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March 4, 2009

Trevor Immelman

STEVE ETHUN: Good morning, everyone. This is Steve Ethun, director of communications here at Augusta National. First of and foremost, I want to welcome Trevor Immelman, our defending Masters champion. As you all remember, Trevor posted rounds last year of 68, 68, 69 and 75 for an 8-under 280 total. That's to win by three strokes over Mr. Tiger Woods.
Along the way, he set a scoring record. He played the par 4s at 10-under par for the week. He also joined nine other Masters champions who posted their first three rounds in the 60s.
Trevor I'll remind you first played in the Masters in 1999 as an amateur. He'll be making his seventh appearance in 2009. All of us here at Augusta National are looking forward to having him back for many years to come.
Trevor, welcome. Thank you for taking the time to be with us today. If you could, please give us an opening comment.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Thanks, Steve. Obviously that gives me chills listening to all those stats you were throwing out there.
For me to be representing Augusta National in the Masters tournament over the last year has been an absolute thrill. Obviously it was an absolute dream come true for me to win the Masters, to have that be my first major victory. It really was an incredible week for my family and I.
Obviously, I'm really just looking forward to getting back to the tournament, getting back on the ground at Augusta National, enjoying everything that comes along with being defending champion.
STEVE ETHUN: Thank you, Trevor. We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.

Q. How many times do you look back to those glorious four days? And when you do, what comes to mind most?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, you know, I think of it every now and then. I mean, I'm the type of person who's rather trying to focus on what I've got going on at this particular point.
But obviously I've been fortunate enough to be able to reminisce with a lot of people about that week. When I think back about that week, there are so many incredible memories that flow back, from arriving there on the Sunday, getting set up in our house, going to the course, registering, doing all our practice rounds. The whole week really just flowed so nicely. I was really just wanting to go there and enjoy the week and enjoy being back on the grounds of Augusta National.
For a professional athlete, a professional golfer, to have the opportunity to play at Augusta National was such a thrill. I really just wanted to take all that in and enjoy being back there.
As the week progressed, obviously my game starting falling together. There's a lot of great memories. Every now and then I think back to it. If someone asks me a question about it, I think back to it. It's a lot of fun. It's obviously something that at this point has been the defining moment of my career, something that I will never forget.

Q. How are appropriations coming along for the champions' dinner? Do you feel as much pressure seeing all the greats that you're going to meet for the first times a much as you will defending the championship?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, I mean, we're getting pretty close. It's my goal to have a distinct South African feel and flavor to the evening. We are in the process of putting together a few options that are distinctly South African. That is my goal, just to have something that has that South African feel, culture to it.
It's not going to be anything too crazy to where people aren't going to want to try it. It's going to be some pretty simple stuff.
I'm looking forward to it. I think that evening will probably end up being the highlight of the week for me. To be able to rub shoulders with such great champions and be a part of such a great fraternity of champions is going to be an incredible moment for me. That's something I've always dreamt of.
Mr. Player has always told me great stories about spending time in the champions' locker room. I'm really excited to be a part of that. That's going to be an awesome evening.

Q. You've obviously seen the green jacket presentations. Now you've been a part of it. From your experience, what is it about that jacket that has such a mystique? Where have you been seen with it in the last 11 months or so?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, it's incredible that a garment - no disrespect by using that word - but it's incredible that a piece of clothing has such tremendous history and mystique to it.
When I have traveled with the green jacket in the last year, taken it to places like China and Japan, the way you are received, because you're wearing the green jacket, really is special. I mean, people have the utmost respect for the history of Augusta National, the history of Masters tournament, everything that Cliff Robertson, Bobby Jones set out to make it.
It really to me always strikes me how people are so respectful of the green jacket and are in such awe of basically just being in its presence.
Obviously for me, I'm a humble guy from South Africa. To be wearing the green jacket in front of people who really appreciate it like that is something that is truly special. Those are moments that I'll be able to take with me for the rest of my life. I mean, I've had some absolutely unbelievable experiences over the last year. It really has been great.
It's amazing. Even when friends and family come over to the house, ask to see it, see the trophy and the green jacket, I mean, it's incredible how a piece of clothing has touched people and their lives in so many different ways. It's pretty cool stuff.

Q. Not to put any pressure on you, but give me your best experience with the jacket.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, there's been so many. But one story I'll never forget is I played a tournament in China towards the end of last year. We went from China to Japan to go play a tournament there. I will never forget landing in Japan. I wasn't wearing the jacket, obviously, but I had it in a suit bag that I was carrying with me obviously onboard.
When we deplaned and walked down to the baggage reclaim area, my caddie and I, I was recognized by some golf fans in Japan.
When these guys realized it was me, then realized that I was carrying the green jacket with me, I mean these guys started crying. They were so in awe of the fact that they were in the presence of the green jacket. To me, it was so humbling and it was so cool because these guys really respected Augusta National, they respected the Masters, everything it stood for, all the great champions that have been there. These guys were just so happy to be able to be standing next to the green jacket. I really was something quite cool.
I think my caddie and I at the time were like, Wow, this is out of the ordinary. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the mystique that goes along and the history that goes along with Augusta National is just something that not many sports have.
That was a cool feeling and something nice to be a part of.

