#HIO2017: What they said

Tue 07 Mar 2017

#HIO2017: What they said

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S.S.P. Chawrasia (Ind)
How does it feel to defend your title at a different course this week?
It’s totally different compared to DGC. A few holes area really tough, but it’s tough for everyone. I’m going to give it 100 %, that’s all I can do.
Do you recall the emotions of winning last year?
I was runner up four times and I was a bit frustrated as I have to win the tournament. The national Open is like our fifth Major, and finally I won it last year and got the trophy. I’m going to be give it my best and hopefully I can carry the trophy again.
What are the biggest contrasts between DGC and DLF and what do you need to do here to score?
The greens and fairways are a little bit tricky. You have to place the right ball at the right spots. That’s the trick. Next few days, that’s what I want to do.
Your first title was at this club although the course was different?
I have a lot of good memories here. Only thing different is that we’re on a different course. I’m thinking I’ll just replay all my good memories.
A great year in 2016 with two wins, Olympics and the World Cup. What are you looking forward to in 2017?
Last year was a great year, it was my best year of my career. I’m trying to do better in 2017. It’s still the start of the year, it’s only my fifth tournament and I’m happy with how things are.
Was it important to win for the first time in Philippines last year?
I have won four times in India and it was good to win outside of my country which I was very happy about. That’s now out of the way. Now I can just play keep playing better and there’s one less pressure now on me.
 S.S.P Chawrasia of India S.S.P Chawrasia of India
What are the key holes here?
17 and 18 will be the tough holes here. They are very tricky. If you hit a good shot, it’s no guarantee where your ball will go. I used six iron and four iron on 17 tee, both hit the fairway. The main thing is the second shot as the green is elevated and it’s hard to stop the shot on the green.
Thoughts about the tournament this year?
I think it’s the same every year. The only thing is we have Rafa Cabrera Bello here but I don’t think one player will make the whole tournament tough. I like to play challenging courses and a challenging field. After two rounds I’ll have a better idea how we can play the course.
Gary Player, the course designer, reckons 14 under could win the tournament. What do you think?
I don’t think so (laughter). I think it’ll be below 10 under.
Does it feel different coming back as a defending champion?
The only thing different is that we’re on a different course. But I’ve won another tournament here. Let’s see how it goes. There are a lot of positive things. Let’s just play the first two rounds and see how we play the last two rounds.
You’ve had a long and successful career. Has your life changed?
I’ve seen most of the world but I’m still the same person. I’m happy with 2016 and I’m trying to do better. I’m not doing anything different but my goal is bigger. If I achieve it, maybe I can do something.
Your general view about DLF?
This is a tough course, if we play here more often, we’ll get used to it. It’s a different course. I’ve played a lot abroad but this is totally different. I don’t think there’s home advantage as it’s a new course for most of us. DGC is also a tough course but we’ve played there so many times and we know how to play it. That’s why Indians always play well in DGC.
How much of an influence Hero MotoCorp been for golf in India?
Mr Pawan Munjal has done many good things. Hero has been supporting this event and every year it’s getting bigger and bigger. Hopefully it’ll continue to grow.
Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha)
Two runner-up finishes already this year, what’s been working well for you?
My game now feels very good. Short game, driving and hitting, it all feels very good. Last year, I just put in more practice, and more fitness, especially worked on my short game. It’s nearly perfect.
What are your thoughts about the golf course here?
It’s a very good course. Every hole feels challenging which I like. I really like this golf course. I hit the ball high and the greens here quite firm, so it could be very good for me.
What did you think of the last two holes here?
I played only the front nine today, tomorrow I’ll play in the pro-am.
What do you hope to achieve this week?
I just want to make the cut. Every tournament, I’m just thinking of making the cut. If I play good, I’ll certainly be very happy.
Tell us about your week in Perth?
I never thought I could get into the final day. I thought I missed the top-24 but I managed to get in. It was really exciting to get in and to eventually finish second. It was my first time in Australia, and it was very windy at the golf course. Next time, maybe I can be better than second place.
What do you think about Chikkarangappa S and Shubhankar Sharma who are also young like you?
I’ve played with Shubhankar and Chikka previously, I learn a lot from them. Their swing and short games are very good and I know their games well and I think they also know my game well.
Do you think about winning a first Asian Tour title or is there no pressure at all?
I just want to play. I never go out to think that I will win but if I do win, it’s probably because I have gotten luck
How did you start playing golf?
I started playing golf when I was in school. You have two choices – tennis or golf. I picked golf and I liked it. I started when I was nine years old.
Who was your golf inspiration?
Luke Donald. I like the way he swings, his short game and he’s not a long hitter. He hits it straight and I like his style.
How about Thai golfers?
Thongchai Jaidee as he came up really fast and despite his age, he is still playing so good. I want to try to be like him.
Which Indian golfers do you think can win the Hero Indian Open this week?
I think Gaganjeet Bhullar has a good chance as he hits it straight and long, his short game is also strong. This course, you need to hit it long.
Which part of your game is really strong and what part of your game do you need to improve?
My putting has been really good but after last year, I practiced all parts of my game.
Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain
Rafa Cabrera Bello (Spain)
Intro: In the first press conference of the week we have with us Rafa Cabrera Bello. Rafa you’ve made a long old trip direct from Mexico. Are you feeling good this week though, you’ve had a pretty solid season so far?
Rafa Cabrera Bello: Yes, thank you, I’m obviously very happy to be here. I’ve come far from Mexico. I was trying to work out how many miles, how far away that is.
