Team USA

PGA Tour: Justin Thomas Recaps Top 5 Finish at Waste Management Phoenix Open

PGA Tour professional Justin Thomas speaks with the media following his final round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in which he secured another top 5 finish.

PGA Tour: Justin Thomas recaps final round 65 at 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Q. Birdie four of your last six maybe the highlight birdieing 16 with the Kobe jersey on. What was this week like for you with what happened a week ago?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I mean it’s always a fun week here in Phoenix, somehow it gets crazier every year with the fans and the amount of people here. But, no, I mean, it was, I guess, a somber week, if you will, it just is, a lot of us playing with heavy hearts. A lot of my good friends from the West Coast area are big laker fans, big Kobe fan and I just kind of became a Kobe fan, just for being a fan of his and loved the way he went about everything. I have a couple Kobe jerseys so it was a no-brainer for me to bring them and wear them on 16.

Q. Good week, good finish for you today. What was going right for you today?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I hit it a little bit better today. I really, to be perfectly honest I don’t feel like I played very well this week. I got it around really well and I managed my game tremendously and sometimes weeks like this can give me more confidence than winning, as crazy as it is. I mean obviously I would have rather won, but to not have my best stuff, really drive it very, very average, iron game not very sharp, and not really have a hot putter once this week and still to hopefully be able to squeak a Top-5 is pretty good.

Q. I know you’re a big sports fan. Who do you like tonight?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don’t know. I love watching Mahomes play so I’ll probably be pulling for the Chiefs. Good buddies with Gary Woodland so I couldn’t do that to him, so I guess I’m going to go with the Chiefs.

Q. Do you think you’re feted to win this thing one of these years?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I feel like it’s definitely a good course for me. I feel like if I would have played well this week I would have had a really good chance to win. I just kept getting it around, I never once got hot, I never either could make some longer putts or could hit it close enough multiple times in a row to get anything going. So I was very, I’m very, very pleased with how this week turned out for how I felt like I played.

Q. Something click today?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I mean I didn’t do anything special today. I hit a wedge in there close on 2 and I made a good putt on 5 and I hit a wedge in there probably 12 feet on 6. And then all my birdies on the back nine were pretty easy, they were short range. I just felt like I did everything I should have done, I mean this course you can birdie, I mean 10 to 12 holes out here, 15 holes, it’s, you just, it’s hard to get it going when the greens are get a little bit firmer like this and they tuck some of the pins but I just felt I could never really get anything going to go low.

Q. Was there any point on the back nine where your focus shifted from trying to put a good number up to potentially trying scare the leaders?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Absolutely, I thought when we were on — I thought when I was walking up 14 I saw the leaders at 15, which I was just couldn’t believe and I was at 11. And I was like, man if I somehow can make about — I had a 35- or 40-footer — I was like if I can make this and eagle either 15 or 17 and birdie 16 and 18 and we can post 16- or 17- they got to at least look at it. That’s all I wanted. And I was — I bombed with that tee shot on 17, that just was bad, I would at least like to have a look at eagle there. But overall I can’t be too disappointed with the last six holes.

Q. Is the zone a thing in golf? I cover a lot of sports, basketball, a guy gets hot they stay hot. Does that happen here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It didn’t happen today but it definitely happens in golf. I think any of us will tell you that when you get rolling — I mean a round like today, I don’t want to say far from, but it definitely wasn’t. When you get in that 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-under range and you’re just borderline unconscious it’s a pretty cool feeling. It’s hard to explain.

Q. Curious what you thought of the crowds this week as compared to previous years and not just 16 but the whole experience.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it gets crazier every year. You expect that, you know you’re getting it, so it’s not like it’s a surprise, at least it isn’t to me. And, I mean everybody has their bad stories and their good stories. Fortunately I thought this week it was fine, you’re always going to have a lot of noise and a lot of drunk people yelling stuff, but I guess that’s the Phoenix Open, that’s what it is from time to time, but, no, I mean, it was great, 16 was awesome as always and very, very enjoyable experience.

Q. And how does it compare to other tournaments, like just the size of the crowd?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It’s not even close. You can’t relate this to any other tournament that we play because it’s different. I think I would say 70 percent of the people here maybe don’t come even for the golf they just come for the fun and hospitality and the tents. And there’s a lot of people out here for golf but when you have however many hundred thousand people that’s a lot of people.

Q. Did you and Tony talk about Kobe at all, you both wore jerseys.

Q. He’s your Presidents Cup teammate and all that, he’s vying for the win here. What are your thoughts on your game now, are you a little surprised that he hasn’t picked up a W since 2016?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, we were talking about that today because he obviously handles the pressure really well. I mean, look how he’s played in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup and that’s, I mean, personally, I think the biggest pressure you can get. I mean, I felt stuff at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup that I’ve never felt in a tournament before. So he’s handled that tremendously. So I mean it’s, the thing is you can’t, I mean, no offense, but you got, you’re going to be hard on him because he has been there and hasn’t won, but it’s hard to win, there’s only one every week and you never know when he might go on a little spree and win three or four of six or seven events. Or he might not. That’s the thing that, I hate to say it, but the thing that sucks about this game and the thing that’s great about it is you just have to stay in the right frame of mind to let it happen if it comes.

Q. How much fun is it for big hitters like you to play this course as the second longest driving average on TOUR?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it’s fun, it’s I feel like I have a little bit of an advantage, I would say mostly into the greens. But when you hit 50 percent of your fairways like I did this week it’s not too much of an advantage.

Scottsdale, Arizona

February 2, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Bubba Watson Talks About Tough Conditions at Waste Management Phoenix Open

PGA Tour professional and Master’s Champion Bubba Watson speaks to the media following the final round of the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix open about the windy final day conditions and the difficulties it presented.

PGA Tour: Bubba Watson addresses the media following final round of 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Q. Nice finish out there today. How did that putt at 18 not go in? I saw you looking at me, it looked like you hit it absolutely perfect, it just didn’t drop.
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, for sure, and all I wanted to do was beat Justin Thomas, that’s all I looked at, I saw I was tied with him and so I really wanted that putt to go in, just so I could text him. But I hit a great putt — I hit a couple good putts today that didn’t go in, but all in all you’ll take the week and take the putting stroke, it looked pretty good this week.

Q. With the wind and the firmness of the greens it got a little challenging out there, didn’t it?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, number 11 and No. 12 — 14, is always a goofy hole, a tough hole — but 11 and 12 were two of the toughest I’ve ever seen out here because of conditions.

Q. I know you’re a big sports fan who do you like in the Super Bowl tonight?
BUBBA WATSON: I really want Mahomes to do well. I just think he’s a special talent, it’s been fun to watch him. So I love seeing creativity, that’s how I kind of think of my golf game, so it be would fun to see him do some heroics.

Q. Could you just tell me about the crowds this week, not just on 16 but throughout the tournament and how it compares to previous years?
BUBBA WATSON: No, it’s growing, it’s growing tremendously. I think that they have created an atmosphere, the Thunderbirds have created an atmosphere, the city is really behind it, Phoenix and Scottsdale, you can’t ask for better crowds. When people come out here and support you, this many people, I mean this has got to be one of or the biggest sporting event in the world, the amount of people that come through the gates over a seven-day period or whatever it is, pretty amazing.

Scottsdale, Arizona

February 2, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Tony Finau Talks Playoff Loss at Waste Management Phoenix Open

PGA Tour professional Tony Finau speaks to the media following heartbreaking playoff loss to eventual winner Webb Simpson.

