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June 28, 2006

J.J. Henry


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome J.J. Henry to the 2006 Buick Championship.

J.J., having one of your better years at this point. You got a nice early start, jumped on a couple of Top 10s. It was nice to see.

J.J. HENRY: This being my 6th full year out here I've always kind of played well from the late July through the end of the year. To have a couple of good events early no doubt makes the year a little easier easier, it takes some of the pressure off at least trying to keep your card, I guess.

You know, I feel good. Whether it's this week or some week the rest of the year, my goal is to win a golf tournament. And I feel I've put myself in position a couple of times this year to do that and hopefully I'll have some more chances later this year.

TODD BUDNICK: Is there anything different this part of the year in the off season did you do anything different to get yourself in shape better or put yourself in a better position to start the year?

J.J. HENRY: Not really. I feel it's time. I feel a little more comfortable. I feel like I belong. This is my 6th season. I'm learning the ropes on how to try to win a tournament. But as far as feeling comfortable and playing week to week and tournament to tournament and golf course to golf course, I feel it's just a matter of kind of working your way up the system.

Again being out, I'm 31 years old, I feel my best golf is still ahead of me. With the exception of a couple of guys over the last couple of years, normally, from a golfer's standpoint your best playing years are in your 30s. Hopefully I'm approaching that plateau where I can really start playing good golf.

Again, I'm going to work hard and do some things that hopefully gives myself a chance to win more tournaments and put myself in position to do bigger and better things.

TODD BUDNICK: It's a nice feeling, too, to have your card wrapped up halfway through the season and not have to chase it like you have.

J.J. HENRY: Absolutely. There's no question. If you want to take some time off or do some things or spend time with the family, it makes it easier to do. After this week I plan on taking a couple of weeks off and hopefully get ready for that swing or that part of the year where I've always played well. Hopefully I can kind of get over the hump.

TODD BUDNICK: Questions?

Q. The learning how to win comment you just made, what did you learn from Phoenix where you had the four shot lead at the halfway point and then saw J.B. just flow past you? What did you learn from that experience and how will that help you down the road?

J.J. HENRY: It's funny, everything happens so fast when you're playing in the actual tournament. Looking back, I didn't have to do anything crazy, I just had to go out and play golf. Unfortunately, with as good as I played that Friday round, I couldn't quite I felt pretty comfortable. Granted, Phoenix is kind of a circus atmosphere, so to speak, with 160,000 people out there on Saturday and of course probably another hundred or so on Saturday. But as far as feeling comfortable, and obviously I knew I was playing well after what I did on Friday, and unfortunately, a shot here or there, it adds up to a pretty good run.

But unfortunately, with as well as he played on the weekend and I was just puddling along, I couldn't quite get over that hump where I felt like, hey, if I stayed hot or if I had a stretch where I could make two or three birdies in a row again and kind of get the momentum going, but unfortunately, I just never did that.

If I learned anything, it's you don't have to do anything crazy. I've learned the last couple of years if you look at some of the big name players, the first couple of rounds they plug along, they make the cut, and they have a great day on Saturday and all of a sudden there's their name towards the top of the leaderboard and they have a chance to win on Sunday.

You don't have to do anything crazy, you just have to go out and do what you know how to two. If it's your week, it's your week. Hopefully mine is coming.

Q. So it's not being more like mentally aggressive to put it away?

J.J. HENRY: The situation would dictate, if you're a couple of shots back with say two holes to play, that's a different story. But as far as the mindset of approaching the weekend with a chance to win, I think you have to go out and continue what you're doing and try to play the golf course.

Now, that could change, like you said, if you've got nine holes or three holes or four holes to go on a Sunday afternoon. But a mindset as far as playing well for a couple of days, and I've done that a bunch this year. I've been in the hunt the first two rounds, but for some reason haven't been able to play well for four.

That's the hard thing to do out here I mean, to play great for four rounds is extremely difficult. And unfortunately, I've had two good rounds, three good rounds. Some tournaments I have had four good rounds, but it wasn't good enough to win. I feel you have to go out and continue what you're doing. Go out and have fun.

My biggest deal is, I'm my worst enemy sometimes. I'm pretty hard on myself. I have to make it as fun and athletic and just going out like you're playing with your buddies. I know it's hard to do, but if I do that normally I play pretty well. I have to try to do that.

Especially with really nothing to lose the last half of the year here, I'm in a good spot. Obviously if I play well I still have a chance for the Ryder Cup or I still have a chance to make The TOUR Championship or whatever it might be.

I have got really no pressure on me at all except to just go out and enjoy what I'm doing. And if I play great, great; if not, well, I'll take the off season and work on what I need to do for next year. I feel I'm in a pretty good place right now.

Q. How quick did you take the U.S. Open experience and basically get rid of it?

J.J. HENRY: The U.S. Open, you can't really as much as obviously we want to play well there, it's the kind of tournament where one bad shot or one marginal shot can basically turn the whole thing around. And that's what happened to me.

I got off to a great start. I was the first group out Thursday morning. I birdied two of the first three holes and I was leading the U.S. Open for the first hour, hour and a half. If I can take anything positive away from it, I guess I can do that.

Q. The experience is one thing, maybe put it in the back of your mind saying this is what happens at an Open, but when you get back into the atmosphere of a PGA Tour event, do you dismiss that and say it was a bad two rounds and press forward?

J.J. HENRY: Yes, in a way you do. At the same time, too, once you play there, everything else is kind of a piece of cake. I can remember the first major I ever played in, it was probably in '01, the PGA at Hazeltine, which was obviously a demanding test. It wasn't the U.S. Open, but it was a hard course.

I went the next week, I want to say it was Reno or somewhere, and it was like a walk in the park. I played great. I finished third or fourth or had a chance to win. In that mindset it works to your advantage where, wow, this was so hard and it was so difficult physically and mentally, the fairways were narrow, the rough was bad, and then you go out I didn't play last week, but maybe this week I will be out there, wow, you miss a fairway or the fairways are twice as wide and the greens are a little bit softer and not as undulating and slopy, it can work to your advantage where you feel like, this is great, I'm having fun out here again. As opposed to not screwing up, like you were trying to do at the U.S. Open trying to make pars.

TODD BUDNICK: A lot of guys mentioned that last week.

J.J. HENRY: Yes, they're soft or wide. This is how I want to play golf.

But again, don't get me wrong, I love the U.S. Open is the U.S. Open. As an American player there is no tournament I would rather win. I know it's a tough test for everybody and it's something I have to deal with. And over the next 15, 20 years of my career, it's something I need to manage how to manage a golf course and a golf tournament set up like that.

I've always said personally, I feel I can play well on hard golf courses because I don't make a heck of a lot of birdies, but I normally don't make big numbers. I'm a good ball striker. I hit a lot of fairways. I hit a lot of greens in regulation. That's what you need to go in a major or a U.S. Open. I feel in that respect that my game is set up pretty good for a major. It's a question of going out and being mentally tough and accepting what happens when things don't go your way.

Q. When you say you don't make a lot of birdies, is that contradictory to the standard PGA Tour

J.J. HENRY: I do make birdies. Don't get me wrong. But in relation to looking back at tournaments I've played well in I've never really played well, for instance, at the Bob Hope or a tournament where you need to shoot 35 or 30 under to win.

When 10 to 18 under is a winning score, 10 to 15, 16 under is the winning score, I've played well. I've had low rounds and played well in tournaments where low scores are a premium, but I feel like, you know, I would rather play a golf course where par is somewhat of a good score, similar to what a U.S. Open is like.

Q. Do you anticipate there will be some mental breakthrough when you get that win? What will it do for your confidence?

J.J. HENRY: It's one thing to step back and say, well, each week you're playing against the best players in the world. Obviously, it's hard to win a golf tournament. But at the same time, I'm as competitive as any guy out here. I hate to lose. I like to win.

Honestly, the last time I actually won a golf tournament with any kind of a high golf tournament was probably the I've messed around and won a little thing here and there, but it's been seven years since I've won any kind of golf tournament. And growing up as a kid and college golf and amateur golf, you expect to win.

Yeah, I want like to win and I expect myself to win at some point out here. But when it doesn't happen, I don't want to say you forget how to win, but you're kind of wet behind the ears to get that winning sensation. And when you do, and hopefully when I finally do, you say, you know what, it's hard, but I can do this. And hopefully it gets contagious. That's the thing I'm looking for, one day getting that winning sensation back, because when you play as much as we do against these best players, at times it can beat you up. I had a good tournament, I finished 8th or I finished 12th or I finished 5th, it's great but you still want to win. We're out here to win a tournament.

All the stuff that comes with it, the money and everything is great, but I play golf to win tournaments, and I haven't won one in probably seven years, with any kind of big title to it.

At times it can be frustrating when you watch your friends win week in and week out, and you watch guys you play with virtually every week or every other week walking through the locker room, and you say, wow, he's winning, if he can win I know deep down I can win, too. That's where I'm coming from on that.

Q. Speaking of being wet behind the ears, with the weather we're having, how much does that play into your mental preparation, or do you just take it one day at a time?

J.J. HENRY: For me, I didn't play down there in D.C., I know it was a long week for a lot of players. For me, I feel pretty refreshed, ready to go. I want to say I think the weather is supposed to get better. It's supposed to start getting good. The golf course will still be wet and soft. But again, it's something we kind of have to deal with.

Luckily, for the most part, it's been, knock on wood, a pretty good year as far as weather goes. You have to just deal with and accept what happens. When it's your time to play, whether you're on time or there is a weather delay, you have to go out there and make the best of it.

Q. (No microphone.)

J.J. HENRY: I can't remember. What day was it bad?

Q. Wednesday.

J.J. HENRY: The Pro Am was canceled, I want to say, right? I think we started the tournament on time Thursday.

I can't remember, honestly, if we did or not. I know Memorial we had all kind of weather delays.

Q. We got through Friday.

J.J. HENRY: I know Memorial was a mess, unfortunately, with all the weather.

Q. Are wet conditions easier or difficult?

J.J. HENRY: There's no question it makes it easier, I think. The only bad thing sometimes is if you're not playing the ball up. Mud balls is a huge kind of a thing that goes on, kind of a talked about thing in the locker rooms when it's wet out and we don't play the ball lift, clean and play.

As far as making the golf course easier, there's no question when it's soft. One, the fairways are wider because you can hit it virtually on any edge of the fairway and the ball just stops. And two, the greens are that much softer. So even from the rough or different angles, you can still stop the ball. Granted, you have got to control your flight and maybe you're afraid of spinning the ball back.

For instance, Westchester, it might play harder being soft because there's so much undulation and the greens slope so much from back to front, so it's hard to get the ball back to the hole and stop it. But a golf course like this where, for the most part, the greens are fairly flat or not quite as undulating, I would say the golf course plays easier when it's softer.

Q. (No microphone.)

J.J. HENRY: Well, actually, as a PAC member on the Player Advisory Council and knowing a lot about the logistics of it, I think it's going to be great. Especially the fact that obviously the Hartford event here next year will be in that rotation now. It's going to be a little bit of a change.

We're still kind of in the learning process. Who knows really I'm sure there's going to be little things we're going to have to do here and there to tweak it as we go along, but I think it will be great, I really do. I think it will make it more exciting, to have that playoff type atmosphere at the end.

Who knows, but the framework of it, to me, sounds pretty good. It's just a question of let's see how it plays out at least that first year and we'll go from there.

Q. How much input have you had (No microphone.)

J.J. HENRY: Ultimately, the TOUR is made up of the players and what the players want to see done, but at the same time we put a lot of trust and respect of what Commissioner Fincham and the top you know, what they do and what they've done. Absolutely we've met a bunch this year in these PAC meetings to get all our insight and how we think it should be done, and the point system maybe a little bit. I want to say there's something coming out today on that stuff.

There's no question that's why we have the PAC and the player directors and the player advisors to help, to make sure our voice is heard, so to speak. But ultimately, it's the board's decision that makes the final say, but they use us as their sounding board to see what we think.

Q. How are you different today as a player than you were when you first started six years ago?

J.J. HENRY: Well, I think I'm more there's no question I'm a more experienced player. I feel like I know what it takes out here to play well. What I mean by that is, you have to when I first came out here, I think you were just kind of in awe of everything that went on. Now I kind of know what I need to do week to week to play my best.

You can get caught up in the whole circus atmosphere early in the week with all the different clubs, everything that goes on on a week to week basis. I found out what kind of works for me, what has semi worked. I don't want to say I've overachieved, but I feel like I've still underachieved a little bit since I've been out here. That's been frustrating because I haven't gotten over that winning hump.

I feel like there's a learning process or a learning curve out here. There's no question about it. Like I said, with the exception of Tiger or a younger player like maybe Sergio, again the best players out here are the guys who play their best in that 30 to 40 range. And obviously now you're seeing guys play great into their 40s. So I feel my best golf is still ahead of me.

I'm a lot more relaxed, I think, in a way, but at the same time I'm a little more intense in the fact that I want to play better and I want to do things to get over the hump, so it makes me a little edgy or a little bit mentally, I don't want to say crazy, but a little bit more hard on myself.

When I first came out here, I kind of hit the shots and said, wow, this is great. Maybe you're just trying to make the cut or something, and work my way up the money list. Hopefully I found a different mindset. I expect to make the cut. And I expect I want to contend to win a tournament. You have to set different goals. If you're trying to make a cut, odds are you're going to be right inside or outside the cut. If you're trying to win a tournament, hopefully you're somewhere cracking or getting close to a Top 10 finish. And that's really I'm trying to set my goals each week a little bit higher.

Q. Is there any aspect in your game that's holding you back?

J.J. HENRY: I would say, there's no question my biggest enemy is myself. I'm a little too hard on myself and except when things don't go quite the way they should, I tend to almost compound a mistake into another mistake. If I hit a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway and the next thing I know I hit a bad shot and miss the green, as opposed to taking a good attitude like, hey, let's go up there and get this up and down, I ended up getting down on myself and hitting a bad chip and then the next thing I know I'm walking off the green with a bogey.

Personally, no question, I'm my biggest enemy right now as far as doing what I need to do. Yes. Have I at times struggled with my putting or short game? Yes. Do I miss the fairways sometimes? Yes. But for the most part, looking through the years, the thing I've struggled with a little bit is my short game. But I feel this year it's gotten a lot better. I feel good with the putter. I've worked hard on my wedges. I need to improve still my bunker game and some chipping and things around the green. But my short game has held me back. I'm a good ball striker, but that part of my game is getting better. And that's probably the reason I am where I am today, as far as where I stand on the money list and all those things.

Q. Have you heard any concerns from the players about the new format or anything they're a little unsure about?

J.J. HENRY: Everybody is still a little unsure about what's going on, to be honest with you. I don't mean that in a bad way. We've done the same thing for so long. It's still golf. It's still a golf tournament. It's not like we're playing tennis here. You're still going out trying to win a golf tournament. And they're basically you can say kind of what NASCAR has done with the point system, is trying to make it a more exciting finish at the end of the year, to get everybody kind of talking about, well, so and so needs to have a good week to get in the FedEx Cup or to get in the what is NASCAR, the Nextel Cup?

So I think in that regard, it will be kind of fun. For instance, like the last tournament of the year or the last couple of tournaments of the year, this guy is fighting to get into The TOUR Championship or this guy is fighting to keep his card. There is a nice story line.

Having the FedEx Cup, you'll see that in the last three or four events to try to get in that, and then within those three big ones at the end, you're going to see guys jockeying position to try to win it.

After that's done, in the fall season, hopefully the top players will still play, but then there will be a lot of jockeying and hopefully good story lines with guys trying to keep their card or every year it seems like there is always a great story, like the last tournament or the last couple of holes where a guy makes a putt or misses whatever it might be to keep his card. There's always cool story lines at the end of the year for that.

That fall finish, hopefully it will be somewhat a neat deal with neat story lines after that FedEx Cup is finished. It's almost like a separate little cup in the fact that a lot of guys will be keeping their card or jumping up the money list or trying to get into certain positions to help them out for the following year.

Q. Before you talked about playing better when you're having more fun. When you come back to Connecticut, do you find yourself more relaxed in familiar surroundings?

J.J. HENRY: Yes and no. I know the golf course real well. I grew up here. I love playing here. I've always said one of these years I will get this tournament. I really believe it. Whether it's this year, who knows, but it's one of those deals again I've talked about a lot. When you come close to home or you come to a place you've watched as a kid and you want it so bad, you sometimes try too hard. And that's what I've been guilty of quite a bit over the last you know, when I come up and play around this area.

But again, I feel like I had a chance a couple of years ago, I remember. I was maybe three or four shots out of the lead with a round to play. But again, I really feel like the more I'm out here, the more comfortable, and even more I enjoy coming back and playing here. And if I can go out and have a good time, I will probably play well.

Again, I honestly feel like one of these years I'm going to have a real good chance to win a tournament. And hopefully it's sooner than later. I really believe that. This golf course, especially, even more so than Westchester, which is also closer to home. I do like this golf course a lot. As far as a TPC golf course goes, I think honestly it's one of the best we play, I really do. There's obviously a lot of drama on the last four holes.

It's almost like two courses in one, the front nine is more within the trees and you hit different shots. And the back nine is set up for a lot that can happen. So I enjoy playing this golf course.

TODD BUDNICK: Thanks for stopping by.

End of FastScripts.

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