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LIVING GOLF

Preview of the British Open Championship; Preview of the Ryder Cup

Aired July 5, 2012 - 05:30:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SHANE O'DONOGHUE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here at the home club of the reigning Open champion, the season is building to a climax. From these northern Irish links throughout the Scottish Open and then on to Darren Clarke's defense of the open title itself later this month.

And alongside every player's dream of winning a major, they're fighting for one more prize: a place at the greatest show in golf, the Ryder Cup. And Europe's captain is watching their every step. Welcome to Portrush. Welcome to "Living Golf."

On this morning's program, Europe's Ryder Cup Captain Jose Maria Olazabal on his team, his tactics and taking on Davis Love.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL, EUROPEAN RYDER CUP CAPTAIN: Obviously, the closer we get to the Ryder cup, the more pressure it is.

O'DONOGHUE (voice over): Plus 60 years on, will the Open ever return to Royal Portrush? Looking for a way back with the story of David Duval, the last man to win the Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's.

DAVID DUVAL, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: The best way to put it is they can't take your name off the trophy. It's hard to get it on there, but they can't take it off.

O'DONOGHUE (voice over): With Royal Lytham's 206 bunkers lying in wait, a master class in escaping them from the world No. 1, Luke Donald.

O'DONOGHUE: Now every player heading to the Open at Lytham this month dreams of holding that claret jug aloft come this Sunday evening. But beyond the major title, the open also offers the opportunity for those on the fringes of the European and America Ryder Cup teams to secure their place at Medinah in late September.

O'DONOGHUE (voice over): Here are the current American standings. The top eight on the list on August 12th qualify automatically. The America captain, Davis Love then has four picks to make up the team. As things stand, it's an interesting mix of the very experienced, such as Tiger and Mickelson, and recent young major winners, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson and probably Keegan Bradley.

The European team takes the top five on the European tour list. On August 26th, Paul Lawrie well on track there. Then at the top five, not already qualified from the world list. That's how it looks now, but a lot can happen in the next two months. Two captains' picks then make up the team.

GRAEME MCDOWELL, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I desperately want to be part of the Ryder Cup team this year, you know, for a number of reasons. The Ryder Cup is a very special event to me. Jose is going to be a phenomenal captain, and he's been part of the two Ryder Cups I've been involved in '08 and 2010, and he's just such a great inspiration.

RORY MCILROY: It's nice. You know, it's great to know that I'm on the plane to Chicago and I hope they go there and retain the Ryder Cup.

KEEGAN BRADLEY, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I think the American team's going to be as strong as it's been in a long time. And we've got a lot of guys winning majors, and it's going to be a good team and obviously Europe's got an amazing team. And they're really tough to beat, so it'll be fun to be a part of it.

O'DONOGHUE: This year's European captain is Jose Maria Olazabal, who of course, with Seve Ballesteros, form the most successful partnership in the history of the Ryder Cup. As the buildup to Europe's defense of the trophy in Chicago intensifies, we sat down for an exclusive interview with Jose Maria to get his thoughts on the team.

OLAZABAL: Obviously, the closer we get to the Ryder Cup the more pressure it is. But on the other hand, I think of -- I've left the part of the job that I like the least, meaning you know, meetings and picking materials (inaudible), and now I can concentrate more on the players themselves. I think this is the stretch of the year where things are going to be determined.

LEE WESTWOOD, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I think he's a very emotional and passionate man. He's obviously played a lot of Ryder Cups, and these first few were, you know, side-by-side with Seve Ballesteros. He was, you know, the most passionate golfer I've ever seen on a golf course. And he's been invited to Ryder Cup a couple of times as well when I've been sat in the team room just recently, and he stood up and said a few words, and you know, he almost brings the room, you know, to tears he's so into it and emotional.

O'DONOGHUE: There are players, obviously, like Darren Clarke, who won an Open championship last year. He's struggling with his game. He'd dearly love to be back in the Ryder Cup team. How do you talk to players like that who you know desperately want to be part of the 12?

OLAZABAL: I think that, I mean, it's a special character, we all know that. But I know that he will love to be on that team and we both agree that he's just struggling with his game at the moment. I think he needs to clear his mind a little bit. I would love to have characters like him that, you know, they love that kind of competition. But as I said, he needs to clear his mind a little bit.

I don't talk to them to let them know where they're at. But I talk to them, trying to encourage them. I mean, players like Paulter, Casey Hovington (ph), there's a bunch of them. Sergio --

O'DONOGHUE: What do you make of the way Sergio's playing at the moment?