PGA Tour: Tony Finau speaks with the media following playoff loss at Waste Management Phoenix Open

Q. I know it’s tough to talk right now, but 2-up with a couple to go. Hey, Webb came after you. He made some birdies, tied it up, and I thought you had two great looks at 18 that just wouldn’t go.
TONY FINAU: Yeah, I hit good putts. You know, the first one I hit really good, I thought I made. It would have been nice. It just slid past the hole. Second one, similar line, a little bit further, decided to play a little bit more break and it didn’t break this time, so hat’s off to Webb. A couple birdies coming home and if you’re going to get beat that’s how it should happen. I definitely didn’t give him the tournament. He took the lead from me early and I got it late, but unfortunately, it’s how the cookie crumbles today. And it’s bitter week as I look back on it. But man, lots of stuff to be learned. And I love Webb. I think the camaraderie that I have with him as being one of my best friends out here, it’s, it would have been hard for either one of us to take this victory from each other. He got the upper hand this time, but I love that guy, and that’s one hell of a finish. If you’re going to birdie 18 a couple times you’re probably going to win.

Q. You went from leader to chaser, up 2 with a couple to go. Describe the range of emotions on the back nine and in the playoff?
TONY FINAU: It was crazy. I knew I had to be patient, no matter what. I was going to have a chance to win coming down the stretch if I just kept plugging along. And it was a little tough out there, really firm. Back nine, I thought it was hard to get really close on a lot of those holes. And I mean, I played nicely, coming down the stretch I had some looks. 15, 16, 18, I had some looks to win the golf tournament and they didn’t go my way today. So that’s how the cookie crumbles and I’ll be back on the horse and ready to go again in a couple weeks.

Q. You were in control most of the day. What would you say was the turning point where the tournament started to slip away?
TONY FINAU: Man, no real turning point. Even with a couple shot lead going into 16, I knew I probably still needed to make at least a birdie or two to kind of separate myself. And Webb did what he had to do. He birdied 17 and 18 and ended up birdieing the playoff hole. He’s a great champion and hat’s off to him. I’m a huge fan. He’s one of my best friends out here and I love that guy.

Q. While this stings now, what can you learn from this going forward?
TONY FINAU: Yeah, just learn my game’s in a great place early in the season. I feel good. I had a chance, a great chance to win this week. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but my game’s better than it’s ever been. I have more confidence than I’ve ever had. And again, if you know anything about me, I’ll persevere through anything. If you want to say this is a stumbling block or whatever it is, to chase this next one, but I’ll knock it off soon and will be on my way.

Scottsdale, Arizona

February 2, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Webb Simpson Recaps Playoff Victory at 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open

PGA Tour: Webb Simpson speaks with the media following his playoff victory at the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open about moving to the top 10 of the OWGR as well as number 2 in FedEx cup points.

PGA Tour: Webb Simpson speaks with the media following playoff victory over Tony Finau at the Waste Management Phoenix Open

THE MODERATOR: I’d like to welcome Webb Simpson, winner of the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Webb, 10th start here, five top-10s, a couple of close calls prior to today. So with that said, the win moved you to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings, just, obviously, a great week for you. So just some initial thoughts.

WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I flew out Monday to see Butch Harmon in Vegas and so I started the week off right, I think, just getting a checkup from him. And two weeks of rest, I came in feeling ready to go. Slow start on Thursday. And I knew after Thursday I was going to have to put together a few good rounds and I was able to do that, Friday, Saturday. Today was a lot different. Today played tougher. I thought the pins were very tough, by far the toughest day of pins, course was longer, we had wind, we hadn’t had wind all week, so everything today was harder. So to get in a couple under felt nice. And honestly, there on 15 when I drove it in the water, Tony hit a great drive. I didn’t think it was over, but I thought I’m going to really have to do something special to get back in it. And thankfully I birdied the last two to have a chance and then repeated in the playoff. So it feels great. It’s been a year and a half since THE PLAYERS, which is a long time, but it feels great.

THE MODERATOR: I’ve heard you say a couple times down on the green that when it comes to playoffs you haven’t exactly had the best of luck. How did you treat it differently today to get the job done.

WEBB SIMPSON: I think what I learned at RSM was I relaxed a little bit. I felt like regulation is over, I just kind of let my guard down instead of treating it as another hole, the 73rd hole and continuing to stay very focused and very hungry to hit good shots. And I just tried to do that today, and thankfully, same club off the tee, same second shot, almost to the exact same number and it was a very similar putt. So I think getting frustrated after RSM led to being better prepared for today.

THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions, please.

Q. Paul was saying that you have “step by step” on your wedge. What’s that about? Can you explain that?
WEBB SIMPSON: So I was reading an article about Jeff Bezos and their company mantra or company phrase is “step by step”. And the article was just talking about how he’s always tried to take every step and the company take every step, whether little or big, but treat it really carefully and do the best they can at each step. And I just thought this is a game with so many elements, players, we’re playing outside, that you can only control so much. And so about two years ago I made my focus step by step, just, you know, when I go in the gym, I’m going to do the best I can, when I’m practicing, the best I can. So it’s just a reminder for me to take care of the little things and the big things seem to take care of themselves.

Q. Has it been on your wedges that long?
WEBB SIMPSON: At least a year, maybe longer. Yeah, maybe a year and a half.

Q. What does it say to the guy who ranks 160th in driving distance, not only can hang out here, but have the kind of run you’ve been on? And secondly, have you done anything to sort of chase distance or add distance?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I hired Cornell Dreesen, a trainer, three years ago and we set out on a journey to get longer, but very carefully because precision, accuracy, distance control is something for me that’s always been a strength and has to be a strength for me to play well, because I don’t hit it that far. So we just went really slowly, and my speed is more. We have picked up a mile and a half to two miles an hour for the last two years and so we have made jumps. But I just didn’t want to do it overnight. I didn’t want to really take away from something that I’ve always done, which is when I’m, for the most part, playing well, hitting fairways. And we have the luxury on the PGA TOUR to pick where we want to play, which is a really nice luxury to have. And so I, on purpose, stay away from certain places that I don’t think give me good chances to win. And so I think for me not hitting it that far but playing well the last couple years is a lot of being smart about where I’m playing. And I don’t mind playing longer tracks, but it’s just harder to win.

Q. You’ve been on quite a run really since the middle of last summer. But did — at any point, did all those runner ups, I think four of them, did any of that wear on you at all that you had come close but not won?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think the thing that was helpful and encouraging to me that I kept telling myself was, I wasn’t in contention at Memphis when I finished second. I had a great Sunday. Rory shoots 61 at RBC, JT posted and shoots 62. Tyler Duncan birdies 17 and 18 at RSM, which is incredible on those two holes. And so I think it could have been easy for me to get down, but as you look at those tournaments, guys played great and that’s the way the game goes sometimes. Sometimes you get handed a trophy, somebody bogeys a couple for you. And but more times than not you got to make birdies and those guys did it.

Q. You’re back in the top-10 in the World Ranking for the first time since 2012. How would you assess or compare the state of your game currently to back in 2012?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think it’s more well-rounded. I think I’ve had a lot of experience since then, learned a lot. And I really, I mentioned this a couple times, I think, but a couple years ago I was just a little bit tired of being inconsistent and I wanted to be a more consistent player. And I started looking at the weaknesses and really learning from golf tournaments, whether I finished second or 30th or missed the cut. And so I think just becoming more a student of the game and a student of myself has helped. So I do feel just more well-rounded now. And I think my time in the gym has led, not necessarily to a lot of yards, but it’s led to just more consistent feeling in my body when I show up to the range. And that’s a big deal. We’re playing at different time zones, different environments, weather, and so to show up with the same body week-in, week-out is actually a lot more important than I thought.

