PGA Tour: Christie Kerr and Paul Azinger Speak at the 2020 Golf Channel Media Conference

LPGA Professional Christie Kerr and Hall of Fame PGA Tour professional Paul Azinger speak at the annual Golf Channel Media Conference in Orlando, Florida

Q: Cristie are you looking forward to transitioning to television?

CRISTIE KERR: Well, I’m not done yet. I just finished sixth last week in Australia.

Q. How did this come about?
CRISTIE KERR: It’s just kind of a fun thing. It’s interesting to learn about it and to be able to see if I want to do it after golf, and I know Molly Solomon pretty well from The Golf Channel, and she’s provided me with some opportunities to get some experience, and I was in the booth in Orlando during the Sony Open on the weekend this year as well as this past year doing the CME TOUR Championship for the women, my Tour, in November.

Q. So this is your PGA TOUR debut?
CRISTIE KERR: Yes, with my good friend Paul Azinger.

Q. Your new colleague David Feherty, they asked him to do it, and he said, this beats playing golf. Is there anybody you would kind of look toward as far as an on-course reporter like Roger Maltbie?
CRISTIE KERR: I look up to everybody. I’m honored to be here working with them this weekend, and I’ve definitely picked their brains about different things. They’ve got a great team, so it behooves me to be able to kind of get information from them and just kind of lean on them when I’m sure I’m going to mess something up this week.

Q. What are you most looking forward to?
CRISTIE KERR: Just the experience. Just everything. Just also seeing the guys play. We don’t get to see them play that often. We’re not exposed to the PGA TOUR that much. I wish they would bring a mixed team event back. I know you played in that.

PAUL AZINGER: Several times.

CRISTIE KERR: I never got to play in it, so I’m like, man, I wish they would bring a mixed team event back to the U.S., with the PGA and the LPGA. I think that would be so much fun.

Q. Do you watch golf much?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I watch golf. I’m a huge golf fan. I fly over to Hawai’i for one of our tournaments on Saturday so I can watch the Sunday of the Masters, make breakfast. It’s a tradition. So yeah, I’m a huge golf fan. I watch as much golf as I can, while doing a wine business and having two kids under the age of six.

Q. Will it be nerve-racking? Will you be more nervous to be a reporter than to play in the event yourself?
CRISTIE KERR: I think the feelings I’ve had being here this week have been a little bit different than playing. Playing it’s like you’re very focused, you have your routine of what you do. Like this is a different experience for me. I think it’ll be a rush. I think it’ll be — I just think it’ll be a lot of fun. I know a lot of the guys out here on TOUR, and I spent five hours on the golf course out here scouting out things yesterday. Not the drop zones and where they are apparently, but just bringing back memories of when I played here as a junior. I remembered a lot more of the golf course than I thought I would.

Q. Paul, what would your advice be now that you’ve been doing this for a while, the transition of going from a playing career to broadcasting? There’s a lot of timing involved. It’s so different than what most players probably think. It’s probably tougher than what most players may —
PAUL AZINGER: The mechanics of it can overwhelm you sometimes, I suppose. But you get used to it. It never bothered me. I don’t think it’s going to bother her. The only thing that would make her nervous is not having been around the men’s game that much. If you were doing the LPGA it would be easy as pie. There wouldn’t be any nerves. It’s what you wonder what you don’t know that’s the worst thing. In the end it’s golf, so she’s going to be able to look at the ground and look at the lie and tell us how far it is. It’s either evaluate — be yourself, that’s the thing. She knows golf as well as anybody. She said she spent five hours — you didn’t spend that much time in your career looking at the course. She’s going to be great.

Q. It’s not like you had a really job description or apply for a job with Molly, but when you look at Paul’s role as the analyst, Dan as the traffic cop in the booth and the reporter role, reporters have so many different definitions. Do you play it straight? Do you try to add humor? Do you bring the empathy of someone who’s succeeded at a high level? How do you see the role of all of this for you?
CRISTIE KERR: I have no idea, honestly. This is my first week on the PGA TOUR. I’m just trying to get through tomorrow.

Q. What’s the mindset? You’ve talked to course reporters.
CRISTIE KERR: I think just be accurate, tell if somebody hit a great shot, brilliant shot, somebody hit a bad shot. Try to talk about what I do know and not try to make up for what I don’t know about the players out here because that takes time. I mean, I think when Dottie first started doing the PGA TOUR, she didn’t know a lot of the players, especially there’s such an influx of all these very, very young players, so I’ll just try to talk about the things that I do know. Hopefully not say something stupid and be able to get through Thursday and go have my glass of wine.

Q. Certainly not on these telecasts in recent years, but you probably have never seen an analyst that was unduly harsh to a player, but just your thoughts about it from a player’s perspective?
CRISTIE KERR: About being a player reporting on players?

Q. Yeah.
PAUL AZINGER: Someone is unduly harsh to her or to us?

Q. Just in general. Johnny Miller had a rap for calling it as he saw it, but there’s also a balance, too, isn’t there.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, there is a balance, and I’m not going to be somebody that’s going to sit there and try to say some things to get noticed for myself. The show is the show, and the players have the stage. I’m not going to be like, hey, I’m Cristie Kerr, I’m here, I’m going to say this and that so I get noticed. It’s the show. It’s the golfers who are playing. If I have some intelligent things to say and people like them, yeah.

PAUL AZINGER: The best advice I got was from a guy named Bob Howard. Some of you may remember Howard. When I got the job with Faldo at ABC, he said, just remember, let the picture be descriptive, you be informative. We can all watch it with the mute button on. And then my wife always says before I leave the room, just remember, now, nobody is tuning in to hear you. But in the end, that’s your job. This is what you do.

She’s going to be great. She’s really truly going to be the analyst on the ground. That’s how it works. She loves golf and she knows golf, so she has a responsibility. Hicks or the hole host will go, and the person on the ground is next, that’ll be her. The wind is blowing left to right, he’s going with a 3-wood or he’s going with a 5-iron, he’s got 100-something yards and he’s got to get it over that bunker there because that’s what you would see if you were the player. That’s how it works. I think you never know until you’re doing it, but she’s done it. She knows how to do it.

CRISTIE KERR: The biggest difference is the distance out here and how far certain people carry their 3-wood, so I know whether they can get over the bunker or whether it’s an iffy shot. I can read a lot of what’s going on between player and caddie to see if they’re comfortable, confident, uncomfortable. You can mention and notice those things. You can tell when somebody is out of their routine. You can say that. I’m just going to try to report on what I’m seeing and not talk about what I don’t know.

Q. Any on-course reporters tell you the importance of turning off your mic when you’re not on screen?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, it has an automatic on and off switch, so it’ll be okay.

Q. Yeah, Feherty has some great stories where he failed to turn it off.
PAUL AZINGER: You know, Feherty was on the ground a long time, and he and Maltbie are probably the best ever at what they do, being on the ground. Being on the ground is a trip. It is fun. I think you’re going to love it. I’ve been on the ground before.


PAUL AZINGER: I did the Ryder Cup in 1995 with Tommy Roy back then, and it is a blast. But the stuff that happens, you just can’t believe the stuff that happens on the air.

Q. I know you’re old enough to remember, I don’t know if you are, but Bob Rosburg on ABC. He was wrong so often, no chance —
PAUL AZINGER: He’s got no chance. That’s what he was famous for.

Q. Cristie, you won a championship here a while ago, right, when you were a junior player?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, 1995 with a big afro and Coke bottle glasses.

Q. How old were you?
CRISTIE KERR: 14, 15. ’77 I was born, so however old I was there, 17 maybe. I don’t even know. 1995, and I was born October of ’77.

Q. Who’s your favorite on TV when you watch?
CRISTIE KERR: Analyst, commentator?

Q. Besides Paul.
CRISTIE KERR: Yes, of course Paul.

PAUL AZINGER: Thank you very much.

CRISTIE KERR: I think the whole team here is great. I hate to single anybody out. It is a very well-oiled machine. I’m just hoping to be part of that machine this week, and no, I’m not running for politics.

PAUL AZINGER: If you go outside of golf, my favorite analyst was Gruden when he was doing it, but honestly, John McEnroe is my favorite analyst.

CRISTIE KERR: Both very opinionated.

PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I just loved McEnroe’s style and the way he went about it and all that. I’ve changed so much since I really just thought about doing McEnroe, but it’s different at NBC.

CRISTIE KERR: Peter Kostis is amazing, so is Dan Hicks.

PAUL AZINGER: The whole host — Hicks, Tirico.

CRISTIE KERR: Terry Gannon is great. Terry does figure skating.

PAUL AZINGER: Steve Sands does a nice job.

CRISTIE KERR: They wouldn’t have a job at the network if they weren’t very good at what they do.

Q. Do you have a broadcasting schedule beyond this tournament?
CRISTIE KERR: No, I don’t. I think I’m going to have a blast this week because I know I can’t play. Like when I was doing CME it was a great experience, I was there, but part of my heart hurt that I wouldn’t playing. But I did a great job, and I learned a lot. But being here, doing this, knowing I can’t play in the tournament, it’s going to be a lot more fun for me, I think.

Q. What did you learn? What’s the biggest thing you learned?
CRISTIE KERR: There are a lot of moving parts in TV, and how everybody has their slotted roles, and everybody has to do their roles to make the whole giant machine work. It’s pretty impressive operation if you’ve never been in a control room, there’s about 100 screens.

Q. With that in mind, have you gotten used to people talking into your ear and giving you thoughts as you’re performing?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, well, I’m sure I’m going to get used to it that first nine holes for sure. But it’ll be a little bit different this time because at CME I had two ears in, and I didn’t have the headset that just has one ear. So I had one for producer, one for show, and I’m going to have two and one this time, which I don’t know what I prefer, so we’ll just see what happens.

Q. And last question on that is equipment has gotten lighter. I’m not talking about wedges and clubs, I’m talking about the utility belt you have to wear. Have you gotten used to all that?
CRISTIE KERR: It wasn’t bad when I tried it on and walked around and stuff.

PAUL AZINGER: We’re going to rehearse this afternoon. We have a 4:00 meeting probably the last 20 minutes, we’ll talk about last week and then what the setup is. The officials come in and talk to the whole team, we ask questions about the course, where the drop zones are, what are the drop zone yardages, will you give us drop zone yardages in week because some courses you don’t even need to know that, there’s no water. But we’re going to go out and rehearse, everybody is going to practice, you’re going to practice a little bit down there, maybe call some practice shots today for fun.

CRISTIE KERR: I don’t know what they said, today or tomorrow morning.

PAUL AZINGER: Just all that. It takes a minute.

CRISTIE KERR: Bones is like, you never want to — he said he stepped out of play to announce into another hole where they were playing, so he said this course shouldn’t be a problem, but there’s a lot of little minutiae kind of stuff where you can’t talk downwind where they hear you. I’m like, I’m going to mess all this up. No, I’m sure I’ll be okay.

PAUL AZINGER: The wind mic is gold because if you’re talking downwind they’ll hear it. They’ll snatch around, that’s the last thing you want to hear.

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, that’s the last thing I want to hear, so Bones and I will be —

PAUL AZINGER: You have to know how to get in position in time to get all your information, so you’ve got to know where to be. You want to see where it’s going a lot of times, but when you’re the broadcaster you’ve got to see where it is, so you’ve got to be out there. You’ve got to see where it lands. If you’re back here on the tee, you’re seeing where it’s going, that’s great. Second shot you’ve got time to see where it’s going. Tee shot, you’ve got to be halfway out there.

Q. When you’re on the golf course, you’re reliant on your shot and what your caddie has to say. In this situation you’ve got a whole truckful of people that are trying to put you in the best position to be successful. Is that a different mindset?
CRISTIE KERR: I mean, it’s definitely — well, I mean, my caddie and I just like when you played, we are a team, but it’s just a much bigger team, but you still know who you’re reporting to and who you’re going to hear critiquing from and what you have to do.

