What they said: Tom Gillis

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March 02, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: The Honda Classic transcript archive

DAVE SENKO: Tom, 64 today, which ties the course record. Maybe just take us through your day and we'll get some questions.

TOM GILLIS: Well, it started about 4:30 this morning, so it was pretty early about, 2 1/2 hours earlier than I usually get up, or my daughter gets me up, I should say.

It was good. I birdied 3, the par 5 there and got started there. Made another birdie over there on 9. So it was all pretty good. Didn't really have any hiccups on the front nine. And then I made a big par save on 10 from about 25 feet, 20-, 25-footer, somewhere in that range and that really helped. That made me feel good about things. Hit close on 11 and made birdie. Hit close on 13 and 14, made birdie. Parred 15 and 16. 17 I got up-and-down and 18 I kind of 2-putted for birdie.

So yeah, it wasn't a perfect round but it was pretty good.

DAVE SENKO: Looks like 12 1-putts today.

TOM GILLIS: Yeah, the putter was kind of nice, been waiting for that. Kind of a slow West Coast for me. It was nice to see that.

Q. You live here in Jupiter??

TOM GILLIS: I live nine months here and back in Michigan the other three months. I'm a Florida resident.

Q. How many times have you played here, would you say and how much is your experience here helping you??

TOM GILLIS: I think just the surfaces, the bermuda, it's real similar to the course I play right up the road called the Bear's Club. I think just being home for that week and playing; I played a few times. It's getting back and trusting that grain and all that, and the wind. We played in a lot of wind last week. That really helps out.

But I used to play some Gateway Tour events here. Not a ton, I've got maybe 15 rounds in or something like that. But it was as easy as I've ever seen it today. 15 was straight downwind; It was an 8-iron, and I've never seen it like that. So it was kind of nice.

Q. Seems like it's getting a little breezier now. How important is that to putt up a low number early??

TOM GILLIS: I've never led out here after two days, so it was kind of like -- kind of wanted to do that this week. I don't know why.

Earlier in the week, I was like, you know what, I'm going to loosen up on Thursday and Friday; you loosen up on Sunday down the stretch when you have a chance because you're going to go for it, so see what we can do.

Yeah, hope it keeps blowing to be honest with you. (Laughter). It probably will. Traditionally that's what it does down here. Throughout the day it strengthens. I don't think it's supposed to get any more than 13 or 15. But this place, you get into 20-mile-an-hour, gusting up there to 30, this place becomes a whole different beast. It's very, very difficult. But I'm happy.

Q. Safe to say you're kind of a late bloomer, and what's been happening with your game??

TOM GILLIS: I'd say so. I'm your prototypical journeyman. I've been doing it almost 22 years now, played all over the world, 26 countries, played The European Tour, Asia, South Africa. So I think I'm probably my own worst enemy at the end of the day but I'm a lot better than I used to be. I would say, yeah, I'm a late bloomer.

But that's the great thing about this game is you keep yourself somewhat in condition, you can go quite a while. We've got a guy out here, Tom Pernice, who is exempt on both tours and is competitive. Guys like that, they give you a little motivation, because these young guys, they hit it far. Force us to get in the gym, which I don't like much.

Q. How much does a guy like Harrison Frazar winning after being out here for a long time motivate you or give you a sense of what's still possible and possibly ahead of you??

TOM GILLIS: Yeah, I think there's no question, guys that have been out here -- Harrison's situation, he was ready to quit.

Sometimes when you're ready to pack it in -- I've been there. Not out here, but I've been there many times in 22 years, and all of a sudden, boom, that's when things have happened. But it does provide motivation, to answer your question, yes. No question.

Q. When was the last time you thought about packing it in??

TOM GILLIS: Would have been 2006. I played out here 2005. Played Nationwide in 2006. Really didn't adjust very well from -- I played in Europe for five years, and then I played the PGA TOUR in 2003. I was out in 2004 for an injury. Played here in 2005. Didn't keep my card and thought, geez, now I have to go to the Nationwide, and it was a real -- I just never got my head around it. Finished outside the top 100 out there. And then I missed in the TOUR School. So I thought, well, geez, I'm 38 now, what am I going to do.

So I went back to Michigan for a few months, thought it over. Job market wasn't very good. Didn't have a whole lot to offer them to be quite honest with you. So I thought, geez, I'd better turn around and go back out there and see if I have anything left. It happens.

But it's kind of a cool story. I like it because you dig deep and you move forward, and it's a good example to young kids, just never give up and keep believing. Sometimes it's hard to do that in this game, because it seems like the game is built to tear you down to some extent.

Q. Does a player know when he's about to win, or does it sneak up on you??

TOM GILLIS: No, I think the player knows. I think he knows. I mean, my challenges are pretty much between my ears. It's not a talent issue. I can do it all out there. There's not a guy out here -- all my friends know that, the guys that play out here. It's a matter of time for me and just believing it.

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I feel like we are going to start knocking on the door, that's how I feel. And it's strictly a mental state. That's all it is. There's nothing different physical. That's all it is.

Q. Is this your first time as a second round leader??

TOM GILLIS: Well, I don't know if I've led before during the second round, but I know I haven't led after two days at the close of play. But, we'll see what happens. I'm sure somebody -- pretty good field. Somebody is probably going to get past 8. But I'll take it right now.

Q. Have you felt comfortable with your game coming in? The results maybe didn't show it, but coming from the West Coast back to Florida.

TOM GILLIS: It's funny. I was going a lot of just -- I made some changes. That's not usually like me. I play a lot of the same equipment. But on the West Coast, I was doing a lot of changing. I played graphite shafts since 1999 because I've had three wrist surgeries, and I started creating more speed. I got in better shape in the off-season, and then that shaft didn't feel very good. So now I'm out there swinging steel and I was changing grips on the putter and just a lot of stuff going on.

I think I had to come home and just say, all right, we have to clear this thing out and just start over here, go back to the old graphites and maybe not so much time in the gym, don't worry about the speed. And then it just kind of fell into place. I'm still using the steel shafts nine holes in Tuesday, and I hit some awful irons on the front nine.

And I told my coach, I said, "They are in the trunk. Go get the other ones. I can't do it anymore." And I absolutely flushed it the last nine holes. And I thought, this is more like it. So that probably attributes to some of it, just tinkering around a lot, and that can be detrimental in this game.

DAVE SENKO: Thanks, Tom.

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