Q. Last year when you went into Augusta National, there were obviously no expectations from anybody about you. You didn't seem to have many either, not having played all that well leading in. What aspect of your game kicked in that was the most important part of your victory?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, first of all, when I look back at my career, I've never really started a season off well. So having a slow start to the season is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to me.
Last season was something different in the fact that I went through all that surgery in December. Took me a long time to get over that mentally and physically. When I started back on the tour, I was probably a few weeks away from being ready anyway. But, you know, I wanted to get out there and try to get some competitive practice really to be ready for the Masters.
In the weeks leading up to the Masters, I played a lot. I mean, I played almost every week. I missed the cut a few times. I was having some weekends off. But I played every week because I just knew that I had to try and get something going.
I was seeing some improvements. One week I would drive the ball really well, then the next week I would putt really well, then the next week I would hit my irons really well. But in the weeks leading up to, one week I shot 63 or 64 in one of the rounds in Bay Hill, I had a couple other nice rounds in the 60, but I never put it all together really once. I thought it was there and thereabouts.
But, as you say, when you go into the Masters, rightly so, you're going to get the same guys that are getting all the attention. Obviously Tiger has won there four times, Phil has won there twice. You have so many great champions that seem to always go back to Augusta and play well no matter how old they are. You think of Fred Couples, Olazabal, all those guys. You see a lot of the same names on the leaderboard at Augusta National year after year purely just because they really know how to play that golf course.
Obviously, I wasn't getting much attention. But I felt like my game was coming together nicely. I needed to find some momentum somehow.
Fortunately for me I got off to a nice start on that Thursday morning and shot a couple under the front nine. Just sort of kept going with it from there. As the week progressed, I started believing in myself more and more. I really got into the swing of things, ended up winning the tournament by three shots.

Q. It seemed like you went in with a game plan. You were going to play the par 5s in a particular way. That worked out for you. Do you think you're going to follow the same approach this year or will it depend on conditions?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, you know, what was interesting last year is that I had a game plan set up because of the way my bag was set up. What I mean by that is last year when I was playing in the tournament, I was carrying four wedges and no 3-iron. That is why I had a particular strategy of having to have a certain distance, having to have a 4-iron or less into the greens on a par 5 to go for it, because I didn't feel comfortable hitting a wood into some of those par 5s. I didn't feel like I could control the wood well enough to be able to take advantage of going for the green.
Because of the way my bag was set up, the 4-iron was my limit. Then I had the extra wedge in. I decided I was going to try to make a score that way.
This year my bag is set up a little bit differently. I've already been to Augusta National and played a couple rounds trying to figure out how I could try and go about it this year.
You obviously form your strategy around your strengths and your weaknesses. That's what I did last year. That worked out for me. You know, that's not out of the ordinary. You do that every week. Every week you play the golf course, you decide, Is it a 5-wood? Is it a 2-iron? Is it an extra wedge? Is it a 64-degree wedge in some guy's cases? Every week you form some sort of strategy, then fill your bag accordingly.

Q. I spoke with Zach Johnson last year, about how his life changed at least professionally in the months afterwards, after winning. Is there anything either professionally or otherwise that's kind of changed in your life over the last 10 or so months?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, at home nothing ever changes. At home I have a total different list of priorities. I'm far more interested in making sure I'm a great father and a great husband, trying to work on those things, have those things in the forefront of my mind.
But, you know, professionally obviously winning such a huge tournament, a lot more recognition comes with that. What I've had to get used to was being able to set my schedule accordingly, build in time for things like we're doing today, media wanting to speak to me a little more regularly at tournaments, having to stop for fans more regularly to take photos and sign autographs and memorabilia, stuff of the like.
So it's really just been little things like that. You've just got to budget a little bit of extra time in when you're at the tournament to be able to do things like that.
Initially that was a difference because I wasn't used to all that kind of thing. I wasn't accustomed to it. But as you get used to that and you realize what an honor it is to be able to have people really want you to sign a Masters slag or a Masters card, something like that, some different memorabilia, it's a tremendous honor.
Once you work your way through that, you kind of form a new routine. So that just took me a little while to get used to.

