*Why haven’t you played at Turnberry before?
PH: Most golf courses I’ve played have tended to be ones I have played in competition as an amateur or as a pro, and besides the Open Championship itself, there has not been such an event at Turnberry.
I would certainly have come to play the Ailsa course if it wasn’t going to host an Open Championship, but it’s always better to play any golf course when it’s set up for a tournament.
*What about the Ailsa course set-up?
PH: You are also going to get a lot of chip and runs from the rough through the fairway and onto the green, and there are a lot of elevated greens so I’ll be practising chipping over those running the ball up.
There are always little things that a golf course has that require extra attention and I’ll now have two extra months to prepare.
The course will play slightly differently during the Open – you’ll probably hit it 10% further while the fairways will be firmer and faster – but I’ve definitely been able get the feel and flavour in advance which is invaluable.
*His Open Championship wins...
PH: There’s always something special about the Carnoustie win as it was so special to Bob Torrance for me to win the Open Championship in Scotland, plus Ben Hogan won his Open there and Bob is such a fan of Hogan.
Carnoustie is rated as probably the toughest Open venue so it’s an achievement to win in those conditions, while Birkdale is probably one of the fairest Open venues.
Every course has its own distinct flair, and if I win at Turnberry it will be another very special occasion.
*On Wilson Staff clubs...
PH: The Smooth driver has been in my bag for a while now and I’ve been tinkering with it over the last few months. I will look to bring the loft down from 9.5 degrees to below 9 degrees for the Open in order to hit it a little bit lower in the links course conditions.
I’m very comfortable with the driver and I’m also using some new Fg Tour irons which look the part and perform every bit as well as and probably better than the Pi irons. Even though the Pi5s won two Opens, these do look like they are going to do the job.
*The Open hat-trick...
PH: It’s been a long time since anyone had a hat-trick of Open wins, but I’m in with a great chance of doing it. If I tee it up at Turnberry and feel like I’ve done what I’ve needed to do then I can ask no more of myself.
I can’t physically say that I should go and win this, but I do have control over my own preparation and if I get that right I can be satisfied with myself.
There’s a fair chance I’ll be in contention, and if I am then I can go on and win. The things that I can control are what I’m focused on, and that’s all about getting myself ready to play mentally and physically, and I do believe I’m on track to do that.
*His Open preparations...
PH: It’s important that I play a links tournament the week before the Open and the Irish PGA Championship has got me in the swing of things the last two years. The preparation will be the same this year and hopefully when I get to the Open I’ll be ready to play.
*On Turnberry 1994...
PH: I never tried to pre-qualify for the Open Championship as an amateur because I was taking exams, and in 1994 I was taking my final accountancy exams, but I would have watched the Open all four days on television.
I know players that played in that Open and loved the golf course so it was one venue that was certainly of interest to me.
*How has life changed for him since his first major win?
PH: Life was very, very busy after the first major win at Carnoustie. I felt that win was very much for everybody who supported me, for my family, for Ireland, for my golf club, and I tried to give back as much as I could.
There’s no doubt I over-extended myself during the six months after Carnoustie but I was happy to do so as winning a major for the first time is all about that. You wouldn’t want things to settle down afterwards, you want things to be extraordinary.
After my second and third major wins I tried to be a bit more professional and look at these victories as a continuation of my career.
While there was more spotlight on me, I was more disciplined and made sure I didn’t over-extend myself so my game wasn’t affected.