13 The Daily Telegraph Tuesday 14 July 2020 *** Sport Interview ‘I fear big-hitters will make great courses obsolete’ Golf By Kate Rowan Thomas Bjorn believes the fearsome ball-striking of the likes of DeChambeau threatens to produce ‘bland’ spectacles “I was much more about flair and feel, but I played with a lot of guys who made great careers by being scientific,” says the 49-year-old, who was influenced by figures such as the instinctive Seve Ballesteros and the more technical Sir Nick Faldo. “But Bryson brings it to a whole new level about being scientific. In my time, Padraig Harrington was the one who was a bit more scientific and doing massive amounts of work for little amounts of gain. “I find Bryson fascinating. I admire somebody who sits down and says, ‘I am going to do all of this to give myself the chance to be the best’. The only problem is the length he is hitting the ball now. I fear that it makes a lot of golf courses obsolete. That is a problem. Some of the best courses in the world are in awkward places that could not be extended. That will create a problem for the game. “Rory [McIlroy] hits that far, too, but with Rory it is more a natural ability than Bryson. None of us have a problem with Rory hitting it a long way off ability, but unfortunately it will take some of the greatest courses in the world out of play. Then golf becomes bland on big, new, open courses and that is something I fear a lot. I admire Bryson for the work that he does, so it becomes a tricky issue for the game of golf.” Bjorn also believes that the issue of monster driving could have an A conversation with Thomas Bjorn is akin to a philosophical debate on golf ’s bigger issues. The modern sporting vocabulary of “processes” and taking it “a shot at a time” are eschewed for much more esoteric discussion. Obsessive tendencies are commonplace in golf. So, it is unsurprising that the Dane, who led Europe’s Ryder Cup side to victory in 2018, has embraced the psychological side of the game with gusto. Bjorn gives fascinating insights on the difference between his sport’s artists and scientists, with the striking physical transformation of Bryson DeChambeau once again raising the question of whether brain can compete with brawn. DeChambeau, who goes by the nickname “the mad scientist”, gained 20lb of muscle during lockdown and his prowess off the tee makes Bjorn fear for golf’s future. In fact, he feels such brutal ball-striking could simply lead to “bland” golf and put iconic courses such as the Old Course at St Andrews and Pebble Beach out of action. enlisted many stars from European golf, either those he captained in 2018, including England’s Tommy Fleetwood, and former team-mates. There is raw testimony from Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer on their struggles in a solitary game where the mind games can become overwhelming and all-consuming. “I sometimes think people are not really geared to be that much in the limelight or that much in the moment the way sports people are now,” Bjorn says. “My perception of people and how strong they are in everyday life, I realised that is just a front. When you get into really telling their stories, there are a lot of underlying issues ... what they have already gone through. Both Henrik Stenson and Tommy Fleetwood realised that you have to hit rock bottom to be able to then restart. They both are very honest about that in their careers.” Hearing this, it is perhaps no surprise that Bjorn – a diehard Liverpool fan – used the management style of Jurgen Klopp as inspiration. “I wanted to create an environment where the players had a smile on their face,” he says. “I wanted to create a place where you can feel comfortable about who you are and where you are. That is very much how I feel when I watch Liverpool. “Even the players on the fringe of the team have smiles on their faces; that is something Klopp does extremely well. I think the players found me very intense on a weekto-week basis and I wanted to surprise them by making it really laid back and making sure it was all made for them and not how I would want it to be.” A winning formula it would seem for both footballers and golfers. economic impact, as DeChambeau has all his irons at seven-iron length to ensure he maintains the same swing with each club. “As we develop the game, nobody puts more money into it than the golf club manufacturers. If you scale golf clubs back, there is a financial downside and then they in turn won’t put as much money back into golf and it is making it struggle,” the Dane says. “There are a lot of aspects to how you do it [consider DeChambeau’s innovations] and things to think about.” The way Bjorn reflects on DeChambeau gives an insight into the way his mind works, and also an indication as to why his traditional Ryder Cup winning-captain’s memoir is a little different to most. Rather than a blow-by-blow account, Bjorn and author Michael Calvin have written an in-depth work on what makes the mind of a successful golfer tick. is shortlisted in the Outstanding Sports Writing category in the Sports Book Awards. It is much more than a reflection on Bjorn’s own experiences as he Mind Game by Thomas Bjorn and Michael Calvin, is shortlisted in the Outstanding Sports Writing category in the Sports Book Awards. The winners will be announced tomorrow Mind Game Telegraph Telegraph
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