Q. You also talked about going back to Augusta National within the last few weeks. Was there any moment you were walking down a fairway and you flashed back to Sunday of last year, a goosebump moment, as it were?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, the whole weekend was like that. I mean, from arriving at the gates, being welcomed by the security guards, walking into the clubhouse, speaking to all the staff, reminiscing with all the staff. I mean, the whole weekend was just absolutely goosebump stuff. From walking into the clubhouse and seeing the trophy with my name on it, seeing my picture on the Wall of Champions, you know, all that kind of stuff was just surreal really.
I think anytime any golfer plays Augusta National, has the opportunity to play Augusta National, every hole you reminisce. But in my case not just about what I've -- shots that I've hit there, and in particular last year, but all the shots you've seen on TV over the years. Nicklaus holing certain putts, Watson holing certain putts, Player holing certain putts, Tiger hitting certain shots, hitting different clubs into par 5s and stuff like that.
That's one of the beauties of Augusta National. Very similar to the Old Course, where there's just so much history behind it, anytime you play there, you have all sorts of memories flooding back.
It really was a great weekend for me. Obviously, to be able to enjoy it with my brother and my caddie and some of the members was really fantastic, something that I'll never forget.

Q. I saw the Nike commercial in the last week with all the fellas and Tiger, all the fun you had while he was away. Obviously the intent of that commercial is to poke fun. But how did they get all you guys to swallow your collective egos and go along with that? Obviously, the message is: Oh, he's back.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, that's a great question. I'm not sure how they did it either.
We were all down in Fort Worth to shoot a bunch of different spots, some that you'll see in the coming weeks and months, do a bunch of print ads for Nike. We were all down there at once doing a whole host of different things.
The way they sold it to us was that they wanted to really acknowledge the great season that Nike golf had had, the five or six guys that had won on TOUR, and also find a way to involve Tiger and welcome him back from his long injury.
I mean, obviously everybody who has any involvement in the game, whether it be through course design or media or players or sponsors, everybody wants him to come back, everybody needs him to come back and play well. He's the most visible athlete on earth.
They were just trying to find a way to put all that together and have some sort of a humorous tongue-in-cheek spin on it. That was what they came up with.
We had a great time shooting it. It was nice to be in the company of friends and competitors in a real relaxed environment. I mean, it was after the season was over. We were all down at Colonial just having a good time together. That's hopefully how it came across.

Q. There's been a lot of discussion the last two years about Augusta, whether it's kind of gotten too tough, whether it's a by-product of the weather. Obviously you had to kind of tough out that final round under some pretty exacting conditions. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the golf course; how close, if at all, it is to the edge; if a line has been crossed and some of the thrill has been gone. Doesn't look like anybody is going to be shooting 65 on Sunday there anymore.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: It's an interesting point because obviously we all know the golf course has been made tougher. We obviously all know that equipment has improved.
I read articles after the Masters about the fact that the fun is gone from the tournament, when I sat back and took in all the information, I was a little bit disappointed and interested at how the media came up with that conclusion. Because when you look at the fact that after three rounds, you know, I was 11-under par. Brandt Snedeker was 9-under par. I'm not a hundred percent sure, you guys will have to check, but there were probably seven or eight guys under par after three rounds at a major championship.
Maybe you can tell me how often that happens. That doesn't happen too often at too many majors, where the leader is 11-under after three days. Pretty difficult weather came in on the Sunday. We had gusts into the mid 30s. When you're playing a golf course like Augusta National, the beauty of Augusta National, its defense is that you really need to be accurate and you need to really control the distance and the trajectory of your golf ball.
When that's a golf course's defense, then a 30-mile-an-hour wind is thrown into the equation, it becomes extremely difficult for golfers. Once that breeze came up, you know, things became very difficult for the players on that Sunday.
But that's the beauty of major championship golf. It shows the intricacies in design of Augusta National and the beauty behind Augusta National. It just shows that in a sense, from a course design point of view, I mean, it's just such an ingenious design because after three rounds, to shoot 75 on the last day and still manage to win the tournament, that's how much the course changed in one day.

Q. Along those lines, the last two Masters winners, Zach Johnson and yourself, would never be regarded as the longest hitters out there. Does that speak to the glory of Augusta, especially in light of the changes the last few years, the lengthening, that guys like yourself have won there?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I think, once again, I just think that guys are looking at the last couple years and saying, Oh, well, all of a sudden with the changes, we're getting guys who are shorter hitters, thought of as shorter hitters, winning the tournament.
But if you look back at the history of the tournament, Olazabal has won there twice. I wouldn't say he was regarded as a long hitter. Ben Crenshaw won twice. I wouldn't think he's regarded as a long hitter. Gary Player wasn't regarded as a longer hitter. He won there three times.
In a lot of cases, people don't look far enough down the history books to get an accurate reflection of what style of player can win at Augusta National. So I think everybody's entitled to their own opinion. But when I look at it, I see in it a slightly different manner to what some people may see it.

