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Interview with Thorbjorn Olesen; Should Anchored Putters Be Allowed?; Martin Kaymer's Tips on Putting

Aired March 7, 2013 - 05:30:00   ET


SHANE O'DONOGHUE, HOST: Everglades, gators and golf. It can only be springtime on the Florida swing. When a young man's thoughts turn to Augusta. Welcome to LIVING GOLF.

On this month's program, Iceman on fire. Thorbjorn Olesen takes on the world.


THORBJORN OLESEN, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: My biggest goal in my golf career is to win a major.


O'DONOGHUE: Double breaker, as now the tours and the games split over long putters. Who wins?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got 18-year-old kids playing golf with all these (inaudible) stuck in their gut.


O'DONOGHUE: Sticking with the short stick, Martin Kaymer drills for success.

And Matteo, the old master, at 19.

Here in the humid heat of Florida, there is a young man coolly making his way to the top of the professional game. In just a few short years, he's gone from amateur to the very definition of the world's elite, the top 50. Now, Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen is about to make his debut in the Masters. We've been spending some time with the young star here and here, in the slightly cooler climate of Copenhagen. It's a harsh world for golf, but this is where a young Thorbjorn learned and honed his skills. And it's also a place where he likes to return when he gets a break from his busy tour schedule.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible). We've got four months with the snow, and we can't do anything, we can't practice. In my first day, this job (ph) here, I saw him for the first time, he was 10 years, and I was thinking, I have to watch him. What I noticed with Thorbjorn was a mental thing. When he was playing, he was not giving up after a few bad shots. He was just keeping, playing, and at the end, he ended up with a good score anyway.

O'DONOGHUE: Denmark has not produced a major champion just yet. Do you see a major winner, perhaps Thorbjorn coming in the next five years?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Thorbjorn, yes.

That was a main goal, for many years ago, we go for Ryder Cup, we go for majors.

OLESEN: When I was 12, I won the club championship here. That was maybe a small sign. Never really came to me that I was really good at it. My mom and dad was not too happy about just turning pro. They wanted me to go more in school and learn more, and so we had a few - we had a few fights in between us, but - and then they said it was all right, and they trusted I was doing the right thing.

O'DONOGHUE: Thorbjorn only turned pro in 2008. He then rose rapidly through the Nordic and Challenge tours to make it to the European tour, and had his first European win last year at the Sicilian Open.

So was there a backup plan if the professional game did not work out for you? Was there something else, a plan B?

OLESEN: Not really, no. Just jumped into it, and just did it with 100 percent thrust (ph) and tried everything we could to be the best golfer.

O'DONOGHUE: Were you taking an interest in how other Danish golfers were performing on tour then, with the likes of Thomas Bjorn or Thor Hanson (ph)?

OLESEN: They've always been very big idols for me, so I've followed them for a long time. I remember when caddying for Thomas, I think it was 13 or 14 years, and I told him today that I caddied for him, but he can't remember it. But no, it's very clear for me, that day.

O'DONOGHUE: He's come a long way from caddying for his heroes. He's now Denmark's highest ranked player.

You did so well at the open championship last year (inaudible). But on the Saturday, you played with your golfing idol. What was that like?

OLESEN: Yes, I mean, it doesn't get any bigger than the second (ph) last (ph) poll (ph) with Tiger. It's just - I don't think it gets any bigger in a major, especially British Oldmore (ph). So that's been my biggest tournament since I grew up. Actually, Thomas called me the night before after dinner, called me and we had a phone call for like 15 minutes, and talked a little bit about how it was to play with him and what I should think about and what I should not do and what I should do, and the thing that calmed me down. But when I came to the range (ph) and saw Tiger standing there and thinking about I'm actually going out to play with this guy now, I started to get really nervous.

O'DONOGHUE: Speaking with your coach, Lars, he's convinced that you're going to become the first Dane to win a major. I mean, what do you think yourself? Is that a lot of pressure?

OLESEN: That is my biggest goal in my golf career, to win a major. And that's the biggest, biggest thing you can do. I know it takes hard practice and I still need to learn a lot, but that progress I've been into (ph) has been really good the last three or four years, and if I can keep doing that, I think I will be able to win one at some point.

O'DONOGHUE: The Ryder Cup. Is that a big ambition?

OLESEN: Yes, it is, of course, especially after seeing the last Ryder Cup. That looked pretty amazing on TV, and a great win they got there, so - but still, I am concentrating about winning, winning tournaments, and if I can do that, I can get on the team as well.