PAUL AZINGER: The hope, I think, in the end, is that we can all just be trying to have a conversation, and we’re just going to include her in it. A lot of times if you’re going down to the course reporter, the host, Gary Koch or whoever it is, Steve Sands tomorrow or Notah as the analyst will probably ask a question, what’s it look like, what you got, and off we go. It almost always will be a question. Everybody can answer questions.

Q. Nervous about if any rules situation comes up?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I’m not in it, so I can call for a rules official. I don’t have to worry about taking a wrong drop. I mean, I can talk about these are the options in a lateral hazard or whatever. Who knows.

Q. You’ll have a blast.
PAUL AZINGER: That’s the best thing about it is you never know what’s happening. You never knew Patrick Reed was going to move sand. You didn’t know so-and-so was going to hook it in the water.

CRISTIE KERR: He didn’t think he moved sand.

PAUL AZINGER: You didn’t know what’s-his-face was going to blow a four-shot lead or a guy was going to come from behind and shoot 61. You just don’t know.

CRISTIE KERR: Being on the other side of it this week, I just feel so bad for the person who had to report that.

PAUL AZINGER: Oh, the Patrick Reed thing?


PAUL AZINGER: It was a weird dynamic, I’ll tell you, and then Hicks and I went down to the putting green and said we’ve heard from everybody else, but before we go on air do you mind talking to us, from you, we want to hear it from you so we know what to say so we get it right is what we said. He was great. He just explained — yeah. It’ll hang with him forever, I’ll tell you that. He’s got to be on his best behavior now.

CRISTIE KERR: He’s a unicorn with the way he handles pressure, though.

PAUL AZINGER: It’s unreal.

CRISTIE KERR: Most people would go hide in a hole.

PAUL AZINGER: You might want to all be aware, too, he didn’t hit it that great. He had 45 one-putts. If he hits it good, Bryson, he didn’t hit it that great on Sunday, and he had three three-putts. These two guys — you’ve got two guys that didn’t really play that great that both could have, should have won. I always say, not a lot of guys can win unless they’re playing great golf. Rory is one of those guys. Well, I think those two guys — he proved he can win when he’s not playing as best as far as I’m concerned.

CRISTIE KERR: I mean, how many victories do you have?


CRISTIE KERR: And how many times did you just play lights out where you hit it great? Half the time?

PAUL AZINGER: Not very many.

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, same.

PAUL AZINGER: The weeks I ever won, for whatever reason nothing really bothered me.

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, you just get in a groove and get the ball in the hole.

PAUL AZINGER: Even the first day, buried under a lip on the first hole and it doesn’t bother you because you know you’re hitting it great. There’s something at peace about it. I saw Viktor Hovland today, too.

CRISTIE KERR: Oh, you did?

PAUL AZINGER: I wanted to know how he felt coming down the stretch, so I just asked him point blank.

CRISTIE KERR: Did he know the putt was to win?

PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, he knew it all. From 15 on, he described a shot he had on 15 that was — he said he wanted to have it come and swing in but he hit it hot and it kicked straight and got on the same line and went in, so he said he got lucky there. But then he said everything just relaxed for him, and I thought, oh, yeah, I’ve had that, because that’s what happens.

CRISTIE KERR: It’s the zone.

PAUL AZINGER: Once you get it going, it’s like, whoa, this is awesome. And now it’s on, you’ve got the same rhythm, everything relaxes. Sometimes you’re not because you’re not hitting it good. Everything relaxed for him the other day. Did it feel as good as the Amateur, because we called the Amateur — anyway, I love Viktor Hovland. Of the three, Wolff, Morikawa and Hovland — somebody did ask me who I thought. They’ve all won, of those three. Last year they asked me who I thought would be the best, and I said, I think Viktor Hovland is going to be the best of all of them. I hope that Puerto Rico jinx isn’t real. Anyone who’s ever won in Puerto Rico has never won again.


PAUL AZINGER: Uh-huh, like 11 straight years.

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, but he’s from Norway. He’ll be fine.

Q. Who are you looking forward most to watching? Obviously you’ll have an assigned group.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I don’t know who I’m going to be with.

PAUL AZINGER: You’ll be with some show pony.

Q. Who are you most interested in seeing, whether you’re assigned to their group or not?
CRISTIE KERR: I’m a libra; you’re never going to get a straight answer out of me. Yeah, so —

PAUL AZINGER: I’m looking that up.

CRISTIE KERR: I balance the scales.

Q. Why do you think Viktor is going to be the best of those three?
PAUL AZINGER: Why do I think Viktor will be the best?

CRISTIE KERR: He’s got that look in his eye.

PAUL AZINGER: He just gets it, that part, and he’s a big-game player I just feel like. He’s been through a lot. We watched him win the Amateur. I called the Amateur when he won it, and if you just watch the way he hits his wedges, it’s just is on another level. And he drives it nice and hits it far, but you and I both know, when you’ve got somebody that can peel those wedges like that, it’s like, oh, he’s going to get eight to ten wedges the rest of his life every day. That’s just the way golf works.

CRISTIE KERR: He’s fearless now; what is he, 21 or something?

PAUL AZINGER: Confidence. He’s just polished, and he’s got that personality that just seems to be — he’s like a Tom Kite personality with a better smile.

Q. I was going to say, it’s hard to get the smile off his face.
PAUL AZINGER: He’s Kite with a better smile. Nothing ever bothered Kite that much. It doesn’t look like anything bothers Viktor Hovland, and he smiles. He Matt Kuchars it to death.

CRISTIE KERR: Kuchar smile.

PAUL AZINGER: Doesn’t he, Viktor? He’s got a beautiful smile. That kid just looks happy. He just looks happy.

CRISTIE KERR: Hashtag, 25 years later us.

PAUL AZINGER: Curmudgeon.

CRISTIE KERR: That’s golf, you know.

Q. Did you hear the Norwegian call on Viktor Hovland’s win?
CRISTIE KERR: I did, yeah.

PAUL AZINGER: They call golf every week, you know, over there, and was that the best reaction you ever heard in sports really? It’s like what they do in Mexico City.

Q. He was the first one to win from Norway on the men’s Tour.
CRISTIE KERR: Unbelievable.

PAUL AZINGER: I wish I could have seen the translation of what they were saying, as they were going off, just the volume. It was just such a guttural reaction, wasn’t it, from those guys? I loved it.

Q. It was pretty good.
PAUL AZINGER: You heard it, too?

Orlando, Florida

February 26, 2020

Q. Yeah, it went viral.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Rickie Fowler Talks Current State of His Game Heading Into The Honda Classic

PGA Tour professional and 2017 Honda Classic champion previews his 2020 return to the Honda Classic and speaks on the current status of his golf game

PGA Tour: 2017 Honda Classic champion Rickie Fowler addresses the media prior to the 2020 edition

DOUG MILNE: Rickie, 2017 Honda Classic champion, tied for second last year, obviously some good memories of the place. Just some thoughts on being back at PGA National.

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, like you said, we’ve had success here. I love this golf course. I feel like it’s very demanding of the game, not always hitting driver, but you’ve got to get the ball in play, and very much a second-shot golf course once you do get it in the fairway.

Typically we’ve got some wind, which for me I enjoy playing in, especially living down in this area. I’ve been in Jupiter for about 11 years now, and looks like we’re going to have a little cooler week than normal. We’ve got a front coming in later today. Yeah, a little cooler, a little different wind than we’re used to seeing here at this golf course. But throw some sweaters on in the morning and go play. Everyone has got to go play the same course and same weather.

Q. How are you feeling about your game coming into the week?
RICKIE FOWLER: I’m excited. I’ve had three weeks — well, off of tournament golf, but I wouldn’t say I’ve had three weeks off. A few workdays in there and I’ve been putting in a lot of time in the gym, on the course, but it’s been nice to have been at home sleeping in my own bed for three weeks, and like I say, getting good work in. So I’m looking forward to getting started back here at Honda, and as of right now, we’re looking at playing six out of the next seven weeks.

Q. Is there an element of comfort for you at this golf course, or do we just perceive that because we know you live here and we’re so used to seeing you here?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, I’ve had a lot of good tournament golf played on this golf course, going back to junior golf actually. I’ve always been comfortable here.

At the same time, it is challenging. I’ve had plenty of mishaps. It happens around this place. It’s bound to happen. You’re going to make bad swings, and sometimes they happen at the wrong time.

No, I enjoy what this golf course kind of brings to the table and what it demands of you as a player, and then like I said, with the wind typically being up, you’ve got to hit some shots and control your golf ball around here.

Q. Does it ever become exhausting, you can’t help but see how many little ones are dressed like Rickie and they just love you and they want to meet you and get your autograph? Does it ever just become exhausting to see them all out there? Do you want to make them all happy if you know what I mean?
RICKIE FOWLER: No, it’s obviously a great position that I’m in. No, I mean, it makes your day better, if anything, to see the support and see what kind of impact that I’m able to have on people at times. I try and make that be a good impact.

But no, I’m kind of blessed to be in this position, so to be coming from when I was young, looking up to guys who played the TOUR or to riding, racing dirt bikes, something I did growing up, to now being in a position where I’m the person that kids are looking up to, it’s a cool position to be in.

It can take some time here and there to sign autographs and whatnot. Unfortunately I’ve tried it; you can’t please everyone. So there’s some people that take that better than others, so that’s one of the downfalls that sometimes we have to deal with as far as trying to make people happy, but at the same time accepting that you can’t take care of everyone because we’d be sitting out here signing all day sometimes.

Q. Do you know what the phenomenon is that has them gravitate towards you, like dress exactly like you and want to be you?
RICKIE FOWLER: I don’t know. To be honest, it’s not that — we didn’t try and do anything different or out of the ordinary as far as for who I am. I feel like kids are really good at picking apart if someone is genuine or not, seeing if they’re fake or for real, and I feel like I’ve always — as far as me knowing and the people that I’ve grown up with from friends and family, I am who I am. This is who I’ve been growing up to playing junior golf, college golf, and on TOUR.

I’d like to say I haven’t changed. We’ll go to them for confirmation, but I think that may be one thing that kids can pick up on and they see, as well, in J.T., Jordan, Rory, and guys across the board.

Q. A year ago you were top 10, you’re 25th now or something like that. You said you spent three weeks working on your game. Is that the reason, the drop? What were you working on?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yes and no. I mean, I took all fall off. We got married, honeymoon. I wanted to make sure that I was able to do that right and enjoy it. Yeah, I didn’t play as great through maybe the kind of spring and summer last year, but also with the time off, that’s been not out playing and not earning points, so that’s been part of falling back.

No, it’s been a very, I think, beneficial time off. Yes, I’ve fallen back in World Rankings. A lot of that’s just due to not having played, and now we’re jumping back on the horse right now, and we’ll climb our way back up to top 10 and go from there.

Q. With your OSU connection, do you have a good relationship with Viktor? I’m curious, watching some of these kids come right out and win, what’s your impression of that?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I have good relationships with both Matt and Viktor. I probably know Matt a little bit more, him living down here now. But Viktor I’ve spent a decent amount of time with. They’re both great kids. I say kids because they’re 10, 11 years younger than I am. But it’s been fun to watch. They’re two great players. I feel like in a way they play kind of two different kinds of golf, two different swings, but they’re good at what they do.

I don’t think that especially now and especially you look at Collin Morikawa, these kids are another step above where myself and some other guys coming out of college were just because I feel like the talent level and competition keeps getting better and better. They’re just more and more prepared to come out here and compete.

Q. I’m sure you saw or heard Rory’s comments on the proposed golf league.

Q. Where he said that he wouldn’t be interested, basically, said he didn’t think it would work —
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, yeah, I heard something on that, but I also heard that the transcript was kind of — the one thing was taken out of what was really said, if you read the whole transcript, versus just the one line.