OLAZABAL: I think, you know, he had a good stretch of tournaments. From tee to green, we know how good he is. He would love to be in the team again as a player, and I'm pretty sure that he will regain his confidence and play good enough to be on that team.

O'DONOGHUE: Were you surprised to hear his comments at the masters where he talked about his inability to win a major?

OLAZABAL: No, not in a way because that came out of a bad round on Saturday. He shot four over par. He's an emotional guy, and he, you know, he speaks you know, what he feels, and sometimes, you know, that might not sound all that right, but I know that he's not all that bad.

O'DONOGHUE: You go back a long way with your counterpart Davis Love, both of you the top amateurs on either side of the Atlantic back in 1985, and he played his first three Ryder Cup matches against you and Seve Ballesteros.

OLAZABAL: Well, the matches were always close. They were very competitive. As years go by, you get to know the map better, obviously. We've competed against each other a lot of times. I do have a lot of respect for Davis, especially the way he behaves on the golf course and how much respect he has for the game.

I think the best example I can give you, he was playing against Darren, it was the (inaudible). He had the stance, and there was a sprinkler head right in his stance, so he could get relief. And actually, by getting relief, he could have dropped the ball on the (inaudible), which obviously would have improved his position in a big way, and he declined that. That says a lot about the man.

O'DONOGHUE: And the captain's picks. That's got to be a tense time for you, I presume?

OLAZABAL: I think it's going to be one of the toughest moments. I know that. I know at the end of the day, there will be maybe four or five players in the mix, and I will have to either make a phone call or talk to those players, and you know, some of them will make the team, some others won't. They won't be happy.

MARTIN KAYMER: You could see how much passion he puts into that event, and it's very special and very rare that someone cares so much about golf, about European golf, about those 12 players. So it will be amazing to be part of the team this year.

O'DONOGHUE: What does it mean to you to be Ryder Cup captain?

OLAZABAL: Oh, it's a great honor without a doubt, huge responsibility. When you look at the past captains, you know, starting while I had Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, and you know, when you look at Seve and (inaudible) and Monty and Bernard, I think it's more gratifying in the sense that you have been chosen by your peers. And that makes it more special.

O'DONOGHUE: Still to come on "Living Golf," from Lytham and St. Anne's to Royal Portrush, how far away is the Open Championship from returning to Northern Ireland?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to "Living Golf." Now in 1951, something unique happened in the Open Championship. It left mainland Britain. Royal Portrush was the venue, and over the past few years, a campaign to bring it back here has been given new impetus by the remarkable success of Northern Ireland's McDowell, McIlroy and Clarke, who followed swiftly on from Padraig Harrington's Irish triple major haul. So what are the chances?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This golf course is way beyond good enough to host an Open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the roads here are as good as the roads in (inaudible), so I don't see why not, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be as tough as (inaudible), probably tougher.

O'DONOGHUE: This year's Irish Open drew 100,000 fans to Portrush, but a century ago, this small fishing town on the top of Northern Ireland was more renowned for its giant (inaudible) than its golf. Then, in 1951, not unlike today, the successful staging of the Irish Open in the '30s and '40s coupled with some homegrown talent persuaded the R&A to bring the Open to this patch of stunning June land.

IAN BAMFORD, PORTRUSH GOLF HISTORIAN: There was huge buzz in the town, 8,000 to 9,000 spectators walking the fairways in most cases. Robin (inaudible) past captain, I can remember distinctly, he was the chief marshall. And he used a megaphone to keep the crowds in check and to admonish the (inaudible) for not keeping the crowds in check.

I saw the last round that was on the first tee and Max Faulkner had shot 71, 70, 70, and it was a very wet day. Rumor has it, and I think it's actually true, that when he was signing autographs, he had the audacity to put "Open champion."

O'DONOGHUE: But the Open Championship never returned. From the late 60's, Northern Ireland became drawn into decades of sectarian violence. Reminders of those dark days remain, but in the week of the Irish Open, the Northern Irish Peace Process delivered a scene unthinkable just a few years ago.

On the very next day, guess who came to Royal Portrush?

PETER ROBINSON, FIRST MINISTER OF NORTHERN IRELAND: We've got political stability, and we've got peace like we've never had before, and these are the benefits of peace, being able to bring international tournaments into Northern Ireland, being able to showcase Northern Ireland to the world. This is what normality means.

O'DONOGHUE: The phenomenal interest from these Northern Irish golf fans has made this Irish Open the first ever sell-out event on the European tour. But despite the obvious passion for golf here, would this course, and indeed this area, really be able to host a modern-day Open Championship with 160-odd thousand spectators during the week, sponsors, merchandise, and absolutely everything else?

