INTERVIEW – Confined in the Alpes-Maritimes since March 14, the Azurean, for lack of being able to survey the courses, all closed, has launched a physical fitness program which should allow him to be immediately competitive, once the resumption of the season is effective.
Where are you now ? I am in the south-east of France, with my father. In the Alpes-Maritimes department. More exactly in Tignet. My mother lives next door in Cabris. I’ve been confined here since Saturday March 14.
So you haven’t been out since that date … Exactly. Where I am today allows me to continue to do things related to golf. It was the only place that allowed me to train properly. If we can call it correctly.
Concretely, how does this training translate? One hour of sports in the morning, one hour of sports in the evening. Otherwise I spend time cleaning cars, pruning olive trees, maintaining the garden … I have not played golf since. The last time, without saying anything stupid, was Thursday or Friday the week before. It will soon be two weeks. So, it will be understood, golf is put aside for the moment.
How do you keep up? Alone or by technical means thanks to your physical trainer, David Baudrier? David is sending me the sessions to follow. Afterwards, I do this in the company of my father and my best friend, Maha, who came to confine himself at home.
What is the objective on this specific point? Strengthen your body more? We divided the work into two phases. The first one, until the middle of next week, we are on a lot of cardio, on a lot of sweating with a desired weight loss. Then we’ll slide more on explosiveness. The advantage, with the time we have, is that we can afford to do different phases. When you have two months in front of you, you can separate the phases, and suddenly, you can modulate that more quietly. It’s very positive.
Do you also have the possibility of tweaking your little game in your father’s garden? Yes. We planted a flag forty yards away and I have fun aiming for it every day. I also have my trackman. But I haven’t hit the cage yet. Golf is frankly not the priority at the moment …
How do you analyze this situation? It’s a very weird time. The days are quite long. It’s always the same. We are in the same place, we do not move. Everyone is at a standstill. So you don’t feel like you’re wasting time like you’re injured and the season is going on without you. There it’s really different. It’s unusual, but it’s no more problem for me than that. I will try to take advantage of all this time off to work on my physique, focus my program on it.
Do you regularly hear from the European Tour? We received an email last week confirming cancellation of Golf Sixes and postponement of Denmark. Keith Pelley, the boss of the Tour, told us in the same email that he would give us as much information as he can get. For example, I just learned that the Tokyo Olympics were postponed in 2021 but other than that, we have no more news than you. We do not know when this situation will change, when we will be able to resume competition … It is quite complicated.
Keith Pelley pointed to the Irish Open in late May as a recovery tournament. You believe in it ? I don’t know… It’s complicated to answer that when we see for example that the United States has just put certain cities in quarantine, that England has barely confined its population… We don’t know not how the virus will evolve. As long as there is a quarantined country, it will be complicated, in my opinion, to resume normalcy. Especially for tournaments like the Irish Open, which is a Rolex Series and where several big players are expected, like Rory McIlroy for example. There are two questions to ask. First, when will the coronavirus end? And then how are the sponsors going to manage the tournaments? I have a friend of mine who is sailing and who is under contract with the Omani Sailing Federation. Yesterday, he received an email announcing to him that the Fed had broken his contract for serious reason and that all the tests in the program were canceled. It is also possible that some title sponsors of golf tournaments postpone by one year or simply cancel their engagement because financially, it should not be simple either. In short, we are in the dark. And this is the case for everyone because nothing had been planned.
And where are you from a financial point of view? I am fortunate to have sponsors who have been loyal to me since the start of my career. My great 2019 year on the Tour allowed me to invest in stone, for example. So I am not in need. Then there is the shortfall. When ten tournaments are canceled, inevitably, it is no longer the same. My father and mother, who run a business, are in the same situation. It’s a complicated situation that you have to try to manage as well as possible.
Have you had some of your fellow golfers on the phone to discuss this unprecedented period? On WhatsApp, we created a group of players. We exchange a lot. We all bet on a resumption date of the season … The golf courses are closed, everyone is at home, everyone is trying to do as they can. I’m at my father’s place, I consider myself happy… We have a gym in the garage where I have lots of tools to work physically, I have a garden, it’s pretty good weather… I know it’s not is not easy for everyone. But it is true that top athletes are penalized because we cannot exercise our profession properly.
What is the trend in your bets between golfers on the European Tour? There is everything. Like a slightly daring bet announcing that it will resume at the beginning of June in Morocco (Hassan-II Trophy) or in Ireland at the end of May (28-31) until a season completely canceled. The range is therefore wide. We’ll see !
Despite this situation, we repeat, completely new, what assessment could you make of your season? I’ve played six tournaments and passed the cut four times. I was hit twice on the head after 36 holes. In Dubai and Qatar. These are pretty positive things. I was top 15 after three laps in Abu Dhabi. There were also some more complicated weekends, where, under pressure, I was a little less efficient. Hence the deep physical work that I started. This period when I do a lot of sport will clearly help me. And I hope that I will come out stronger and that I will be effective from the start. Frankly, I am satisfied. If we look at the results, it’s not necessarily incredible (Editor’s note, a 26eplace in Mauritius on December 8 as the best result) but overall, I am quite satisfied.