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 I can’t walk. It’s a real concern. I just turned 39 (on September 28). As we get older, we have ailments that we 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 a pain. In the evening, I must put ice on my foot, I give massages… It’s complicated!
Is your orthopedic insole not enough for you?
I saw my osteo last Thursday (November 18). There is no improvement. I’m going to have to treat and redo the soles with more correction, probably accompanied by a 4th infiltration… I withdrew from the Joburg Open but I absolutely have to be back on my feet for the start of the season, which for me will be very presumably in Qatar (Editor’s note, week of February 10, 2022). Until then, it should be bearable. Two years ago, on the Alps Tour, I had to finish in basketball because I was in so much pain… But hey, that’s how it is. A week in South Africa with 15 hours of flight on the outward journey and as many on the return trip at 50% physically, it’s dangerous.
With the arrival of the DP World Tour, all tournaments will be at least two million dollars. But it’s clear that $4 or $5 million tournaments won’t be for us.
In 2021, you played fifteen tournaments, cleared 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 Maps, not to have been protected. Unlike the categories just above ours, i.e. up to category 16. But hey, that’s the way it is. You just have 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 in prize money. With the arrival of the DP World Tour, all tournaments will be at least two million dollars. But it’s clear that $4 or $5 million tournaments won’t 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 a bit fatalistic…
Coming to the Tour in 2007, when you released European maps, you were guaranteed to play all the tournaments. We played Abu Dhabi, Dubai… There, it’s not even worth thinking about. Abu Dhabi today, you are 90th reserve! It’s not even said that a boy like Victor (Dubuisson), who finished 111th in the Race, can return to Abu Dhabi next January… That’s what’s 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 that didn’t happen. Why ?
They called me on Wednesday morning asking me if I wanted to start the next day. It would have been in Madrid or Italy, I would have gone there. But there, for Dubai, on Wednesday morning, it was difficult. I received a text message 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 then that I have no chance that there are 26 guys who scratch. 26 is huge. At a pinch, 10, I may have a chance. But 26, I don’t foresee 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 of carrying out 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 receiving the slightest fine. We remain registered for all the 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…
Do you plan to also evolve on the Challenge Tour in 2022?
I do not know. I have a side business that I would like to develop too (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, may it go well… But I’m not closing the door to the Challenge Tour…
It is more and more difficult today to perform after 40 years, except when your name is Phil Mickelson or Richard Bland.
Do you still have the help of your friend and patron, Magnus Konow?
Yes of course. Fortunately, otherwise, I wouldn’t have the money and I wouldn’t be playing. 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 taxes at source, there remains 75,000 euros. A season costs 120,000. So it’s 50,000 out of your pocket. The prizes are no longer the same. But fortunately, with the DP World Tour, that will change. It’s great all these tournaments (Editor’s note, 48 on the November 24, 2021 calendar). That there is excitement around the Tour is fantastic. But there will no longer 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 there. After all, golf is such a special sport. Look at Richard Bland. I saw him in Austria at the beginning 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 to play well. He wins the British Masters, he finds himself at the head of the US Open and competes in the final of the Race in stride. It goes super fast. We all know how to play golf properly, you just need to gain confidence around and on the greens. We can very well have a great season.
But we must not delude ourselves. It is 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, it was 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 lap, 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 have 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 string together five or six tournaments over four days when you’re 40 years old.