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June 11, 2010

Garrett Willis


COLIN MURRAY: Alright, Garrett. Thank you for joining us here in the interview room at the St. Jude Classic, presented by Smith & Nephew. A bogey-free 65 today. 5-under par. 9-under for the tournament. Looks like you may have a share of the lead going into the weekend if you can just -- first off, great playing. If you can give us some thoughts on the first two rounds and then looking ahead to the weekend, that would be great.
GARRETT WILLIS: I notice the wind was blowing a lot more obviously than yesterday, which wouldn't have been any wind because it didn't blow at all yesterday. I knew it was going to play a lot more difficult today. I felt like an even-par round, maybe 1-under par round would be a really good score considered I played pretty decent the first round. Wanted to make a lot of pars and played a real conservative game plan and was able to make a few putts to give me some confidence. It was pretty nice.

Q. Could you just take us through your five birdies real quick and open it up to questions?
GARRETT WILLIS: Sure. No. 3 was kind of a unique birdie because I played pretty solid on 1 and 2. Gave myself an pretty good opportunity. On No. 3, I landed my ball in a spectator's chair so I had to call for a ruling. That took several minutes.
Finally came over there, took a drop, and when I dropped it, it rolled behind a tree. So I kind of just had to punch it to the left of the green and kind of got a decent kick, and it actually rolled probably another 20, 30 feet to where I had about a 60-foot putt where I felt like I should have had a 2-putt chance for birdie and had about a 60-footer and actually made the putt.
That got some excitement definitely going for me, and then from then on, I just hit a lot of good golf shots and really didn't make any putts until No. 9. Hit it pretty close on No. 9, about a 3-footer. Hit a really good putt there, made that.
Then I played really steady 10 through 14, only missed one green, and the longest par putt I had through there was 2 1/2 half, 3-footer.
15, had it about a 16, 18-foot put on 15. Hit a good putt, but I thought I missed it low, caught the bottom edge and lipped in. Hit two really good shots on 16 where I hit it to the front of the green and 2-putted from about 60 feet again. Made about a 4-footer on 16.
Then Tom Pernice was on the same line as I was on 18. Showed me the line perfectly. I didn't even have to use my own talent to read that putt. I kind of copied his information and I was able to make it.
COLIN MURRAY: Questions.

Q. Can you just talk about how you feel to be where you are at this point, two rounds in?
GARRETT WILLIS: I feel pretty good. This is obviously what we all strive to do is put ourselves in contention to win. But there's obviously a lot of golf left to be played. It's a pretty strong field, lot of strong Europeans in this field.
This golf course never lets up. If the wind blows five to 10, it plays pretty difficult. It typically blows 10 to 15. I'm trying to be as thankful and humble as possible and try to give myself an opportunity to play two more good solid rounds.

Q. Talk a little bit about your play here through the years, and this seems to be as good a start as you've ever had.
GARRETT WILLIS: At this tournament? Yes, without a question. I mean, anytime you're leading after two rounds, it's tough to do any better than that. Yeah, this is definitely the best start I've had through two rounds. I've only had one good finish here, I think I finished 15th, 16th awhile back. I've always played well here before.
One, two rounds seemed kind of hiccup, one round in between the four rounds, but I'm looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity that's ahead of me.

Q. Can you talk about keeping your composure. You have a ball land in the chair and a couple of things like that in a round, it would be easy enough to maybe lose composure. You mentioned staying thankful and humble, et cetera. How much did that mindset help you just kind of keep plugging along there and not get shaken off your game?
GARRETT WILLIS: Well, it's so stinking hot out there, you can't exert any more energy than you have to to hit golf balls. I'm trying to stay cool, under the shade and under the hat. It's an opportunity for me to test my patience, and I'm a little high-strung, little A.D.D. So, I mean, it's kind of minor tendency to be ready to go and to be just excited to play.
I mean, it's going to be a test for me, but it's one that I'm looking forward to challenging myself.

Q. I know you spent most of 2009 on the Nationwide Tour. Now that you're back here, how much better a player are you in terms of handling the rigors of this tour?
GARRETT WILLIS: Yeah. It's funny. A lot of people ask me what have I done differently. I played pretty consistent. I've made like ten out of 13 cuts or something this year. I played really consistent. It really doesn't feel like my game is any different or any better or any worse.
I just kind of realize that this is the opportunity for me to support my family. I don't need to go out there and shoot at every pin. I can go out there, shoot for the middle of the green, try to make a putt from 20, 30 feet. If I don't, tap it in for par, and I'm just trying to play as well as I possibly can, but I'm also trying to be as smart as I possibly can. It transferred into a PGA Tour card from last year.

Q. Is that something that just came about?
GARRETT WILLIS: No. It's been a long lesson. I've played some pretty decent golf on both Tours and haven't really been rewarded with the scores. I might shoot a 66 or 65 one day. Like earlier this year, I was leading at Tampa. I kind of went out there with the mindset I'm going the play smart. I played nine holes really solid and even par.
I got a little impatient and ended up shooting 4-over on the back-9 because I couldn't stand to continue to make pars. If I would have shot even par the rest of the round, I would have ended up finishing in the Top-10. I definitely have been bit in the backside a couple times, trying to force things out there. And that's one thing I'm trying to learn from is just to be able to be more conservative.
The greens are pretty big out there. The pins, it's tough enough to shoot a pin with a rifle, not to mention with a ball and stick.

Q. You grew up in North Carolina went to East Tennessee State. You still living in Knoxville?
GARRETT WILLIS: I was born in North Carolina. I only lived there a year. I moved to Knoxville my senior year in high school and played for Farragut High School and went on to go to East Tennessee State. I spent some of my time in Florida during the winter, but I spent all summer long in Knoxville.

Q. Garrett, what kind success did you have as a golfer in high school at Farragut?
GARRETT WILLIS: Modest, I guess. I won the State High School. I had the lowest stroke average in the county. Might have been an record, actually. Shot 65 at Districts. It was kind of ho-hum. Nothing special.
COLIN MURRAY: Alright. One more.

Q. With the experience in Tampa, how much do you maybe draw on that tomorrow if it does end up that you're in the final group, and I think maybe with Lee Westwood, No. 3 guy in the world, how much do you draw on that at this point to try and just stay focused?
GARRETT WILLIS: Well, I'm going to draw off that a lot. Like I say, because if I shot -- shot 65 the first round, I would have shot even par the rest of the way, I would have finished 7th or something.
Obviously, I would like to win the golf tournament, but if I can't win it, I want to finish 2nd. If I can't do that, I want to finish 3rd. I'm trying to be a lot smarter and try to learn from my mistakes, knowing that a lot of pars on this golf course when the wind starts blowing is a pretty good score.
COLIN MURRAY: Alright. Garrett, thanks for your time. Good luck this weekend.

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