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June 10, 2008

Trevor Immelman


Full Audio Interview

RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Trevor Immelman to the interview area this afternoon. He's playing in his fifth Open Championship. He's a former USGA National Champion, winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links here at Torrey Pines.

Talk about what it means to you to the place where it was the site of a significant victory for you.

1 TREVOR IMMELMAN: It's fantastic to be back here. I love California to start with. It's great for me to be back here. I've always enjoyed the golf course. Obviously the views are spectacular. I've enjoyed playing the course. I think it's going to be a great week.

RAND JERRIS: Talk a little bit about what your important victory a couple of months ago has meant to you, what you bring from that victory as you come to Torrey Pines this week.

2 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Obviously it's been life changing for me. So there were a few things, off the course activities that I had to get used to. I feel like I've done that in the last two or three weeks, I've started to feel a little more myself and a little bit more comfortable with the situation. So that's been nice.

But I think the biggest thing it gave me is that I proved to myself that if I play my best golf I can win any tournament. And so I guess that's what I took from that victory. I guess it's just trying to find a way to play my best golf more often, you know?

Q. What was it about not doing as well after winning at Augusta, is it the commitments involved, just your time maybe with your family or lack thereof and were you warned that no matter how you look at this it's going to hit you because no one can plan after winning a Major in terms of prioritizing time and so forth?

3 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I think there's a few different things that happened. First of all, obviously every person who ever decides to take up golf for a living wants to win a Major. So that's all you ever work for.

And once you win it it takes a little time to let that sink in. It takes a little time to come to grips with the fact that you've done it. And then it also takes a little time to figure out where you're going to go from there.

So I think I had that to deal with. Just a lot of extra commitments to my time that I wasn't used to. I wasn't used to doing what some of these guys have to do off the golf course. I became better at managing my time, a lot better at saying yes to certain things and no to other things.

So those are all things that I had to learn. And I had to learn them kind of on the fly. So it wasn't that easy to begin with. As I said, the last few weeks I've started to feel a little more comfortable with the situation. I think my game has picked up consequently. So that's nice.

Q. Is there any particular memorable moment from that Public Links win here that sticks out in your mind? There's been so much talk about Tiger and Phil's familiarity and advantage, and how much do you feel an advantage or familiarity, given your history here?

4 TREVOR IMMELMAN: I don't feel like there's much of an advantage because the course has changed so much and it was ten years ago. So it was just so long ago. The thing that -- other than winning the tournament the thing that jumps out to me the most was in the semifinal I was tied after regulation play. And we had to play the first hole as a playoff. I hit my second shot through the back of the green and chipped in to win the match. That's something I still remember.

And then on the Sunday for the final we had a long, probably two or three hour fog delay. We couldn't tee off. And so I remember that, as well.

Q. Who was the chip-in against?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: Sorry, I don't remember that.

Q. You mentioned that there's a great difference between the Torrey that existed ten years ago and possibly even in February and the Torrey that we see now. Tell us what those differences are and tell us, even more importantly, how are you going to adapt your game plan and strategies to those differences?

5 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, obviously we all know that it's longer. It's a lot longer. So that's one of the things that you've got to deal with. And then the other major thing is that the greens are a lot more severe and undulating and there are a lot more plateaus to the greens. I definitely think the course favors a long hitter. There's no doubt about it. I think the way the course has been set up, I think it's been very well set up. Make no mistake, this is a seriously difficult golf course, but it's been very fairly set up, from what I've seen in the last couple of days.

But I still think it favors a long hitter, just because it's going to -- obviously we're going to have this kind of weather, it's going to be damp and cold. The ball doesn't go very far. So I think a power hitter is going to prevail around here. But the greens are -- once you manage to hit the fairway which is of massive importance, the greens are going to be tricky. They're going to be fast and they are already quite firm. You're going to have a lot of big breaking putts that you're going to have to pay a lot of attention to.

Q. Last time we all checked you were the only one that can win the Grand Slam this year. Maybe giving it just a little bit of thought in bed at night or --


Q. No?

6 TREVOR IMMELMAN: No. I would be the happiest guy on earth if I did it over the span of a career. We can safely say that if I do it this year I will retire (laughter), okay? There's no chance of that. I haven't not even for one second thought about that, no.

Q. The fact that there were two months for you to sort of find yourself again between The Masters and the next major coming up, was that important for you and having that result last week and getting in that playoff, coming into this, was that a big turning point for getting back to where you were?

7 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, that was nice. For a while I found it tough to concentrate on the course, just because I had so much going through my mind. The Memorial I felt like I played a solid -- I had a solid week. I really actually my short game was pretty good. So that was nice. I took some confidence to Memphis.

Then I played a bad first round. But I really played a great second round, one of my best rounds of the year. That gave me a lot of confidence. I just kind of took it through to the weekend.

