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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP

May 10, 2017

Sergio Garcia

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Sergio Garcia into the interview room. He is making his 18th consecutive appearance at THE PLAYERS Championship, and he is our 2008 champion. Sergio, first of all, if we can get some comments on being back.

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, great to be back. Obviously a course that I love, and I've been lucky enough to do fairly well here. Yeah, changes look nice. The course obviously is in amazing shape, probably the best shape since they first redid it. You know, it looks really nice, and the greens are firm. They're rolling very, very beautifully. I'm sure it's going to be a great test of golf throughout the week.

JOHN BUSH: Obviously yesterday was a great day for the PGA TOUR with FedEx renewing for another 10 years. Let's get some comments on your perspective from a player standpoint.

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, it's amazing. Obviously I saw Don yesterday, and he told me that they were renewing another 10 years, so for us, it's great. I think it gives the TOUR even more stability, if it needed it, and for us it's amazing to just keep doing what we love and to feel that security behind it. It's great news for golf and for the TOUR.

Q. It's been such a journey for you. I just was wondering what it's been like for you to experience all the joy that's radiated from the public in America and elsewhere at your success?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, it's been amazing. I think that -- there's so many great things that have happened since Sunday at Augusta. You know, the support from fans and supporters and everyone around the world has been amazing.

But for me, what has meant the most, it's to see the reaction from the players, you know, towards me and how happy -- other than a couple, how happy they all have been (laughing) -- well, it's true. I'm not going to lie.

Yeah, they've been so happy for me to get my first major and win the Masters. That, to me, it shows me a lot. It shows me how much my fellow players respect me and care about me. It's something that you can't really fake, so that's awesome.

Q. You've had this four-week break now. A, do you feel ready to come back to competitive golf; and B, is it a bit distracting, starting at such a big event, seeing everyone for the first time, as you said, all the players wanting to congratulate you?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it was either retire or keep going (laughter.)

No, I mean, I had a plan like this before we managed to win the Masters. I'm actually glad that we did because with everything that has been going on and everything that we've had to do after winning at Augusta, not only in Spain but here in the U.S. and all, it's actually been nice to be able to have a couple of weeks in Switzerland with Angela, where we relaxed and pretty much did nothing.

Is it ideal to come back and be the first tournament this one? Hopefully. Hopefully we'll be able to say that on Sunday.

But it is what it is. I like the golf course. I feel like I'm still swinging the club well. I feel confident out there. I've just got to keep doing more and more of that, and at the end of the day, it's the same thing we did four weeks ago, so it shouldn't change too much.

Q. You support the First Tee; it's one of the things you do regularly. The two specific things I see in that commercial are perseverance and confidence. Can you tell me how perseverance and confidence surrounded by your family, friends, coaches has really helped you in the last year, like since you left us last, winning Byron Nelson and on for a great year?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, it's massive, both words, and probably you can call them adjectives. They're huge when it comes down not only to golf but anything you do in life. I think at the end of the day, I said it throughout my whole career, the only thing I could do was keep putting myself in that situation and wait for the right time to get it done.

It's as simple as that. I think that the support that I've had, not only from my family and Angela and her family and friends and sponsors and everyone that has been behind this my whole career, and they've always believed that I was good enough to do it. All those things definitely have helped. I think that nowadays we're all very happy to see what we've been able to achieve, not only because of winning the Masters but because of the way my whole career has been.

Q. When you're announced tomorrow on the first tee as Masters champion, what will be the emotions tied into that? And secondly, when you've chased something for so long and attain it, what becomes the biggest challenge in keeping yourself hungry?
SERGIO GARCIA: Not eating (chuckling).

I'd love to tell you what it's going to feel like, but I'm not going to know until Thursday, but I'm excited about it. I'm not going to lie to you. I'm sure a lot of things will go through my mind about that week and stuff, but it's a great thing to have. At the end of the day, to stay hungry, the other thing you have to do is just keep working hard. I know that I can still improve, so that's my goal. I've always said it, my goal is always to become better, so it doesn't matter -- like I said, I could have a year where I don't win and I feel really, really good about what I've done because I feel like I've become better, and then some of the years where obviously maybe you get three or four wins and they're even better, but it doesn't mean that -- it's not only about winning. Obviously it's important, but there's so many things that you can do that can make you feel like you're improving and you're getting better.

I'm excited about those things, keep improving on those things, and it should be fun to keep at it.