Q. Talk about your two putts on 18. They looked like almost similar length and similar area when you made them.
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, the first one was — I had it right center, Paul had a ball out, so we split our reads. I went right edge or I think that’s what I did, right edge. And, yeah, he helped me there. And then in the playoff it was a little shorter, more break, I was closer to pin high and that was a cup out right to left, and that one we agreed on, which made me feel better. And that one caught the right side.

Simpson Talks Overcoming Playoff Struggles

Q. On the playoff streak, which ended at four today on the losing streak, did you think about 2017 when you lost to Hideki on the fourth playoff hole? Did you say, Oh my goodness, Tony and I are going to go after this again for four or more holes?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, it came out. I was riding out and asking what holes we were playing and they said we were just going to stay on 18 for crowd purposes. But, yeah, past memories come up, but it happened so fast, we sign our card, we get in the cart, we tee off, it happens really fast so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think.

Q. Was there a point where you regretted breaking the belly putter and the time period that you went through struggling with some anxiety with putting?
WEBB SIMPSON: No, I mean, I broke the putter in November of 2014 and so Japan, Dunlop Phoenix was my first event with the short putter. And Paul and I just agreed that if we get a year under our belt before the ban happens, it’s only going to help us, even if we struggle. And that was a tough two years, but my dad always told me, You got to hang in there. Like, no matter what life throws at you, your job throws at you, you just got to hang in there. Not that it’s always going to turn out well, but if you’re not ready for things to turn around, then they probably won’t. So I just kind of, there was many frustrating moments, for sure, but I hung in there and tried a lot of different stuff and finally found something that works.

Q. You and Tony are Presidents Cup teammates and you know him pretty well. How hard is that when you play so well at the end to finally break through and then see what it does to the other guy? Golf can be so brutal.
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, it’s hard. I actually thought about that out there. He’s one of my good friends on TOUR. We’ve talked about playing together in team events as partners. I’m comfortable with him. I love his caddie, Greg. And so that part’s hard. I mean, we’re after the same thing. You never want to see a guy mess up. In a perfect world you hit great shots and your score’s one stroke lower. So I hope he doesn’t feel bad about today because he played great. He was over par and then he birdies 12 and 13 and hit great shots coming in, and he’s a world class player, as you guys know. I don’t have to tell you. He’s going to be around for a long time.

Q. As a man of faith, all this week has been focused on the death of Kobe Bryant along with the seven others. Tell us what that means. Every time you went to 16 there was lots of Kobe stuff going on. Think about that as your place as a man of faith?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I mean, I tell you what, for a guy that I never knew, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced sadness for the death of someone that I never knew like I did with Kobe. And my caddie and I were talking about it the other night and I asked him, why do you think, you know, this one feels different? I mean, many, many people have died in my lifetime that I knew of, but I think just it hit home to me, he’s seven years older, he’s 41, he has four kids, I have five; he has four daughters, I have four daughters; and he seemed like he was at a place in his life where he’s so excited about what’s going on around him, what he’s giving back to, what he’s involved in. So I think that made it hard, but I hope his wife Vanessa and his kids have felt what we have seen with what people are doing and how people are talking about how he impacted their life. So, yeah, I watched the Lakers game the other night and LeBron, the tribute, so I’ve been thinking about it all week. And I love what they did on 16 today, 24 on, 8 left. My caddie and I were actually trying to figure out that last night. We’re like, I’ve never seen that pin, what are they doing. And we didn’t really think about it until this morning. But, yeah, I mean, my heart’s still heavy, as I’m sure the world’s is, it’s going to be awhile.

Q. What is your schedule going forward for the next month or so and then how do you hope this kind of sets you up for the year?
WEBB SIMPSON: All I know right now is that I’m going to play in Mexico and THE PLAYERS. After that I’m not sure. My schedule picks up starting with the Masters and I play a good amount there after that. So I’m trying to pace myself. The fall, there’s so many good events I’m going to play in the fall, but, yeah, this is a nice start to the season. I hadn’t played a lot so far, so with the FedExCup the way it is, it’s nice to have a few good finishes where I don’t really have to play.

Q. To piggy back off that Kobe question, you mentioned your heart being heavy still processing it, but when the 16th is today is always looked at as a celebration, does that help?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think so. Even LeBron said that the other night, that they’re going to have to turn, at some point turn the sadness into celebrating his life and I think that was well said. Yeah, I think it’s just back and forth. One moment I’m sure that people around Kobe’s family are laughing and telling stories and then at another moment they’re crying. That’s what we experienced with my dad two years ago, you don’t really know what you’re going to do until you go through it, but it feels better celebrating it. You got to get the tears out and be sad, but it feels good talking about the stories and what he meant to people and what he did in people’s lives, that part helps you grieve better, I think.

THE MODERATOR: All right, Webb, congratulations.

WEBB SIMPSON: Thank you.

Scottsdale, Arizona

February 2, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Rickie Fowler Talks Title Defense at 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open

PGA Tour professional Rickie Fowler speaks to the media prior to attempting to defend the title at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

PGA Tour: Rickie Fowler speaks to the media prior to Waste Management Phoenix Open

THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome our defending champion, Rickie Fowler, into the interview room. He’s making his 12th career start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Four Top-5S at this event. The first, Rickie, if we can get you to take us back to your win here last year. I know it was a special victory for you. Just talk about that win.

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, there’s definitely some spots that I would like to be a little different, but at the end of Sunday we were holding the trophy on the 18th green, so I was happy about that. I mean, this tournament, with the relationships I have here with the Thunderbirds and Waste Management, yeah, it was nice to finally get the win here. It was just a matter of time, how many times we have been in contention and had a chance. So yeah, nice to be back. Looks like good weather week and nice to be back as defending champion.

THE MODERATOR: Couple top-10s in three starts this season on TOUR. Just talk a little bit about your form coming into this week.

RICKIE FOWLER: I feel good. It was nice to get the calendar year started at Kapalua. That’s always a good thing, coming off of a season with a win. Really good start in the desert. American Express. Didn’t really get anything going on the weekend on the Stadium Course. It would have been nice if we were playing La Quinta and Nicklaus Course. I had those dialed in.

But, yeah, last week really couldn’t get anything to go in, so. That’s usually one of the stronger points of my game. And obviously, I’ve had a lot of good weeks of putting here, so it’s nice to be back in the desert and see some balls going in the hole and not lipping out or missing and bouncing around. So I’m looking forward to this week. But game feels good. I was able to get a lot of good work in. Got over in town on Saturday. A lot of work on Sunday, spent all yesterday with JT, John Tillery, up at Whisper Rock. And yeah, I feel like we’re in a really good spot, ready to go tee it up tomorrow afternoon.

THE MODERATOR: Let’s open it up to questions.

Q. Curious, what was the conversation like with Larry Fitzgerald today?
RICKIE FOWLER: We were just going back and forth talking some golf. And he’s a member down at Seminole, which is close to where I live in Florida. He hasn’t been out to see MJ’s new course yet, Grove 23, so we were talking little bit about that and him getting out there soon. We just talked a lot about golf. He loves to play anytime he gets. Sounds like he was heading to Florida in the next couple days, going to play some more, and then I think he’s playing next week in Pebble. But he’s impressive to watch. He’s gotten a lot better as a golfer in the last few years. He’s putting a lot of work in. And he’s just, he’s a fun guy to be around. First time I’ve really gotten to play with him, but I’ve been around him multiple times. And, no, he’s impressive both as an athlete and as a person.

