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An Interview with: ROBERT KARLSSON
KELLY ELBIN: Fresh off a victory Sunday at the Mercedes Benz Championship in Germany, Robert Karlsson joining us at the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club. This will be Robert's second Ryder Cup appearance.
Congratulations for the win on Sunday, and welcome back to The Ryder Cup.
ROBERT KARLSSON: Thanks.
KELLY ELBIN: Your thoughts on the golf course, seeing it for the first time and getting back into the team mode once again.
ROBERT KARLSSON: Yeah, it's a great golf course. It's interesting, we have two totally separate nines. The front nine is a lot more open. They are both long, but one is sort of more a type of open, Scottish type, if you put it that way, golf course. The back nine is more tree lined. It's two different nines. But they are both very good.
KELLY ELBIN: Talk about transitioning into a team concept after playing against players for so long.
ROBERT KARLSSON: Yeah, everybody in Europe now has sort of tried to get into this team for about a year, but even during this time, it has been a lot of support between each other and talking about, yeah, looking good for you now and things like that.
So even though it has been a competition everybody trying to get into it, it's been in a very positive way, though.
Q. Could you just talk about coming in off a big win and what that means and what it does for your psyche?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Yeah, it doesn't really feel like last week has ended yesterday. It almost feels like it keeps going on and on and on. And when you're playing well and when you're winning, you're sort of on a bit of a high. The intensity is high, and then from there to London just one night and then on the airplane straight on there starting to talk about this event, because this eventually starts on the Monday when you get on the airplane. So you just keep going.
Obviously it's very nice to get on that airplane playing well. But I've got to make sure I get a bit of time on my own before Friday because it has been you need to have time to land and to get here and all of these sort of things. It's both good things and bad things with it.
Q. Could you tell us a little about the mental preparations that you're using as a team this week?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Well, as a team this week, when you've got Sergio, it's not so much mental preparation, is it; it's just try to have as much fun as you can and enjoy the time. Apart from that, Nick has been excellent just trying to share all of the experience he has.
I think, as well, it's a couple of other guys who have definitely stepped up to the plate a bit more than before. When I was a rookie last time, Darren and Monty took big part of sharing their experiences. This year you can see that Westwood and Garcia is taking a lot more of that responsibility. It's good to see new guys who has a lot to contribute doing that. It's been excellent, it's just been different persons who has taken it.
Q. Golf is obviously a very individual sport. What sort of things are you doing here to create a team spirit? Are there any particular activities or do you do things as a 12 or do you peel off into your own separate little friendships with particular players?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Obviously in the team room, it's always the 12 of us. It is not like you can see in other groups I know the Swedish football team is a bit like that, where you have sort of separate little groups within the group. We don't have anything like that, that I've noticed, anyway. It's very much a 12 man effort and a 12 wife effort I would say, as well.
Obviously it's important, as well, for everybody to try to get a little bit of time on the round because it is such an intense week, but it's very, very much a 12 man effort I think, and it's a great atmosphere.
Q. Nick has worked a lot with Kjell Enhager, and he's brought him in. Have you worked with him at all?
ROBERT KARLSSON: I did actually, from 1992 to 1996, so I know Kjell quite well.
Q. What does he bring to the party?
ROBERT KARLSSON: I think he's mainly here to support Nick in his role. I don't know if he's talked with any of the other players, because he has not really been sort of represented in the team room like sort of a psychologist for everyone.
He's more there I think to support Nick to get the most out of his presence in the team room, and he's done a great job with that. And obviously I know him since before, so I've talked quite a bit with him, but more sort of to catch up over the 12 years; we haven't had much contact.
Q. There's an old saying that you don't know how well someone can take a punch until they actually have to take a punch. You guys have gotten off to such big leads the past two, the Americans have said it's imperative that they start better than they have. What makes you think that, because the last two have been such routs, that if you guys are in a situation where it's more of a dogfight that you can hold up to it?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Well, we'll see during the week, won't we. Obviously in the tournament, it would be good if it went that way. It's important if we have more of a close competition this year I think. And as well for all of the individual players out there, no matter what time of the tournament it is, it is good to be to get that sort of test. Obviously America this year will have a bigger benefit with the crowd.
So it's going to be interesting to see what happens, but I mean, it's a two horse race in every match sort of thing, and it's a lot more. You can't just go on rankings and say, yes, European Team is a lot stronger. If you look on the rankings, we have a more even and higher ranked team at the moment but it doesn't make a difference if you play match play. Over 18 holes, anything can happen. That's why The Ryder Cup is what it is and it's become what it is.
So I can't really answer why we'll win or why we'll lose. It's going to be up to individual efforts on the whole here and there on such a small margin. If you look last year or last time when we played in Ireland, it was a huge victory for us points wise, but all the way up to Sunday, I think we had a 10 6 lead but it could have been 8 8 easily. It's such a fine margin in every match.
