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July 2, 2006

J.J. Henry


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome the winner of the 2006 Buick Championship from Fairfield, Connecticut, J.J. Henry. Congratulations, J.J. I know you've waited for this for a while, and this is the place where you wanted to get that first victory.

J.J. HENRY: Absolutely. Again sitting here it's still pretty unbelievable. As I mentioned, we talk about it before, to grow up here in the State of Connecticut and to come here again as the young guy who was wet behind the ears, so to speak; and watching the guys hit balls on the range and following some groups around, I thought how cool that would be some day if I could be one of those guys and play against the best players in the world.

Obviously I've been out here now six years, and to get that first win is unbelievable, and to do it where I couldn't think of any other place I want to do it is here in Hartford. It really is unbelievable.

I'm proud of the way I hung in there today, really difficult with the wind up. I was pretty anxious and pretty nervous but I had a lot of emotions going and luckily I was able to not luckily, but I really kind of showed that I think I got over that hump. To be out here six years and learn your way about how to put yourself in a position to win a tournament and then to finally get the job done, it just makes it that much more sweet.

TODD BUDNICK: Not only winning in your home state, but you picked the right week, with the win, you get the exemption to the British Open.

J.J. HENRY: Again, I didn't want to get ahead of myself, but to get a chance to play at the Mercedes, it opened up a lot of doors for me. So that's going to be I've never played in The Open Championship, so to get a chance to play will be awesome.

TODD BUDNICK: And seven weeks to go in the Ryder Cup standings. You've given yourself a legitimate chance to make your first Ryder Cup Team; you've moved up to sixth.

J.J. HENRY: I knew I was 23rd or something going in, but yeah, I'm excited obviously about that. I feel like I'm playing well, so you know, that goal is in the back of my mind. And now with this win, it's a feeling to have a chance to go over there and do that, absolutely, looking forward to it.

TODD BUDNICK: Three birdies on the front nine, never gave anybody the chance to get in the hunt.

J.J. HENRY: Yeah, it was important to me. I stayed down in Fairfield last night and made the hour drive early this morning. I was by myself and I was just kind of driving up and I was just trying to relax and think about how I wanted to play the golf course today.

I knew it was really important for me to get off to a good start. I really thought that had helped settle me down and calm me down. I felt like I was playing well enough and putting well enough where I could get the ball around. On the back nine, there's a lot that can happen. There are some birdie holes, but at the same time there are some places where you can make some big numbers. I felt very relaxed today, I really did. I was relaxed as I could be in this situation, and again, I'm really proud of how I finished it off.

Q. The two greens you missed were the two bogeys, but was there one particular shot or one particular sequence where you thought that, "I'm on today" and it's going to take something catastrophic?

J.J. HENRY: I got off to a great start and the third hole was a good birdie, hit two good shots. But when I made the putt on the 8th hole, that got me 2 under for the day and I really wasn't leaderboard watching much. I knew I was starting off the day, and unfortunately both Harrison and Camilo were struggling a little bit, the guys I was playing with. I know a couple other guys were playing in front of me but I didn't really leaderboard watch.

Until the 14th or 15th hole I kept going about my business, I really did. I knew after I made birdie I hit a great shot on 14 and made a great birdie there. I figured from there, I could really kind of hunker down and just try to get it to the house, so to speak, and that's exactly what I did.

Q. I noticed on 1, I don't think you hit driver, it seemed to me all week you decided not to hit driver?

J.J. HENRY: The way the hole sets up, I can work my 3 wood right to left. The third hole I had a strong 3 wood and this golf course, again, I've played it so many times in different wind conditions and different ways, the golf course really firmed up today, it really did.

It was a different golf course than it was Thursday. I felt like it was more important to put myself in the position where I can attack from the middle of the fairway. Not that I couldn't hit it with my driver, but I just felt more comfortable on certain holes. I had the game plan all week I was going to hit 3 wood on the first hole, get it on the fairway and get on the green and give myself a chance. I gave myself good starts every day and that really helped out.

Q. Talk about the storybook ending; state kid wins the state tournament.

J.J. HENRY: Again, I'm kind of lost for words, I really am. You know, I'd like to think that growing up here, I kind of carried the Connecticut flag as far as golf goes. I really don't think I get maybe Tim Petrovic is maybe the only other player on Tour that has any Connecticut roots or grew up here in the States.

Again, I mentioned it out there, to think, you know, in mid February, again I'm a member of the Player Advisory Council and I fought pretty hard at some of those meetings; you know, what's going on with Hartford; it means so much to this community. They have raised over $25 million over the course of the years. And to get a call from Henry Hughes from the TOUR, you know, back and to say, hey, guess what, Hartford is back, they are going to be in the FedEx Cup next year, it really meant a lot to me, it really did. Again, because the fact that I'm from here and I always enjoy coming here, regardless of how I play, it's always highlighted on my schedule.

