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February 26, 2020

Gary Woodland

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Gary Woodland to the interview room. This is your eighth start here at the Honda Classic, highlighted by a runner-up in 2017. Can you just talk about why you're comfortable here?

GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it's a hard golf course, and I think that benefits me. Scores are never going to get too low. Obviously it's a lot weather-depending, but it's one of the most mentally demanding golf courses I think we face all year. There's a lot of shots, especially coming down the back nine, that you just have to step up and hit shots. There's just really no bail-out.

I think that that sets up better for me. It's more of a ball-striking golf course. The greens are amazing right now, obviously they're new and they're perfect, so it should be a good week if the weather holds off.

THE MODERATOR: It's a bit of a home game for you here, being in Delray Beach. Can you just talk about competing in front of your --

GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it's nice. I wish it was a little bit closer. With no traffic, it's 30 minutes, but there's always a little bit of traffic around here. For me now with the family, it's nice to be home, nice to sleep in my own bed, try to get just a little comfortable for the week. But fortunately, I don't have a lot of people down with me this week, which is a good thing. Sometimes at home you can get a little bit of distractions, but should be a little quiet of a week for me, and hopefully focus on some golf and have a great week.

THE MODERATOR: How does it feel to be back in a place you've played well over the years?

GARY WOODLAND: I like coming back here. I think all in all, it's a tough spot in the schedule. Obviously coming off the West Coast and World Golf Championship last week, we've got THE PLAYERS in two weeks, so I think it's tough for a lot of guys. But for me personally, I like the golf course. I like getting to be able to hit some shots, some pressure shots before leading up to THE PLAYERS and the Masters right around the corner. So it's nice for me to get some mental confidence going on a tough golf course and some really tough shots.

I'm looking forward to a really good week.

Q. Obviously you've been in some high-pressure situations in the past, but can you just talk about the nerves over the shots here on the back nine?
GARY WOODLAND: You just have to execute. You have to stick with your routine. It can be, like I said, as mentally demanding of a golf course as we see all year. 15, 17, the tee shot on 6, there's just not a lot of bail-out out there, and when the wind gets blowing and gets swirling, you just have to execute, and it really puts a lot of pressure on your short game, as well. I think this is a great week for me to kind of see where I'm at and see if I need to make any adjustments coming up to THE PLAYERS and some big tournaments coming up.

Q. Tough conditions, having to hit shots under pressure, I'm not going to say this is U.S. Open type conditions, but is there a correlation to playing a U.S. Open, playing well at a U.S. Open, having played this golf course?
GARY WOODLAND: Like I said, I think it's huge for me to come up here early in the year and see where your game is at. The shots on 15 and 17, when that wind gets moving, you really have to hit shots, and if you're bailing out, your short game is really put to the test, you're chipping towards water, you're chipping uphill, downhill. There's really a lot going on. So I think for me, if I can execute that, I know my game is in a good spot. I've been doing the right things, and if not I know what I need to work on before I got to 17 at Sawgrass. There's some other shots that demand the same attention. This golf course really tests you early in the year to see where you're at.

Q. Where do you think your game is?
GARY WOODLAND: Getting a lot better. I played well in Hawai'i, played well at the end of the year last year, and then I had a lull there, which is a little surprising. San Diego and Phoenix are two usually pretty good spots for me, and I missed the cut for the first time in San Diego, which was frustrating, and then I didn't play great in Phoenix. Last week was a better week for me. I struggled down there with the altitude. I like to hit the ball low, so coming here with the wind is usually pretty good for me, and with the altitude, hitting the ball low, I played with Rory, he's hitting it 80 yards by me just by how high he hits it.

Finishing 12th last week, I was okay with how I played, and then getting here, Pete Cowan is here, my coach. I haven't seen Pete since October, so it's been great to work with him the last three days and work with him and tighten some things up. We should be good to go for a pretty good stretch now.

Q. Along those lines, preparing for the Masters, is getting ready for that typically different than getting ready for any other course?
GARY WOODLAND: I don't know about that. Augusta there's obviously a lot of local knowledge. There's a lot of shots you need to hit. A lot of it's distance control. You know, there you have to put yourself obviously on the right side of the pin, but you have to have the height into those holes. You've got to be able to work it both ways. I've worked on a lot of shots the last couple months leading up to hitting the ball both ways. That's something I in the past haven't done a lot of. Pete has changed that the last couple years. I'm starting to hit the ball with my irons both ways, which I think will benefit me at Augusta, and for me personally, Augusta is a golf course that I feel sets up well for me, I just haven't played great there I would say. I'm excited to get back there this year. Coming back with probably more confidence than I ever have in a major championship, being a major winner, I know I can compete. I know my game can withstand that. I know the short game is good enough now, which I don't know if it was in the past. There you can get in some spots that your short game has to bail you out, and I probably haven't done that. I feel like right now I'm in a pretty good spot, and Augusta should be a lot better for me.