My game, you know it hasn’t been as good a start as last year but it hasn’t been bad at all. I’ve made all of the cuts I’ve played, I’ve been in contention once or twice. Obviously it’s getting there, the game is good, I just maybe haven’t had that bit of momentum to really be competitive in the last few holes. I’m confident that can change very soon.
Question: You obviously haven’t had the chance to play the course yet, have you heard much about it, are you looking forward to getting out there? 
RCB: Like you say I just got here a few hours ago, I haven’t had the chance to be out on the course. From what I’ve heard it’s in really good shape. It’s in very nice condition. Being accurate from the tee and making sure you play the smart shots is going to be very important.
Question: You made your Ryder Cup debut last week, what was the experience like?
RCB: For me, obviously apart from the final score, losing, I wouldn’t change a thing from the Ryder Cup. I was very fortunate to be able to play a four ball match with my friend, whom I admire, Sergio. And then in particular about that game against Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, we played great, we were just struggling at the beginning because they were really playing brilliant. I think they had something like seven birdies in the first eleven, twelve holes, which for that format is remarkable. And you know, Sergio and I were speaking, we were just trying to stay calm. We were playing good it’s just that they were outplaying us, but we will have our chance. Obviously they made a few mistakes coming in the last five, six holes. We took advantage of that. We also made some birdies on the last few holes, it turned the match around completely. A match that seemed totally lost, all of a sudden we got all square to the 18th. That was really nice to be able to fight back and get half a point for Europe.
Question: You also had the opportunity to play the Olympics, obviously there are very few Olympians in golf, how was that experience?
RCB: It was a very nice experience. Since golf wasn’t in the Olympics when I was a little kid, I never really dreamed about being an Olympian, but I did enjoy very much the whole experience of sharing a week with some, or probably the biggest, athletes of my country and the best athletes in the world. Watching them train, talking, and sharing the village with them. It was very nice.
Question: How do you see the field in this tournament and what are your expectations?
RCB: Well I mean, it is a very strong field, obviously. Some very great players are competing here. All of the top Indian guys, who always make it very hard for us playing in India. They have the support of the crowd and the national pride of playing in your own country. I think that has helped them to a lot of success in the history if the event. I’m happy to be here, excited about competing here in India again. I think that India as a country is going to have a very important role in the next decades for golf in the world. Like I said before, the performance this year hasn’t been as brilliant as the start of next year, but there’s nothing wrong with the game, maybe it’s just a little bit of luck is needed for it all to fall in to the right place.
Question: How excited are you to play this course, do you think it will fit your game?
RCB: Unfortunately about the course, I can’t really speak a lot because I haven’t had the chance to see it myself. I have heard it’s in excellent shape, really good condition and accuracy off the tee is very important. This what I have heard.
Question: Rafa you have has some great results in Asia, but also of course in the US and Europe. What is it that you love about Asia?
RCB: Well, Asia is very, very big so it’s hard to speak about Asia as only one place. I mean I played in Indonesia, which is a place I really like a lot, obviously in the Middle East I have had some very nice success there. And places like Malaysia, India I’ve also played good. I like to play all over the world. I like to play on all types of different courses. I think that helps me to grow as a player. It gets my game very complete and that’s maybe why I’ve had a little bit of success all over the world. I just enjoy travelling.
Question: You’ve got a place in Bali. So what attracted you to buy a place in Bali?
RCB: (Laughs) Surfing! I love to surf when I have some time off. It’s really my hobby. To be there, I have some really good friends there and I enjoy it outside of golf when my schedule allows it.
Question: Have you had the chance to play with Anirban or SSP in the US or Europe? What is your opinion of them and these players that are coming up from India?
RCB: I think both are good examples. Anirban and SSP, both are great players. They are very, very complete. Anirban I really think is a world class player. What I have always enjoyed and valued a lot about Indian players is how naturally talented they seem to be. The majority of them you look at their swings and they don’t look mechanical at all. It seems like they have been born with it and almost self-taught.
Question: How did you get into golf and what was your inspiration?
RCB: I got in to golf by chance. One day my uncle came to my parents’ house with a golf club and a plastic ball. He and my dad just started swinging in the back yard and obviously what happens to most people is that it looks easier than it really is. So my dad, he got in to it. He fell in love with the complexity of golf. It’s not just a sport of… well, ultimately the aim is to hit a ball into a hole but around that there is this really passionate world and really intriguing sport. That’s what he enjoyed about it and we started – I say we because it’s my brother and sister as well – when we were very young going to a golf course that was close to home. It kept growing from then on.
Question: You also have a namesake in tennis, Rafa, who is coming back. What do you think about him?
RCB: I think he is a remarkable athlete. One of the best – if not the best – in the history of his sport. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him and he’s an extremely nice and humble person. He examples a lot of the values that I really love about sport in general. It’s really nice to watch him to compete every single time.
Question: You must be praying for him to come back strongly?
RCB: I think he’s already playing much better again. I think he has won tournaments this year, he got to the Australian final as well. I am sure he will be winning many more events.
Question: What is your highest point in golf?
RCB: My highest point in golf? I think I would put my two wins alongside the Ryder Cup. Those would be my best moments in my golf career.
Question: Rafa, one last question – who do you think is the best golfer in the world, SSP or Anirban?
RCB: (Laughter) That is a really tough question! They are both great players. I am going to honour the world rankings and rank Anirban on top of SSP – but only because that is the current world rankings!