Q. I wanted to talk about the message that you posted on Instagram about Kobe, his passing, and how it’s affecting you and how is it going to affect you going into this next tournament and beyond?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, obviously, when freak things happen like that it makes you realize how precious life is, and I think that was kind of what I was talking about with Kobe. I really wish I would have had the opportunity to meet him and just be around him. I’m never someone that really asks a whole lot of questions. I just like to be around people and see how they go about things or how they treat other people, how they go about their business. But from all the stories I had heard and watching stuff, it just seemed like he was someone that lived every day like it was his last, never left anything out — he left everything on the court, whether it was practice, whether it was game. So someone that has had, obviously, a very impressive impact not just on one generation, but mine, kids still growing up now, a generation ahead of me. So to see someone like that, I mean, he’s a world icon. To have that kind of notoriety around the world, there’s very few people that really have that, especially in sports. So, no, I think he’s someone that everyone has either learned something from or can take from. I think another one was, I saw Timberlake posted a good one. He touched so many different walks of life, not just in sports. So I was bummed that I didn’t have the chance to spend any time around him. It’s just unfortunate.

Q. Along those lines, do you have any tributes planned for 16 or anything like that?
RICKIE FOWLER: Not necessarily. I mean, I think between all the players there’s going to be plenty. I don’t think Kobe needs any help as far as tributes go. I’m sure I’ll add some stuff here and there. I know Puma had asked about adding some stuff to hats or shoes or something like that, and I may just scribble something on there. We’ll kind of go with what it feels like at that moment, what to do. But, yeah, I don’t think Kobe’s going to struggle with support from fans and people around the world. He did his job. He’s pretty accomplished and very well respected.

Q. Secondly, I was looking back to last year and the win here, I guess what would be a successful year for you this year? How would you define it?
RICKIE FOWLER: For me, a multiple-win year. That’s really where my goals start. It’s not necessarily cuts made or top-10s, Top-5s. I want wins. So that’s what would define a successful year. So got to start with the first one and go from there. But a multiple-win season would be nice. Obviously, make one of those a major and it’s a really good year.

Q. You’ve been making some swing adjustments recently. Can you talk a little bit about the biggest change or the change that’s made the most impact on your game so far?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I mean, it’s been a lot of work. I’ve been at it for a few months now. It’s just kind of getting back to maybe some old sequencing or getting the body to work properly. It’s been pretty simple, just because it’s more so focusing on how the lower body’s working a little bit more, when it’s firing, when it’s not, and how it’s stabilizing throughout the swing. So I think more — the hardest part has just been getting the, which feel or kind of cue for me gets what we want the lower body to do or not to do. So it’s a little, I mean, I could go into a lot more detail. I don’t want to be here that long. I get to go sign for some kids here shortly, and we have had a decent amount of time at the course today. But no, it’s a lot more body-related versus just trying to get the club in certain positions. If I do the stuff properly with the body, especially the lower body, it then basically puts the club into the position that the body’s telling it to be.

Q. It is less timing-based? And how are those changes coming along and what are you currently focused on?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yes, it’s less timing-based, but at the same time, it’s kind of all around timing. Maybe less timing as far as hands and trying to time up when the hands and the club head are meeting the ball and what the hands are doing through impact. But a lot of it is trying to make it very symmetrical as far as if you saw me a little bit maybe hands hip high on takeaway versus just past impact hands at hip height, you wouldn’t really be able to — they should look very similar. So the timing of when I’m hitting the ball and when I’m taking the club away should be matching up pretty much on point, if you were to set a metronome. So, yeah, a different way of talking about timing. But, yes, taking the hands out of it to where it’s much more body-driven.

Q. I think Gary Woodland has been asked more about Amy than about winning the U.S. Open in the past year. Just wondering how many times have you seen that video of her and have you met Amy or had any conversations with her?
RICKIE FOWLER: I haven’t. She seems like a fun, special person. I think that was, I mean that might be the video of the decade last year or was that two years ago?

Q. Last year.
RICKIE FOWLER: Last year, sorry. I feel like — I mean, I watched it so many times it feels like two years ago. When you see the highlights of it and when the video first came out it made — I mean, it was just so cool. And to have someone like Gary in that moment with her, it was awesome. I mean, he’s a good friend, great guy, and to see how like genuine it was between the two of them, his reactions, Amy just going crazy there on 16. No, I think it was one of the coolest moments with a player and a fan of golf really that has ever been kind of put together.

Q. I liked the way she waved him off, “I got this.”

Q. “You need me to help you with this? No, I got this.”
RICKIE FOWLER: She has plenty of confidence from what I’ve seen.

THE MODERATOR: All right, Rickie Fowler, best of luck this week.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

January 29, 2020

Scottsdale, Arizona

Team Spain

PGA Tour: Jon Rahm Talks About Potentially Being Number One in The OWGR Prior to The Waste Management Phoenix Open

PGA Professional Jon Rahm speaks to the media ahead of the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open about potentially becoming the worlds number one ranked golfer with a victory.

PGA Tour: Jon Rahm talks to the media ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open

THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Jon Rahm to the interview room here at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This is a bit of a home game for you. You went to ASU, still live here. What’s it like to be playing at home this week and be back here playing in Phoenix.

JON RAHM: Always fun. I mean, I would say for a lot of people, I mean, I would say for me it’s probably if not the most, one of the most, one of the best atmospheres in golf. It’s unique. There’s nothing quite like it. You have more people in the pro-am day here than a lot of tournaments get all week. So that shows a lot of the fans that come to this event and how fun it is. You got the 16th hole and even though it feels like that’s just stretching, the last three holes basically feel like they’re completely enclosed. It’s just a fun event, great golf course, always in great shape, so I’m always looking forward to it, especially sleeping in my own bed. That’s always a real bonus on a week like this.

THE MODERATOR: In second last week and then won the start before that. How are you feeling about your game coming into this week?

JON RAHM: I’m feeling good. Last week was a really good week for being as uncomfortable as I was off the tee, being able to manage myself around and kind of salvage what started as a really bad day. So battled hard. I’m going to learn a lot from that experience and as simple as that. Today, it’s a new week, new tournament and just looking forward.

THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions, please.

Q. You’ve got a chance to become world No. 1 for the first time with a win this week. I wondered how much is that a motivation or how big a goal is that for you?
JON RAHM: Yeah, actually, I found that out 10 minutes ago. I had no idea. A little surprised. I mean, I have been playing really, really good golf and especially since that U.S. Open, just missed one cut, and for the better part of the tournaments I play, I pretty much I’ve had a chance to win or finish top-10. It’s been a really good stretch of golf. But, yeah, like always, as I said many times, being No. 1 in the world, it’s a consequence of good golf. So I got to take care of business this week and it’s not going to change my mindset. Obviously, it’s a goal in every player’s, I believe, mind to be No. 1 in the world, and it is a goal of mine at some point, but I still got things to do to, take care of every day and make the right putts and hit the right shots for that to really happen. So I’m just going to focus on what I have to do starting tomorrow.

Q. What would it mean to accomplish that goal here in your hometown?
JON RAHM: To be honest, I just, you know, it’s such a fun event that I really want to win, so I’m trying to focus more on that. But if I were to do both, you know, I mean, it would be really special. You don’t really get to choose where you do it but, yeah, it would be quite a unique experience to be able to share it here and knowing that I have a week off to properly celebrate it after on Sunday. But like I said, it’s a consequence of good play. It would be a consequence of me winning this week, so that’s what I got to take care of. I got to stay focused and like I said, keep hitting the ball good and make the putts and hopefully hold the trophy and be back here on Sunday and you can ask me how it feels again.

Q. Maybe I’m wrong, but does it sound like, has it ever been a goal of yours or is it — being No. 1?
JON RAHM: Of course. Of course. Yeah. It is. I mean, I wouldn’t be doing this if my goal wasn’t to be the best. It’s as simple as that. I tee it up to win every time, I practice to be the best I can be, and hopefully the best I can be takes me to No. 1 at some point.