Once I got into the hunt I actually felt really comfortable. Coming down the stretch on Sunday, now I really was pretty excited and -- excited about being in that situation. I was really into every shot and into really trying to birdie the last couple of holes to get myself into the playoff. So that was great for my confidence to actually -- I knew I needed to birdie the last two to get into the playoff. For me to pull that off that was nice coming into this tournament, just gave me that extra little bit of confidence.

Q. A lot of guys who win their first Major spend the next few weeks saying, "Yeah, things are back to normal. Yeah, I've got it under control. I've got it figured out." Then like a year later at the Major they won it said, "Yeah, it really took me like a year." Is part of it almost convincing yourself that everything is okay and you got it all figured out and straightened out now? Is it you almost have to talk yourself into it?

8 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, if I'm going to be brutally honest with you I'd say the reason is that two or three weeks after, I think you're trying to convince everybody else that you're fine. But I never for one second said that. I mean I was absolutely smoked afterwards.

Playing the Byron Nelson and even Wachovia, which are two of my favorite events, I was just totally out of it. There was no way I was going to play anywhere near my potential in those weeks.

Then I took -- then I got sick at TPC, which I think is also a product of just being rundown. And then I took another two weeks off and I was just -- that was the time when I really kind of sort of got to grips with what had happened to me.

In my case not for one second -- I knew it was going to be real tough. Especially for a guy like me who -- you know, I pay a lot of attention to the history of the game and the guys that have come before me. And I've always put Major Champions on such a different level, such a pedestal. Winning a Major Championship is such an incredible achievement, that I almost couldn't -- you kind of look up at those guys your whole life. Then when you achieve it, you know sometimes you just can't quite see yourself the same way.

And that took me some time to try to figure all of that out in my own head. So I think that's probably the most difficult part for guys who win their first Major quite early on in their careers.

Q. Prior to winning Augusta which of the four Majors had you thought maybe your game was best suited to win of the Majors and which one would you have preferred if given a choice prior to winning The Masters?

9 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I always thought my game suited The Open Championship and then I would have thought the PGA and The Masters kind of in behind that one and then the U.S. Open was probably -- I would say this is the toughest one for me to win.

To the second part of your question, growing up as a kid in South Africa, The Masters and The Open Championship are the two that -- two Majors that are really -- we get so much TV coverage about. And it's really in your face all the time.

So those are the two events that you really -- it really gets blown up down in South Africa. Those are the two events you watch all the time on TV.

But once you turn professional and you understand a little bit more about it you come to realize how different and how special every one of these Majors are in their own right. To be a champion of any one of those, it's life changing and it's a dream come true. It's something you'll take with you to your grave. It's just the ultimate achievement. In golfing terms, that is.

Q. We got this big marquee pairing with Tiger and Phil and I don't know who Adam made mad and he's thrown in as the third guy. Is there any hope amongst the rest of you guys that maybe they'll all take each other out?

10 TREVOR IMMELMAN: I just think that when you come to a tournament like this and a venue like this, there's way too much going on for you to worry about that kind of thing. This golf course is extremely challenging and demanding and it would just be an absolute waste of energy to be thinking about something like that.

I think it's a fantastic pairing. I'll probably be watching some of it before I tee off. I think it's great. It's going to be great for the game and great for the viewership. I think it's going to be an interesting dynamic. It's going to be good to see.

But there's a whole host of players that have a great chance on this course. Like I said earlier it's been very well put together and it's going to be a very exciting week.

Q. Going back to '98, I'm wondering, was there something about that that was memorable besides the tournament itself? I don't know if you had ever been to Southern California before. Do you have memories of what that was like for you as kind of a cultural experience?

11 TREVOR IMMELMAN: I'd been here a few times playing in the Junior World Series, in the 13-14 Division. And then obviously in the 15-18 Division here at Torrey. And I've always loved Southern California. It reminds me a lot of Capetown where I grew up and where I'm from. The coast line, the vegetation, everything is similar to where I grew up. I love it here. I'm very comfortable here. I enjoy being here.

So every time I came to play a tournament I always just remember having a good time. I stayed with a great host family out at LaCosta and all my memories are just happy, great memories of being here. I've always just had a fantastic time every time I've come to this part of the world.

Q. You're a long way from home, a long way from South Africa. Do you feel going into this event as The Masters champion the weight of expectations from golf fans back home?

12 TREVOR IMMELMAN: No, not at all, no, I don't. I feel like I've had a real solid career up to this point. I've achieved kind of on a gradual climb. I don't feel any extra expectation or pressure at all. I'm just out here to play. I work hard. I work as hard as I can. And you come to tournaments and you play as hard as you can. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. There's nothing to be ashamed of. You come here and you give it your all.

This game is just so difficult that it's impossible to take it too seriously or take yourself too seriously, because you're just going to -- it will probably end up driving you mad at that point. I don't pay any attention to anything like that.

Q. Tiger said today that he's not a hundred percent. I'm wondering if there's any buzz among the players that he might not be quite what he had been like before The Masters, that type of thing.

13 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, I don't believe him. He'll be fine, don't worry.

Q. Tell me about the dynamics of family life for you with how much does your family travel with you and just how is that set up with being from South Africa and how does that play out for you?

