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July 17, 2006

Trevor Immelman


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Trevor Immelman. Thank you for coming across. You've come off a good streak of form, winning the Western Open and with one or two second places. Will that good form carried over to The Open Championship?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: I sure do hope so. Obviously I'm just so excited to be here. And I just love The Open Championship, it's always a special feeling coming here. So I'm just really looking forward to enjoying the week.

Q. Obviously this Open is so different than basically anything you play in North America. I'm just wondering how many have you played? Do you like links golf? Is it you win a week ago and then what do you have to adapt?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, this is my fifth Open, and I absolutely love playing links golf. I first played well, we've got a couple of links golf courses down in South Africa. I first played the British Amateur Championship in '97, so that was my first introduction to true links golf.

And I just love it because you have to play so many different shots. And even yesterday when I was chipping and putting around some of the greens, you could use every club in your bag. I think that's what makes it so special.

Obviously winning in Chicago was a fantastic feeling. To get my first PGA TOUR win was just a dream come true. And last week I just spent a lot of the week just trying to rest and get ready for this week. I didn't play too much last week, and as I said, came over yesterday and got a bit of practice in, so hopefully I'll be ready by Thursday.

Q. After winning in Chicago, holding off Tiger Woods, what's that like? Were you watching the scoreboard at all knowing he's right there?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I wasn't watching the scoreboard. I don't normally do that. I normally just try to make sure I play as well as I can. But everybody is very well aware of how Tiger is playing because of the crowds, and there's just such a different energy when he's in the hunt and when he's playing well. And obviously he was playing right in front of me. The back nine at Cog Hill you've got a couple reachable par 5s, so the whole field kind of condenses there.

I pretty much saw every shot he hit on the back nine. I saw him rolling putts in for birdies and the crowd was going crazy, and obviously a lot of people in the crowd were telling me he was on a charge. The energy was just incredible.

Q. Are you excited to be here all week, and what's it like to play at home?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: My wife is doing very, very well. We're expecting the end of next week. We went to the doctor right before I came over here and he told me that he saw he didn't see any chance that she was going to have the kid this week. He felt like she was pretty much good to go through the week and through next week to the due date. So we've got a few people with their cell phones on, and they'll let me know if something happens and I'll try to get back.

My wife really wanted me to come over to this tournament. She knows it's my favorite. And so I've been very lucky. She's been very supportive.

Q. If something did happen?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, you know, I haven't totally decided what I plan to do. I don't think it depends what time of day, because you could get a flight back over to Orlando, I think there's a couple of flights going out sort of between 10:00 and 12:00 in the morning. If I could get back in time then maybe I would try, but we really are just taking it day for day.

Q. Can you describe how firm it is out there, and how far is the ball running?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I haven't been on to the golf course yet. I'm going on to the golf course straight after this. But everybody has said that it's really fiery and the ball is running a long way out there. I've heard that the rough is very dry and quite wispy. So we'll see. And with the good weather forecast, it's just going to get firmer and firmer. So I think it's going to be very interesting come the end of the week. You're really going to have to control the trajectory of your ball and make some smart plays out there to make sure the ball doesn't away from you.

Q. Have you heard conflicting advice about what to do about going back? Have you asked other people if they went back for their babies?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: To be honest with you, I haven't really sought too much advice from different players. My wife and I just chatted about what was going on. And we decided, our plan the whole way was to finish Chicago and then have the week off at home, and then we would see the doctor right before I came over here or before my flight was scheduled to leave. And we planned the whole time if the doctor said everything looked good then I would go.

So that's what we did, and the doctor thought that nothing crazy had happened, and he doesn't anticipate at all that anything is going to happen this week. Obviously he doesn't have a crystal ball, but from his experience he doesn't anticipate anything happening this week, and he expects somewhere around next Thursday.

Q. You said you've played in five Opens before this. I'm assuming obviously you never came in having won on the Tour before. Coming in this week, are your expectations different and are your goals or thought process different coming into this?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I think this is my fifth Open, so I've played four before this. I obviously know that I'm playing well. I've been playing well for the last three or four months, so my confidence is good. And like I said earlier, I just love playing links golf, I love playing Open Championships, so I feel good about coming to this week.

I think it's a very tricky situation because we all know that this game is so unpredictable. You really need to stay away from having high expectations because there's only one way from there.

For me, I'm just trying to downplay everything and enjoy my week, and hopefully if I play well then I can get myself in the mix somehow. So that's pretty much my attitude. I'm not coming in here thinking about beating a bunch of players and even winning the trophy. I'm just taking it day by day and just trying to get to know the golf course and play my best. And I know that if I play my best, then I might be around there on Sunday. So that's pretty much how I'm tackling it.

