May 19, 2021
Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
THE MODERATOR: Welcome back to the 2021 PGA Championship at The Ocean Course in Kiawah, South Carolina.
We welcome Garrick Higgo, who is currently ranked No. 5 1 but rising quickly in the official World Rankings. Welcome to your first PGA Championship.
You're only 22 years old, and I would label you as the oddest player in the planet: Two wins in the last month on The European Tour. Let's talk a little bit about your background in the United States, though. You played a little bit of golf at UNLV and played a little high-calibre amateur golf including some here in the State of South Carolina. Maybe talk about that.
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, played add UNLV for a year. Started in spring of 2018. Before that, I came over for U.S. junior, U.S. Am, Sage Valley, but I mean, I did well in the US junior one year. I got to the quarterfinals or semifinals I think. But other than that I love golf out here.
THE MODERATOR: You enjoy getting back to the United States after your victories?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, it's been a while. I think I haven't been back here in 2 1/2 years. Yeah, I'm looking forward to getting going.
Q. Can you just run us through how you came through the South African system? I know you're a junior Presidents Cup team member, etc., but what got you into golf and how did you get here today?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, obviously I started when I was really young like most of us and just played the junior stuff back home, all the Amateur golf. Like I said, earlier I came over here for college and then went back off one year. Turned pro in 2019 on the -- well, on the Big Easy Tour, really, and then got my Sunshine Tour card, won twice, went to Europe for Q-School. Got my Challenge Tour card, and yeah, I won a co-sanctioned European Tour Challenge Tour event which got me on the main tour full-time and obviously I just won the last two.
Q. What you've been able to do is win on every level which is an impressive feat. Are you surprised you made the jump so quick or is this what you were expecting to happen?
GARRICK HIGGO: Obviously I didn't expect it this weekly, but we all believe in ourselves and you have to if you're going to do it this quickly. If someone said to me, you were going to do it, I wouldn't have said no.
Q. Can you take stock of where your game is at this level?
GARRICK HIGGO: Obviously I don't know what to expect. My game is in good shape. I mean, I think I'm just going to learn a lot. Hopefully I'll have a good week. If not, I'll just learn.
Q. I understand Gary Player had a big influence on you and helped in your career. Can you talk about that?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, so I met Gary for the first time when I was nine, I think. They have got -- I think he's got a holiday house on Goose Valley where we live. We moved from Johannesburg to Goose Valley. I was fortunate enough to play nine holes with him when I was nine. My dad passed away when I was nine, and I think his mom passed away when he was a similar age, so we kind of have that connection, as well.
He always sent me letters when I was young, as well, just encouraging me to keep going. And then yeah, all the way through my amateur career when I played U.S. Am at Oakland Hills, he phoned me the night before to say, you know, run through the course and gave me some good tips and even through my pro period, helped me start on the Sunshine Tour. Through all my wins, he's been there, and he's been a tremendous mentor to have.
Q. What about the players? Have they been giving you advice?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, I played with Charl and Louis for the first time. Charl gave me a lot of good tips, how to play shot around the greens here. We talked about his career and how he came through and it was quite similar to what I've done now. Yeah, I just love learning from those guys.
Q. I hear from The European Tour players that one of the most impressive things with you is the putting. It's unbelievable. How do you practice for that and how do you do that?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, that's funny because my putting last year wasn't my strength. My ball-striking has always been pretty consistent, but my short game and putting hasn't been that good, so I knew I had to improve it.
Yeah, it definitely is the best thing in my game at the moment. I changed to the Pro V1x instead of the V. I used to use the V which I enjoyed because it was low-spinning, but I feel like with the x, I get more spin around the green and it's great with putting as well.
With my putting, I've just been working on speed. I feel like I read a lot of break so the day that my speed's off, if I hit them too firm, and obviously I had a lot of other parts and stuff, but now I feel like I'm using the whole hole better which is obviously nice.
Q. So there's always a difference between European Tour, the courses, the mechanics, spectators and all that, and the U.S. but you landing in a major, it's not like you come and adapting to the U.S. So the things you've been doing in Europe the last four weeks, how do you feel they apply here?
GARRICK HIGGO: I think it will be -- I love playing in the wind. I grew up in Stellenbosch, Cape Town where the wind blows every day, so I'm used to that. I'm used to all different kind of grasses, so this isn't unfamiliar.
