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April 7, 2009

Trevor Immelman


RONALD TOWNSEND: Good morning. We would like to welcome our 2008 Masters Champion, Trevor Immelman. Last time he was in this interview room, he had just won the Masters. He became the second South African to win the Masters. The first time you played in the Masters was 1999 as an amateur and this is your seventh Masters.
I understand you have a few comments and you want to share something, but would you rather take questions first?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Let's take questions.

Q. Could you talk about what it was like to go into the champion's locker room for the first time now that you're back, and kind of who you saw and what it was like?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, it's obviously been a surreal experience really. I came here to Augusta National about a month ago and had a little visit. That was the first time I went in there and saw my name up on the locker. You know, just like I said, pretty surreal experience.
And going in there this week and meeting some of the past champions has been great fun. Obviously I'm really looking forward to tonight. I think it's probably going to be the highlight of my week. It's just going to be an honor for me to be in the presence of such great champions. For me, it's going to be fantastic to be a part of that.

Q. How has your world changed since you've become the Masters Champion?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, tremendously. I don't think I was aware or prepared for what happened. Obviously it's all good stuff. You know, it's a lot of great issues that you have to deal with.
But I think it took me a little time to become accustomed to that. But it's been great fun. You know, my family and I really have had a great time, and I've been able to experience and have some great opportunities, and so it's been fantastic.
You know, it's something that I wouldn't trade for anything. It really has been a great eye-opener, and I think I've learned a lot about myself and about my game. And so it's just been a tremendous year; the greatest year of my career from a standpoint of getting to be able to experience things and learn a lot about myself at the same time.

Q. What do you think you've learned about yourself?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, you know, I think you get to realize where your comfort levels are and learning how to deal with it when you're out of your comfort zone. I think to some extent, every athlete has their comfort zone and competes their best when they are in that. But the only way you are going to improve is if you learn to compete well out of that comfort zone.
You know, that's when you start learning about how you play your best golf and when you play your best golf and what you need to do to do that; as well as from a personal level, having to deal with being more of a role model to a certain extent and having people look up to you probably more so than I ever had.
Those kind of things on a personal and a professional basis.

Q. Gary Player was in here yesterday talking about how proud he was that you had won here. What did you find out about what this championship means back home?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, this means a great deal. You know, like I said last year, I touched on it last year after the Tournament, you know, the two tournaments that are very well-broadcasted in South Africa is the Masters and The Open Championship. Young kids, young golf enthusiasts really have an opportunity to see a lot of coverage from those two Majors.
Obviously with Gary winning it three times, it was thrust into the spotlight even more. It means a great deal down there. It was fantastic for me to be the second South African to have won. Hopefully that breaks the seal and gets some more of the guys out here. Because like I said, it's a tournament that creates a lot of excitement in South Africa, and obviously we have got a lot of great players playing in a worldwide basis.
Hopefully that breaks the seal for the guys to be able to know that they can come here and compete well and have a chance to win.

Q. You talked earlier about being kind of a slow starter earlier in the year; what is the state of your game going into this week and have you been on the course yet?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, my game is starting to feel pretty good. You know, I look -- obviously played a lot through the off-season. Like I said, I had a lot of great opportunities and took advantage of some of them. So I decided to take some time off at the start of the year.
Since I came back, I had a little bit of a slow start but my game within last few weeks has really started to feel like it's coming around. There was a couple of things that I wanted to work on in my game, and I feel like those changes are going to really work for me in the long run.
So I'm looking forward to competing. I'm really looking forward to this week and the remainder of the season. Like I said, I was here a month ago and played a couple of rounds and played yesterday again. So it's obviously pretty emotional for me still to go on to the course. I have a lot of very distinct memories of last year, and you know, even yesterday playing was kind of similar conditions to the final round last year, same wind direction. Every hole felt so similar to the final round last year.
It's been fantastic to have so many great memories coming in and out this week. I'm really looking forward to getting underway on Thursday.

Q. What did you hit on 12 yesterday?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, I hit the same club and I actually came up a little short. But just in that front bunker there. Whereas last year, I hit it back into the pine straw, but obviously last year I was in a situation to where I knew I wasn't going to hit it and leave it short-side and probably gave it a little extra down at the bottom.
The whole way around it's been fantastic. The patrons have been incredible. Every time I come back, the members have been so accommodating in welcoming me back. It's feels just absolutely awesome to feel part of such a great fraternity of golf. That's something I will always cherish.

