An Interview with Thomas Levet
September 15, 2004
JULIUS MASON: Thomas Levet, ladies and gentlemen, playing in his first Ryder Cup match.
Thomas, welcome. Some opening comments and we'll go to Q&A, please.
THOMAS LEVET: Just nice to be here. Finally started and just can't wait for the competition to start.
JULIUS MASON: Beautiful. Questions, folks.
Q. I read somewhere that after the U.S. went to war, you had heard some verbal -- some things from the fans about the whole French thing. Has that died down or do you still hear --
THOMAS LEVET: No. It's all over.
Q. This week, with the patriotic --
THOMAS LEVET: No, it's all over. It just happened on a day that was very warm and beer was flowing outside and the guys were next to a tent. It's something I forgave, you know, to them. It's forgiven, I forget about it and I forgive them by doing it. When a situation is tense like that, some things you can't explain and you can't understand. So now it's over and I heard it once or twice last year, but it was sometimes directed to me and sometimes to my country. You know, you can forgive these kind of things. Just they have to express their feelings and it's over. Now we speak about golf and people know me for that as well.
Q. Talk about being a Frenchman and what that means, not being as big of a tradition in the Ryder Cup from your country and some of the other countries.
THOMAS LEVET: Yeah, we've just had two players in the Ryder Cup, Jean Van de Velde and myself. They made a lot of special major papers, the Ryder Cup, in many, many magazines, the biggest ones in the country and that's something that is unbelievable. Even when I won the Scottish Open or lost the playoff in the British Open, articles were like a fifth of the size they are at the moment. It just became enormous this week, just the fresh print has just kicked off. At the moment this week Amelie Mauresmo, has as much as I have because she just reached No. 1 in tennis. It's equivalent to that, it's enormous.
Q. Given Colin Montgomerie's experience and track record in this event, how much do first time players look to him for advice?
THOMAS LEVET: You just ask, you know, simple questions, how to behave during the doubles and what -- who should be the leader in the group of two players and little things like that. You know, what shall we do now, how much time do we have, shall you rest, shall you practice like you do normally. It's not only Colin. It's Bernhard, as well. He's gotten Ryder Cups under his belt so he knows what he's talking about. It's just little things but on our team, we've got a team of young players but some of us have been around quite a bit and played a lot of international matches for their countries, so we are not new to doubles and matches, team matches like that. We know what it takes to be on a team and we know how much, you know, you need to give to the team. And the questions have been very simple. At the moment, it's the atmosphere on the team is unbelievable and guys like Colin, when he speaks, he doesn't speak much, but when he speaks, everybody is listening.
Q. I've read several things, you've been described as a player who is fearless, as a player who doesn't back down, you've played well on big occasions, I wonder if you'll finish this sentence for me, this week, I want to -- what?
THOMAS LEVET: To speak French. (Laughter.)
To win. We all want to win. It was clear yesterday night in our welcome dinner, both captains want to play fair and they want to just play -- that their team plays the best possible and never give up. I think that the games will be beautiful to watch. If the captain has -- how can you say, I don't know the word in English -- I can't say. If they want a clean game, basically, they want it to be clean and just play your best and win the match the way it should be, it's just make the club do the talk and win it that way.
Q. Describe yourself, are you an intense player?
THOMAS LEVET: Intense, probably. You know, I'm pretty intense. I'm very tough with myself and that's probably why I like pressure like that because me, I put pressure on myself as much on the practice days alone in England practicing than I do in the Ryder Cup, you know, because it's my way of practicing as well. I try to manage that I'm on the range hitting like the first tee shot at the Ryder Cup or the last putt at the British Open. So when the situation comes in, it just -- I've been there a lot of times. As if I played the Ryder Cup 6,000 times lately, I hit that tee shot thinking about how the crowd would respond. I've seen people smiling on the tee, don't say a word, I've seen the crowd jumping from their seat and just get completely mad. I've seen people yelling at me, I've seen people cheering for me. I've practiced all of these things, so I'm kind of ready for any situation at the moment.
Q. As I'm reading here, your father was a hockey and tennis player, your mother played volleyball, your grandfather was a professional cyclist, how did you get steered for golf with these other sporting influences?
THOMAS LEVET: It was the other grandfather that didn't play, wasn't the cyclist, that started golf and we all followed him. When my father retired from hockey and tennis, because his back was hurting, he just played golf -- as a hockey player he never missed the ball. The first competition he did in a month was 86, his score was 86, so just gives you an idea how easy it is for a hockey player.
We are three kids and when he were all grown up, my parents were playing golf every weekend. So I was playing hockey and tennis at that time and when I had gotten injured, just found one year that I was not able to run at all and just picked up golf because they were going to the golf course. I knew how to play a little bit and I picked up from there.
Q. While there's an obvious advantage to playing at home, most players would prefer to have the support at home. Paul Casey said yesterday that as a rookie, he is pleased that he's actually playing his first Ryder Cup on foreign shores because he feels that there will be less pressure on him. Would you agree with that or your thoughts on that?
THOMAS LEVET: I think so. It's something we talk between us and when you play away, people, especially against a team like the USA, people don't expect you to win. And if you win, it's bonus for you. We don't have anything to lose this week, you know. The Americans are the favorite but we are very strong underdogs, you know, so you just -- it's an easy situation to be in, a bit easier than the Americans. It's their country. They have no rights to lose and I think that's why it's a bit easier for us. It's going to be tough because most of the crowd will be for them. But, you know, Canada is not that far away, and I know the Mafia there, so I can get some supporters over there.
Q. You said you had a desire to speak French this week?
THOMAS LEVET: No, I was just joking. Of course it was to win. Lots of Canadian are speaking French, they have a strong accent, I can't understand, you know, and there is lots of French press around as well, one, two, three, four -- 50 guys here. Do you speak French? (Laughter.)
Q. You talked about Colin and Bernhard having answers because of their experience, I wonder how Sergio has been in the team room. He's young but still he has a lot of experience and I wonder what kind of a role he plays on this team with his fiery as he can be and things like that?
THOMAS LEVET: You just have to follow guys like Sergio. He's fearless. He knows he can beat anyone and he transmits that to every player. For a guy like me, I played with Sergio in his first time on European Tour, he was 15 and still an amateur and I played with him. From the day he started, I just knew he was going to be a great player and you just follow his example. He's shown in the past that he can beat anybody, so he says if we can beat him, we can beat anybody, too. That's what he's trying to tell us.
JULIUS MASON: Thomas Levet, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
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