When he's not playing tennis, Olivier Rochus has better things to do than listen to a song by the singer Arno, watch a Flemish comedy or even hang out on the internet. His favourite hobby is putting a little white ball into a hole of 4.25 inches in diameter.
Steve Darcis, Xavier Malisse and yourself; you’re a fine team of golfers. Is it really that popular a sport in Belgium?
Yeah, it is actually. It’s a fairly expensive sport, still a little too much, but for a small country like ours, around my house for example, there must be about ten golf courses within 10 or 15 minutes’ drive. Not too shabby is it! There are some beautiful facilities, with a relaxed atmosphere, where I can practice a little between tournaments, or in the evening after training, with my shorts and my little hat (laughs).
Who’s the best of your little group?
Steve has just started and he’s really good. But hold on, I still send him a few volleys, eh! It’s still a little while until he’ll beat me at golf! Xavier Malisse also plays, he’s ranked an 8-10 handicap (usual number of strokes a player performs in addition to those theoretically determined during a round of 18 holes, Ed.) But I don't tease them.
It's still a very uptight and affected sport though, reserved for a fairly high category of Belgian society. Between us, it’s not that funny at a golf club, is it?
It's a cliché...
With some truth in it, right?
Yeah but it's not the thing that bothers me the most...
What is then?
Slow play. Rounds where you drag behind you three or four "grannies" who aren't moving and you don't know why (He mimics). You see them doing shots that only go 150 feet, but they won’t let you play through, they block the whole course! I really can't stand it. For me, it should move quickly. "Clack-clack" you see. For a guy who has a high physical activity level, it’s unbearable. There are already many people who can't play well… but these people; they are the real pains in golf.
When did your passion for golf start?
I started hitting the ball on holiday in the south of France. I’m thinking especially of the golf course at Moliets (near Biarritz, Editor's note), where I would play with my parents and brother. We were immediately hooked and when we returned to Belgium, we found a small nine-hole course. Simple story really.
And what kind of player are you?
I play off a 7.5 handicap so, yeah, I'm doing alright. But I really don't have much time to play and train as much as I would like. I'm never there! But at a certain level, it's very difficult to progress without putting a lot of time into training and serious games. Especially for the short game, putting, where I have difficulties. There are people who send 300-yard missiles into the woods. I'm not very long, but I hit fairly straight and consistently. When I will have more time to play more competitions, then I’ll get a chance to progress. Very quickly. And from time to time I will try to play the legendary course, St. Andrews in Scotland, for example. Probably after my career. One must have fun, right?
What parallels could you make between tennis and golf?
More differences really, because unlike tennis, golf allows me to think about nothing. To clear my head.
Why "unlike tennis"?
Tennis, it’s how I make my living. It’s my job, you know what I mean? Whereas golf is often in wonderful places, out in nature. It's a very relaxing game. It's really a sport that I love. You can play differently: aggressively, defensively, change the effects (he insists). It's a real ball sport. When you have a nice touch, you can use your talent and your delicacy to make very fine strokes, it's very technical. And much more tactical than you’d think...
Interview by Victor Le Grand