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August 30, 2009

Heath Slocum


LAURA HILL: Heath Slocum, our 2009 champion of the Barclays. Your first win since 2005. A big one. Give us your reaction.
HEATH SLOCUM: Obviously, it was an incredible day, an incredible week. You know, starting off early, at the beginning of the week I knew I had to play well just to move on. That was my goal. But coming into today, I was a bit more nervous than I anticipated on the first. I don't know why, but I was. Got off to a shaky start. The up and down on one, the long putt on two kind of settled me down.
For the rest of the day, it is the best I felt on a golf course for a very long time, probably since '05. I was just in a great frame of mind. I felt good over pretty much everything, especially the putter. It's one of those days that I haven't had in a very long time.
Overall it was an incredible day, incredible experience. I was just kind of lucky to come out on top. A lot of good players. At the end of the day, putt on the last was magical. I'll remember that for the rest of my life.

Q. What were you doing last Sunday when you were sweating out whether you were going to be able to make this trip? There were variables with other guys. Two points is...
HEATH SLOCUM: Yeah. My wife and my daughter, we all went home. I didn't do much Saturday. Sunday I went out to the course for a little while, just hit a few balls in case I was to get in. Then we just hung out, played at home. My wife was pretty diligent on the computer looking at it. At one point when I got home from the course, I guess I dropped to 126. I took my daughter downstairs and played. My wife come down and said, "I think I've got some good news. I think you finished 124."
At that moment, kind of geared up for this week knowing I had to play well.

Q. You go from having potentially five weeks off to playing for $10 million in not too long?
HEATH SLOCUM: Unbelievable. Just that quick. It really was. My fate was not in my own hands. When I missed the cut on Friday, I'd taken it all out of my own hands.

Q. Was there any particular thing that happened last week that you can put your finger on that elevated you back to that 125? So many different things, Sunday last week.
HEATH SLOCUM: I think Matt Jones I think shot three or four over in the last round. I don't know if it would have completely knocked me out. Troy and I played together on Thursday and Friday. He was telling me -- he was watching him pretty close. He was telling me it was crazy, people making birdies, bogeys, just moving all up and down the board.
I don't know exactly the scenario that got us in. I was just happy to be here.

Q. As you're standing over the putt on 18, what are you thinking? Are you feeling good about that putt?
HEATH SLOCUM: Actually, you know, as funny as it sounds, effectively I'm in a playoff right then and there. I'm expecting Stricker to make that. I tried to make it. I'd been rolling it so well all week. My speed had been so good. I felt like I had a really good line. All I had to do was just get it there. Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do, let the putter release, when you have a few of the nerves coming. As soon as I hit it I was like, "I think it's enough," it's just whether it holds its line, and it did and it went in and obviously I got pretty excited.

Q. The eagle on No. 5, the TV apparently didn't catch. Could you take us through that.
HEATH SLOCUM: Yeah, I don't remember exact yardage.

Q. 158.
HEATH SLOCUM: 158. It was a little bit into the wind. We had a pretty good wind. I know it was in and out of the right. I hit a 7-iron. As soon as I hit it, I knew I just flushed it. It was going right to the pin. I saw it hit, I didn't see anything else. I didn't see it go in. The crowd went crazy. I didn't know if it was really close or if it had gone in. Stricker said, "It went in." High five, high five. Pretty excited (smiling).

Q. Did that make you think...
HEATH SLOCUM: 100%. Then birdie-ing the next. Like I said, I felt so good out there that I knew if I could just continue to hit good shots, give myself opportunities to make putts, coming down the stretch, I might have a chance to win.

Q. Can you take us through your mindset playing 18, specifically if you knew where you stood, what Tiger was doing just ahead, what you were thinking after you drove your ball into the bunker.
HEATH SLOCUM: Well, I knew how I stood. I knew that Stricker and I were at 9. So when he missed the fairway, I mean, whether he missed it or not, that was my whole goal, I had to get that ball in the fairway to have the best shot at making par, maybe getting a birdie putt. When I hit it right, I was just hoping at this point it was going to be in the middle of the bunker so I could get something pretty close.
When I saw where it was, D.J. and I talked about maybe hitting a sand wedge to get a good yardage. Then we talked about maybe getting a 6-iron, because it was on such an upslope. If I were going to err, I was going to try to err on the fat side. Anything but leave it in the bunker.
At that point I was like, you know what, if I absolutely hit the best shot possible, I might knock it on the green. If I fat it, I'm going to have a wedge in. So I took the 6 and absolutely flushed it, but just didn't have quite enough. Just got out to, again, another situation where we thought we would at least get a wedge in our hand. We had 102 yards, 103. Actually thought I hit a lot better shot than I did. I expected the ball to maybe land a little farther and take one big hop because that green seemed like it had been firmer than the rest. I heard kind of the claps. They weren't real loud. We walked up. At least it's a pretty straightforward putt, uphill, you can be aggressive. And D.J. said, you know, just visualize all the putts you've been making all week. That one happened to go in.

