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August 31, 2011

William McGirt


MARK STEVENS: We'll like to welcome William McGirt. You've had a couple great weeks-two weeks ago qualifying first at the Wyndham to get into the Playoffs and then last week to earn your ticket here. Been an exciting couple weeks. Yesterday I know you got to play with Carlton Fisk, you're a huge Red Sox fan and you won the pro-am.
WILLIAM McGIRT: That's a good thing.
MARK STEVENS: That's a great day. If you want to talk a little bit about the pro-am yesterday and then your thoughts coming into this week, then we'll have some questions.
WILLIAM McGIRT: You know, Greensboro was pretty nerve wracking for me. I knew what I had to do, and I knew I liked the golf course. But it had been six years since I had played the course. Everything was kind of different from what I remembered. They had put some cross-bunkers back in and added a bunch of length. I got there and really liked the golf course still as much as I did six years earlier.
You know, I played well the first two rounds, especially the second round. That was the only day I drove it in play. I drove it all over Sedgefield the rest of the week. But still fun.
Saturday was kind of a struggle. I think I put too much pressure on myself, and then Sunday I knew what I had to do. It was completely in my control. If I played well, I had nothing to worry about. You know, I never could get anything going. I knew if I birdied one of the last three that I should be safe because then I would have tied Padraig and worst case I would have still been a couple of points ahead of him.
I hit three great iron shots on 16, 17 and 18, just didn't quite get the putts to go in, but all in all it was a pretty good week. I wish I could have finished it off myself and not had to sit around and wait on what transpired to happen.
You know, all in all, I was pretty pleased with it. Going into Barclays last week, got there, fell in love with the golf course. You know, the greens were pretty severe. I would say those are the most severe I've played this year, but they were very fair. I think our guys did a great job with the hole locations keeping them from being borderline pins. I didn't see one in three days that you walked away kind of questioning the pin.
Tee to green I love that golf course. There's some really good holes out there where you had to suck it up and hit good shots, that 8th hole especially. You had to drive it in the left side of the fairway. I drove it in the right side twice and had to hit huge cuts in there. Somehow I managed to get through it playing 1-over and that was with a three-putt. But all in all it was a very good week. I had a blast.
I loved being in the situation I was in. Coming down the stretch on Saturday, I just -- all day I seemed to hit good shots and didn't get rewarded for them like I did the first day. Thursday it seemed like every shot I hit, using the slope, it would always do what it was supposed to do. And then Saturday it was like you'd play for one to spin and wouldn't get the spin, or you'd watch two that didn't spin and then you'd get the spin.
But kept coming down the stretch. I knew -- I had a good feeling that I had to make one birdie in the last three holes, and laid it up to a pretty good number on 16 where I thought I could take the spin off of it, threw it in there behind the hole, and it just ripped like crazy, and I couldn't tell from the fairway if it grazed the pin coming back or not, but I thought I'd make 3 and walked away with 5.
But 17, I hit a great shot in there to about six feet. I handed Brandon my club, and I noticed that he was having a conversation with my wife, and then I turned -- I heard him mumble something about 101, and I turned around and she flashed 101, so I knew I had to make a birdie coming in. We took a little extra time on that putt and poured it in. I really did not want to have to hit driver on 18, especially with where that pin was. I didn't like trying to hit it in one of those front bunkers and trying to hit it up-and-down. I walked up on the tee knowing I had to make 4, and I said, "Do you like 3-iron? Good." Didn't give him a chance to give a yardage or anything. I said, "I like 3-iron." He said, "Okay, we've got 195-over the bunker," or whatever. "Just hit me a good solid one right over the middle of it."
I hit it perfect. I was hoping to get up there and have a little tweener yardage so I could bump something in there and take the spin off of it, and had a perfect sand wedge number. I said, well, I'm going to try to take it in low and scoot it and keep it from spinning back. I had a 20- or 25-footer that broke pretty hard right at the end and was downhill the last five, six feet and got it down to two feet and I couldn't hit that thing fast enough. I wanted to get it over with.
I knocked it in and was ready to come on up here.
MARK STEVENS: Talk about yesterday playing with Carlton and winning the pro-am and your thoughts on this course.
WILLIAM McGIRT: Well, we went to the pairings party at Fenway Monday night, and I love everything about that place. First major league game I ever went to was at Fenway and got to watch Pedro pitch in one of his shutouts sitting five seats to the right of the guy at the Giants game. It was a blast. To go back and walk around that stadium was awesome. When I saw the pairings come out, I saw that I was playing with Carlton Fisk, and I said, this is great. When I played baseball I was a catcher and he was one of those guys I always looked up to. We had a blast yesterday. He's a great guy, had a lot of fun, laughed and joked. You know, it was just a lot of fun.
The funny thing about that pro-am, I only counted two holes, and the thing was, we had so many natural birdies. The first couple of holes we had pars for birdies, but God, we had a stretch there where we had six or seven natural birdies in a row, I think, and I think only two of those were mine. We had one birdie for an eagle. Everybody contributed. So it was a lot of fun.
I enjoy pro-ams, I enjoy getting to meet new people and just to make sure these guys have fun. That's part of the job, and that's what Monday or Tuesday pro-ams are for, just get out there and have fun. It's not really a practice round, it's more of an entertaining round that you get to see the golf course, and that's one of the things I enjoy is getting out there and not having to grind and learn a new golf course. You can go out there and play it and kind of get a feel for it and still have fun.

