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August 16, 2007

Will MacKenzie


CHRIS REIMER: Will, thanks for joining us. Great round today.
If you could, just start off talking about what you had working out there today.
WILL MACKENZIE: I rolled it really nice, drove it okay and, you know, I'm just playing solid golf but I made some putts. I made my couple 25-footers and made all my short ones.
Almost made a hole in 1, hit the pin on No. 8 with 4-iron 223 or something. That was wonderful. I just stayed patient and had some fun. Got a new caddie this week. In my home state. Real happy to be here.
CHRIS REIMER: If you could, you know, you had the first round lead when you won in Reno, you had it earlier this year in Mercedes.
Do you enjoy being a frontrunner, having the lead early?
WILL MACKENZIE: Heck, yeah. I mean I want -- you just want to play your best and get into contention. You know, it's not something I do everyday. It's tough to get into contention out here, all these guys are really good but whenever you can, you want to -- I like to think that in my experience when I was on the mini-tours and then playing out here, I've played okay when I'm up in contention but something that is just a learning process.
You got to get into the position more and more and more and then you feel more comfortable. But I mean, yeah, I love sleeping on a lead. Is not going to bother me.
CHRIS REIMER: Take some questions.
WILL MACKENZIE: Maybe on Saturday night. Y'all want me to ask questions to y'all?

Q. Will, can you talk about kind of your reputation out on Tour? I don't know a lot of guys can stand on their head. Apparently you're pretty good at that.
WILL MACKENZIE: Stellar reputation.

Q. Are you kind of refreshing from what some of these other cookie cutter kind of pros?
WILL MACKENZIE: What does cookie cutter mean? There's a cast of characters out there, there's no doubt, people from all different backgrounds, foreign guys, American boys, everybody has got their little deal.
People might think that since I quit golf for awhile and lived the life of an outdoor enthusiast, that, you know, I break the mold and I'm sure I do, but you know, I want my peers to respect me as a golfer and I think most of them do, but also like to cheer them up a little bit and do silly things like stand on my head from time to time, because that's what I like to do.

Q. Will, did you actually not play for ten years or just didn't play competitively? Just go through that from early in high school.
WILL MACKENZIE: I didn't play a tournament, like a real tournament after I was 14. I played in high school my 9th and 10th grade years but I wasn't real competitive.
Then I went cold turkey until I was almost at my 25th birthday. I might have hit balls one time like if I was back in North Carolina but I might have -- I don't know. I didn't even think about golf.

Q. What high school was that, were you just burned out from golf?
WILL MACKENZIE: I was burned out. I burned out at 14. I played the AJGA, Ben Hogan Boys' Championship, finished poorly and lost in a playoff.
I was real angry. Towards of the end of a summer and I played a bunch of tournaments that summer and I remember leaving there and had to go back to school in three days, I think 9th grade.
I was like, "This is not that fun" and I had a lot of other opportunities in Eastern North Carolina to go to the beach and go to the river, water ski, surf and do all those things and hunt that I love to do and I just decided -- I just sort of slowly went away from it.

Q. I talked to Brad Faxon a little bit. He said your swing is unbelievable as far as the way you can hit the ball and everything, maybe overlooked a little bit and did the layoff kind of help you find the game again, obviously?
WILL MACKENZIE: You know, it's really tough for me to think about my former life in golf and how I really swung the club. I don't really have any video.
You know, I knew I was a good player and I was mainly a pretty good athlete but I had a pretty sound golf swing. I think I was emerging on the scene, the national scene when I was a junior and I was probably going to be pretty great or pretty good.
But, you know, I went away from it for so long that you naturally have a remembrance of a golf swing but I lost everything else. I didn't know really -- pretty bad putter and the short game was really odd to me.
Learning bunker shots again felt really bizarre but I mean I guess have a decent, natural golf swing but, bud, I work hard on my golf swing. I work with coaches.
I hit it side sideways plenty. Look at my stats. It's not like I'm that good. I'm getting better though.

Q. Can you go over what you did during your break from golf, about 11 years and what brought you back to it?
WILL MACKENZIE: Well, I've told this story about 9,000 times but I lived in Montana and snowboarded. In the summer I kayaked, rock climbed and worked, among other things. I just enjoyed being in the outdoors 24/7. I lived in my van.
You know, lived just a perfect little lifestyle. You know, I was 20 to 24 -- or 18 really to 24. I mean I didn't need any money. You know, I lived in an older van and I always had money in my pocket because I was working and I just enjoyed the charge.
I was kayaking on a pretty high level. I was a Class 5 boater and doing pretty crazy stuff. The same with snowboarding.
You know, I thought I was -- there was a time if I would have stayed out there I would have gotten into -- I was a wilderness emergency medical technician as well. I went for a 30 day intensive Jackson Hole, School of Science. I thought I was one day going to be like one day a flight paramedic or some search and rescue paramedic.
I like to do what everybody else did but I try to do it a little bit more hardcore and I'm sorry -- then I was back home -- I beat up my body really bad. Put it that way.
I was injury-prone or something. I was constantly, you know -- about twice a year I took humongous diggers to my body like where I would barely be able to walk for awhile and blew out my ankle and knee, almost shattered my back and my neck and that type of thing.
I went surfing in Costa Rico, tried to heal my body because surfing is really good for you, I think, and I came back and imported these hammocks and tried to live in Eastern North Carolina again on the Coast and just -- because I was into surfing at the time because I lived in Costa for three months.
There's not much to do in Eastern North Carolina or right here in the summer except play golf. There really is not -- and water skiing. The surf is bad. We don't have much for waves.
So I think I originally, you know, might have hit balls one day and it was June, '99 I saw Payne win the Open on TV and I hadn't probably watched golf on TV much at all in ten years.
I knew Tiger was on the scene. I knew in 1997 I came on the scene and Tiger Woods because I think I played in a tournament he was in and I knew he was sort of the phenom.
It just really inspired me. Home state, Pinehurst No. 2, I love it, just adore the place. Payne Stewart sort of a childhood idol.
I saw the competitive, you know, flare involved. Tired of beating myself up. I was in a little mini midlife crisis. I didn't know if I wanted to go back to Montana or Alaska or go to France or somewhere, or go to Bali.
I was like, "Well, that's cool." I hit some balls and I was like, "Wow, this is fantastic. Maybe I want to play again."
I talked to my father who, you know, of course, like all fathers he never wanted me to quit in the first place but he let me do whatever I wanted to do.
"Son, you know, if you want to give up what I think you have a promising career, you can", and, you know, of course with his grace he said, "We'll figure out a way to get you to start playing golf again and we're going to get some money rounded up and you can start going out on the mini tours."
I started calling buddies that I knew -- "Hey, this is Will MacKenzie, do you remember me from when I was 14?" They're like, "Where did you go?" I told them my story.
So they started telling me this is what we're doing, we're playing on the Hooters Tour, the Canadian Tour, Nationwide Tour. I just got all my ducks in a row and started grinding and I've been grinding ever since, or having fun. This game is so fun.

Q. Have you done any swimming with sharks or punching polar bears?
WILL MACKENZIE: No. I'm living a pretty low-key lifestyle now.

Q. Will, were you an angry young golfer? Were you a club thrower? Did you enjoy the game at all when you were young?
WILL MACKENZIE: I definitely enjoyed the game but I was angry. I mean I get fired -- I'm just -- I'm a perfection in my sports but obviously not necessarily a perfectionist in my personal life, I guess.
Yeah. I mean my mom, they used to about kick me out of some tournaments in Eastern North Carolina because I was really to do a crow hop, getting ready to throw a baseball. I was getting really to hurl my club if I hit a bad shot.
I didn't like being on team sports that you had to worry about other people not pulling their weight. I can remember my dad getting on me a lot.
I mean I wasn't mean but I was like -- yeah, I just got frustrated. I'm sort of the same way out there now. I've searched all sports psychologists. I'm not mean off the course, I promise. Am I? No, I'm not. I'm very nice. I get fired up.
It's just like anything. You want to play well and I can't internalize my emotions. You just have to learn how to deal with it.
I did enjoy the game. I practiced hard. I worked hard. I can remember my dad dropping me off really early. I used to hit tons of balls. I used to love hitting golf shots, but once the competition started I was -- I wasn't a total crybaby but I would get pretty PO'd.

Q. When you got back into the game, but Payne died after -- in the plane accident, was it along those lines when you started or right after he won the Open that you --
WILL MACKENZIE: It was pretty much like that Sunday, "I'm going to go hit balls. This was pretty sweet."
CHRIS REIMER: Getting fired up. Are you guys fired up for the FedExCup, for the playoffs?
WILL MACKENZIE: Oh, yeah. The first year, you know, we don't really know exactly how it's going to turn out but, you know, there's four events so obviously got big monetary gain there, great golf courses, best competition and then I like that -- I like that it's a playoff system because it's knocking people out every week. I think that's really cool, you know?
It helps the people that have played well throughout the whole year. I'm a little bit on the outside looking in right now so I need to play well these next couple -- to keep playing as long as possible in the playoffs.
CHRIS REIMER: I know you're not a guy who remembers every shot and distance. Are there a few key shots today that maybe either kept you in it or you wished you hit better? Almost the hole in 1 on 8.
WILL MACKENZIE: The little wedge I hit on 2 was I think key to the round because I was -- I hit a good drive off of 1 but then I hit a poor wedge shot, poor chip shot, poor putt and then I hit a poor tee shot and had to chip out.
So that was five shots I was already a little stewing, you know, not like not like really mad, and I hit wedge in there really close. I think that sort of just turned my day around. I finished with solid birdies at the end of the front 9. That was nice. Then I played great on the back.
CHRIS REIMER: Any other questions?
WILL MACKENZIE: Is it hot in here? It's like a hundred in here.

Q. How long were you at ECU and what happened there?
WILL MACKENZIE: At ECU? I was born and raised in Greenville, North Carolina. I never went to school there. I didn't. I almost went to ECU, though. But I was going kick football there. I was a high school football kicker.

Q. What high school did you play at?
WILL MACKENZIE: Junius H. Rose. It's a great school.

Q. What year was that?
WILL MACKENZIE: '93 93 is when I graduated.

Q. Who was the kicker, do you remember?
WILL MACKENZIE: Chad Holcomb. Devastated him. He had no chance. But I was just -- you know, I was in Coach Logan's office a couple times and he was, "Come on, Bud. I've given this guy scholarship but I'm going to give you all the reps and summer practice" and you know, I was going to beat him out for sure.
I was just struggling with like a Achilles' tendinitis because I was playing soccer and kicking football. But, you know, my way into college was kicking and I just decided to forego. I just decided I didn't want to go to college.
I wanted to take a break and it just happened to be an extended break, you know, take one year off and then go out West and come back and start school. I didn't do it.
CHRIS REIMER: Just a couple more, Will.
WILL MACKENZIE: I'm thinking about going back.
CHRIS REIMER: Going to the Panthers?
WILL MACKENZIE: 43, freshman.

Q. Had you ever been out to Montana before and Jackson Hole? What is it about the outdoors that --
WILL MACKENZIE: I grew up in Eastern North Carolina. We had a place at the river. You know, I loved being outside anyway and then it's so natural evolution for me to go -- we would make a ski trip every year and, of course, we thought we were good skiing but I grew up skateboarding and surfing, too so I jumped on the snowboard one time and I just fell in love with it.
I mean I just was like, "Wow, this is endless snow". Not like the surf where it's good for a little while and the waves get better. It's just like endless turns. It's great.
CHRIS REIMER: Before we sweat to death, thank you so much, Will. Good luck tomorrow. FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

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