A lot of attention will be focused on you in 2009 as you try to win four majors in a row. Are you ready for it?
Well, I think it’s nice that I have a chance to complete a Paddy Slam. But it’s hard to win any major, and it’s particularly hard when everybody is asking you about winning them. There is definitely going to be a lot of pressure and stress and distraction and extra attention around the Masters. And [if I win there] then it’ll all be about the U.S. Open. Then I’ll be trying to win three Opens in a row. And then I’ll be defending at the PGA. By the time I get there, the pressure of the majors will be old hat [laughs].
The Masters will be especially intense, with you trying to win three majors in a row and Tiger making his comeback from injury.
It’s going to be incredible. There is so much hype already from people at home, who are totally sucked into it and telling me they can’t wait to go to the Masters.
Are you surprised by what you’ve achieved so far in your career?
Well, the media are labeling me as the greatest Irish sportsman ever, and I am constantly trying to get away from that. It has a finality about it. I am in the middle of my career and going on to win more majors. I ain’t finished yet just because I’ve won three majors.
People have said you are too nice to have a killer instinct. Do you think last year proved them wrong?
There’s a way of being confident without being arrogant. You can have an ego but be in control of it. Some people think that I don’t walk onto the tee like I own it or dominate it. I look at other players and, you know, Monty certainly had a tremendous ability to project that aura when he was in his prime. I don’t think I have that strut. But I have a toughness. Don’t get my goat up (smiles). I can be annoyed into toughness.
Is golf all about winning more majors for you now?
Yeah, my goals now are to get into contention in the four majors. And if I peak in them, I know I’m going to win some more. When it comes to the majors, and especially playing on the back nine on Sunday, I am comfortable and confident.
What did last year teach you about the secret to winning big events?
I realized that you can win a major without playing perfect golf. I did play perfect to win the Open at Birkdale. But I didn’t play my best golf at the PGA [Championship], and I still managed to win. So you gain confidence from that. I’m able to read the situation much better now. I have a good understanding of how to close out a final round, especially in a major. I now feel that, with nine holes to go, I can dominate.