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April 13, 2008

Trevor Immelman


CRAIG HEATLEY: Well, Trevor, heartiest congratulations. That was a very courageous performance today, in blustery conditions. Would you mind just sharing a few of your thoughts from today, if you would.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Sure, thank you so much. You know, obviously it was a tough day out there. You know, when I woke up this morning, and I peaked outside and saw the trees moving around, I knew it was going to be tough out there for us, and I knew I had to go out there and just stick to my game, and stick to my game plan and play one shot at a time and just be tough. You know, I'm proud of myself for doing that.
Obviously still has not quite sunk in. I still can't believe I'm sitting in this position. But you know, I'm really thankful for it.

Q. Congratulations, first off. Would you talk about the last four months, what you've gone through, the health scare, the health problems, now that you're finally at this point; now that you're here, what this means to you now to get to this point.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, yeah, this has probably been the ultimate roller coaster ride, and I hate roller coasters. You know, it's kind of really weird.
Obviously I win the Nedbank Challenge down in South Africa, a week later I'm having an operation to remove a tumor; that all gets done, I get the right result there, and I make a pretty fast recovery over a six-, seven-week period and I get back out on to the Tour eager to play, but my game wasn't quite there. I didn't feel happy with my game. I didn't feel happy with the way I was playing. I felt like I had to just basically start from zero again.
You know, I started chipping away at a few things, and I was missing cuts but just trying to stay positive because I knew I was improving week-after-week.
Here I am after missing the cut last week, Masters Champion. It's the craziest thing I've ever heard of. (Laughter).

Q. Would you describe the save on 11 and how important that was, and then go through 16 and 17, also.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Sure. 11 is such a tough second shot, and obviously I wasn't wanting to go left, so I kind of blocked it out to the right there, and tough chip. The chip shot was a lot better than where it finished. It only needed another foot to roll down real close, and got stuck up in the fringe there. I knew the putt was going to break from the right, and kind of threw it out there maybe two or three cups outside, and when I hit it, I knew it had a good chance.
So I was real happy to see that one go in, because the way it was playing, pars, on all those back nine holes were just such a good score; so I was just so happy with that.
And then played the next three holes, I played beautifully. And I got to 16 and I was happy with my club. The wind was really swirling around there. I had to back off my shot. The breeze was supposed to be in and out of the left. You know, I felt it moving around, and you know, to be fair, I made a poor swing and I pulled it. I was just praying that I got enough of it to make it to the trap, but you know, I wasn't lucky enough there.
My caddie did a great job. He told me to just hang in there. He told me I was doing well even after I hit it in the water. And hit the 9-iron for my third shot, and made a 5 -- I kind of felt -- I didn't look at a leaderboard all day. I kind of felt I was doing okay, because even though I made a double, people are clapping for me. I figured, man, this is not right, so I figured I was doing okay.
I got to 17 and hit a beautiful tee shot and hit a great second shot with a 50-degree wedge, and, I mean, it was a foot from being stiff. I tried not to get too upset. I just tried to keep my emotions in check, and hit a great bunker shot and managed to sneak that putt in there from about three feet.
So, you know, I knew I was sitting pretty good and I just wanted to play shot for shot down 18.

Q. Just wonder, going a little bit further back in the round, you bogey 1 and Brandt eagles 2 and you're tied. I know it's very early in that stage; what's going through your mind? Are you just trying to keep the wheels on and keep the focus? What was your mind-set there?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, as you say, I knew there was just such a long way to go. It seemed like with the conditions today, there was disaster around every corner. So I was just trying to hang in there. On the first hole I hit a very poor tee shot, probably the worst tee shot of the week, and made the bogey there, which wasn't too bad after the way I played that hole.
And then Brandt just made an awesome eagle and hits a great drive and a 3- or 4-iron and rolls in that putt and I make the 5 and obviously all of a sudden we are all tied up.
You know, I just kept saying to myself, "You know, we are tied at this point, so I'm still not doing too bad." So I knew I had to hang in there, because there's so much golf to be played. You know, like I said, you can have -- how many two-shot swings did we have out there? You can have a two-shot swing every hole. I just tried to hang in there.

Q. Television said that you had got some kind of a message from Gary Player before the round; was it a text message or voicemail and could you share with us what he said?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, he left me a voicemail last night, and I got it when I was leaving the premises. You know, it gave me goosebumps because, you know, he told me that he unfortunately had to leave; he's on his way to the Middle East to do something over there, and that he wouldn't be able to watch the coverage, but told me that he believed in me and I need to believe in myself.
And he told me I've got to keep my head a little quieter when I putt -- (laughter) -- he said I'm just peaking too soon. He told me to just go out there and be strong through adversity, because he said that adversity would come today, and I just had to deal with it.
You know, I took that all to heart, and I'm obviously thankful for the message and I'm sure he's proud of me.

