yes I would love to play MatchPlay.  I played Austin Country Club last year and I really liked the golf course. I like the layout. But more than anything else I like ow I’m playing right now. You want to play all of these events when you are playing well. It’s one thing to be in the event and another to be there and playing well. I feel like my game is headed in that direction where I can trust my golf swing, I can trust my body and I can trust my eyes to see shots. So I think I have to finish first or second this week. SO yes, I do have my eye on MatchPlay.
It’s been three years on the bounce that you and SSP have fought for the Indian Open. What do you expect from SSP this week?
AL: I expect nothing but the competitor that SSP is. Obviously the Indian Open brings out the best in him. He is really gritty, he’s like a bulldog. He gets in there and he doesn’t let go. And that’s a really good quality t have especially on this golf course. When the going gets tough you need to just keep it in play out there. That’s his strength. I think he’ll have a good week, I hope he’ll have a good week, but there are a whole bunch of players here who have a great chance. At the end of the day you need to strike the ball well. This not a golf course where just chipping or putting or any one part of your game is going to get you through. You need to have all of your departments in good shape.
Q (inaudible)
AL: To cut a long story short, I got injured last year. I put that down to all of the miles that I did. It was endless, it almost started in 2014 with me trying to get on to the European Tour. From September 2014 until August 16 it was just non stop. It caught up with me and my body gave up. I wasn’t enjoying golf any more. I wasn’t enjoying playing any more because I overdid it. Most professionals have reached that point. One of the important things that I did was, I had to rehab, so I made a conscious decision to take time off from the game. 29t November was my last competitive game of 2016. That’s something I’ve never done. My whole career, especially on the Asian Tour, you play all the way until Christmas. We took that break, my wife and I we did a trek, it refreshed me. It made me see all the things I have been missing in life. It kind of gives you perspective. It makes you hungry. I want to hit balls again, I want to play again. I think that’s very important if you want to play well. It’s something that ll professional golfers do, or should do.
What are your interests outside of golf?
AL: Right now my wife and I are busy trying to renovate a house that we bought, so right now it’s looking at fixtures.
Are you also working on things like fitness and mental fitness? I don’t think many Indian golfers do that.
AL: I sat down with my core team and we looked at what was missing, what I was doing wrong. I went all through 2016 and maybe had two weeks where I played close to my best. And I say close to my best. That was something that hit me in the face, there was something I was doing wrong. It came to me that day that I was overplaying. Because I was overplaying I was putting pressure on my body, my fitness was suffering. And when my body doesn’t cope, my mind has to cover up ad it’s a viscous cycle. SO the first thing I did was I got away from it. Shifted my focus to what I need to do away from the golf course, to get stronger and fitter. I’ve gotten back to my meditation. I’ve started working with professionals in terms of fitness and nutrition. I feel like it’s helping. We’re working backwards from what I need instead of just looking at the week ahead, being more systematic in my methodology.
I don’t regret any of it. I had to do what I did ,I don’t regret it, but I do learn from it. I want to get in to a position where I say, OK I won’t play this week. I can and it won’t be a bad thing, but it might be better if I take three weeks off and spend two weeks in the gym. I haven’t thought like that before. It also comes from advice that I got from other players. I remember sitting down with Adam Scott last year and said “You only play 20 events a year when most of us are playing 3o” and he said “I only like to play golf when I’m ready and ready to win. I don’t want to come out and play a golf course when I don’t feel like I’m ready to win. The more you do that, the better you will be prepared” It doesn’t mean that you are takin four weeks off, you’re still working, getting yourself ready. I haven’t won yet in America. The ideal is to win so that I can do more of this. That’s where I want to go with my golf.
I’m here because there is nowhere else I would rather be. I want to be here. But when I fly back to America I won’t be leaving until the middle of July. That’s a conscious decision to cut down on my travel. Hopefully I get in to The Masters. If I don’t I will look at my schedule and throw in a window where I work again.
You’ve turning 30 in a few months time. Will it be a good time to look back at what you’ve achieved?
AL: Not really, I haven’t thought of it like that. I don’t think there’s any time to look back. I have to look forward. Until I’m ready to retire I won’t look back. I don’t forget, I draw on my experiences, I’m approaching 10 years of professional golf. It’s like a cycle. I was a rookie out here in 2008, and I felt like I was a rookie in America again in 2015. I have a lot of golf behind me, but I have to look at what I want to do over the next eight to ten years. I intend on playing there and being competitive. I intend o getting in to more Majors, staying in the top 15.
I don’t think it’s new to me any more, I’ve been there over 18 months, lived there more than a year, I’m a US resident now. On any new tour it takes time, you’re playing new events. I think I’ve gotten to the point where th PGA Tour feels like my home tour. I’m not saying that the Asian Tour is not. It will always be primary to me, but it also feels like my home tour when I play a PGA Tour event. If I say that I feel that way I think it’s a good sign because I feel comfortable. If you can make something that you are uncomfortable your comfort zone, that’s progress. I feel right at home. I know the media frenzy when you are in the leader group, I know the rhythm. There are so many different nuances, when you become familiar with that it.
There are some tricky holes out there, 17 in particular. How will you approach it?
AL: It will depend on the pin positions. I just played the pro am and the team was 40 yards up. That was probably an executive decision just to make it a little more playable. I hit a seven iron and another seven iron. That was option A. Option B was a five wood and a wedge. That was in to the wind today. If that hole starts playing downwind it becomes harder. It becomes harder to hit the fairway and almost impossible to hole the ball because there’s hardly any verticle descent. It will be interesting. If it’s a tight pin you might find players being more aggressive on the tee shot to give an outside chance. If you have a back pin you might see me laying up. But I will put it down to the wind.