O'DONOGHUE: Along with all his other achievements, Thorbjorn is also probably the best flatmate in the world. He shares a place here in central Copenhagen, but these days he sees far more of his mates on Skype than he does over a beer.

You guys have known each other since you were kids, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are (inaudible), we're probably 2 or 3 years old.



O'DONOGHUE: Nursery through kindergarten--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kindergarten, all the way back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything, yes.

O'DONOGHUE: Preview (inaudible) sharing an apartment. You're all the same age. You're the guy who's out (inaudible) the world, and you don't get a home (inaudible), do you?

OLESEN: No, I think I must be one of the best roommates. Paying the rent and never there, so.

O'DONOGHUE: How do you guys chill out? How do you relax?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First day is a bit tight, just maybe stays in bed a bit, getting served by the two waiters in the kitchen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But then he exercises a lot, so we run together, play basketball, show movies.

O'DONOGHUE: If you were to sum up Thorbjorn's character, how would you describe him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's very relaxed. He's a bit of a mess, like he doesn't really clean himself, or clean up after himself.

OLESEN: I clean myself, I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But not after himself. So -

O'DONOGHUE: So he doesn't wash the dishes or he doesn't clean his bedroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does it sometimes, and then we really had to hear for it, like I washed up yesterday, and no, that was four days ago.

O'DONOGHUE: His success, what have you made of all of that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm proud, really. He's great and he deserves it because he works really hard. There's time when we went partying and having me, he had to wake up early and go golfing. And every day before school, he was up collecting balls on the ground (inaudible). Some years (inaudible), but came back.

O'DONOGHUE: Thorbjorn, we're here in the magnificent heat of South Florida. It's a long way from the snow of Copenhagen. Are you enjoying it, being here in the United States now?

OLESEN: Yes, I've been here a few weeks now, and I do really enjoy getting away from the cold. And I really - I still love to play golf, so I mean, it's really lovely for me to be out here.

O'DONOGHUE: We've seen where you've come from. We know now where your background is, and in Copenhagen, and how far you've come. What's it like to be in the world's top 50, to be playing at these events?

OLESEN: Nice. It's special definitely for me. It's been a good process and I practiced hard for it, but all of a sudden to be in the top 50 is a big thing.

O'DONOGHUE: But you're excited about 2013?

OLESEN: I am. I had a great start, and I'm really excited to get going and to play the big events this year.

O'DONOGHUE: Well, it's been great having you on LIVING GOLF. We hope to check in with you a couple of times in the future, and the very best of luck with the coming weeks and indeed the future. Thank you.

OLESEN: Thank you very much.


O'DONOGHUE: Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen. Still to come on LIVING GOLF, the long.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little tired of it. I think everybody should make a decision and we move on.


O'DONOGHUE: New (ph) splits over putters. And the short. Martin Kaymer shows us how to nail them time after time.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF in Florida, and the story that keeps on running. Belly putters, long putters, or more precisely, anchoring them to the body. The game's governing bodies, the R&A, and the USGA, say that anchoring should be banned. The PGA of America and the PGA Tour disagree.


O'DONOGHUE: The Honda Classic at PGA National in Florida, one of the biggest tournaments on the PGA calendar. Plenty of long putters on show, but not that much support for them from the all-American crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the belly putter should be banned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kind of root for the guys that don't use it, simply because I don't use it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think putting is as hard as it gets anyway, and any kind of advantage you can get, you should use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should be banned. They should have thrown them out 20 years ago. They should have started with the big wand, and then it progressed to belly (ph), it's terrible, 20 - you got 18-year-old kids playing golf, all the do is play with this thing stuck in their gut.

O'DONOGHUE: The PGA Tour boss Tim Finchem says there's no real evidence that long putters make putting easier. Ernie Els coach Claude Harmon agrees.

CLAUDE HARMON, ERNIE ELS' COACH: I think it's going to be very hard to quantify with data, you know, an advantage that a belly putter gives players. You know, if you look at strokes gained in putting stats, there is not a lot of guys in the strokes gained putting category specifically on the U.S. tour that use it. None of the best putters in the world use a belly putter, and I know in talking to guys like Ernie and Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, you know, I think they do feel that a little bit that there is a target on their back.

O'DONOGHUE: Els' victory at last year's Open made it three wins out of the last five majors for players with long putters. More and more young players, such as China's prodigy Guan Tianglang, are using them. The governing bodies say they have to ban anchoring to preserve the spirit of the game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spirit of the game, you know, that's for other people to decide. All I know that is the PGA Tour and the European Tour and golf at a professional level is a sport, absolutely, but it's also a business. Just like the rest of you know, just like the premiership, just like a lot of sports. It's a business. And I think for me, I think what Tim Finchem is trying to do is say to the governing bodies, this is just my opinion, that if you're going to make decisions that affect the professional game, you have to involve the professional game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little tired of it. I think everybody should make a decision and we move on. All the speculations now, it's a little bit too much, you know? Just move on. The USPGA Tour, R&A, the European Tour, they should sit down on the table, make a decision all together, and then we keep playing golf.


