I knew I had the game, but I was always putting a lot of pressure on myself because I wanted it so badly. And when you want something so badly and you can ask Greg Norman about the Masters it makes it that much harder to get it. That's always been my problem: I've pushed it too hard.
Your playoff record is exceptional you're 10-1 in your pro career and 3-1 on the PGA Tour. Clearly you thrive under pressure.
Yeah, I do. I never back off I just see the shot and hit it. It either comes off or it doesn't. Most of the playoffs I've been in, it has come off.
You're one of golf's most opinionated players. Have you said things you've regretted?
Sometimes, but whatever I've said I've always thought at the time it was the right thing to say. You do regret some remarks, but if someone pisses you off that much, eventually you've got to tell them to get stuffed. I try and be as nice as I can. Two years ago I would have told someone where to go. Now I'm like, "No comment, let's just move on." But the Australian sports media always want to talk about the bad things. Negative press sells papers.
So this would be a bad time to ask you about Mark Hensby?
[Laughs.] Go ahead.
How's your relationship with him these days?
We're good friends now. A couple of years ago there were a few words said. About 10 minutes before I went into the interview room [at the 2005 Australian Open] he had been in there and said Greg Norman had never done anything for the [Australasian] Tour. So I go in and they ask, "Well, what do you reckon about Hensby saying that Greg Norman has done nothing for this Tour?" And I said, "I don't remember a Mark Hensby Holden International Tournament, do you?" I just said things like that. I didn't say, "Mark Hensby's an absolute wanker."
But that's precisely what you called him five months later at the Masters. You were quoted in the newspapers as saying Hensby's 'a wanker, that's the bottom line.'
[Laughs.] But the way I said it it was halfhearted, as a kind gesture. That's where things got taken out of context. He was a good friend, but he'd taken it the wrong way because he never heard how I said it. Everyone is laughing about it, but all of a sudden he comes to me on the first tee and says, "Don't you ever talk to me again. I don't want anything to do with you ever." Two years later he came up to me and apologized. We shook hands, patted each other on the back and walked off as mates.
Do you think Tour pros are generally too tight-lipped?
Absolutely. Most of them are scared of the consequences, so they think they're better off saying nothing. Nine times out of 10 that's probably the better way to go, but do you want to be a man or a mouse?
Do you feel like the forgotten Aussie?
It doesn't concern me. It might have a few years ago. I've just got to win more.
So you're not jealous of Adam Scott and his groupies?
No, that's all right. I've got all the grandmas. [Laughs.]
Back to your accident. About a month after the wreck you flew from Melbourne to Spain and hit one shot at the Volvo Masters so that you could collect $145,000 in bonus money for finishing third on the Order of Merit.
I told the European Tour, "I've got a broken sternum, my head is still full of stitches, I can't play." And they just said, "Well, you won't get any bonus money." This was 12 years ago, when $145,000 was a fortune. So I asked them, "What counts as playing the tournament?" Ken Schofield [then the European Tour's executive director] said, "Well, you just have to tee off the first hole. You'll get last place money in the tournament and be entitled to your bonus." So I bought a first-class ticket to Spain and got to the course about an hour before my tee time. I got a friend of mine to tee the ball up for me, and then I tapped it off the tee and walked back to the clubhouse. I felt pretty bad because I was taking a spot from someone else and the Tour didn't really explain it properly to him. But why shouldn't I be entitled to that money? I had played so well all year.