ALAN CLARKE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NORTHERN IRELAND TOURIST BOARD: We know there will be infrastructure requirements, we know there'll be transport requirements, we know there'll be accommodation requirements. All those things can be done if you have five years to plan for it, you know, a different scenario. And I'm confident that given the success of this event, if we know what's required, we'll deliver on it.

O'DONOGHUE: So logistics play their part, because the three musketeers of Portrush and Ireland's most successful golfer who are paving the way for an Open return.

GRAEME MCDOWELL, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It'll be something pretty special, but we'll soon learn quickly if the golf course can handle it, if the logistics can handle it. And, like I say, hopefully we can showcase it well to the R&A, and who knows.

RORY MCILROY, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: You know, the golf course is certainly to hold the Open Championship. You know, it's just everything else that goes into making an Open -- you know, a major tournament. But, you know, the Open's still played at (inaudible), and you know, that's a very small place with not a great infrastructure around it, and they manage to do it well there, so I don't see why there's be no reason to not play it here.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: As far as I'm concerned, we've already had a winner here. They've exceeded all expectations, they've done everything they should have done at this stage, and you know, I wouldn't judge them past that.

PETER SINCLAIR, CHAIRMAN, GOLFING UNION OF IRELAND: We want to prove that we can run a tournament that's second to none around this course, and hopefully be able to attract other people to come here and hopefully down the line bring the British Open, which is our (inaudible).

O'DONOGHUE: And away from stars and the cameras, the Northern Ireland authorities are working to develop the area as one of the leading golf destinations in the world. A fact that was suddenly thrown into the spotlight when Portrush's defending Open champion chose his press conference to lambast those blocking a proposed new golf development near the giant's (inaudible).

DARREN CLARKE, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It's been in planning for 12 years, and it's a 100-million-quid project, and you know, hopefully at some stage, they'll come to their senses and let the course be built.

O'DONOGHUE: But one thing's for sure: throughout the week, key figures from the R&A were mingling with the players, crowds and organizers at Portrush, assessing how the course and infrastructure coped with the huge numbers. And if there ever was a signal that something really has now changed, surely this is it.

MARTIN MCGUINNESS, DEPPUTY FIRST MINISTER OF NORTHERN IRELAND: Those people who are the decision makers in terms of the Open are now very, very serious. They're looking at the prospect of the Open that will come here. In fact, I think we can protect with a fair degree of certainty that it's not too far away.

O'DONOGHUE: Still to come on "Living Golf," the best bunker player in the business, Luke Donald. And we talk Royal Lytham and St. Anne's with a man who's been there, seen it and done it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONOGHUE: Now, this year's Open Championship venue Royal Lytham and St. Anne's both are threatened 206 bunkers. So anyone who wants to win there this month really has to avoid as many as possible and then play the rest brilliantly. So who best to show us how it's done? Come on down, the world No. 1, Luke Donald.

Welcome to 'Hot Shots' on "Living Golf." We're here in the Bear's Club just outside Jupiter in Florida alongside one of the world's best and one of the great sand players, Luke Donald.

LUKE DONALD, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It all comes down to good fundamentals. You know, even though it's a short shot, you'd be amazed when you see me hit one how hard I'm hitting it. In bunker play, you really want to use this back edge for the bounce. Nice shallow divots without this front edge getting stuck in the ground too much.

And the way you do that, again, is set up. You really want to get the ball really far forward, almost onto the left toe, OK? When you set up, this club is obviously -- the shaft is leaning backwards. You want to have the face and your body just a little open, and then when you take your swing, again, the club opens even more.

You want to create spin in a bunker, you've got to hit it hard. And the only way to hit it hard its to glance it and open the blade.

O'DONOGHUE: Cool. Well, let's see you play a couple of these shots and tell us how you do it and what goes through your mind as you set up.

DONALD: Right. Nice and forward, sharp lean back. You're opening up that blade and exposing that back edge. And then get it nice and wide open, nice wide swing, creating a shallow divot. It comes out pretty soft and it's not going to get too far away from you.

O'DONOGHUE: Cool. All right. I'm going to try this.

DONALD: Expose that back edge... Almost. Just bounced in a little bit too far. I mean, your ball position was here that you hit in the sand here.

O'DONOGHUE: So did I take -- I went in to early on the bend.

DONALD: Too early, yeah. Sometimes a little good drill that I use is I'll just draw a little line behind it maybe two inches, and you want to get the back of the divot hitting the back of that line. You cut the camera man pretty good, but.