Q. Your first Open, did you come in thinking differently?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Absolutely, because my first Open I had to qualify and that was at Muirfield in 2002 when Ernie won. And maybe Sunday and Monday I actually missed the cut at the Scottish Open in Loch Lomond, drove down and qualified at North Berwick, and I managed to get through this. Absolutely, it was totally different. I was in the last group on Thursday, I teed off after 4:00, and it was an extremely different experience. The guys were collecting the trash on my back nine and taking all the names off the scoreboard and stuff like that. There were a few marshals clapping me up to 18. I was anticipating it being slightly different. Either way, this is such a fantastic Championship and I cherish every moment.

Q. Can you put some perspective on what's happening in golf at the moment? I don't have the exact figures, but there are more non Americans than Americans in the top 20. Can you think of a reason why that is, and do you feel that you are part you, yourself, having just done what you've done, being a part of a new generation, where have you come from? Why is this happening now; can you think of any reason?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: The first part of your question, I wasn't aware of that. I think America has had such a dominant period where the top 10, 15, 20 in the world, we've had guys like Fred Couples and Davis Love and Phil Mickelson and the likes just we've been so used to them being at the top of the game.

Q. Why not now?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Why not now? It's a very interesting question. I don't think I have the answer to that. I think for the rest of us we've been fortunate to be allowed to go and play the European Tour, the PGA TOUR, we've gotten a lot more experience that way. I think there's something crazy like 30 Australians playing on the PGA TOUR. So I think for the rest of us, the opportunities we've been given to go out there and get experience on those major Tours has really allowed us to improve.

And also, you know, in the southern hemisphere, I'm thinking about Australia and South Africa, we have such incredible weather conditions year in and year out. And in South Africa it's so easy to be able to go play golf growing up as a youngster. I think it was only a matter of time before guys from those countries came through a little more and in bigger numbers.

Q. It's partly numerical, there's more people from outside of America than there used to be, hence that's partly why they're having greater success?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yes, that's what I think. The more guys that do it, the more people think, yeah, I can do it. We grew up playing with all those guys, they might have beaten us a few times, they know they can compete with guys like us. That makes them believe in themselves more.

I know the guys from South Africa, they don't always have the funds to get to big tournaments and the more and more they can get the funds to get to these tournaments and play and play well and then get on to the Tour and then get more experience, it just kind of snowballs.

Q. So you were brought on perhaps by Ernie and looking at him and thinking might Charl Schwartzel be thinking, Trevor is four years older than me, he did it last week, there's no reason I can't do it?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: I think that's a hundred percent correct. I grew up watching Ernie and Goose and guys like that. And obviously just admiring what they've done. And I've been watching them since I was five, six years old, when they were playing amateur golf in South Africa and admiring their results. For me, there's no doubt I'm trying to emulate what they've done in the game. Charl and I are similar ages; I might have more experience than him, but I'm sure he believes he can do what I have done, and I know that he can. He's got incredible talent, and I'm sure it won't be long before he wins tournaments, as well.

Q. I'm sure a lot of people have been in touch since the win at the Western. Can you recount a couple of the ones that have meant the most to you?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: I had so many. I didn't realize I had so many friends because right after I turned my phone on, my voice message box cut out at 30, and I had 35 text messages, and when I got home I had 50 e mails, and that was like within two or three hours of sinking that putt. It was just a fantastic feeling. Mr. Player called me, and left a message, as he always does; he leaves a message for me whether I play well or play bad, letting me know what he thinks I need to work on or to congratulate me. So that's fantastic that he's shown that much support for me.

Some of my peers, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Tim Clark, those guys all left messages and said well done. And I really appreciate that. It's because to win your first tournament over there, obviously everybody dreams about getting that PGA TOUR win. We all grew up watching it on TV and hoping to do that. So it was great when those guys took the time out of their schedules to say well done.

Q. There was much talk about you getting a two year exemption on the PGA TOUR because of your participation on the Presidents Cup team. How did you react to that?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: It's been interesting, because exactly as you say, most people think I got a two year exemption from being picked on The Presidents Cup. But they don't seem to realize that I made enough money last year, I made over $700,000 in the 12 events I played, so I actually had my Tour card for the 2006 season, regardless, before I got before I got The Presidents Cup pick.

So at first I didn't pay much attention to it and then when it started getting brought up in the press, it was a little bit frustrating, because I didn't want other players and other fans and other people in the media to think that I had gotten a free pass on to the PGA TOUR. So I tried to go about getting in touch with the right people in the media to just maybe try and set the record straight.

So I think that that has been achieved. That's a relief for me because, as I say, I didn't want especially other players, I didn't want them to think I'd been given a free pass on the Tour, because that shouldn't be allowed.

Q. What was Player's message to you?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Just saying well done and that he's proud of me and that he knew it was a matter of time. He's just such an incredible human being. And the things he's really helped me out, taken me under his wing.

And like I said, a lot of times people only call you when you're playing well or you have won, but the reason you know he's so genuine is the fact that when I play badly he'll leave a message, too, saying don't worry about it, keep going, believe in yourself. And he'll leave those sort of messages.

