“I see a lot of question marks hanging over my future”
He and Seve were the most celebrated pair in Spanish golfing history and he is the only compatriot who, apart from Ballesteros (and until now), has been fitted into the famous August green jacket, both of them on two occasions. Life has changed a lot since those long yearned for years – an era that encouraged thousands of Spaniards to take up a sport that until then had attracted only minority interest.
Now, at 50 and after more than 12 months having not been able to play golf because of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, it seems he is once again seeing a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a new therapy. Having said that, and especially bearing in mind past experiences, he remains cautious.
- How do you feel with the new treatment you began a few months ago?
- We’re doing everything, traditional treatment, biological therapy, all kinds of physiotherapy, etc., and I’m actually a bit better than all of last year but, well, there’s still a long stretch ahead.
- Have you been able to play again since trying to return in last year’s Spanish Open?
- To play, no. I’ve begun picking up a club, hitting a few balls in the mornings, slowly, without forcing things, and that’s where I’m at, trying to make a bit of progress.
- How do you see your professional future, completely throwing yourself into your facet as a designer?
- At the moment, with a lot of question marks. The truth is I don’t know what the immediate future holds for me. There are possibilities that are directed a little towards design – we’re doing a golf course in Qatar – and that’s the clearest option, the most logical one.
- Spieth’s double collapse during the final round of the Masters, Larrazábal’s on the 17th at Valderrama during the fourth round of the Spanish Open… Have you suffered a similar devastating situation?
- Yes, yes. These things happen, and they will continue to happen. In the case of Jordan, for example, it is true he wasn’t in his best form. During the week he was quite erratic, although in spite of everything he held the lead for three days until the 12th hole on the last day. However, he was showing signs of a certain inconsistency, which he paid for on that hole. But that passes to absolutely all of us, especially those in that position.
- There is stagnation, and in some cases a decrease, in the number of golfers in certain major powerhouses of the sport, prompting a debate about how to attract new players, especially young ones. Do you have any suggestion about how we can attract new golf devotees? Perhaps making rounds shorter?
- This goes in cycles, although it is true that previously it took less time to play golf over 18 holes on the same course. I believe people take it a bit too seriously. If you have an 18 or 20 handicap, or whatever, what you need to do is head off for a pleasant stroll, enjoy yourself a bit – and period. However, I believe that we are actually reaching young players. It’s true that with the Tiger boom it was easier, because everything was more appealing for a generation of youngsters who didn’t normally see golf as being an attractive sport, but with Tiger they did. I think that a little bit of the same will happen with Jordan, and in any event the way we teach children is being renewed. Before it was serious, tough and strict coaching, and now you have games and even music during classes so the kids can have fun. They have a good time, and I believe we are on the right path.