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June 5, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Let's get started. We'd like to congratulate William McGirt, 2016, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide champion. Congratulations, Will. Along with that, you get a lot of nice things. You get a three-year exemption at this tournament. You get $1.53 million. You get 500 FEDEX points, you move to No. 11 in the FedExCup rankings, Masters, Tournament of Champions, a lot of things you were just finding out out there. Just give us your thoughts on that.
WILLIAM McGIRT: It will all sink in at some point. I don't know when. I'm just going to have to calm down a little bit.
You know, I'm really looking forward to having a week off and kind of getting prepared for the rest of the year. Get to enjoy this one with my family.
It was a hard day. I never felt comfortable with my golf swing, but putted really, really well. My lag putting was fantastic today. That kind of bailed me out, and the few greens that I missed, I chipped it up there and cleaned it up.
I don't know. After a week or so, maybe it will set in, but it's pretty darn cool feeling right now to get win number one, and for it to be here at the Memorial in front of Mr. Nicklaus, making that putt on the last hole made that pretty darn special.
Q. Just talk about that round a little bit. You made one birdie and 17 pars and a couple more in the playoffs with a couple special up-and-downs. Just reflect on that a little.
WILLIAM McGIRT: You know, from the get-go, I block it right on 1, and I knew I was going to kind of fight it all day. Never felt comfortable on the range, but felt good over the putter. Hit a great lag putt up there on the 1st hole and hit a great lag putt on the 2nd hole. And I kind of knew, even though I kind of had the jitters with the golf swing, I actually felt great over the putter. So that was a huge bonus.
To be honest with you, I can't remember much about today. It went by so fast. Scott Piercy told me in the locker room this morning, he says, hey, slow down. Just everything speeds up. You don't want to get to 10 tee and look up and you're 1 over and feel like you've played three holes and you've played nine. So I tried to consciously slow down my walk. I tried to slow everything down. I tried to slow the golf swing down, but that didn't work too well.
But I put both hands on the steering wheel and just kind of got it in from there.
THE MODERATOR: That was pretty good advice. Obviously, we're just being joined by tournament host and founder, Mr. Jack Nicklaus.
JACK NICKLAUS: Who's hungry? [ Eating banana ].
THE MODERATOR: What I was going to do, while you're chewing that banana, have you think a little bit about your champion here and your impressions of this young man and the finish that he had at this tournament. It was pretty special.
JACK NICKLAUS: I've seen Will play a little bit on television, not really that much, watched him play each week and noticed he's had some good tournaments. He's been close but obviously very close today.
It looked like it could have been Will, could have been Dustin, could have been Jon, could have been Gary. You know, there's a lot of guys that had an opportunity to win this golf tournament today -- or Matt. The guys kept self destructing. And the only two guys who didn't self destruct were Will and Jon. They both came right down the stretch, both playing well, and that's what we ended up with.
From Will's standpoint, he -- as I said out in the presentation, after he said to me, he said, I was struggling with my golf swing all day, but he said, but I managed it, and that's what he did do. He managed it really well. It didn't look like he was struggling quite as bad as he was saying because he was hitting the ball in there reasonably close and put himself in close on every hole and never put himself in trouble. I can't think where you had yourself in trouble or even had to make a save.
WILLIAM McGIRT: 17. Hit it in the front bunker on 17 in regulation. Did a great bunker shot, though.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, on the right side.
WILLIAM McGIRT: Yeah.
JACK NICKLAUS: That's not a hard bunker shot, though. It's not --
WILLIAM McGIRT: Given the conditions and the circumstances.
JACK NICKLAUS: No, but it's a bunker shot you can play.
WILLIAM McGIRT: Exactly.
JACK NICKLAUS: You wouldn't want to be in the left bunker at 18. But Azinger holed it out of that bunker, which was an unbelievable shot.
When you put yourself in a position, you're not going to hit every shot perfect, but even if you put yourself in a position where you're in a manageable position and you can manage your game, and that's what you did all day long. No bogeys in 20 holes that he played today. Only made one birdie at the 5th hole, but it was enough.
I think that the weather probably was a big benefit to you.
WILLIAM McGIRT: Huge. I was not disappointed to see it blowing today.
JACK NICKLAUS: The golf course gave up birdie after birdie after birdie, and then all of a sudden, a little teeth got into it coming down near the end, and you just stayed dead steady right on track and kept on going.
That's what it takes to win golf tournaments. Everybody -- I've won I don't know how many tournaments -- I won half of my golf tournaments watching everyone else self destruct. I didn't win them. They just self destructed, and that's the way you win.
I saw him coming down the stretch. I saw Jon coming down the stretch. The two of them played great. I felt that either one of them could have won, and both of them would have loved to have had their first win. Jon made his mistake at 18, and you played a great shot and a great putt. That's a pretty tough putt to win your first golf tournament. What was it, about 10, 11 feet up the hill?
WILLIAM McGIRT: It was a solid 9 or 10. The good news was it was uphill and it was right edge, hit it all you want.
JACK NICKLAUS: And you did a great job. I was -- I'm always pleased to see a guy win a golf tournament rather than somebody lose it.
Q. William, why did you say the weather delay was huge? I did notice your tie for a second earlier in the season also came on one of those weird weather weeks where there were a lot of delays. Why do you play so well when there are these delays?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Honestly, I have no idea. During the delay today, I just tried to work on some fundamentals up in the locker room. I was talking with Colin Swatton, J. Day's caddie, but after we were finished talking, I went over and tried to go back to some fundamentals.
I could feel that I was stuck, so I went back and did some drills that John and I do to try to help get the right arm more in front of me. Still not completely in front of me, but more in front of me. And went back out and actually hit it worse on the range before the restart. Yeah, it's just funny how that works.
But I just kept telling myself, if you're not comfortable, you can always bail out in the middle of the greens and make pars, but there's times when you're going to have to get more aggressive.
Luckily, the wind kept it from being a shootout at the end, and pars were good enough coming down the stretch.
Q. Will, you've persevered, a pretty long career already, turning pro in 2004 and kind of moving around. I wonder if that's maybe a bit of a microcosm of what we saw today, just maybe the mental strength that you showed in persevering?
WILLIAM McGIRT: I've always been one to kind of keep my head down and do what I do. My wife can tell you that, when I was on mini tours, I would go out and practice hours and hours and hours. My goal was to get to the PGA Tour, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get here. And then once I got out here -- you know, obviously, your first year is keep your card.
But then after that, once I got a taste of what it was like to have a little bit of success, then I just wanted to win. That's what -- over the last couple of years, that's all I've worked towards is what do I have to do to get better? What do I do when I put myself in this position?
And that's the biggest thing. The few times I've been in this position, everything sped up, but I learned what my tendencies were. So I knew starting today I needed to walk as slow as I possibly could all day long. And the same thing on my golf swing, I knew I needed to try to swing as slow as I possibly could. It's just been years and years of practice and getting your nose bloodied and learning from it.
Q. Will, do you think the delay helped you slow down? You kind of had a break and maybe allowed you to relax a little. I don't know.
WILLIAM McGIRT: Not really because I actually felt like, when we got through 12, I actually started kind of finding something. We stood up on 12, and thank goodness I wasn't first to hit on 12. I watched Kuch, and I don't think he was really committed to the shot, and he kind of pulled it left. But he hit 6 iron, and I knew it was plenty of club because Brandon and I were going back and forth.
There were times on that tee box it could have been anything from 4 iron to 7 iron depending on the wind gust, and I got over it and just said, okay, please let it go the right distance. I was aiming at the left edge of the front bunker, and once the wind started pushing it to the right, it didn't look like it was beating it down, and I thought it would be okay. I actually wasn't expecting it to hit as soft as it did. I thought it would kickback about eight or ten feet.
JACK NICKLAUS: It stopped very quickly.
WILLIAM McGIRT: Yeah. And I hit a great putt there. Coming out of the rain delay, I wasn't very comfortable with the putter. I didn't know how much it had rained. I came over and hit a couple of putts over on the practice green but never really got a feel for the speed. Then hit a horrible first putt on 13.
But Gary's putt looked like it was picking up speed as it went in the hole. I was expecting mine to be a little faster, but not so much.
Q. Jack, three straight -- first time three straight playoffs. You're just given away free golf around here, huh?
JACK NICKLAUS: Three straight playoffs as well as three first-time winners, right?
Q. Exactly. Just comment on those.
JACK NICKLAUS: We're just here to spread the wealth around. That's all.
I think that Hideki, he's going to continue to get better. He's won since then. David hasn't won, but he's been close, and he played some good tournaments after that.
Will has played some good tournaments up to this point in time, and I think -- I think now that he's got in his head that he can win, he'll win again. That's obviously the next progression, which he wants and we all would love to see him do.
I felt bad for Jon. Jon also would have been a first-time winner, and Jon is a member down at the Bears Club, my course down in Florida. So I know Jon a little bit, and he's played in a lot of our events and charity events and so forth. So Jon's a good friend.
I'm sitting there watching him come up to 18, and I'm sitting there saying, okay, whoever plays the best. I know both are going to be a first-time winner. It's going to be a great situation for either one of them. I don't want to wish either one of them bad luck. I want the one who plays the best to win. That's what they should do, and that's what it all boils down to.
Will made a great pitch at 18. I was amazed that he did it as close as he got it. Had the wind not been blowing, he couldn't have. It would have been very difficult with the wind blowing to keep it on the top tier. I think it would have gone to the bottom, as did Jon's.
But to the guy who plays the best, he's the one who gets to raise his hand and say that's mine, and that's what you do.
Q. Two things, Will. Are you aware that you don't have to go to qualifying tomorrow?
WILLIAM McGIRT: I was kind of hoping that.
JACK NICKLAUS: That gets him in?
JACK NICKLAUS: Fantastic.
Q. On the first playoff hole, the bunker shot on 18, how difficult that is in that situation to throw it that far back, knowing that if you're too long, you're stuck?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Well, when I walked up and looked, I said, you know, you've got the back stop. You might as well at least try to fly it to the hole, and if it trickles up and comes back, it's good. I probably flew it maybe four or five feet further than I wanted to, but honestly, I was surprised it didn't come back. I thought it would have enough spin to come back and get short of the hole, if not go in.
When I came out of the bunker, it was tracking dead center. But that was -- I told Brandon, I said, we've got it kind of as a safety net. We might as well try to use it because there's no way to play any kind of chunk and run up there.
JACK NICKLAUS: That was a long bunker shot.
WILLIAM McGIRT: I don't want to hit it again.
JACK NICKLAUS: A long bunker shot is really difficult, particularly when you're playing up and dead past the hole, even though you want to hit it past and let it come back. That's a really tough shot.
Q. Am I correct the last tournament you won was nine years ago, Tar Heel Tour, is that correct?
WILLIAM McGIRT: 2007 at Cabarrus Country Club.
Q. Does that feel a long time ago, a lifetime ago?
WILLIAM McGIRT: It feels a lifetime ago, and the first place check was $16,000, and I thought I'd hit it big.
JACK NICKLAUS: You did.
WILLIAM McGIRT: I did for the mini tours. That was the second largest check we had on that tour that year. So, yeah, it seems like it was yesterday, but it seems like it's been a lifetime ago.
Q. Will, along those same lines, that fist pump after the winning putt, is that sort of 12 years of emotion of mini tours and developmental tours and working your way up here on the PGA Tour sort of all letting out at that moment?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Yeah, and one thing I had always told myself, if I ever won a golf tournament, number one, don't cry. And number two, don't make a fool of yourself.
So when I stood over the putt, I told myself, I said, this is what you've dreamed of doing your whole life. You have this opportunity. Hit the best putt you can and see what happens.
And I told Brandon when we got done, I said, you know, surprisingly, I felt no nerves standing over that putt and poured it right in the middle.
Q. Have you cried yet?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Nope. Almost.
JACK NICKLAUS: He's about to.
WILLIAM McGIRT: Almost, when I saw Mac and Sarah after regulation, I almost did. And then when Matt came out, came around and over to me, I almost did then as well. But I held it back.
Q. Will, after the story you told us yesterday about the discussion you had with Tiger back a few years ago, how often were you looking at the leaderboard today --
WILLIAM McGIRT: Every chance I got.
Q. How did that play into your mind as far as your game was concerned?
WILLIAM McGIRT: It was more of just wanting to know where I stood because it's not like every other week, where we have the electronic leaderboards everywhere, and I kind of like it because you don't have to worry about all the stats and stuff that are up everywhere. When you actually see one, you can see scores.
But every couple of holes, I would glance over just to see where I stood. I looked on 11, and I can't remember where I was on 11, maybe a shot back or so, two shots back. I have no idea. But when we got in the van to come in, I pulled it up on my phone, and I said, Oh, Kuch and I are tied for the lead. It's perfect. Let's just see what happens from here.
Fortunately, when we went back out, he had hit it in the fairway bunker on 13, he was just a little too close to the lip, caught the lip and made a 6.
But still at that point you've got guys ahead of you with birdie holes on 14, 15. 16 was accessible, 17 was accessible. I'm sitting here thinking, I'm going to have to make one somewhere. I saw a board on 16 that I still had a one-shot lead.
We were walking down 17, and I heard roars, but I didn't know Jon had made birdie. I didn't know Jon had made birdie until we got to the green.
But, yeah, I mean, after the discussion we've had at Kiawah, I've looked every chance I have.
Q. Just to go back to the six mini tours and 164 starts, was there any point along that journey where you sort of wondered if this would actually ever occur?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Many times. I mean, I wondered for years if I would ever get to the PGA Tour, and then once you get out here, okay, you've played 160 events. Are you ever going to win? You've put yourself in position a couple of times. But I think you have to get your nose bloodied some to learn how to handle it, and I definitely had my nose bloodied a few times.
You know, at Riviera a couple years ago, I was leading going into Sunday. Didn't play bad, but didn't play great. I think I shot 2 over and birdied the 1st hole, and that was my only birdie of the day, but it's not like I played poorly.
I'll never forget, Feherty was standing in the fairway on 9, and I absolutely flagged one, hits hard, bounced over the green on that side hill. I mean, you can't toss it and get it up and down from back there. And I kind of kicked myself for going at that pin, but at the time, I felt like I needed to make something happen.
But it's one of those things that, even once I got here, I didn't really know if I belonged. Finished 141st my rookie year and got my card back at Q school, and I kept it the next year and almost won in Canada, and it was kind of like, okay, you belong out here now.
I've had chances over the last few years. I've really started to believe in what I do and my ability to play this game, and that's been the biggest difference in my game.
Q. Celebration plans?
WILLIAM McGIRT: We're going to go have a couple of milkshakes.
Q. Congrats, Will. On the first playoff hole, when you walked up to your ball in the rough, what were you thinking? It looked like it was absolutely buried.
WILLIAM McGIRT: That's because it was. I looked at Costas, and I said, did you step on this? It was the worst lie all week.
Brandon and I were talking, and we were standing there, gosh, we haven't hit that many shots out of the rough this week. Most of the fairways I missed, I hit it in a fairway bunker. I had no idea what to do with that. It was sitting down so much. I mean, that grass was six, seven inches long right there. But I was still scared. Hey, on the off chance that it does come out screaming, just hack and hope. And I looked at him, and I said, which bunker is better, front center or front left? And he said, center by far.
So that's kind of where I played it. Hit 9 iron as hard as I could, and I said, I almost was thinking 8. And he said, I didn't think you could get 8 up enough. I said, the only thing was hit it out flat and a little hotter and maybe hit in between the bunkers and jump on the green.
Q. So you basically hit your target?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Yeah, that was my miss, was the front bunker.
Q. Will, how hard was it to resist getting in your own way? Meaning trying to make things happen like you tried to do at Riviera and it didn't work?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Not that -- it wasn't that tough, to be honest. I've been in that situation before, and when you start forcing, trying to make things happen, it's only going to come back to bite you. Especially when you don't feel like you have your best golf swing that day. So I just kept -- kind of took what the golf course gave me.
And the one thing that I've learned, I think this was my fourth time playing here, I think. The biggest thing I've learned is where you can and cannot miss it. Most of the week, I missed it in the proper spot and left myself a chance to get it up and down. I mean, that's the whole key around here is you can't go attacking pins.
Like the pin yesterday on 18. I mean, I'm standing out there in the fairway knowing that, if I hit 7 iron and catch any gust at all and it lands on the front, it's coming 30 yards back down the fairway, but I'm thinking 6 could potentially go in that back bunker. And I kind of chickened out in the end, but I knew the right bunker was fine. So I kind of chickened out in the end and fanned it over there and got it up and down.
Q. Will, I know you were asked this yesterday, but can you take us through all of the mini tours that you played back in the day? Or as many as you can remember?
WILLIAM McGIRT: I don't have enough fingers and toes. I told you that yesterday.
Q. You did say that.
WILLIAM McGIRT: The Tar Heel Tour, which became the eGolf Tour, the Hooters Tour, the Carolina Mountain Tour, the All-Star Tour, Carolinas Pro Tour, Gateway Tour. Yeah, I need some more help. Any more? It was a lot. Pretty much for about three years, if somebody was holding a tournament, I was there playing.
I mean, there were times when I would play a mini tour event, finish Saturday or Sunday, drive all the way to a Monday qualifier. If I didn't get in, which I never did, turn around and drive back and play a mini tour event the next day.
Sarah was with me. We went to Boston to try the Monday qualifier for Deutsche Bank. We drove straight back, and I played a mini tour event that week.
Q. Why did you keep doing it?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Because I'm crazy. We're all nuts. We play this game. We chase a little ball around the grass and do it 18 times. We're all nuts.
No, I kept doing it because this was my ultimate dream was to get on the PGA Tour and try to win on the PGA Tour. The other thing was I didn't know what else I was going to do.
Q. That's the obvious one, right? Unless the books are wrong, Will, you've played one major in your career, which was Kiawah. Just your thoughts on the Masters coming up next year and the other ones you're in?
WILLIAM McGIRT: I've got ten months to get ready for it. I can't wait to -- Caroline will be walking by then. I can't wait to have her and Mac caddying the par 3.
I'm sure with the 500-plus text messages I've gotten since I've been sitting here, one of them is going to be from Rob Chapman, and Rob told me a couple years ago he can't wait until I qualify for that tournament so I can come down there and play and he can teach me the golf course. So I'm looking forward to that. I think between Rob and Jeff Knox, hopefully, I can get some inside scoop on that place.
Q. Might want to ask him too [ indicating Jack ]?
WILLIAM McGIRT: I was going to ask him later if he could play a practice round.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for your time. Congratulations on a wonderful tournament for both of you, Will for being the champion and Mr. Nicklaus for hosting a wonderful event again.
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