Team USA

Bryson DeChambeau: Is he ready for his first major title?

JOHN DEVER: Good afternoon. Welcome back to the 2020 PGA Championship here at TPC Harding Park. Pleased to be joined by Bryson DeChambeau who posted a third round of 66. He is currently 6-under par for the championship.

Bryson, these days known for your length, but it was a lengthy putt that your day ended on. Kind of a good note there. Take about that stroke.

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Yeah, I didn’t hit that great of a drive off the tee box. I thought the wind was more off the right and it just didn’t really help it back into the fairway. Got in the bunker. Had a really nicely. I just kind of chunked it a little bit. Came up a little short and you know walked it off, 96 feet. And I just said to myself, well, I think this line looks pretty good. We’ve been doing a lot of speed testing out there so I knew I had to hit it like 130 feet relative to all of our stuff and you know for me I just felt like I hit it 130 feet and I was able to start it on line and saw it kept going closer and closer to the hole and eventually dropped.

Those moments, you just have to look back and laugh and appreciate what the game is, because that stuff happens at random points in time in life, and this was a pretty good random moment to do it in (chuckling).

Q. Obviously it’s just an incredible leaderboard, logjam, you’re right there. I know this is probably a stupid question because of your love of math but I assume you’re a leaderboard watcher?


Q. Here with no crowds, is that something you’ll do more than normal because there’s no other way to tell what other people are doing?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Yeah, you’re absolutely going have to. For me I’ve always looked at leaderboards and wanted to know exactly where I stand so I can make the best decisions on the holes that I play, and I try not to let it influence me too much but for the most part certain instances, you don’t need to go after a flag if it’s a really difficult flag and you’re one shot ahead or whatever. You’re going to make adjustments and hit shots based on where you are for sure.

Q. Following up on that, do you think 16 is probably the hole on the back nine where a tactical decision could be influenced by that information?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: 100 percent. Even today, I was city thinking still hit 3-wood or driver up to the right and chip it up over there, but I just didn’t want to have a ball get stuck in the tree or behind a tree. I said, you know, been wedging it better, get one in the fairway and get one down there and I was lucky enough to make an 18-footer.

Q. You mentioned having a calibration system. How high does that go?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Well, went to 130 feet there I guess. It’s more of a feel and perception I have about how hard I’m hitting it. But it goes to 100 feet on my ruler and I practiced that this morning and so I kind much got a gauge off of that and got a sense of how hard I needed to hit it.

Q. And you mentioned talking about kind of laying back. Is that hard to do?


Q. Given how far you’re hitting the ball?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Yes. Very hard. But it’s a major championship so you have to be more tack my Cal. I said this week I felt like the rough isn’t that penalizing; well, it is now. It grew and they haven’t cut it, so that’s a major, right. I’ve been a little more tactical certain areas but I just feel like I have to clean up my iron play. I made some really dumb mistakes with my irons, and if I get that under control and drive it like I did, putt like I did, I think I’ll give myself a chance.

JOHN DEVER: Forgive me for having this, but is that putt, 95, 90 feet, is that as long as you’ve made one on TOUR?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: It’s the longest I’ve ever made in any competition, ever.

JOHN DEVER: That qualifies.

Q. You were just talking about dialing back, and to play smart and how difficult that is sometimes. Are you sometimes, do you have to guard against being seduced by your length? I look at like as an example, Memorial when you went with the 3-wood near the end, because you know how far you can hit it, is there sometimes where you have to maybe be a little conscious of that because it could get you in trouble?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Absolutely. It’s just weighing the risk for the reward in certain areas, and maybe you have bunkers and water where I’m hitting it; it’s not necessarily worth it. Like 16 today, I didn’t really feel like it was worth it. If I hit it driver and actually left over the bunkers, it’s in the water and I have no chance to get it up-and-down. If I had a chance to get it up-and-down, that may have been a different story.

But I felt like I could just hit a 4-iron down there and hit it on the green and make a putt. And that’s what I he mean by being a little more tactical out here. To win major championships, on this golf course, at least, you have to be tactical.

Q. More of a big picture note. This is really where you stand right now, probably your best spot in a major going into a Sunday. What’s your emotion with that and how exciting is that for you?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: I’m proud of myself that I’ve been able to change my body, change everything, and give myself a chance to win tomorrow. That’s something that I think is difficult to do when somebody goes and changes themselves, there’s usually a little struggle with that. So I really am blessed and proud that I’m able to be healthy and have the ability to compete for a major championship come tomorrow.

I’d also say, too, I’m looking forward to the other ones that are coming up because this is going to give me a lot of confidence.

Q. There’s a fair amount of youth on the board, guys chasing their first major. What is the effect of not having a crowd tomorrow on the Sunday after a major? Do you think that helps you comfort level-wise?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: I think you’re right in that regard. It’s not the crazy roars that sometimes we hear, and albeit I have heard that before. I think I finished close to Top-20 at Augusta, or like Top-25 I think at Augusta my first year out there. So I experienced a little bit of it.

But I think for those other guys, definitely. I think it will definitely be a benefit for them that there’s no crowds, no roars going on.

Q. Back to the majors. Curious how you have grown as a golfer and a person from those experiences to give you the confidence to compete for the championship tomorrow?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: You know, I’d say the other majors, I’ve struggled, whether it be my game, just driving it not well, iron play not well, putting not well or whatever it was. It was just something I wasn’t comfortable with in majors; higher expectations. Sometimes I felt like I was playing good going into it and would get there and something would go off and then I’d get penalized based off of just the conditions at hand and not having everything in tiptop shape and for me, going into this year’s first major, I would say I was a little more confident just because I had won three or four weeks ago, can’t even remember how long it was ago.

And I’ve also been able to hit it a lot farther. Putting’s really good. Had a lot of confidence, and to be honest with you, Chris and I have been working pretty hard on some golf swing stuff and they have really started to pay off for me and I feel really confident with that and excited to keep testing it. This is the first major with this new body, new swing. I hope it’s only going to get better.

Q. You mentioned the randomness, the point in time of the putt on the last. Curious if you can think of another circumstance, maybe in a win, or something where you had a similar kind of quirky moment earlier in the week. And then secondly, the importance of the momentum of that, or is it just, again, just randomness, I guess?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: No, there’s definitely momentum in this game. I mean, you can see it with any player that’s out here, even with me. There’s up-and-downs, and you try and be as positive and stable as possible, and you know, sometimes there’s just things that happen where you can’t explain it.

Give you one other instance. I didn’t win or anything but it was as Riv, not this past year but the year before. I holed out twice, once on 13 and once on 17 in the same day. I just kept making shots from around the green, and then the next day, I made one on 14 on the par 3.

So there’s some times, there’s weeks where randomness occurs, and it just keeps occurring in a weird way. It’s like flipping — I don’t even know if this is the right example. But the only thing I can think about is flipping a quarter, and having it land on heads 12 times or something, the percentage of that, whatever that is. Just sometimes there’s things in golf that happens really weird, and that’s why I love golf.

As much as I try and bring it down to a science, I love it because of the randomness, because I’m trying to figure it out and sometimes those weird things happen, and good and bad, and you’ve just got to laugh them off.

Q. Growing up in Clovis, what’s your experience with TPC Harding Park, and being a northern California guy, what would it mean to win your first major championship kind of in your backyard?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Can you ask the first question again? I was thinking about the second one, because yes, it would be amazing to win in my backyard. Ask the first one again, please.

Q. Your experience at TPC Harding Park.

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Yeah, so I played here 2012 or 2011. I think it was 2012 or 2011 for a sectional qualifier for the U.S. Open near Olympic Club. What was it, 2012 I think? Yeah, Olympic.

I was close. I missed it by like two or three or something like that. So I played this golf course and I loved it. I thought it was a great golf course. Happened to be that we were playing it this year and I was super excited to come here and play well here again. And to win in my backyard would be something I could only dream of. Monterey and then I’d also say San Fran, this area, played a lot of NCGA junior tour events around here and there’s so many great golf courses. It would just be a tremendous honor to win. I don’t even know what that would mean to me other than more than the world, I would say. It would be really cool because there’s been a lot of people in NCGA that have helped me become the person I am, and it would be cool to go down there if it was to happen and bring the trophy down to Monterey and hang out with the guys that helped me get here.

Q. Mentally, emotionally, tonight and heading into tomorrow, as you go through the preparation, will you allow yourself to think about winning and holding that Wanamaker Trophy?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: No. No. I won’t, at all. That’s a great question. For me, it’s about the process, and I’ll be thinking about the shots and executing the right shots and putting myself in the right position to win. If I give myself a couple shots going into the back nine, being that close to the lead or even hopefully up at the top of the leaderboard, that’s the goal that I’m looking for, and it’s these small intermediate goals that every single hole is going to probably be changing, but then going back to executing every shot the best I possibly that. That’s really what I’ll be thinking about tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka is looking for the Three-peat: “I feel very comfortable around the lead in the big events.”

JOHN DEVER: Good evening, welcome back to the 2020 PGA Championship here at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. We are pleased to be joined by two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka. Brooks posted a third-round 69. He is 7-under for the championship, two shots off the lead.

Brooks, kind of held serve today more than anything, but you’re still in a really good position going into the last day. Maybe talk about your play and your outlook.

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I thought I played a lot better than my score reflected. Really made one bad swing. But I left it in a good spot and just hit a poor chip. The other ones I was in the semi a lot, and I think sometimes in the semi, it can come out without spin or it can come with spin, and if you’re going to do that in the wind, it’s kind of tough to judge.

Maybe took a little bit too aggressive of lines on those out of the semi, but I just missed them in the worst spot possible, but they were good shots, so I felt like I played really well, putted really well, and the driver I hit great. It’s just sometimes they didn’t move with the wind, hit them too good.

Q. How big were those last couple birdies and can you carry some momentum from late today into tomorrow?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I think so. 16 was nice. I thought that was probably the toughest putt I had all day just because that wind, you’re kind of right there in that open area and the wind is pumping off the right. It was kind of a weird read where I felt like if you started it on the right edge, it would stay, but if you didn’t, it could snap. So to make that I thought was big and maybe just a little bit of a confidence boost in the putting for the last two holes. 17 I thought I made, and 18 just hit a good shot.

Nice to walk away with a birdie there and carry it over to tomorrow.

Q. There’s a few guys around you with one major, you’ve obviously got more. Was the second one harder to win?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Well, if you look at the top of the leaderboard, I’d say yes.

Q. What makes that difficult to make the second one?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I think expectations. I think — I guess it does become difficult if you think you’ve played good enough to win multiple ones. But you’ve just got to keep putting yourself there. I’m doing a good job of that. But the second one definitely is a little bit tougher, I think, as you can see from the top of the leaderboard.

Q. You’ve won majors from out front and from having to come back in the final round. How confident are you in your ability to get this done tomorrow?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I’m playing good so I like my chances. Just put the ball in the fairway a few more times and not in the semi. That would be all right, just not short-side myself. If I can do that tomorrow and not short-side myself, I’ll have a good chance.

Q. Given that you’ve won a few of these now, four of them, how different is your confidence now being in this position versus a few years ago, I guess the difference between those two?

BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s just a comfort level. I feel very comfortable around the lead in the big events.

Obviously we don’t have fans here, which I think plays a little bit — makes it a little different when they’re hooting and hollering, which it can be fun if they’re cheering for you, but if they’re against you it’s not so much fun. It’s going to feel completely different than any one we’ve ever played. I’m looking forward to it tomorrow. It should be a fun shootout.

Q. Just a quick update on how was the hip today?

BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s good. It’s fine. I told you it released the knot.

Q. It’s a bit of a reversal, last year you had the lead, DJ was the one coming for you. How do you feel about the reverse situation there?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, I like my chances. When I’ve been in this position before, I’ve capitalized. I don’t know, he’s only won one. I’m playing good. I don’t know, we’ll see.

Q. You mentioned how it was different without fans at the majors. I’m curious playing ahead of the final group tomorrow how that will be different for you knowing that you won’t hear roars around the course?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Well, there’s probably about, I don’t know, 10 or 12 leaderboards around, so I’ll be able to see. All you’ve got to do is look up or look to your left or right and you’ll see something and figure it out.

Q. You talked about the birdies late; how much of a difference on this course and these conditions in a major is it being two back versus say four back?

BROOKS KOEPKA: To be honest with you, on this golf course I feel like anywhere from 4-under has a chance. I think that’s realistic. You can get off to 3-, 4-under very quickly through seven, depending on what they do if they move the tee up, it could be four or five, and then if you play 8 and 9 well and birdie 10, I mean, you’ve got a realistic chance right there.

It all depends what the weather does tomorrow, but any of those guys at 4-under I think reasonably have a good chance.

JOHN DEVER: Brooks, thanks so much. Have a good evening.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Championship leader Dustin Johnson is looking for his second major title

JOHN DEVER: Good afternoon. Welcome back to the 2020 PGA Championship here at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Pleased to be joined by Dustin Johnson, who just is joining us after posting a 65, 5-under par today. He is 9-under par for the championship and is currently at the top of the leaderboard.

Eight birdies today on what probably would not be described as a vulnerable golf course. What part of your game was clicking? Tell us a little bit about that.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I putted really well. That was key. But I hit a lot of good shots to give myself some good looks because the flags are tucked. The greens are firm and fast. So I did hit a lot of quality iron shots.

