You’ve said that the highlight of your career was having your father come over for your first Masters in 1998. Was he at The Players for your win this year?
No, he’s never been back to America. He tapes every tournament because they come on late at night in South Africa, then he watches them when he gets up the next morning. But I guess my mom was watching it live and she stayed up to watch the whole thing. I think she woke him up right before I won.
Did you call him afterward? I didn’t have the chance because I was tied up with the media, but my wife called and talked to my parents. They had a bunch of friends and neighbors who had stayed up, and they started calling at 3 a.m. their time. It was quite a celebration, especially for someone who goes to bed at 9 p.m. every night.
Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on it, why did it take you so long to break through for your first Tour victory?
It was just one of those things. I had played well enough in the past and at the end of the day, I had gotten beat. It wasn’t one particular thing.
You took out Tiger Woods at the Accenture Match Play Championship in 2009. Do you like the spotlight?
I’ve always felt that I’ve played a little bit better at majors, and certain times in events like the Presidents Cup, situations like that. I enjoy having a little bit of pressure and feeling the nerves because I think it gets me a little bit more focused, and I tend to play better that way.
You’re one of the best hybrid players. What’s your secret?
There’s not really a secret. You either hit the ball straight or you don’t. I hit it straight with all of my clubs, not just the hybrids. I’m in a mind-set where I’m treating the hybrid like an iron, and I’m trying to hit it close. I’m not just trying to hit it up around the green or on the green. I’m approaching it like I would an iron shot, really trying to use it as a birdie opportunity.
Gary Player once admitted that he had a chip on his shoulder because he wasn’t big and strong like Arnie. Do you get fired up to beat up on the big guys out here?
Sometimes, you get a little bit depressed when you’re getting outdriven by 40, 50 yards, and you realize that on a day-to-day basis it’s going to be tough to beat those guys, especially if they’re on their game. But at the end of the day, I have the game I have. I can’t change it. I’m not going to be able to pick up 50 yards, so I need to make the best of what I’ve got. That’s what still makes this game fun, I can come out and still compete with those guys and improve on areas of my game that I need to improve, and that keeps me competitive. We’ve seen guys who are not some of the longest hitters still winning tournaments, so it can be done.
Do people relate to you more because you look like a regular guy?
Certainly I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say they admire the way I play and enjoy my game, so that’s a nice compliment. Maybe the average golfer can learn a little bit more from someone like me, the way I play the game, because obviously, they also aren’t going to hit it 350 yards off the tee.
You’ve been on the Tour for a while. Does it take an adjustment period to really feel comfortable out here?
It certainly does, for sure. Some guys can do it right away—a guy like Rickie Fowler seems like he’s really very comfortable. Obviously, he’s still learning, but his game is at a level where he’s already competing for tournaments. I feel like I’m still getting better every year, a little bit at a time. I certainly haven’t felt like I’ve gone backward at any stage in my career, which is nice. It probably took me a good two, three years to feel comfortable enough to relax and go out and just play.