Q. Is it primarily short game, like when you think of past rounds there why you haven't --
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, a lot of that is distance control, as well. Like I said, I like to hit the ball low. I think Augusta you need -- with the distance, we're hitting some longer clubs in there than we were seven, eight years ago, you're going to have to get the ball in the air. I switched golf balls after Augusta last year. I switched two weeks before the U.S. Open I believe it was. A lot of that I was hitting balls on the range at Augusta, and I wasn't getting enough spin on the irons, so we made an adjustment from that golf course that's benefitted me. It benefitted me last week in Mexico City, and I think it'll benefit me a ton when I get to Augusta being able to get the ball up in the air and stop it when I need to.

Q. And the last thing about the Masters, what is your prominent memory from that last round or what transpired in that last round?

Q. Yeah.
GARY WOODLAND: I don't usually watch much golf, and I was -- I had my family there. I was flying out Sunday afternoon. I played early that day, and we pushed the flight back. I wanted to watch that.

It was special. Obviously Tiger is a friend of mine. He's been great to me both on and off the golf course, and I wanted to be able to share that. I think we all need to appreciate -- and I think the players do appreciate what Tiger has done for all of us, and that was a part of history. That was special to watch. I was there, I played with him the last two rounds when he won in Japan, when he won 82, so it was a good year for him, but it was cool for us to watch that unfold, and we'll see what happens with him coming up, too.

Q. Is all that forgotten when you tee it up this time around?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, when I'm teeing up against him, I don't -- I could care less. I want to beat his brains in. But if I'm not going to win and he's in contention, I mean, that's something special to watch because that's history. You can always learn something from him. I think now especially where his game is, he's obviously swinging great. But the way he thinks his way around the golf course is phenomenal.

Playing with him in Japan, I didn't play great on the weekend, but watching him maneuver. Hideki was making a charge, to watch him get in the zone and think a little bit, and then spending him with him at the Presidents Cup, practicing and hanging out with him and spending time with him just the two of us, you learn how he works and where his mindset is, and as a captain the players, we got to learn how he gets in and prepares, and that was pretty cool.

It's definitely different, and you see why he's won 82 times.

Q. How does this work in your schedule? Obviously we know coming to a home event for you, going to API and then going to THE PLAYERS, have you had to try to work Honda in now that it's following a WGC and it's two weeks before THE PLAYERS?
GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it's tough. We have a lot of good golf tournaments out here. Obviously the West Coast, it was a tough decision for me not to go back to Pebble after I had just won there, but with Pebble, it's a different golf course in February than it is in June. LA is a golf tournament that I will get back to soon. I haven't played there, but I love the golf course. Mexico City, World Golf Championship, a lot of guys take it off last week, but I think a lot of guys have taken this week off, unfortunately. This is a great golf course and a demanding one, but it's a tough part of the schedule.

Obviously Bay Hill next week has got a great field. They've cranked the three-year exemption up, they've cranked that purse money up. Guys are playing there leading into THE PLAYERS now. Tampa, I've won in Tampa. You've got a World Golf Championship the next week, and then obviously guys do different things to get ready for the Masters.

It's a really hard spot in the schedule for me. I've kind of got to pick and choose. I chose not to play LA and play here. I haven't played Bay Hill since I moved down here. I used to play Bay Hill every year. It's a tough spot in the schedule. Everybody is different. You see some guys -- I think J.T. played last year, he's not playing this year. Guys bounce around and try to figure out what that formula is, and for me personally, like I said, I like coming here and hitting some shots and getting ready to see where me game is coming up to a big stretch.

Q. Coming off the altitude differences in Mexico City last week, it's going to be a little windy here, does that make the transition a little easier to try to get your numbers dialed back in?
GARY WOODLAND: No, I think we're pretty good with the numbers. With the TrackMan and everything we're able to do with technology, and like I said, the golf ball change was huge for me last year. Going into last year in Mexico City, I was playing 10 percent, 15 percent, 18 percent, depending upon what kind of shot I was hitting and what club I was using. Last week I was pretty much 15 percent across the board. I could adjust those numbers back to here pretty quick, and when I come back here and hit balls with TrackMan on Monday, my numbers are where they should be. Last week was a lot easier, and this week will be just the same.

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