Q. It looked like you graduated a couple years before you turned pro. Did you do some civilian jobs to pay the bills?
WILLIAM McGIRT: My dad ran a junior golf tour for eight years. It's called the Eastern Junior Golf Association. We ran tournaments mainly in North Carolina, we had a few in South Carolina. So I helped him some when I was in college. I would go home on the weekends when we had big tournaments and help him.
But when I finished school, I was maybe a month out of college, and my dad had pneumonia and was in the hospital for 27 days. So I learned how to run the business straight out of college on the fly, and I think -- he's told me this numerous times, that had I not been able to do that, we'd have had no business left.
But one thing that I enjoy doing is working with kids, working with junior golfers. One thing that I like to do in pro-ams is if you see a kid and he's by himself or he's with his dad and he's the only kid around, have him come in and walk the hole with you. It's one of those things that as a kid I enjoyed. Having a PGA TOUR professional speak to you and have the opportunity to walk a hole with them is something the kids are never going to forget, and if it helps draw more interest in the game, I'm all for it. I'd have 100 kids come in with me if I could.
There was a kid yesterday on No. 11, it was his 12th birthday, and he was standing there, and he says, "Hey, do you mind signing my hat?" I said, "Sure, no problem." So there was a group on the green, we were just kind of waiting, and I said, "Hey, why don't you come in here and walk the hole with us. Then he tells me it's his birthday. I said, "Just keep walking. When you get tired you can go back." His mom was a marshal on 11. So he walked two or three holes with us, and he had a blast.
Junior golf is one thing that I love. It's the future of the game. I know when I was coming along there weren't as many junior tours. It was mainly the AJGA and a couple of small tours. Now you have a lot more stuff for kids from 8 to 18. In the summer if a kid in North or South Carolina wanted to, they could play a tournament pretty much around every single day in the summer. To give the kids an opportunity to come and get close to what we do out here, I think it's great, and I'm all for it.

Q. Obviously it's been a struggle for a few years for you. Has there been times when it's crossed your mind that maybe you needed to go in another direction or how has it been getting to this point?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Yeah, early on I didn't play nearly as well as I had hoped my first couple years. 2004 I barely -- if I even covered expenses I barely covered expenses for the year, 2005 was basically the same way, and 2006 I played really well, was able to put some money in the bank. 2007 I had one of my best years ever.
But 2006 I missed getting to the finals of Q-school by I think two shots, and 2007 and 2008 I missed by one. What made it really tough was I hit such good putts on the last hole, and both times I hit the hole and they just didn't go in.
After '08 I was pretty devastated because I felt like I had played well. I had gone to The Hombre for second stage every time, and 2008 I think I shot 3- or 4-under, a number that had won a couple of years prior to that, and I didn't think it played that easy. It was starting to get frustrating. I was like, I've either got to find a way to get a lot better or maybe it's time to go get another job or something. And I decided to give it one more go-around in 2009.
I really didn't play all that well during the year. I had a couple good tournaments here and there, but I was finally able to get to the finals of Q-school and get some status. I came out of Q-school with conditional Nationwide status. It wasn't great. I ended up being first alternate for Australia, New Zealand and Panama, so I missed getting in those by one spot, so it was kind of frustrating.

Q. Did you go?
WILLIAM McGIRT: No, I did not go. I actually had a flight on hold for Australia. I knew there was one person that was playing in the Hope that may or may not go depending on if he top-tenned, so I kind of had a flight on hold with that option still in the back of my mind. But I went down to Monday for Honda, and I was like third alternate at the time for Bogota. When I got done I had a message that I was in the tournament, so I just drove on down to Miami and flew down to Bogota, ended up finishing tied for third, set me up for the rest of the year last year. Three of the first four tournaments I finished top 10, so I almost secured my card for this year after those four events, and stayed in the top 25 for most of the year, had a really good chance to get my card through the Nationwide Tour and kind of fell off at the end of the year.
But went to Q-school, finished tied for second, and here I am. I'm tickled to death that I didn't find another job, and I can tell you after being out here for a year, I wouldn't trade this job for anything. It's the best place in the world to play golf, playing against the best players in the world every week, playing the best golf courses in the world just about every week. I mean, does it get much better than this? If it does, you're going to have to show me. I enjoy everything about it.

Q. You've obviously embraced the pressure from the last couple weeks. Can you kind of process the position that you have been in and how you've been able to perform the last two events?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Well, I seem to play my best when my back is against the wall. Knock on wood, my back is against the wall again this week. It seems like every time that I've gone out this year and shot 2- or 3-over the first round, I've bounced right back, and if I haven't made the cut I've given myself a really good chance coming down the stretch to make the cut.
I think I've missed five or six cuts by one shot this year. Seems like every cut I've missed has been by a shot. So I've been right there, I've played better than what I've actually scored and where I've finished. But it's one of those things, going into last week I was going to enjoy it, enjoy being in the situation, and just have fun with it. But at the same time I had to go for broke. My back was against the wall, but I said at the start of the week, I said, the worst that I could finish is 125th on the FedExCup list. I only had one place to go. So fire at it and take advantage of the opportunities when you get them.
That first round I came out and had it rolling. I just wish I could have finished Thursday afternoon. But the key to that round was I made a 15-footer for par on 3, then birdied four in a row, made a par and birdied three in a row, and hit it 12 feet on 12 for birdie. But it was just too dark to hit it. I wanted to ask for glow balls and flashlights and say, hey, I just want to finish. But it was a lot of fun, and I just tried to enjoy it.
This whole year -- obviously I want to play well, I want to stay out here, but I've tried to make it fun, enjoy what we're doing, find things to do on the road that -- stuff that we would never do without being in this situation, being on TOUR and being in these tournaments. My wife and I have had a blast.
We started the year and said, whether or not I keep my card, we're going to have fun, but I'm going to give it everything that I have. If I keep my card, great; if I don't, I'll walk away at the end of this year knowing that I gave it everything that I have and that I thoroughly enjoyed this year.

Q. Speaking of your card, there's a big disparity between where you are on the FedExCup list and where you are on the Money List. You probably know that you have a lot to play for between here and the rest of the season, no?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Absolutely. I mean, I'm probably going to have to make another $300,000, $400,000 to keep my card, but the good news is, a good week this week and we keep moving on. It's not the end of the world if I have to go back to play the Nationwide Tour next year. I also have Q-school to fall back on. But I'm not looking at it as I have to get it done right now. It has to be this week. I've got four Fall Finish events. There's plenty of opportunities left to lock up my card.
And I think if you start putting pressure on yourself to get it done this week, I have to make this much money, I think you're only setting yourself up for failure. If you're going out there trying to win golf tournaments, things will take care of themselves if you play well.

Q. I can't remember whether you were asked this last week or not, but after you figured out what you needed to do on the 17th and you stuck that 7-iron in there, were you glad to know or were you kind of hoping, wishing that you didn't know? Were you just trying to shoot the best score you could, keep your head down and add it up at the end?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Well, my plan on Saturday was to stay aggressive just like I had the first two days. I felt like most of the day I stayed aggressive, hit the shots that I was trying to hit, I just didn't get the putts to fall.
Now, I didn't realize until we were on 14 and Charley Hoffman pointed out there was not a leaderboard on the golf course. I didn't realize there were none out there. I told myself I was not going to look unless I was in a situation where when we made the turn, you're 2-over, you need to make three birdies or whatever, find out where I was. But after Sarah told us where we were, I was glad that she told us because I knew what I had to do. I would rather know where I am instead of guessing, because the last -- the walking scorer told us that I was like tied for 28th on 15 green or 16 tee. Starting the week I was told that I had to finish 36th to move on. And when I was tied for 28th I figured there was no way that I had fallen out of the top 36, but I didn't realize how many guys were tied there that had bumped me to 101.
So I was glad that I knew. We took extra time, looked at that putt. I got a little bit confused after watching Padraig's putt, and I knew it was on a little bit different angle from the other side of the hole, but I watched his, and I just tried to kind of erase that memory because I knew that putt had to turn left, and his stayed dead straight. Fortunately I hit a good putt and moved on after making 4 on 18.

Q. Given what you've done the last couple weeks, do you feel like you're kind of the Cinderella story, the guy coming out from a little obscurity and making a name for himself?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Well, if it's a Cinderella story, that's for you guys to decide. I'm just trying to play my best golf and finish as well as I can every week. I mean, I can't worry about that. All I'm trying to do is survive and advance. I mean, I'm sure it's a great story, but for me I really don't get caught up in that. I just want to play my best golf every week. If I play well enough to move on, great. I'm just -- I feel like right now if I play well enough this week, I feel like I'm playing well now. If I play as well as I feel like I'm capable of playing, I feel like I can move on to next week and even the TOUR Championship. That's my goal. My goal at the start of the year was obviously to keep my card. I wanted to make the FedExCup Playoffs.
We love Boston. We honeymooned here in Cape Cod, so we really wanted to come back here. We were driving up last week, and Sarah said, "I have to tell you, my goal at the start of the year was for you to get to Deutsche Bank so we could come back here and just kind of relive some of the memories from seven years ago." We love Boston, we love everything about it. To be playing here is awesome.

Q. What's the connection to Boston, and how did you become such a big Red Sox fan?
WILLIAM McGIRT: I was hooked after going to one game. Just the atmosphere at Fenway is --

Q. How old were you?
WILLIAM McGIRT: It's 2003, so I was 24.

Q. That was your first big league game at age 24?
WILLIAM McGIRT: First big league game. I'm not really sure why we picked Boston for our honeymoon. We both kind of wanted to come up here and see some of the sights around Boston. We both wanted to go to Cape Cod, so that was probably the reason. It's been so long ago, I've forgotten.

Q. So it's not like you grew up as a boy a huge Red Sox fan?
WILLIAM McGIRT: Not at all. I've always been a Braves fan when they wore the powder blue and couldn't win ten games a year.

Q. I'd like you to just talk about the par-3s on the back side starting with the 11th hole, uphill, 220 yards. What's your strategy on that hole?
WILLIAM McGIRT: You know, just get it on the green. My strategy for 11 is to try to make four 3s. If I make four 3s on that hole, I'm not going to lose too much to anybody. If you can sneak a 2 in there, great. It's just trying not to hurt yourself on that one hole.
Right now -- yesterday it was a perfect 5-wood. A lot of it is going to depend on the wind and tee placement. I would expect the guys to move it up at least one day, if not two. I think it's a great hole. It leaves you a little bit of room to bail out left. It's not an easy shot, but you do have that option to kind of play left. I don't think right is any good, and short is definitely no good. 11 is just one of those holes you get through it and try not to hurt yourself and move on.

Q. The 16th is a little bit shorter, a bit of a break on that one, but there's a big hog's back in the middle. How do you play around that and what's your strategy for that hole?
WILLIAM McGIRT: A lot of that hole is going to depend on wind and hole location because the left hole locations you can kind of turn one over and sling it off that hill and you don't have to get super aggressive with it. Now, if you get a pretty good left-to-right wind, you're going to have to either sling it in there pretty good or you're going to have to take a little bit more aggressive line.
The front pin I think you just hit it 15 feet behind the hole, you've got a backstop there, and take your chances on a 15-footer. The top right pin, I think that's a great pin. You're going to try to get it up there, but you definitely don't want to miss it right or long.
You know, I think yardage and wind are going to be a big factor on those two holes. 3 is never a bad score, so you're just trying to keep it dry and make 3. If you can sneak a 2 in there, great.

Q. Just reading your bio, I noticed you're William McGirt III. I guess you're not a big Roman numeral guy?
WILLIAM McGIRT: My dad and my grandfather both went by Curtis, my middle name. I was only William. And my mom's dad is also William, but he went by Bill. Everybody has always called me William. My wife calls me Will, a lot of my best friends shorten it up, Willy or McGirt or whatever. A lot of my closest friends in golf called me McGirt. I answer to most anything (smiling).

Q. You were talking back in Jersey about what's on your sleeve, the Chinese character. I'm still a little -- could you tell that story and why it's there and what it means?
WILLIAM McGIRT: The Dow Group is a risk management firm out of Dallas. And their logo is the Chinese symbol for risk. The red part is danger and the black part is opportunity, which for a golfer, I think it's perfect. How many times -- like the 2nd hole out here, 18, par-5. Great risk-reward holes. You knock it on the green, you have a chance to make 3. Knock it in the water, you're looking at 6, possibly 7. So I think it's very fitting for golfers.
But they've been great to us. Last week they set up a trip to Yankee Stadium. We got to go down on the field for batting practice and set us up with some good seats. They've taken really good care of us, and they're great people to be associated with.
But as far as the logo goes, I think it's perfect for golfers. Risk and opportunity, it's every shot out here really, whether you're cutting the corner or firing at a pin over water.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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