So it doesn't necessarily mean that it was such a big win. It ended up being one at end but it was a lot closer than it looked.
Q. What does Sergio do for your team?
ROBERT KARLSSON: He adds a lot of fun and a lot of sort of, anything is possible. He has a lot of passion, a lot of fun in the rooms, a lot of joking and a lot of yeah, to get the energy up. He's very, very important. He's very, very important. The team would never be the same without him.
Q. What do you think transforms him from his individual style to what he does for The Ryder Cup Team?
ROBERT KARLSSON: That's a good question. I think probably he thinks I think he seemed to grow when he's not only doing it for himself. He really, really seems to love being around people and he knows that if I win, I win for 11 more people, not only for myself. It seems to help him a bit. That's probably the best answer I can give.
Q. After a year where you've been hardly off a leaderboard, was it important for you mentally to finally get your hands on a trophy going into this week, a final piece of the jigsaw?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Yes and no. If I look on these weeks, there's been lots of weeks obviously where I've been up on the top of the leaderboard, and if you look at the end of the day, there's been a couple of times where I've had good chances to win, obviously the BMW PGA and Hong Kong the year before, which was also on this year's Order of Merit. Those have been good chances that I've missed; I was six shots behind Scott Strange and I shot 66 or 65 or whatever I did on Sunday, I don't really blame myself for losing that one.
I take all of the positives about being up on the leaderboard and being so close, and I also see what I can learn from the other ones when I have gone wrong and not won and try to learn from those, and it seems I've learned something, anyway, so it's great. Obviously it shows myself that I've took another step, and I made mistakes earlier on in the season; so for that reason, it was very important.
Q. I'm guessing this is the only tournament y'all play in that there's no appearance money or no opportunity to play for money. Can you just talk about the component that you are playing for charities you select and how that makes it different, and does it make it good, bad, indifferent?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Yeah, this is a tournament in which you cannot compare to anything else in any way. This one isn't important financially, but if you look at most of the guys here on any of the teams, financially, I don't think it's important, prize money. It's good to get it but it's not like we live and die by it.
This is something that it's a totally different component in this, and the history, I think many of us have grown up, definitely I have, watching, and you remember sort of certain moments from The Ryder Cup. You just want to be a part of it.
I said after last time, if you've been in one Ryder Cup, you want to do it again, because it's such an intense and such a different spirit and such a different experience on the golf course. So that's why it is different.
Q. Would it change the feeling for it if you all were playing for and if different people on the team maybe had chances to, according to how many points they make, earn more money than your teammates?
ROBERT KARLSSON: No, it wouldn't make any difference whatsoever in this tournament. I don't see how it would have any effect. It would make it probably a little bit less interesting anyway because it shows more of the personality of the players, more of the true personalities that come through maybe.
Q. The Ryder Cup has a way of taking a relative unknown, especially on the European side, and elevating him to international status immediately. Some guys are ready for it and some guys aren't. You may see names like Gilford, Baker, Fasth, and now Oliver Wilson may have that opportunity. Can you put into perspective what it might be to go through an experience like that?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Yeah, for us Europeans, this is one of the windows of getting really, really big attention outside of Europe. It's an extraordinary opportunity because this event is broadcast so much bigger, and the good thing with this event, if you compare it to a major, you have 11 guys behind you, as well, and all of those 11 guys want you to do as well as possible and they are giving you everything they have for you to do your best on the golf course.
You have a lot of support to go out there and do your best. That's probably the
Q. We know what happened in 1999 when three guys sat until the last day. Do you anticipate that based on what you've talked about on your team so far that all four guys will get a shot before Sunday?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Definitely.
Q. Do you think they will play each and every day?
ROBERT KARLSSON: That will be up to Nick, depending on how they play. I talked to Nick and Nick said very early that it's important that everybody play. If that means one or two matches before Sunday or three, I don't know, but definitely playing.
Q. You mentioned briefly how the wives are involved in the activities. Can you just expand on how the wives and girlfriends play a role in bonding the team together?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Very often it's different in different families how it works. My own situation, we've got two kids who are in school, so they are not out as much on the tournaments usually.
So this is a great opportunity, first of all, for us to have a couple of days on our own without the kids, which is good. And then it's definitely I mean, they can definitely support. Their part of the team is very, very important and it's very, very important for them to be part of the team. That's probably the team spirit grows and the team atmosphere in the evenings and stuff gets better if they are a part of it and they feel a part of it. It's more people caring and it's more people feeling a part of it and it gets easy for everyone.
KELLY ELBIN: With three Top 10 finishes in major championship this is year, Robert Karlsson, thank you.
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