Q. Can you talk about your memories of this event, like coming here as an amateur, and then from there to now?
JON RAHM: Well, I’ve played good pretty much every year, and the first year, obviously, being extremely different. You come here as an amateur and I tee off on 10 and from 10 to 15 all I can think of was 16. That’s probably why I was 4-over par. I could not focus whatsoever on what I was doing. I was just completely scared of 16 and getting booed. And yeah, I hit probably one of the worse pitching wedges I’ve hit in my life, made a good up-and-down, and that’s what got things going, and after that, that’s about as much fun as I’ve had on a golf course really ever, right? I mean, go from college events, some amateur events that gets some people on the golf course. I did play Mayakoba before, but it just doesn’t have room for big crowds.

And then to play here Saturday, being out there with Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley and just having a big group, it was unique. And to actually have the support I had from being an ASU alumni and then every year after that it feels like the crowd has gotten to know me a little bit more and more and more. And even this year, the support I’m feeling this year, it’s quite unique. But every time I come back it’s like, I feel like it’s back to 2015 again. I feel the same way. It’s just such a joyful week for me, so much fun, and it’s great to have the home crowd support.

Q. You posted an emotional tribute to Kobe on Instagram the other day. I want to get your thoughts as the first tournament back since his passing and how it’s going to affect you going forward.
JON RAHM: Well, I tried to express my mind as much as possible in that video. I’ve told many times — not many people know this, but I’ve told some of my closest friends, I mean, I’ve been asked before if there was one person in this world that I would love to talk to, because I idolized him so much, I’ve read everything about him, seen everything about him, read his books, it would have been Kobe Bryant. And I actually have a friend who was friends with him who was, it was going to be a possibility, we were talking about possibly meeting the week of L.A. or next week. And just how much he’s impacted my life. He’s, him and Rafa Nadal are two of the people that I really lean on to try to improve my behavior and the way I’ve, I come through sometimes on the golf course and I’ve seen a lot of their stuff and how they think and how they portray themselves and it’s just so sad. I mean, and not only him, there was nine people on that helicopter. There was three teenagers that didn’t get to live full lives. There was, I think that one of the teenagers’ parents, who also have two other kids, those kids missed, are never going to see their sister and parents again. And I think there was another, an assistant coach, a mom of three, and obviously, the other people in the helicopter, right, it’s an incredible tragedy. I know a lot of people are just focusing on Kobe, and I did mention that in the video, but you can’t forget there’s many other families affected. And to me it’s just, I think a lot of us take for granted how much of a blessing it is to walk out the other side of your front door and just come back the same night. You never know what’s going to happen, you never know what could happen. And that’s why we got to live our life to the fullest. We all have an expiration date. Unfortunately, we don’t know when it is and that’s why you got to live every day like it is your last and just try to enjoy it as much as possible.

Q. You played with Michael Phelps today. Can you talk about what you think about him as an athlete and how was playing golf with him today?
JON RAHM: I would say he’s way too flexible to play golf. That’s what I can say. He is, he’s super nice. We’re members at the same golf course and we had a really fun group going on, so it was a really fun day. But when it comes to athlete, I mean, he’s the most decorated Olympian of all time. It’s crazy. And he has to be up there in the conversation with many greats of the greatest athlete of all time. What he’s done for, I mean, competing in as many Olympic teams as he’s been and to do all he’s done, I mean, I don’t know how many medals does he have? 25? 26? I know in the 20s in gold as well. It’s ridiculous. I know they have maybe more events or athletes competing, but to be at that level at every single one of those events and to be able to win every single one of the events one year, it’s absolutely mind blowing. I don’t think a lot of times people appreciate some of what these Olympians accomplish because we only hear about it every four years. But I mean, he’s, if he’s not the greatest Olympian of all time, I don’t know who is. I got to say. It’s, and he’s got to be really, really the discussion of greatest athlete of all time could not be had without him in mind. It’s unbelievable what he’s done. And it was nice to see him have fun and enjoy life. And his wife was there with the kid and it was just a fun day and it’s nice to see somebody like him just have a normal day and enjoy, if you can call a pro-am at the Phoenix Open a normal day.

Q. So with your chances of being an Olympian this year, how much of an emphasis is that?
JON RAHM: Yeah, it’s great, because I never grew up with that being a goal of mine because golf wasn’t in the Olympics. But four years ago we got enough to be introduced. And as an athlete, I know I’ve said it before, I don’t think it’s got the, maybe the validity or the level, that other sports have to have a gold medal in golf just because it’s so new, but it will get to that point. And to be an athlete to have a gold medal, I don’t think there’s anything better than that. There’s not many things that you can say that would be a better feeling than to say you have a good medal from the Olympics. You’re and Olympian and you’re a gold medalist. It’s a very select group of people that can say that in human history. So it’s, now, it’s definitely a goal and I hope it can be there in Tokyo and fight for it.

Q. You mentioned earlier your recent results and the fact that it hasn’t been a few weeks, but this is really seven or eight months in the making, going back to Pebble Beach and there was so much discussion at the end of last season focused on Brooks and Rory and the Player of the Year debate. Do you feel at all like your results and your performance recently has gotten a little loss in that shuffle?
JON RAHM: The only reason why I mention that is because I just saw it on the TV, so that’s why it’s in my mind. I would say I’ve been playing great golf for the last three years. You got Brooks winning Majors PLAYERS, WGC’s, Tournament Of Champions — sorry, TOUR Championship — you know, it’s, it’s of course they’re going to be in that conversation. I’ve just been incredibly consistent for three years and I’ve been able to win some events on the European Tour that maybe in the U.S. can be overlooked or forgotten about as well, so that’s why I’m showing my face over there right now. But it is not my job to put myself in the discussions. Like I said, my goal is to go out there and beat them all and that’s what I’m trying to do.

Q. I was told by D.J. Gregory that he was walking with you this week. I don’t know, I’m sure you know his story and all that. Just how much can that inspire you in a given round or just in general does his inspiration, how much his story inspires you?
JON RAHM: You know, it reminds me a lot of what Kobe would talk about. We all are trying to be the best version — we should be trying to be the best version of ourselves and trying to inspire others. And D.J.’s definitely doing that. I mean, a lot of people don’t even walk 18 holes and he has a hard time walking and he walks all 18 of them on every single golf course, every single week of a year, it’s unbelievable, I see him everywhere. And that’s actually, this year I asked to see if we could have him, I could help him out more than one tournament, just because I really believe in what he does. It’s quite unique and how many people he’s helping out. And, I mean, I hope I make a lot of birdies so we can donate as much as possible, because it’s a worthy cause, it’s something else to play for, which is always a nice thing. It’s, it’s, I can’t think — I’m thinking in Spanish right now — when it’s, when it’s something, like it’s a fundraising thing or you’re donating for a good cause, it’s, I mean, it’s always a special feeling. I’m lucky, I’m really lucky to be 25 years old and to do what I love for a living and luckily earn more than I need to live my life. So if I can share that with the people that can actually make a difference in this world and hopefully at some point start making my own difference in this world, I’m going to do it. So it’s nice to have somebody like DJ focusing on golf and doing what he does and hopefully, like I said, hopefully I can make a whole lot of birdies out there.

Q. One last one, on playing 16 — and Gary asked this to Justin earlier. The difference between if you play it in the spring or fall to this week and just how seismic a shift that is from when there are no grand stands to when there is and all the factors you then have to evaluate as well.
JON RAHM: Well, the grand stands and the atmosphere turn what is relatively a simple hole — I would never hit probably, unless it’s windy day, for me it would be no more than an 8-iron to the back, maybe a pitching wedge to the front if I’m feeling, particularly swinging good that day. It will be a par-3 where on any other course or even in a PGA TOUR event without the grand stands would just be average people looking or watching, you’re probably looking to at least go even par on that hole. Just because of the atmosphere and how you get full of adrenaline and how hard it is to control that sometimes, I don’t know about other people, I will take 3s all day for the rest of my career and I’ll be perfectly happy with that, honestly, play that hole even par forever, I’ll take it. Because it make it that much harder. It’s not just the fact that you’re in a semi-stadium, it’s how pumped up you are and how far you can hit the ball. I can’t believe how many times I’ve gone with, I’m going to hit an easy nine, and completely just flush it way over the pin just because you can’t control what’s going on. It’s one of the few shots in golf where I can’t hear when I make contact with the ball, just because of the noise around it and how unique it is. But it’s fun, I mean it’s one of the main reasons why probably people come here to play, just to experience that hole, and I wish there was more of it.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, best of luck this week.

JON RAHM: Thank you.

January 29, 2020

Scottsdale, Arizona

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Justin Thomas Talks Olympic Games Ahead of Waste Management Phoenix Open

PGA Tour professional and major champion Justin Thomas addresses the media ahead of the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Thomas talks the importance on becoming world number one as well as his desire to compete in the 2020 Olympics.

PGA Tour: Justin Thomas meets with the media prior to the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open

THE MODERATOR: Justin, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. Getting ready to make your sixth start in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Coming off a third place finish last year, coming into the week as the FedExCup points leader and with two wins already under your belt this season. That’s a pretty good for an entire season, let alone just the beginning of a season. So with all that said just some thoughts on being back here this week.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I’m excited to be back. This is a course that I enjoy. I feel like it sets up well for my game, if I can execute properly. I got a good couple weeks rest and I was able to put some good work in there at the end of last week getting ready for here and feel like we’re doing some of the right stuff at this point. I feel like when I take two weeks off sometimes I have a hard time getting back into it or get focused or make some sloppy mistakes, so I need to make sure that I don’t do that starting up tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: You had a chance to get out and see the course. Is it pretty much what you remember, still setting up well for you?

JUSTIN THOMAS: It’s always in great shape. I think that’s something that’s very underrated about this place. It’s obviously a great tournament, a great field, but the course is always tremendous. The greens are always rolling very, very true. The fairways are all — I mean, it feels like there’s not a blade of grass out of place. It’s very nice. Greens are maybe just a touch softer than usual. But, no, it’s always in great shape.

THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions.

Q. Can you imagine a scenario in which you would not compete in Tokyo if you’re one of the first four?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. There’s — no, no scenario for me.

Q. What did you think of Brooks’s comments that the Majors and the FedExCup playoffs are more important? Do you get a sense of is that a majority view still or —
JUSTIN THOMAS: I hadn’t heard those comments. That was the first I heard of them. But it’s tough. I mean, no offense, but I feel like it’s a very uncomfortable question to be asked because there’s no right answer. No matter how you say it, you’re going to be ridiculed for it or say your priorities aren’t in line. I know one thing, I’m very content with winning any of those and I plan on trying to win all of those, but it’s something that’s, it’s just different. It’s once in every four years and you have the opportunity to do it. But then again, I’ve never competed in one, he’s never competed in one, so maybe our thoughts will change if we go play in it. But, no, it’s just, it’s very, you can’t really compare it to anything because it’s in its own, I think.

Q. Any thoughts on the competition out there this week with guys being overseas and in different places?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, the field’s tremendous. It’s always great. It’s, I think that’s another thing that’s very underrated about this tournament. I think that it gets all the wrap of being the Waste Management and No. 16 and it’s a party, it’s out of control, but I mean, every year this place brings an unbelievable field and some of the top players in the world. So it’s something where, yeah, it would be great to win this tournament and be awesome just to kind of be in the realms of history of the Waste Management, but you’re beating a lot of really, really quality great players if you win this tournament. So that’s something I think that possibly doesn’t get talked about that much, which is, obviously, overshadowed by some stuff going on here this week. But it’s a great, great event with an unbelievable field. So I feel like every year it produces a really good tournament with a lot of big names up at the top come Sunday.

Q. I want to talk about, I guess, Kobe’s impact on you. You said that you’ve never cried for another man that you never met before. Just wanted you to just share your thoughts and what you’re going to do with your rounds going forward. This is the first tournament coming back since the tragic news, so.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, it’s weird. I was actually I was talking to Brian about it a couple days ago. It’s just, it’s weird because I’ve never met him. I’ve always wanted to meet him, but it’s just for someone to have an impact on somebody that I’ve never met, never been around, is bizarre. And yeah, it’s crazy, it’s sad. I think what really got me is just how he lost his life just being a dad and being a great dad and the fact that his daughters are never going to be able to spend any time with him anymore was just like, for me, just really hard to kind of comprehend and deal with.

And yeah, I mean, in terms of playing this week, it’s a golf tournament, it’s not like I’m going to try any harder or do anything differently. I mean, I have the stampings on my wedges. I was getting new wedges anyway so the timing worked out well to put some stamps on there for him. Just, I’ve always been a huge fan of his. I’ve always loved watching him play, just loved hearing about his work ethic and stuff that he did on and off the court and how he just always worked harder than everybody else, and it’s probably the reason — I mean, obviously, he’s freakishly talented but why he was better than everybody else because he was going to work harder to get there and just kind of will himself to be a winner. And that’s something that I hope to do when I’m out there playing, when I have a chance to win the tournament, I want to have that Mamba mentality, if you will, to try to close it out.

Q. Justin, Jon Rahm can get to world No. 1 for the first time with a win this week. Can you speak to how big of a goal that was for you and how satisfying it was when you got to No. 1?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it’s a huge goal. It still is for me because I’ve lost it. But it’s a tremendous honor. I think it’s always something being, always really cool being a part of something that not very many people have done. You’re just, he’s going to be another name to that list if he gets that and whoever gets it next that hasn’t done it will be added. So it’s, it’s pretty cool walking around. I mean, I it for all of two weeks or whatever it was, but walking around, it’s like, I’m better than every single person on this planet in golf. That’s a pretty satisfying feeling. I’m very confident and I feel that when I’m playing well I do feel that about myself, but I unfortunately have a 4 next to my name and Brooks has a 1. So there’s three people that are better than me right now and Jon has the chance to be at the top of the top and that’s a pretty cool feeling.

Q. Could you talk about the actual difficulty level of playing the 16th hole when there’s nobody there versus playing it when there’s 20,000 people there, because the hole doesn’t look super hard and yet, you know, it’s a tougher shot than because of the situation?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I’ve never played it when it’s empty, so I don’t know that sense. But I mean, I feel it’s very similar to like the 17th at Sawgrass. If I went and played 17 at Sawgrass, I mean, I would feel like I would birdie it every other time. I mean, it’s a wedge, 9-iron at the absolute most, potentially a sand wedge or a gap wedge, and to a relatively big green. Yeah, when you have windy days or it gets firm it’s tough. But the thing about 16 here is that just the green is tough. It’s not, it’s not a flat green, it’s not all the same. You have a lot of subtleties and you have that false front, and then when that pin’s front left, it kind of falls off to the left to where if you have anything with left spin it goes down in the bunker and then you’re short-sided, and then if you have the right pin, it all falls away. So, you know, every fan wants to see us hit it in there inside of five feet and make birdie. But in reality it’s kind of a sneaky tough hole if you get certain pins, because you never know where wind is, you’re blocked out by everything, so you’re really are kind of guessing what wind direction it is and if it switched at all from 15, then have you no idea. And it’s just, it’s an interesting hole and an interesting experience because when you have that much adrenaline you wish you could just tee a driver up and hit it as far as you can, but sometimes you have to kind of hit a little feathery 8-iron in there to a back pin with not much room for error or whatever it might be. So it’s quite an experience.