O'DONOGHUE: The consultation period of three months is now over. All the cards are on the table. So to get a perspective from America and from Europe, I've been joined by Bob Harig of, and Kevin Garside from the London Independent.

Bob, if I can begin with you. The European Tour came out with a very strongly worded statement yesterday. What did you make of it?

BOB HARIG, ESPN: Yes, I don't think it was unexpected, though. It's clear that the issue, as they said, it's more of an American issue. It's what it comes down to, more American tour players seem to anchor. If there's amateurs who are doing it, it's more in America, and so I think that's - I think that was a good statement on their behalf, and now we wait to see if the ruling bodies stick to with what their original proposal was, or if they back down.

KEVIN GARSIDE, LONDON INDEPENDENT: I think it's clear where this is going. I mean, you can't get this far, and then say, right, OK, as we were. The putter is going to be banned. The Olympic Games are coming up. You can't have an anchored putter in Olympic Games, it's as simple as that.

O'DONOGHUE: Politically, Tim Finchem looks like he's done a job representing his players, but do you think he'll have to back down on behalf of the PGA Tour?

HARIG: We can't have different rules. I mean, when it's all said and done, they are going to have to fall in line with whatever the USGA and the R&A do. It will be chaotic if they went and wrote their own rule on this, which they've never done. The PGA Tour has always followed USGA rules. This would be a major departure from that.

GARSIDE: And there's some big, big voices out there saying this thing has to go. Woods, McIlroy, juts to name but two. Jack, Arnie. You know, if there's a more powerful lobby in golf than those four men, I don't know it.

O'DONOGHUE: Do you think there's a chance this ban may come in before 2016?

HARIG: To get past the controversy, it might just be best to implement it as soon as they can. That's going to be hard on some people, but otherwise, we're going to be talking about this for three years. You're going to be asking Keegan Bradley about it, Webb Simpson, until they make the switch. Have you been practicing? It's going to get tiresome for them.

O'DONOGHUE: A final thought from you, Kevin?

GARSIDE: It's the right way to go, you know. When we're talking about golf, you've heard talk, Tiger express it in that way, you know, it's a game that requires the club to be swung, and if you're anchored, you're not swinging it, so you're not playing golf.

O'DONOGHUE: My thanks to Kevin Garside and to Bob Harig from ESPN. We'll see how it plays out in the coming months.

Well, it does not matter what putter you use, you still have to practice, and this man beside me knows better than most what it's like to have everything staked on a seven-footer.

What was going through your head or what were you relying on?

MARTIN KAYMER, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: Belief and trust. Belief and all the practice for many, many years, and the trust that you can do it. Then that day, I didn't even really have a choice. It was either winning or losing, and it was fantastic. If you make it, you win, you're the hero. If you miss it, you're not so much the hero. So you know, you are not really thinking about technique in that moment. You are so much in that bubble, and you just focus on that little target, what you want to achieve.


KAYMER: But I think it's very important to practice those five-, six- footers on the practice green before you go out. And then this is what I usually do. When I'm in Phoenix practicing or when I'm in Germany practicing before tournaments, I make maybe like a little circle around the greens with six to eight tees, five-, six-footers, and keep practicing those, because those are important for us if we can't get a hole in two under par five (ph), but chip it close, or whether it's just, as I mentioned earlier, to save pass (ph) on the par fours (ph).

O'DONOGHUE: Let's have a little competition.

KAYMER: If I start here, you start on the other side, and if I catch you, or you catch me, you won. If you hold it, you go to the next station. If you miss it, you stay there. But if I hold out now, I move up, and if I catch you, you lose, or if you catch me, I lose.

O'DONOGHUE: OK, all right.

KAYMER: And we putt obviously at the same time.

O'DONOGHUE: That was my chance.


O'DONOGHUE: All right, well, we could obviously be here all day. This is good fun, though. Martin, just to recap on your thoughts with regards to these crucial putts of five, six and seven feet, they make such a difference in a round of golf.

