Matthew Ballard | 2013 Australian PGA Championship | Round 1 – 7 Nov 13

NICOLE O’FARRELL: Thank you for coming in Matt. We were talking on the way here and you said it’s probably the best round you’ve had here is that right?

MATTHEW BALLARD: Yeah we play a lot of tournament here throughout the year, we play about two a year and I can’t remember shooting six or seven under, but today was a good day. Obviously it was off the new tees too so it was a completely difference course to what we play normally.

NICOLE O’FARRELL: You’re technically the local boy – do you feel any more pressure than usual?

MATTHEW BALLARD: I guess you can say there is pressure a little bit but that can work two ways, like with everyone coming out. My mum and dad came out and they don’t usually travel so I can’t remember the last time they watched me play. So to have them watching me play is pretty cool in itself too. But it obviously worked for me today.

Q. You’ve been around the tournament scene for a long, long time, where are you sitting career wise? Are you getting better, is it winding down?

MATTHEW BALLARD: I’d say I feel like I’m a lot smarter and a lot wiser. 12 or 13 years I’ve been a Pro and I’m taking my time and getting better. That’s a good way of putting it I guess. I’d say every year it’s been a bit better than the year before. I’m at a place now where I feel like I’m ready to go and play some more golf.

Q. I’m just wondering what is the principle difference playing on your home turf as opposed to overseas. What are some of the advantages?

MATTHEW BALLARD: Yeah good question. Sleeping in the same bed is probably number one. Sleeping with the same pillow. There’s a lot to be said for that. Fortunately I’ve got my physio here this week, he’s actually the tournament physio too so he got my body ready to go this week. Familiarity. I’m familiar with the greens familiar with the wind. There’s no second guessing out year, particularly with the greens. It’s not is it going to do this, is it going to do that? I just know what it’s going to do. I’ve been here so many times I know that the wind does this and the ball does that on the greens so there was a lot of that there today where I wasn’t in doubt very much I didn’t need to call on my caddie too much on the greens. I just knew I guess.

Q. You had four birdies in a row on the back nine, just take us through what happened there.    

MATTHEW BALLARD: On five I hit it down the fairway and then I had a really good yardage with my 7 iron and when it was off to the right, hit a cracking shot.  I actually thought it went in from the fairway but when we got up there it was about three feet.  I made that one and the par 3, straight downwind, the greens were quite firm, the fifth I think it is, I just tried to hit something in there really, really high and get it to land as soft as I could.  I was fortunate enough to hit that one about 15 feet I think and then there wasn’t much break in that putt and it went in. The next one, six, smashed my drive there, probably the best drive of the day.  I only had to flick onto the green, and hit a nice little flick onto the green there.  Again, not much in that putt, birdied that and then I hit a really good drive over the corner of the bunker on the next and my pitching wedge into the green, straight below the hole and had a little uphill with not much in it either and that was it.  I knocked that one in as well. So I hit some really good iron shots I guess.

Q.  Matty, you mentioned the fact that you played the Jon Ryan tournaments here on a regular basis and  probably you’re one of the most regular players around here in tournament golf in that regard.  How much different is this golf course now compared to the tournaments you’ve played here on a regular basis?

MATTHEW BALLARD:  Apart from being a lot longer, there are some really nice changes I think actually that needed to be made to stage this event.  I think they needed to bring the fairways in a little bit, grow the rough a little bit.  Typically when we play here there’s not a lot of rough and you can get away with hitting some wide shots off the tee.  You can’t really do that now.  So you’ve got to hit the fairway a little bit more. The longer par 3s, there’s a couple there with the new tees that make things really interesting.  Instead of hitting 6 and 7 irons in, you’re hitting 3 and 4 irons in.  So that takes its toll and makes it definitely tougher. But the course as a whole, it plays the same, just longer.  You’re hitting some different clubs in and premium now on more hitting the fairway, whereas not so much.

Q.  In your profile it says you played footy with Darren Lockyer?  Can you tell us more about that?

MATTHEW BALLARD:  [LAUGHS] I wish I was still playing, I love footy.  I was too small.  I played rugby league growing up as a kid locally here at Nerang about five minutes drive west of here.  I always wanted to be a football player, rugby league player. I just never really grew, grew up, I guess.  I played right up until I was about 16, I played in the Queensland touch football team with Darren Lockyer, who was the captain at the time.  I represented local and state with league as well. Then I got a job at a golf club here and started playing golf.  So I started later than most people I guess.  Someone said I should try out for the Gold Coast team, the Gold Coast amateur team.  I made the Gold Coast amateur team and then it sort of snow balled from there.  I made the State team and Queensland amateur tea, was the captain of the Queensland team before turning pro.  I made the national squad and then just turned pro and slowly weeded out football really, I guess.  There’s a bit more longevity in golf.

Q.  That was when you played with Lockyer in the footy team?

MATTHEW BALLARD:  Correct.

Q.  How much does a round like today’s change your expectations for the tournament or is it you’ve still got to go out there tomorrow and play again?

MATTHEW BALLARD:  I’d like to play like I did today if I can. [LAUGHS].  I’ve been talking to my coach a bit about this and trying to just maintain the same stuff day in/day out.  Golf’s a game of repetition and trying to do the same stuff over and over again is really what we’re trying to do. If I can keep repeating what I’ve been trying to do and I was fortunate enough, I had a good caddy who’s the national squash coach caddying for me today, keeping me calm and relaxed and thinking about what I need to do every shot, and just try and repeat it over and over and over and over again. Hopefully you do it all the way to the Clubhouse and you’re in a position like I am today.

 

Q.  For the last few months since they announced the Tournament here there’s been a lot of discussion about how low the scoring would be.  I think the first few days this week they said it might not necessarily be that way, it was with the wind.  Are you surprised this morning with the scoring?  I know they were perfect conditions, but how do you feel about the scoring this morning?

MATTHEW BALLARD:  I knew once they put the long tees out there and having played here recently, a couple of months ago, knowing that the fairways had been narrowed in and with the new tees, and having seen the scores that we normally shoot round here, 14, 15 under, 16 under with no rough and lighter fairways and a shorter course – the quickest way to make a golf course thump is have firm greens, I think, in my opinion.  The greens were really firm early in the week. They must have put a little bit of water on them this week, but all along I’ve been saying if you can shoot 12 to 14 under, I think that would be a pretty good mark, not the 20 plus, 25, 26 under that everyone was predicting. The ladies do play off some forward tees compared to where we play.  The greens are perfect, so if you do happen to hole some putts you can get on a bit of a run, but I don’t think anymore than, at this stage, probably 14 under would win, even though Rickie is 8, something like that at the moment, if they’re predicting strong winds again for the next few days, that much change.  If it’s still, that may change as well.  Day to day it differs.

Q.  Matty, you were in contention in the Australian Open a few years ago – is that the right event?

MATTHEW BALLARD: Yes I think it was 2005 probably my best–

Q.  Were you leading after the first round or second round?

MATTHEW BALLARD:  Yeah, Moonah Links, I think the year Allenby won back to back to back, he won all three that year.  I finished 9th or 10th there.

Q.  Were you up near the lead after the first round?

MATTHEW BALLARD:  Yep, from memory, yes I was, yep.

Q Your caddy, is that Rodney Isles, the squash coach?

MATTHEW BALLARD:  Today, correct, yeah, Rodney Isles, he’s the national squash coach.  He took a couple of days off.

NICOLE O’FARRELL:  Thank you Matt and best of luck for the rest of the week.