Q. My question is what were your thoughts on it?
RICKIE FOWLER: I don’t really have a stance yet. I need to gather some more information and see where we’re at with all that, but it sounds like some of that stuff moving forward — but yeah, I don’t have enough information to take sides or comment on it a whole lot.

Q. You live here, you’ve had success here, you’re coming back after a few weeks off. Do you feel like you have a course advantage here?
RICKIE FOWLER: Not necessarily. You know, playing this golf course, I play it once a year. I’ve played well here, but there’s also a lot of other guys that have played well here, Brooks being — staying at home, as well. Him and I both finished second last year. No, I don’t necessarily look at it as a home course advantage. Some guys like sleeping in their own bed and take that as an advantage. There’s some guys that aren’t playing this week, just because it’s a little odd playing at home maybe for them. I enjoy it. Like I said, I’ve played well here. I look at this as it is a nice week to be at home, be comfortable, and it is a golf course where if you have a little bit more confidence on it, having played well, it definitely helps.

Q. Just talking about comparing your first couple years on TOUR to the player you are now, what do you remember about those first few years? What were your biggest challenges?
RICKIE FOWLER: I think the biggest challenges were always just time management and learning how the TOUR works, week in and week out, how many weeks you can play in a row, how to go about your Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, how to get ready for if you’re teeing off early Thursday or if you’re playing late Thursday, when to eat, how to eat, when to work out, how to get worked on, stretched, and how to get your body right. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it. One of the biggest things the first couple years is learning golf courses. You’re playing all new places that you really haven’t been before. So there’s a lot on your plate. It’s not easy to do, but good golf always answers a lot of questions.

Q. Do you think that’s understood or not understood, that it takes all those things?
RICKIE FOWLER: I think golf at the highest level or PGA TOUR golf where you’re traveling and playing for a living, I think to me as a whole is very much misunderstood as far as what goes into it. It’s not just the glamorous life it teeing it up Thursday and finishing Sunday afternoon.

Q. (Indiscernible).
RICKIE FOWLER: Those are just the basics. There’s a lot that goes into it, and like I said, it’s learning how to manage everything, when to do it, how to do it. Like I said, figuring out how many weeks in a row you want to play. If you do play three, four, five weeks in a row, which I don’t play more than three, then is it one week off or two weeks off, then you add in workdays as far as shoots with sponsors, whether they’re still or commercial stuff. I do about 25 to 30 days a year, so those obviously aren’t in a row. You’ve got to pick and choose are those Monday and Tuesday when you get back from a tournament or mid-week, or if you’re fitting them into one week off, it kind of interrupts your preparation or your rest, so then you have to take two weeks off to fit shoot days in. So there’s a lot that goes into just picking which tournaments you want to play.

Q. You’ve had a couple weeks off and a busy upcoming schedule. What are some keys for you to get into that competitive form not just for this week but with THE PLAYERS and Augusta not too far away?
RICKIE FOWLER: Just keeping it simple. You know, working on stuff at home, at Grove, Medalist, Turtle Creek, playing, being in the gym. The big thing coming out here is we’ve been working on that, don’t try and go work on stuff on the golf course, go play golf; keep it simple. Sounds cliché, fairways and greens, but some days it’s a lot easier than others. But that’s the biggest thing is go out and play golf and go score, not try and think about what you’re doing with the swing. Go with one or two swing thoughts. So the more simple I can keep it the next seven weeks, that seventh week we’ll be in a really good spot at Augusta.

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

February 26, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

PGA Tour

PGA Tour: Viktor Hovland Discusses First Win on Tour Prior to Honda Classic Debut

PGA Tour professional and rookie sensation Victor Hovland recaps his maiden PGA Tour victory last week ahead of the 2020 Honda Classic.

PGA Tour: Viktor Hovland speaks on his first Tour victory and Honda Classic debut

DOUG MILNE: We’d like to welcome Viktor Hovland. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes here at the Honda Classic, making your first start at the Honda Classic and coming just a few days after your first career PGA TOUR win at the Puerto Rico Open. I was thrilled to be there with you for that. If I could start by taking you back to San Juan, obviously the dramatic putt there on the 72nd hole to get the job done. Just kind of a little bit of a reflection on the week and getting your first TOUR win last week.

VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, I mean, it was — it definitely just looking back at last week, it felt like a really long week. That was kind of — I’ve had some back-door kind of top-15 finishes, some top-10 finishes, but it’s been very back-door, and last week I was kind of in contention, from not quite the get-go but had the co-leader from the second round and definitely felt the extra pressure of kind of being up there the whole way. It was a really long week, but to find of finish it off the way that I did felt really good.

DOUG MILNE: You mentioned the extra pressure. You’re one of these ones that as soon as you set foot out here on the PGA TOUR, expectations were pretty high. Is that something that you were aware of, kind of the expectations, given your history as an amateur and so forth growing up in the game, the expectations for you to get that first win right away?

VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, they were — yeah, I definitely felt it. It was kind of weird just having people expect so much from you when I haven’t had quite the finishes that maybe warranted those expectations, but I kind of just stuck with within myself and tried to perform the golf that I know I’m capable of, and fortunately last week it came out, and I hope in the future that I keep — that I can get that out more often.

DOUG MILNE: Just some thoughts on being here this week, shifting gears and getting back to business as usual. Have you had a chance to get out and kind of see how the course sets up for your game?

VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, I played 18 holes here yesterday in the evening, so it was a little windy and the greens were really firm and fast, completely opposite from last week. I’ve actually never been here before. I didn’t play the Polo Junior here or the junior tournaments that a lot of guys have played, so that was the first look at the course, and it’s tough, and it’s a really good test of golf.

Q. With that victory, do you come here feeling momentum, or is there something more difficult than we understand about winning and then having to play again right away?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I mean, I would say I just come into the tournament with a lot of confidence. Obviously it’s a way different course. It’s a lot longer, and it requires kind of different shot making. But I’m definitely taking a lot of the confidence that I had with my irons going into this week, and if I can just keep hitting fairways and hit my irons the way that I have been, I think it’s going to be another good week.

Q. Viktor, it’s different for everybody, I’m sure. We know what comes with winning in terms of the prize, the money, the points, the status, all those things. But it’s only been a couple of days, but do you feel like there’s been a mental change, an emotional change? Other than the stuff you get, what do you think really changed now that you can say that you’ve won one of these?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Well, I think it’s just a little sense of relief. I was in a spot where I didn’t really know quite what tournaments I would play except for a couple weeks ahead, so this certainly gives me a little bit more leeway to really pick the events that I want to play. But still, I’m kind of right outside the top 50 in the world, so I can keep playing well and get inside there, that would really get to the next step, and then I could really pick my schedule, and yeah, try to figure out where I want to go. But except for that, it’s another week, and I’m going to try to do the best that I can.

Q. How did you celebrate?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Me and my caddie and a couple other people, we just got some food at the restaurant at the hotel and had a couple drinks and went to bed and flew out the next morning.

Q. How much is Ryder Cup on your mind this year? Obviously a long ways off, but that sort of went a long way toward that, as well. Have you heard from Padraig or anything along those lines?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, hopefully it didn’t hurt, and no, I’ve been looking at Ryder Cup as something that I want to play in for a really long time, and it’s certainly, I would say, pretty much the pinnacle of a golfing career, being on a Ryder Cup team. I saw Padraig yesterday. He said congrats, so that was great, and hopefully I can just keep playing well and kind of make more of my mark that maybe I have a chance to be on the team.

Q. Speaking of your schedule, you’re now in the field at THE PLAYERS Championship. Have you played that course before? Do you have any experiences there, and just your general excitement to play at Sawgrass?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, I played Junior Players there the year before I went to college, so that would have been 2015, I believe. It was a different time of year and the rough was really thick, and it was playing really soft and long at the time. So it’ll be different or interesting to see how it plays this year. But the course is awesome. I think it’s maybe one of my favorite courses I’ve played in Florida. I think sometimes in Florida you get not boring courses but everything is kind of right in front of you, but at TPC Sawgrass, I feel like everything is just — every hole is just completely different, and it really tests your arsenal of shots. I think it’s a really good test of golf.

Q. Can you take us a little bit down the path of how a kid from a place known for winter sports becomes a player on the PGA TOUR?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah. I mean, my dad got me into playing golf, and since I was really young, I always played golf. When I got a little older, I wanted to practice all year-round, and somehow I ended up at Oklahoma State, and that kind of made the process go a little faster. I learned a lot those three years in college under Coach Bratton and Coach Donnie Darr. So yeah, it’s kind of crazy to think that we’re here just under a year later since I was in college.

Q. Who are role models for you if you didn’t have a lot of guys from your country playing? Who are the guys you watched and learned?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Well, we had one PGA TOUR player currently playing when I was kind of younger and growing up, Henrik Bjornstad, so I was kind of following his scores every week when he was playing, and obviously born under the Tiger era, so certainly was very inspired by what he was doing on the course, and I really liked kind of the flair that Sergio Garcia had while playing. So just looking at — I would kind of take pieces from every single player and kind of like some of what he was doing, then this guy would do something else that I would think was pretty cool. It was mostly Tiger, but I would kind of pick something from all of them.

Q. Usually for a player the first or second year on the TOUR is going to be a tough acclimation, not just on the course but off the course, culturally. Have you had any of that, not knowing where to go, not knowing who to sit with in the dining room, that kind of thing?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: A little bit because I would say I’m a little shy person naturally. But I think it’s great for me to kind of get out of my comfort zone a little bit and kind of challenge myself with just, okay, I’m just going to do my thing, and if there’s people sitting there, I’m just going to go down there and sit there and say hi to everyone and kind of get out of my shell a little bit, and I feel like I’ve definitely come a long ways, and yeah, I feel like I’m somewhat getting the hang of it.

Q. Is it a hard thing, though, and does it help to be playing as well? Does that make it easier?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I don’t know. I haven’t really thought much about it, but I guess it helps a little bit, gets you that extra confidence to kind of sit down and do those things. But you don’t really want kind of your results to be the driving factor behind it, you just want to be the person that you want to be.

Q. This victory brings a lot more attention to you. You had a lot of attention from before, but now even more. Do you like that, or do you just feel like you want to play golf and shy away from all the crowds?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I mean, it’s nice to have the attention because then that really shows that you’re doing well. But kind of obviously sometimes when you’re done with a round, you just want to sign the scorecard and go to your room. You don’t really want all the extra attention. I mean, there’s good parts and bad parts with it.

Q. You’re known for being Twitterless Viktor, and back home in Norway, everyone is wondering are you going to be on Twitter?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: After the win on Sunday, I got so many text messages, I couldn’t even respond to half of them, so if I got a Twitter, that would just make it even worse, so probably not.

Q. You touched on this a little bit before in terms of being able to set your schedule and knowing where you’re playing. What are you kind of most excited about after the win, or looking forward to the most?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, I mean, obviously getting into the PGA Championship is going to be a lot of fun. I haven’t played that major. THE PLAYERS is going to be awesome to play in, and hopefully I can kind of keep my ranking and get into the Match Play event that’s coming up. I’m really a big fan of match play, and I would say I’ve played some of my best golf in matches, so hopefully I can get in there and do well. I mean, there’s so many cool tournaments out there. Just whenever the next tournament I’m playing, I’m pretty excited, and then we move on to the next, then the next, then the next.

Q. Augusta I would imagine would be on that list of —
VIKTOR HOVLAND: It’s up there.

Q. Curious your earliest memory of the Masters.
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I don’t remember. I couldn’t tell you.

Q. Really?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I couldn’t tell you. I don’t remember things like that, if back in 2004 I was watching the Masters. I don’t really remember that stuff.

Q. How about Tiger?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I think it was in elementary school sometime, just watching golf and seeing him fist bump, go crazy. I couldn’t tell you.

