Thomas Aiken Q&A
Thomas Aiken on the challenge of Wentworth, his year so far and liking for the majors - especially The Open
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 22/05/13 3:08pm
Thomas Aiken: Currently 12th in the Order of Merit
With a win in the Avantha Masters and a last four finish in the Volvo World Match Play Championship last week, South Africa's Thomas Aiken is enjoying an excellent season so far.
But Thomas, who was speaking on behalf of Dunlop, feels the season really starts here.
We caught up with him ahead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Sky Sports: Hi Thomas. We're less than 24 hours from the big tee-off at Wentworth. How is the West Course shaping up?
Thomas Aiken: I played yesterday morning with Retief (Goosen), played 14 holes. The course is looking really good. It's a lot greener than the last few years, I think you guys have had quite cold weather - a lot of rain! So it's greener and a lot softer than what it normally plays. It's a little bit longer than normal.
Sky Sports: Tell us about your campaign so far. It's been a strong start for you as you're 12th in the Race To Dubai and already have a win under your belt after your triumph in the Avantha Masters in India
Thomas Aiken: Yes, it's been a good season so far. But it's only really starting now, this week at Wentworth. It's been few and far between from a tournament point of view since January until now. We had a nice stretch in South Africa and then in India, where I won, and Malaysia but since then I've had quite a bit of time off. But now the summer leg of the tour really starts kicking off. I'm really happy to be in the position I'm in at the moment going into that leg because I'm sitting in a pretty good position on the Race To Dubai.
Thomas with his wife after winning this year's Avantha Masters in India
Sky Sports: You're one of five South Africans in the top 12 of the current Race To Dubai. Are you guys spurring each other on?
Thomas Aiken: South African golf is in a really good spot at the moment. We've got a lot of good players and some new youngsters that are coming through. We had a lot of really good junior programmes about 10 to 15 years ago and a lot of good amateur events to stay competitive and if you've got competition you've always got room to improve. It's been important, especially in my upbringing, to have the guys like Charl (Schwartzel), Louis (Oosthuizen) and Richard (Sterne) to compete with while growing up. You push each other to the next level.
Sky Sports: You warmed up for Wentworth by reaching the semi-finals of the Volvo World Match Play in Bulgaria. The course, Thracian Cliffs, looked pretty spectacular!
Thomas Aiken: It was a phenomenal golf course. Gary Player did a great job designing it. It was the first time a European Tour event's ever been to Bulgaria and the first time I've been to Bulgaria and I was very impressed. It's a beautiful country. The course is right on the Black Sea, they had some great beaches... not that we got to go to them, but we could see them from the golf course. The food was outstanding, great fish produce, so all in all it was a great trip. I was very impressed with the country.
Sky Sports: Are you a fan of matchplay?
Thomas Aiken: I love the matchplay format although it's the first time I've played matchplay since I turned pro (2002) but I wish we got to play it more often.
Sky Sports: How would you rate your game going into Wentworth?
Thomas Aiken: I'm playing nicely. I'm in a good spot mentally as well. I'm enjoying playing and Wentworth is always a great week. It's one of my favourite of the year, the tournament's run extremely well, BMW do a great job, the course has got a lot of history to it and the best part of it is the spectators. The British spectators are phenomenal, they come out in masses and it creates a great atmosphere around this old, traditional golf course.
You've got a pretty good record at Wentworth - 10th in 2009, 17th in 2010 and tied fourth at halfway in 2011.
Thomas AIken: I enjoy the golf course. You've got to think your way around. You can't just hit it anywhere and I like that. I like to use my brain on the golf course. You've got to keep the ball in play and position your ball more than anything else. The weather's not meant to be too good so there could be some more elements involved this week.
Thomas will be looking for a big result at Wentworth to get an automatic spot for the US Open
Sky Sports: Your two European Tour wins - 2011 Spanish Open and 2013 Avantha Masters In India - have both come in hot climates so I guess you like a bit of sun on your back.
Thomas Aiken: Coming from South Africa I do like good weather! But I've been playing out here long enough to kind of get used to the cold, wind and rain. I think even the Europeans would agree that it's far more pleasing to play in good weather.
Sky Sports: You're not in the US Open yet so will you be attempting to qualify?
Thomas Aiken: I'm trying to qualify on Monday but if I have a good week this week I might be able to get in without having to qualify. That would be on world ranking. I guess top three at Wentworth this week would be good enough to get me in.
Sky Sports: This year's Open Championship is at Muirfield. How much are you looking forward to that given your impressive record in the event (eighth at Turnberry in 2009 and seventh at Lytham last year)?
Thomas Aiken: I love The Open. I haven't played Muirfield before but I hear it's an unbelievable golf course. Lytham was fantastic last year. I enjoy the majors. It's tougher golf. You need to hit the ball straight, you can't get away with wayward shots. Consistency ends up winning as opposed to flair. With those tournaments you need to play well and do everything right. It comes down to thinking as well as chipping and putting. Everything needs to be on for you to win and I enjoy that pressure, if you like to call it that. It makes me focus more and the tougher the golf courses the more you have a chance to win if you keep the ball in play and think your way around.
Thomas in action at Turnberry in 2009 when he finished seventh
Sky Sports: Your fellow South African Ernie Els won at Muirfield the last time it was played there. Do you recall it and what would it mean for you to follow in his footsteps?
Thomas Aiken: Yes, I watched Ernie's win in 2002. I was actually playing the Challenge Tour that year. It would be great to win an Open. That would probably be my highlight out of all four of the majors, the reason being it's the oldest golf tournament in the world, the history behind it is phenomenal and it's a tournament that I love. The atmosphere is unbelievable and you've just got to go to an Open once to realise how special it is. You kind of feel that you're at the home of golf when you're playing an Open and I was fortunate enough to play an Open at St Andrews in 2010 and that was even more phenomenal. It's a special event, one that's close to my heart, and one that I'd love to win.
Sky Sports: Do you think you have the game to win an Open - are you a good wind player?
Thomas Aiken: Yes, I play nicely in the wind. You can't finish in the top 10 in the Open twice if you can't play in the wind. Whatever it throws at you, you've just got to deal with it at that time and that's what really an Open is about. It's about grinding, it's about staying patient and persevering. The amazing thing is that it knocks half the field out due to the severity of the weather sometimes or the severity of the golf course. If you know how to stay patient and if you know how to stay focused you can end up doing pretty well.
Sky Sports: Good luck this week Thomas and play well at Muirfield!
* European Tour Golfer Thomas Aiken is a full staff Dunlop player. Dunlop's 2013 golf range is available to buy now from SportsDirect.com