What does your preparation typically consist of before a tournament?
Sometimes my schedule doesn’t always allow it but, ideally, a week off between events is the preparation I’d hope for. That way, I can get adequate rest, work on my fitness and spend the necessary time on the range. Either way, I like getting to each venue a few days before a tournament a get a really good feel for the layout of the course. During the event itself, I’ll always try and keep doing some limited gym work and take the occasional run, depending on my tee times.
What was your reaction when approached by EA Sports to be the namesake of the PGA Tour video game? How much input did you have in the game?
In a good way, I was really taken aback and a little surprised. And it still takes a little getting used to when I see my name and face fronting the video game. I actually spent a surprising amount of time with some of the most creative and clever people I’ve ever met. Thankfully they spared me the deeply technical, software and hardware stuff but I was delighted that I was so involved and consulted on many of the games features –- I never knew just how much goes into creating facial expressions.
Golf fans are typically more tame than in other sports — but do you have any funny or interesting stories about fan interactions?
Oh, I could tell some great stories about the strange stuff that has happened with fans, but that’d be tour-talk, right? Anyway, I remember having the best laugh when my drive on the 14th at the Tour Championship in 2014 ended up in the pocket of a spectator. My ball had hit the tree above him and had fallen into his pocket. Of course, I couldn’t see this from the tee but when I got there this guy was standing pointing to the pocket of his shorts. After much laughing and joking — who was going to retrieve to ball from the guy’s shorts? — the rules official allowed me a free drop and I went on to make par.
Golf has seen a huge influx of young talent in recent years — are there any Tour members you’ve developed friendly relationships with over the years?
In all honesty, I believe there’s a great atmosphere and camaraderie among the players on Tour, even among the younger ones coming through and those – I include myself in this – who’ve been around a while. Of course there’s natural rivalry between many of the top ranked players but because we rarely play matchplay, the focus is shooting lower than the field rather than anything more personal. That said, I would be good friends with Rickie (Fowler). We’re of a similar age and our careers have had a similar trajectory, and we always have a bit of a laugh when we’re together. He was also a great support to me when he came over to play in last year’s Irish Open, the tournament hosted by my foundation.
Outside of golf, what’s your favorite sport and team to follow?
Football and rugby would still be my favorites outside golf. It’s very well known that I’m a big Manchester United fan but I’m also a big follower of Irish and Ulster Rugby. I still have a couple of friends playing on these teams, so I really do have a vested interest in them. Increasingly, though, and as a result of me living in the U.S. for a few years, I’m becoming a really big fan of basketball — but I’m still trying to work out where my team loyalties lie.
What’s one thing about you that fans might not expect?
Ever since I was about two years of age, my commitment to golf has been uppermost in my daily life. That commitment is still there and as strong as before, but I have learned to switch off from the game when I’m not competing. I’ve found this to be really beneficial for my game, and I return after a break much more refreshed having not thought about golf or lifted a club. Of course, I still follow events I’m not playing in, but the “off switch” allows me to lead a normal life with family and friends beyond golf.
What’s been your favorite moment on the Tour so far in your career?
Oh, I’m very lucky to be able to say that there have been a lot of great moments on Tour. My first win on the European Tour gave me a real sense of actually belonging to the professional circuit while my first PGA win really saw me go up the world rankings. My Major wins were also extremely special but what stays with me the most is the moment my mum came on to the 18th green at Hoylake when I won the Open Championship in 2014. Whatever my golfing future holds, that win, the one I’ve always felt was my “home” Major, will always remain very special.
-By John Dorn