Q. When they did lengthen it a lot of people were afraid it was going to be just won by the really long hitters. Do you think the lengthening has kept that landscape, like you said, whether short hitters like Olazabal, Crenshaw, Johnson, do you think what they've done is keep those guys in the game?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I don't really know how to answer that question. I think at the end of the day, the golf course is out there, and every professional athlete who gets into the tournament, every professional player who gets into the tournament, is going to have to find a way to unlock success on that golf course. I mean, that happens every week to us.
I don't really know how to answer your question, to tell you whether it suits a long hitter or a short hitter. Tiger loves the way it plays. Mickelson loves the way it plays.

Q. You mentioned earlier about having taken a visit to Augusta. Can you tell us when that was and what was it like in terms of the conditions? Is it anything like what you expect in April or you cannot gather much from a visit at that time of year?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, it was about a month ago. Conditions were fantastic for that particular weekend. We had weather in the low 70s with probably about 10-mile-an-hour winds. It was conditions that were similar to tournament time. The golf course was, as usual, in incredible shape. So I got a lot out of it. I got a lot out of it from an emotional standpoint and also from having another look at the golf course, seeing how it was playing.
The greens were pretty fast, quite close to tournament conditions. So it was a great practice round from my standpoint.

Q. You also referred to it sort of being an emotional visit. I take it this was the first time back since the Sunday of your victory.

Q. Are you surprised you were emotional about it? Did it hit you a little bit more than you might have thought?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, my first trip back. No, I wasn't surprised. I mean, I'm a pretty emotional person as it is. So I fully expected it. That was one of the reasons that I wanted to go. I wanted to get back there and try and take it all in and try and deal with some of the thoughts that would go through my mind.
You know, it was everything I expected it to be. It was a fantastic weekend.

Q. I wanted to ask you a little bit about your knowledge and appreciation of golf history. I came across you in 2005 when you were watching Jack Nicklaus' last hole at Augusta in the lounge off the players locker room. You seemed kind of awestruck at that time. You speak today about the history of Augusta. Growing up, how did you get introduced to the history of the game and how did that become so important to you?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I think in my case I started playing golf at the age of five. I learnt from watching my brother and playing with my brother, who is nine years older than me. Him and I just used to watch all the coverage that would come on from the European Tour, the PGA TOUR, the major championships. Pretty much everything that was televised and sent down to South Africa, we watched. That's how we got into the players who were dominating the game at that point in the '80s. We started learning about the history of the game.
Then, you know, obviously just the more and more I fell in love with the game of golf, the more I started reading players' autobiographies, reading different instructional books, books about the great players that really put this game on the map, be they amateur or professional. So that's kind of how I got into it.
It's not just with golf. It's with all sports. I follow the history. I enjoy being a fan, being a part of that sport. Sports is just something that I think the world thrives on and people enjoy being a part of. It's something that I really enjoy studying and trying to understand.

Q. Can you describe a little bit your relationship with Gary Player. You talked about the start of that. I'm curious how that's evolved over the years, maybe what he's meant to you. Also in the last year since you won the Masters, how much have you talked to Mr. Player, kind of advised you on the life of a Masters champion, I guess.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, I first met Mr. Player when he came down and did an exhibition at my home golf course in Cape Town. I was five years old at the time. Obviously knew about him. Obviously, in South Africa he's the most famous person in the history of our country. So I was well-aware of him. Everybody was in awe of having him in our little town and at our golf course.
I'll never, ever forget the day, we were huddled around the practice tee. I was hitting shots for him. He was hitting me 5-woods out of a divot. I think it was the most impressive thing I've ever seen.
Then he designed a golf course in our town eight or nine years later. I got to play with him at the opening of the golf course. You know, from that moment on, I think he saw the dedication I had for the game, the respect I had for the game. I think he saw a little bit of himself in me.
From that moment on, he kept in touch with me regularly, wrote me letters, gave me encouragement. Obviously then when I started in '99, when I qualified to play in the Masters as an amateur, we played a practice round together. Every year since then we've done that. I think that's how the relationship evolved.
Obviously I was part of two Presidents Cup teams where he was the captain, got to spend some valuable time with him on those weeks. I'm in touch with him probably every five or six weeks one way or another.
He's an incredible ambassador for our country and for golf. He's a great guy to be able to have a direct communication with. I mean, I've never met anybody who has as much constant enthusiasm for life as he does.
It's been a real blessing for me to be able to have access to him whenever I need it. It's something I'm very thankful for.

