At the end of last week, you were still in the field of the Joburg Open, the first tournament of the 2021-22 season of the DP World Tour. You are no longer. Why ?
I have osteoarthritis in my right foot and cannot walk. It is a real concern. I just turned 39 (September 28). As you get older, you have ailments that you didn’t have before. This injury is frankly annoying because it does not handicap me to play. On the other hand, it hurts like hell when you walk. There, I train and I play in a cart. Today, walking for four or five days in a row is painful. In the evening, I must put ice on the foot, I do massages… It’s complicated!
Is your orthopedic insole no longer enough for you?
I saw my osteo last Thursday (November 18). There is no improvement. I will have to treat and redo the soles with more correction, probably accompanied by a 4th infiltration… I retired from the Joburg Open but I absolutely have to get back on my feet for the start of the season, which will be very important for me. presumably in Qatar (Editor’s note, week of February 10, 2022). It must be bearable by then. Two years ago, on the Alps Tour, I had to finish in basketball because I was in pain… But hey, that’s how it is. A week in South Africa with 15 hours of flight on the way there and as much on the return at 50% physically, it’s dangerous.
With the arrival of the DP World Tour, all tournaments will be at a minimum of two million dollars. But it’s clear that the $ 4 million or $ 5 million tournaments are not going to be for us.
In 2021, you played fifteen tournaments, made nine cuts before finishing 165th in the Race. Do you know how many tournaments you will be able to play in 2022?
I would say between ten and fifteen. We got a little smoked out by the European Tour because we were the only category, the one coming from the European Cards, not to have been protected. Unlike the categories just above ours, that is to say up to category 16. But hey, that’s how it is. We just need to play better. That’s all. The problem with a category 17 is that we are not going to play any big tournaments. In 2021, I only played one, namely Italy, because I had been well re-ranked. Objectively, I had a fairly good season compared to my category, but I only took part in tournaments with 1 million euros endowment. With the arrival of the DP World Tour, all tournaments will be at a minimum of two million dollars. But it’s clear that the $ 4 million or $ 5 million tournaments are not going to be for us. However, this will allow me to play again in 2022 because in a classic year, I would have lost my card. I will return each time at the last moment in the field of tournaments. I am aware of it!
We feel you are a little fatalistic …
When you arrived on the Tour in 2007, when you released European cards, you were guaranteed to play all tournaments. We played Abu Dhabi, Dubai… There, it is not even worth thinking about it. Abu Dhabi today, you are 90th reserve! It doesn’t even say that a boy like Victor (Dubuisson), who finished 111th in the Race, will be able to return to Abu Dhabi next January… That’s what is a bit crazy.
Not so long ago, we took fines by scratching two or three days before. Now we don’t take any more …
You could have taken the start of the AVIV Dubai Championship two weeks ago. But it did not happen. Why ?
I was called Wednesday morning asking if I wanted to start the next day. It would have been in Madrid or Italy, I would have been there. But there, for Dubai, on Wednesday morning, it was difficult. I received a text from the European Tour at the end of the tournament, that is to say a week before. I am then 26th reserve. I tell myself that I have no chance that there are 26 guys who scratch. 26 is huge. In a pinch, 10, I might have a chance. But 26, I do not plan anything. And the day before the start of the tournament in Dubai, where it still takes more than six hours of flight to get there, without having the slightest chance to make a reconnaissance of the course, you are told that you are entering the field. There, there is frankly a problem since we can now scratch at any time, without incurring the slightest fine. We remain registered for all tournaments and two days before, we finally decide to withdraw. Not so long ago, we took fines by scratching two or three days before. Now we don’t take any more …
Are you also planning to take part in the Challenge Tour in 2022?
I do not know. I have a side activity that I would also like to develop (Academy JB Gonnet in Valbonne). It’s hard to do both at the same time. If I have opportunities, because I have a category to play everything on the Challenge Tour, with endowments, it seems, a little higher, it will be necessary to think about it. And then all that will also depend on my first results on the Tour. If I have a good start to the season, let it go well… But I’m not closing the door to the Challenge Tour…
It’s more and more difficult today to perform after 40 years, except when your name is Phil Mickelson or Richard Bland.
Are you still benefiting from the help of your friend and patron, Magnus Konow?
Yes of course. Fortunately, otherwise I would not have the money and I would not play. A season is very expensive and there is not as much money to be made as before. This year, I won 100,000 euros. Before the Covid, it would have been double. Of these 100,000 euros, and after withholding taxes, 75,000 euros remain. A season costs 120,000. So that’s 50,000 out of your pocket. The endowments are no longer the same. But luckily, with the DP World Tour, that will change. It’s great all these tournaments (Editor’s note, 48 on the calendar for November 24, 2021). That there is enthusiasm around the Tour is fantastic. But there won’t be room for everyone, which is also normal.
Until when do you see yourself playing at the highest level?
As long as I keep the card, I continue … As long as I have a category, I go. After that, golf is such a special sport. Look at Richard Bland. I saw him in Austria at the start of the year, he hadn’t passed the cut, he was fighting in the cold at the practice… And all of a sudden, he started playing well. He won the British Masters, he found himself at the head of the US Open and contested the final of the Race in stride. It’s going super fast. We all know how to play golf properly, you just need to build confidence around and on the greens. We can very well have a great season.
But we must not delude ourselves. It’s more and more difficult today to perform after 40 years, except when your name is Phil Mickelson or Richard Bland, precisely… We can say what we want, high level golf at 43- 44 years old, today we’re screwed… When I arrived on the Tour, they said that golfing maturity was at 35 years old. Today, she is 25 years old. It’s not easy to compete with these guys, those who win at 20 like the Hojgaard twins for example. When you are at the start of the 4th round, you are not as fresh as a guy who is 25 years old. There is no debate. For me, the mental aspect played a lot. Mental stress tires me physically. I often played badly on weekends (Editor’s note, except in Kenya where he finished 5th) because I was exhausted nervously, therefore physically. It’s very difficult to do five or six tournaments over four days when you’re 40 years old.