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September 8, 2010

Tom Gillis


JOHN BUSH: Tom Gillis joins us here in the interview room at the BMW Championship. Tom is currently No. 48 in the FedExCup standings, finished T5 last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Great playing here of late as you continue to advance through the Playoffs. Let's just get your opening comments.
TOM GILLIS: Yeah, it's been fun. It's a big difference from where I was two years ago. So I'm excited. I think we all are. There can be quite a bit of movement here, especially this week, and hopefully I get in that top 30 because I'd really like to plan my schedule out for next year. Would be a lot of fun.
JOHN BUSH: You're making your second start here at the BMW Championship, missed the cut in 2005 but talk about being back.
TOM GILLIS: Well, it's a good golf course. I remember it being good when I was here last time. They made some changes, and it's probably better. The greens are probably a little bit firm right now, especially if the wind blows, but it's a good golf course. You're going to have to hit a lot of good shots. Some of those pins you're not going to be able to go at at all just because they're firm and they're in the corners.

Q. I guess you know you've really made it in golf when you're in the BMW and the FedExCup. What does that mean to you, and talk about maybe your journey where you can get to this place where you can secure your position on TOUR a little bit more.
TOM GILLIS: Well, if we talked about the journey we'd be here a long time. I don't want to do that to you because it's been 20 years going.
But it's exciting. I think, like I said, compared to where I was two years ago, I thought I was going to make a comeback, but do you really know how far you're going to get? Are you going to get this far? I don't know. I still feel like I've got farther to go.
I still know for a fact and I believe in my heart I can win out here. It's very gratifying. I would have to say in my third year out here -- I think my first year was '03, so seven years, it's always an honor to play out here. I've always enjoyed it. I think any time you compete against the best players in the world, it brings out the best in you and you find out what your weaknesses are and what your strengths are.
It's just a -- I mean, I'm humbled that I'm this far, and I still think I can go farther, but I'm excited.

Q. Back to the journey, what was the low point of the journey, and was there ever a time that --
TOM GILLIS: I'd say the low point was in -- well, it started in '05 when I lost my card out here. I played in Europe from '98 to '02 and then I got my card out here in '03, and I got injured in '04 so I was out '04, and I played out here in '05 and lost my card. I had $300,000 up I think by the Masters, and my wife said we were going to be parents in December, and I just kind of -- I think it froze me up a little bit. So I struggled the rest of the year.
And then I went out on the Nationwide, and I never really welcomed the -- I guess I never really welcomed the opportunity to get back out here. I never really accepted that I was there after playing five years in Europe. It felt like a step down to me, and I lost my status out there.
So then the low point came, then, at 37 or 38 years old. I didn't really -- it was actually 39 years old. I really didn't know what I was going to do, so I thought about hanging them up, so we went back to Michigan and spoke with a few people about work, and times were tough there. There wasn't a lot of opportunities. So I sat around for three months there in the winter, and I didn't know if I was going to be able to have the commitment level to come back having no status and starting on the mini-Tours. I played the mini-Tours for seven years from 1990 to '97 before I went to Europe, and I thought, man, I don't know if I can do this with one kid and one on the way.
But you know, I think that snow and three months in the cold weather, I found this isn't so bad. So I got the commitment level and moved to Florida full-time, and I think that was a big part, and I hooked on with a new coach, and we've been together since. So that was probably the low point. Now it's all gravy now from here on out.

Q. Was there a turning point when you look back? Was there a clear turning point in your career?
TOM GILLIS: Well, that's a great question. I would have to say I don't recall a turning point right now. In '07 when we made the comeback plan, it just slowly, gradually built. There was nothing stellar. I mean, I was winning tournaments on the Gateway, and you could see that I was getting better.
But is there one time that actually changed it? I don't know. Well, maybe last week was. Maybe I'll say down the road that's really what gave me the confidence. I don't know. So to this point I'd have to say no.

Q. I thought you drove the ball well last week. Have you had a change in equipment?
TOM GILLIS: No, that's my best -- I shouldn't say my best stat. It's one of my best stats. I think I'm 13th overall in driving. I've always been a good driver of the golf ball. That's been one of my strong suits. It's just -- I've got a Titleist driver that I really like and I can do anything I want with it. I can shape it, and I just think it's probably more about my strong suit than anything.

Q. If you could, you kept mentioning where you were at two years ago. What have you done in terms of working on your game to get it to where it was two years ago to right now? Was it putting? You said driving seems to be a strong point. Was there other parts you worked on?
TOM GILLIS: Well, putting definitely got better. I think I was 130th in putting when I was out here the last two times, and right now I'm 17th. I'm in the top 20; I know that. That's made a big difference.
I switched putters to a Scotty Cameron putter that had some more swing on it, less -- I was using a mallet, so I kind of -- I actually just kind of opened up the book and found out really what putting was about as far as plane and arc and just like that. I really didn't know. I was taught a certain way, and so I changed my stroke totally. That helped tremendously.
The other things we worked on from a physical standpoint were -- I've always played from a closed club face and was steep on the ball, which led to three hand surgeries, and that's probably why I've struggled the most out here more than anything is I was never healthy. I wasn't healthy in '06 on the Nationwide, as well.
But now we play from a shallower position, and so my hand feels good. And then we worked on a lot of the mental part was processing stuff good and bad, and I probably didn't do a real good job of that my first 15 years or so. I didn't really know how to do it. I was probably a little hard on myself I would say.
You know, it was an accumulation of several things, but it's all coming together now.

Q. I'd like to ask you about two holes, No. 12, which is the par-3, and No. 15, the par-5. I wonder if you could just take us from tee to green, how you approach those particular holes.
TOM GILLIS: Well, the 12th, the greens are firm this week, so you really can only land that ball probably four or five paces on the green, whether it be 4- or 5-iron or whatever it is, and it's going to chase back to the middle of the green, or if you get wind behind you, you'll even get all the way back to the back left pin. Wind is going to be difficult on 12. You're probably going to have to play to the center of the green or maybe even land it in the fringe to get it pin high.
As far as 15, that's a good par-5. I think you've got to drive the ball up the right side and then you have a shot at the green. You know, it's probably one of the most birdieable holes out here. You're going to have probably a 220 shot in there. The long hitters will probably even have less.
Those are two different holes. 12 is going to play pretty tough to par, and I think 15 you'll see -- it'll probably play under 5.

Q. Did you work at all these major changes out by yourself, or did you -- who did you work with on it?
TOM GILLIS: I worked with a guy, his name is Jeff Leishman. He's from Jupiter, Florida, originally from Toronto. He coaches a few guys. He coaches Kevin Johnson and Richard Johnson and Will MacKenzie and Rick Price, so it was him that really -- he really gave me the direction really.

Q. Did he do putting and the main swing?
TOM GILLIS: Yeah, we did it all. We did it all. He did all of it.

Q. How did you get to know him? Did you meet him through those guys?
TOM GILLIS: Yeah, I met him -- he used to come out with Rick Price, and that's how I met him, and he always carried himself very professional, a soft-spoken person. I think some of these guys after you hit each shot and they're looking at you, they comment on every shot like you've made a big change in one swing. There was a lot of -- at times there was a lot of nothing said, and it was a little bit frustrating at times, and then I realized that this was a process that was going to take a while. It wasn't going to happen overnight. He installed that. He goes, This is going to take time. I mean, we're on a plan here. It could take two, three years, and we're building something for the future. So that was really frustrating at times but comforting as a whole.

Q. You said that you know you can win out here. Is that a thought that you had when you teed it up at the beginning of the season?
TOM GILLIS: Yes, definitely. To be quite honest with you, I would say I'm disappointed right now. I would have thought I'd have had more chances to win. I think some of it is probably just a little inexperience for being in those situations and on that stage. There's a lot going on on Sunday, and I think you learn to deal with it, and I believe I dealt with it much better last week.
I was playing very well at Quail Hollow. I would have never won, but I think I was 5th or 6th with two holes to go and had a tough finish. And PGA National, I was in the top 5, as well, with nine to go, and I struggled. So those are all chalked up to experience, and that's strictly that. Your mind gets going a little bit, things get going fast.
Has it taken a little longer than I thought to be in contention? I'd say, yeah, it has. I really -- in my heart I think as a player you've got to make -- why would you play if you didn't think you could win? And I thought I could, and I still think I can.
JOHN BUSH: Tom, we appreciate you coming by, and play well this week.
TOM GILLIS: No problem, thanks.

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