Q. Can you amplify a bit on how your preparations for this year's Masters are going to differ from last year. You played more tournaments because of follow-up from the surgery.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Sure. I played a lot in the off-season. Obviously playing the whole FedExCup playoff series, then going to China, Japan, going to South Africa and played a couple times. I played the PGA Grand Slam. So I had a very busy off-season. I kicked off the season the first week of January in Hawaii, and then I went to Abu Dhabi. I played a lot of golf finishing off the season. I decided I needed to try and schedule some downtime after that. So I took four weeks away from the game here in Orlando, really just spending some time with my family, recharging, if you will.
I've played the last couple weeks, not too successfully, but definitely nothing I'm panicking about. I've made a few changes in my off-season, things that I'd like to work on. My game is feeling great in practice, but I haven't quite found a way to take it to the tournament yet.
All those preparations are coming along nicely. I'm looking forward to a nice, extended stretch of golf here on the Florida swing. I'm going to be playing down at Doral, then at the Transitions Championship, then here in Orlando at the Bay Hill Invitational. I'm going to have three events in a row, then a week off before the Masters.
Hopefully by the time the Masters rolls around I'll be fresh as well as had enough competitive golf under my belt to be able to feel confident and ready for the tournament.

Q. Can you tell us anything specific that you're working on in your game?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, growing up down in Cape Town, obviously a very windy environment to learn how to play the game. I think that's one of the reasons all the great champions that have come from South Africa have always been up from the Johannesburg region where the conditions are more favorable. I've always had tendencies in my technique, obviously being a pretty small guy, then growing up learning to play the game in such windy conditions, I've always had some tendencies that have cropped up that I have to fight.
I just try to make some adjustments to be able to work with that and to be able to become a little bit more consistent. I've always believed that if you're not striving to improve, you're going to get left behind. With my team, I'm always trying to find ways to improve my ball striking, improve my short game, improve my mental approach so that, you know, I can just keep improving day to day and shooting lower scores and finding ways to improve as a golfer.

Q. At the risk of throwing a little bit of a shadow over there, there's been so much attention since the summer on Tiger's absence from the TOUR and now his return back, the fact he will be back for his first major at The Masters. I don't think you fear this, but do you think there will be somewhat of an overshadowing of not just you but maybe everything else because of the long wait for him to get back to a major?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, that doesn't faze me in the slightest. Tiger 100% deserves all the attention he gets. In fact, I don't think he gets enough attention. The guy is superhuman in some respects.
The things that he's achieved in such a short career really is fascinating if you break it down and take a close look at it. The game needs him. We need him to be back. We need him to be playing well. We need him to step up back into the leadership role, if you will, of our sport.
So that doesn't affect me in the slightest. I mean, you know, at the end of the day, I can't control what you're going to write or what anybody else in the media is going to write or say. I can't control how Tiger's going to be preparing and how he's going to be playing the week of the tournament. The only things I can worry about is how I prepare and how I get ready to play and take care of my golf ball that week. That's all I can do really.
For me, from there, if I do that, I can go in and compete. I'll at that point be able to accept whatever happens. So I definitely can't waste any energy concerning myself with 'what ifs'. I mean, no athlete has been able to be able to perform at a high level worrying about stuff like that.

Q. Let me swing it around the other way. The fact that you are the last player to win a major that Tiger was in the field, talking about the perception of superhuman, how much satisfaction did you then and do you still take in winning a tournament where he was there?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I mean, a lot of satisfaction. I have tremendous respect for the history of our sport and for the Bobby Joneses, Byron Nelsons, Jack Nicklauses, all those guys that set such tremendous records. Obviously, Tiger is in that conversation. My personal opinion, when it's all said and done, he will be holding every record that we have in our sport.
So for me to be able to have won my first major championship with him in the field and with him finishing second, without a doubt it's a feather in my cap. I think something that was nice for me, when I won my first PGA TOUR event at the Western Open, he finished second as well. So those are just the two occasions out of probably the 150 that we faced off that I managed to beat him.
Those are things that are special to me. Those are things that at the end of my career I'll be able to look back on and tell my kids and grandkids about because I definitely do think that when it's all said and done and Tiger decides to retire from the game, he already has transcended our sport, and I think that he will have set records that will just be unreachable for anybody who comes in future.
I think for us to be playing in his era is something special for us. I mean, I think all of us have been very fortunate to be part of his era. I think he's definitely brought a new buzz to golf.
I have tremendous respect for the guy and tremendous respect for the way in which he conducts his business and conducts himself. I just feel fortunate to be a part of it and obviously have that feather in my cap of, you know, winning the Masters with him playing.

