Where’s Robert Allenby at in 2018, in terms of both health and golf?

I’m hoping for an improved season. The tennis elbow was a problem all season in 2017. I’ve been doing a lot of work on it and have been pain-free for some time now. It feels good and hopefully it stays that way. In terms of my playing career, I’d like to go back to Europe. I think a change of scenery would be good for me and I’ve always loved playing in Europe – it’s where it all started for me. I’d like to try and get into the French Open, where I’ve won before, along with the Irish and Scottish opens. Ultimately I want to get back in the winner’s circle. I’m working hard and it’s just a matter of being patient and letting it transpire from here.

You mentioned your love for Europe and it’s really where it all started for you. Are a lot of our younger pros still too obsessed with making it in America?

A lot of these guys think America is the be-all and end-all. It might be the biggest stage in the world around the Majors – because three of them are held over there – but the European Tour is so strong now and has so many tournaments. If you’re a young guy wanting to play a lot of events and make a good living, I would definitely go to Europe. It was the best thing I ever did. I remember in 1992I had to finish second at theScandinavian Masters. It was my last event and I had no card or status anywhere after that event and I ended up finishing second and never looked back. I played OK in 1993 then won the 1994 Honda Open. Two years later I won three events in about seven weeks – all thanks to my decision to go to Europe over America. Greg Norman was the one who advised me to go to Europe and it was the greatest thing he ever told me. You can really learn your craft there because if you’re not ready for the US Tour you will get shot down really quickly – it’s a fiercely contested tour. The people in Europe are so friendly and the whole atmosphere of the European Tour is relaxed and appealed to me more being an Aussie. In America, you never see your competitors out at night for dinner, they just do room service. It’s not social and not anywhere near as enjoyable as Europe.

Just how tough is the Web.com Tour given it is America’s secondary tour?

It’s really tough. The guys that play on that tour are just as good as the guys on the US PGA Tour. They don’t have as much experience but they hit the ball just as well, believe me. They probably just lack a bit in the mental side of things. Every week on the US PGA Tour you play on immaculate courses, but one thing I noticed about the Web.com Tour was the courses were all long and wide and the players could just bomb it as far as they wanted and it ultimately came down to a putting competition each week. The par 5s were all short and reachable in two. It was tough for me because I came off the US PGA Tour after all those years and to not play the style of golf that was needed on Web.com was kind of disappointing.

Robert Allenby

Your superior ball-striking during the ’90s and early 2000s led to comparisons with Greg Norman. Why haven’t you won a Major, and do you truly believe you can still add one to your resume before you’re done?

Absolutely I can. I’m 46 but I don’t consider myself old. I’m physically good and I’ve never had any surgeries for golf-related injuries. The way I see it is the only thing that can prevent you from success as you grow old is you can lose interest. Kids come along and grow up and you start feeling like you want to be with them more and that can take you away from the game. To be at the top of this sport you really have to work your butt off, it won’t ever be handed to you. I have that drive again to do the hard work. In regards to not having won a Major yet, I put too much pressure on myself to want one. When you do that you don’t give yourself half a chance of winning. My putting has let me down in the Majors, too. But golf is a funny game and you never know what is around the corner.

Robert AllenbyHow close were you from walking away from the game in the aftermath of the 2015 incident in Hawaii?

Very close. I wasn’t feeling well and that was compounded by the fact I didn’t even get to tell the true story from that night in Honolulu (It was reported Allenby was kidnapped, beaten and robbed after leaving a wine bar in Honolulu after missing the cut in the 2015 Sony Open of Hawaii). I had detectives telling me the true story of what happened but the media didn’t want to hear that. For some factions to report I was doing stuff that simply wasn’t true was really disappointing. I asked for an apology but never got it. It really destroyed me, inside and out. I didn’t want to face the world and I certainly didn’t want to play golf. I was too scared to even perform. Once that happens your confidence goes, your golf goes downhill and you start questioning why you’re still doing it at all. But I’ve pulled through all that and realised it doesn’t really matter what other people think or say. It’s your own beliefs and your family and friends know the truth and that’s the most important thing in the world. My wife, Kim, has been my biggest supporter. She’s with me pretty much 24 hours a day. My kids have been very comforting, too, and I’ve enjoyed the extra time I’ve had being around them. Now that my son has gone to college I’d really like to get my game back to where it should be and hopefully take the family to more Majors.