Q. Have you heard from him since?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: No, I don't know if he's on the ground or still in the air. I haven't heard from him since, no.

Q. I'll be the first with the Tiger question. Earlier this week, Zach was in here and people were asking, you know, some people thought it was a fluke winning last year, and his answer was, he didn't care; he won a major in Tiger's era. Wonder what your thoughts are on that sitting there with the jacket on. How much more difficult is it now with him taking so many?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I don't think it's ever easy to win a major in any era. But you know, as you say, I'm playing in Tiger Woods's era.
You know, the guy boggles my mind. (Laughter) You know, I'm an avid sports watcher, I'm an avid sports fan and I study top sportsman, and this guy is frightening in what he gets done and how he gets it done and the ease in which he gets it done. To win 13 majors at the age of 31 or 32 or whatever he is, is just frightening. It's just crazy to think how many he's going to get to.
Sure, I agree with Jack -- not Jack. I agree with Zach. To win a major while he's playing, and he's playing at his peak; he's told us that he's playing at his peak, it's a hell of an achievement. I'm not sure if I'll ever get it done again, but I'll be trying my best.

Q. Going back to your rapport with Gary Player, tell us how special that is and how important he is in your life and in your development over the last number of years?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, there's been a lot of people that are extremely important. But you know, I first met him when I was five years old at my home club in Somerset West. I have a great picture, he picked me up and put me on his shoulders, I have no front teeth. You know, that was the first time I met him.
You know, I think he realized that even at a young age, that I had so much passion for the game. And he kept in touch with me and you know, he kept writing me notes and he kept answering my calls and my letters to him and he was always there for support and advice.
You know, after I turned pro, he was there for a kick in the butt what I wasn't playing well or when he saw something that he didn't like that I was doing. And so he's been, you know, kind of like another type of a father for me, and to have somebody with that much experience on your side, giving you advice is just incredible, and I'm very thankful for that.

Q. You were just saying a few minutes ago that this win is still sinking in, but how do you think winning this major will change your life?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I have no idea. I'm sure it will be good, though. (Smiling).
I have no idea what's going to happen. I really don't know how to answer that. You know, I'm going to try and take it in my stride and I'm going to try and do all the right things and I'm going to try and be a great role model to young kids out there, and you know, that's all I can do.

Q. Gary has been carrying the mantle for South Africa for so long around here, and Ernie and Retief have come so close to try to follow it up with him; can you talk about jumping ahead of them and how hard has it been to try to represent your country here when Gary has been such a good example?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, it hasn't been hard to represent the country, obviously Gary has won three titles and it's a great feat. Ernie and Retief have come close, Tim Clark finished second, Rory Sabbatini finished second, so there have been a bunch that have come close.
This tournament is such a big deal down in South Africa. We grow up idolizing this event. You know, kids dream about winning this tournament, and just as I did, and you know, obviously, Ernie and all those guys that I mentioned, they still have many opportunities to win this event. So I wouldn't be surprised if they get it done at some point.

Q. The trip that you and Justin and Ian made up here is well-publicized. Could you tell us if there was one thing that you learned on that trip that helped you, and without stretching the point, could you have won without having made that trip?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Hmmm. (Thinking).
Well, the one thing that I learned from that trip was my strategy on the par 5s. Obviously I took note of how Zach won last year, laying up on all the par 5s. What I decided after that trip is that I needed to have a 4-iron or less to go for one of the greens on the par 5.
You know, it was tempting this week, especially I carry a hybrid club that I can hit nice and high. And at times, I could have hit that hybrid club but I stuck to my game plan and I stuck to my strategy, and that was what I laid out for myself a couple of weeks ago.
And then you know, whether I would have won or not, I don't know. But you know, I tell you, it definitely helps coming here before the tournament and just cementing in your mind certain lines off tees and the shape of the shot you want to hit off tees and where you need to lay up to to certain pin positions. I think that was so beneficial for me to come here, jot it all down in my yardage book and just be thoroughly prepared for, you know, whatever was going to get thrown at me. I know that definitely helped.

Q. When you were on 11, there was a huge roar, Tiger had just made a long putt about two holes ahead of you. Did you hear that at all?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: No. No, I didn't. Didn't hear many roars out there today. You know, obviously it's just so damn difficult. But you know, I knew he was going to play well. I mean, like I said earlier, the guy is probably going to end up being the greatest golfer of all time, so I knew he was going to make a run. And I was just trying to be strong and I was just trying to play my own game and I was hoping that it was going to be good enough.

Q. We've heard about you having highlights of past majors -- or tapes, I'm sorry. Can you talk about how that started and your passion for golf history; you talk about the Masters as a kid, what got you into the history of the game?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: From the age of five when I picked up the game, I just fell in love with it and it's all I wanted to do. That's what I told my parents; I wanted to play professional golf for a living.
So my parents facilitated that. You know, my dad recorded every televised golf tournament, you know, from that point on, and I just used to sit at home watching tapes with my brother. I've got an older brother, Mark, who also was a good golfer, and we just used to sit and watch these tapes and re-watch the tapes. You know, just imagine being here and being at majors and playing and playing well and playing on the PGA TOUR.
So, you know, those things definitely worked into my subconscious and there's no doubt it helped me. Like I said I'm a sports fanatic. I follow all sorts of things out there and try and keep my finger on the pulse when it comes to sport. I'm a sports junkie; I love it.
You know, it amazes me to see athletes pull off victories and make unbelievable shots, and that's why I enjoy watching.

Q. To what extent, Trevor, if at all, did your experience from four months ago prepare you for today in terms of perspective or whatever word you want to use to just handling the pressure?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, sure, you know, it was tough. It was tough to come through that.
Like I said earlier in the week, it was probably tougher for my family because I was just so out of it at the time; that you could have shot me in the leg and I wouldn't have known about it.
But yeah, you know, you realize that it can get taken away from you so fast. You know, one minute, the week before I'm winning a golf tournament and the next week I'm lying in a hospital bed and you just realize that it just can get taken away so fast; and if you don't enjoy every step of the way, you know, you might regret it, and that would be sad to regret a talent that you were given.

Q. For the second year in a row, it's been a very accurate driver who has won this championship. That used to be the description of the U.S. Open winner more than the Masters winner. Has this golf course changed that much, or are the wind conditions these two years working so much against the high-ball hitters that accuracy became a premium?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I think since they lengthened the course and put some more trees in, accuracy became very important.
You know, especially I'm thinking of holes like 7, and 11 and 15 and 17, all of a sudden those were holes -- maybe not 7, but the other holes I mentioned were holes you could just step up and just let it loose and now you can't really, because those pine trees are so thick that if you hit it in there, you really have no shot.
So that's why those holes where you just step up and swing for the fences, you can't do that anymore. You've got to be accurate. You've got to keep it in the fairway to be able to control it into the green.
And obviously, the second cut, too, poses a problem. By the end of the week, it's getting a little longer, your ball can sit down a little bit more and you can't control the spin as well. Those are all things that have made accuracy very important here now.

Q. I'm sure you'll enjoy this tonight and the next few days and next week; but, having made this breakthrough, how determined are you now to go on to go into majors? You're going to win the Grand Slam, right?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Probably not, no. (Laughter).
You know, that's a great question. It's probably too early to think about that. You know, I've always dreamed about winning majors, and deep down, I always thought I was good enough, but you know, at times you obviously doubt yourself, because you know, you miss a few cuts and you screw up a few times and you're just like, man, maybe I'm not as good, or not good enough.
But you know, obviously this is a tremendous confidence boost, and now that I know that I have got one under my belt, all I can do is go out there and prepare well for the majors from now on, and just try my best. I mean, I'm definitely not going to sit back and go, okay, that's me, I'm done, if that's the answer you're looking for. I'm going to keep working hard and trying to make the most of what I've been given.
CRAIG HEATLEY: Trevor, just for the record, would you mind just going through the holes starting at 5, what you hit in there and just run through some of those for us, please.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Sure. The fifth hole I hit a very nice drive and an 8-iron to about three feet and made that one.
Then I bogeyed No. 8, which you know, wasn't very good. I hit a poor drive and I hit a great second shot from the bunker. My wedge shot got caught up in the breeze and I left myself an extremely tough putt. I ran it about five feet by.
Then I hit a good putt for par that didn't break, so I made a bogey on 8, which wasn't a train smash, but definitely not what I was looking for.
Then I made some pars. 11, I made the great putt that kind of kept things going for me.
12, I was just trying to play to the left side of the green and I just hit it too good through the breeze with an 8-iron, and ball went up into the pine straw there which definitely wasn't ideal. Obviously from there I was just trying to protect hitting it into the water with a chip, so I left it a little short and actually holed a nice 4-footer there for bogey.
13, I hit 3-wood off the tee and like I said, I didn't have an iron into the green, so I laid up with a 6-iron down the right side so I could use the back stop so that flag, and hit that pitch just absolutely perfect, rolled down to about a foot and made that one.
Then we get to 16, I've described already. I pulled a 7-iron, worst shot of the day, I believe. Then hit a 9-iron to about 20 feet and 2-putted.
Then 18, I hit the drive of the week into the biggest divot you've ever seen. (Laughter) And we got down there and my caddie said, "It's not going to be easy. You knew it wasn't going to be easy." And I just put an 8-iron back in my stance and just ripped at it and thankfully it came out straight and I was real happy to see that it stayed on the right level.
I was trying to figure out how I was going to 4-putt to win the Tournament, because I didn't think I could do it. (Laughter) but luckily I only needed two.
CRAIG HEATLEY: Trevor, it's a day you'll never forget; neither will we. Congratulations, you're a very worthy Champion. Thanks for coming in.

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