Q. You were ranked 129 in the world when you won; what advice would you give players ranked similarly heading into this week should they find themselves in contention on the weekend?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, I think, Tom, the state of golf has just gotten so strong from top to bottom now.
You know, guys who are in the Top-50 in the world, it's really not a long shot for them to win a major. It really isn't. You know, anybody who is in the Top-50 in the world on their day can win any tournament, physically.
Now, only time will tell if they have got what it takes inside to be able to pull that off when that moment arises. But physically, anybody in the Top-50 or even the Top-60 has a realistic chance of winning a Major. It's just whether they feel like they can get that done when the moment pops up.

Q. If you could distill that quality, when the moment rises, into a word, what would it be? What must a player possess?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, you've just got to be unflappable. You've got to be able to roll with the punches, and you've got to be able to believe in yourself when the chips are down, and just hang in there.

Q. What was that moment last year at the Tournament that let you know that you had what it took to be a champion here?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, I think growing up, I always deep down, I don't know whether I knew I had what it takes or whether I hoped I had what it takes. I still haven't quite figured that out.
Last year when I think back, obviously I had such a crazy start to the season with just trying to come back and get fit again. Once I got here, every time I come to Augusta National, I get inspired. I just played such a great front nine on Thursday, and it just kind of got me going, and the ball started rolling.
Obviously come Saturday night, I knew I had the lead and I knew that this was a chance for me to do something great. I can't really pinpoint a certain time, because when the conditions are that trying, and you're trying to win a Major championship with everything on the line, you can't think that far ahead, and I think that's where I was really good last year. I really just tried to complete every hole as well as I could complete that hole at that time.
And so obviously, once I hit my second shot on the green and I found out I was three ahead, at that point, I knew, okay, well, I couldn't lose it from there. So that's something I really enjoyed, because I was able to make that walk that I've watched on TV, so many great players do make on TV; I was able to make that walk knowing I had won. I was trying my best to let my guard down in a sense and take that all in. At that point, I can't really say it started sinking in, because in some sense, I still don't think it's sunk in. But I was able to try and enjoy that moment as much as I could.

Q. A year ago, Zach Johnson talked about how his game had a little bit of a letdown after he won the Masters. What about your game? Did you expect that you would have more success after winning here going through the rest of the season?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, that's a great question. I think what happened to me, if I could do it all again, is I think after I won last year, my expectations got too great.
I kind of felt like I could play like that every week, and it's just not possible in any sport to compete -- well, you know, I guess it is, because Tiger does it. But whether he's human or not, is still up for debate. (Laughter).
It's very difficult to compete like that, and when you look at my stats for last year's tournament, I was right up there in the Top-5 in pretty much every category. I think me personally, I'm such a perfectionist, I left this tournament thinking, well, I found the secret, and I'm going to play like this every week. And I think I expected that from myself.
And when I didn't, I think I just started putting too much pressure on myself, and I think it took me to sometime to kind of figure all that out, and then move on. And it was only really once the Playoffs started that I really started to get rid of some of that mental baggage, shall I say, and started competing properly again, without putting too much pressure on myself.
So I think that was the thing that I had to figure out.

Q. You talked about the other South Africans here. Is there any reason why people like Tim or Ernie or Retief couldn't win?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: No, there's no reason. All of those guys have already finished second here, including Rory. They obviously know what it takes and they have got what it takes. It's just, like I said, it's the roll of the dice, when you have that moment. If you're going to take it and it goes your way, it's just the nature of the beast.

Q. Just in terms of your preparation this week and coming back as defending champ, has it been harder to work and get stuff done that you would like to; a lot of attention?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I feel like I had great week. I played three events in the Florida Swing and felt like I got some good competitive play in. I had last week off at home working on parts of my game that I felt I needed to sharpen up before the week started.
You know, I think I've learned to deal with the distractions a lot better, and I also think that we have done a good job of managing those things so that I can get it all done in big hits so that I was not being pulled in all sorts of directions last week.
So last week was a great week for me to be at home with my family and work on my game, and just relax. I feel like I'm rested, and like I said, I'm not only looking forward to this tournament, but I'm really looking forward to the rest of the year. I feel like I'm starting to get things back on track, and I'm starting to feel really good about my game.
So I had some good preparation last week.

Q. What do you think you're going to feel like on Thursday on the first tee when you're announced as defending champion?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I don't really know, because I've never been in that situation. So if you have any advice for me. (Laughing).
Obviously I'm going to be nervous and excited and anxious and everything all at the same time. I've been announced as the Masters Champion a few times, and every time, it's goosebump stuff, just an absolutely incredible feeling.
You know, I'm sure that's going to happen again. And the first few holes are going to be tough, because I'm going to have to quiet my mind and settle down as fast as I can and get on with this year's tournament. Last year's tournament was a defining moment in my career, so far. But I need to focus on this year's tournament now, and so I'm going to need to try to find a way to settle down as soon as I can and get on with the 2009 Masters.

Q. Apologize if this was asked earlier, I walked in late, but there's been a lot of talk about the thrill and fireworks on this course being gone and it being subdued; do you think that's an accurate assessment or overreaction or what do you think of that sort of theme?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I think it's a bit of an overreaction. Like I've said in a couple of media conferences recently, you know, when I look back at last year's tournament, with me being 11-under after three days, that rarely happens in a major championship. The scoring was pretty good last year, until we got that weather on the final day.
So in a sense, I think it's a little bit of an overreaction. I think we have been in a pattern of some pretty interesting weather for the last few years. When you get high winds at Augusta National, you know, it's pretty tough and intimidating out there. On your second shots, on various occasions, you only really have three, four, five yards to work with to where you have to land your ball, and so when you get a gusting 30-mile-an-hour wind with 60-feet high pine trees, that four-yard gap shrinks, and you obviously see scores shoot up.
And so right now, the forecast for this weekend is supposed to be great and I would expect guys to start really firing at some pins and making some nice putts, and we'll hear those roars come back.
So I think there's been a little bit too much made of it.

Q. You've brought up the weather. Is the weather more severe here than some other places that you play? I don't guess it's as severe as, say, the British Open, but here in America?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: You know, it's interesting, because when I was turning pro and playing on The European Tour, man, a decade ago, which has gone like that (snapping fingers) I would always compete in some difficult conditions, and then I would be back home in London in my apartment by Sunday night, and then I would watch the PGA Tour coverage. I was always like, man, look how good the weather is over there.
And since I've joined the PGA TOUR here in 2006, we have had nothing but 30-mile-an-hour wind every week. I'm like, what happened to the weather I was seeing on TV when I was sitting on the other side of the world? I just feel like we are in some sort of pattern right now, and we are getting a lot of wind in the United States. It just feels like every week is a windy week. And I'm going down to Harbour Town next week, and I can guarantee you the wind is going to blow there, too.
It just seems like that's the way it is nowadays. We are dealing with a lot more thunderstorms and windy conditions, and even look at Houston last week, some crazy stuff happening.

Q. Well, maybe you've answered this question; you come here and you bring the wind with you.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Maybe it's me. It's crazy. Where I grew up -- I love South Africa, and the part of the country that I grew up in, Cape Town, is still to me, and I've travelled pretty much everywhere, is one of the most beautiful places in the world, in Cape Town. We have this summer wind there called a southeaster which the locals call the 'Cape Doctor' because the wind comes in and blows so hard that it just blows all the clouds, pollution, and trash and blows it all away and it just comes in and cleans up the whole city because it is so strong.
So I grew up playing in heavy wind, and I just couldn't wait to get away from that wind, you know, practicing in heavy wind my whole life. So maybe it is me; that this wind follows me; I don't know.

Q. What is on the menu tonight and how much thought have you put into that?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I put a lot of thought into it. I wanted to keep it -- I wanted to have a South African flair, but obviously it had been 30 years since we had a South African win. I wanted to do that as well as keep it simple so that past champions would want to try it and eat it and then enjoy it. I could have had some wild game and meat and stuff like that, but I just didn't feel like I wanted to do that, have it all here and have guys eat filets.
I went with a pretty simple spinach salad to start and a bunch of different toppings. I've got it right here. I decided to go with two options. My red meat option is a dish we call Babotie, which is very prominent in the Western Cape where I'm from. That dish is minced meat, cocked minced meat, it has something that gives it a curry flavor. Once the meat is cooked in the spices, a very thin layer of egg is put on top of it and then baked, and then you eat it with yellow rice, and it's very flavorful. It's going to be fantastic, actually, with this cold weather. That's going to be great.
And then my other option is what we call a Chicken Sosaties, which is like a skewer, a chicken skewer; so it will have grilled chicken and vegetables on the skewer and just grill it on an open flame. So once again, just something that's simple and guys are going to want to eat.
And then for desert, very traditional South African, Afrikaans, South African desert called Melktert, which is like -- it's sort of the same consistency and style as like pumpkin pie almost, except the main ingredient is milk. It's fantastic. I think it's going to be great. We have got some wins from my hometown in South Africa.
I'm looking forward to it. Like I said, I think it's going to be the highlight of my week, to be in the presence of guys that I have just idolized and looked up to my whole life.
And so you know, I'm thoroughly looking forward to it.
RONALD TOWNSEND: Sounds exciting. Other questions? Having none, thank you. Thank you, Trevor. Enjoy your dinner this evening.

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