Q. You've won here, obviously. You've also had some real disappointments here in recent years. What kind of sticks with you, a couple moments maybe from TPC, and how do you kind of look to build on the Masters coming into this week?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah. No, like I said before, I feel very fortunate the way I've played here. The only way you have those tough moments is if you're in contention, and fortunately for me, I've been in contention here so many times that the holes that we play, you know how tricky they are and you don't have to be off very much to have a great hole or have not such a good hole. At the end of the day, the way I look at it is I've been very thankful and very lucky to have so many opportunities here to win, not only the one that I did, but some of the other ones that I've been very, very close. You know, I just want to keep doing more of the same thing. I love the golf course, and you know, if I manage to play well, I should have a chance on Sunday, and it would be nice to get back into that kind of -- into those kind of emotions.

Q. In the short time you've had the green jacket in your ownership, have you been surprised by the reaction of those who see you in the jacket, and has there been one special moment when someone has been extra surprised seeing you in the green jacket?
SERGIO GARCIA: Everybody has been very excited. It's difficult to pick one. Yeah, I have been -- I mean, I know how much being the Masters champion is, and I know how much it means not only to myself and my people but the people around me. You know, everybody has been extremely excited and wanted to take pictures with me with the jacket on and things like that. It's been a great ride, and we've definitely enjoyed every minute of it.

Q. You've got José Manuel on the bag this week, I believe --
SERGIO GARCIA: Yes.

Q. Glen's wife is having another baby --
SERGIO GARCIA: No, I just fired him (laughter).

Q. What's José's reaction been like carrying your clubs the first time back?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, Glen had a little baby boy a week ago, so I decided to give him a month off so he could help his wife take care of the two little ones.

But yeah, José has been great. We've known each other since we were -- since I was probably 10 and he was 12 or something like that, 12, 13. He's a good friend of mine. We've played a lot of golf together, amateur and professional. We live very close. We're both from the same area in Spain. We've always had a great relationship, so I thought that what better to have on the bag than a good friend that he's played on Tour, on the European Tour for I think 15 or 16 years and he knows what's going on. I'm sure it's going to be a great experience for both of us, but hopefully it helps him a lot.

Q. Justin said some very charming things about you at Augusta; could you just describe your friendship with him and what it is about him that you like?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it's quite simple. I think he's just a wonderful guy. We've kind of like -- same we were talking about José before. We've spent so many days and nights around each other on amateur days and professional days and Ryder Cups. He's just a very humble and genuine, nice guy. I've always had a great relationship with him. You know, it was nice to be able to play with him on Sunday because I think we both felt very comfortable. Because of that, we were both able to play very, very good golf, and unfortunately one of us had to lose, but I think that the show and the fight that we put on on that Sunday was fun to watch.

Q. Your thoughts on the 12th hole here this week, and what's your strategy off the tee?
SERGIO GARCIA: It depends a little bit. I think that it's definitely a much better hole than it used to be. For my personal liking, I would like that left side to be a little bit flatter, mainly because I think that not a good drive or 3-wood or whatever you want to hit to the green should go in the water. But yesterday, for example, Rafa -- we were playing with Rafa Cabrera, and he hit a beautiful little drive that flew on line with the pin and went in the water, and it was a perfect tee shot. That kind of felt like maybe it shouldn't be quite as severe.

But other than that, it looks nice. It's a different look. I think that it's going to depend -- for me it's going to depend a little bit how I feel on the day. If I feel good, I'm probably going to go for it, unless it's like a very tricky pin that most likely -- most of the people are going to hit it to the right, just right of the green, and it leaves a tricky chip to a couple of the pin positions. We'll just try to figure it out as the day goes on with wind conditions and such.

Q. When you were at Rory's wedding, did you find yourself thinking ahead to three months from then and another major moment you're going to have that you've looked forward to a long time at all?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And no, both Angela and I were checking things out very closely, trying to get some ideas.

Q. Stevie Wonder?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, no, maybe not that much. But yeah, no, there's no doubt that we -- yeah, I mean, we're thinking about it pretty much every day, and we're extremely excited about it. It's a big moment in our lives. You know, I can't wait for that day to come. But there's still some work to do.

Q. That bear hug that Rory gave you when he saw you Friday night, what did that mean to you, and what do you think he was conveying with that?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it was quite simple. He was extremely happy for me to have won the Masters. He was just -- like I said before, so many unbelievable reactions from other players. They were like so pleased for me. It almost feels like they wanted me to win it more than I did. I'm sure it wasn't like that because I wanted it very badly. But it was just nice to -- it was nice to see fellow players that are friends of yours and friends of mine in this case that they're genuinely very happy for you to achieve that.

Q. You actually seem somewhat surprised by some of that outpouring of support you got from your peers. Is there any one or two examples that really stand out as a surprise to you that you might not have expected, and do you sense any -- I think you just alluded to it, you sensed they shared your journey a little bit.
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah. I mean, there's been so many great ones and guys telling me that they were crying when I won and things like that. I think it's difficult to pick one in general, I guess, but one that kind of stood out to me was this week on the range, I think it was Monday, Shawn Stefani, he came to me, and we have a great relationship, but we don't see each other that much, and he's a big man. He gave me the biggest hug, and I felt like -- I don't know, like a little -- like a little piece of -- like a little branch or something on him. But it was really nice to see not only that but how many that have been really, really happy. Very touching.

Q. In relation to a little bit what you're talking about, in the earlier part of your career, you took a decent amount of criticism for a different amount of things, and as you got older and maybe with this Masters win, maybe a line of demarcation, have you felt a different perception about you as a player, particularly since you've won this Masters?
SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know. I mean, I don't think so. I think I've been saying it, and I always say it, that I'm still the same person. I told you, I always try to be true to myself. I try to be as genuine as I can be and as honest as possible. I think that at the end of the day that people see that, and now they're even happier because, yeah, we won at Augusta. But I think at the end of the day, the most important thing is to not change. You are who you are, and one major or 20 majors shouldn't change you. At the end of the day, we're all made out of the same material, and we all should be respectful to that.

Q. Why do you think your win was so popular with so many players?
SERGIO GARCIA: I think, like I said before, because they respect me. They see that I haven't changed in 20 years that I've been here on TOUR. That's the way my parents made me and brought me up. I always try to be respectful to everyone around me, and probably they were happy to see that a genuine guy like me was able to get one of his dreams -- make his dreams come true. I mean, it's probably something you have to ask them, but that's the feeling that I've kind of got.

Q. Padraig had talked about this after the wedding; how meaningful was it for you to have that talk with him at Rory's wedding?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, it was great. I mean, I think everybody makes more than what it is. I think at the end of the day, we both respect each other. I mean, we've had our differences here and there, but you know, we've had great talks at the Ryder Cup and also at Rory's wedding. He was like trying to apologize for something he said on Sunday, and I was like, it's fine. It doesn't matter. It doesn't bother me at all. I respect you. You respect me. We're fine. You know, there's nothing wrong with us. At the end of the day, I think that's the most important thing.

You know, he's a nice guy, I think I'm a nice guy, and we can all get along fine.

Q. Do you think your Masters win will change you at all as a golfer, and in the context of the next time a big title is on the line and you're down the stretch there, the knowledge that you ultimately got the job done on the biggest stage?
SERGIO GARCIA: I hope -- I mean, I hope it does. I hope it helps me on that aspect. But I don't know. That's going to be interesting to see when I get back in it. It doesn't mean that I'm going to win every one that I get in contention now, but it obviously gives you a little bit of extra confidence, which is always important. But I'm excited to put myself in that situation again and see if I can use some of those things that helped me win at Augusta, hopefully help me win later in the year.

Q. Are there any kind of specifics there that you've alluded to that you could share with us that you did differently at Augusta that made the difference?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah. I've been saying it -- I said it all week there and after: I think the way I reacted to everything that was happening to me, I think that's one of the most important things for me, so I need to make sure that I keep on that same track. You know, when good things happen, except them the way they are. When bad things happen, except them and move on. I think at the end of the day that's one of the most important things. Game-wise we all have it, and it's just a matter of being able to deal with things that happen to you on the course.

Q. What's the coolest thing you've done with the green jacket, and did all the close calls that you went through make it that much more special?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, the coolest thing would be the kickoff at El Clasico for sure. That was one of the most amazing experiences I've had. I've been very fortunate, I was telling Rory and some of the other guys, I've been very fortunate to have amazing cheers and 15,000, 20,000 people chanting my name at Augusta, Ryder Cups, something like that, and it's unbelievable, or the British Open, something like that, and it's unbelievable. But to walk on what I think is the best stadium in the world, soccer stadium in the world at Bernabeu and in El Clasico against Barcelona, which is probably the biggest football game that exists in this world, and to have 90,000 people chanting your name, that was extremely special, and I was nervous. Yeah, and I was only kicking the ball 15 yards.

But yeah, that was very unique and something that, with many things that happened at Augusta and everything, that I will never forget.

Q. At the Masters you talked about having a new feeling of -- a calmness out there and then also being able to accept some of the bad shots that happened a little better. What do you credit that change of mentality to?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it's just work. It's just my people around me making me see things the way they are and trying to get through my hard head sometimes. You know, it's just hard work and having great people around you that care about you and tell you things the way they are when they have to.

Q. Who do you think is the best player without a major now?
SERGIO GARCIA: Not me. (Laughter.)

I don't know. It's difficult to say. There's a lot of them out there. Obviously Rickie is up there, and Justin Thomas is great, too. Obviously Lee, for sure. It's difficult to pick one because there's so many, so many great ones. So hopefully they'll all have their chances to get theirs.

JOHN BUSH: Sergio Garcia, best of luck this week.

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