KAYMER: I really focus on the small targets. I really just take a little piece in the hole, whatever it is, like a white piece of grass or something, and it's a very sharp stroke, so you can really focus on the stroke if it's straight, straight, or inside outside, you can really - you can put your mind really into it. And then that's what I like for those little ones. Because they are very important, you know. To (inaudible). When I play Pro Ams (ph), I see it a lot of times, the amateurs, you know, they miss a lot of those putts, and obviously we do as well. But if you stick to that practice and to that drill, it will save you shots, because those are as important as the long drive.

O'DONOGHUE: Another great tip here on Hot Shots on LIVING GOLF.

Next up, the remarkable Matteo Manassero. Very impressive.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF and Miami. Now, the first major of the year is only weeks away, the Masters. Three years ago, a very young man from Verona created history by becoming the youngest ever player to qualify. That 16-year-old then went on to showcase his enormous talent by making the cut. Next month, well, he's going to lose at least one of those records, but he doesn't mind, because he's been creating plenty of others since.


O'DONOGHUE: Heading out on the course, I don't know, and in a desert wind, my driving has not been too good recently, so I better pick someone that I can beat. Maybe not a three-time winner on the European Tour.

Let's see this new drive, this added length into this gale force wind.

Yeah, that's a tough breeze (ph).


O'DONOGHUE: I like the view better than I do the shot.

Center fairway, what's clear (ph) is that (inaudible) has struggled against this Italian teenager.


O'DONOGHUE: I better learn what I can before he heads back to Augusta.

MATTEO MANASSERO, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It's very difficult to qualify for the Masters. You feel like you're in dreamland. I had many experiences, from being there, walking the driving range, watching Tiger, watching all those guys practicing beside me, it was really incredible. Right now, this year will be a matter of playing well and really understand Augusta is a probably for me the most - the major that I would like to win.

O'DONOGHUE: There's a young man who will be playing this year who's only 14, so he's going to break one of your records. So what advice have you for Guan Tianglang, the young Chinese boy?

MANASSERO: I have to first of all congratulate with him, because it's such a big achievement. What I can say to him is make all the experiences that you can do that week, you will experience the Masters as fun, as entertainment, as experience, as all those things that when he will turn professional and will play again, they will go away a little bit.

O'DONOGHUE: Do you think a 14-year-old can make the cut at the Masters?

MANASSERO: It's really hard to say. Probably what he needs is an incredible short game. I guess he doesn't hit the ball very long, so Augusta does not look like it, but for people that doesn't really hit the ball long and launches the ball, it's a very, very difficult course.

O'DONOGHUE: We filmed with Matteo back home in Italy, just after his record-breaking debut at the Masters in April 2010. And just before he turned professional a few weeks later. We discovered he'd always been a precocious talent.

Your coach was telling us a very nice story about when you first met Sevie (ph). You were four years old?

MANASSERO: I was, yes.

O'DONOGHUE: Tell us what - you challenged him, didn't you?

MANASSERO: I challenged him on the putting rink (ph), my own club. He was chipping, and then they introduced me, they introduced him to me, and then we started chipping a little, and then I hold the chip, and that was a great moment.




O'DONOGHUE: Do you remember that vividly?

MANASSERO: Yes, I remember.


MANASSERO: I remember a putting rink (ph) challenge with Constantino Rocca (ph) too when I was 3.



O'DONOGHUE: Who won that one? You?

MANASSERO: I think Constantino (ph).

O'DONOGHUE: Ironically, Matteo has already achieved something that the five-time major winner Sevriano Balleceros (ph) never did - win three times on tour whilst still a teenager.

So you've justified a lot of the expectation, but there is a long road ahead. I mean, do you feel that you are still a student in many ways, you're learning all the time?

MANASSERO: Oh, yes, of course. Everything around was an experience for the last two and a half years. I think there is a lot of work to be done in the physical part. I've started this winter, this five weeks that I had off, really working quite hard on that, because you can use your body much better, to produce power and hit the ball a little further.

O'DONOGHUE: But distance does not matter if you can't hold (ph) any putts. I can't. Matteo can.

Very impressive.

MANASSERO: Thank you.

O'DONOGHUE: Great to play with you, and very best of luck in 2013.

MANASSERO: Thank you very much, thanks. Hope it would be good (ph).

O'DONOGHUE: And less windy than today.


O'DONOGHUE: The remarkable Matteo Manassero. So next up it's the Masters. We'll be spending time with the defending champion.


O'DONOGHUE: Unbelievable. How do you do it?



O'DONOGHUE: And meeting with a boy who's guaranteed to rewrite Augusta National history.

In the meantime, don't forget, all our reports are online, and you can keep (inaudible) of what we're up to on Twitter. But for now, from Florida, it's goodbye.