And for a guy that's that busy and been around the game and been such a great champion to take the time out, that's an incredible feeling when you get those messages.

Q. What is the most constructive criticism you've had from Player across the years?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, you know it's mainly just been technical things, with my short game just making sure I keep my head still when I'm putting, focus on a spot on the ball instead of worrying about watching the ball go to the hole, stuff like that, maybe widening my stance on certain chip shots. So it's mainly been technical things like that.

And also just mental things like believing in yourself and having that positive attitude. I've never met anybody who has, on a daily basis, the enthusiasm for life that he does, even at 70 years old.

I've been very fortunate to do many golf days with him and he is just everybody who's there at the golf day just, they take so much from the energy that he has and from the positive outlook that he has. He has an amazing effect on people, and it's just fantastic to be able to spend some time around him.

Q. When did you first meet Player and why do you think he took such a shine to you?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: I first met him I've got a picture of this, it's the funniest thing you've ever seen. I was five years old and he came to do a exhibition at Somerset West Country Club. It's just the funniest thing. On the first hole we had quite a small ladies' teeing area, and they allowed him to hit balls from off the ladies' tee off the first hole hitting down the fairway. And I think my dad took the photo of Mr. Player, he's on his follow through, and you can see me standing there's probably a hundred people standing behind the tee and I've kind of weaseled my way right up to the front, and I've got no front teeth. I was standing there with just the biggest grin on my face and no front teeth. It's a real funny picture.

That was the first time I met him. And I've got pictures of him, he put me on his shoulders that day and everybody took photos. I've just known him ever since then. He came, he built a golf course had in Somerset West, Erinvale, where I won The Open. We're just had a constant progression of our relationship. And maybe he just saw some other personality, a passion for the game.

I enjoy practicing. I really enjoy working on my game. And we're similar stature, both short guys. So maybe he saw a little bit of himself in me. I also have a lot of hunger to achieve. And maybe that's what he saw. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I'm very fortunate to have been able to have so much time with a legend of the game.

Q. Has he told you things about trying to win an Open?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, the he has told me that I need to practice a lot of long putts before coming to The Open because at the Open Championship he you get so many 30 , 40 , 50 , 60 footers, because the greens are normally so massive that he always said to me to make sure I do a lot of long putting to make sure that I can try and two putt from those long distances. So that's something that he always says to me.

Q. Are you the sort of golfer who sort of worries about the tee times and the people you are playing with? Did you rush to look and see who you got in fact you're off with Thomas and Davis Love.

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, that's the first I've seen that. I think earlier in my career maybe it made it was a bit more important to me. But I think you come to realize that you're going to have to play at some point, you're going to have to play all 18 at some point, and you're just going to have to deal with whatever happens.

And that's going to be fantastic. I know Thomas really well. We've played a lot of golf together. And I enjoy playing golf with him. Davis, we played together a couple of rounds at the Presidents Cup, so I have played with him before. So that's going to be fantastic.

And I always kind of pinch myself because 10 or 15 years ago when I was a young kid, if you had told me I was going to be playing in The Open with Davis Love, I'd have probably started laughing. So it's just a great, great feeling to be able to do that.

Q. You kind of talk about in different answers to the questions about your maturation process, how you've kind of grown. Are there some things you can pinpoint over the last five years that you can say that's one place that I feel like I took some steps towards where I am now?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: I wouldn't say it's been specific moments that have maybe changed my outlook, but I just think it's been a natural progression that everybody goes through. You just get a different perspective on life.

I think maybe my early years on Tour I was maybe the hunger that I have to achieve got in my way and I was trying too hard to play well and I was trying to force the score. And I think I've come to learn that you can't do that with this game. The more I've matured and the older I've got and the more experience I have, I've realized that the old adage of playing one shot at a time and focusing on that, the more you can actually, not just hear the words, but listen to it, believe it and actually put it into practice, that's the only way that you can go.

So I think that's the main thing that I've learned is just to take it one step at a time and not to get too far ahead of myself and enjoy every moment. I think in the past I might have got wrapped up in the things around me too much. So I've really just tried to take the attitude of enjoying it, loving the game, because I love this game so much. And I think that's probably the main thing that I've learnt over the last few years.

Q. You mentioned the guys that e mailed you afterwards, after the win, a lot of young guys like yourself. Do you guys talk a lot amongst yourselves about the stuff you just talked about now?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, sure. We spend so much time playing practice rounds and going to dinners and stuff like that. And the guys I mentioned, Justin and Adam, we sort of cut our teeth turning pro and playing in Europe, so we've spent a lot of time playing and practicing together and we've all kind of taken steps in our careers together. So we've spoken about a lot of different things like that and encouraged each other.

And so absolutely we've learned from each other, and obviously Sergio came out and played great at the start and Adam stepped up and started winning big tournaments and going to the top 10 in the world. So we just kind of watch each other and learn from each other and try to improve that way.

STEWART McDOUGALL: Trevor, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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