Again, it really is you know, somebody else mentioned actually I thought of this, too. I remember James Blake last year winning the Pilot Pen, who is actually a good friend of both mine and my younger bother, they grew up together, so I know him very well. So to have him, see what he did last year and to win that tennis event and now this year, me to kind of win Buick Championship, and we're both from the same hometown, so it's pretty cool.

Q. You talk about being very relaxed, but 17 and 18, was it difficult to keep your focus in check?

J.J. HENRY: It was. Obviously once I got to the 16th tee, I said, you know, come on I've got to hit basically three more good shots and I reached down, hit a great shot on 16. The wind died a little bit right over the flag.

Obviously 17 is one of the best holes out there. It can kind of make think about it a little bit and I hit a perfect shot right down the middle of the fairway. From there, at that point I think I had a 4 or 5 shot lead or 3 or 4 shot lead anyway. So obviously playing the last hole made it a lot easier for me where I could basically just do anything and still win the golf tournament.

But again, I made a par, but to hit a drive way over the cart path, probably the best drive I've hit all week on the last hole, it would have been nice to make that putt. But again, it just a great way to finish off the week, and you know, just I can't wait to come back next year.

Q. Can you talk about inaudible you looked tearful coming up the fairway on 18.

J.J. HENRY: We all kind of role model people we look up to, but we have a very close family. I got blessed with great parents and a brother, and you know, unfortunately my wife, who has meant wore world to me, and Connor, my young son, couldn't be here today. I'm very lucky; I'm in a great spot in my life. I've got a great family, a great wife, a little boy that I love more than anybody in this world. I'm sure he'll be watching today and watching daddy up there.

So you know, again, to get back to your question, my dad was I was exposed to golf at a high level. He was a pretty good amateur player in the State of Connecticut. He played in State Amateurs. He actually made two U.S. Amateurs. I caddied for him, actually in those two U.S. Amateurs. It's a pretty special time, there's no doubt. I'm sure tonight when kind of we get back, I can't wait to give him a big hug and thank both my parents and all my family and my wife and my son for all they have done for me, because this win is about all them, too, there's no doubt. Everybody has done a lot for me over the years, and this one is for all of them as well.

Q. Was there any conversation with the dinner table last night?

J.J. HENRY: You know, as much as I kind of follow things and watch, I really tried all the media outlets and the TV, of course we had a lot of family friends calling the house, it was tough. I really tried to just I was very quiet last night, I really was. I was very focused.

Obviously there was a lot that could have happened today but I was very focused. I didn't really watch a lot of TV. To be honest with you, I didn't read any as much as I can't wait to go home and read what y'all wrote yesterday, but I didn't even look at a newspaper this morning. I knew I had more work to do, because it meant that much to me that I knew I still had one more round to go. I didn't really want to get ahead of myself and see all this, wow, I'm on the front page. That's all great, don't get me wrong, but I didn't want it to be bittersweet. So to finish it off today, I can't wait to open the paper tomorrow and read and watch everything that happened after everything is over.

Q. How important is your relationship with Matt?

J.J. HENRY: Matt, we grew up together. We've been together virtually funny how it started. I played the NCAAs my senior year at the University of New Mexico and I knew I was going to turn pro later that summer, or went to Q School anyway. The following year I was fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour, now the Nationwide Tour. Starting out the first three or four weeks we just kind of wound up, hey, good buddies, he's a good golfer, we're both single, both tried to enjoy what's going on. Hey, want to caddie for a couple weeks and see how it goes. Yeah, we'll give it three or four weeks, those couple of events in Florida at the time.

Here we are what, seven, eight, nine years later. At times we fight like brothers sometimes, we really do. We're both very, very competitive. We want the best for each other. I said to him on the 18th green knowing that I was going to win the tournament there, I said on the green, I said, "Matt, make sure you're the first one to come over because I want to give you a big hug because this means as much to you as it does for me." I've worked for it a long time. He's a good golfer himself, he almost won the caddie event. So he knows golf, and to me that's what's important.

Q. First time I ever saw you, you were 14 at Watertown Country Club, your feet were about three times bigger than the rest of your body, did you ever have any dreams back then about events like this or U.S. Opens?

J.J. HENRY: Of course, any kid who plays golf always sits on their home putting green or on the driving range, you know, with a chance to make a putt to win a tournament, absolutely. I think I was very athletic growing up; I played a lot of sports or I enjoyed playing a lot of sports. Again, being exposed to golf with my dad and getting a chance to play the individual everything about golf, probably when I was a freshman or sophomore in Fairfield High, I wanted to see how far I could go in this game. Here I am still climbing the ladder, it's pretty neat.

Q. Playing as conservative as you did all day, when Matt pulled out the driver on 18 and gave you a little wink, was that kind of

J.J. HENRY: Absolutely. Of course, I knew I was in a pretty good spot as long as I could kind of get the ball somewhere up there and smack it around, I knew I was going to win the tournament. But there's no easy way to win. I guess for the fact that I played so good over the first 71 holes, I could really enjoy that last one, and hit that drive down there, over the cart path and have 75 yards to the hole. Matt said: Hey, you're bet drivers out here, you're one of the best drivers in the world, just go out and enjoy it, just rip it down there and sure enough I turned it down there perfect and went over the road. From there I could kind of throw it on the green.

So again, as soon as I hit that, all right, just let me hit that one more so the on the green and let's enjoy that moment. Still, I can't wait to really enjoy this. I'm actually going to take a couple weeks off, spend some time with my family, have a little vacation and now that I have a chance to play the Open Championship, I look forward to going over there in a couple weeks.

Q. Can you expound on that? You're going to the British now, you climbed way up in the Ryder Cup standings, seems like your immediate future is going to change.

J.J. HENRY: Absolutely. It's a good problem to have, or not problem, but it's a good situation to be in. I'm extremely excited. I knew that, you know, if I played good golf, I've got a chance to play in the Ryder Cup. As neat as that sounds, I know I still have a lot of work to do and there's a lot of events still to go. But to play in The Open Championship, a place I've never played, I've been over there once, I played in the Palmer Cup which is kind of like the Ryder Cup for college players at St. Andrews and that was my only taste of kind of European or Scottish golf. So, I'm excited. Again I'm obviously playing pretty well. I'm going to be rested up. I'm going to work hard the next couple weeks and hopefully enjoy my time over there.

Q. Was it better to have a morning tee time because of the potential weather problems and not having to wait all afternoon to tee off?

J.J. HENRY: I was trying to make the best of it. At that point, whether I liked it or not again, to tee off at two o'clock and sit around all morning, I thought it was great, I really did. I thought it was kind of a nice break. Of course, all three of us in the final group, we're all in the same situation. We're all trying to win our first event. So you know we're all kind of in a similar position. But absolutely. Once I heard that, I thought it was great. I thought I could get up nearly in the morning, drive up here, play a nice round of golf as opposed to thinking about it all day. Heck, I'd still be on the front nine probably.

Q. What time did you go drive up this morning?

J.J. HENRY: A little before 7:00 this morning. And I got up here. Kind of tough to get breakfast down this morning a little bit. But, you know, I had something to eat and I worked with my trainer, he stretched me out for about 25 minutes and got out there about 50 minutes before.

Q. Slept well?

J.J. HENRY: I slept pretty well. I woke up about 4:30 this morning and had kind of a tough time getting back to sleep. But that alarm went off at about 6:00. But yeah, I slept great. Again, I felt pretty focused last night like I mentioned before. I really tried to as excited as I was and the round I had yesterday, I knew there was one more day to go, so I felt pretty focused. I had something to eat, took a shower, went to bed and woke up and drove up here and luckily finished it off, thankfully finished it off.

TODD BUDNICK: Let's go ahead through your round.

J.J. HENRY: Third hole I hit a 3 wood and I hit a 9 iron about probably 20 feet left of the hole and made a great putt to relax me and get the day going.

8, I hit a 7 iron, good shot just left of the hole about ten feet and made that putt.

9, I hit a hybrid club like a 2 iron off the tee and like a gap wedge, sand wedge type club, great shot to about four feet and made that. I made the turn 3 under to kind of put myself in a good spot there with 9 to play.

11, I the pin was right up front and it was downwind. Again I hit that 52 degree club, wedge, to probably about 15 feet right of the hole and made that. I want to say it was a 125 ish type club, the wind was kind of down off the right, so I had a pretty good shot in there.

12, was a little bit disappointing. I hit a great drive. The wind was dead no our face, pretty tough driving hole and hit it all the way to the bottom the hill and got caught in the downslope. I was just trying to knick a little 60 degree wedge and chase it back there, kind of short and basically chunked it really. It was a tough little shot but I didn't get through it and I chunked it in that front bunker and unfortunately made bogey there.

14, I think was definitely the shot of the day. Again I had a couple shot lead, I think. I would assume I did, three or four shot lead at that point. But I hit a 3 wood off the tee, again, just so I could kind of rip it and keep it down the right side. As I walked up there, I was kind of in the short cut with basically the ball way above my feet. I was just really trying to get myself in the middle of the green and golf I hit a great shot, the wind was a little tricky and swirling around and ended up about 10 feet, 15 feet left of the hole and knocked that right in the middle and from there I figured you know I could kind of just coast through. I hit an 8 iron in there for my second shot.

17, again I hit a great hybrid club 2 iron that was downwind off the left. Right in the middle of the fairway. Pin is right up front over the water. At that point I said, look, all we've got to do is basically get this over the water and kind of 2 putt down the hill. I came out of it, I was actually dead downwind with sand wedge and I came out a little bit, caught it, spun back in that rough, a little bit of a dicey chip. The lie wasn't great and last thing I wanted to do was get cute, hit it real hard and go over the green. I hit a good putt, but missed it from about, I don't know, 15 feet for par.

Then 18, you know, ripped a drive, probably best drive of the tournament down there across the road and had a little flip 60 in there. After I hit that second shot, I could breathe a little easier.

TODD BUDNICK: Congratulations.

J.J. HENRY: Thanks, appreciate everything.

End of FastScripts.

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