Q. Your yardage out of the bunker on the second shot?
HEATH SLOCUM: 171. I can't remember if that's front or hole. I really can't. I was focused on trying to get it out.

Q. The significance of this victory, how much of it is what you've done through this playoff system; how much of it is the fact that Woods, Stricker, Els and Harrington finished one shot behind you?
HEATH SLOCUM: What was the significance of that?

Q. How meaningful to you is it in that respect?
HEATH SLOCUM: Definitely. Obviously you can only beat who's in the field that you're in. So my two wins were huge for me. My first being in Tucson, because it was my first win. My second in Jackson, Mississippi, where I'd kind of grown up, my dad was caddying for me. Those two were pretty special experiences.
Now you take this, a playoff event, this caliber of field, all the people like you said that finished one shot behind, it's incredible. Yeah, I mean, I'm going to use this experience hopefully for the rest of my life, knowing that I can come down the stretch and play, if you want, with the big boys. Obviously it's going to take a really hot putter. I did it this week. That's what matters.

Q. What was the reaction to this course when you first showed up? What is that worth if you like a course or dislike a course on a scorecard?
HEATH SLOCUM: I guess you don't have to love a course to play well on it. The best thing I loved about this golf course is that you had to be pretty accurate off the tee. They were talking about it forced you to hit driver in some of the spots because it was longer holes.
I don't know. I drove the ball pretty well this week. I didn't miss that many fairways, which is one of the things that I'm best at, is hitting a lot of fairways. The greens, with the rains we had, greens being a little receptive, helped me out tremendously just because of the longer irons, I could fly some to the hole, get them to stop.
With the greens being a little softer, having to hit some drivers, it was a good week for me. It was a good golf course for me. I'm typically fairly good around the greens, can use my imagination. Just kind of all came together this week. With the putts going in, helps tremendously.

Q. Have you personally played a course, approached a course that you didn't like and subsequently talked yourself out of playing well?
HEATH SLOCUM: Oh, probably. But, you know, it's funny because I told D.J. coming in, I go, "This is our favorite course this week." That's what we typically do. A lot of courses we play year after year, you love this one. But coming in with an open mind here this week, I only got to see it once. Actually hit the ball quite well in the practice round. So I kind of just used that experience. I know where the fairway is. I don't know where a lot of the trouble -- you can see a lot of it, and I just went with the aspect that I'm going to take kind of target golf. We mapped out pretty good where we wanted to hit it each and every drive to approach shot. For the most part I just pulled off the shots this week and hit enough good ones in the end to make enough birdies.

Q. On the second shot on No. 6, looked like a hybrid. Were you always going to go for that or were you in between whether to lay up or not?
HEATH SLOCUM: No, I was definitely going for that. I expected the wind to take that ball a little more. But it was a good enough lie. I had plenty of club. I knew if I just hit it solid, got it in the air. If anything, I was worried about it maybe going a little just over the green, which still wasn't that big a deal.
My job there was to just try to get it in the air solid. I did kind of leave it out a little bit. I thought the wind was going to push it a little more. Again, I got pretty fortunate. It didn't take a big hop or anything or go in the water. I didn't hit my best chip, but made another good putt there.

Q. Did you have any idea what Tiger was doing on 18?
HEATH SLOCUM: Not exactly. I mean, I knew he made some birdies. Obviously, it's funny you could hear more the crowd what they're saying. When he missed his putt, we were on the tee box, Stricker hadn't hit yet, and the delay from the TV up in the stands, they all groaned. We had already heard the groan from the crowd. It's kind of funny actually. But I knew that he had missed it.

Q. Surprising, as well.
HEATH SLOCUM: Usually he makes it, yeah. Ho-hum for him (smiling).
I guess you can't make 'em all.

Q. Some other heavy hitters on the leaderboard. Does that do anything to your mindset or attitude when you see those guys on the leaderboard with you?
HEATH SLOCUM: In all honesty, I mean, it's funny because I've worked with Gio Valiante quite a bit on this. All I can do is play the golf course. That's all I was doing. The people that I'm chasing or are chasing me, all that stuff is kind of irrelevant. I really was just trying to play the golf course.
If I get caught up in that, there's no telling. I had enough going on with myself just trying to hit fairways. It's tough out there. The wind was blowing pretty good. I just kept telling myself, "Hit this fairway, try to hit this green in the best spot possible, try to make the putt." As corny as it sounds and as easy as it sounds, that's what I try to do every week. Especially when there's any kind of pressure or anything on the line, if you stay in that routine, for me, I tend to play better.
It's funny, the tournaments that I've won and played better in, I'm just better able to do that. I don't worry about who is ahead of me, who is behind me. I'm focused right on the golf course and the task at hand. I did it well this week, all week.

