RICOH 2012: Sophie Gustafson interview

The Swede on her near Major misses and playing with a bit more freedom

This is a first for Lady Golfer and a very welcome one.

We have never had an interview with Sophie Gustafson despite the fact that she joined the tour in 1994. The reason is that Gustafson has a severe stutter, although that was never common news.

That changed on the eve of the Solheim Cup when she spoke on camera with the Golf Channel – a gripping, emotional and quite brilliant interview for which she was awarded the Ben Hogan Award from the Golf Writers Association of America.

Her acceptance speech was another video – although she was in Augusta to accept the award – and lasted six and a half minutes. It took her eight hours to shoot.

If you’ve never watched it, it can easily be found on YouTube and there is a good chance you will watch it a second time, and maybe a third. It’s agonising and lovely in equal measure.

On the course the 38-year-old will arrive at Hoylake with 28 professional wins but no Major title yet despite a host of near misses.

Going by her results, links golf would appear to offer her best chance of breaking that run. We wish her well.

Of all the Majors your best record is in the Women’s British Open – why is that?
I like links courses. I like the imagination you have to have to play different shots. I love playing in the wind, it makes the game so much more interesting. I love the fact that the wind makes the course play completely different from one day to the next. Nothing is automatic, you always have to think and use your imagination.

Three of your four top 10s have come on Lancashire links courses – that must give you hope for this year?
I always feel I have a great shot at winning when the British Open rolls around.

Have you played Hoylake before?

What will your preparations consist of?
Same as always but I’ll add in a few low stingers into my routine.

Name three famous people from Liverpool?
Paul McCartney, Cilla Black and Steven Gerrard.
Playing reckless is very freeing, I think the older we get the more careful you are. I believe that hurts more then helps in golf. Three top 3s in last seven years – do any stand out as championships where you could have really had a chance of winning?
At Turnberry 10 years ago I thought I had a great chance. I teed off a couple of hours before the last group, the wind was up but I had a great round going. Unfortunately the wind died down and it played easier for the last few groups.

At Birkdale in 2005 I had a good chance too. I remember missing a four-foot birdie putt on 14 and I don’t think I took proper advantage of the closing three par 5s. It was too long ago to remember all the details!
They are the ones that stand out. Last year I was third but Yani was in a separate class.
Would you have liked to have seen Carnoustie set up a bit harder last year, for example having the 6th and 18th tees moved forward?
They could have moved the 17th back for sure, 4 iron, 4 iron into a par 5 is a bit silly. I thought the 18th was a good test. The bunker was in play and so was the crap on the left.

From what I remember of the 6th our drivers landed at the most narrow part of the fairway and we had a long iron or a hybrid in. I think that’s good for a par 5.

What do you need to do really well at a British Open as opposed to other weeks?
Handle your shape of the shot. Since the ball spends so much time on the hard ground you have to make sure it comes in with the right spin. If you don’t, it is very easy to get into trouble.
How patient a person are you?
Not at all.

Would you like to see Solheim Cups played on traditional links as opposed to more parkland type of courses?
I would love to see Solheim on a links course. I think that would be great fun!

Your Golf Channel interview on the eve of the Solheim Cup was a huge inspiration to a lot of people – how much did it inspire you to play so brilliantly?
I didn’t think about it until people reacted to it and, by that time, I had finished all my matches so I would say not at all.

How long did it take to make up your mind to do it?
No time at all, it was my idea. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing when I grabbed (former LPGA Tour player) Val Skinner on the flight to Dublin.

Do you have plans for more interviews?
None at the moment.

You have won nearly 30 times around the world, how important is it to you to win a Major?
It would be fun but it’s not a must. In my mind I have already won one, the British Open in 2000.

Does it play on your mind a lot?
The Major thing? Not at all.

How has your game changed from when you joined the LET in 1994?
It is more thought-through which I’m not sure is a good thing though. Playing reckless is very freeing, I think the older we get the more careful you are. I believe that hurts more then helps in golf.
If you knew what you know now would you do anything differently?
Enjoy the wins more. Savour them. They don’t come around as often as you think they will.

What are your top three links?
Birkdale, Carnoustie and Lytham.


DOB: 27/12/73
Turned pro: 1992
Joined tour: 1994
LPGA wins: 5
LET wins: 14
Other wins: 10
LET Order of Merits: 4 (2000, 03, 07 & 09)
Lowest round: 63 (twice)
Holes-in-one: 2
Personal: Has a penchant for colouring her hair to suit her mood. Hobbies include motorbikes and music. Credits Seve Ballesteros and Laura Davies as her biggest influence.
T: @SophieGustafson

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