Before the BMW PGA Championship took place at Wentworth Andy Brown entered the players’ lounge to grab 15 minutes with Thomas Bjorn to discuss the Ryder Cup, growing the game and how apparel has helped change the image of golf.
How do you feel about your game at the moment?
I haven’t played enough golf really due to suffering from some pretty severe injuries throughout the season so I’m still rebuilding a little bit and a bit behind everyone else, but I’m working as hard as my back allows me to. Eventually it will all click into shape and you are just waiting for that week where it all comes together. You just have to be patient though and then it will come, if you start chasing it then you might struggle to get the results that you want.
What it is like to be part of the European Ryder Cup team and is the team spirit as amazing as it looks?
Any individual sportsman, I think, longs for that team experience and one of the most empty feelings you can have as an individual is if you win something and then all of a sudden ten minutes later it is all over and you are alone. With a team when you win you always have an amazing team feeling and the celebrations continue much longer – they are actually the great memories that you have. When I look back at Ryder Cups it is not so much the golf; it is the three or four hours after we won that really sticks in your memory. The team spirit comes out so much because those guys who have experienced it never get that feeling apart from every second year so they really enjoy those moments. For us it only happens every two years and we really enjoy it.
There is a big push to increase participation – what do you think about the state of the game?
I think that the Olympics is going to do a lot and it is going to take it to countries which have never really been big for golf. We can’t live in a secluded world. A lot of golf is played in Britain, certain parts of Europe and America and we go to South Africa and Australia where there is big participation, but when it comes to the Olympics it opens the door for countries that don’t really have any golf history and that will grow the game. It is difficult to grow the game a lot more in the established countries. The Olympics will take golf to corners of the world that we haven’t seen and for the future that is of huge importance. Golf is a massive business and if that business is going to continue to grow then you have to look at new markets.
You are chairman of the European Tour Tournament Committee – what does this role entail?
We have an elected committee that runs the players’ views and I chair that. It becomes a link between the players, our managing staff and the executives. At times it does involve a lot of things and means I have a few extra meetings; at times it can take a bit away from my own golf but it is a role that I enjoy doing. I’m the kind of person who likes to know what is going on. When things happen you become a mediator between the players and the Tour which can take energy and time but I have a lot of heart for this Tour and what we are trying to do. I believe that the Tour is so much better today than it was when I started and hopefully that will keep happening and we can provide an opportunity for young players to make a career. It’s easy to look at the top players and their great lifestyle but the important thing for the Tour as a whole is to give a great life for all professional golfers; if the guy that finishes 110 in the money list doesn’t make a good living then we are failing. He has given up lots of other opportunities to try and be a player so he needs to make a good life so he can look after his family and have enough when he stops playing. That’s a successful Tour – not to make the number one player very rich; that will happen anyway.
What kind of golf clothes and styles do you feel most comfortable in?
I’m probably a more traditional guy regarding apparel, but there is a lot of change happening on that side of the game, there is no doubt about that. There is more focus on making apparel that fits, is suitable for all kinds of weathers and makes you feel like an athlete. When I started playing it was baggy trousers and t-shirts which didn’t work very well when you played in 45 degree heat. Today there is a big focus on new fabrics and new styles to make you look good and feel comfortable on the course and that has been an unbelievable development in that area, there a lot of exciting things going in. It gives the game more colour which is good as golf is often branded as being a bit boring, but there are a lot of characters out there now and I think the clothing is a lot to do with that. I always say to younger players that a clothing company can be a big part of branding and affecting how people from the outside perceive you, so it is important to pick something which fits your personality.
Are golfers wearing things now that they wouldn’t of ten years ago?
Yes, I think that boundaries are being pushed and it does help to change some people’s opinion about golf. Young players have a responsibility to try new things but keep it within the parameters of what is acceptable. Being comfortable on the course is the main thing from a player’s perspective – my personality wouldn’t allow me to be too flash on the golf course as I would think people would be looking at me for the wrong reasons, whereas some people take that in their stride.