14 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, I mean it's -- we base ourselves down in Orlando. My wife used to travel with me a lot up until our child was born. At that point she stayed at home a little more regularly. He's almost two now so they've started coming out on the road a bit more.

That's been fun. It's been great having them around because it just got to the point that you kind of sit back and realize, hey, you know, your family life and my little boy growing up, I mean it's far more important than going to tournaments and just grinding it out. Id much rather be a great father than a great golfer.

I think it got to the point where I really decided I wanted them to travel more so I could spend more time with my wife and more time with Jacob. That's been great. We've done that a bit more this year. I was so thankful to have them at Augusta to experience that moment with me. That's something I'll absolutely never forget.

That said, they were with me in Memphis last week and in Ohio the week before, but he's in Orlando with my parents right now and my wife is here with me this week. That's been fantastic to have him around more this season.

Q. Is there one element in your game that you think you've got to be particularly on top of this week in order to contend by Sunday? Just as a follow-up to that, once we get to Sunday what do you think it's going to take to win this tournament in terms of the score?

15 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I think -- U.S. Open's, driving is always very important. You need to keep the ball in play as often as possible. And then this week, like I said earlier, putting is going to be real tricky. The greens are at a decent speed right now. They're taking a very big first bounce. And then once you get out there -- it's quite interesting because when you stand in the fairway you look at the green and it looks fairly flat.

But then when you get up to the green there are a lot of big slopes in these greens. So you're going to have to place your iron shots in the right spots and that's going to be difficult. This golf course, it's going to test absolutely every part of your game. And then as usual the U.S. Open tests you mentally as much as any other tournament.

Q. Two part question. One is, how much does it help preparation-wise to have a Major Championship under your belt? Is it a different preparation leading into The Masters this year as opposed to now going into a U.S. Open with a Major Championship under your belt?

16 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I think knowing that you've won a Major, the thing you take with you is the fact that you've done it before. And that's always comforting to know that you've won on the biggest stage. So that's what you take with you from that point of view.

As far as preparing for different Majors, I didn't do anything differently, really. I played the week before Augusta in Houston and then I played in Memphis last week. I decided this year to try to play before the Majors and come into the tournament with a bit more competitive practice rather than being at home in Orlando just hitting thousands of balls every day. I decided to attack it slightly differently. My preparation has been very similar to these first two Majors of the season.

Q. We mentioned the whole Tiger/Phil match-up. I know you don't care that much about it, but do you think it helps players at all that 75 percent of the fans are going to be following those two around. If you were a fan and not on the Tour but just were coming, would you follow them around?

17 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, well, I think 100 percent of the fans will be following them, not 75, and, yeah, I would definitely watch them. I mean, I would pay to watch Tiger play golf, absolutely. He's something we may never see again. But the thing about him that I find more incredible is the way that he handles everything that goes on around him and the grace at which he handles things. The way he treats people around him.

He's the ultimate champion from start to finish, on the golf course and off the golf course. There's no doubt about it I'd pay to watch him play.

Q. You would fight the crowd to be part of that spectacle as opposed to just going off and following somebody else?

18 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Maybe I'd get some sort of media credential from one of you. I don't often see many of you guys out there. But I would probably walk the course.

Yeah, I think what I would do is I would -- I'd strategically position myself some way, so I could see them come up a green or go down a fairway. I can tell you something right now: I played in the U.S. Open in Chicago when Jim Furyk won. I forget -- Olympia Fields -- and I missed the cut and I went and walked with Tiger on the Saturday. And that was 2003. And I was competing in the tournament. That's not that long ago.

Q. Could you see anything?

19 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, like I said, I positioned myself, there was a downhill par-3, so I watched him play down there. And then I walked to the middle of the next fairway, I think that was 7. And then 8 was the next fairway. And then I walked across to the 11th tee and I sat right up against the rope, watched him tee off down 11. So, yeah, I saw him hit probably five or six shots that day.

Q. Did he see you?


Q. Your group was kind of -- the way this 18 is going to play this week, the way you guys played it, Camilo hit it up there and almost got the double eagle. And you had the misfortune of hitting into the pond. What is it about that hole? How do you see that this week? Will it play different ways depending on where you were in the tournament, that type of thing?

20 TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, I think it's going to be a fantastic finishing hole because there's a generous amount of fairway, so you can go ahead and try and hit a long drive. And then it really makes you think, because you're right in that kind of in-between yardage, between 240 and 260 yards to the front. So then you've got to decide if you're going to go for it, if you're going to layup. If you hit it over the back and get a bad lie you can chip it in the water easily.

It's going to be a fantastic finishing hole. When they get those pins up front and you layup, and let's say you're going in with a full sand wedge or lob wedge, you're going to have to be careful, as the greens get firmer, you might even spin the ball backward into the water. They've really shaved down that bank there in front of the greens. So I think it's going to be a fantastic finish, I really do.

RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much for your time this afternoon. Wish you lots of luck this week.

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