Any time you can do something for the first time since Seve did it, it’s obviously a very big deal. It’s crazy that Sergio Garcia and Ollie (José María Olazábal), many other great players that had a chance, didn’t get to do it for Spain, but it’s not easy. I would be a true honour to be able to join Seve’s (Severiano Ballesteros) name on that list of The Open champions. Even aside from that, just being able to call yourself an Open champion is so unique, so special. To me, it is the most prestigious tournament we have in golf and there’s nothing like it.
We are expecting over 250,000 passionate fans to cheer you on here this week – what are your expectations about the special atmosphere when the Open comes to Liverpool?
It’s always amazing when we come to this side of the world. The respect and knowledge for the game is so much higher than anywhere else and the fans know it. The only tournament in the world where we get celebrated for hitting a shot, sometimes even a wedge hit to 30 feet, just because they understand the conditions and how difficult it can be. You just hit it on the green no matter where you are, most of the time you will get claps. Sometimes you make a five or a bogey and they understand that it was a good five. It’s different and it’s really, really fun to play here.
Although Rory won here in 2014 and arrives here this week with a win at the Scottish Open and some recent strong finishes at the US PGA and US Open, many have you down as the favourite to win. How do you manage the pressure going into a Major?
Whatever people say, it doesn’t a really make a difference. Most likely I am going to have higher expectations than most people have about me either way. Luckily, I’ve been playing good for the last few years, I’ve heard that a few times, so you get used to it. Whether people think, if you’re going to win or not, I still come out here to win. Obviously, Rory and Scotty might be more of a favourite because they’ve been playing better lately, but I’m glad people still think I have a chance.
Which other players in the field do you think have the game and the momentum to perform well this week?
It’s golf, all 150 of us have a chance. That’s a beautiful thing about this game. When you tee off on Thursday, we’re all on equal ground and that’s it, weather aside. There’s a difference in weather, but nobody would have expected, let’s say, Tom Watson to do as well as he did in 2009, Greg Norman to do as well as he did in 2008 in Birkdale. Those are the circumstances that you can’t foresee and can only happen in Open golf. If I have to say one player, you have to say Rory (Rory McIlroy) because of what he did last week and how he is playing this year.