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November 12, 2009

Will MacKenzie


MARK STEVENS: Okay. I'd like to welcome Will MacKenzie to the media center. Will shot a -5 on the Palm Course this morning. Will, if you'd start off and talk a little bit about your round today and the conditions teeing off early this morning, and then we'll take some questions.
WILL MacKENZIE: Woke up about 5:45 -- it was early. I went to the Orlando Magic game last night. That was nice.
But I just played really well out there for me today. I mean I've been struggling most of the year, so it was nice to play solid. All I did different than what I do every week is I kept my head still on my putter and I putted well.
I didn't hit it any better or anything. I just kept my head still and putted really nicely today, so my goal is to do that again tomorrow, and then actually for the rest of my career. (Laughs). If I could keep my head still, I might become a very -- I might become a decent putter, because I'm a pretty bad putter, typically.
I mean I'm like 181st. I didn't even know there was that many people on TOUR. I just looked at it. Not good. But that's what's been holding me back. My ball striking is usually my strong suit.
But I didn't hit it that good today. I finished strong. I had two great shots on that last hole on the Palm. But you're playing the easy golf course, you gotta go out there and shoot a few under. But the conditions are tough out there. I mean the Magnolia's gotta be playing pretty darn difficult today. I think this is a good draw.
MARK STEVENS: All right. Thanks a lot, Will. Questions.

Q. As I recall, you weren't exactly flying real high when you won last year coming into that tournament either. All of a sudden the light went on and you went from being dead and buried to winning a golf tournament. So long way to go this week, but kind of looks like you flipped the switch again.
WILL MacKENZIE: Maybe. I'm not ending good enough. I hit a couple -- like I said, I hit a few good shots down there, I mean my timing's off. I'm sort of whiffing it. But I tell you, if you can roll the rod, it doesn't matter, because you can get it up-and-down, save pars and then when you do get in position, you might make a few putts.
I mean it's amazing how big the putting is out here. I mean it really is borderline putting contest. I mean you gotta ball strike it, but man, if you get confident with that putter, it really helps.
But you know, as far as last year, you know, I had like eight weeks off because I had my knee surgery, and it gave me time to sort of reevaluate where I stood. I worked pretty hard with my psychologist, who loves to work with me. He thinks I'm the perfect candidate, worked with Gio Valiente.
And I just came out ready to play, and I knew I was going to play well sooner or later. I had a backup plan, though. I did have a little medical -- you know, small medical, but I needed to play well, and I did. So that's nice.
As far as this week, I just need to, you know, have fun. I mean I've got exemption for next year, but I'm not in the Top 125. I'm like 131 maybe. Does that sound right? You know, it's sad, but I mean the year has just passed me right by, and I'm just going to have to play my heart out this week and hopefully I can build on it this off season. I mean I've got a little boy and now my wife's having another one. It's getting busy around our house.

Q. You kind of just touched on it, but what's it like, you know, half the field here is grinding to make 125, half the field's on vacation. What's it like to be here and not have to sweat out the last couple thousand dollars?
WILL MacKENZIE: Dicey vacation for the guys because of the weather, but you know, it's one of those -- it's one of those wonderful events where there's just so much -- I mean if I was a media guy, there's a lot of -- there's guys grinding for their livelihood out there, and you know, it's tough. I mean it's tough.
Like you said, for me it's not that big of a deal, but I'm playing for a little something. Of course I want to come into the Top 125, Players Championship. There's all the little things. There's guys trying to get in Top 70 and obviously guys trying to get in Top 125, and then there's the guys that are hopefully getting in the Top 150. I know Tommy Gainey had that big week last year, got him some starts out here. He was going to lose his card totally and then played great, almost won the event. And you know, that was awesome.
So it's just a cool week.

Q. You were talking about your putting. What changed out there? Was it the conditions that helped you out?
WILL MacKENZIE: No. I just kept my head still.

Q. Simple as that?
WILL MacKENZIE: Yeah. That's it. And I've done it before. I just have a tough time continuing to do it. I love to see that ball rolling.

Q. Will, I don't know if you were half serious, half kidding. You said you were the perfect candidate for Gio's mental gymnastics. What makes you the perfect candidate? Is there a lot in there to meld and mold or?
WILL MacKENZIE: Probably. I mean I just like to -- you know, he can add some structure to me, to my pre-shot routine and get me, you know, believing in my abilities, and you know, I mean, but half the time I'm not listening to him. So he's like, what are we even doing, buddy? You're not listening to me. You heard of Ritalin? You need to take it, Will.
I'm over there looking at The Golf Channel like, is that Tim Herron? It is. You can spot him. (Laughs). I'm looking at it like a 20-inch TV over there.

Q. Was keeping your head still a tip you got from someone? I mean have you always been a shaky putter?
WILL MacKENZIE: Yeah. I've been a little streaky. I mean I've had some good events out here in my past. But you know, the two times I've won, I putted with a Claw, the Claw grip. And my wife thinks I'm an idiot. I'm not putting Claw right now.
But everybody on TOUR, they're like, why don't you putt with the Claw? That's the times you played well. But I don't like putting with the Claw. I like it when it's good, but then when it's bad, you're like, uh, I'm putting with a Claw and I'm putting bad.

Q. That's as bad as it gets.
WILL MacKENZIE: It's as bad as it gets. I'm like, oh, gosh, where's the long donger. I mean give me -- put that anchor to the chest.
But for me, I think I'm not really like scared of it or yippy with it, I just -- you know, if I keep my head down, I can make a pretty decent -- I mean I make good putting strokes.
It's just Gio's worked with me. I mean it's the oldest trick in the book, oldest tip in the book, it's Golf 101, keep your head still when you putt. So I mean I've known it for a long time. I just -- I don't know. I hadn't written it down or something.

Q. (No microphone).
WILL MacKENZIE: Gio's worked with me really hard on that. He has in the past. But I mean I knew it before I met Gio. But Gio was pretty avid about, you know, me -- you know, he would always do the drill where he's like, you're just all over the place, Bud. You love to look. So let's just not look. Let's get into your little square here, your little rectangle and let's stay in this little box and let's make a good putt, you know, and we'll let the results take care of themselves.
And it's really liberating because when I'm putting and I'm peaking and I miss, I just -- I go nuts. I get mad. I'm like, oh, I'm peaking. I'm doing this, bad strokes. And then when you keep your head still, I mean like still like Chris Riley still, like keep it still for a while, I mean the ball's three-quarters of the way there and then look up, if you miss, you're like, you don't get so mad. It's nice. But if you keep it down the whole time and you miss, you don't even know how it missed, so you really can't get mad. Your speed actually gets better, too. Strike.

Q. You talk about guys out there grinding for their livelihood. Is it easier for a guy to grind for their livelihood who lived for a month in an ice cave?
WILL MacKENZIE: No. This game's creepy. This game is as creepy as anything I've ever done. It's like anything, you want to play well. You want to do whatever you're doing well, just like you guys. I mean everybody wants to do their job well.
And I mean sometimes staring over shots that you gotta hit over water, you know you gotta make a great strike. You haven't been doing it that well, I mean it's difficult. So you know, I was young when I did all that stuff. I had nothing to lose. I was not afraid.

Q. Just to clarify, Will, you already partially answered this, when you say keeping your head still, you mean at address, drawing the club back, back swing? How long do you keep it still?
WILL MacKENZIE: I think the answer to that question better is to keep my eyes still. I'm fidgety. You know, like I said, I'm looking over here and then I'm looking at Rick and I'm looking at Paul Claire over there. I mean, you know, there's a lot of activity.
And you know, it's nice when you almost steel your eyes -- look at Tiger, I mean Tiger Woods, best player in the world, you know, it just looks like he's got this countenance about him when he's over his putt. It's like he's soft with his eyes somehow. I mean he's fearless. He wants to make everything, of course, but it just looks like he's really relaxed, and you know, he really keeps his head solid. I don't know, do whatever he does. He's the best player.
But I don't know. I mean I looked differently every time today. I kept my head still on a couple putts that went all the way to the hole, either went in or missed, and I didn't see it till it went in the hole or passed, and then a couple of them I was like (indicating) and a couple of them I was like (indicating) you know, I mean pretty short. So I mean maybe I should dial that in about where I was.
I mean I just want the club to pass, you know, to fully release the club properly and then look. That's my goal. I gotta find that little gray area where it is. The club needs to leave the face because usually I go like this (indicating). You know, it's like coming out of a golf shot, a putter is like a miniature golf shot and when you look, you're basically coming out of it. You know what coming out of golf shots is like. You hit it dead right.

Q. I want to ask you about Rickie Fowler. I was wondering whether you've seen him play. That guy is pure -- he was tied for the lead when we walked into this room and apparently fearless and looking like he's the deal.
WILL MacKENZIE: Yeah. He's -- you know, I don't know him. I mean I talk to him, but I don't know him. I haven't seen his game. I know he's got good little action and he's young, he's fearless with the putter, probably just so fearless with all his short game. And I hope he plays great.
He's a cool little guy, and I mean I want all those young guys to just keep coming. You know, it's good for the game to have good young players, and there's a lot of good young players right now. So good for him, man. I hope he kills it. I mean I hope he wins tournaments.
It ain't easy out here. You know, I mean it's tough to -- you know, nobody's going to do what Tiger's doing, but it's tough to get in there and you're like, who's going to win majors. You don't have those guys that are like -- that perennial guy coming up guy. You're not sure. A.K. probably maybe in five years is going to be one of those guys. Maybe this is one of the guys that's going to whip off a couple few majors.

Q. I think he's younger than Tiger was.
WILL MacKENZIE: Right. Right. Yeah. And I'm not really showing much positivity in that major -- I mean I played two of them and I played real well. I know I can play great in some big tournaments, and hopefully little things like this will do it for me.
MARK STEVENS: Okay. Thanks a lot, Will.

Q. 5-under today leading up to 18 tougher holes tomorrow, where do you think that 5 would be?
WILL MacKENZIE: I mean people are going to go low -- they're going to shoot maybe a little low -- I think somebody will shoot a little lower than 5-under today, and Magnolia's gotta be a couple strokes more difficult, so I just think you need to go and shoot as low as you can on the ball. That's what you're supposed to do. It's like playing Torrey Pines North and South. You just gotta go shoot your 6 or 8 on the North Course because you know that South Course is going to eat your lunch a little bit.

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