Obviously it doesn't matter where you play. You still have to beat everyone that plays there and shoot the score. I think if my game is as good as it is, as it's been, I think I could do pretty well, but there's no expectations.
Q. You read okay?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah.
Q. Your first two majors, what perceptions have you had off the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open both?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, obvious --
Q. What came to mind about the differences of them?
GARRICK HIGGO: The differences of the two events?
GARRICK HIGGO: I watched the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. We went there to go watch that. It's unbelievable to be this side of the ropes.
But I mean, it's just going to be a harder test. Obviously the U.S. Opens have been the hardest ones, but this week it feels like a U.S. Open even though I haven't played one. I love a good test and I love when it's challenging.
Q. What were you doing in Philadelphia in 2013?
GARRICK HIGGO: I played the Country Youth Junior, which was at -- I think it was in Quincy, Illinois. So yeah, that's -- I mean, I don't think it's close but then we kind of made a trip of it to go to Philadelphia and watch that.
Q. So that was your first major?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, that was my first major.
Q. Can you talk, as you get older, while players get older, their focus is on the four majors and the rest of them is obviously the every week they are playing. As a young guy, you are still trying to make it out here. Do you feel you still have the same focus those weeks and the rest are just tournament?
GARRICK HIGGO: I think so. I mean, every week, I try to do my best every week which is a bit of a clichÃ©. I haven't played any majors. So I'm just looking forward to playing each week. I don't know where I will -- I'm focussed on Europe, but I mean, if my game keeps going the way it is, we'll see where I get to play.
Q. Can you talk about, you said that you played with Louis and Charl for the first time yesterday. Had you met them before?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, I met them at the Junior Presidents Cup in 2017.
Q. And what was your impression?
GARRICK HIGGO: It was awesome. Obviously we all know they are very chill. Charl gave me lot of advice. We both think of it the same way. He's very aggressive. Yeah, I learned a lot.
Q. I was talking to Trevor Immelman this morning about your time in the Junior Presidents Cup team and he has high hopes that you can make the actual Presidents Cup team next time out because it's proven it from last time that youth can bring a dynamic that they have needed. Is that on your radar?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it would be awesome to play for Trevor. It's obviously still a year away. But I mean, what a story that would be if I played for him in the Junior Presidents Cup. So yeah, I mean -- it would be amazing.
Q. Which I understand that one of your big strengths too, is you are calm under pressure as you are right now in your first interview in a major. Is that your personality or something you work on?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, it's definitely the way I am. I am very chilled. I think I do kind of show a little bit more chill than I actually am inside. But it something that you definitely need and that I've learnt to do under pressure.
Q. So what kind of mental work will you do this week when things get tough?
GARRICK HIGGO: I play my best when I enjoy it. So obviously I'm going to enjoy my first major. So I wouldn't need to work on that.
But just when things go tough, I just kind of try and talk about anything else but golf with my caddie. So we just try and have a good time out there.
THE MODERATOR: Out of your two wins in the last two weeks, which impressed you more or surprised you more, or the fact that you were able to refocus and do it again a couple weeks later?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, it's definitely going to be the second one. Obviously they both were very impressive. After my first one last year, I just started to play poorly. I think it was kind of I was expecting to keep going, so it was awesome to just, you know, keep my foot down. It something that you need to learn how to do that, so yeah.
Q. What you've seen of the course and the way you shape the ball, is Kiawah Island left-handed friendly?
GARRICK HIGGO: I think so. I mean, it's a course that's friendly to anyone that hits it straight. I don't think it's going to suit a lefty or a righty any better.
Q. Is there some shots out there you think that could suit you hitting ball from the other side of the club?
GARRICK HIGGO: Maybe. I haven't given it much thought. Maybe because I shape it -- I think it's always different because I shape it for a righty that hit a fade. If this course suits somebody that fades it as a righty, obviously it will suit me because I draw it. I don't know I just think you need to be creative out there, and that's something I'm good at.
Q. When you talk about how chill you are, have you ever thrown a club?
GARRICK HIGGO: No, actually I haven't. I mean, I've been very angry on the golf course.
Q. How would we know?
GARRICK HIGGO: I'm not going to tell you how. That's a secret.
Q. Who else was on that Junior Presidents Cup team in 2017 on your side?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, I think it was four South Africans, Christo Lamprecht, me, Jayden and Luca Filippi, then we had Karl Vilips, and quite a few other guys.
Q. There's 11 South Africans in the field this week. That's the most they have had in at least probably for a decade or so. Is that kind of a sign of South African golf?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, South African golf is very good. Golf RSA has done a good job in South Africa with their events and bringing us over to Europe, and obviously the guys that decided on their own to come to the U.S. and pursued golf this side, that's a brave move.
I just think all the South Africans love golf and we love winning and we love to compete. So I think that's a strength we all share.
Q. When were you at least either designated or when did you make the decision that you wanted to go to golf full-time, at what age was that?
GARRICK HIGGO: Probably 14. I mean, I had to choose between rugby and cricket and all those sports. When you choose one, you kind of know that this is what you want to do. Obviously I still have to do school and all that stuff.
Q. So the South African association, how did you get involved in that and how did you get to the point where you were travel asking doing all the things that you were doing?
GARRICK HIGGO: Just winning. Winning junior events, winning amateur events, you get better, and then you start to think about coming over to the U.S. Golf RSA takes you to -- if you take the squad, they take you to British Am, Links Trophy and all that stuff. You get exposed. Obviously coaches from the U.S. start to see you and recruit you, yeah.
Q. When did you start traveling outside of South Africa?
GARRICK HIGGO: Probably when I was 13, 13 or 12. Went over to North Berwick in Scotland for the U.S. kids events there. And then when I came to the U.S. for the golf for the first time, probably 13, 14 to Pinehurst, and all those events, and obviously the events get bigger. I went to U.S. Junior and U.S. Am in 2016, yeah.
Q. And did you go to the British Am, too?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, in 2017 and 2018.
Q. So you did the U.S. Am in '16 and the Junior in '17?
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah, I did the -- I did the U.S. junior in 2016 and then in 2017. I missed out -- so I played in the semifinals in the US junior against Matt Wolff and last, which obviously if you get into the finals, you get into the U.S. Am and then I lost in a playoff in the qualifier for the U.S. Am just before that.
Q. Who did you -- did you connect up with any Americans when you were over here that you still know or talk to at all?
GARRICK HIGGO: I mean, Katayama plays on The European Tour. He went to UNLV. I know him. I met Collin a few times when I was over there. Played nine holes with him yesterday. So I mean, we have quite a few guys. But I mean, Kurt is probably the guy I see most from over here.
Q. How old is Kurt?
GARRICK HIGGO: How old is he? 27.
Q. And you didn't play college golf, right?
GARRICK HIGGO: I did for one year.
Q. Was it hard for you because you're kind of starting out as a professional to deal with last year?
GARRICK HIGGO: So I won the Sunshine Tour tour champs just before lockdown. I was going to play a couple invite on The European Tour and obviously COVID hit. And then, I was going to focus on Challenge Tour for that year and then hopefully play a main tour this year.
And then obviously -- I think COVID was a good thing for me because The European Tour had to putt on co-sanction between Challenge and Europe, and I won the Portugal one which is co-sanctioned which gave me full exemption, played the Rolex event, DP.
So I think I learned a lot from those events and kind of that's how I grew so quickly and got confident enough to win again this year. I don't know. I think I've learnt a lot and my game has grown.
Q. The odd thing is those purses aren't that big.
GARRICK HIGGO: Yeah.
Q. Does even at your age and years of appearances which is obviously limited out here, do you even care about what the purses are?
GARRICK HIGGO: No, I don't. It's not big if you -- if you actually convert it to rand, it's not too bad. A win is a win, isn't it. It's what it gets you to; so obviously from my first pro win on the Big Easy Tour, it's changed a lot, so yeah.
THE MODERATOR: So if it wasn't golf, would it have been cricket or rugby for you?
GARRICK HIGGO: I think rugby. Even though I'm definitely not big enough to be a rugby player. Cricket just got a little bit boring. Yeah, I think rugby.
Q. And golf is interesting? Cricket's boring; golf is interesting?
GARRICK HIGGO: Well, you have to field for five hours, it's a bit boring, isn't it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us.
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