Exclusive: On the sofa with Sam

Sam Torrance discusses the Open Championship, Sunningdale and Czech beer in Golf365’s latest exclusive interview.

It promises to be a thrilling summer for Europe’s Ryder Cup hero Sam Torrance.
This time last year he was struggling with a mysterious hand injury that had curtailed his successful Senior Tour career, but the problem was finally diagnosed, the pain is behind him and he bounced back in style at the start of the year with a win in Barbados.
A return to full fitness and form could not have been better timed because this year’s British Senior Open takes place at his home course of Sunningdale and later in the year his first course design hosts the Scottish Senior Open.
Throw in an Open Championship at Turnberry, a few miles down the Ayrshire coast from his birthplace Largs, and you understand why he’s so excited about the next few months.
Matt Cooper travelled to City Golf, the indoor golf academy in London, to chat with Sam about the summer of golf that stretches ahead of us.
Golf365: Hello Sam, there has been a lot of stories recently about the hotel at Turnberry not being ready for the Open in July – are you concerned at all?
Sam Torrance: I’m not staying there so it doesn’t bother me! More seriously, I don’t think there is any reason for panic. The R&A and the hotel’s owners Leisurecorp are bound to have things under control. They’re two very strong organisations and they won’t let matters drift. It’ll be okay.
Golf365: Padraig Harrington is going for the Open hat-trick this year after his victories at Carnoustie and Birkdale – do you think he can do it?
Sam Torrance: Definitely. He loves the links – we know that. And he’s worked out how to prepare himself for the Majors and the Open in particular – you can bet he’ll be playing links golf the week before. He’s also comfortable when the pressure is on. Winning anything is difficult but he always gives himself the best chance.
Golf365: Speaking of Harrington, I was reading something your father said recently. Talking of the players of the 1980s he said, “To me today’s golfers don’t work hard enough. Bernhard Langer does, but not the others.” Padraig Harrington must be his ideal pupil?
Sam Torrance: No question. My father is willing to work long, long shifts on the range and so is Padraig. They’re perfectionists and made for each other.
Golf365: There is one man who will be doing everything in his power to stop Padraig – Tiger Woods. What do you make of his chances?
Sam Torrance: Well Turnberry is perfect for him – everything is right there in front of you. Nothing hidden, nothing outrageous. You get some links courses and you can find the middle of the fairway, see the ball hit a mound and ricochet at right angles into the rough. Not at Turnberry, though. Very fair course.
Golf365: They’ve made some changes to toughen it up for this year’s Championship.
Sam Torrance: Well the course needed it to be honest. I think we’ll have a great championship there because it has proved itself a quality course when hosting the best Open ever in 1977 – Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, the Duel in the Sun. I’m from Ayrshire so I’m bound to say it’s a great course, but it did need to be toughened up a bit.
Golf365: Have you played it since they made the alterations?
Sam Torrance: Yeah, I played it about eight months ago. The 17th used to be a bit of an easy par five which isn’t great for the 71st hole of a major championship. They’ve made that a big carry off the tee. You think of the greatest Open course of the lot – St Andrew’s – and what makes it so good? Lots of things, but one of them is the 17th. What a hole. The tournament isn’t over until everyone has played it because they can birdie it – and they can also make double figures. It improves Turnberry that the penultimate hole is not an easy birdie or eagle hole.
Golf365: So, after a tough finish, do the players still head to the bar?
Sam Torrance: Very good! Yeah, we don’t mind a beer, especially on the Seniors Tour and Pilsner Urquell, as the official beer of the Open, is just perfect after a hard round. I’ve played a few Open rounds that have left me needing a Pilsner Urquell I can tell you!
Golf365: Talking of the Seniors Tour, you’ve got a big season ahead. You’ve struggled with hand pain for the last two years. How is that?
Sam Torrance: At one point last year it was so painful I literally couldn’t shake hands with another person without being in agony. If you can’t shake hands, you’re not going to play very good golf. But after 18 months of pain it started to clear up at the end of 2008 and I finally got another win this year in Barbados.
Golf365: And that’s got to be perfect news ahead of the British Seniors Open at Sunningdale?
Sam Torrance: Yeah, couldn’t be better. I’ve played at Sunningdale for nearly 40 years. I know the course like the back of my hand, every little hump and hollow.
Golf365: And you still live there so they’ll be plenty of support.
Sam Torrance: Of course – I’ll have family and friends falling out of the trees. But I’ve got to manage that off-the-course stuff: there will be plenty of media attention, loads of support, everyone expecting me to do well. I’ve got to keep that to one side and take advantage of the fact that I’ve played that course hundreds and hundreds of times. But I’m keen. Ever since I saw the schedule I’ve been preparing for it. Big week.
Golf365: And then at the end of the season the Scottish Seniors Open takes place at the Fairmont St Andrew’s course which you designed?
Sam Torrance: Another big week! A good story about that is that years ago I played the World Open at Chateau Elan in the States, met the owner Don Panoz and we got on really well. Years later he called me and said he’s got a place in St Andrew’s and am I interested? I said, yeah, I’ve got no club affiliation. He said, no, I want you to design the course!
Golf365: How did you find that?
Sam Torrance: Well, I’d steered clear of course design previously. If I do something I like to do it well and playing came first. I wanted to be the designer, not just stick my name to a project. When I got the right chance I loved it. The plot of land was so good – it was all about following the land, not moving it.
Golf365: A couple of quick ones to end with, Sam. Firstly as someone who has experienced the highs of Ryder Cup success as player and captain, how do you think Monty will fare?
Sam Torrance: I think he’ll do a great job. He’s new to it but we all are when we start. And he’s turning to the best to ask questions, people like Sir Alex Ferguson.
Golf365: When Gary Player retired from the Masters last month he said he’d done 1,000 sit-ups a day for the last 50 years. That is 18.5 million sit-ups. How many have you done?
Sam Torrance: None!
Golf365: And a question I’ve always wanted to ask you – you’ve got four wins in Italy. Do you like