Q. Were you watching down the stretch?
HEATH SLOCUM: I wasn't scoreboard watching. I knew what was going on. It's impossible not to. You have I don't know how many people out there. They're all talking. You can't not see a scoreboard. I mean, they're everywhere. All that. I knew what was going on. I knew people were making birdies, what they were finishing at. Obviously I got Stricker there, who we each had birdie putts. He birdied 16. We each had birdie putts on 17. He had a chance on 18 obviously. I expected that to go in, I really did.

Q. Guys talk sometimes about recalling past success on big putts you have to make. Did anything flash in your mind before the big putt on 18?
HEATH SLOCUM: It's funny, the putt I made in '05 in Jackson, this is going back to 17, the putt I missed, when I walked around, I looked at that putt, this is very similar to the putt I made. I ended up missing that one. But I got to 18 and I just looked. I don't want to say I had anything to go off of that putt, but, you know, I just felt good over the putter. I did what I always do. I just imagined the ball going in the hole, visualizing it, stepped up and made a good stroke and it went in. It was awesome (smiling).

Q. You talked about hitting fairways accurately. What other strengths in your game worked on this course? What weaknesses did you have to stay away from?
HEATH SLOCUM: The thing is, I think my greens in regulations are pretty good. I'm a pretty good ball-striker. My short game and my putting had been kind of the reason I haven't been playing as well this year. I just haven't been making putts. Seems like I just haven't been scoring well. Seems like when I started making putts, I was missing greens. One of those years where I couldn't get anything going. I was just trying to be patient saying, "It's all going to come together, it's all going to come together, it's all going to come together." If you just keep working, keep believing. I had my coach, Mark Blackburn, in town this week. We had worked right before Wyndham. I was really close to playing well. He came here this week. Just a little bit of tweaking here and there, I started flushing it again. I just tried to maintain that feeling. Yesterday was probably the worst I felt over the ball, for whatever reason. Today, when I was warming up, everything started feeling really good, hitting it crisp. It was just a matter of staying out of my own way, sticking to the game plan that I had set.

Q. Weather affect how you approached Saturday and today?
HEATH SLOCUM: No, I think of this the same way. I think today was one of the those things where it was windier. If anything, I think it might have been a little harder today, maybe just because the wind. I just approached it the exact same way. I knew I was going to have to shoot a good score today to have a chance to win. Too many good players up there. I knew there was going to be some good numbers up there.

Q. How come you're the only member of the "Panhandle Three" that doesn't have a colorful nickname? Does it ever get overwhelming out here since your margin for error as a smaller guy, short hitter, a more power-based game, does that ever cause you some nights to go home and go, "Geez, tough to hang out here with some of these guys"?
HEATH SLOCUM: Some of the different courses I think we play definitely, you know, makes it tougher, that you feel if you miss it, five yards offline, you're penalized more than hitting it 50 yards ahead of me and then a little wider.
But it is what it is. There's definitely courses that are better for me, I understand that. There's going to be courses that I have to play perfect golf on. To maybe, I don't want to say, top 10, Top 5, you just have to play perfect. The firmer the greens typically, if they get outrageously firm, I don't hit it as high, don't spin it as much. I'm going to have to be on my game. I guess I'm just used to it, though.
It doesn't overwhelm me any more by any means. Like I said, I just try to get it in play. Typically my short game is pretty good. I feel like my putting is getting better and better. So just be patient. I mean, obviously, again, some weeks are going to be tougher than others. I understand that. But the courses -- if you would have said somebody that hits it as far as I do would have won this week, a lot of people wouldn't have believed it. I mean, going into -- Goydos was leading going in today. Obviously, neither one of us hit it very far.
All you guys know, it's about making putts. It's not all about length. If you hit a few fairways or miss a few, make a couple saves, the putter is where it's at. I think you look at everybody that wins an event, they've made an incredible amount of putts that week.

Q. Can you out drive Goydos?
HEATH SLOCUM: I don't actually know. I think we're both up there in a pillow fight for who is longer.

Q. Did you bother figuring what you might need to do to get to Boston?
HEATH SLOCUM: I didn't. You know what, I had no idea. The last two years in the playoffs had been different. I didn't even know exactly. I knew that if you won, finished top 10, that you'd kind of would rise up the board pretty quickly. But I really had no idea.
I went out with nothing to lose honestly. I went out and said, I'm going to go out and play maybe a little more aggressive, especially when I saw the greens were as soft as they were, I'm going to play a little more aggressive. Other than that, I'm just going to go out and have some fun 'cause I hadn't been having a ton of fun on the golf course.
Like I said, I think I really do believe on Thursday, on No. 5, my 14th hole, I think I bogeyed the previous hole to get back to like one under par. I made a 25-footer for par. From there, I birdied the next four holes to shoot 5-under par.
The rest of the year has been going completely opposite. I miss that putt, get back to even, bogey the next, bogey one coming in, shoot 2-over. Just happened to be one of the things that kind of turned around, kind of catapulted me, got me to 5-under. It was just kind of a round-saver. I just hadn't had any of those, making any of those shots or putts. I had a chip-in this week, made some long putts, holed a shot. What else can you do? It was a magical week for me.

Q. What would you be doing the next month if you hadn't played well this week?
HEATH SLOCUM: I was looking at maybe going, honestly, over to Europe and playing an event just to play 'cause I really felt like I was close to playing well.

Q. Which event?
HEATH SLOCUM: I'm trying to think. It was in Switzerland. I think I was going to try to get in. I didn't know if I was going to try to get in. It all depended if I got in this event. I think the following week was like a 70-man field. I had a top 10 there to get in the next. I wasn't looking forward to it. I was really hoping to get in this event, at least give myself a chance to move up to another -- to Boston and keep going.

Q. What were your thoughts about the course? Do you think it was built towards your particular strengths? If the PGA TOUR decides to come back, do you think it will return?
HEATH SLOCUM: Like I said, from the aspect of having to hit drivers, having to be pretty precise with not only the irons, use your imagination around the greens, yeah, I think it was a course that definitely somewhat fit my game, even though it was long. The PGA TOUR did a great job of setting up the golf course. They didn't put us back on every single tee. They made it fair. It was hard, but it was fair. Some of the pin placements were extremely difficult. But, again, if you hit a good shot, you were rewarded.
I think if the TOUR has a chance to come back, my vote is definitely to come back. But that's not for me to decide.

Q. Some of us heard you might be doing some New York tourist things tomorrow. Do you think you'll walk around unrecognized? "I won the Barclays" T-shirt?
HEATH SLOCUM: That doesn't matter. I have a feeling that no one is going to know who I am. When I was living in Pensacola, I'm not huge by any means, but people didn't know who I was there, so... Maybe this will change. Maybe in New York tomorrow somebody will at least recognize me. I doubt it, but...

Q. Is part of the thing that's going through your head after you see Stricker miss that putt, you made yours, not only the joy of winning, but look what I avoided in that five-man playoff?
HEATH SLOCUM: Yes. I'm not speaking for Strick, but we each wanted to make our putt very badly, even if we both made it. We were one to definitely leave it up to both of us or each make it. Yeah, we wanted to the a all cost avoid that. Then it's not, I don't want to say potluck, but you got so many good players, you would have to think you're going to have to birdie the last to win that playoff and maybe birdie it again. I mean, who knows.
Like I said, I knew kind of the situation, whenever I made my putt, I didn't necessarily get all pumped up because I knew I just won the tournament, but I knew that I eliminated a lot of people. If Stricker made his, then we'd go to the 18th or wherever we were going to go again. I definitely eliminated a lot of people and gave myself a better chance.

Q. You were talking about how you couldn't block out the identity of people chasing you or who you were chasing. Can you block out massive amounts of money?
HEATH SLOCUM: I seem to do that very well here lately (laughter). But only when it's going good.
Yeah, obviously this is unbelievable. We're so fortunate to do what we're doing. I know the economy's so in turmoil right now. But we were very fortunate not only play for a lot of money. The community here in Jersey City is reaping a lot of the benefits, their charities. Hopefully all of us as players can do our part, go to each week. We're well-paid. But, you know, not only help the communities we're in, but help the communities we live in.

Q. When will you give the $10 million a thought?
HEATH SLOCUM: Only I would imagine at East Lake on Sunday if I'm in the hunt, I suppose. That's a long way away.

Q. Played that before?
HEATH SLOCUM: I played it in '07.

Q. What do you make of the system where you were 124, barely got in, now you're No. 3?
HEATH SLOCUM: Right, it is crazy. I mean, you're going to have your critics, you're going to have your people that love it. But it is what it is. We all know the rules going in. I think it makes for compelling TV, for a compelling event. I know last year you had some people miss THE TOUR Championship that definitely probably shouldn't have missed THE TOUR Championship, that you wanted them there. Padraig won two majors, I don't think he made it. At the same time, I think you get a lot of excitement from week to week, a lot of moving up and down the board.
It worked in my favor this week. Like I said, I'm just going to continue to try to ride it.

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