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?
AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yes.
GARY WOODLAND: You enjoyed all those people out there?
AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yes.
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.
AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yeah.
GARY WOODLAND: Are you are you going to go out and dominate?
AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yes.
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.
AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yeah.
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?
AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yes.
GARY WOODLAND: Okay. It’s a deal.
(Handing gift to Gary.)
GARY WOODLAND: Oh, thank you. You bring gifts. That was nice of you.
AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yeah.
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.
AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Are you going to get to come and watch Gary some as well?
AMY BOCKERSTETTE: Yes.
THE MODERATOR: Oh, fantastic. Good luck charm.
GARY WOODLAND: Thanks, guys.
January 29, 2020
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