Tomorrow I think I need to go — I definitely need to hit some more fairways, because it’s really tough playing this golf course from the rough. Obviously the bunkers, too, are very tough. A couple — had a few nice up-and-downs out of the bunkers, but also a few poor ones.

Q. You are here in a major championship again and you’ve been in contention many times, but this time, obviously no roars. A lot of people are within a few shots of you. What are you going to do tomorrow about looking at scoreboards, kind of trying to figure out what is going on as the day unfolds?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I’m going to try my best not to do that. All I can do is go out and play my game and shoot the best number I can. I’m going to just try and go out and shoot as low as I can tomorrow just like I did today. You know, just take what the golf course gives me and just keep on going because, you know, it doesn’t really matter what other guys are doing. All I can control is myself.

Q. Curious, you get that double-bogey on 9. What are your thoughts going to 10 tee knowing the back nine has really been difficult this week?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I should have never hit it in the left bunker, is what I was thinking. I knew it was a bad spot. I actually went down a club not to get there, and I misjudged the lie a little bit. I didn’t think it was going to come out very good, and it came out way better than I thought it was, and I hit it in the one spot I didn’t want to hit it in. It’s just one of those things.

The golf course is tough. You’re going to make a score — obviously a bogey would have been a lot nicer, but I knew I was playing good. I was putting good. I just needed to keep on going and put it behind me.

Q. We’re hearing reports: Did you lose your yardage book?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I did. I think — it’s got to be in the bottom of my bag but I didn’t want to take all my clubs out on the golf course. But AJ had an extra one, so we were fine.

Q. Following up on that, when did you realize you couldn’t find it, and what’s the difference, I guess, between the two books?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Nothing. I just used a regular yardage book. I use it more so I can get the yardages out of the fairway and where the flag is. But my brother had an extra one, so it was perfect.

JOHN DEVER: Thank goodness for brothers.

Q. Just to be clear, he had an extra one from this golf course, though, right?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: No, it was from last week, but it worked out well. (Laughter.)

Q. Wanted to ask you, you’ve had a number of chances going into the final round of a major. What’s the difference in how you look at the opportunity tomorrow compared with when you were younger, when you had a chance at either Pebble, Whistling or St. George’s or any number of other ones?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, those, I was definitely younger. I have been out here awhile now. I’ve been in contention a lot, and I’ve got it done a lot of times. Tomorrow, it’s no different. I need to be out — I’m going to have to play good golf if I want to win. It’s simple; I’ve got to hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. If I can do that tomorrow, I’m going to have a good chance coming down the stretch on the back nine.

Q. Is it almost better that there’s about a billion people within two shots of the lead, instead of one or two?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean, it really doesn’t matter. I feel like I have a chance no matter where I am on the leaderboard starting tomorrow. Obviously the guys, they still have quite a few holes to play, the guys behind us.

I’m going to be in a good position no matter what, and you know, tomorrow I’m just going to have to go out and do what I did today. Just get it done.

Q. You’re looking for your second major title. A lot of guys who are in the thick of this are looking for their first. How much can you use that to your advantage?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, yeah, I definitely have experience in this situation that definitely will help tomorrow. I’ve been in the hunt a bunch of times in a major. I’ve got one major, so having that experience is definitely going to be beneficial tomorrow.

You know, but it’s one of those things. Still going to have to go out and play really good golf. This is a tough golf course. Greens are getting really firm. They are fast. So I think the wind is going to blow again tomorrow, so it’s going to play difficult.

I look forward to the challenge, and you know, I will definitely be relying on a lot of that experience that I have.

Q. You’ve been asked a little about the back nine, which has been giving most players trouble. Looks like you shot 31 on the back. Curious your take on how much of a role that will play tomorrow and how difficult that can be, and specifically, 16, 17 and 18 to have a short par 4, windy par 3 and obviously the closing hole. What do you think of that stretch?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, the whole golf course is tough. I mean, you’ve got to put your ball in position, but yeah, obviously depending where they set the tees up tomorrow on 16 and the flag, it could be a hole where you could possibly make a two if you need to, or you know, but on 17, again, it’s a par 3. It’s not too long, but you still have got to hit a quality golf shot if you want to get it close to the hole. That green, it sits out there in the wind all day, it’s really firm. Obviously 18 is just a really good hole. You have to hit a really good tee shot into the fairway there if you want to give yourself any chance.

JOHN DEVER: Thank you, sir.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

Tiger Woods still believes he has a chance to win the PGA Championship

Q. Thoughts on the day and what a battle it is out there?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, I drove it great today. That’s one of the things I wanted to clean up from yesterday. I didn’t do as good a job yesterday of driving the ball as I needed to. Today was different. I drove it great. Missed a few irons on the short side. Didn’t get up-and-down.

And I really struggled with getting the speed of the greens today. They looked faster than what they were putting. They were firm coming into the greens, but they weren’t putting as fast as they looked, and then as the day wore on, they got a little more fuzzy and got even slower, and I struggled even a little bit more hitting the putts hard enough.

Q. Some guys were saying the putting green didn’t quite match up —

TIGER WOODS: Oh, they haven’t all week. The putting green is faster than the golf course. It’s been like that all week. Again, but some of the pins were up on crests so you’re putting into the grain early and then you go past the hole, and it’s downgrain. I didn’t want to make the mistake of blowing it past on a few of those holes and I left them short and on the low side.

Q. Can you still win here?


Q. Is it the type of course you can see some big swings on the weekend?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, absolutely. This golf course is — with the dots for tomorrow, they’ve got them in some tough spots. Tomorrow I’m going off early and hopefully I can get it going, drive the ball like I did today, hit my irons a little bit more crisp and be a little bit more aggressive on the putts.

Q. Will a big key be just the speeds, getting that early and getting into a rhythm?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, as I said, for me they looked faster than they were putting. That’s always the toughest combination I’ve always found, making that adjustment. You give it a run, but it just — it’s just not rolling out. Early in the round I had a couple putts that were downwind and the wind was blowing the putts a little bit. J.T. got affected a couple times today with the wind gusts, and I did on one hole pretty badly. Again, if I can get myself in position where like I did today off the tee, I think I can have a really good weekend.

Source: ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: 2015 Players Champion Rickie Fowler Speaks to Media Prior to 2020 Edition

2015 Players Champion Rickie Fowler answers questions from the media prior to making start his 11th start at the 2020 Players Championship.

PGA Tour: Rickie Fowler speaks with the media ahead of 2020 Players Championship

DOUG MILNE: We would like to welcome Rickie Fowler, 2015 PLAYERS champion to the interview room here. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes, making your 11th start in THE PLAYERS Championship this week, obviously with some success, so with that said, just some thoughts on being back here at TPC Sawgrass this week.

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, it’s obviously always great to be back here at TPC. It’s a special place being that I’ve had a win here in 2015 and some other good finishes, but this is the arguably the strongest field that we play against, it’s our tournament, and it’s been interesting to get to see the course in March versus May. So it’s quite a bit different, but looking forward to the week as all the other players, and this is definitely one that we always look forward to being here.

DOUG MILNE: You’ve obviously enjoyed the success on the course. Diabolical is a word that’s used often to describe the course. How have you been able to kind of tame that to where it kind of caters to your game somewhat?

RICKIE FOWLER: The golf course, if you look at it properly, it’s fairly straightforward; hit it in the fairway, hit it on the green, wear out the fairways and greens. But there’s a lot of other things that come into play: Plenty of water, a lot of bunkers, a lot of funky little ones. And honestly, I’m not happy unless there’s sand in my pants.

DOUG MILNE: Okay. Open it up to questions.

Q. How did you celebrate Sunday night after you won? And secondly, no one’s ever defended here; why do you think it’s so difficult to win here as a defending champion?
RICKIE FOWLER: So Sunday after we won, as you guys know, obviously there’s some media stops and I think we went and did the post-tournament show with the Golf Channel or Golf Central. By that time it was — we had probably been a couple hours in, I think there was a stop in the clubhouse and the staff had tacos waiting for us in the locker room, so that was a nice way to kind of round it out. Had a drink and then we hung out there for maybe an hour and hopped in the car, headed south, and I was on set at a shoot at 6:30 the next morning. So not a whole lot of celebrating, a couple hours of sleep and a long day the next day. But all worth it.

To me, why it’s tough to defend here, it’s a golf course that doesn’t necessarily fit any one style of player. I saw something that was posted not long ago of kind of the recent past champions here and what guys did well from whether it was driving the ball, approach, putting, scrambling, and there was nothing really that stood out as one thing between all players. Some guys hit more irons off tee, some guys hit a lot of drivers, some guys putted well, but there’s not one particular thing that was necessarily common between all of them. This golf course isn’t necessarily long so it doesn’t necessarily benefit a bomber of the golf ball, and to me at the end of the day it’s whoever has the most control and kind of keeps it simple, fairways and greens. Like I said, there’s not really one thing that stands out, so I think everyone in the field, it doesn’t really weed anyone out.

Q. You started working with John Tillery, so what led a California kid to land on the Georgia boy, John Tillery, over all the other coaches out there, and how quickly did he put you on the metronome?
RICKIE FOWLER: The metronome was definitely brought up the first time I saw him, and I’m someone that’s terrible with any sort of timing, whether how it’s related to music and dancing. That’s not something I put in my — it’s very low on my list of what I’m good at. So bringing timing and a metronome into the swing and being, trying to be somewhat symmetrical on both sides of the ball has been a little bit of an adjustment, something that’s been very beneficial. And now it’s just the kind of connection really through Kiz and spending a lot of time around him over the last few years and had been around JT a bit with him being around Kiz obviously. So he’s just someone that’s easy to be around, love his outlook on the game, the swing. I mean he’s — as all of us are, we’re golf nerds, but he’s a big golf nerd and a big swing nerd, so we have had a lot of fun together and he’s someone that’s just fun and easy to be around and hang out with.

Q. There seems to be a lot of growing abundance of caution regarding the coronavirus and all that with cancellations and postponements of events all over the country. But it’s largely business as usual out here this week. As a player, do you have more concern maybe about signing autographs, about interacting with the galleries this week other than maybe you normally have, and are you conscious of that more so than usual?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I would say probably taking a little bit more precaution than normal. But over the years I think I’ve gone — I’ve become more and more kind of cautious of how I’ve interacted as far as high-fives or maybe any kind of — yeah high five to fist bump, anything that goes on throughout the round. Early in my career I felt like there was a lot more of that, which led to — not saying it was a direct reflection of it, but sick more often. So for me, usually try not to do anything really on course at all, and then with the autograph area setup, it’s really where I’ll kind of direct all signing to and that way I am really in control of how it’s done and I can kind of hang in one spot, and I mean, I’ve always signed with my own pens and stuff like that, so it’s not necessarily a change, but you’re still having contact, whether you use people’s Sharpies or pens, you’re still getting their stuff.

But if I can do it after the round or when I’m done with my practice or whatever it may be, I can go ahead and sign and then if there’s hand sanitizer to be able to go to the restroom and wash up afterwards. Nothing really more than normal, but just maybe a little bit more precautious (sic).

Q. This is an Olympic year. You are obviously a proud Olympian with the tattoo and everything, but describe just preparing your game for having six marquee tests of golf from THE PLAYERS all the way through the Olympics. And with this being the first test, how are you going to approach those six the rest of the year?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, with how the new season’s laid out, I mean, you used to look at Augusta obviously the start of it and then May to August kind of from PLAYERS through our playoffs, that was really the main chunk of the season. But now it almost seems like it doesn’t really stop, so through the fall is kind of the time that you look to maybe take some time off or work on the game, however that is, whether that’s away from tournament golf or playing some events.

Then you start with THE PLAYERS and now it’s a little bit longer of an extended — big events that are a little bit more spread out. So I wouldn’t say necessarily that you’re trying to peak in the summer or anything like that, you got to be on top of your game a lot more often for an extended period of time. So it hasn’t necessarily changed it. Obviously every time you’re teeing it up you’re going out there to play your best and you’re playing tournaments to go win.

I think the biggest change was THE PLAYERS being switched from May to March. It plays differently here with that two-month difference, and then with the PGA going to May, with some of the tournaments being further north we could get some interesting weather or potential cold weather, but for me you still look at the majors and THE PLAYERS as those are the ones that you’re setting your schedule around.

There’s only a handful of guys that get to go to the Olympics. I’m still on the outside looking in. I got to take care of business to have a chance to be there, but it’s something I highly recommend for guys to go do and girls on the women’s side. It’s a special experience and hopefully with everything going on that it’s still going to be able to go on in Tokyo this summer.

Q. Regarding your grouping yesterday JT talked about the fine line between getting serious, and as he said, yukking it up when you’re with friends. How do you look at it playing in a group; is it more fun with close friends?
RICKIE FOWLER: It is for me. I mean, there’s definitely going to be more interaction with the guys that you’re closer to or closer with. Maybe a little bit of trash talk, just between us for fun and what we would normally do. But within reason. And to me, I mean, playing with your buddies, your close friends, it’s always kind of pushed me to play my best. Not that that comes out every time that you play against your buddies, but your close friends are the ones that you want to lose to the least amount, so you want to go beat them up, and it would be nice to have bragging rights over them each day and it would be fun to kind of push each other through the weekend as well.

Q. This is a question from a fan in China. You’ve had some great moments on the 17th, and what’s your strategy and mindset on the island green here this week?
RICKIE FOWLER: Island green, yeah, I’ve been fortunate, I’ve made a lot of good swings there and had a lot of success on 17. But trying to keep it as simple as possible there. Obviously my caddie Joe and I, we pick a line and a specific target of exactly where we’re trying to land the ball. Really getting committed to that, making sure we go through our normal process, setup, and when we’re over the ball it’s just focusing on making a good swing and hitting that number. Easier said than done, but no, it’s a fun hole. Luckily it’s not very long, but when it does play back into the wind, which is possible this time of year but I don’t think we’re going to get much of that this week, it’s a fairly simple shot. It’s just when you get out of your routine or you kind of have like a little mental hiccup, that’s when the problems happen. But the more that you can kind of stay with what you normally do and stay precise on where you’re trying to hit your shot, usually good things happen.

Q. A little off topic here, but just looking at the last three or four years of Masters, guys who have almost won it or finished second, it’s a real who’s-who list of guys on TOUR. I’m wondering how you process 2018 between being proud of the close that you had to have there to get that close and then maybe recounting I let a shot get away here or there. Just how did you process finishing second that year?
RICKIE FOWLER: I thought it was great week, especially coming off of some of the Sundays I had there prior to that, being around or having a chance and not necessarily playing a good front nine or just having a bad Sunday as a whole. I did a really good job of just managing my way through the front nine, not necessarily playing my best golf, making sure I was still in the tournament and not taking myself completely out of it. And then I did a really good job on the back nine, had a few missed opportunities, but executed the shots and drove the ball well and put myself in a position where I had a chance. So I was happy with it. Yeah, one shot short and something you can go back on, and there’s a number of tournaments where you’re a shot or a few shots back of who ends up winning on Sunday, and you can always, well, what if this went in or if I just made this putt, but there’s nothing you can do to change that. You can only learn from it and try and limit those mistakes, if they were mistakes. Sometimes you hit a good putt and they just don’t go in, it might have been a misread.

But for me it was more just how I handled everything that day and through the back nine, like I said, executed, and like you can learn from the little mistakes that were made, but to me I didn’t make mistakes. I missed some opportunities on the greens. 17 I thought I hit it in there close and I missed my landing spot by about two yards to that right pin, and no, that’s where you want to be on Sundays, and we put ourselves in that position and had a chance to do it, and Patrick played well.

Q. I also have Masters question. Tiger’s win last year was one of the biggest moments in sports in 2019. Will the spectre of that victory still sort of hang over this year’s Masters, at least at the beginning when people are arriving? I mean, does it have that kind of permanence that even a year later it will still be in people’s minds?
RICKIE FOWLER: That’s going to be in people’s minds forever. Tiger’s had the biggest impact on our sport with that stage kind of set by guys like Jack, Arnie, Greg Norman, and some others that came before him. But for him to do what he did, to come back after being away from the game for a few years and potentially in a spot where he may not be able to play competitively again, to come back and win at East Lake and to go win the Masters, like I said, from a position where people thought he may not even play competitive rounds again, it’s very impressive. So that’s going to be around forever.

Once the tournament gets going, it’s about 2020, but 2019 is definitely part of history.

Q. When you won in 2015 you gained three strokes off the tee. In the last three years you’ve lost strokes off the tee every year. Do you have an idea of why, and has your strategy changed at all off the tee for this year?
RICKIE FOWLER: I didn’t drive it as well the last couple years here. Yeah, when I won in 2015 I was, I mean any club I was hitting off the tee, because you’re not always hitting driver here, I was hitting everything very tight lines, knew where it was going, I was very much in control. I mean, definitely shows when I was able to pull driver on 18 multiple times and I was swinging very freely. So it wasn’t like I was guiding it or trying to control, it was just kind of letting things happen, and it was point and shoot and just commit to it.

So that’s a lot more of where I feel like I am this year coming in. I know it hasn’t been the greatest start to the season for me, but definitely been heading the right way and trending. So with working on a lot of the new stuff with JT, I love where we’re at and where we’re heading, so we’re heading the right direction. Like I said, I feel like I’m much more in a spot where I know where it’s going, and that’s something that can be very beneficial around this place.

Q. I’m curious, a lot of players we’re now hearing battling injuries, Brooks, Justin, wrist injuries, knee injuries. What do you feel is contributing to that, and how do you balance that between working out, practicing, your schedule, and is there anything in particular fitness-wise that you do just to protect the long term of your game?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, ultimately you want to be out here playing healthy when you do play. I mean, I think a lot of injuries can come from almost playing too much. Doing anything at a high level and high speed, you’re putting a lot of stress on your body, so the time management of that, of playing the right amount, not playing too much, but also not playing too little where you’re not ready to play when you do play. I think there’s almost — there’s too many playing opportunities. There’s not really an off season where guys either get to go work on the game, rest if they may be in a spot where they need to work on a part of the body or an injury. For me, off weeks when I’m at home is when I do most of my working out. I’ll be in the gym lifting weights probably five days a week, doing therapy every day, and on the road it’s therapy every day and I’ll try and get in a workout or two early in the week, if I can, if time permits, but I’m also not wanting to push the body and be fatigued come Thursday.

So this afternoon I’ll probably do some sort of movement, just to make sure the body’s firing and good to go and then get some more therapy after that. But, yeah, like I mentioned the first part, it’s the time management side of it and making sure that you’re playing the right amount to where you’re also able to recover and then work out to make sure you’re staying in a consistent spot with your body strength-wise and movement, so that you’re not seeing the body kind of taper the wrong direction through the season.

So it’s personal, kind of a personal balance for everyone. Everyone’s going to be different, whether it’s how hard they push in the gym or maybe not at all. Yeah, you’ve got to find out what works best for you.

Q. You go way back with Kevin Dougherty who’s been so close the last couple years. Can you kind of reflect on how you met him and growing up with him and what qualities in Kevin that stand out to you?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I’ve known Kevin for a long time. We both grew up in Murrieta back home, played a lot of golf with him. When we were both juniors, I believe he was four or five years behind me. So at one point he was a lot shorter and smaller than me. Now he’s 6’2″ and he’s spent a lot of time in the gym and is very strong and hits the ball a lot further than me now, where I used to be able to hit a 4-iron past him. So it’s been really fun to see him grow and be somewhat of a big brother to him.

He’s someone that has basically turned himself into a real professional golfer. As a junior he wasn’t necessarily someone that was looked at as one of the great juniors or anything like that, but he kept working really hard to get himself to the next level and he’s continued to do that. He worked hard through high school, gave himself a chance to go to Oklahoma State and get to play there and kept working there and just kept getting better and better. So which is, I think, somewhat — it’s not something you see all the time. A lot of times you see the guys that are talented and towards the top of each level, those are the ones that move on, and some don’t make it, some do, but it’s rare to see someone just go out and outwork and put the time in.

It’s been fun to watch, and very proud of what he’s been able to do, and we stay in touch quite a bit, and if we’re not talking I’m always watching and seeing what he’s doing. So it’s been nice to see him be close early this year and to start to play a little bit better and, yeah, I feel like he’s someone that he’s a fighter, and like I said, he’s going to outwork his way and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s out here with us soon.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

March 11, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Brooks Koepka Talks Course Record at The Players Championship

PGA Tour professional and four-time major champion Brooks Koepka speaks with the media prior to the 2020 Players Championship, an event that he has yet to capture victory at but does have the course record in his name

PGA Tour: Brooks Koepka talks with the media and previews 2020 Players Championship

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We would like to welcome Brooks Koepka to the interview room here at THE PLAYERS Championship. Brooks, when we look at the course record at this course, your name’s on it, had success here. Thoughts going into the week.

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, hopefully it’s a good week. Obviously I’m going I’m not playing that good, so hopefully can right this ship and figure out how to get the ball in the hole, score a little better. Everything seems to kind of be piecing together piece by piece, and good memories of this place, I like it, played it a lot growing up. In college we would sneak over here a couple times a year, so hopefully that can bring out some good mojo.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: Open it up to questions.

Q. It was reported that you went to go see Butch. I’m wondering when you decided it was time for a fresh set of eyes. I know you said that you still have the same coaches and stuff, but what prompted the decision to fly out there?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It was something that Claude’s always going to be my coach, Pete’s always going to be my short game coach. I had spoken with them on Saturday, I think I made a phone call to Claude and it’s one of those things I felt like I just I had so much going on in my head, so many swing thoughts and needed to clear the slate, and the Harmons are family to me, and so we flew out Sunday, went and saw Butch Monday, and got in yesterday afternoon.

Q. That was the first time ever taking a lesson from him?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, Butch has seen me swing it a million times, he knows — I’ve seen him at Floridian a million times and he’s stood there when I’m hitting balls with Claude and he’s stood there at the Ryder Cup. It’s one of those things where I just needed a different set of eyes, maybe something might click, because I was failing.

Claude was giving me, telling me the same things he’s said for five years, the three keys that we have just worked on, and for some reason I just couldn’t do it. That’s on me. It’s not on Claude, it’s not Claude’s fault, it’s not Pete’s fault, it’s not anybody’s fault except my own, and the fact that I couldn’t do it, I just needed a fresh set of eyes just to look at it and see if he saw anything out of the ordinary. And the beauty of it is Butch has seen it so many times. So it was good for me to go out there. I had Claude’s blessing. I called Claude, I told Pete, and they were all behind it.

Q. Certainly every professional athlete has had ups and downs in their careers; what was the difference in this one? Was it confidence? Why were you just feeling different with this downturn?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I wouldn’t — it wasn’t that I was feeling different, I just couldn’t match everything everybody was telling me to do. You go through feelings where sometimes they say release the club or hold it off, whatever it might be, and it’s fairly simple but right now for whatever reason it just felt difficult, I couldn’t do it. That’s me being aware of where the club face is or being aware where my path is, where I’m set up, different things like that, but that’s all on me.

Q. Wondering, for somebody who has accomplished so much already in golf, how difficult is it for you to make changes like that, which are I’m assuming incredibly significant.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Not really, it’s pretty fundamental stuff, I just wasn’t doing it, to put it very bluntly. You fall into bad habits, yes, and sometimes you just got to work your way out of them. What Butch said, I mean he saw it in four swings, I think, and told me a couple things and I had planned on being out there all day Tuesday and except he told me to fly home, fly out here, or well, not fly home, fly here, and get out here and practice, because he felt like everything was on the right track and now it’s our job to make sure that it progresses and it progresses nicely with Claude.

Q. Your record here, obviously you’ve had some good mojo here. Oftentimes it just takes one good round or two to kind of snap things out of it. What would a good day tomorrow do for you, do you think, in terms of just kind of —
BROOKS KOEPKA: It just takes one shot. It’s there sometimes right now and then it’s still — I still resort back to the old habits, old things. It’s getting close, I’ve said that for weeks and weeks, but now it’s just getting more consistent. I felt I had something to build on, I putted a lot better Saturday, and then Sunday I definitely putted better. Other than a little hiccup there on 1, which was just me lapsing in concentration.

But I’m progressing, and every year we’re in this slump — we had a little bit of a team meeting, my whole team yesterday for about an hour, hour and a half, just trying to go over everything and make sure everybody’s on the same page and knows what we’re at, what we’re trying to accomplish, and a lot of that is on my shoulders. I haven’t done maybe the best job of doing everything I need to do.

Q. How much has the knee had an impact on this, or is it more the layoff from the knee that the three months away or so?
BROOKS KOEPKA: My knee’s fine. My knee’s exactly where it should be. It’s just a matter of execution, taking care of what I need to take care of. It has nothing to do with my knee. It’s all me not being able to do what Claude’s told me to do, what Pete’s told me to do, Jeff on the putting. That’s me, whether it’s lack of concentration, focus, decisiveness, whatever it might be, that’s all on my shoulders, it has nothing to do with anybody else.

Q. Do you know what it is? Is it lack of focus, concentration?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, that’s kind of what we were going over yesterday. Making sure we’re a little bit more decisive. I think maybe it has been a little bit of lack of concentration, because I go into a major, and a perfect example is 6 at Honda. You pull one in there off the tee, which in a major I never would, I would be so scared of hitting it in the water I would hit it to the right, make sure the miss is to the right. And then we drop one and then I hit it in the water again where I would never make sure that miss is left on any of those holes.

My misses right now are in the worse possible places. I’ve short-sided myself, I’ve put it where it’s very penalizing. When you’re playing good, you hit things and your misses are in the correct spots. And even if you’re playing bad, you need to make sure that you choose the right shot shape, the shot where you want to miss it and things like that.

I think that’s — I see the shot in my mind and I just haven’t executed and when you’re on that’s perfectly fine, but sometimes when you’re off you need to understand that center of the greens are good and that’s where you want to be.

Q. Do you think if the TOUR pulled you aside and whispered into your ear, this is a major this week, do you think it would help?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It doesn’t matter. I try my ass off in every tournament. It’s just, I take it up a notch, I don’t know, it’s very hard to explain. I think someone said this yesterday in the meeting, that I have a hard time accepting that I’m going to make mistakes in a regular TOUR event, but in a major I seem to know that I’m going to make mistakes and I just want to minimize those. I think that was kind of perfectly said. I try to be too perfect out here a lot of times and try to never miss a golf shot, try to win it with my iron play, my driving, when a lot of the times it’s not how you win.

Q. On a lighter note, you just had your feature in GQ; you’re a pretty fashionable guy. A couple things that have gotten some attention lately had EVR’s joggers, you had Adam Scott rocking pleated pants, and I’m curious if Nike came to you with either one of those, would you be willing to say yes to pleated pants or joggers?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Well, Nike’s already come with joggers. They did that.

Q. You’ve worn them?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I’ve worn them, yeah. Not in a tournament but they were the first ones to do them out here.

Q. Have you ever turned down any apparel that Nike put in front of you?

Q. What about pleated pants; would you turn those down?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, those are in right now.

Q. What does Chase need to do with his game to get out here?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don’t know. I haven’t been around him playing too much as of late. It’s all about opportunity. I think the hardest part is getting here. It’s easier to stay here than it is to get out here, for sure. He tried Europe, and I won’t say he didn’t like it, but he wanted to make the transition over here and missed — well, I guess got conditional status on Korn Ferry, and there are times when I’m out here and I’m like I know he can play out here. But at the same time he’s got to wait for his opportunity, take advantage of it when he can and that’s — I mean there are guys that deserve to be out here that aren’t out here, just plain and simple. It’s all about the timing and when they have, if they timed it up right.

Q. Does he have a good eye for your swing and vice versa?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I can’t tell anybody. Everybody loves to ask, like amateurs, like what am I doing, and I know how to hit it, I don’t know how to coach. But, yeah, I mean, I’ve watched him hit balls so much, I know pretty much how he lines up, how he sets up, and I can see things like that, but he’s played fine. I think a lot of times it’s his expectations and, look, I don’t envy him at all, he’s in a very tough spot and a lot of times I really feel bad for him being the younger brother and then having me. I really do feel bad for him. It’s not fun.

If he ever steps in an interview room like this, 90 percent of his questions are about me, they’re not about him. So I feel real bad for him a lot of the times, and sometimes as a family it’s about picking him up a little bit and make being sure that he has got the confidence, he’s got what he needs to be successful and not always hear about me. You even hear it when he goes to a golf course, a lot of times the only questions he gets asked are about me, and I give him a lot of credit, I couldn’t be in those shoes.

Q. Do you feel like you’re relatively receptive to a lot of this stuff? Are you too hardheaded at times?

Q. To the changes that you’ve been talking about, even before when people would tell you things, do you feel like you soak them in or do you feel like you didn’t process them the right way?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s funny, we talked about this last night in our meeting. I think if you would have — what’s made me successful is I don’t listen to anybody. I listen to my coach, my team, everybody inside. I’ll do what they ask, I’ll do what’s needed and I don’t tinker. I don’t tinker with clubs, I don’t make changes on anything and then all of a sudden I kind of veered off the path of all right, well, let’s try this, I think this is going to make me better, when it got me to world No. 1, it got me four majors, seven wins out here. Why am I changing that?

I think I’ve always laughed because you see guys do it before you. They make changes right when they get to the top to improve and the intent behind it is really good, but at the same time a lot of these things are what makes me successful, what makes me tick. And that’s what I’m trying to go back to right now is make it very fundamental, very simple and keep the main thing the main thing. Keep those three points I worked on with Claude for five years and that’s the only thing we have ever worked on and that’s what we’re going to.

Q. The other thing, one thing that Butch seems to be very good at is not only looking at your swing and making comments but making you think better and feel better about where you’re going. Did you feel like he helped you somewhat mentally in that just time, that little time you had with him this week?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It was good. It was nice to get out there and go see him. Obviously I hadn’t seen him in, it’s been awhile, since he’s not out here. But every time I’m around Butch I enjoy it, you get a nice laugh and, yeah, I think that’s one of Butch’s — yes, he’s a great golf coach, but at the same time he’s a great motivator, big team guy when he’s standing there. So that was nice to see. But at the same time, so was Claude and so was Pete.

I’ve got, I think, the best team around me. And those guys do the same thing. I think it’s in the Harmons’ blood for a little bit of motivation and confidence and that’s probably the reason why Claude stays with me at our house. Every time we get a house he stays with me, and it’s definitely in their DNA.

Q. There are a few holes during the whole calendar of the year that can be so decisive on winning or losing, like 17 and 18 here. Can you describe these holes and what makes them so special, especially in a, let’s say, pressure situation on the final day, for example?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, I’m probably not the guy to ask about 17. I think I’ve probably played it the worst out of anybody probably the last five years. But I mean, yeah, you just got to pick your shot, be decisive about it and obviously hit the green on 17 and you’re going to have a good chance the way it’s kind of broken up in those three little quarters. Then 18, we usually play with 3-iron, 3-wood, somewhere out there on the right and then try and let my ball striking take over and be successful that way.

Q. There’s so many big events cancelled throughout the world. European Tour has cancelled due to this coronavirus. Have you thought a single second about maybe not attending here or how did you guys handle this whole situation at the moment?
BROOKS KOEPKA: This is the TOUR’s biggest event. I’m not going to skip it.

Q. Can I ask you a little bit more about what Butch was asking you to do or what he was seeing in your swing? And I’ll say this based on some things that Paul Marchand, who works with Fred Couples, told me about Fred’s swing many years ago. This could be 25 years ago, and he said all golfers get tendencies and they tend to go back into some tendency that they had and it’s important to have a coach who has an eye who understand that swing, and what he told me was he said for instance Fred is very limber and for him that’s a problem. He gets too loose and then his shots will spray or his timing gets off or something. So with you was Butch trying to get you back to something that you had done in the past correctly?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah. Yeah, it’s —

Q. Was he just in his language was able to —
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, golf’s just a — we could see it on video and what I was trying to do and didn’t know how to get there. There’s a few things that were wrong and the two things he told me were what same thing Claude’s been telling me but just in a different way and it clicked or it felt better. I can see it in the film now when we’re on the driving range or on the golf course like today, the positions it’s in is a million times better. I’m pleased with it. It goes through your whole golf bag, your whole swing, all your tendencies go through your whole golf bag.

Obviously I’m a fader of the golf ball. You can see it probably in my putting; my putting is not exactly the perfect stroke, but at the same time I come over it a little bit and it’s just like my golf swing. And when you get bad tendencies they seem to go all the way through your putting, and that’s why I’ve struggled so much.

So everything is, it’s gone throughout the bag and I think that it’s taken from what Claude and Pete and Butch have said and it’s — I’m on the right track. I think I just needed a little bit of reassurance for myself like — listen, Claude knows my swing as good as anybody, but I needed a little bit of reassurance for myself that I was making the right choices and that’s — and, you know —

Q. Butch has a great eye.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, he does, he’s got a great eye and at the same time so does Claude. To have — it was important to me for me to get Claude’s blessing to go out there because if I didn’t I don’t know what I would have done.

Q. On a hypothetical, if it ever reached a point where there were, where there were no fans on the golf course, which I’m sure you probably experienced on the Challenge Tour I would imagine, what would be the upside and downside to that?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don’t really know if there would be an upside to that. It’s kind of fun playing in front of fans. You can hear the “ohhh” when you miss it, you know, you hear the cheer when you make it. It kind of gets you a little bit pumped up. It gets you excited and you really feel like you did something. I mean we’ve played a couple events, a couple rounds I should say with no fans, and it’s — we talk about it as players when we’re out there during that round, it’s very weird, it’s awkward. You don’t have that momentum, you don’t have, I guess, the momentum of the fans or the cheering and it’s kind of hard to get excited, especially sometimes when you can’t see where the flag is and you don’t know if it’s 15 feet or it’s tight. It’s a lot easier when there are fans there.

Q. Have you had a chance to play Michael Jordan’s new golf course?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I have not, no. No. I’ve stuck with Medalist. I’ve been at Medalist for awhile practicing and at the Floridian just practicing. I haven’t — if he wants to give me a membership, yeah, I’ll go out.

Q. You said after Honda with the issues with your putting then was just you hadn’t been out there a lot because of the knee, just with the layoff. Is that the root of all of this, do you think, as much as anything, was just not playing a lot and having those three months off?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think it had a little bit to do with something. I think it’s only been 22 rounds since August. I mean, that’s six months that’s not really a lot of golf. That’s why I played last week just to get some rounds and it’s great to be hitting it on the range, but you need to have that competitive — understand when you’re trying to hit a shot under pressure what it does and the unfortunate thing is probably halfway through the season and I’m still trying to figure it out.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

March 11, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Patrick Reed Speaks With Media Prior to Making Seventh Start at The Players Championship

PGA Tour professional and Masters champion Patrick Reed addresses the media prior to the start of The 2020 Players Championship about how his preparation differs for large scale tournaments.

PGA Tour: Patrick Reed talks to the media prior to making start at The Players Championship

NICK PARKER: We would like to welcome Patrick Reed to the interview room here at THE PLAYERS Championship. This is your seventh start coming in here at THE PLAYERS. Just talk about the challenge that awaits this week.

PATRICK REED: I think the biggest thing is kind of getting used to the firmness and softness of the grounds. The greens yesterday were relatively soft, but today you had some more skip and bounce in them, but with the fairways being soft, you can kind of adjust your line a little bit more off tees. You’re hitting a couple longer clubs off the tee because you’re not worried about the ball rolling or running through. That being said, the longer club you hit, the easier it is to hit it in the rough, and that rough out here, even though it’s not very long, it’s really thick. So it’s a golf course that is going to take a lot of thinking, a lot of really quality ball striking and if you get out of position some good short game.

THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions.

Q. You’re rarely among like the few favorites gambling-wise. I’m wondering if you pay attention to your odds whenever you play and if you take it as a sign of disrespect that you’re 35 to 1 this week when you win just as much as anybody out here?
PATRICK REED: I honestly don’t pay any attention to the gambling or any kind of odds. Does anyone know what my odds were at Augusta? How about 40 to 1? How about WGC?

Q. You were same thing, like 25, 30.
PATRICK REED: Okay. I like my odds then. Those are good odds. So no, I mean, I don’t. I don’t really ever focus to that because at the end of the day when you come out here you have fields on the PGA TOUR now are so deep and you have to play your A-game in order to win golf tournaments out here, especially at an event like this at THE PLAYERS where you have all the top players here playing, and when that happens you have to go out and you have to play really good golf from top to bottom.

So at the end of the day to me it’s just like any kind of during the March Madness or anything like that; when you start playing, all those odds go out the window. It all determines how you go out there and what you do when your name’s called.

Q. Do you have events like THE PLAYERS or the majors circled on the calendar and does that affect your prep for those weeks at all going into it or maybe a couple weeks out?
PATRICK REED: Well I mean everyone — I mean, for me I circle — there’s nine events that I circle, all WGC’s, majors and THE PLAYERS. And with having those nine circled, I try to treat all nine of those the same. My prep work will be the exact same, everything kind of leading up into the event will kind of be the same, and at that point I know that I’m not going to get too amped or too excited compared from one to the other because once you start over-prepping or trying to take such a big moment and turn it even larger and start thinking of it that way, now all of a sudden mentally you’re not going to have it and you’re going to put more pressure on you than you really need when you’re out there trying to play.

Q. When you’re out there, talking about the mental game, is that something that you consciously think about, okay, this is what I want my mental strategy to be this week, I want to bear down or whatever, or is that something that comes naturally to you?
PATRICK REED: Now it comes naturally. It’s something as you grow up and as I was a junior golfer growing up I would always write down a game plan in my yardage book and how I’m going to play each hole. But then I get to that hole and if I made bogey on the last hole, I come up to the next one, if I’m supposed to hit 3-wood off the tee I would hit driver because I was like, oh, I got to get that shot back and so I would kind of veer off the game plan, and nine times out of ten it never really worked.

So I’ve really gotten used to now just kind of always sticking to the game plan. I always have usually two game plans on each hole. I have an aggressive one if I feel like I’m playing really well and then I have a more conservative one if I don’t feel like I’m swinging the way I’m supposed to be swinging.

But with having that, it just kind of allows me to stay in my own mental space to really just focus on the then and now and not really what happened a hole ago or a shot ago or what’s coming up. Instead I’m able to really focus on what I’m trying to do right then and there.

Q. When you made the top-five-player-in-the-world comment a few years ago, obviously it generated a lot of noise and attention. You’re now very close to actually that position and you’ve won significant events. Do you feel even now better placed that that’s exactly where you should be and where you’re headed, and what would that mean to you if you get there?
PATRICK REED: It would mean everything. Every golfer and every competitor that’s out here playing, they’re all trying to get to one spot and that’s to be the best player in the world. And all of us are working very hard to win golf tournaments to get to those positions, and the only way you get to top five, top one, or the best player in the world is by winning golf tournaments and winning big events.

The biggest thing is to not only are you trying to win those golf tournaments but you’re trying to turn those off weeks into top-25s, top-15, top-10s, and I think that’s the biggest thing is as we have been getting closer to the top five number, for me really it’s just continue to try to grow on the golf and continue to try and play better and more consistent because all of us when we’re on we’re on, we can go shoot some really low numbers. And it’s those days that you’re not — you don’t quite have it there that you need to kind of be able to turn a 3- or 4-over-par round into even or 1-under, and the top players in the world, that’s what they’re able to do. So that’s more kind of where we’re striving.

Q. When you win a tournament like the WGC, clearly it makes it more likely that you could qualify automatically for the Ryder Cup. Is that something you’ll think about? Will it register for you as a great bonus of having done that, and are you somebody who would maybe look at the standings throughout the year to see who is kind of it in it?
PATRICK REED: I think we all look at the standings. Every player does because there’s nothing like going to represent your country and playing for red, white and blue. And the biggest thing is the easiest way to do that is by giving yourself chances to win the big events and really giving yourself chances to win every tournament and to be able to cap off a WGC and hopefully to have a chance this week and to hopefully have a couple chances in the majors and maybe cap off a couple of those, I mean, that is how you qualify for the Ryder Cup and for the Presidents Cup, and because of that you just have to continue to grind and continue to work and try to get to that point because, you know, the only way to get to all your goals and to succeed on all these things is by one thing; it’s working really hard and playing great golf. If you do that, then everything else takes care of itself.

I think that’s kind of where I’ve always felt like I’ve been good at is never really looked too far ahead. Just try to look right stay in the present and try to improve each and every day, and I feel like that’s the reason why I’ve been getting a little bit more consistent and something that I’ve been really working hard on.

Q. You’ve come into a bit of heat this year. I’m just wondering, does the heckling bother you at all?

Q. No?
PATRICK REED: No, I mean, I think the PGA TOUR has done a great job on the security and the fans. I feel like, as a whole, the fans have been pretty good. You’re always going to get a couple people here and there that are going to say something. That’s normal, any sport you play. For me when I get behind the ropes and I get inside those ropes it’s I have a job to do and that’s go out and play good golf and to have a chance to win on Sundays and to provide for my family and to go out and represent myself the best way I can, and I feel like I’ve been doing that.

Q. The 17th here, the island green is notorious, especially on the Friday afternoon. Are you worried at all that you’ll pass through there Friday and come under a bit of fire?
PATRICK REED: I mean, no, not really. For me the biggest thing on 17, it was today — Kessler, it’s the first time he’s actually hit the green. Normally he hits it in the water, so that means I cannot hit it in the water the next four days because if I do, if I hit in the water once, I won’t hear the end of it until next year. So I just got to go out there and I’ve always played that hole somewhat conservative, I’ve never really taken on too many of those flags. The front flag is obviously — you’re trying to fly it past and kind of bring it back down to it. And back flag you’re trying to hit to the middle of the green. That right flag being a drawer of the golf ball I don’t ever really go for, so for me it’s just kind of put the ball in the middle of the green and let my putter try to work.

I’ve heard horror stories, guys hitting 7-irons, 6-irons to that hole in the past. Besides for last year, every year’s been 100 degrees because of the time or the time the tournament was. So I’ve hit lob wedge there one year every day. So it’s just kind of one of those things that for me it’s just hit it in the middle of the green and take your medicine.

Q. Are you a Pete Dye fan and is there a particular hole out here that you find visually disturbing?
PATRICK REED: Oh, I am a Pete Dye fan. And a hole that is disturbing? I’ve never — well, when the golf course is firm and fast, 18 for some reason, that tee shot, just even being a drawer of the golf ball just never kind of suits my eye. If it’s a little softer this year, my driver or 3-wood down that right side doesn’t go through if it’s into the wind, so that one this year hopefully is going to be a little nicer to me.

But when it’s firm and fast I seem to never be able to get the ball far enough left and I’m always in those trees and having to give a fan something to either cheer about or kind of scratch their head about.

Q. Rory said yesterday his favorite was No. 12. Do you have a favorite?
PATRICK REED: Yeah, of course he likes 12; he can hit 3-iron on the green. I mean, yeah, I’ve always thought No. 2’s always been a great par-5. Off the tee you see guys hit everywhere from 5-wood to driver. The guys who fade the ball sometimes they don’t really feel comfortable with driver because they kind of turn it, but then after stepping up and hitting a draw or whatever shot there, then from the second shot you have to work it the opposite direction. So it’s kind of a double dogleg, and for the most part everyone can get home in two, but going for it you put yourself just in the wrong spot. Even if you’re only 10 feet off the green you’re struggling to make par. You’re hitting it to 30, 40 feet to some of the flags, so I feel like that’s a hole that is just an amazing design from tee to green that really just makes you think all around.

Q. Going back to what you were saying earlier about the noise, if you will, two things, one, have you had a chance or have you talked to Brooks since a few weeks ago?
PATRICK REED: I haven’t. I don’t — last week he played in the same event and I don’t think I saw him once last week.

Q. Secondly, do you think that noise ever goes away at any point or does winning maybe help eliminate that?
PATRICK REED: Well, winning always helps everything. But really at the end of the day the noise goes away once y’all decide it goes away at the end of the day. I mean, I feel like the players and all of us have moved on, but at the end of the day all we can do is go out and continue playing good golf and doing what we’re supposed to do.

Q. Is it going to be easy for you to come back to Augusta as not the defending champion?
PATRICK REED: Definitely.

Q. And why is that? Not many people successfully defend that tournament.
PATRICK REED: I think the biggest thing is so for me in particular being my first major, my first one I won, I didn’t know what to expect. And then kind of showing up and getting back on-site, just kind of the extra kind of a adrenaline and just kind of hype that was going on on the week, all the extra pressures you put on yourself to play well to try to defend and have a good defense, whether — just have a good finish.

And with having to be the host of the dinner, having all these extra little things that you don’t realize what to expect when you come in, you feel like your day starts at 6:00 a.m. and doesn’t stop until 7:00 p.m., and then on top of it you got to go out and play solid golf.

So it was kind of — it’s awesome, it’s amazing to defend, but the good thing is now that I have won my first major, I know what to expect when I have the opportunity to win another one, what to expect if I’m going to defend.

Q. When you’re playing the 17th on a Friday afternoon and you’re doing that walk, as a player now generally, I mean, do you have to prepare yourself mentally that somebody’s going to say something?
PATRICK REED: No, not really. When I’m out there and I get inside the ropes I’m full on focusing about golf and either talking to Kessler about what we’re about to do, whether it’s a putt, iron shot or chip like where the ball sits on the green, if it’s going to be fast, if it’s going to be slow. That’s all the preparation we do during the week is to figure out, okay, what greens are faster than others, what putts are faster than others and vice versa, and for us we get so in tuned in golf that everything that goes on around us it doesn’t matter, we’re out there to grind and to go out and play good golf.

Q. Noticed you stopped wearing red on Sunday; why is that?
PATRICK REED: You know, I mean just kind of one of those things that I’ve always I used to always wear red and black but whenever I’d signed with Nike and everything, we want to make sure that we wear the current product so we keep up with what the fans and what the people who see us on TV, what they can go to the store and what they can buy.

Q. So now you’ve won in black, will that be a new look on Sunday?
PATRICK REED: It could be. That shirt that I’ve worn the past couple Sundays is one of the current products, so it works, it’s current and most likely it will be in it.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

March 12, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Jim Furyk Talks 2020 Players Championship at His Hometown Club

PGA Tour professional speaks with the media ahead of the start of the 2020 Players Championship about his relationship with the late Pete Dye and his future plans to play on the Champions Tour

PGA Tour: Jim Furyk addresses the media ahead of The 2020 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass

THE MODERATOR: I’d like to welcome Jim Furyk back to the 2020 PLAYERS Championship. Jim, you’ve had an exciting week already. We’re on the heels of your 10th annual Furyk and Friends, and while we were there, you announced a new tournament that will come to the PGA TOUR Champions in 2021, the Constellation Furyk and Friends. Can you talk about that new event and its formation.

JIM FURYK: Is there another event this week? Is there another reason we’re here? (Laughing.)

Yeah, Tabitha and I are really excited. It’s been a couple years in the making, and we’re just — I can’t tell you how excited we are to host and to have this new event here in the Jacksonville area. A lot of thanks to the PGA TOUR really, to have the support, I think also — all their support, all their vision. We’ve asked a ton of questions. We’ve asked for a lot of help. And first and foremost, for the approval of being able to have a Champions Tour event and then all the help along the way, and then also for Constellation, they’ll be our title sponsor, and I’ve had a long-standing partnership for over 20 years with them, and so it was natural that that would be one of the first and the first company to approach. So thankful to have them involved along the way, and we’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready for our first event in October, but super excited to showcase the city, to showcase our town, the river, and a wonderful golf course in Timuquana. It’s a beautiful venue, and we’re looking forward to our event.

We’ve had a charity golf tournament for 10 years now in this area, and we have a great vision with it, we’ve had a lot of great support here in the community and also around the country with folks flying in, and our vision is really to take that event and have the same feel. But it’s going to be a little grander scale, a Champions Tour event, and now instead I guess leaning on the guys in this field to come over and entertain our guests and our sponsors I’ll be leaning on the over-50 crowd to make sure we have a strong field and you get the best players possible for the Constellation Furyk and Friends.

THE MODERATOR: Looking ahead to this week for THE PLAYERS Championship, you had an exciting runner-up finish last year. Can you reflect on that performance and how you’re looking forward to replicating it this year.

JIM FURYK: Yeah, it’s always fun to play at home. I think we all put a lot — when we’re home we put a lot more pressure on ourselves. We want to perform well. For that reason I think I haven’t always had the best success at this event, but I had some flashes and two good opportunities to win, and one of those being last year. And to feel, kind of feel the excitement of the crowd and a little bit of that hometown cheering section was really special for me, especially at the age of 48, coming off of three years of injury and really not playing all that well, and I wasn’t even in the field in 2018. I snuck in last year and had a great week, and it honestly gave me a ton of confidence that I got under the gun and hit some good shots down the stretch and almost won the tournament.

A lot of fun, and this is a — it’s always a big week for us. Tabitha and I are involved in a number of different charity events throughout this week. We had Operation Shower on Sunday afternoon, we had our concert and party Sunday night, we had our charity golf tournament yesterday across the street at Sawgrass Country Club, and then this morning we had These Kids Can Play with the Wilson Children’s Hospital and Community PedsCare.

It’s a busy week, and then we’re just going to cap it off with coming to the media room and answering questions about our new event. Eventually this afternoon or tomorrow I’ll start thinking about golf, I’ll start thinking about the task at hand and THE PLAYERS Championship, but it’s been a whirlwind week so far and it’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully, I can take that excitement and take it to the golf course this week.

Q. This is the first THE PLAYERS Championship without Pete Dye. I’m wondering, you’ve had as many starts as anybody in this field at this course. Is there a hole, maybe not necessarily your favorite hole, but is there a hole out there that is the most reflective of what Pete’s vision and what he demands — I think I saw a quote where you’ve got to hit the shot Pete wants you to hit, not the one you necessarily want to hit. Is there a hole out there that you think most reflects that?
JIM FURYK: There’s a lot of them. I think — when I think of Pete Dye and think about the work that he’s done, I think one of the most impressive things is he tackles jobs that most architects won’t. He takes difficult pieces of property — if you remember what this property looked like, it was kind of a swamp land at one time, and he tackles a difficult piece of property that’s very flat, needs a lot of fill, and he makes something very interesting, very demanding out of it.

I read a book that he titled, I think he said he wanted his courses to be visually disturbing and I think that would sum up my feeling, when I’m on a tee box on a Pete Dye golf course, right out of the chute I think about the first hole. The first fairway from the tee looks extremely narrow. You stand on the tee, it’s uncomfortable, it’s tough to pick a target, and it looks like you’re hitting to about a 15-yard wide fairway. And then you get out there, and I miss the fairway a lot, and I look around, and I go, sheesh, this fairway is pretty big, it’s 35-yards wide. And then I look at the green, and I go, my goodness that’s a tiny green. There’s a big bunker on the left, and visually it’s disturbing. And I miss the green and I get up there and I go, this green was plenty big enough to hit with an 8-iron, how did I miss it? It’s seems like that’s kind of his unique trait is everything looks tougher than it is. When you get up there on the 5th fairway — the 5th fairway looks small from the tee and you get out there and you go, God this is a big fairway. But his golf courses are visually disturbing, they look more difficult than they are, and I think he forces you into hitting shots that you wouldn’t normally hit because of that.

Q. Does that make you a better golfer because you hit uncomfortable shots and maybe you pull them off, and now all of a sudden you get halfway decent at being uncomfortable?
JIM FURYK: Possibly, possibly. I think one thing about this golf course is that it makes you at times want to play very conservative. I think the 4th tee would be an instance like that. I don’t think that’s the way you play a Pete Dye golf course. I think you’ve got to take it on. You’ve got to be aggressive. If it eats you up, if you don’t hit the shots, you’re not going to be competitive. But you have to be aggressive off the tee. You have to challenge the golf course. And if you do drive the ball well, you can set yourself up for some opportunities.

And I think early in my career, it took me a long to figure this golf course out. I think I tried to play it a little too conservatively and then it kind of ate my lunch. Last year I did a very good job of being very aggressive off the tee and I was hitting the ball real well and I gave myself a lot of opportunities because of it.

Q. When you turn 50, are you the next week going to jump into the Champions Tour or are you going to be like Davis Love and play a lot on the PGA TOUR, or like Ernie and Retief and go?
JIM FURYK: I’m caught a little bit in between, but my thought right now would really — I kind of want to play this season on the PGA TOUR. I started the season, I want to finish it. Last year I was kind of — I was real close. I had a good solid year but real close to making the TOUR Championship. I’m not going to have that many opportunities in the future for those to happen. That window is closing. So I want to finish out the season on the PGA TOUR, and then I’m going to kind of reevaluate, and eventually when I do — I don’t see myself juggling. I talked to Strick a lot about it. He tends to like the juggle kind of between both tours. He’s one of the few players I’ve talked to that does enjoy that. Most kind of try for a while, don’t enjoy it, and then they flip the switch and pick a TOUR, like pick the Champions Tour full time. I really believe that’s what I’ll do. When the timing is right I think I’m going to turn over and play the Champions Tour full time and maybe cherry pick a couple of my favorite events, like the RBC Heritage or next week Valspar. Those are some of my favorite courses and you don’t have to hit it like 410 yards off the tee there, so it really feels a little more comfortable to me.

Q. We focus so much on winning and if you win it’s a successful week, maybe if you don’t win it’s not. I’m just curious, when you look at some of your —
JIM FURYK: I had a lot of failure. In that model I’ve had a lot of failure in my career.

Q. You’ve had 188 top 10s, and I’m just wondering, can you get satisfaction out of a top-10 finish that’s a non-win?
JIM FURYK: Sure. Sure. I think there are times when I’ve finished eighth in a tournament and felt like it was a disappointing week because I felt like my game was firing on all cylinders, I might have made some mental errors, I might have felt like I let a tournament slip through my fingers that I could have or should have won. And there’s other times where I finished 20th at an event and really didn’t have my game, I scrapped it out, actually got the ball in the hole pretty well, and at the end you’re kind of satisfied. You’re like, I’ve got some things to work on and I know my game isn’t sharp, but I really did play well this week as far as I got the most out of what I had. I guess I’m not happy about the fact that maybe I didn’t have my “A” game, but I’m happy with the fact that I got the ball in the hole and scrapped it out. And you never know when one little swing change, one little swing thought, you get a good feel, you start striping it, and all of a sudden you’re playing good.

Q. A year ago did you walk away satisfied or disappointed?
JIM FURYK: I think it could be both. I would say last year it’s really close to — it’s really difficult to get that close and then not be able to get a win. But I think the event gave me a lot of confidence. It had been a long time since I had been in that much heat and been under the gun. And I was able to birdie 16, able to birdie 18, hit a great shot at 17, hit a good putt. Moments like that is why we’ve practiced and prepared our whole career is to put ourselves under the gun and kind of test what you’ve got. And then if you hit some pretty good shots and play pretty well, I guess it’s a satisfying feeling, but it also is disappointing to get so close and not win, and especially in a tournament of this magnitude where it’s a huge part of your career to win this event.

Q. Your tournament that you’re going to be holding on the Champions Tour, is it going to be a one- or two-day pro-am and are you going to invite your friends from Pennsylvania down?
JIM FURYK: How about some of my friends from Pennsylvania? It’s tough to make the list.

Q. Do they have to be Pittsburgh Steelers fans?
JIM FURYK: It helps. It significantly helps, yes.

The Champions Tour often has a Wednesday-Thursday, two days of pro-ams, 54-hole event starting on Friday, and that would be the model that we’re in. We’re excited. We have obviously a great — we had 39 groups at our event yesterday playing 27 holes, so we’re hoping to continue the support and continue the event we have right now, and then obviously we’ll have a lot of new partners and sponsors and such.

The pro-am is a major part of every event, PGA TOUR and Champions Tour, and we’re excited to do a good job and get into that.

Q. We’ve had five guys 22 and under win since July, Hovland, Morikawa and Wolff actually did it quickly after getting out of school. Is there something about the game today that makes it easier for guys to come out — I know you’ve seen a lot of these youth movements — but something about today’s game?
JIM FURYK: We’ve been talking about these youth movements since I was about 35, so the last 15 years. I think that it seems as though — I think it’s a two-part answer. It seems as though in the last 10 years, you see a lot more young players maybe not finishing college, maybe early 20s, and they’re prepared to be successful on the PGA TOUR, and they’re prepared to win at an early age.

That being said, that could be training, fitness, Tiger might have made golf a little cooler, you’ve got a lot more athletes playing the game. But I think a lot of it, the technology driven, they seem to be very confident, though, mentally and prepared mentally better maybe than my generation was. Mickelson came out early and was prepared to win, but I also look at this class. I mean, the guys you mentioned, Hovland, Morikawa and Matthew Wolff, we’ll see, but 10, 15 years down the road, that could be the best class that we’ve seen in the last 50 to 80 years on the PGA TOUR. I mean, these three kids come out in the first year all have won PGA TOUR events, have done it in very definitive fashions. It’s not like a flash-in-the-pan type win. These guys are playing well week-in and week-out and are very consistent and then also closing the door to win some events.

I think you see it as a whole, but if we’re just talking about the young folks that have won this year, we’re looking at guys that are very, very good players in their own right.

Q. What role has maybe TrackMan and ShotLink and that technology helped with maybe quickening the learning curve of maybe helping give stuff that it took 5, 10 years to learn, allowing guys to know much quicker, maybe put a veteran’s mind on a young guy’s body, if that makes sense.
JIM FURYK: Possibly, but I think the technology part has helped in training, but when you’re standing out there on the 18th fairway with a 7-iron in your hand and a one-shot lead and you need par to win, TrackMan is not really helping you too much at that moment. You still have to be mentally prepared and ready and believing in yourself. There’s still a mental side to the game, and it’s still an art in some respects. What I’m most impressed is the maturity level of some of the young players coming out.

I think for every Morikawa, Wolff and Hovland that mentally aren’t prepared, that are physically prepared for the PGA TOUR but not mentally prepared, so my hat’s more off to them on that side of things.

But the training — there’s just a depth in fields. I’ve long said that Nicklaus would have been great in any era. He’s Jack Nicklaus. But the depth in the ’50s got better in the ’60s, got better in the ’70s. We’re just seeing more good players, more skilled players and more depth, more players that are able and capable of winning, and it’s impressive to see.

I’m 50; when I came out of school, it was rare, one or two guys a year would get their card that played college the year before, would just get their card. Now you’re seeing a lot of kids come out and they’re not only getting their card and being respectable, they’re challenging and becoming top-20 players in the world very quickly.

Q. A little along the lines of what Mike was talking about with the top 10s, Rory is on a run right now where every week it’s a top 5 or better the last six events or whatever this year, but he’s not getting over the line and winning them. Just kind of wonder where you fall on that, if it were happening to you would you be looking at the positive side that you’re putting yourself there every week or wondering why you’re not making it happen on Sunday?
JIM FURYK: I think there’s a — I think as players, we all get frustrated by that. Again, getting close, not getting over the hump. It’s frustrating for everyone. He puts himself in that position quite often, and that’s because he’s — it’s hard to — I’ll just go real general, if he’s not the most talented player in the world, he’s definitely one of the top 5, so he’s fun to watch. But I think those kind of things comes in bunches. I wouldn’t be surprised if later this year he rips or three or four wins real quick, as well. That’s just kind of the way the game is.

We as players don’t look at the whole or the big picture, so if it were happening to me, I’d be frustrated and I’d be pushing and I’d be trying a little too hard and I would be working hard at home, and I’m sure he’s doing all those things. But from an outsider looking in, the way I look at it is the guy is super talented, and it’s just a matter of time. He’s going to keep knocking on the door, and then when the flood gates open, look out, we’re all going to be in trouble there for a little while.

Q. It looked like Brooks was going to run away and win a couple majors a year, and now he finds himself struggling right now, obviously a little physical issue. What’s your view of Brooks and is that just the way the game goes?
JIM FURYK: I think that’s the way the game goes. He’s not 100 percent. I don’t think he’s said he’s 100 percent. That’s always difficult. Golf is such a unique sport. You put a running back out there in the NFL and if he tells you he’s 85 percent and it’s Emmitt Smith, you’re running him out there because Emmitt Smith at 85 percent is going to help you. Golf is a little different sport. Trying to play at 85 percent is difficult when we have so much depth again and so many great, talented players.

But I think what’s unique about Brooks is that he’s just tough. I mean, you get him in contention, you give him a chance to win, it seems like the bigger the stage, the more that’s on the line, the more he seems to thrive, if that makes sense. Big shots, big putts, I guess you could say Brooks like big putts, cannot lie. (Laughter.)

Q. I did want to ask you about your tournament, given where it falls in the schedule or in the calendar year. Do you feel like your tournament will give you an extra incentive to join Champions early at all? Does that make sense? Where you’ll obviously have a presence there already before you’ve even turned 50? Would you play more on the Champions Tour earlier because you have a tournament that is involved in that?
JIM FURYK: There would be incentive for that, yeah, absolutely. I want to support the Tour. I want to support the Champions Tour and play in it, especially hosting an event. So yeah, I think it would — there is an incentive to play maybe earlier or more because of it, but I really went into the season not wanting to just flip the switch in May and turn over and kind of go half a year on both tours. I kind of want to finish up the season on the PGA TOUR, kind of want to reevaluate where I’m at, and then I’ll figure out when exactly is the right time for me to start the Champions Tour. I’ve been pretty adamant that I don’t want to go back and forth on both, but I’ve also been pretty adamant that I can change my mind any time I want, so I’m going to stick with that theory, as well.

Q. Seeing Ernie win last week, and depending on what Phil does, whatever he’s planning to do, you have some big names coming in —
JIM FURYK: We do. We do. I think it was fun for me when I was 30 years old that we had a great group of folks that were all within about five years of each other. I think about — you mentioned Ernie and Retief and Phil, myself and Duval and Justin Leonard, and they were all buddies of mine, all guys that I really respected but were all similar ages — Mike Weir, K.J. Choi — all similar ages. It was kind of a nice niche and a nice group of folks that I got to play alongside.

I like seeing them have success, and I’ve always said that I’m really, really getting tired of hitting 4-iron. I feel like I’m the only guy on TOUR that can wear out a 4-iron before a pitching wedge anymore. So that’s getting old, but I had an opportunity to win the biggest event on the PGA TOUR last year, and I’m not going to get that opportunity for that many longer in my career, so I’m going to ride that for as long as I can. But it is more of an incentive to play the Champions Tour and start playing it full time sooner rather than later because I have an event out there, absolutely. Those are my friends, too. I want to be out there in that atmosphere. I miss some of those guys.

Q. I was going to ask you, do you see you can renew some of those rivalries on the Champions Tour, like you’re basically extending that against the guys that you’ve been battling with for 20 years?
JIM FURYK: I think that would — yes, absolutely. I think that’s great for the Tour. To have Ernie and Retief out there — I guess Bernhard is probably everyone’s rival. He’s been kicking everyone’s butt for 10 years. But yeah, I think those rivalries, guys that are at the top, guys that are fighting it out, that’s going to be great for the Champions Tour, and I would love to get out there and be competitive and be in that mix.

Q. You look at yourself and Rory, or Rory and you running 1 and 2 last year, you would acknowledge you play different styles of games. Is there a championship venue that’s more inclusive than this one to all styles, and if so is that a good thing, being that it’s THE PLAYERS Championship?
JIM FURYK: I guess the one tournament that comes to mind would probably be Hartford in that you had Bubba Watson and Corey Pavin in a playoff, which is still like the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, probably the longest and shortest player in the field got in a playoff in an event. There are still venues on TOUR where the distance might not be as impactful as others, but I think that’s one thing about this golf course, it really — I’m not sure it favors a style of game as far as power is concerned, but it will test a lot of different areas of your game, if that makes sense. I still think you have to be a well-rounded player to do well here.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

March 11, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: 2018 Players Champion Webb Simpson Speaks to The Media Prior to Making 2020 Start

PGA Tour professional and 2018 Players Championship winner Webb Simpson addresses the media prior to making his start at the 2020 Players Championship.

PGA Tour: Webb Simpson talks what it will take to win again at The Players Championship

MICHAEL BALIKER: We’re with our 2018 PLAYERS champion Webb Simpson back here at TPC Sawgrass. Webb is making his 11th appearance here this week, finished tied for 15th in his defense here last year when the tournament was moved back to March in 2019. Entering the week 5th in the FedExCup standings, already having won in Phoenix. Talk about returning here to Sawgrass with some confidence having already a good start to your season.

WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, it’s always great to be here. You know, I told people before I won, I loved coming here. I loved the challenge of this golf course. I feel like this is one of the few golf courses we play throughout the year that, on any given day, somebody can shoot 7-under or 7-over. It’s just that type of golf course. If you drive it well, you get rewarded, and there’s birdie opportunities. That’s fun for us players to play golf courses where, if you do certain things well, you can shoot low scores.

That’s why I think you’ve seen scores all over the map here from 3-, 4-under winning to 20-underish, high teens. Always a fun course to come to and compete. Looks like we’re going to have good weather. Golf course is in great shape. I know, out of 144 players, there’s 110 TOUR winners in the field. THE PLAYERS Championship always gets talked about as kind of — it’s a standalone tournament in its own category, but the competition speaks for itself. It’s a great field and a great challenge ahead of us.

Q. The stretch you’ve had this year starting with last fall, what’s been working for you the most? What’s been clicking? And then in terms of your scheduling, you’re not exactly playing a Fred Funk-type schedule. You’re not on track for 35 starts. Has that changed or evolved as you’ve progressed in your career?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, you know, well, the first part of your question, what’s been working, I think looking back to last three or four months of golf, the thing that has stood out to me is the days where I tee it up and don’t have a great day I’m able to shoot better scores. I’ve told people often that what separates guys from Korn Ferry to the PGA TOUR I think is your bad days, because those Korn Ferry guys can shoot 8-, 9-, 10-under. But I remember a couple rounds specifically, the first round at Sony this year I shot 1-over, but it could have easily been 4- or 5-over, and that kind of let me hang in there. I was in 40th place, could have been in 80th place. And this year at Waste Management I shot even par the first round. Could have been worse. And again, I’m 10 back after that first round, so I had a lot of ground to gain. But I knew that that golf course had certain holes and certain stretches where you could make runs.

So I think the difference has been just hanging in there on those tough days and ultimately has proved to allow me to stay in a tournament and still have a chance to win on Sunday.

Q. The scheduling?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, the scheduling, I set out a couple years ago to try to play less. A couple reasons. One, I have five kids. If I’m able, where I stand with my TOUR card, if I’m able, I want to be home more. But also, I looked at the best players in the world, and it seemed like the thing for them was, on schedule was, they were playing a little less than other guys. I think one reason, they’re able to, but also there’s something to it. I think I’ve seen that I show up to golf tournaments, like this one, I’m more rested. I wasn’t in those grueling conditions the last two weeks. I’m excited to play golf, where I’ve felt in the past, if I’m on a long stretch, I’m not really excited to play golf. It feels more like work versus work and fun and competing. And so that’s been a big difference for me mentally.

Q. Nobody has successfully defended here. A, are you surprised by that? And B, do you consider this tournament maybe the toughest to defend on TOUR?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think so. And I think it is because of the golf course and kind of the finishing holes. It’s one of those courses where you feel so uncomfortable and unconfident with a one-shot lead or two-shot lead even with a few to go, compared to on other places you can put it on cruise control. So much can happen on 16, 17, 18 — really 13 on, now 12 on with being a drivable par-4. So the back nine presents itself to have fireworks.

Even in 2018 when I had a big lead, I really didn’t feel comfortable until I hit it on the green on 17. You’re not really thinking bad thoughts, but you’re thinking you’ve seen history, you’ve seen guys hit it in the water there on 17 and make a mess out of it. I think that’s why it’s hard to defend, because come Sunday, anyone can shoot 6-, 7-, 8-under. And I had a seven-shot lead, and I knew if I shot even par or 1-over and somebody shot a low number, I didn’t win. Whereas, if you had a seven-shot lead at a different style golf course where shooting low scores were harder to do, then you’d feel more comfortable. So that’s probably why, my guess is, people haven’t defended.

Q. You’re not surprised then?
WEBB SIMPSON: I’m not surprised, yeah.

Q. Just wondering, Tyrell Hatton was saying he was going to have such a big celebration he might not recover until Wednesday. I was wondering what you did when you won here, who you were with, whether it was low key, if you just wanted to be around the people that got you there, helped get you there, what exactly you did sort of that night.
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, so there was quite a few stops here, media and going to see the volunteers, so it was a decently long night but a fun night. You know, you’re literally — I’m out there in the dark driving down 18, going to 17, doing media there, and it’s all fun. My wife wasn’t there that week, but she flew down on Sunday morning, so it was just her and I, so when we left here, we got a flight, flew home, we stopped at Wendy’s on the way to the airport, a celebratory dinner, which I did after the U.S. Open, it was Wendy’s, and then we flew home, and Monday morning was school for my kids.

Pretty normal jump back into the dad role pretty quickly.

Q. What did you get at Wendy’s? Did you go crazy?
WEBB SIMPSON: From Wendy’s I go double cheeseburger usually. But my recovery was probably better on Monday morning than Tyrell Hatton’s was. But good for him. I’m happy for him. I’ve known him to be a really good player for a long time. Yeah, obviously played in Ryder Cup with him and respect his game a lot. Somebody Tweeted and I saw this and I agree with it, it looked look like he was going to win all week he was so in control, even after his double on 11. So good for him.

Q. Mark Brody mentioned you in his book years ago, but how much do you use ShotLink data and statistics for course management or do you consult with someone on course management using those numbers?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I think Mark has changed the landscape for statistics forever. His stuff is as unbiased as you can get. I use it all the time, for confidence reasons, kind of two ways. One, if I think I’m hitting my approaches well and I look for the year, I’m 71st, then I realize I’m not. And vice versa, maybe I have a bad around the greens week, and I look and I finished 10th for the week. So there I realize I’m being too tough a critic. So I use his stuff weekly, I use it midweek, into the year, and it really helps.

And then in terms of more kind of zeroed into golf courses and what guys have done in the past to make — the most birdies have come from this position in the fairway versus 30 yards back. I look at that a little, but I also know that I play — I feel like I play the game slightly different than guys. Usually I’m a little more conservative than the field as a whole. So it does help, but I probably don’t use that stuff as much as other guys might.

Q. We’ve had five players under 23 win since July. They’ve grown up with TrackMan, they’ve grown up with the insights of the ShotLink data and stuff. How much do you think all of that stuff has helped lessen the learning curve and allowed those guys to win young?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think it’s helped a ton. What we used to have to figure out, and even more so, my caddie Paul, his kind of 15, 20 years before me, what you had to figure out on your own took so much longer and took just more information that you didn’t know feels perfectly accurate. Now we have so much at our fingertips on our phone or on TrackMan, that’s one of the main reasons guys are improving a lot faster and they come out here and they’re ready to win. They understand their games more than I did even out of college. If you would have asked me out of college what are the strengths of my game, I probably would have fumbled over that question, but now guys can tell you, based on statistics, what makes them great. So it’s certainly helped.

Even the fitting world, like you can now have a golf shaft that it feels great, it looks great, but your numbers on TrackMan are saying otherwise, so you really quickly eliminate that one and go to the next one. It’s helping guys all across the board.

Q. What’s your preparation like for THE PLAYERS compared to the majors, other big events?
WEBB SIMPSON: It’s very similar. I mean, my goal Monday through Wednesday is to kind of combine feeling like I know the golf course and how it’s playing, kind of refreshing myself on all the pins, where they’re going to be, because they don’t really change much, to getting in good practice kind of in all parts of my game but not being too tired. I think it’s a tendency for guys at majors and in big events like this to overdo it Monday through Wednesday, and rest doesn’t get enough attention. And so you kind of try to think, for me, through that lens of rest, practicing all parts of my game and knowing the golf course. And it’s hard because, like right now, the golf course is in perfect shape but it’s soft, and we’re not going to get any rain, so come Thursday it could be very different than it was — I played nine holes yesterday.

So you go into Thursday knowing that the golf course is probably going to get a little more firm, and you kind of have to adjust as you go.

Q. Is there another event that requires as many great shots as this one?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think Augusta has some similarities where you’re going to hit every shot in your bag here, every club in your bag, low, high, right to left, left to right, and Augusta has a lot of that. It reminds me a lot of that in that way.

Q. Rory won last year after you, the previous year. When his name is mentioned, what are the things that immediately come to your mind about him?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, certainly, not needing to say this, but he’s certainly the best player in the world right now, has floated in and out of the best player in the world for his whole career it seems like. His bad play and bad stretches is better than most every guy out here. And when he’s playing his best, he’s hard to beat.

You know, he’s already, I think, created the opinion that he’s going to go down as one of the great players ever in golf, which is great for him, great for us, great for our TOUR, and you know, he’s one of those guys that you expect to be in contention every week.

Q. And as a person?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think he’s great for our game. I think he’s very mature. I think he’s liked by all of his peers, all of us. Yeah, when someone respects you on and off the golf course, that’s a great thing, and I think that’s how we all feel about Rory.

Q. I believe you saw Butch Harmon the week before for a little bit of a checkup. Curious what you took from that to work on at Phoenix, and it obviously paid dividends immediately, and are you still working on the same stuff that you talked about that week?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, so I worked with Butch Monday of Phoenix, and I think what makes him great is I saw him in October, the Monday of Vegas, and I worked on my path in my backswing. My path, the club was getting too far inside, and that’s all we worked on is my path. I come back in late January to see him, Monday of Phoenix, and we worked on my club face. My club face was getting too open in my backswing. And so I asked him was it open in October, and he said yes, and I said, why didn’t we work on it in October, and he said, well, the backswing was a big task, and I didn’t want to give you too much at once because you had to go play in a golf tournament, the Shriners. That just shows his experience, I think, just knowing how much to give a player and how much — because I think he knows that players will go think about everything. If he gives me three things I’m going to think about them all. So it was just slow and steady. So then Phoenix week it was just my club face, and the homework for me was 15 to 20 swings a day, and that’s it, and then he wanted me to go play golf.

So that’s why I love going to see him is he knows his stuff but he knows that we have to go play every week, and it’s hard to play golf swing on the golf course, so he’s great at that.

Q. You had two weeks off coming into this week, so when you’re home, you referenced your five kids, how do you manage your time? Do you go out there with a checklist at Quail Hollow, for example, and say, this is what I’m going to get done each day or do you just sort of wing it?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, so usually I dedicate two, three days to golf a week on an off week, so I’ll take a couple days off and start back either Wednesday or Thursday. And this time of year is hard with the weather so it’s a little bit unpredictable about when I can practice. But when I go out there there’s a checklist. I’m trying to hit my range time, my putting, my short game, kind of all similar time — I’m giving similar attention to all of them. And then I love to go on the golf course to implement what I just worked on. Even if it’s nine holes with a friend or nine holes by myself, I try to get out there and pretend like I’m in a tournament, going through the routine, taking my time, reading putts like it matters, because that’s the hardest part, I think, is kind of letting your technical work bleed into competition, because competition as you know is so different.

So that’s a normal week. One of those days of golf is 18 holes of competition, so getting a game, playing, letting it count.

Q. Now that you’ve had a chance to experience this tournament in March, do you have a preference now, March or May?
WEBB SIMPSON: No, I think both have their strengths. I think March the golf course is overseeded. It’s in perfect shape. It looks pretty. It’s a little softer. Fairways are a bit wider. You can hit more club off the tee.

May is hotter, ball is going further. Ball is running more. Some of these dump-offs on the side of the green come into play more.

So I think both have their challenges. May plays shorter so you can hit shorter clubs in, but chipping is a lot easier this time of year. You don’t deal with that grainy Bermuda. We have that nice plush overseed to help us.

Q. I was just curious what your strategy and club selection were at 6 off the tee?
WEBB SIMPSON: So 6, I hit a club that, if I pull it, I don’t run out and into that bunker. So if I hit a hybrid and I pull it, I want it to be in the bunker where I have a clear shot to the green every time versus if I hit like a 3-wood and I pull it, it would run up against that lip, and most of the time if it runs up against that lip you can’t hit it on the green. The lip is too tall to hit it that far. So depending on the wind and time of day and the heat and all that, usually we’re looking at anywhere from a 230 to 260 club. But our main focus is what is that runout at that left lip playing.

Q. So you’ve —
WEBB SIMPSON: It’s a hybrid or a 5-wood. I’ve usually laid back. It’s rare we hit driver and get it up there.

Q. But you have tried driver?
WEBB SIMPSON: I have tried it before, yeah. I think in my early days I hit driver all the time, but I hit it up against that lip enough to have a sour taste in my mouth to want to stay away from it. We have a lot of holes like that here. 4 is another example where guys can hit driver if they want, they can get it up there and have a lob wedge in, but now you’re bringing on trouble, or you can lay back with a 3-iron or 4-iron and have a lot longer shot in. And I think that’s one of the main geniuses of this golf course. You look at 18, Rickie hitting driver the year he won in 2015, hitting a cut even. Rory hitting driver last year with, what did he have, a two-shot lead going into 18? I’m hitting 3-iron on that hole. So Rory is literally going to hit it almost 100 yards by me, but he’s playing it how he wants to play it and what he’s confident in, and I’m doing the same, and that’s what makes this course special.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

March 11, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Justin Thomas Speaks To The Media Prior To Making 6th Start at The Players Championship

PGA Tour professional and FedEx Cup number two Justin Thomas addresses the media ahead of The Players Championship, speaking on the May to March change, building his schedule for the year and being paired with friends.

PGA Tour: Justin Thomas previews The Players Championship ahead of making his 6th start on Thursday

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We’d like to welcome Justin Thomas to the interview room here at THE PLAYERS Championship. Justin is making his sixth start at THE PLAYERS Championship, comes into the week No. 2 in the FedExCup standings on the strength of two wins this season. Justin, get your thoughts on coming into the week here.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it’s a place I love. I love the golf course. I think it’s just a very well-designed course, tee to green, forces you to work it both ways off the tee and into the green, and obviously it’s an extremely deep field with all the top players here, so it’s a tournament that when I first came here, I felt like I could have some success at this place, and yeah, came out and practiced yesterday. It seems to be in pristine shape as usual, so I’m excited to get out there today on the course and see how it is.

Q. You’ve had some really good low rounds here and some not so good. When you play well out here, what are you doing right, and when you don’t play so well, what’s kind of been your stumbling blocks out here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I think honestly, I think it’s a testament to a well-designed course. You look at, obviously Mexico is very different or Riviera, but every day you have those 64 to 67s and you have some 78s, and like that just doesn’t happen every week.

I think it’s because this place rewards good golf and penalizes bad golf. I would think that — I mean, obviously it depends on the weather and you can get some cold, windy and some firm weeks in March, but some of my high numbers have been in May mostly. When it gets firm like that, it puts even more of a premium on hitting the fairway, and those days where I had some high numbers, I was not playing well, and I didn’t really have any control of my ball versus when I was playing well. If you get the ball in the fairway you have a lot of wedges and 9-irons into these greens, and I feel like that’s a strength of my game. I just have been able to take advantage of that a couple times when I’ve been hitting it well.

It’s a place where you can get it going, you just kind of have to stay patient and wait for your spots.

Q. We always get this mentality that’s kind of like win or nothing else, and I’m just curious if you ever finished like in a top 10 that wasn’t a win but that was a satisfying week for you. Can you get satisfaction out of a non-win top 10, for instance?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Absolutely. I mean, we all say that and we all think that, but it’s not reality. We’re not going to win every week. We’re not going to win — I don’t know the percentages of the top players’ wins in their career, but I can’t imagine that anybody except for one person is above 10 or 15 percent. You have to be realistic in senses like that.

I mean, a week like Phoenix this year for me was huge. I did not play very well. I was not driving it well. My irons were very average. I got it around the course very well and ended up — I had a good Sunday. We got it going a little bit, and ended up finishing third, and I think weeks like that are sometimes more confidence boosting than anything else because realistically I could have won that tournament if I just could have got something going remotely the first couple days, but I just could never — I was never hitting it well enough to make that five, six birdies in a nine-hole stretch or whatever it was. I’d make a couple and then I’d just make some more pars on some easy holes. I just could never get momentum going.

But for not playing very well and not hitting it very well, I think I made four bogeys over four days so managed my game well and got it around that course well. I’d take the win, but sometimes it’s just as confidence boosting.

Q. With the change back to March and the fairways being softer, do you think we’re going to see someone shoot a 62 here? The 63s have both been in March, I believe.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think Colt Knost shot 63 here when it was in May. I think you can. The thing about it being in March, I’ve never experienced it, I mean, I’ve heard some horror stories from guys in the past of you get in Jacksonville this time of year you can get some cold, cold days, you can get a strong north wind where we’re hitting 6-, 7-, 8-iron on 17. I would imagine if that’s the case then you won’t be seeing any. But if you get weather like it looks like it could be this week, generally one or two of the days they’re going to have the pins set up a little bit easier, someone could get hot and do it. You can do it on any golf course, I think when you give us the soft conditions it’s definitely going to be more likely, but at the end of the day 10-under par, that’s a low score no matter where you’re playing. But I definitely think that it is doable.

Q. It seems like just a blink ago you were considered one of the young guns out here. I want your thoughts on this current crop of young players that come out here and they not only think they can win, they expect to win.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Am I officially out? Am I thrown out of the young —

Q. Yeah, you’re out.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Damn, that’s rough. (Laughter.)

No, it’s impressive, and I think it’s cool what the TOUR is doing this week is pairing Viktor, Matt and Collin together. The fact that those three guys have won already is unbelievable. I don’t think — they probably don’t even realize how impressive it is.

But they also understand how talented they are, and we do, too, and they’re going to be out here for a long time.

You can’t compare their group versus our group or another group or whatever it is. You just kind of have to respect what’s coming out, and they’re unbelievable players, they’re very, very mature for being thrown into the spotlight. I think that’s something that goes very under-mentioned and underrated is that it’s easy to forget that they’re 21, 22 years old, I think at least, and they’re handling all this very well because they’re very much in the spotlight just like any of us are. They’re still playing some pretty good golf and being comfortable out here.

I think they’re going to continue to do great things, and it’s great to have them out here.

Q. This question is from a Chinese fan, so obviously you’re one of their favorites. He wants to know before your round if you’re not mentally ready, what do you do to snap yourself out of it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: There’s plenty of times. You wake up some days and some mornings and you just don’t have it, you’re tired, you don’t feel well. I don’t have a good warmup or whatever it might be. I think those days I rely on my caddie Jimmy. He knows if I’m not feeling well. We know each other so well to where we can figure out just by being around each other for 20 minutes if the other one isn’t in it that day. I’ll just tell him walking to the tee, Hey, man, I need you today, I don’t quite feel well or I don’t have it and we need to stay extra patient today, and we might talk through things a little bit more. Yeah, I don’t know, he does a great job in situations like that, and we’ve actually had some pretty good rounds doing that.

Q. You referred to it a little bit ago about the top 5s and how that top 3 was a positive moment for you. When you look at Rory right now and the run he’s on with all these top 5s, which is pretty remarkable, how do you view that stretch because obviously he’s frustrated he hasn’t won yet, which I’m sure you would be, as well, but where do you weigh that on the positive side versus the negative side, not closing them out when he’s had chances?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think you definitely have to look at it as a positive. The thing about it is you keep — when you’re as talented as Rory is, you keep putting yourself there, it’s going to happen eventually, and he has the capability to do what he’s done a couple times where he might win four events in six weeks or win a couple in a row. I know he knows that, I know we all know that, and he’s playing some unbelievable golf, but he’s just — it’s cool because I respect Rory as much as I like him. I just respect what he does because he works really hard. He takes it extremely seriously. I mean, I would say, along with myself, he is someone that I see practicing more than anybody else. We put a lot of work in.

I think he had some times there where he was expecting more of himself and he wasn’t sure what he had to do, and he just kind of had to dig it out of the dirt and kind of just get back to the basics and just, not start over, but be like, I need to be me, I need to be Rory McIlroy and get myself back to what made me great, and he’s obviously doing that, and the wins will come.

Q. The guy to chase in the FedExCup at the moment is Sungjae Im. What are your thoughts on him?
JUSTIN THOMAS: He’s unbelievable. I remember the first time I played with him at the CJ Cup, it was really windy, as is often is there, and the way he was hitting his drives, we’d have this huge crosswind and he would hit this little low bullet hold and when it would be the other way he would do the same thing, we’d have a downwind into the green he’d throw an iron straight up into the air. I’ve never seen somebody that young with so many shots. I know it took me a while to learn all those and feel comfortable doing them in a golf tournament, for one, but he obviously is very comfortable doing it, and he definitely plays enough to get comfortable with it in a tournament. It’s impressive. I think every person that I know that has played with him for the first time walks off and is like, wow, he’s good. He knows what he’s doing. He can make his way around a golf course, and yeah, I don’t think we’re — anybody who’s played with him, I don’t think we’re surprised that he’s won, and I’m sure he’s going to win a lot more times.

Q. Regarding the grouping with you and Jordan and Rickie, how hard or easy is it to turn off the friendship when you start off the first tee and get competitive like you need to be? What’s that dynamic like to play with two such close friends?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it can be tough, but I’ve had some really good rounds with some great friends. You definitely have to find the, I guess, the happy medium of we’re going to talk between shots, and it’s just a matter of, okay, when do I cut that off and I need to get back into my focus, because I have a lot of times that I hit it up there close and I’m kind of counting my putt, it’s like a four-footer and I’m kind of laughing and joking around with the guys on the green and next thing you know it’s my turn to putt, I’m not focused and I miss it. I’m walking off the green going, how many times do I have to do to this learn that I’ve got to stop doing it. But because of that I obviously have learned, and I know that I have to take it into consideration.

We’re going to have fun. I mean, not any more fun than we would with anybody else. We just happen to be some group of guys that are really good friends and hang out quite a bit and we’re out here competing trying to win a golf tournament.

We’re all going to be trying to play as well as we can and beat each other, but in between shots just kind of yuk it up and have some fun.

Q. How hard is it to build your entire schedule for the year, and is it subject to change ever? And also, what did you do the last couple weeks?
JUSTIN THOMAS: In terms of scheduling, it can be tough. I feel like it’s going to take a couple years to kind of figure out. The Florida Swing is very difficult for me at least living here. It’s like there’s so many tournaments I want to play, and there’s so many tournaments I feel like are good for me, but at the end of the day, I need to do what’s best for me, and I need to do what’s going to make sure that my body is in the best shape throughout the year, going to be fresh and ready for the majors, and most importantly fresh and ready for the FedExCup Playoffs, because I felt like last year was kind of strange because obviously I didn’t want to miss a month, month and a half with the wrist injury, but come the Playoffs time, everyone is tired and I’m ready to go. I took a month, month and a half off, and I’m like, all right, let’s do it, let’s keep playing.

I almost learned a little bit from that because it’s like, I don’t need to play. Yeah, sitting at home and watching the Honda and watching Bay Hill and being like, I know that I can do this and I’ve had success at Honda and Bay Hill is a tough course, ball striker’s course, I know that I can compete there. But I can sit at home every week and do that.

I probably did watch more golf than I have in a while because of just how — not entertaining but just how good the golf courses we’re playing. I thought it was enjoyable to watch. I guess that answers the question, I did watch a lot of golf.

It does take a little bit to figure out the scheduling. But no, I took it easy. I didn’t do very much at all. I wanted to get some rest for these next three events coming up in a row, and one of my best friends from high school got married this past weekend in Louisville, so I went home Thursday, got to see my friends and my family that I don’t get to see very often and spend a nice fun weekend with them and then came back Sunday morning and went out and played with dad Sunday afternoon and then came here yesterday.

Q. It’s been kind of an odd start to the year in terms of winning Kapalua, missing the cut at Sony, being there at Phoenix, missing the cut at LA, being there in Mexico. What’s going on?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I hope that trend doesn’t continue now that you say that.

No, Sony was weird. The conditions were so brutal. I don’t know if it just took a lot out of me winning in Kapalua or what it was, but I played poorly, but I didn’t — I just couldn’t get the ball in the hole at Sony. I had a hard time putting in that wind, and the golf course was so different than any year I’ve ever played it where, honestly, I feel like it almost hurt me playing there — not that five times is that many — but playing there as many times as I have, because I’m used to, when you hit it in the rough on No. 1, you’re trying to land it 15 yards short of that green on the right and run it up there. Whereas, you’re in the rough, straight downwind, you had to fly it in the middle of the green because it was so soft that the ball was just going to basically plug where it was. I think it took me about 20-something holes to figure that out, and by that point it was a little too late and didn’t matter.

But in LA I just drove it bad, and when you drive it bad out there, you’re pretty much behind the 8-ball, and I could never get the ball close enough to the hole to make any birdies.

I actually played all right on Friday. I played good enough to post a score well enough to make the cut, but I just played so poorly on Thursday that I didn’t really have much. Just kind of been a little bit of up and down.

Q. Secondly, have you or any of your people sat down or talked with the Premier Golf League, and when do you have to make a decision if there’s one to be made?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don’t know, in terms of the decision. I’ve tried to keep it as far away from me as possible because I’m focused on playing out here and taking whatever week I have next, focusing on that as opposed to focusing on whatever it is. We haven’t really talked about it. I mean, it’s just something that kind of gets brought up quickly, and I kind of let them handle it. Like I said, that’s not my part. I’m out here to try to get ready to play on the PGA TOUR, and that’s my main focus right now, and once that opportunity ever presents itself to actually sit down and talk about it, then we can.

Q. Davis Riley is having a great start to the year on the Korn Ferry TOUR. Can you speak to your relationship with him and following his progress and what stands out to you and impresses you with his game?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, Davis is a stud, man. He’s one of the guys when I’d go back and visit the guys at school, I just hit it off with him so well. He kind of reminds me a lot of myself. He’s a good player, but he’s laid back, he’s easy going. He’s a great teammate. Got along with all the guys. I just really, really like him. I do. I kind of wanted to take him under my wing a little bit and try to help him as much as I could, whether he wanted the help or not, just present it to him that I’m here to help if he wants. He’s impressive. I mean, there’s a handful of guys or a group of guys I feel like in college and amateur golf, there’s obviously going to be a lot of kids that come out and are very successful, but he’s someone that you sit and watch hit balls, and it’s like, that’s a different sound than everybody makes, it’s a different ball flight than everybody makes and he just needs to stay focused and keep doing what he’s doing. Whatever he’s doing right now is working pretty well and hopefully he’ll have continued success and we’ll have a lot of years out here together.

Q. From this point on until through the TOUR Championship, the schedule seems a little unrelenting. You’re never more than a few weeks away from a really big event. How do you go about compartmentalizing to avoid burning out from THE PLAYERS through the TOUR Championship?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it’s a good question, but I think I just try to take everything I’ve learned over the past five years from it. It’s like, I don’t play more than three in a row. Nobody, including my caddie, wants me to ever play four in a row. It just doesn’t bode for a good Justin. Not fun to be around. Using the Mondays through Wednesdays how I need to use them and using the off weeks how I need to use them, and I feel like I’m definitely young enough and do the proper training to where I should not get burnt out. Certainly there’s going to be weeks where maybe you’re a little bit more excited when you get to the course or tee it up on Thursday than others, but that’s why I do what I do. I came out here and I wanted to play professional golf so I could be playing all these tournaments and playing from THE PLAYERS to the TOUR Championship. There’s definitely — it definitely beats the alternative of not having to worry about burning out, that’s for sure. That’s what I do all of my work on the off weeks and training for, so that doesn’t happen.

Q. Speaking to your pairing, the spring break reunion tour this week, can you just talk about that pairing, and can that be advantageous playing with buddies? Is that something that can be a help during a tournament, first two rounds of a tournament?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it’ll be a good time. We’ve had a lot of rounds of golf together, probably more fun rounds than competitive rounds. I don’t know. At the end of the day, we’re going to play well because of us, not because of the people we’re with. I mean, there’s obviously times where you’ll have everyone in the group is 4- or 5-under, you can kind of feed off each other. Sometimes the group is a little bit flat. But at the end of the day, if we all get off to a good start, then we might play well. It’s not like I’m going to play great today because I played with Jordan and Rick. I would like to hope that I have a little bit more confidence in myself, that I’m a good enough player to play without them. But that being said, it is nice knowing — I was going to say it’s not like I can really catch up with them. I pretty much know everything about them already, and vice versa, but it’s just — I like their caddies, I like their families. It’s easy for us. It’s something we’re very, very accustomed to.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

March 11, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports