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June 27, 2002

Garrett Willis


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: I would like to welcome Garrett Willis. First round, 66 5-under par. Great round today, Garrett. Being from -- living in Knoxville, it's quite a ways down the road but it's got to be nice to play well here this week so far.

GARRETT WILLIS: Yeah. Being from Tennessee, like you said, I really enjoy this tournament. I was looking forward to playing in it last year. Actually played pretty good the first round last year. And I didn't end up making the cut. But something about playing in Tennessee brings out the best in me.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Just talk about a little bit about how your day went. Obviously, like you said, you got to have to a great start with a 5-under par round. Just talk about your day today and how it went.

GARRETT WILLIS: Getting off to a good start was pretty huge for me. I've been playing pretty good but my tendency is to push the issue a little bit and I have a tendency to put a little too much pressure on myself. And actually after I didn't birdie number three, the par-5, I got a little frustrated. But I, no big deal. I was still 2-under, which you wouldn't expect to be 2-under and then generally you would be even par or whatever on the par-5 is so I had a little bit to fall back on and I went into number five and hit my second shot in the bunker and got it up-and-down and made a tap in. Just really got rolling with being 3-under after it was five or six holes.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: 4-under through six.

GARRETT WILLIS: And then playing alongside Justin, I told my caddy, "today he's one of the hottest players on Tour right now." He's been playing well all year. He's won this year. So I was really looking forward to playing with him, to be able to raise my game. As far as top pairs this year, I got paired with Duval earlier this year also and got off to a pretty good start playing with him also. So it was kind of fun.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Okay, we will take some questions now.

Q. Along the theme of playing with somebody to raise your game, if you can, talk a little bit more about that. A playing partner actually, you think feeds -- you feed off of his energy?

GARRETT WILLIS: Yeah, definitely. I've said it a hundred times in the local paper, but my favorite part of the day or of the week, is on Tuesday; to see who I get to play with. I'm the biggest fan of the next guy. And I really enjoy getting some of the big pairs. Like I said, I got a chance to play with Duval earlier this year and getting paired with Justin, knowing that he's one of the better players on the Tour, motivates me and raises my game.

Q. A bunch of scores in the mid-60s today. Is the course playing relatively easy compared to what maybe the way you remember it?

GARRETT WILLIS: Yeah, for some reason I remember it being a little windy year last year but then again I actually shot 61. The golf course is set up receptively to good scores. The par-5s on the front, I'm not sure how they're playing now, but the wind was pretty benign starting out. And you could really attack some of the pins, and to attack the par-5s. And then you get on the backside, you got 16, which is playing a little down, left-to-right. Granted, we had to play it in the rain, which made a big difference, but I think that you're going to see a lot of good scores. If the conditions stay like this, you would have to expect 20-under to win the tournament.

Q. Had some problems this year making some cuts. What has been the thing that you've been working on and trying to do, trying to work around?

GARRETT WILLIS: I've really -- ever since I been playing golf, I turned pro in '96, I pretty much work on the same things all the time: Getting better. I would say in the last two-to-three years I worked on my fitness a little bit more, my health, watching what I eat and cutting back on some of the bad things. But I really been playing well all year long. My scores don't reflect it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to play well because I do work hard at my game. But I feel just as comfortable shooting these scores as I do shooting the three, four or five overs that I've shot this year.

Q. If we could go through your round. We talked about a few holes. Start out with birdies on the first two holes if you could just talk about maybe some yardages and clubs.

GARRETT WILLIS: First hole I hit a pretty good drive. It was first hole was playing a little tough for than I remember and I had 160 yards to the pin. A little bit into the wind. And it's generally a good 8-iron for me. But it was early first hole of the day so I just choked a 7-iron. And just hit it about normal. Didn't try to kill it or anything and had about a 10, 12 footer. Made it for birdie.

Then the next hole played a little aggressive off the tee taking driver. It's normally a 3-wood hole but the wind was into us. Hit sand wedge to about 15 feet. Made it.

Then the other par-5, hit driver up the right side. You kind of have to favor the left to give yourself a good chance to get to the green and pulled it in the left bunker. Had about a 50 foot bunker shot and hit it to a tap in.

Then sixth very next hole I got a pretty good break there. I was aiming down the center of the fairway, I play a little bit of a cut I pulled it and the six on left side of the fairway on six they have got the rough it's got an embankment and my ball hit in the embankment and kicked to the right and I was in the fairway. Which generally would have been dead with the rough out here. Hit a 9-iron to about 20 feet and had a dead straight putt and made that. And at that point Leonard had just gone eagle and stiffed it on that hole tap-in birdie. And here I am trying to stay with him as good as possible and it was just pretty rewarding to be able to make that putt on number six.

16 was pretty pivotal for me because I struggled a little bit with staying patient and my frustrations got the best of me there. It started raining and the other two guys had just hit and it was really coming down pretty good. And I was kind of being -- I was trying to be patient by letting the rain subside and it looked like it was just getting harder, so I was I figured I might as well go ahead and hit it. Didn't take a practice swing, I'm trying to stay under the umbrella and stay dry, my back was getting soaked. And I pulled my tee shot left the only fairway I missed of the day. And I was pretty ticked that I ended up hitting it in the rough. I thought it might have kicked a little right but we couldn't see it land, it was raining pretty good. Then we get up there and we found the ball and no problem. Decent lie. Not too bad. I took a poor line on my layup. I've got seems like a hundred yards right and I take it at the pin and end up laying it up in the rough again. So now I've hit a bad tee shot and followed up with a bad decision by taking too tough of a line. Then I walk up there and I've got 150 yards, 49 yards to the hole. And when I first calculated it we had 167, and for some reason I decided to just to kind of be patient, slow down, knew I had a chance to make par. Recalculate the yardage, looked at that again and came up with 149 yards. So it was pretty big difference. Second time I came up with the yardage. So we really blew the first yardage. And hit it 150 yards out of the rough to the pin into a little bit of a wind. And I had checked the pin placement out when I was going to the par-3 No. 11. I checked the pin -- no, yeah. No. 11. I checked, is 14 right there? Yeah. 14 I remember walking up to, yeah, to 14 I walked over to the right just to check out the pin to see where it was. And I noticed there was no room left. You had all day right. So I said, hit it to the right of the pin, give yourself a 20, 30 footer, we will take par and get out of here. And the ball came out perfect, landed soft and had about a three, four-footer for, had about a three footer at the most for birdie. I hit 7-iron out of the rough.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Must have been nice even though it started raining to get back into your shots and you managed to get one birdie out of it.

GARRETT WILLIS: Yeah, I was definitely looking bogey in the face. Especially with my mindset and my attitude getting a little sour at that point. Getting a birdie there it was unbelievable. And then I followed it up with a great tee shot on 17 and hit it right below the hole gave myself a decent putt to take the lead at six. And just barely misread it. Left it on the low side and parred 18.

Q. Do you have many family and friends down for this?

GARRETT WILLIS: Yeah, with my parents being in Knoxville they drove up, they met my wife in Nashville and drove up. And it's pretty neat, last year Doug Barron hooked us up with a family that lives on the 18th tee, the Caseys, and it really makes it fun being able to stay at their house and to be able to come back the next year. They have two young kids and to be able to kind of hang out with them and be with them it's pretty fun.

Q. What are their names?

GARRETT WILLIS: Chip and Susan Casey.

Q. C A S E Y do you know?

GARRETT WILLIS: C H I P. Chip. Last name. Oh, Casey. Yeah. Yeah. C A S E Y.

Q. Is it just making it, what, you feel like you're more comfortable?

GARRETT WILLIS: It is way more comfortable. As much as we travel we stay at a lot of hotels and we actually, Jennifer, my wife and I we stay at a host housing as regularly as we can, but these are, this family is just very special to us and we really enjoy hanging out with them. So it makes it real comfortable and real easy.

Q. Is it the type of thing you keep in touch with them?

GARRETT WILLIS: Yeah. We keep in touch regularly. We're actually, we're in the midst of planning a vacation with them later this year. But our times aren't working out. Our times or our destination. Don't seem to be working out. They want to go to the Bahamas we wanted to go to the Grand Caymans, so.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Okay. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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