Q. Did you hit a memorable good shot in there?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I’ve hit a couple good ones. I almost made an ace a couple years ago, hit it to about a foot. Made birdie on Saturday one year. I had pretty good success my first couple years. I haven’t played it great the last couple years.

Q. Have you hit anything that caused the crowd to really —
JUSTIN THOMAS: I 4-putted, so that was pretty.

Q. Did you get booed, though, or no?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Are you kidding me? They boo a par. I 4-putted.

Q. A 4-putt, they might have had some sympathy at that point.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Oh, no. There’s no sympathy on 16 here.

Q. Players were e-mailed earlier this week about the Premier Golf League and I’m just curious to get your thoughts, not so much on the e-mail itself but more about the concept of that. Have you looked at it at all, does any element, are there any elements of it that intrigue you in any way?
JUSTIN THOMAS: You know, I feel like I’ve heard more about it from other people than I have itself that’s bad. And, sorry, Jay, but I haven’t really read the e-mail that in depth. I know I have it, I’ve seen it, but just to be perfectly honest haven’t really taken the time to sit down and just read it thoroughly and check it out. I’m, I feel like I’m out of the, a lot more so than I wish, a little bit out of the loop of what’s going on with all that. But it’s also a good thing I’m focused on what’s going on now. I mean, if that does happen, if it, I don’t know if it happens in four months, if it happens in a year, if it happens in five years or whatever it is, but at the end of the day I just need to be focused on trying to play well at the Waste Management and that’s what I’m doing. But who knows what will happen going forward, but I need to figure out what’s going on a little bit more before I say anything, I feel like.

THE MODERATOR: All right, Justin, thanks for your time good luck this week.


January 29, 2020

Scottsdale, Arizona

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

PGA Tour: Gary Woodland Talks Special Relationship With Amy Bockersette Ahead of Waste Management Phoenix Open

PGA Tour professional and US Open champion Gary Woodland speaks to the media ahead of the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open about his special bond formed last year with Amy Bockersette and describes what its like on the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.

European Tour: Gary Woodlands speaks with the media ahead of the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open

THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Gary Woodland, 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open winner, to the interview room here. Gary, thanks for coming in. More recently the 2019 U.S. Open winner as well. You’ve enjoyed a lot of success here in the past and with that said just some thoughts on being back here. I think you had a top-10 even last year, so just some thoughts on being back here to a place that’s pretty special to you.

GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, I love coming back. The Thunderbirds were nice enough to give me my first sponsor exemption on the PGA TOUR in 2011. I Mondayed in here as a rookie on TOUR in 2009. So I’ve played here every year since 2009, besides once. I’ve had a lot of success here, had some top-10s, obviously winning a couple years ago, which was nice. But this is a close to home for me because I have a lot of friend and family come out from Kansas. I think they want to get out of the snow. Obviously, this is as fun a tournament as we have out on the PGA TOUR, so I have a lot of friends and family here. And then you throw it to last year which obviously winning in 2018 was great for me, but last year had a bigger impact on me than winning. Spending time with Amy there on 16, that was, that’s what it’s all about. We’re in a very unique position on the PGA TOUR where we have an opportunity to meet a lot of cool people and spend some time with them and she’s the definition of that. So last year was very special. It was nice to be here today and spend time with her as well and look forward to a great week.

THE MODERATOR: Just one more question and then I’ll open it up to you guys. I was at Pebble with you when you won the U.S. Open and one of the things you wanted to do was FaceTime Amy. Could you have ever imagined, let alone how you felt, feel about it, but could you ever have imagined how big this story has become?

GARY WOODLAND: Absolutely not. Like I said, we get to meet a lot of cool people and you spend time like walking down 18, we had a military caddie. I got spend some time with him and talked to him, but I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. Where Amy and I spent the time and we have stayed in contact and the impact she had on me that day was not only me, but millions around the world. You’ve seen the people that have been impacted by this, by the video and her attitude, her energy, her love. I keep saying it, it’s so contagious and the world needs a lot more of it. And especially with everything that’s going on in the world right now there’s, we need a lot more Amy in it.

THE MODERATOR: Open it up to questions.

Q. How is the jumper?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it’s rusty.

Q. Amy’s mission is about like diversity and inclusion and giving people opportunities to see what it is that they can do. What has it been like for you to be a part of expanding a mission such as that?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, and I don’t know the impact that I’ve had on that compared to the impact she’s had, it’s been unbelievable. Everywhere I go I hear I got this, people come up to me, I mean, have adults come up to me crying because they have seen the video and they know somebody that has Down syndrome or — it’s been, the impact that it’s had on other people has been tremendous. So to be part of that is amazing. I had a kid come up to me in Maui this year after Saturday, I was going through the autograph line signing autographs talking to some kids and a kid came up to me and said, Hey, I want to let you know I have special needs and I saw the video that you did with Amy and it makes me believe that I can be a normal kid. I got emotional there. That’s what it’s all about. He says normal kid. What’s normal? Happy, loving, caring, I mean, that’s what we all need to be.

Q. What was it like today on 16, the presentation, everyone cheering for her, a standing O, all that? What was that like to see?
GARY WOODLAND: Nervous. I asked Amy when we were walking in if she was nervous and she said, No, I’m excited. And I said, Well, I’m nervous. There were a lot of people in there. The energy was amazing. Seeing everyone put those shirts on is so cool. Obviously, the Thunderbirds giving Amy and her foundation the 25,000 is awesome. They will do amazing things with it, and it’s cool to see that and share that with her again. Obviously, we had a great day last year, but to continue that relationship, to be there today, to see everybody else involved, it’s one thing for us who have a relationship together, but everybody else you feel like you know her and that’s what it’s all about. That’s so cool. And I was very glad that she was there today and I got to be there.

Q. For a lot of players it’s the first time being out since the like the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. How is it affecting everybody just this first time being back?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it’s been, for me personally, it’s been an emotional week. I was playing on the golf course here in a practice round on Sunday when I got the news and you wanted to believe it was fake. And as a father, you know, Kobe’s basketball stats and everything he did on the basketball court, I think speak for themselves. You can look that up. His impact there will live on forever. But for me personally, when I think of Kobe now I think of the images of him with his daughter, with Gigi, on the basketball court, talking to her, getting back into the game because of her and the love she had for it. As a father now, I mean, that’s been very emotional for me. I’ve obviously, I’ve looked up to Kobe my whole life. I grew up in that generation with him dominating, so I’ve always wanted to be him, the way he worked on the basketball court, I wanted his work ethic. You talked to people with the Mamba mentality, that’s what we all strive for as athletes out here. For me personally, looking at him the last couple years I want to be like him as a father. I want to be able to spend time with my kids. I brought my kid out yesterday. My kid’s two and a half. That’s the first time he’s walked with me on a golf course. He came out during the practice round. Because with Kobe being taken away you don’t know how much time we have and I want to be able to share more time with my son now, when my daughters get older. But I brought him out yesterday because of that and let him experience being out and spending time with him. And the impact he’s had, you look, he shut the world down for a day. It’s the people, the stories, and it’s, he’s one of those guys where I never met him, but I feel like I knew him. And that’s the impact I think that Amy’s had as well. People, even if you don’t know her, you felt like you know her. And that’s, it takes a special person for that and he was definitely that.

Q. I was going to ask you about the U.S. Open and how it maybe has changed your life, but I have the feeling it’s not as big a life-changer as the week with Amy last year for you. Can you talk about those two things?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, the impact of the U.S. Open was cool from a personal standpoint. Obviously, it gives me a lot of confidence. I show up to golf tournaments, now I know I’m a major champion, I know I can beat the best players in the world any given week, so that’s special. From an impact that Amy’s had on me, that’s changed me in everyday life, being a positive attitude, loving people, staying in the moment. And that’s, that will help you on and off the golf course anywhere you go. That’s the way I try to live right now. I’m trying to instill that in my kids and my family and that’s because spending time with her.

Q. How do you describe 16 to people? And what’s the funniest thing that’s ever been said about you out there?
GARY WOODLAND: I don’t know if you can describe 16. Today it’s a Wednesday and there’s 10,000 people in there. I mean, sometimes we don’t see 10,000 people during a day out on a golf tournament. This is a Wednesday. It’s as close to a sporting event and an arena as we’re ever going to get. It seems like it grows every year. They’ve got the suites now down by the tee level, which might be a little interesting Friday afternoon and Saturday. But it’s the adrenaline. I mean, I was hitting it pretty short all day today, not much adrenaline. I get in there and I hit it 15 yards farther than I was expecting, all because of the adrenaline of the people around there. When I was a rookie they were chanting my girlfriend — my wife’s name now, my girlfriend’s name at the time, they were chanting that. The guys right there from, I think they’re from Minnesota, they Google everybody and they all have lines, and they throw out some random stuff. They chanted 16th hole virgin the very first time I played the time. So you never know what you’re going to hear in there. I’ve got Missouri people yelling at me, KU people cheering for me. It’s, in 2009 when you miss the green, they booed you. Now if you make par, they boo you. You better hit a good shot in there. And it’s one of those where you don’t want to chip. You want to hit a good shot and hopefully make birdie and get out of there. But there’s nothing like it. There’s no adrenaline rush like that when you get in there. When you get in there you can hear it from the other side of the golf course. You can hear it when you tee off on 1, so you try not to think about it, but you can definitely hear it and something you need to look forward to, for sure, going in.

Q. Why has this always been such a good course for you?
GARY WOODLAND: It sets up well for me. Obviously, the par-5s I can get to. Length’s a huge advantage, especially 15’s tough second shot in there. 13, I can take out a lot of the trouble with driver. 3, some guys can’t get to some days and I can. So outside of that, the greens get pretty firm, so you got to drive the golf ball in the fairway. I’m a pretty good driver of the golf ball. And it’s one of those where I got off to a good start a long time ago, and all of a sudden the golf course you start seeing lines, and you have some success and you come back and those memories keep coming back to you. So this is one tournament I look forward to every year.

Q. Couple things, a lot of guys are doing or some guys are doing stuff tributes to Kobe and so forth this week. Just curious if you have any plans for anything?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, I’ll have some stuff on my shoes this weekend. I changed the putter cover. Lakers colors on putter cover this week that a lot of guys are using. They’re from Scotty Cameron. But I think the biggest tribute is try to imitate him in the way to be a father like he was and work hard every day because you never know when it’s taken away from you, so you can’t take any day for granted on and off the golf course.

Q. Just to follow-up: You were getting a little emotional, it looked like just a minute ago. Curious why?
GARY WOODLAND: It’s funny, like I said, I get emotional for somebody that I’ve never met. My wife and I were very emotional when I got home that day. You see him, when I saw Kobe play basketball, and I watched a lot of Kobe playing basketball. I watched, growing up I watched a lot of sports. Like, when I watched Tiger Woods play I used to record his press conferences afterwards because the golf shots are one thing I wanted to hear what he said, I wanted to hear what he was talking about, what he was thinking, and he never let off much, so you had to piece a lot of stuff together. Kobe was the same way and you see Kobe win NBA championships, yeah he was excited, but he always felt like he had to continue to work and continue to get better. When you see him with his children, he looked like he was happy, he was smiling all the time, laughing, when he was coaching her. That’s the love and energy that I want to have and it makes me sad that him and his daughter and seven other people’s lives were taken away way too soon. And I just, I want to be there for my kids and not have to miss anything, because you never know when it’s — I travel a lot, I fly a lot, weekly, and it just makes you a little nervous that something tragic can be taken away so quickly.

Q. Anything that you learned from Tiger from having him as your captain at the Presidents Cup?
GARY WOODLAND: A lot. I was able, I was fortunate enough or he was nice enough to invite me up to spend some time at his house, so I was around him a lot leading up to the Presidents Cup where it was just him and I practicing, hanging out, working out, doing a lot of things together. So his work ethic, the way he thinks about golf course. We talked about golf clubs a little bit, I switched my wedges to the wedges he’s using from spending time with him and seeing why he hits certain shots. But as a captain we were down 4-1 the first day and I was a rookie — I was an old guy on the team but I was a rookie — there were four other rookies, maybe five rookies from the Presidents Cup we were all down a little bit and he comes in laughing, hat backwards, laughing. And we’re all down like, one, we were getting our buts kicked, but, two, we don’t want to let him down and he’s laughing saying, Hey, we’re in the perfect spot. And each day he just continued to do that. We were continuing — obviously we were down every day — but his attitude and his belief is a joke, I mean it really is. Obviously he’s won 82 times and 15 Majors, so he has a lot to rely on. But the way he attacks things, the way he sees golf courses — he was sending me scouting reports of the golf course three weeks before the golf tournament. His mind’s different. A lot like Kobe, he thinks differently. But I had to adjust, I got to work a little bit harder, work on certain things differently when I’m practicing now from what he’s doing, how he recovers, I’ve seen the way he is in the gym, it’s very impressive. And you think you work hard and then you go spend time with the best that’s ever done it, you see why he is where he is.

THE MODERATOR: Gary, you’re used to being asked the questions, but I’m going to Your Honor it the tables on you for a minute and see if we can get you to ask a question. Amy is back here, we would love to have Amy come up and join us for a minute. I think Gary mentioned, talked about picking people’s brains and taking bits and pieces of things. I think he’s got a question he would love to — come sit, take my seat, you’ll probably do a better job than me anyway.

THE MODERATOR: So Gary, anything?

GARY WOODLAND: Amy, did you have fun today?


GARY WOODLAND: You enjoyed all those people out there?


GARY WOODLAND: Well we’re all happy for you and we’re happy that the Thunderbirds gave you that money for your foundation. You’re going to do amazing things good luck in your golf tournament this weekend, first tournament of the year.


GARY WOODLAND: Are you are you going to go out and dominate?


GARY WOODLAND: That’s what I’m talking about. Give me some love. We’re all glad that we met you and we get to spend time with you and we look forward to watching you in the future.

AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yeah. I’m so happy (laughing).

THE MODERATOR: All right, we’ll get a quick picture of you guys together. Amy, do you have a question for Gary?

AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yeah. Gary, when are you going to play golf with me like you said last time?

GARY WOODLAND: Am I going to play golf with you.


GARY WOODLAND: We need to do that. Sooner than later. When I get back in town we’ll play golf together. Is that a deal?


GARY WOODLAND: Okay. It’s a deal.

(Handing gift to Gary.)

GARY WOODLAND: Oh, thank you. You bring gifts. That was nice of you.


GARY WOODLAND: I love it. Divot tool. “I got this.” Come on.


THE MODERATOR: Okay, well, Gary, thank you, Amy, thank you for coming up being a special part of the day and good luck in your tournament.


THE MODERATOR: Are you going to get to come and watch Gary some as well?


THE MODERATOR: Oh, fantastic. Good luck charm.

GARY WOODLAND: Thanks, guys.

January 29, 2020

Scottsdale, Arizona

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports