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April 11, 2008

Trevor Immelman


BILLY MORRIS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We're delighted to have Trevor Immelman with us this afternoon. Trevor had a very fine 68 today and is now leading the tournament at 8-under par.
We'll go right to questions.

Q. With the potential for weather to come in, I know you were talking with this outside a little while ago, how important is it to get a lot of birdies early on with the golf course maybe changing in the next day or so?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, like I said earlier, any time you can make a birdie in a major championship, it's like a thrill, because you've really got to hang onto it as long as you can. The course is at some point is going to show its teeth and the possibility of some bad weather.
So if you're playing well, you have to try and make some good scores while you can.

Q. Given the circumstances, which we don't need to cover again, what are you more proud of, the fact that you got to play 72 holes here last year, or the way you've played so far this year; both impressive in their own right.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Obviously this year is pretty special. Last year, guys go through that. I got a little unfortunate with the stomach bug, so that's just one of those things, bad timing. Yeah, this year is special. To shoot two 68s in the first two days is probably beyond my expectations, so I'm pretty thrilled right now.

Q. Would you say you could have played better today? Some chances very close like 16 just slipped by, and perhaps some others.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I don't think I struck the ball as well today, but I definitely putted well, and I holed a lot of good putts. So you know, I think I pretty much got out of it as much as I could. I made some great par saves and then made two good putts there to finish. So I'm not going to get too greedy. (Smiling).

Q. Has your mind-set changed at all after what you went through over the winter?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, it definitely gives you perspective, because you know, I went from winning a tournament to lying in a hospital bed waiting for results on a tumor. So definitely made me realize that golf wasn't my whole life.
But you know, I have a real passion for golf and I put a lot of hours in and made a lot of sacrifices to try and succeed at the game. So you know, I'm definitely driven to try and achieve things, so, you know, whilst it gave me perspective on the one point, I was still trying to get back to the form I was showing before it all happened.

Q. Physically you had to put all of the pieces back together twice last year and it would seem that maybe confidence is the last missing ingredient; fair to say?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, you gain confidence from playing good golf, and obviously I haven't been playing that great of golf. I've had spurts of holes, a few shots and holes in a row that I've played well, but the end results in a total round haven't that good, so that's why I've been lacking in total confidence.

Q. What is the hardest thing to get over physically with your body after the surgery? What did you have to overcome physically to come back?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, it took a couple of weeks before I could walk again. (Laughing) I got a seven-inch incision across the right side of my back.
Yeah, once I kind of worked my way through all the morphine and stuff they had me on, and started finding my feet again, it seemed to come back fairly quickly. You know, so it was about six weeks before I could hit a few chips and putts and another week before I could hit some balls and get out on to the course.
So it was a couple of months that I was, you know, operating quite gingerly, and after that, I could kind of get back to it.

Q. Do you remember where you were when you took your first swing after the surgery? Did you try some in the house just to see how it would feel? ?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I was at home in Lake Nona. I live on the golf course so the first day I came out and hit a few chips and putts and came home and said to my wife, "I don't know what's going on," because I was skulling them and duffing them.
Four or five days later I started making a few half-swings. The orders were just to take it day for day and if I feel some pain, stop. So I just gradually went on.

Q. Is this whole place and atmosphere and atmosphere and setting particularly invigorating to you?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Absolutely. That's the exact way to put it. The whole atmosphere, the mystique, the way the golf course is set up, the way the golf course is prepared for us, you know, everything about this Tournament and this venue, it's what dreams are made of.
Every single player that's here has dreamt of playing in this tournament, so that's absolutely true.

Q. Can you just talk about how you finished today with 17 and 18 with birdies?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I hit a nice tee shot and you're just trying to keep it in play really. I was in the first cut, and hit quite a nice second shot. The ball, you know, it came out with a little bit of a topspin. The ball was sitting down a little bit, but the result worked out quite fine, and I had about 15 feet with some slight break from the left and rolled that one in, which was nice, any time you can make a birdie there.
18 was a real tough tee shot because they have the tee all the way in the back. You know, real close to the ropes down there. I hit a nice fade off the tee, and smooth 8-iron to that front right flag. You know, that was probably about ten feet with a little bit of break from the left again.
That putt was a little quicker so I was just trying to ease it down there, and luckily, it fell in.

Q. After the 2006 season when you did so well, a lot of people were saying that you had become the best golfer in South Africa, or from South Africa, ahead of Ernie, ahead of Retief. I just wonder what you thought of that, and you know, how did it make you feel?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, those are big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively. (Laughter).
Those guys have won five major championships between them. So you know, I think that statement, maybe at that time on current form was somewhat correct, but you know, I never felt like I had surpassed them in stuff that we achieved. Those guys have achieved so much in the game. I've looked up to both of them my whole career, and you know, I continue to do so. And until I win more majors than the two of them, you know, I probably won't think I'm a better player.

Q. Not many people birdied the two finishing holes. How much ground do you think you picked up on the field doing that?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: That's tough to say. 17, the tee shot is somewhat aided today with the wind a little bit off the right. Makes that tee shot a little bit easier.
And 18 is downwind. So if you can hit a straight tee shot there, you're going to have medium to short irons. So those holes probably are not playing as tough as they were in the practice rounds.
But like I said earlier, any time you can make a birdie, it's a good one.

Q. You have never won a major before; are you feeling any pressure or are you just completely laid back and not feeling anything at all? Tell us about your mind-set going into these next two rounds.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, you know, you definitely feel pressure, but you know, I feel pressure playing for a hundred bucks against a mate, you know. So that's the beauty of the game.
You know, the thing is, you've just got to go out there and play as well as you can play. And the other thing you've also got to realize is that the best players in the world get nervous and they feel pressure. You know, I guess it's just who can disguise it the best and who can handle it the best.
You know, my mind-set is obviously that I'm thrilled with my play thus far, but there's a very long way to go and you know, I can't sit back and put my feet up. I've got to go out there and just try and play as well as I can the next couple of days.

Q. Which are you more pleased with, making nine birdies in the first two rounds or only one bogey, and how important was it for you to birdie the hole after your bogey?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, to only have one bogey is probably a pretty good result, you know, with as severe as the golf course can be. I'm really happy with that. That means I didn't get myself out of position too badly.
Obviously I hit a bad shot there on the sixth hole. Pushed it out to the right. I actually hit it to where yesterday's flag was, and yesterday to where today's flag was, so I kind of got those days mixed up. (Laughter).
I hit a putt from 30 feet that went 40 feet by the hole, and so I probably made a good four there. And then hit a nice second shot into the 7th and real fast putt with some break from the right and that one managed to fall in. So that definitely kind of rights the ship if you can birdie right afterwards. That definitely kept me going.

Q. Gary Player said a couple of years ago, "This guy has the talent and ability to win at Augusta." Just wondering, was that an incentive; did it put more pressure on you, and do you feel that thus far you haven't lived up to that expectation?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, I think it's flattering more than anything else, because obviously you know, Gary Player has been around the block a few times; you know, one of the greatest players ever to live.
For a guy of that stature to turn around and say this guy possibly has what it takes, it's a great feeling. So I think in a way you have to try and use that as some positives and say to yourself, "Man, maybe I am good enough." And just try to put it to good use.
I don't think I've underachieved to this point in my career. I think I've had a nice, steady climb. Hopefully I can keep going that way.

Q. What was it like playing with Boo these past couple of days? What does that do for your relaxation out there?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, he's a great guy, and he has a lot of fans out there. Sean and I were wondering what it's like, because even when he hits a good shot, they are like, "Boo." (Laughter) So we were a little perplexed by that.
Yeah, he's a great guy and he's played real well the last few seasons. We had a lot of fun. Sean is a great player and a great young man, as well, so we had some nice chemistry in the group and everybody was kind of feeding off each other. It was a nice grouping.

Q. On 13, did you plan to lay up, and how important was that up-and-down out of that back bunker in keeping your round going?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, I kind of struggled on those back nine par 5s today. You know, my strategy has been that I need to have an iron in my hand to go for the green, and both occasions, I was kind of borderline, so I decided to lay up. I just hit that pitch shot too good there on 13. And the ball flew about five yards too far and really got myself in a bad spot there.
You know, that's like I was saying earlier, I made a nice 20-footer to save a par, and that was great.
On 15, again, I was borderline and I decided to lay up, and I got down there and I had a huge chunk of mud on my ball. So, you know, at that point, I was playing a little bit defensively and hit that shot out to the right. In the end, I was quite happy to make a five there.

Q. How far away were you on 13, your second shot?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, I think I had about 225 to the front.
My longest iron is a 4-iron, so my strategy is that I have a 4-iron or less to go at those greens, and unfortunately I didn't hit good enough wedge shots there.

Q. Have you allowed yourself to think about the laughable difference between where you were last year at this time and where you are now at this time without the hospital IVs and other things in the same town?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Like I said earlier, it's just unfortunate what happened there. But I'm just enjoying this week. Any time you can come here, it's an absolute thrill, and to play well in this tournament thus far, it's a good feeling.

Q. How does the high of going birdie, birdie, putting yourself at the top of the leaderboard, 8-under at Masters compare to the morphine high?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I felt kind of bulletproof when I was in the hospital. (Laughter).
It's a little bit degrading when you have other people washing you morning and night. (Laughter) I think I'll take that one, rather.

Q. Following up on that, from the time you knew you had to have the surgery, how long before you knew the tumor was benign and what kind of thoughts went through your head?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, let's see. We had the MRI done on a Thursday morning, and we got the results that night. The doctor said there was something that had to come out.
I went in for the surgery only on a Tuesday because there was a public holiday weekend down in South Africa. So we waited for that to be over.
I waited on the Tuesday around mid-day, and two days later, we got the results after the surgery.

Q. So where were you mentally in those two days?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I don't think I was really knowing what was going on at that point. You know, like I said, they were pumping me so full of stuff just to try and get over the pain that I don't think it really mattered to me what the result was at that point. (Laughing).
Obviously my family were -- they were there every step of the way, and they were obviously real nervous and we were real thrilled when we found out that it was just some rare type of benign tumor.

Q. Which hospital was it?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: It was the, okay, get this, Vergelegen Medi-Clinic in my hometown of Somerset, and I count myself fortunate, because two weeks prior to that, I was on a three-week trip to China, and you know, so if it all gone down there, that could have been a little different, but I was in my hometown, and I had my childhood doctor there who diagnosed the whole thing and sent me to the specialist.
I think when it was all said and done, it kind of happened at the right time.
BILLY MORRIS: What was the date of the surgery?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: It was the 18th of December.

Q. Do you still carry any of this with you, like if you feel a certain pain, is there ever any concern about any ramifications about all of this?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Initially yes. But now, no.
The first few weeks out on TOUR, every tweak and every ache, my mind was wondering, but at this point, not at all. I feel normal.

Q. Do you appreciate this more than you would have before?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: What, playing well here?

Q. Being here, just playing.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, any time you come here, I appreciated it. But sure, absolutely. You know I think you've got to keep it all in perspective.

Q. Did conditions today -- you said it off the course, are they different from yesterday?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yesterday I think I was quite fortunate playing in the afternoon and with that fog delay, it kind of kept the greens a little bit more receptive for us.
Today on our back nine, the greens definitely started firming up. I definitely noticed it especially on 14, 13, and 17, it really started to get firm and fast. With the breeze picking up, you're going to see the greens starting to get firm and quick out there.

Q. Were you guys on the clock at any time today, and I ask that because on 11, you took the driver and after 10 green, you took the driver and took off to the tee box while the other two guys were still putting. What was the pace like and what did they tell you as they were monitoring?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, we were on the clock, but I really needed to go to the restroom after the 10th hole. (Laughter).
So I don't know if you know, but there's a sneaky one down there just left of the 11th tee and I told the guys after I tapped in that I was going to run down there.
The group in front of us seemed to go at a real good pace. We never had the guys behind us waiting. We were kind of in and out a lot of time, but we managed to finish in good time.

Q. Can you walk us through your birdies on 5 and 11 and how long was the putt on 7?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: The fifth hole, I hit a drive and an 8-iron to about ten feet and made that putt.
11, I hit a drive and a 7-iron to about five feet.
And the putt on the 7th was about ten feet.

Q. So when you were going through what you went through last winter, did you hear from other golfers on the TOUR?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Sure. I mean, Sergio gave me a call. Retief gave me a call. Tim Clark gave me a call. Nick Price, Gary Player; I mean, there was a few guys that obviously heard the news and knew where I was and tried to get ahold of me. That was nice.
You know, nice that with all of the competitive spirit that we have, you know, the guys still took the time to give me a call and see how I was doing.

Q. Did you show anybody the scar?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, do you want to see it? (Laughter) Most guys have seen it.

Q. You said most guys have seen it; you're kidding? Guys actually asked to see it?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, for sure, what I came back on TOUR, yeah.

Q. And you just pull up your shirt?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah. Public indecency.

Q. Did it help you at all coming in later yesterday and going out earlier in morning and keeping your momentum going?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I'd say that's fair to say that. You know, it gave me less time to think and you know, just try and keep the momentum going of that good round yesterday, I would say that was fair to say, yeah.

Q. When you go through something like that, to what extent has it personally changed your outlook on life compared to being a successful golfer?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, that's a tough one, because you know, like I said earlier, I'm so competitive, and I've played this game since I was five years old, and all I ever wanted to do was win golf tournaments.
So I kind of felt like it was just a speed bump, really, you know, because I just wanted to keep going. But you know, I realized that it can get taken away from you real fast. I feel like I've been loaned a talent, and you know, I'm going to try and do as well as I can.
Obviously since we've had our first child, you know, you want to hang around and be part of his growing up and try and make sure he turns into a good, upstanding citizen of the world, so, you know, for those reasons, it was all scary.
BILLY MORRIS: Thank you so much.

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