O'DONOGHUE: It's all about practice, though. However, I think we should have our traditional challenge.

DONALD: Sure.

O'DONOGHUE: One shot apiece. Amateur goes first, and then pro shows us all how it's done.

DONALD: OK. All right, let's see it. Delicate shot. Pretty good. It flew a little bit too far.

O'DONOGHUE: I'm trying to represent my amateur colleagues. That's a different class, you see. But that's what we expect, and that's what we pay for on a weekly basis on the tour.

DONALD: It pays the checks. Pays the bills now and again.

O'DONOGHUE: Always a pleasure, and thanks ever so much. I think we've all learned something here on this edition of 'Hot Shots' on "Living Golf."

World No. 1 Luke Donald showing the amazing touch they'll all needing at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's this month. Now if I were to ask you who is currently ranked 736th in the world, only a golf stats obsessive would know the answer. However, if I were to add that he is the defending champion at Lytham, then the answer would probably click.

Eleven years ago this July, David Duval destroyed the Lancashire Links, wining many admirers both for the manner of his victory and the graciousness of his speech, and has since won many more for his heroic struggles against injury and loss of form.

At the U.S. Open, we met him as he worked as a TV commentator, but found he's still very focused on a return to the scene of his greatest triumph.

DAVID DUVAL, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: There is pride involved. To have your name on the most important trophy in golf, I think, is an amazing accomplishment.

You really do have to kind of place your golf ball around. I made kind of a promise to myself during the week that if I hit it in a fairway bunker, I would not try to hit it out and advance it to the green. Chip out sideways, period. Take my medicine, and go from there. And I hit one in on 10. I think it was in the second round. I looked out and like, I -- it's just a wedge, I can -- that's no problem. I hit it half way up the face of that bunker. I was like, well, you didn't do what you said you'd do, so do it now. And so I chipped it out then and moved on.

O'DONOGHUE: You've had this trademark look with the glasses.

DUVAL: That was more of a utilitarian type decision I made years and years ago. I mean, as we talk here now, it's an overcast, cloudy day, and I'm squinting pretty heavily. You know, for some reason, my eyes seem to be that much more sensitive to the light, and I kind of always felt that it's easier to play golf like this, than like this, you know, with your eyes squinting -- you know, when your eyes are actually open all the way.

I wear contacts when I play, and in college, I kept getting, you know, a lot of dust, pollen, things like that in my eyes, and that's kind of what was the impetus to get me to put on a pair of sunglasses and try it out.

O'DONOGHUE: So many people talk about your incredible speech, that it was such a genuine, heartfelt speech, and I suppose people were so familiar with your look, which is this you know, cold killer on the course.

DUVAL: It just came to me as I was -- I had been playing there since '95, and my first experience over there at the Scottish Open at (inaudible), the year before the '95 Open Championship at St. Andrews, was a real eye opener for me. The gallery seemed to be that much more knowledgeable about the game and that much more knowledgeable about the difficulty of some of the shots you're facing.

I just kind of took it all in, and you know, they say you can't judge a book by it's cover, you know, and just because I wear a hat down low and sunglasses, that doesn't mean I can't be a nice person.

O'DONOGHUE: And given the great players who've won the open at Lytham, you know, what's it like to be numbered amongst them?

DUVAL: Well, it's you know, I guess the best way to put it is they can't take your name off the trophy. It's hard to get it on there, but they can't take it off.

O'DONOGHUE: What's it been like since then, after scaling such heights, can you assess what happened to your golf game and the struggles that you've had?

DUVAL: Well, a lot of it really comes from injury. When you're fighting a nagging back injury -- it's still a problem. It started in 2000. I've had tendonitis in both of my shoulders, my wrist, I've had some knee problems, and it can wreck form. And when your form gets wrecked, then you start hitting the ball a little crooked. Your confidence gets wrecked, and you know, I've been working very hard.

I feel good about what I'm doing. I feel good about my chances at Lytham this year. I'm really looking forward to getting there and playing, and there's no reason I can't kind of start over where I got started. I still have it in me, and I've put in the time, I've put in the effort and certainly have the desire, so I think it could be another great week for me.

O'DONOGHUE: The 2001 Open champion at Lytham, David Duval. Well, that's all from here in Portrush. Next month, we'll be with the American Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love, and in Nigeria as golf development there reaches a new level.

Don't forget, all our reports are online, and you can keep across what we're up to on Twitter. But for now, from the home club of the Open Champion, Darren Clarke, it's goodbye.

END