Q. I've noticed your track record in other majors. You had a couple of good Masters. You had a good PGA. You made all your cuts in the British. Doesn't appear you really contended. Before you won last year, was there a major you thought your game was best suited to compete in prior to winning the Masters?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, yeah, you know, I do feel like I'm kind of at the start of my career when it comes to playing in major championships. I do think there is a particular art and skill to competing in majors. I mean, it's very different from regular TOUR events and regular professional golf from a pressure standpoint and course setup, media involvement. I mean, it's a total different animal.
I haven't played in too many majors really. So I kind of felt like I'm starting to find my way, starting to feel my way through it, learn different ways to try and play some good golf on those weeks.
You know, when we played at St. Andrews in 2005, I was only let's say maybe 25 or 26 years old at the time, I finished 15th. I think at that point, in 2005, I had a nice run. I finished fifth in the Masters. I finished 15th at the Open. I finished 17th or 18th at the PGA. I think at that point I started feeling a little bit more comfortable at those big events, started to find my way around them, figure out ways that I could try and fit my game into those events. I definitely think there's a particular art to it.
As far as one that I thought would suit my game, I've always felt like the Open Championship would be where I had my best shot at trying to win one. For what reasons, I'm not too sure. I've just always felt an affinity. Growing up in South Africa, we always had tremendous coverage of the Open Championship and the Masters. So for me growing up as a kid, those are the two events I really had a lot of access to, got to really understand and watch and enjoy on TV. Those are the two events that were always in the forefront of my mind.

Q. This year will be the 10th anniversary of when you competed at Augusta as an amateur in 1999. Did you sit around that week through the whole experience feeling you were going to win this one day or believe that you could, or was it kind of wishful thinking, a little bit of a dream back then?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I think it's always been a dream. When you start playing the game and you learn about it and you show some promise, you know, to win a major championship is every golfer's dream.
But if I was a hundred percent honest with you, I've never been somebody to think that far ahead. When I was competing in '99, I was just worried about playing that week, trying to play well that week, trying to, you know, understand everything that was going on.
I was 18 years old. I'll never forget on the Monday morning walking onto the range, hitting balls next to Tom Watson. I was like totally freaked out by the whole situation really. To be able to walk out and hit balls right next to a guy that I've watched on play on TV a thousand times, somebody that I've had such tremendous respect for, you know, it was a lot for me to digest at that point.
When I was playing that week, I was hardly thinking about winning the tournament in the future. I was just trying to be able to be at that week, at that point.
I think that's pretty much the situation I found myself in.

Q. I know you set the record on the par 4s last year with 10-under par. I believe you only had one bogey on the 1st hole on Sunday. Can you put your finger on what aspect of your game led you to that result. I know you drove fairly well, your iron play, or was it putting, or just a combination of all of it?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I think my game -- sort of every part of my game fell together. I definitely did drive the ball well, probably the best I've ever driven the ball. To be honest with you, I haven't driven the ball that well since.
But the beauty was that that week I was really hitting the ball long and straight. If you look at the stats, I was right up there in the top 10 on driving distance as well. So at that point I was able to be a long way down the fairway, a long way down there and in the fairway. What that did was, it just allowed me to be a little bit more aggressive with my iron play.
Obviously from that spot that I was putting myself in the fairway, I was able to hit a lot of greens and then give my putter the opportunity to shine and roll a few putts in.
It really was my whole game just kind of clicking together. I think if you look at the stats, I was second in driving accuracy, I was right up there in distance, I think I was first or second in greens in regulation, and in the top five or six in putting, as well. So it really was, you know, kind of everything was just kind of clicking together. I was hitting the fairways and I was hitting the greens and I was giving my putter an opportunity. That played its part by making a few putts. I just kind of think it was one of those weeks to where everything fell in place.

Q. We were talking to Ernie here at the Honda. He mentioned he stayed in Augusta on Saturday after missing the cut. I don't know if he left you a voice mail or sent you an e-mail saying he saw you and thought your swing was the best of anyone in the field. What kind of support have you gotten from guys like Ernie and Retief and the other South African players?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, that's a hundred percent true. Obviously, and rightly so, a lot of people have focused on the fact Mr. Player called me and left voice messages for me. But, as Ernie did say, he stayed in town because he was playing down at Hilton Head the next week. He actually called me on the Saturday night and I spoke to him for probably 10 or 15 minutes on the Saturday night. He told me that he had watched the whole day's coverage, that he was really proud of me. He just wanted to let me know that he had watched everybody, and he thought that I was playing the best golf of everybody.
He just wanted to let me know that he felt that sometimes during his career, when you're in the heat of the battle, you don't always know what the other players are doing. He just wanted to let me know that I was playing the best golf, that I deserved to be on top of the leaderboard, that I needed to just go out there on Sunday and do the same thing and I would be fine.
He just wanted to let me know that there would be a lot of thoughts running through my mind on Sunday, but I just had to go and play, knowing that I was playing the best golf.
That meant a lot to me. I first watched Ernie play when I was a young kid when he came and competed as an amateur golfer in my hometown. I've always had tremendous respect for him. He really took me under his wing when I was a young junior and showed me the ropes here in the States. Someone I've got a tremendous amount of respect for.
For him to take the time, he called me on the Saturday night, he called me on the Sunday night after I won and he spoke to me. He called me on the Monday morning after I'd had a nice long night and spoke to me. It was fantastic for me.
I remember watching Ernie win his first U.S. Open in '94. I was back in South Africa watching that playoff at like 2, 3 in the morning down in South Africa, just like bawling my eyes out when the guy won his first U.S. Open.
For him to show that kind of respect back to me really was quite surreal. It really was cool. Even another guy, Timmy Clark, he also missed the cut last year at the Masters, and he hung around all weekend. On the Sunday night after I had been part of the chairman's dinner, met with all the members, he came over to our rented house and spent hours with us at the house just having a good time and being a part of the celebration.
Those are things that obviously are memories I'll take with me for a long time.

Q. You mentioned earlier how some of the great champions' return to Augusta, just always seem to play well because of the great feel they have for the place. I wonder if you anticipate having the same kind of distinct comfort level if now on? What exactly was your comfort level with Augusta before last year?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, some of the beauties about Augusta National is the fact that it's the only major that year after year gets played at the same venue. That's the reason why even first-timers who go and play there as a rookie in the tournament, you know the golf course. You know the golf course because you've watched it a million times during the broadcast. You've seen the highlights, you've watched the reruns. That's part of the whole beauty and mystique about the Masters tournament.
That's also the reason why I think you tend to see a lot of the same names cropping up year after year, because guys become very comfortable with the golf course, they know how to play the golf course. They get a little bit more comfortable on the greens. They know how the week is going to unfold.
I think, especially guys who have won there in the past, you go back year after year and you have so many great memories of when you won there.
Now, that doesn't make it any easier to hit the shots. Hitting the shots is still intimidating and difficult. But if you manage to gather some momentum and play well, all those good thoughts just feed your confidence. I think that's just part of the mystique of the Masters tournament.

Q. Have you given think thought to the menu for the champions' dinner?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yes, a lot of thought. We're in the process of finalizing all of that. It's definitely going to have a distinct South African flavor to it. It's going to be some nice simple stuff that hopefully everybody is going to enjoy.

Q. When you're out and about, do people ask actually to try on the green jacket and do you allow them to?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I've tried to really be mindful of where I'm going to be taking the jacket to and only taking it to specific galas and events where it would be appropriate. Like I said earlier, there's such a tremendous amount of respect for the green jacket that I really have had no problem with people coming and looking at it and touching it, on occasion trying it on. I just think that people are in such awe of the green jacket and all the history behind it that I think it's a real nice touch for people to feel like they've been a part of it.
That has definitely happened on occasion, and it's great fun. It's great to see the joy that comes, how people's faces light up when they feel like they're a part of it. It's the same way when I look back at the photos of myself in the Butler Cabin, at the presentation on the putting green after the tournament. The same look I had in my face you see on people's faces when they see the green jacket up close for the first time.
It's really something quite unique.

Q. Along with the excitement and pleasure of winning the Masters, your performances, relatively speaking, in the following three majors were a bit disappointing. Do you think along with that excitement and pleasure, when you look back, there actually was an adverse effect on your game, on you?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I think that's fairly accurate. I think obviously with me winning the Masters, it was just an absolute dream come true. To be fair, I'm not a hundred percent sure that I thought it would happen this early in my life, this early in my career. I've always thought that I would be coming into my prime in my 30s rather than winning a major in my 20s. For some reason, that's what I've always thought.
I think for a guy like me who pays so much tremendous respect to the history of sports, people who have achieved great things in all sorts of different sports, winning gold medals, set records and everything like that, I've always given a lot of respect to people who have achieved those kinds of things.
I think for a little while it was difficult for me to be able to see myself in the same light as a major champion or a grand slam champion. I think that was something that mentally I definitely needed to find a way to digest.
So that, along with the fact when I was going to those big tournaments after winning, deep down I knew that I had what it takes to win one, having just proved it to myself in April. I think at that point, once you know you can do it, I think where I went wrong was I started putting a little bit too much pressure on myself to do it again.
So I think that mentally was the space I found myself in. That was one of the nuances that people who achieve things like that have to overcome. That's another reason why I respect a guy like Tiger Woods so much. Every major championship that comes around, he buckles up and starts another ride. After going through what I went through personally and mentally in the majors after the Masters, that's something I respect him even more for, that he can get up after such a tremendous high and do it all over again.

Q. The kids seem to be making a real mark these days. Do you think this is become they have grown up watching Tiger, absorbing Tiger, and they're kicking doors down quicker because of that, or is just a fluke that it's happened that these very young men appear to be coming through?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: No, I don't think it's a fluke. I definitely think that Tiger has changed the face of golf in the fact that here he came along and he won the Masters in '97 at the age of 21. He has just pretty much -- not pretty much, but he's dominated our sport ever since then, in the late '90s. To think that he's only 33 years old and has won 14 majors is pretty spectacular.
So I definitely think that kids from all over the world -- the beauty of Tiger Woods is that he transcends our sport and affects sportsmen all over the world, in all walks of life. The beauty is that he's been able to be a big enough star that he has been able to reach all over the globe.
You have a kid like Rory from Ireland, Danny Lee from New Zealand, he's been able to reach all over the globe and inspire young kids, show them that it's okay to have big dreams and go ahead and chase them.
I think he's definitely the reason that that has come about. I don't think anybody can discount Sergio Garcia from that aspect either. Sergio and I turned pro at a similar time. His career took off right from the word go. He won that Irish Open I think it was his like fifth or sixth start as a professional golfer. He was another one who turned pro and right away had an impact on golf in Europe and America. Those kinds of things definitely inspire young kids.

