I told my caddie yesterday with 27 holes to play I just wanted to play my game and see where it is and not worry about the scoreboard or where I was at. We talked about it before I played today. That was just the mindset I tried to have. I had a two shot lead in Canada (RBC Canadian Open) and shot 39 on the back nine on Sunday and shot 29 there on Saturday. I was disappointed. It was a tough pill to swallow. I told my caddie when we were walking up 18 that day in Canada that we've got to figure out a way to play better with the lead because in my first two wins, I had come from behind. On the Nationwide Tour I shot 62, and in Milwaukee I came from behind. I had to do some soul searching and figure out a way to do better when I'm up front. I just tried to stick to my gameplan and not really worry about the score or what Jeff (Overton) was doing or what anybody else was doing. I was willing to accept the result. I just wanted to stay focused, kind of in my present tense. I was just really pleased with what I did.
I read that at one time you gave up the game for a while.
In college, I was playing pretty well. I was ranked fifth or sixth in the country. I quit the game. I never thought I would play again. I was just burned out. I gave away all my clubs. I didn't even own a golf club for two months. I came back and kind of got the itch, and since then it's been easy to go and compete. I guess I had to give it up to figure out how much I loved it. I have fun playing, and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I get to do what I love to do for a living.
Does it surprise you that you have shot so low in the final rounds at all three of your wins, on the Nationwide Tour and on the PGA TOUR??
I guess it's funny like that because there have been some weeks where I've had a chance to win and I haven't had a good Sunday. But the Sundays I've won, I've shot two 64s and a 62. My caddie and I have been through a lot the last five years. I feel like every experience we've learned something from it and it's made us better going forward. We talked about that after Canada. We talked about it going into today. I just feel real comfortable with him. His name is Mark Chaney. He's one of the best in the business. I'm just lucky to have him on the bag. I tell him all the time I hope he and I get to retire on the same day. He did a great job out there all week. It was just the same all week, whether I was up by two or down by one. We had the same routine and the same pace of what we did that helped us shoot the score that we did today.
You spoke about the long flight and how you wanted to play well.
Last week I didn't play. The week before I played Sea Island (Georgia; the McGladrey Classic). I didn't play horrible, but I missed the cut. I didn't touch a club until I got here. We had a Halloween party for our kids at our house. I was pretty much taking care of all that. I think my mindset was I was going to come over here and I was going to get acclimated to the time, enjoy the experience and make the most of it. If I'm going to be gone for two weeks, I didn't want to just show up, so to speak. It was funny. I got here Tuesday morning, went to the hotel, got showered and cleaned up and came out to the range. My swing felt good. Right after that first warm up Tuesday. I just tried to continue that all week. I had confidence with what I was trying to do with my golf swing.
Was there a moment today when you thought you had the tournament won??
No, we're out there so long and you have a lot of time between shots. I think it's important to try to focus on the right things. I'm not saying I'm perfect. Sometimes my mind will wander a little bit. But then I'll say, OK, I let you think about that for 10 seconds. Now let's get back to the task at hand. I felt like No. 10 was a turning point. Jeff hit a great shot into 9 and made birdie. Probably the only bad club me and my caddie chose all week was hitting a 3-wood off of No. 10 tee and drove it into the bunker. I had a long putt, probably a 60- or 70-foot putt. I had about 4 feet probably, and Jeff had a good birdie look after hitting two good shots. If he makes that and I miss, we're tied. He hit a good putt. I think he just misread it, and he missed that putt and I made mine for par to maintain a two-stroke lead. That was a turning point, for sure. Twelve on in all week, I played pretty well all week, so I felt comfortable on those holes. I just tried to have the mindset I had all week and stay aggressive. You don't get a chance to win very often, and there are a lot of great players in the world trying to do what I do. When you get a chance, you don't want to tap on the brakes. You never know when you're going to get that chance again. I just wanted to stay aggressive.
Back to walking away from the game. Will you elaborate??
I was in college. I was a redshirt sophomore, 20 or 21 at the time. It wasn't in my heart anymore. When I was a kid, nobody had to tell me to go and practice. I guess it's just that weird time in your life in your early 20s. I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to put in the work anymore even though I was travelling and playing with Oklahoma State and I loved all the guys on the team and I loved the coach, I just didn't want to do it anymore. Like I said, I didn't pick up a club for over two months. That May, I got the itch to start playing again. I went in and talked to my coach. I thought I'd have to transfer since I walked away, but he welcomed me back with open arms, and the rest is kind of history.
Did that go through your mind today??
No, that was 15 years ago. So much has happened since then. It was funny; the day I quit, my coach told me this will probably be the best thing I ever do. He didn't understand it. I don't think anybody really understood it. I maybe didn't even understand what I was doing at the time. He told me that day in his car that it would be the best thing I ever did, and I have to say he is probably right.
Can you compare this win with your first TOUR win??
Totally different. Before U.S. Bank, I was going through that period of trying to establish myself as a regular player on TOUR, a guy who could compete, a guy who could win golf tournaments. After I won, it was nice to have that monkey off my back. Every time I would play good, I would come in here and they would ask, Is this the week you're going to win? I didn't realize the weight I was carrying until it was over. I had the best two years of my career the last two years?making the TOUR Championship both years. Even though I haven't won, my consistency in big tournaments is something I've been thankful for and taken a lot of pride in. My coach Mark Wood and I have worked 11 years to get to this point, and Chaney has been on my bag for five. Each year we try to get better. The last two years, even though I haven't won, I've kind of crossed that hurdle, getting to the TOUR Championship was a goal of mine and competing in a couple of majors and having top-10s there. So there's been satisfaction in that even if I haven't won.
You were able to win with a 54-hole lead? Your thoughts after struggling a few time?
I will call on the mindset I had today the next time I get a lead. Now that I've played well with a 54-hole lead, just like I called on the shots I hit in Milwaukee today, I was trying to remember a couple of those shots, or the shots I hit at the Masters when I was playing well. Those experiences are like gold coins you put in your pocket and you try to build on that. My short game, I work with a guy named Phil Rodgers, who used to play on TOUR for a long time. As well as I hit it today, a couple of shots I hit around the green were a couple of shots that Phil taught me. I hit a poor 5-iron on No. 3 and Jeff was in there close for eagle. I had a tough little flop shot. A couple of years ago I probably wouldn't have had that shot in my bag. I just kept telling myself, Make Phil proud. He's been a tremendous help the last couple of years.
What about the course, and does this win give you a spring in your step??
Someone asked me a great question yesterday, did I use every club in my bag. I had to say yes. I literally hit every club in my bag, and it's not that often where you get a golf course where you can do that. To me that's the sign of a great golf course, a great test. If you have to shape it both ways. There's trouble off the tees on both holes. There's trouble by the holes. I thought the golf course held up great. The greens held up all week. The fairways were a little soft, but there wasn't much they could do about that. Today there were som really good pin placements. You had to pick your spots. I've played enough Sundays to kind of know the middle of the green is good, and there are times to go at the pin. As far as a spring in my step, it's good to win. You don't get to do it often. I figured 228 ways how not to do it before I did it the first time. My caddie said on 18, Enjoy this.