It’s been three years since the incident. What headlines should we have read from that night out in Honolulu? What weren’t we told?

You weren’t told Allenby was drugged, robbed and beaten. I’m not the first person it’s happened to and I won’t be the last. It happens nearly every night there but they don’t report it to protect tourism. The first person who actually called me and left a message on my phone back at the hotel was Hawaii’s Minister for Tourism. If that doesn’t tell you something then I don’t know. I got made out to be something else and it pretty much destroyed my career at the time. That’s why I’m trying to get things back to where they used to be. I’m still the same person but I’m definitely more cautious on things that can happen in the world.

Do you find the media in America more aggressive than Australia and other places?

Australia has always been pretty critical. But I remember when Nick Faldo was going through divorces and the English paparazzi were pretty brutal. I mean, look what they did with Princess Diana … that says it all right there, doesn’t it, just how vicious and greedy they can be? My situation obviously hasn’t been like that. It’s just one of those things … some stories don’t sell papers but negativity does. People love to see negative things written. People thrive on that sort of stuff. Living in America and seeing floods, fires and shootings every day makes you think it’s really kind of a f—ed-up world, to put it bluntly. It’s a shame and it’s now at a point where we don’t even watch the news anymore. It’s always so negative so why would we want to watch it? Kim and I get out of the house with the kids and go do stuff when the news comes on.

Robert AllenbySpeaking of headlines, you’ve managed to land yourself in a few over the years with your relationships with caddies. When you look back now, do you concede you’d be a hard boss to work for?

What’s quite funny is there are a lot of players on tour who take a different caddie each week or month, but for some reason my caddie situation likes to hit the press [laughs]. But you know what? At the end of the day, I expect the best and if the best is not given than I’m going to say something. It’s no different to a CEO in an office that has people working under them and they say, “You’re not cutting it. You’re sacked.” Golf is a business and you’re a two-man team. I’m the CEO and the caddie is employed by me, no one else. And he doesn’t have a gun to his head to stay, either. Most of my caddies have been and gone and come back so many times because they’ve obviously made a lot of money out of me and they’ve done really well. They know I can be really intense on the golf course because I want the best. I want to play well and I want to win and I expect the best out of them. It’s the way I am. Do I mean to yell at them? No. Sometimes when you’re under pressure you don’t really know what you’re saying. But I always remember after the round and when I’ve said something wrong to any of my caddies I’ve always apologised to them. I think as I’ve got older I’ve mellowed a bit, but I honestly think that little bit of bite in me is what made me play as well as I did for so many years. You need that killer instinct to be able to perform at your best at the top of world golf. Trust me, Greg Norman was no saint to his caddies and a lot of other players are in the same boat. I see it every week, players having a go at their caddies. Is it right? No, but it can be hard, when you’re in the moment, to hold it in when every player is out to win so badly.

Any favourite exchanges with caddies over the years?

My buddy Michael Waite – nicknamed “Sponge” because of his hair – and I have had a couple of beauties but the one where he tossed my bag in the British Open at St Andrews on, I think the 11th hole, was one of the best of all time. I had asked him whether I could carry a bunker with my tee shot and he says, “Yeah.” So I let rip with my driver and absolutely crushed it but it hit the lip of the bunker and dropped in, so I gave him hurry-curry all the way down the fairway. I hit the shot out of the bunker and he says, “I’ve f—ing had enough of you. I’m outta here!” He grabbed the bag from both ends and lifted it above his head and slams it into the ground and storms over to my father behind the green and says, “Don, you caddie for your son because I just can’t do this anymore.” And my dad says, “Oh bugger that, I’m outta here.” So my dad did a runner and asked my coach at the time, Steven Bann, and he said, “No way.” So I’m left to carry my bag to the green and as I’m putting out, Sponge grabs the flag and I said, “What are you doing?” He replies, “I’m a professional and I’m going to finish my job. When we’re done, then you can go get f—ed!” [laughs] I ended up birdieing five of the last seven holes and on the 18th green Sponge shakes my hand and says, “Thank you. Now you can go f— off!” [laughs]. I think he caddied for me the next week. Obviously I sat down with him and apologised and begged him to come back because I knew how good he was.

What makes a great caddie? What’s the No.1 trait they need to have to avoid the sack?

They need to be able to block anything out because every player will say something bad or wrong to their caddie. A good caddie doesn’t let anything faze him and that’s the way it has to be. In competition, caddies are going to cop abuse. Trust me, there are 145 players out there (each tournament) and 125 of them are giving abuse to their caddies. I’ve seen, lived it and know it. The best caddies cop it and continue doing their job without changing their demeanour. The ones that do that are special and more often than not caddieing for the best players in the world.

Your son, Harry, has carried your bag on a few occasions. How did that pan out?

Well the first tournament he ever caddied for me was in Louisanna on the Web.com Tour last year and we came fifth. He did a fantastic job, but said he needed the following week off because he was too tired [laughs]. It was a moment in my life I will always cherish because I always wanted my son to carry my bag at least once in a tournament, so that was special.

You’re 46. Is the Champions Tour on the radar for you when you hit the big five-oh?

Absolutely … but I’ve still got three-and-a-bit years. I think my first Champions Tour event will be the Senior British Open because my birthday is July 12 and a couple of weeks after that is the Open. It’s definitely on the cards and maybe Harry can carry my bag for a couple of senior events. He’ll be done with college by then. But who knows, maybe my wife will want to cop some abuse and caddie for me [laughs].

Robert AllenbyFitness is key for all tour players these days, particularly for blokes like yourself wanting to keep up with the 20-somethings. Do you look at someone like Greg Norman as a benchmark for keeping fit in your senior years?

I don’t know. Greg hasn’t spoken to me since the 2011 Presidents Cup in Melbourne. But I’ve seen the pictures and footage of him. He’s always been fit.

You must be overwhelmed with the continued support for your annual Robert Allenby Golf Day and Gala Dinner charity event for Challenge.

Absolutely. It’s been going 26 years now and the support over the years has been beyond belief. I’ve got about 10 guys who have given so much money over the years, which has really helped get us up to that $30 million donation mark. It’s really amazing. Challenge does things that people don’t even know about and I wish that everyone could see it. It’s ongoing support, every day. They’re treating and helping so many kids with cancer and life-threatening diseases. It’s tough and I don’t know how they do it. Jarrod Lyle is a beneficiary of it all. I remember getting Tiger Woods to come and meet a group of our kids at his tournament at Congressional and Jarrod was one of those. It can’t be easy what he’s going through. I try to call and text Jarrod whenever I can to help push him along. It’s important he stays on top of it and keeps fighting.

What are your thoughts on Tiger’s return to the game?

I’ve played a lot of golf with Tiger. I reckon I was paired with him for the first two rounds of two Majors every year there for a while in the early days. I’ve played against him in the Presidents Cup and practised with him regularly. We used to live in the same estate in the early 2000s. I really hope he comes back better than ever. He is great for the game and it’s exactly what it needs to keep it popular. When he plays he makes the game exciting. His fan base is huge and it doesn’t matter whether he’s No.1 or 1,000 in the world – wherever Tiger hits a tee shot the whole world will be watching. Incidentally, Kim and I eat in his restaurant regularly. It’s a cool sports bar and guys like Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are regulars there. It’s just down the road from my house so it’s a handy spot for great food and wine.

Robert AllenbyYou’ve made no secret of your love of the water. Do you still get out in your boat and fish?

No, I actually sold my 61 Viking to a guy in Australia on the Gold Coast. It’s still called “C’mon Aussie” and he sends me pictures of all the big marlin he’s catching with it so I’m a bit jealous. He says it’s still running well, which is nice to hear because I put a lot of money into that boat to ensure it was running perfectly every time I took it out. He showed me a picture of a huge 1,000-pound marlin his 10-year-old son caught the other day, so that’s pretty cool.

What have you replaced that hobby with?

Nothing really. The kids have kept me busy and I’m playing more golf. We do have a lot of bass in the lake around our house here in Florida so I’m doing a bit of bass fishing when I get the time.

What’s the one thing you crave when you come home to Australia?

Fried dim sims. They’re my favourites. I always enjoy a ‘Crownie’ (Crown Lager) or a VB (Victoria Bitter) too. And nothing beats a glass of Carlton Draught on tap. Australia also has some of the best red wines in the world so I buy a few to take home but I keep drinking them [laughs].

Where will Robert Allenby be in 12 month’s time?

Hopefully back in the winner’s circle. That’s my goal, that’s my dream. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on the US PGA Tour, Europe, Asia or in Australia. I just want to get back in the winner’s circle. That’s where I belong and I’ve been working hard to achieve it.

You really seem like you’re in a happy place.

I am … finally. It’s great. It really is.