Q. On Rory, how feasible is it to imagine a guy pitching up at his first Masters winning it? I think it was your sixth visit when you won. Is that impossible?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, it's definitely not impossible. Fuzzy Zoeller did it in 1979 when he won the Masters in his debut in a playoff. Although Tiger Woods, it wasn't his first Masters because he had played three as an amateur, that was his first Masters as a professional. So those are the two occasions it's been done. It's definitely not impossible.
Rory has tremendous amounts of talent, as he's shown us in the last year or so. So it's not impossible. But there's obviously going to be a lot of pressure on him that week. He's going to be having feelings that he hasn't had before mentally and emotionally. So I think we've only got to wait five or six weeks to find out how he handles it.
But I definitely wouldn't say it's impossible.

Q. Would you guess he'll get there in the end, win a major?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Who am I? Who am I to decide and say what he's gonna do?
The incredible thing about sports is that in every sport as a kid you dream of having an opportunity to win a gold medal or win a Grand Slam or a major. You train, and there's blood, sweat and tears in preparation hoping you get that opportunity.
But all you can do is hope that you're good enough and wait for that opportunity. And when that opportunity arises, you know, that's when you find out firsthand, Have I got what it takes and can I do this?
I unfortunately can't look that deep into guys' souls to find out if they're going to get it done. Do I think that he has all the physical talents? Absolutely. There's a whole host of guys that have the physical talents. But I definitely do think that it takes something.
There's a little bit of an X factor when it comes to doing something great in sports. I think that particular player or athlete finds those things out when that moment arises.
But, like I said, I definitely do think that he has all the physical attributes. I think time will tell to see he's got that little X factor.

Q. In the last two years there's only been one round under 68 in the Masters. Has the course just become too difficult? Because it's so difficult, is it less fun to play and to watch?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Obviously, we all know the golf course has had some changes and it's become a lot longer. In that since on some of the holes you're hitting longer irons in so it does become more difficult than what it was. In the late '90s and early 2000s, that's when golf ball technology and golf club technology really made a huge step. There were a few years there where the equipment was overpowering certain golf courses. Some changes were made to a whole host of different courses. So those are things you have to deal with as an athlete.
But I think we've been in a weather cycle for the last few years where we really have had some pretty difficult and intimidating weather coming in the week of the Masters. Like I touched on earlier, when you have a golf course, Augusta National's defense is the incredible design of the second shots and the green complexes. You really need to be able to control your distances, your trajectories, your spin on the golf ball.
When you have a golf course like that, with rain and wind and heavy conditions, it starts making it extremely difficult. So I think we've been in a little bit of a weather cycle, too, that hasn't lended itself to guys really going low.

Q. After your victory, how much was made to you directly about the time it took that play that last round? A lot was written.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, you know, nothing was really made of it. Like I just said, when you have a golf course that is so fiery and so difficult in 30, 35-mile-an-hour breezes, the best players in the world are going to struggle. As soon as you get two players in a group missing the green or one player hitting it in the water, a player 3-putting or 4-putting or chipping it across the green because of the difficult circumstances, play is going to hold up.
When I think back to the final round, I distinctly remember having probably a 25-minute wait on the 11th tee for the simple fact that the 9th hole was playing extremely difficult, the 10th hole was playing extremely difficult. The 11th hole is a 500-yard par 4 that was straight into the breeze. I would say one in every eight or nine players was hitting it on the green in regulation. So there you've got guys chipping back onto the green. The 12th hole, as we all know, every now and then a player hits it in the water, has to take a drop. The 13th hole, some guys are going for the hole, so they're waiting.
I think when you look at it that way and you start to dissect the information rather than just look at your watch and go, Oh, my word, they're playing in five hours instead of my buddy and I go around in four hours, you start to actually appreciate what the players are going through, you start to appreciate the magnitude of the moment. This is history that's being made here.
I look at it more from that sense rather than thinking, Well, my buddy and I go around in three and a half hours, so why can't these guys do it?
STEVE ETHUN: Trevor, I want to thank you for taking the time again. We really look forward to seeing you here in a few weeks. Best of luck to you in the Masters this year.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Thanks, Steve. I appreciate everybody logging on.

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