Q. Congratulations on not being on Twitter officially makes you the smartest person in the room, so good job on that.
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Thank you. Setting the bar high.

Q. I know you just played the course for the first time last evening, but everyone knows 15, 16, 17, but those are obviously not the only hard holes. 6 can be brutal, 11 can be brutal. Did the course live up to the expectation of how hard it can be?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah. I played — I went off 10 yesterday with Matt Wolff and Martin Trainer, and it was into the wind on 10, and I didn’t hit very many balls after teeing off, and I kind of necked one. It was dead straight so I thought it was going to be fine, and I didn’t check my yardage book or anything, I just stepped up to the tee and what happened it, and yeah, I obviously necked it into the wind, spun up a little bit in the air, and I walk up the fairway and I’m thinking it’s going to be in the fairway, and it’s in the bunker like 260 out from the tee in the lip, and Shay is shooting the flag, and it’s like 235 to the pin. I’m like, This is a pretty easy par-5 if I just catch one. He’s like, “It’s a par-4, mate.” I was like, well, okay, that’s a good start to the week. But yeah, there’s a lot of really tough holes out there. But if you hit the ball good, there’s definitely opportunities to score.

Q. It’s hard to win at any level in golf, Korn Ferry TOUR, Euro Tour, certainly out here, and you and Collin and Matthew have stepped out in a matter of months and won. Do you find that remarkable, or is that just part of the plan?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I think honestly when we were in college and looking forward to turning pro, that was definitely our plans, if you will, that we were obviously dreaming about it, but for all of us to have won within a year, I mean, it’s pretty remarkable. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s a pretty crazy ride.

Q. Did Matthew’s win early on kind of give you more confidence that I can step out and do this?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, I would say for sure because I played and practiced with him every day in college for two years, and I saw what he was capable of, and I knew what I was capable of. So certainly seeing him kind of laid the — broke the ice a little bit for me, I would think.

Q. Going back to Austin, what is it about match play that you like so much, and what are some of your favorite memories that you’ve had playing match play?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I think it’s just that you get to play with the person that you’re playing against. You’re not necessarily playing — you’re not playing against the rest of the field or kind of the course. You just have to beat one guy, and to kind of see what he’s doing and then you have the opportunity to kind of combat that and be clutch I think is really cool. I have some great moments from obviously the U.S. Amateur and NCAAs, but even before that in the European Boys Team Championships that I would play back in 2013, ’14, ’15, representing Norway, and yeah, just had some great matches.

Q. Putting aside the fact that it would help you at this moment, you beat a very good field in Puerto Rico, a lot of good players out there. Do you think the Masters should reconsider its policy of not letting winners of opposite events into their tournament?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I don’t know, I haven’t put much thought into it.

Q. Even after winning?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I mean, it’s not up to me to decide.

Q. It’s not up to me, either.
VIKTOR HOVLAND: No. I mean, I don’t know what tournaments really get you into the Masters —

Q. Everything but the opposites.
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Okay, well, I don’t know. It is an opposite field event, so you can make that case. It’s just how the rules are. Obviously I’d like it to get me in, but I don’t think it should change just because I won it. I don’t really think it’s wrong or right.

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

February 26, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Brooks Koepka Talks Injury Recovery Prior to 2020 Honda Classic

Four-time major championship Brooks Koepka addresses the media prior to the 2020 Honda Classic about his knee injury recovery and looking forward to the 2020 Masters.

PGA Tour: Brooks Koepka speaks with the media prior to making sixth start at the Honda Classic

DOUG MILNE: We’d like to welcome world No. 3 Brooks Koepka. Brooks, thanks for joining us for a few minutes prior to the start of your sixth start at the Honda Classic this week, coming off a tie for second last year. With that said, just some thoughts on being back here and what’s kind of a local game for you.

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it’s nice to be back. Obviously any time you can play in front of my family and friends that don’t get to come out really any other week, it’s always nice for them to get to see me, and it’s obviously a little different sleeping in your own bed. It’s fun, though. I enjoy it. I like the golf course. The golf course has always been pretty good. It’s tough; I like that. It seems to be in good shape. Hopefully this rain doesn’t make it too soft, but we’ll see.

DOUG MILNE: I know one of the questions people want to know is how you’re feeling. You’re making just your second start in the calendar season. Just how the knee is doing and how you’re feeling.

BROOKS KOEPKA: Knee is great. I wouldn’t be playing if I couldn’t play or if there was pain or if I didn’t feel like I could come out here and compete at my best. I’ve just played bad, simple as.

Obviously with a little bit of time off, I don’t want to say rust was the culprit of that. I felt like I was doing a lot of really good things. I was very close, striking it well, putting it well, and sometimes it’s just a matter of scoring. You can go through runs where you feel like you play great and you just don’t score very good, and that’s kind of where I feel like — out at LA I didn’t hit it very good. But everything — I mean, everything seems fine. It’s just a matter of going out there and actually making birdies. I just haven’t — it seems like I make a few birdies and then follow it up with a bogey, and it’s just kind of any momentum has been killed, which is not usually how I’m used to playing golf.

Hopefully it’ll start to turn around here. I feel good. I’m excited to play.

DOUG MILNE: Looking down the road, obviously a big stretch coming up. Just kind of what your schedule is looking like coming up.

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, obviously I’m trying to play my way into it a little bit, a week off, week off, just to kind of test everything and see where it’s at. Obviously after here, next week will be off and then THE PLAYERS and then go to Tampa right after, and then after that I believe is Match Play. It’ll be three weeks in a row for me, which will be nice to kind of have something to build on, where it’s been one week on, one week off here, where it’s not tough to build a rhythm, but it’s just been — it’s just a lot easier when you’ve got three weeks in a row to really find your game and really build off the last week. I mean, I’ve done really well when I’ve played multiple weeks in a row. Every major I’ve won, I’ve played the week before. My second week out in a row is usually my best week, second and third week. It’ll be nice to get going in that little stretch.

Q. In terms of the knee, any lingering concerns? You mentioned the three weeks in a row. Is that sort of a test to see kind of how it would hold up, I guess?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, no, I mean, everything is fine. Everything is just how — it’s better than we expected it to be at this point in time. Like I’ve said, it’s stable. It feels good. There’s no — I can actually do a one-legged squat now, where I couldn’t even do a quarter squat two and a half months ago. It’s progressed great. Derek Samuel in San Diego has done an unbelievable job working with me, and we’ve got it right where we want it, and it’s just now about building even more strength around it and really understanding a different approach on workouts.

Q. Talk about the downtime. I know you had that unfortunate experience of having downtime before with your other injury. What was that like for you going through that? Is it just the concentration is getting better so you’re not missing the golf as much?
BROOKS KOEPKA: My days were so filled that I didn’t really have time to miss it until I started to get a little antsy right around the beginning of December is when I was like, all right, I really just want to hit balls, and didn’t get cleared, I think, until December 20th was the first day I hit balls. It’s just one of those things where you just sit around on the couch. After rehab I’d be home at 11:00, 10:00 in the morning, did rehab at 7:00 a.m., and then out here, and then I went out to San Diego and basically spent all my time in San Diego. I was out in La Jolla with Derek, where my trainer is at, and we grinded every day on the thing. There wasn’t much — there’s nothing I can do. You try to stay busy, try to walk on it. Doing more activity was actually good for it because there’s other problems that kind of come in. My foot was bugging me a little bit, and you’ve got to get out and move it, and that’s sometimes the best rehab than sitting down and — like if I still sit down for a while, I can still feel it a little bit, if I sit down for like an hour or two, but you’ve just got to keep moving and everything is fine.

Q. When do you start going into Masters prep mode? And then also a follow-up, how did last year’s Masters experience kind of affect you going into your prep in this one?
BROOKS KOEPKA: My prep will start basically whenever I get up there. I’m just trying to play right now. I’m just trying to play good golf and find some rhythm, and I feel like if I find rhythm, I’ll be just fine. As far as last year, last year I’ve said it, I think the more I’ve played that golf course, the more I’ve realized that you don’t need to be as conservative as I think a lot of people will tell you, a lot of guys that have been around there for years and years. You look at it, there might be a slope that’s right to left on a green, and they’ll tell you to play off of it, and it’ll feed right down to the cup, but at the same time, if you just aim at the flag, it’s flat down there. You just hit it right there, and if you push it, it’ll actually hit that slope and come back instead of aiming for it. Where I think sometimes you try to play for, I guess, the crowd pleaser, where it catches the slope, feeds in, and everybody is oohing and aahing, but you can be quite aggressive there, and I think that’s kind of the approach we’ve taken the last couple times we’ve played it, and it’s gotten a lot better. I like the way that we’re attacking the golf course, how we feel on it, and where our misses are.

Q. Was there confidence built last year in learning some things?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, I don’t know if there’s confidence. It’s more of just an understanding of how to play it. I wouldn’t relate that to confidence. I felt pretty confident. I think everybody in this room knows that every player that goes to play Augusta is going to be confident. They’re there to win, otherwise they wouldn’t show up.

Q. This is kind of a two-parter. No. 16 is the Aon Risk-Reward challenge hole. Last year you had two birdies, two pars that kind of sent you on your way to winning the challenge and the million dollars. With the weather that’s forecast, will that significantly change how you play that hole? And the second part, since you’ve won it, are more players coming up to you or thinking about, hey, I need to get in on this?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Well, I’ll answer your second part. Everybody is in on it. Everybody has got a chance for it. You’ve just got to play good those holes. It’s just a correlation of how well you play that week, too. You play good enough, you’re going to birdie enough holes, and you should win the thing.

Last year I thought I played really well, and obviously it’s going to relate to things like that. You see it in the FedExCup. You’ll see it in the Wyndham Rewards. You just play good, it all takes care of itself.

But as far as 16, it’s pretty much the same thing. You’re trying to hit it about 250, 255 off the tee, hit some bullets. It could be a 3-iron, 4-iron, depending on what this rain does, whether it soaks it. You’re still hitting iron off the tee. Some guys will hit hybrid to get down there, but it’s all pin location, whether — I think any time it’s on the right-hand side of that green, it’s a little easier, or just for me, the way I shape the ball. When it gets on that back left tier, it’s obviously very tough to make a birdie. But the hole itself won’t change.

Q. Speaking of the Masters, Tiger Woods was on a conference call with reporters yesterday, and he spent a fair amount of time talking about one of his memories of last year is how fellow players were happy for him and the way he was treated and the congratulations he received. I’m just curious, next month, is all that goodwill over? Is he just another guy to beat? When you go back there, are there any memories of the previous years, or is it all about just getting past it and winning?
BROOKS KOEPKA: For me, I don’t really go off past experiences too much because then you start — I’ve hit a bad shot on every hole I’ve played out here on TOUR, so I don’t think of that. There’s plenty of good shots I’ve hit on every hole at the same time.

You can’t really think of what’s been good, what’s been bad, but at the same time, when we all get out here, we’re all competitors. There comes a time where, like last year at Augusta, when you’re done, you can kind of go, okay, listen, I gave it my all; I’m pleased with how I played. I hit shots exactly how I wanted to, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Then you just shake the guy’s hand and say congrats, that’s awesome, exactly what happened with Tiger last year. I did it with Gary, too, last year. I played great at both those tournaments, and just came up short. Sometimes that happens. That’s golf. You can play your best, but some guys just come out and just flat-out beat you, and you have to accept that. That’s what I think makes this game so beautiful. You can play your best and just get outplayed. And then sometimes you don’t — I felt like there have been times where I haven’t — I felt like I’ve played better in other tournaments and haven’t won, and I haven’t played that great and I’ve won.

There’s just certain times where it works out in your favor and sometimes when it doesn’t, but at the same time you’ve just got to understand that, hey, this guy played unbelievable and shake their hand and accept it.

Q. I think a lot of people when they look back at that heading into the Masters this year will be wanting to talk about what happened on the 12th hole for several players —
BROOKS KOEPKA: What happened?

Q. A lot of things happened in a short period of time. Is that your prominent memory of that tournament, or is it something else?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I’ve said it before, I actually didn’t hit a bad shot on 12. I really didn’t. I think if you go back and look at the tape, I backed off it because the wind direction came — I’ll start it off by saying this: If you’ve ever played Augusta and you’ve stood on the 12th tee, or even if you haven’t, look at the pin on 11, look at what it feels like on the tee, look at 12’s pin, and then try to look at the trees on 13 and they’re all going in different directions. So you tell me which way the wind is going. It’s very difficult. You kind of have to go with what your gut says and what it’s doing at that exact moment.

Not to throw a shade on Henrik, but he hit it in the back trees like 30 yards long. Let’s be realistic, Henrik is not going to hit a shot that’s 30 yards long anywhere. Off a tee? No, it’s just wind. If it gets above those trees, it can do anything, and that’s what I did. You see guys do it all the time. It’s just a matter of does it stay under the trees and go with the wind that’s going through funneling in, or does it get above the trees and do what it’s been doing all day. I actually hit a good shot and it just kind of just spun just a hair too much. But I hit a great shot. I’m aiming right where I should be, right at the center of the green just like everybody else, but at the same time, it’s very difficult.

I don’t think anybody is ever going to understand that, the wind on that hole, and if you do and you hit the green, a lot of times you’ll see guys let a deep breath out because it’s very — I don’t know what else to say. It’s just a difficult hole.

You look at it, four out of six guys I think hit it in on the last day, and I don’t think all four of us are that off on our distance.

Q. I’m guessing that you either saw or heard Rory’s stance last week on the proposal of a different Tour, of a new Tour, and I was curious if you’ve formulated any sort of firm opinion one way or another on what you might be thinking if the opportunity ever happened?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I’m just going to play where the best players play, simple as. I want to play against the best. I think everybody wants to play against the best. Whatever comes of it comes of it, and it is what it is. I just want to play good this week and focus at the Honda Classic. I’m not interested in anything else other than to play good this week and come out with a W.

Q. What did you think of what Rory essentially said, that he’s out? Did that sway your opinion at all or anything along those lines?
BROOKS KOEPKA: My opinion is my opinion. Nobody else is going to sway it. Nobody else is going to — it doesn’t matter. I mean, I respect what Rory said. Everybody has got their own thoughts. Everybody has got a different opinion. It is what it is. I’m pretty sure Rory wants to play against the best players in the world, too. Wherever that is, everybody is going to be playing.

Q. Just kind of an odd segue here, but going back to what you were saying about the Masters, if I were to ask you what the best shot you’ve ever hit was, what would be maybe the five-second answer?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Over at Augusta?

Q. No, just ever, period. What would come to mind?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Probably the 4-iron I hit at Bellerive on the par-3, 16. Just pressure, situational, contact, flight, everything, spin. That was the best shot I’ve hit.

Q. You saw where you recently played a round of golf with Donald Trump. Can you just talk about that experience, how that came about?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah. He’s asked me to play golf maybe three or four times, and it just hasn’t worked out. His schedule is kind of busy, so it’s kind of changed a little bit. I had to cancel on him I think once or twice, too, just some things I had going. It was fun. I actually had a blast. We had a good time. I guess my brother and my dad played — not my whole family, but just those two, and we had a blast. We laughed it up. It was fun. It was great to get out there. I hadn’t played that golf course in years, and it’s always funny time I’ve been lucky enough to be around quite a few Presidents and sitting Presidents where it’s been probably one of the top 5 coolest moments of my life, getting to play golf with the President.

And then when Obama came to the Floridian up there, I didn’t get to play with him, but getting to meet him, that was some of the coolest memories — when I’m on my death bed, that’ll probably be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, getting to meet those guys. It’s so cool. It really is.

I think it’s interesting when you look back and where as a 13 year old kid, you’re going, oh, it’s so cool, because they used to come down here quite a bit, being like, oh, cool, that’s the President and getting to meet both of those guys as they’re sitting Presidents is very unique and very special, and it’s something I won’t forget.

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

February 26, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Gary Woodland Addresses The Media Ahead of The Honda Classic

PGA Tour professional Gary Woodland speaks with the media prior to making his eighth start at the Honda Classic about the current state of his game and Master’s tournament preparations.

PGA Tour: Gary Woodland speaks with the media ahead of opening round of The Honda Classic

THE MODERATOR: We’d like to welcome Gary Woodland to the interview room. This is your eighth start here at the Honda Classic, highlighted by a runner-up in 2017. Can you just talk about why you’re comfortable here?

GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it’s a hard golf course, and I think that benefits me. Scores are never going to get too low. Obviously it’s a lot weather-depending, but it’s one of the most mentally demanding golf courses I think we face all year. There’s a lot of shots, especially coming down the back nine, that you just have to step up and hit shots. There’s just really no bail-out.

I think that that sets up better for me. It’s more of a ball-striking golf course. The greens are amazing right now, obviously they’re new and they’re perfect, so it should be a good week if the weather holds off.

THE MODERATOR: It’s a bit of a home game for you here, being in Delray Beach. Can you just talk about competing in front of your —

GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it’s nice. I wish it was a little bit closer. With no traffic, it’s 30 minutes, but there’s always a little bit of traffic around here. For me now with the family, it’s nice to be home, nice to sleep in my own bed, try to get just a little comfortable for the week. But fortunately, I don’t have a lot of people down with me this week, which is a good thing. Sometimes at home you can get a little bit of distractions, but should be a little quiet of a week for me, and hopefully focus on some golf and have a great week.

THE MODERATOR: How does it feel to be back in a place you’ve played well over the years?

GARY WOODLAND: I like coming back here. I think all in all, it’s a tough spot in the schedule. Obviously coming off the West Coast and World Golf Championship last week, we’ve got THE PLAYERS in two weeks, so I think it’s tough for a lot of guys. But for me personally, I like the golf course. I like getting to be able to hit some shots, some pressure shots before leading up to THE PLAYERS and the Masters right around the corner. So it’s nice for me to get some mental confidence going on a tough golf course and some really tough shots.

I’m looking forward to a really good week.

Q. Obviously you’ve been in some high-pressure situations in the past, but can you just talk about the nerves over the shots here on the back nine?
GARY WOODLAND: You just have to execute. You have to stick with your routine. It can be, like I said, as mentally demanding of a golf course as we see all year. 15, 17, the tee shot on 6, there’s just not a lot of bail-out out there, and when the wind gets blowing and gets swirling, you just have to execute, and it really puts a lot of pressure on your short game, as well. I think this is a great week for me to kind of see where I’m at and see if I need to make any adjustments coming up to THE PLAYERS and some big tournaments coming up.

Q. Tough conditions, having to hit shots under pressure, I’m not going to say this is U.S. Open type conditions, but is there a correlation to playing a U.S. Open, playing well at a U.S. Open, having played this golf course?
GARY WOODLAND: Like I said, I think it’s huge for me to come up here early in the year and see where your game is at. The shots on 15 and 17, when that wind gets moving, you really have to hit shots, and if you’re bailing out, your short game is really put to the test, you’re chipping towards water, you’re chipping uphill, downhill. There’s really a lot going on. So I think for me, if I can execute that, I know my game is in a good spot. I’ve been doing the right things, and if not I know what I need to work on before I got to 17 at Sawgrass. There’s some other shots that demand the same attention. This golf course really tests you early in the year to see where you’re at.

Q. Where do you think your game is?
GARY WOODLAND: Getting a lot better. I played well in Hawai’i, played well at the end of the year last year, and then I had a lull there, which is a little surprising. San Diego and Phoenix are two usually pretty good spots for me, and I missed the cut for the first time in San Diego, which was frustrating, and then I didn’t play great in Phoenix. Last week was a better week for me. I struggled down there with the altitude. I like to hit the ball low, so coming here with the wind is usually pretty good for me, and with the altitude, hitting the ball low, I played with Rory, he’s hitting it 80 yards by me just by how high he hits it.

Finishing 12th last week, I was okay with how I played, and then getting here, Pete Cowan is here, my coach. I haven’t seen Pete since October, so it’s been great to work with him the last three days and work with him and tighten some things up. We should be good to go for a pretty good stretch now.

Q. Along those lines, preparing for the Masters, is getting ready for that typically different than getting ready for any other course?
GARY WOODLAND: I don’t know about that. Augusta there’s obviously a lot of local knowledge. There’s a lot of shots you need to hit. A lot of it’s distance control. You know, there you have to put yourself obviously on the right side of the pin, but you have to have the height into those holes. You’ve got to be able to work it both ways. I’ve worked on a lot of shots the last couple months leading up to hitting the ball both ways. That’s something I in the past haven’t done a lot of. Pete has changed that the last couple years. I’m starting to hit the ball with my irons both ways, which I think will benefit me at Augusta, and for me personally, Augusta is a golf course that I feel sets up well for me, I just haven’t played great there I would say. I’m excited to get back there this year. Coming back with probably more confidence than I ever have in a major championship, being a major winner, I know I can compete. I know my game can withstand that. I know the short game is good enough now, which I don’t know if it was in the past. There you can get in some spots that your short game has to bail you out, and I probably haven’t done that. I feel like right now I’m in a pretty good spot, and Augusta should be a lot better for me.

Q. Is it primarily short game, like when you think of past rounds there why you haven’t —
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, a lot of that is distance control, as well. Like I said, I like to hit the ball low. I think Augusta you need — with the distance, we’re hitting some longer clubs in there than we were seven, eight years ago, you’re going to have to get the ball in the air. I switched golf balls after Augusta last year. I switched two weeks before the U.S. Open I believe it was. A lot of that I was hitting balls on the range at Augusta, and I wasn’t getting enough spin on the irons, so we made an adjustment from that golf course that’s benefitted me. It benefitted me last week in Mexico City, and I think it’ll benefit me a ton when I get to Augusta being able to get the ball up in the air and stop it when I need to.

Q. And the last thing about the Masters, what is your prominent memory from that last round or what transpired in that last round?

Q. Yeah.
GARY WOODLAND: I don’t usually watch much golf, and I was — I had my family there. I was flying out Sunday afternoon. I played early that day, and we pushed the flight back. I wanted to watch that.

It was special. Obviously Tiger is a friend of mine. He’s been great to me both on and off the golf course, and I wanted to be able to share that. I think we all need to appreciate — and I think the players do appreciate what Tiger has done for all of us, and that was a part of history. That was special to watch. I was there, I played with him the last two rounds when he won in Japan, when he won 82, so it was a good year for him, but it was cool for us to watch that unfold, and we’ll see what happens with him coming up, too.

Q. Is all that forgotten when you tee it up this time around?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, when I’m teeing up against him, I don’t — I could care less. I want to beat his brains in. But if I’m not going to win and he’s in contention, I mean, that’s something special to watch because that’s history. You can always learn something from him. I think now especially where his game is, he’s obviously swinging great. But the way he thinks his way around the golf course is phenomenal.

Playing with him in Japan, I didn’t play great on the weekend, but watching him maneuver. Hideki was making a charge, to watch him get in the zone and think a little bit, and then spending him with him at the Presidents Cup, practicing and hanging out with him and spending time with him just the two of us, you learn how he works and where his mindset is, and as a captain the players, we got to learn how he gets in and prepares, and that was pretty cool.

It’s definitely different, and you see why he’s won 82 times.

Q. How does this work in your schedule? Obviously we know coming to a home event for you, going to API and then going to THE PLAYERS, have you had to try to work Honda in now that it’s following a WGC and it’s two weeks before THE PLAYERS?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it’s tough. We have a lot of good golf tournaments out here. Obviously the West Coast, it was a tough decision for me not to go back to Pebble after I had just won there, but with Pebble, it’s a different golf course in February than it is in June. LA is a golf tournament that I will get back to soon. I haven’t played there, but I love the golf course. Mexico City, World Golf Championship, a lot of guys take it off last week, but I think a lot of guys have taken this week off, unfortunately. This is a great golf course and a demanding one, but it’s a tough part of the schedule.

Obviously Bay Hill next week has got a great field. They’ve cranked the three-year exemption up, they’ve cranked that purse money up. Guys are playing there leading into THE PLAYERS now. Tampa, I’ve won in Tampa. You’ve got a World Golf Championship the next week, and then obviously guys do different things to get ready for the Masters.

It’s a really hard spot in the schedule for me. I’ve kind of got to pick and choose. I chose not to play LA and play here. I haven’t played Bay Hill since I moved down here. I used to play Bay Hill every year. It’s a tough spot in the schedule. Everybody is different. You see some guys — I think J.T. played last year, he’s not playing this year. Guys bounce around and try to figure out what that formula is, and for me personally, like I said, I like coming here and hitting some shots and getting ready to see where me game is coming up to a big stretch.

Q. Coming off the altitude differences in Mexico City last week, it’s going to be a little windy here, does that make the transition a little easier to try to get your numbers dialed back in?
GARY WOODLAND: No, I think we’re pretty good with the numbers. With the TrackMan and everything we’re able to do with technology, and like I said, the golf ball change was huge for me last year. Going into last year in Mexico City, I was playing 10 percent, 15 percent, 18 percent, depending upon what kind of shot I was hitting and what club I was using. Last week I was pretty much 15 percent across the board. I could adjust those numbers back to here pretty quick, and when I come back here and hit balls with TrackMan on Monday, my numbers are where they should be. Last week was a lot easier, and this week will be just the same.

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

February 26, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Tiger Woods Addresses the Media at the 2020 Masters Tournament Media Conference

PGA Tour: 2019 Masters champion Tiger Woods speaks with the media at the annual Masters Tournament media conference.

PGA Tour: Tiger Woods speaks with the media looking back o 2019 Masters Tournament victory

STEVE ETHUN: Good morning, everyone, this is Steve Ethun, Augusta National Golf Club. Hope this finds everyone doing very well. We appreciate you joining us on the call today, and especially for Tiger Woods, thank you, Tiger for your time.
We, of course, look forward to having you back to Augusta National here in just a few weeks.
So before we get started, just want to remind everyone on the call, we’ll take about 30 minutes to ask Tiger questions about the upcoming Masters Tournament, and with that, Tiger, I was hoping you could reflect a little on what it’s been like to spend the last year as the reigning Masters Champion.
TIGER WOODS: I like the sound of that. It’s been incredible for myself and my family to be a part of this and for me to be the current Masters Champion, it’s crazy that somehow it all came together for one week, one magical week, and to have so many things go right that week, and that’s what you have to do in order to win an event.
But to do it there, there’s so many little things that have to go right, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have done it four previous times, but last year was just an amazing week.
STEVE ETHUN: With just a few weeks to go, obviously your attention, I’m sure, has turned to preparations for April. How is that going, and what’s your timeline between now and the Masters?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, once we get to Florida, it feels like the Masters, right around the corner. But I’ve been thinking about this for — probably since Australia. I was so focused on what I had to do with those two weeks, in the Bahamas, as well as Australia.
But once that was done, my prep has been just like it usually is, is what do I need to do to get ready for the Masters. I’ve been fortunate to have done this now five times, and to try and have everything peak together for just an incredible week, it’s hard to do.
It’s hard to try and get all the shots and have everything dialed in, but I’ve been excited since — I’ve been a part of the Masters since I was 9 years old, and it doesn’t cease to amaze me is that once when I go back to Augusta National, just the beauty and the history and the aura around it, it’s just unlike anything that we have in our sport.

Q. I’ll start by just throwing out a general one here. Obviously your win was iconic and it stretched beyond just golf. It moved people beyond the game, and I’m curious from your standpoint looking back now, what kind of reaction did you get from people that really stood out? Was there anything, perhaps a letter, e-mail, text, what-have-you, that really struck you that this meant more than just the usual victory?
TIGER WOODS: I had just an amazing amount of e-mails and texts that were flowing in, but I was more surprised the amount of videos of people watching the Masters and seeing their reaction when I hit the shot on 16 or when I made the putt, whether it was on airplanes or in airports or restaurants. It was just — that part of it, being — I’m on the other side of it, so I’m out there hitting the shot.
But seeing the amount of reactions and the amount of people that were riveted by the Masters and that were — the amount of emotion that people were showing, that’s what blew my mind is I didn’t think that that many people were going to be moved that way. I was just trying to win the event and do something I’ve never done before, which is come-from-behind in a major championship and win.
Ironically enough, looking back on it, to have the event end a little bit earlier and to have that amount of people watch; I even had a few people here in this area that said to me, “We didn’t watch it. We went and played golf and we had it on DVR. So we were able to watch it when we got back,” and then at that point responded, because most people have mobile devices and alerts and all the different ways that people get reminded, but a few of my friends just didn’t watch it.

Q. Did you watch it yourself at all in full, the final round at any point?
TIGER WOODS: I did. The first time I watched it was about a month after the event. Joey came down and we watched it together. We were talking back and forth, and reliving every bit of it. Because we have a certain viewpoint of how we look at it, the shots, the numbers, the situations, and people are making birdies and all the different scenarios were playing out in our heads.
But it was kind of fun to sit back and listen to the broadcast and hear their take on it. You know, what we don’t have access to is what people are — how they are doing it in front of us, and you know, we hear the roars. We hear the birdies that were being made. We have the signage that people pop up and what they have done; we just don’t know how they did it. That was kind of the fun part is reliving that from a totally different perspective than what we did.

Q. The emotional reaction you had when you won became such a part of the story. With your kids, was there a moment or two later that night or after you got home or whatever, where they said something or did something that really stuck with you and really touched you about they were there to see it and fully appreciate it?
TIGER WOODS: I think what made it so special is that they saw me fail the year before at the British Open. I had got the lead there and made bogey, double, and ended up losing to Francesco.
So to have them experience what it feels like to be part of a major championship and watch their dad fail and not get it done, and now to be a part of it and when I did get it done, I think it’s two memories that they will never forget; and the embraces and the hugs and the excitement, because they know how I felt and what it felt like when I lost at Carnoustie. To have the complete flip with them in less than a year, it was very fresh in their minds.
Just watching them fight over the green jacket on the airplane was pretty funny. “I want to wear it; no, I want to wear it,” and that’s something I certainly will never forget.

Q. Couple questions about the 16th. Did you notice Michael Phelps standing there, and if so, was that weird?
TIGER WOODS: No, I did not. I did not notice Michael was back there. I was locked into what I was doing. I had just taken the lead on 15 and just trying to figure out, am I going to — I already had an idea if it was going to be 7 or 8, and that’s what I kept thinking and reminding myself that, hey, I’ve got to be committed to either shot. And then when we got over and the wind started picking up, I went in with 8-iron.
But no, I did not know who was there, and to see the reaction, to see Verne call it and to see Michael, basically, bending over in the same position that I was in leaning forward, that was pretty cool.

Q. What is the toughest pin for you on 16, and secondly, how do you approach that hole on Sunday when the difference of a good look at birdie or a potential bogey could be a matter of inches?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, well, trying to figure out, do you feed it back there or do you fly it back there. I’ve done both. I’ve hit cuts into that flag, or I’ve shaped it off the hillside. But either way, there’s a pretty big area that you can get the ball back into that hole.
Yeah, but it’s a very — it’s an easy pin to get the ball, you know, 20 feet below the hole. Now, trying to get it all the way back there, then the risk comes into play of hitting the bunker or hitting it over the back or hitting it up on the right and having virtually, you know, being in a dead position. But hitting it just below the hole 20 feet is really not that hard a shot.
The hardest pin I think there is that front right one. I know they moved the tee up to get to that front right one, but still, there’s really no area to hit to. I’ve had, over the years, two different game plans: Either go right at the flag, and if I miss, it miss it right of the flag, and I’ve got an easy little chip or right up the hill.
And I also have years where I just play short left and just putt up the hill and take my three and move on. If I happen to hit a good shot where the ball cuts over the flag, then I could have a potential birdie.
But any time that I walk away with three on that hole to that front right flag is always good.

Q. I was hoping to ask you a couple things. What was your thought as you walked up to 9 and saw where your ball was, and how big was that up-and-down and how difficult?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that putt, unfortunately, I’ve had it — fortunately and unfortunately, I’ve had that putt before. I have left it on the middle shelf, and so that’s obviously not where you want to be, but also, then again, it’s very easy to putt the ball over the green, or actually, down the front edge of the green.
The good thing that I had going for me was that at that time, the wind was a little bit into me, so I had a little bit of a backboard with that wind being slightly into me.
But it’s being committed to hitting that ball up there into that fringe, or near the fringe. Only problem is if you get it too far right, actually, it gets a little steeper and picks up a lot of speed. The conservative approach is play it a little bit left of the hole and you know take your 10-, 15-footer and move on with a four or five.
But I decided to take a little bit more of a risk, and knowing that I had a little bit of a backboard with the wind kind of coming slightly into me.

Q. What was your thought after going bogey, bogey and walking off the fifth and now you’re three back going to that sixth green?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I made two bad mistakes there. I played 5 all for the week and played it in, what, 20 shots.
Just reset and try and see if I can get it back to under par at the turn. I know that Fran was playing extremely well. There’s a bunch of guys that have a chance, but if I’m within six of the lead — I’ve always felt this — if I’m within six of the lead starting the back nine on Sunday, I’ve got a shot at it.
We’ve seen so many things happen on the back nine. Guys have won shooting 30s and guys have lost it shooting well over 40; so anything is possible. I just need to get myself into that position where I had that opportunity, and I was able to play my way back into it and a couple guys made a few mistakes there at 12, and lo and behold, I’m part of the lead.

Q. I’m curious, you mentioned coming into Sunday, the first time you trailed at a major and went on to win that major. At what point during the round did it click for you, this is going to happen, maybe with a shot. I don’t know when it was, where you’re like, if I do this, this and this, this is going to happen.
TIGER WOODS: Once I played my way back into it and there was a bunch of guys with a chance, I made a mistake there at 10 making bogey; if I can somehow play both par 5s under par, maybe sprinkle in two more somewhere along the way, that I could get it done.
I didn’t really think the tournament was truly over until I hit that little pitch shot on the green on 18. But Brooksy had missed his putt and that gave me a two-shot lead, and I knew that bogey was the winning number and I played it extremely conservative over to the right.
But once I hit that pitch up on the green, the tournament was over. When I was walking up on the green, to see my family and friends there through the chute, I started to get a little bit emotional and I had to rein it back in and say: Hey, it’s not quite over yet. I’ve had this putt before. Let’s go ahead and make this putt.
To be honest with you, once I knocked that pitch shot on the green, that tournament was over.

Q. Is the tee shot on 16 the shot you’ve thought back on the most, or is there a different one you’ve thought about the most?
TIGER WOODS: Well, we touched on it with Steve asking the question. I think it’s the putt on 9, making par there. The guys made mistake there is at 12.
But the most pure shot that I hit was the second shot into 15, just through the forest, straight up in the air and turned it over.
The shot I hit on 16, yes, that was a nice shot, and it ended up in a really good spot, but the best shot I hit all day was the second shot into 15.

Q. You mentioned how long you’ve been playing in the Masters. I’m wondering how with the advancements in equipment and how far the guys are hitting it, but also the course having lengthened, how different does the course play now than it did back in the ’90s, namely, the par 5s, and how do you see that evolving going forward?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I’ll give you a good example is I’ve hit driver and wedge into 2. To the back left pin, I’ve hit 9-iron over the green a few times. That shot doesn’t exist anymore. Trying to carry that bunker, it was just a no-brainer to drive it down there and then I could have some kind of wedge in there.
8, just try and keep the ball left of the bunker or over the bunker, have some kind of iron in there.
13 was a 3-wood, an 8-iron.
And 15, as you saw in ’97, I hit driver, wedge in there. And so the par 5s have changed dramatically.
The shots I learned from Raymond or Seve or Ollie over the years, when I first got there, the bump-and-runs, using 4-irons and 5-irons around the greens, the fairways are so much tighter back in the nine tees. It was hard to get a sand wedge on it. Afraid of it bouncing, and so playing more of a bump-and-run shot was a little more of a proper shot.
Now with the grass height being a little bit longer and them overseeding it a little bit more, it’s a little bit more sticky than it is around the greens.
Also, we don’t have square grooves and balata balls anymore. The shots that we were able to play back in the ’90s were a little bit different. I know that the green over the years, every green has been rebuilt, and every green is a little bit flatter than it was back then, giving us a little bit more room. Just because the fact we’re a little bit further out, they are giving us a chance.
Granted, that’s not saying the greens are easy; they are far from, but they are a little bit flatter, and the areas that we have to hit to are a little bit bigger, but granted, we are so much further back than we ever used to be.

Q. You mentioned hole 5; you mentioned you bogeyed it all four days. Do you see that as a potential strategy, lengthening more holes, or do you think that the course is in a good place now as a test?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Augusta National has been at the forefront of trying to keep it competitive, keep it fair, keep it fun, and they have been at the forefront of lengthening the golf course.
Granted, they have the property; they can do virtually whatever they want. Complete autonomy. It’s kind of nice.
But also, they have been at the forefront of trying to keep it exciting. As the game has evolved, we have has gotten longer, equipment’s changed, and they are trying to keep it so that the winning score is right around that 12- to 18-under par mark, and they have.

Q. I was just curious, looking back to last year and the early start, what a different Sunday that was for somebody at the top of the leaderboard at the Masters, what your routine was in the morning and how you dealt with a very, very different situation?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was different. I was telling the people close to me that this is going to be different for a lot of us. It’s a quick turnaround for me with my back and the way it was. I had to wake up a little bit earlier and get into my routine.
But I think that having the guys who have never won the Masters, now get a chance to have a quicker turnaround, not have to sit on that lead and think about it far into the afternoon, it’s very similar to when we played The Open championship. We don’t tee off until like 3 o’clock. Sitting on the lead, you have to figure out what you’re going to do all morning long, try and kill time.
I thought it was advantageous to the guys who haven’t won, but I hadn’t been in this experience, either. I hadn’t been there before, and I hadn’t won coming from behind. So there was a lot of new things, and we were all having to go through it together and I’m going to have to go earn it, and being part of a threesome on that Sunday is something that I’ve never been a part of.
It was very different. Having the rounds be a little bit slower and a little bit more delayed is something we’re not used to on the weekend. We are used to sort of running around there. It was going to be a new experience for all of us.

Q. First of all, you’ve done this long enough and had enough success that you’ll be playing with your second U.S. Amateur champion from Georgia Tech as a defending champion. Any advice you might give Andy Ogletree on how to handle that experience, even comparing it to how you handled it back in ’95?
TIGER WOODS: I usually tell the amateurs that I play with, coming up that first hole — my first putt playing in the Masters, I putted off the green right in the gallery playing with Ollie. Chipped back up there and made the putt for bogey, and that was one of the most embarrassing moments that I can ever remember.
How to start off, your first major championship, you putt it off the green. I’ve told amateurs that experience before, whether it was all the way back to Kuch; that was one of the most embarrassing ways to start, but also, you know, now that I’ve been a part of the Masters, I’m able to tell that story. Usually it relaxes the amateur.

Q. A very broad question. You have a 25-year relationship with this place and this tournament. What is your personal relationship to that place, and what do you think it’s meant to your legacy?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it was my first major championship, and to have it be when I was in college, and to stay up in the Crow’s Nest, and to be up there with Tripp and Buddy and I think Tim Jackson was up there; we had just a great time. To watch Sam and Byron and Gene Sarazen tee off on the first hole, those are memories that I will never forget, and now to have been a part of it from the champion’s side, and to hear all the stories that happen in the champions locker room, to hear the needling and the hazing that happens over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of it and I will always be a part of it.

Q. You mentioned guys making mistakes on 12. What do you think it was about the situation, the weather, the wind? How do you explain all those guys hitting into the water on 12?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as we all know, the wind swirls down there a little bit, and when I hit that shot on 11 and I turned it back into the fan, I probably hit that shot maybe another — it played probably two to three yards longer than what I had thought.
And to see the guys ahead of me, whether it was Poults or Brooksy; when I got to that 12 tee, I could — the feeling was that 11 played a little bit longer, and that shot is so inviting to hit it over there. It was warm out. I know that I don’t quite hit the ball as far as Brooksy does, and I had 9-iron out, and I figured that his flight is more penetrating and he can get it back there, and he didn’t quite get it back there.
Watching Fran hit an 8-iron there, and you could see it — and I know he didn’t quite hit it right, but I played it to the left.
Tony hit the best shot to all of us and he got stood up at the very end. It was a good shot. He hit it flush, but it stalled out at the top. If I had gone at the flag, my ball would have been the same thing, because mine, I played left, and it stalled out at its apex, ended up short left, and I had a putt.

Q. How does your health compare this year to prepping for the Masters last year, and do you think you’ll prepare similarly?
TIGER WOODS: The plan is to prepare the same way. It worked last year, so yeah, I’ve got a blueprint for what I need to do and hopefully I can have the same feelings.
You know, looking back on it, one of the things, the best move I made the entire week was to not go out and play on that Tuesday when it was — rain had come in and the greens had slowed up. They didn’t quite cut them. The golf course was playing slower. I know they would speed up but Thursday, and I just stayed on the practice green. I chipped and putted, but I hit a lot of putts that were — I hit downhill putts because I knew the greens were going to be a little bit faster and try not to get myself acclimated to that pace because I knew it was going to change come Thursday, and that was the best thing I could have done.

Q. Should we expect a similar schedule then coming up before the Masters?
TIGER WOODS: It’s weather dependent. Last year we had the rain come in. The plan is to practice and prepare, and I had found a feeling right — well, after the Match Play, I started to figure something out where I felt comfortable hitting the ball high and turning it over from right-to-left and I felt like I could control it.
Going into that week, I really had amazing control of not only my tee shots but my iron shots, and the amount of time that I spent putting, getting a feel for it, and then coming in there on that Sunday afternoon and getting a nice quiet round out there with Joey and Rob, that set the tone for what I did the rest of the week.

Q. What’s your opinion on the possibility of lengthening 13, and what’s the longest club you would feel comfortable hitting into that green in two?
TIGER WOODS: That I feel comfortable hitting it in there? Probably a wedge.

Q. No, what’s the longest club you would feel comfortable.
TIGER WOODS: Exactly. A wedge. (Laughs).
That’s one of the toughest shots we’ll ever face. People don’t realize how steep that slope is, and as they have lengthened it over the years, if you hit it — if you don’t quite get around the corner, that’s the steepest part of the slope, and if you’re able to turn it over and get it down there, it’s a little bit flatter.
But trying to hit a cut off that hook lie, and some years having to start it right of the creek and hook it back over there, and if you miss it left, it’s dead. If you miss it right, you’re dead. There’s not a lot of good spots to hit it into. It’s a big commitment.
We saw what Nick did when he beat Greg there. He was trying to figure out whether to hit an iron or a wood there. It’s one of the most difficult shots, especially last year with the wind.
When I hit that second shot, that wind came off the right and it should have been off the left. It’s very easy to get fooled down there.

Q. Are you concerned about how far they will go to lengthen it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, they have done it before. You know, I think that what they do with the tee markers over the years, slagging it more to the left, and it seems like each and every year, the trees get a little taller and they have added more pine straw off the right side over the years, planted a few more trees in there.
You know, I’ve had different game plans over the years of hitting 3-wood to the corner, or hitting driver around the corner. When I first got there, it was just hit it up there, up near the gallery up on the right-hand side because we have more of an angle and the tee was more to the right.
Just for me, my length at the time was just drive it down there, and I’d have somewhere between an 8-iron to a wedge in there; take advantage of it, because the further right we can get on that tee shot, we’re hitting back into the slope.
But also, then again, the flipside is if we’re able to hug the corner, we’re playing along the creek with the second shot.
Do I feel comfortable in there with anything but a wedge? It’s one of the most difficult, underrated shots that we have to face there.
STEVE ETHUN: With that, everybody, I want to thank Tiger for his time today.
Before we let you go, I wonder your thoughts on your Champion’s Dinner menu, if you’ve finalized that yet.
TIGER WOODS: I have. Being born and raised in SoCal, having fajitas and sushi was a part of my entire childhood, and I’m going back to what I had in 2006. So we’ll have steak and chicken fajitas, and we’ll have sushi and sashimi out on the deck, and I hope the guys will enjoy it.
I’m debating whether or not to have milkshakes as deserts because that was one of the most — one of the most great memories to see Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead having milkshakes that night in ’98.
STEVE ETHUN: Thanks for your time, thanks to all the media who joined us this morning, and we look forward to seeing everybody in April.
With that, we’ll sign off and talk to everyone again soon.

Augusta National, Augusta, GA.

February 25, 2020

Team USA

PGA Tour: Keith Mitchell Speaks on Title Defense at 2020 Honda Classic

2019 Honda Classic champion Keith Mitchell addresses the media prior to the start of his title defense at the 2020 Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

PGA Tour: Keith Mitchell speaks with the media ahead of 2020 Honda Classic

JOHN BUSH: We’d like to welcome Keith Mitchell into the interview room, our defending champion here at the Honda Classic, making his third start at this event. Keith, first of all, if we can get you to take us back to 2019 and your victory here.

KEITH MITCHELL: It’s great to be back. It’s obviously my first victory on the PGA TOUR, and it will always hold a special place in my life.

Played the back nine yesterday for the first time and the front nine today for the first time, and yesterday I actually went back and tried to hit that putt again on 18, tried to find it, so that was fun.

Last year, it was a dream come true. It’s what we work for our whole lives, to try and win on the PGA TOUR, and to do it here at such a great golf course that’s held this tournament for so long is really just fun to be back, and now it’s business this year that we’re trying to get the same thing, trying to get the trophy again. So it’s been fun to see everything, but also it’s business, as well, because I don’t want somebody else taking my trophy from me.

JOHN BUSH: Comment a little bit about your season up to this point, making your 11th start of the year.

KEITH MITCHELL: I’ve always felt like this was my good stretch, I guess, because I grew up on the Bermuda greens. I grew up in this part of the country playing golf, so I’m a little bit more comfortable here. Felt like I’ve had an okay start at the beginning of the year. Got to go to Maui for the first time, which was great, and played decent in Sea Island, where I live.

I feel like we’re trending. My game is getting better. I’ve had some good finishes the last couple weeks, so really I would say this is really where the start of my year is really starting to pick up.

Q. Did you make the putt?
KEITH MITCHELL: I was actually trying to find exactly where it was. I was messing around a little bit, and we couldn’t get it exactly where it was. I have to go back on the cameras and looks for it.

Q. (On playing the back nine.)
KEITH MITCHELL: I’ll tell you what, it was fun, because I remembered where I was shot was on that back nine, exactly where I hit — however many shots it was, but I remember every shot on that back nine, and every time I walked on to the next hole, it kind of brought back what I did that day. It was kind of funny because I bogeyed 11. I remember standing on 11 tee, and I was like, man, I’ve just got to hit this in the fairway and don’t make bogey. Man, being on 15 — it was funny, the wind was exactly what it was last year when I was playing, which is going to be opposite this year. It was fun playing the same wind yesterday on the back as it was last year, but this year it looks like it’s going to be completely opposite. I mean, the whole Bear Trap looks like it’s going to be into off the left, and last year it was down off the right, so it’s going to play completely different.

Q. Last year where did you draw your motivation from as the week moved on and you got yourself in position to win?
KEITH MITCHELL: A lot of it was past experiences on the PGA TOUR, where I’d been in the last group on Saturday my rookie season and shot, I think, 74 or 75 when I was in the last group.

And then last year, my second season, I was in the last group on Sunday for the first time at Sony, and I think I shot 74 or 75, too. It was more of just kind of this internal battle with myself of I wanted to prove to myself that I could compete and handle the big stage better, and that’s really what I was — it was kind of that motivation that I had, especially after I bogeyed the first two holes on Sunday, was to prove to myself that I could handle the stage.

Q. Confidence-wise after you won, first PGA TOUR victory and holding off Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, what did that do for you moving forward?
KEITH MITCHELL: You know, it let me know that I could play with those guys, but it also made me want it more because once you do that one time, it’s something you want to do every week. And so the next couple weeks I was obviously playing good, and I kind of felt that, but then when you’re going into the weeks that you don’t necessarily have your 100 percent, it’s really tough because all you want to do is win, and when you’re obviously not in position to win on Saturday afternoon and you’re in 40th place, it’s frustrating.

But last year the confidence, it built that I could do it, but I’ve got a lot of work to do to be consistent with those guys. I mean, Brooks and Rickie are consistently at the top every week, and I’ve got some work to do to stay up with those guys.

Q. You’re friends with Josh Teater; what were your reactions to seeing him come so close in Puerto Rico last week? And anything you’ve learned along the way from him as being a professional golfer?
KEITH MITCHELL: Josh and I met when I turned pro. I didn’t know him until I turned pro. But he’s very — I would say very wise about how to balance life and golf, and he’s helped me a lot in that aspect. He’s also one of the best ball strikers I’ve ever seen, and it’s a very natural motion. It’s very fluid. And to see him have that putt — he seemed to have a putt on 18 to potentially — at the time it looked like to take the lead, and his putting hasn’t been up to his standards lately, and it looked like he hit a great putt, and unfortunately it didn’t go in. That’s kind of one of those things you want to pat him on the back and say, look, you did everything you could, sometimes the cards go your way and sometimes they don’t, but to see him in the field this week and know his momentum is going forward is pretty awesome.

Q. Has he given you any tips along the way?
KEITH MITCHELL: I mean, so many. A lot of guys have. I mean, that’s what’s great about the PGA TOUR. So many guys have helped you, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing really.

Q. You were talking about how you shot 74, 75 and some of these other rounds when you were in the final group, so what was different about you last year in that situation as opposed to before? What are the mental or physical changes that make the difference?
KEITH MITCHELL: It’s definitely more mental than physical because if you’re in the last group, obviously your physical game is good enough to be in the lead or next to the lead. It’s more of trying to achieve and accomplish something instead of trying not to mess something up, so if you’re in the last group, you’re like, wow, I’m in a really good position, I hope I can stay here. If you’re in first, you don’t want to lose first place. If you ever think about it that way, you start falling backwards.

This last year here I was really just trying to move up the leaderboard in terms of under par, and I was trying to — and the way to do that is you hit each shot, you hit each putt and you don’t think about where you are. Toward the end of the round last year, I guess I bogeyed 11 and didn’t want to fall back into that same kind of thing, so I was like, look, I’m just going to make as many birdies as I can coming up, and whatever happens happens, and the cards fell my way.

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

February 25, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team Canada

PGA Tour: Corey Conners Recaps Round 1 at The WGC Mexico Championship

PGA Tour professional and Canadian Corey Conners recaps his round 1 68 at the 2020 WGC Mexico Championship. Connors currently sits 3 shots off the lead heading into the second round.

PGA Tour: Corey Conners speaks with the media following round 1 of the WGC Mexico Championship

Q. How would you assess the day out there?
COREY CONNERS: It was a really solid day, tricky conditions, wind blowing a little bit. But feel like I controlled my golf ball really well, hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of good iron shots, and kept it pretty simple, pretty stress-free for most of the round. Had a little hiccup out there on the 15th hole, but yeah, overall a solid day, and I felt good about my game.

Q. This is your first time here; I’m sure you’ve heard about the elevation, the thin air. Did anything surprise you today during the round?
COREY CONNERS: Not really. I played a number of places on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica where there was some pretty high elevation.

Q. Altitude like this?
COREY CONNERS: Pretty close, yeah. There were a few places I think in Colombia, the Korn Ferry TOUR event, Mexico, as well. I think I played in Quito, Ecuador. I think that was high, as well. I could be mistaken. But this is probably the most. And I actually played a junior tournament at this golf course 10 years ago, so I remembered some of the holes, and I didn’t hit it as far back then and not quite as high, so I’m noticing the ball flying a lot further than it did back then, but still have some memories from that, and yeah, it’s a great golf course.

Q. Do you remember what that junior tournament was?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, it was a qualifier for the Toyota Junior World Cup, which was held in Japan, and I was representing Canada as part of the team, and it was a qualifier. There were maybe 10 countries that were here fighting for the top two spots to go to Japan and some other — Mexico was obviously here and some other countries in South America. The Canadian team was able to make it through there and move on to Japan.

Q. How did you finish?
COREY CONNERS: I was the medalist, low individual, and Canada won the team contest, as well, so some good memories.

Q. Corey, just the one blemish out there, the putter snuck up and bit you, but other than that, fantastic.
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, a really solid day. Quite happy with how I played. I tried to keep things simple. It’s a tricky golf course, but yeah, fairways and greens, and had a little hiccup out there. But yeah, overall a solid day. I feel good about all parts of my game.

Q. You mentioned a tricky golf course. Is that because of the altitude or the kikuyu, also?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, a mixture of the altitude is a big adjustment for us, figuring out how far the ball goes, and there’s some firm spots out there and some softer spots. It’s tricky to get the ball in some of the fairways. You’ve got to be smart, but you’ve got to make aggressive swings, and I feel like I did a good job of that today.

Q. Looks like a fun golf course to play, given all the holes that you can really attack. No. 1 you can reach it in one shot, 2 also you can get pretty close —
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. Like I had 300 yards into 11, and I hit a 5-wood, landed on the front of the green, gave myself a good look for eagle there. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, a fun challenge, and played a little bit on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, so I’m not a stranger to some elevation, and yeah, just having fun with it.

Mexico City, Mexico

February 20, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Bryson DeChambeau Talks Outstanding Putting Performance in Round 1 of the WGC Mexico Championship

Bryson DeChambeau addresses the media following an opening round 68 at the WGC Mexico Championship. DeChambeau is currently 3 shots off the lead after round 1.

PGA Tour: Bryson DeChambeau speaks with the media following his opening round at the WGC Mexico Championship

Q. If you look at your numbers, you had 119 feet in holed putts here in round 1. That is outstanding.
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Thanks. It was a little different than last year. Again, I feel like I’m rolling it well. I rolled it well at Riv, just putts didn’t drop there, and today they dropped quite a bit, and hopefully I’ll keep that momentum going.

Q. I saw you warming up with a teaching aid on the shaft of your putter. Tell me about that.
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Yeah, shoot, I even forgot the name, but it’s essentially just a laser, and I put it on a chalk line and I just stroke it and make sure my face path is proper.

Q. Did the wind and altitude really affect the golf today?
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: It’s a very difficult day to play golf. Rory shooting 6-under is doable. I didn’t capitalize on a couple of key holes and messed up on a few easy holes, but overall it was a difficult golf course to play today, and again, it’s about hitting a lot of fairways out here and hitting greens, and if you hit the driver straight and you’re hitting it long, it’s even more of a benefit.

Q. You’re putting so well. Same greens as last week. I’m sure growing up in California you like these types of greens —

Q. You don’t?
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: No, I played on perfect bent at River Bend. It’s now called Dragonfly. They were the most perfect greens in Central Valley, so I was accustomed to really good greens, actually, surprisingly. When I went over to Monterey I didn’t have the right loft or anything, and I would consequently putt really bad, and it actually made me feel like I was a bad putter growing up, and it was part of the reason why I struggled with a bunch of my stuff in college, and then I realized there was a better way to putt. I think it just allows me a little bit more comfort, and I’m putting well doing what I’m doing and have the right launch out there, and it’s nice, too, with being able to tap down spike marks. That helps a lot. So utilizing that, which is appropriate — you should be able to do that. If nobody else was there and you were just putting, you wouldn’t have that. That’s nice to be able to do that.

Made a couple good putts — long one on 3. I couldn’t believe I made it. I hit a 9-iron in the bunker, plugged that far into the ground. I did not think I was going to get out of it, go down to the green and made a 45-footer. That was a great way to start the day.

Q. Also I noticed your assistant holding a towel —
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: It’s just to see the line. It’s literally just to see the line. If not it’s a little difficult to see in the light. It’s an even more powerful laser but then it becomes illegal through federal law. Can’t do that.

Q. How difficult did the wind make this golf course today?
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Twice as hard. Twice as hard. I felt like I played some incredible golf. I made a couple mistakes, didn’t birdie 12, didn’t birdie 1, bogeyed 16, bogeyed 10. You flip those, I’m leading.

Q. What makes putting on these greens whether it’s here or last week, what’s the challenge?
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: It’s just the inconsistency of the roll, unfortunately. I think they’re better than last year, but it’s one of those things, isn’t it a weed or something like that, and so it’s just difficult. It doesn’t grow even, so you’ve got some spots that are a little splotchy. Hey, that’s the grow of the green. It’s literally the way it works.

Mexico City, Mexico

February 20, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team UK

PGA Tour: Tyrrell Hatton Speaks With Media Following First Round -2 under 69 at the WGC Mexico Championship

Tyrell Hatton recaps his opening round 69 at the WGC Mexico Championship, 4 shots off the lead.

Q. What was your assessment of today?
TYRRELL HATTON: Overall, pretty happy with that. I’ve only been back hitting balls for the last three and a half weeks, so it was a long layoff. I’m quite happy. Obviously I’ve done well here in the past, so I know the course pretty well, and yeah, it was just good to kind of get back out there and play competitive golf again.

Q. You’ve had three top 20s here. What is it you like about this place?
TYRRELL HATTON: I kind of always enjoy short, kind of fiddly golf courses, I guess, and this is certainly up there with the best of them. And I guess it’s funny because you need patience around here, and that’s something that I don’t really have. For some reason the course has kind of been fairly kind to me, and hopefully it continues this week.

Q. Give us a sense of the conditions out there. The wind seemed to be picking up later on in the round.
TYRRELL HATTON: Yeah, the wind picked up a lot. We noticed it probably from the 7th. Definitely windier than how I remember it in previous years. You can kind of see from the scoring, it’s not really that low. But obviously there’s a few challenges this week with the altitude and the wind obviously swirling around now, so that makes it quite tough for club selection.

Q. Bogeys on 13 and 15, so that was a nice way to finish, wasn’t it?
TYRRELL HATTON: Yeah, I kind of struggled with the putter all day, actually. I gave myself lots of chances, but I was leaving a lot of putts short, and then that one on the last, I kind of — when I stood up over it, I didn’t feel too comfortable, so I kind of just stepped back a little bit, gave myself a tiny bit more room, and it was the best stroke I made all day, and it was nice to see that one go in.

Q. How is the wrist?
TYRRELL HATTON: It’s still not 100 percent, to be perfectly honest. I’ve still got a little twinge there, but I’m hoping that obviously now I’m back playing, kind of it’ll ease up. It is just going to take time. The recovery was a bit longer than we thought it would be. Obviously I was hoping to start my season in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but this week is a good test for it, give myself four competitive rounds and see how I feel at the end of it. So I don’t want to kind of push it too much if it’s a little bit sensitive at the end of the week, but I don’t think it will be. It’s just a case of kind of getting back out and playing again.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports