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An Interview with: OLIVER WILSON
Oliver, welcome to The Ryder Cup. Comments if you would, please, on the first couple of days, both on course and off, and the experience of being in a Ryder Cup.
OLIVER WILSON: Well, obviously it's all a little bit new. It's been a good experience so far. It was nice to get last week over with, the preparation and practice, it just dragged on a little bit. So it was nice to get on the plane and meet up with the guys and sort of have a bit of banter and a bit of fun traveling, and that was good. And each day, it keeps getting a little bit closer. It gets a little bit more exciting each day as we get closer, and obviously the course has been good fun.
I've never seen it before, so I didn't really know what to expect, but I really like it, so just looking forward to getting to the weekend really.
KELLY ELBIN: Can you talk about the players who you've played with over the last couple of days in preparation?
OLIVER WILSON: Yeah, yesterday I played with Justin and Miguel, which was good. Played with Lee -- well, me and Paul took on Lee and Søren today, managed to take a little bit of money off them, which is nice.
It's been good. I've played with different people every day, some of the older guys, a bit more experienced guys, learned a little bit from them, so just picking up little bits as the week goes on.
Q. Is it living up to your expectation?
OLIVER WILSON: It's getting there. The first few days are really nothing that new. It's just kind of like other tournaments really, maybe a little bit different at night. You're not quite on your own schedule. You're doing a little bit of different things.
Like I said, each day it gets a little bit closer. Yesterday the crowds were not that big. Obviously a lot of people out, but what you expect, kind of expecting tournament-day atmosphere on Tuesday, so I tried to build it up as much as I could in my head so that I wasn't going to be too over-awed by anything.
Today was nice with the crowds, a lot of atmosphere. Yes, it's getting there.
Q. Paul Azinger said today that he didn't want four-and-a-half-inch rough because he didn't want people breaking their wrists and he wants people to have their short game. How do you feel your game fits into a bomber's pattern, which is what they are suggesting?
OLIVER WILSON: Obviously I'm not the longest. I played with obviously Lee and Søren and Paul today, who were bombing it past me on a few holes. But that's not my strength. My strength is on the greens and around the greens, and so I've just got to deal with that.
I played with three of the longest guys who are here this week today, so there's only going to be one guy who is hitting it past them that I'm maybe going to be playing with is J.B. Holmes. If I can handle that, I managed to take the money today with Paul, so it's not all bad.
I just have to hole a few putts and just concentrate on that deal with the fact that a lot of guys are going to be hitting after me. In match play it's not always a bad thing if I can put the pressure on to start with and then they are under pressure going in with the shorter irons. It is going to be a lot of birdies out there, but at the same time, I can make them from hitting longer irons in just as much as they can hit with the shorter irons.
Although the rough's cut down, depending on what they do with the pins, if the pins are really tight, then it doesn't matter really. They are not going to get close to them missing the fairways. It depends a little bit on the setup of the course. I think they might go reasonably generous. I think they want to see birdies, entertainment, so it'll be good if it's like that.
Q. Can you give us a bit more details on how you took the money, and even how much, and also, what, if anything, should we read into the people you have played with over the first two days?
OLIVER WILSON: Well, we played fourball today, obviously, me and Paul, and we won 2-1. Nothing sparkling, just nice and solid and we gelled well on the course today.
As far as reading anything into it, you guys know as much as we do. We all have our ideas. We've all spoke to Nick and suggested who we are comfortable playing with. But as far as what the final decisions are, we'll find out probably tomorrow, maybe tonight. I don't think we're going to let on to you guys. We'll keep it within ourselves.
I think the good thing about our team is we are all pretty comfortable playing with most of them. It's just picking the people who are actually going to gel well together. I don't think there's anyone on the team that's not comfortable playing with anyone. Yeah, I'm certainly pretty happy playing with anyone. Obviously there's a few guys on the team that will be great to play with. Obviously you have Harrington, who is obviously having a great year, a good few years, got a few majors and everything, so he would be a great partner for anyone.
Obviously some of the more older, experienced guys would be great for me to play with, but I'll take anyone. Just want to play.
Q. Following on your comments about the course, what aspects of it do you particularly like, and then the flipside of that, what aspects, if you were designing it or the superintendent, would you change?
OLIVER WILSON: I think it's a beautiful course. It winds its way. There's a lot of water. It winds its way nicely through the land that they have. Every hole is a little bit different. Although it's a pretty long course, there's a few short holes. You've got a few short shots into the greens. You've got a few long shots. You've got a couple of reachable par 5s. They are all reasonably reachable.
So it's got a bit of everything, which is good. You've got to hit it both ways, which you don't tend to get too often anymore. It always seems to be just long slogs where you have to hit it right-to-left all the time, which I don't really like. So it's nice to have to work the ball a little bit more. You certainly have to think your way around the greens. You can short-side yourself a lot and you can be not far away from the flag and have nothing.
Q. Does it remind you of any other course you've played?
OLIVER WILSON: Not really, no. To be honest it's pretty unique for me. Like I said, I didn't know what to expect. There's a few holes I've seen before obviously in the PGA and then a little bit in the media and magazines coming up to this week. But nothing really that stands out other than that.
The 18th is obviously the hole I remember the most, which is a cracking finishing hole, but again, it's one of those that is reachable with two good shots for me. But you've got to leave it in the right position or else it's a really tough up-and-down.
I think the bunkers are pretty tough around the greens. It often looks like some of the bunkers will be a good place to miss, but they are that deep that it's actually quite tricky to get close to some of the flags.
There's going to be a lot of course management involved. Even though there's a lot of long guys and they have cut the rough down, it doesn't matter how far you're hitting it; you've still got to leave it in the right positions. They have got to do that, so hopefully I can do that a little bit better than anyone else.
Q. Growing up in England, during a time when Europe started to get some traction in The Ryder Cup, and also when Nick Faldo was the dominant player in your country, what did you think about The Ryder Cup, how much did you dream about playing in this event, and could you have ever imagined being on Nick's team when you got there?
OLIVER WILSON: Going back to early memories, I remember watching at The Belfry in '93, I think it was, and that was sort of -- I had only just started playing a couple of years before that. It was just starting to get a little bit more serious, playing a few more competitions and that, and going to The Ryder Cup was definitely probably where it started to really mean something and see what you can do in the game. Nick was obviously a hero growing up back then; he was winning stuff at the time. I remember watching him win the Masters.
So, you know, I never really dreamed of playing on his team. I never really thought about it. I never got that far ahead of myself. I always wanted to play on The Ryder Cup and always knew I would achieve it; I didn't think I would achieve it quite this quick. I was kind of planning on the next one, but I'm quite happy to be here, so I'm a little ahead of schedule.
To have Nick as my captain is fantastic. It's something that I've never even thought of, but even only been here a few days and already learned quite a lot. Going down to the first tee the other day was a great idea. We had a little chat about things and match-play scenarios and that kind of thing, and just listening to him talk and giving you some ideas what he thinks. I've played quite a lot of match play before, and I feel like I'm reasonably good at it. There's a few things that he added that I had not thought about before, and so, you know, you are getting it from the best, so it's good advice to take on.
Q. You had to grind really over the last couple of months to hang onto that spot on the team; how satisfying was it when you were able to get in the weekend at Gleneagles and solidify that place? Did that sort of send you in here on a more positive?
OLIVER WILSON: Yeah, definitely. Before that, I was hoping that I could take Gleneagles off and have a couple of weeks off and play last week, and that's how I ideally wanted to prepare. Obviously I wasn't in the best of form in the middle of the season where I could have sewn it up, so I ended up playing KLM and Gleneagles.
Looking back, I'm really pleased how that turned out, because that week at Gleneagles was another building block. It gave me another experience, another opportunity for me to really dig deep and prove to myself and other guys that I can actually do it.
To me, coming to The Ryder Cup the last month or so, that's been the only goal. Before, earlier in the year, there's other goals, Order of Merit, World Rankings, but this last month, I was trying to think about that, but in all honesty, it was all Ryder Cup. That was all that mattered. For me to do it the way I did it -- it would have been nice to maybe done it a little bit more easy or a little bit less stressful, got off to a better start and finished off there, just a nice, solid week. But I never like to do stuff that easy so made it a bit tricky on myself.
To come through, I was pleased and obviously had a nice weekend and was able to scrape the Top-10, which was very satisfying.
Q. Your name probably isn't as well known in America, and you're going to be seen in, what is it, 198 countries, something just incredible. Does that take away pressure for you? Do you feel that you can slide in there and just do the job and that you are not as much of a focus as some of the other players?
OLIVER WILSON: Not really. I'd like to think so, but there's only pressure coming from myself this week. You've got the pressure from me trying to perform, and I've got a team that I want to contribute to. I want to contribute lots of points and be one of the dominant members of the team this week. So that's my goal. The only pressure really is coming from me.
I'm well aware that not a lot of guys know my name, but I'm comfortable enough and I think I've been around for myself long enough to feel -- I know what I need to do. I'm not getting any pressure from the whole situation; it's just I want to perform. I've seen guys hole the winning putts. I've seen the celebrations. I want to be there Sunday night, and I think that would be the most incredible feeling to go through that, even just thinking about it, just gets you excited really about it. That's the holy grail, you know. To have something like that in your career to look back on would be amazing.
So I plan on playing lots of Ryder Cups, but to have it this soon, I've got an opportunity and I want to try and take that and just to get into that situation over the weekend would be fantastic.
Q. How would you feel about an East Midlands pairing taking on the might of America?
OLIVER WILSON: I would be very happy with that. Lee's been around a lot and we get on quite well. He gave me some advice last week and we played together today. I think we would make a good pairing to be honest, a couple of Notts against the U.S., that would be good.
Q. Following up on that, how close has your career been to Lee? When did he first become aware of you?
OLIVER WILSON: I don't think it's been that similar to be honest. I think he's got a ridiculous amount of wins. I've got none.
Q. What is your relationship with Lee?
OLIVER WILSON: I've never really known Lee that well to be honest. I grew up 20 minutes away from him. He was a little bit older -- my first memories of Lee was I caddied for him at a junior competition. I was ten at the time, I think, and he was County Captain and I remember him knocking it 30 yards over a par 4 off the tee. I always remember that shot. So that was when I first met Lee.
Then sort of both moved on. I went to the States later on. So when I was getting going, he was back on Tour winning and I was in the States. The first time we really came back to sort of meet each other I guess would be on Tour. I think the first time I played with him was in Ireland last year maybe. So we've not really kept in touch or anything like that, but I've obviously fed off that a little bit, having somebody who's such a great winner as Lee from my home county, you're always good to try to set your sights on him and try to live up to what they've done, so I've got a long way to go, but I'll keep trying.
Q. Given the year that Harrington has had, how important is he to this team, and has he given you any advice; if so, what has it been?
OLIVER WILSON: Well, he's obviously, you know, he's a fantastic person to have on the team. His two majors, and probably the man in the best form in the world at the moment. It's fantastic to have him on the team. We are going to be looking for a big role from him. I would love to have him as my partner. I would feel pretty comfortable with that.
I have not spoken to him about any specific advice about The Ryder Cup. I had a chat with him this week but nothing specific.
Q. Sam Torrance said a few years ago that this was an event where out of the shadows came heroes. Come the Sunday, there have been down the years, the Gilfords and the Waltons, do you fit the bill to perhaps be a hero on Sunday?
OLIVER WILSON: Yeah, I think so. As you say, not a lot of people know my name around the world, so it's a good stage to show them what I can do.
As I said before, I would love to be in that situation where I could be really, really involved on the last few holes, would be amazing, so hopefully it will all work out.
Q. Your college coach from Augusta State told me in college you were known for kind of being money on the 18th green, you chipped in to win a couple of tournaments and you made big putts. Is that true, and is there one particular highlight that you recall, a final hole highlight from college?
OLIVER WILSON: Yeah, I did that a lot in college actually. That was sort of where I learned to play more than anything, you know, forget about technique and forget about everything else. Score and play, and I won a tournament by chipping in for an eagle on the last and getting myself and the team into an individual playoff and we won both. Chipped in a couple other times to win at the Hooters match Play and a few flop shots to stone dead and stuff like that.
That's been a bit frustrating for me since I turned pro, because nothing like that has happened. I feel like that's the kind of player that I am and can do so maybe I just have to get out of my way and let it happen, and there's not a better stage to let it happen than this week.
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