The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 4, 2013

Gainey, Wagner have great first rounds

Interviews with early leaders at The Greenbrier Classic

From Staff Reports

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Tommy Gainey and Johnson Wagner came into the clubhouse as the first round leaders at 8-under on Thursday at The Greenbrier Classic. Here's what they had to say following their terrific rounds.


MODERATOR: Tommy, heck of a round out there for you today. Just talk about what you were seeing.

TOMMY GAINEY: Well, what I was seeing is I put a new Callaway driver in the bag, it's called Optiforce. I missed one fairway today with this new driver and that says a lot because if I can hit fairways, I can score, I can really play this game. All of us can. All these guys out here, if we hit the fairways, we can score. Today with the soft greens, you know, I made some putts.

Q. Did you surprise yourself out there today or were you kind of expecting it?

TOMMY GAINEY: Absolutely I surprised myself. I didn't know, I had been hitting it kind of bad, not real good, and just to put the new driver in the bag and to get the results that I did today and especially with the putter, I'm very happy.

Q. You said hitting the fairways was a big thing, but what do you think it is that you need to do on this course to get a low score and keep up top?

TOMMY GAINEY: Well, the thing is keep it away from the bunkers because that high grass around the bunkers, if you get it in there, you could struggle a little bit. You could hit it in some holes in there where you won't have much of a shot to get it out of there. So I'm just keeping with my guns, keeping aggressive, keep hitting fairways, and I'm going to keep knocking it at the pins because there's more rain on the way.

Q. Were you (inaudible)?

TOMMY GAINEY: Absolutely. I mean, it helps when you have soft greens and hit the fairways. I mean, it's easier out of the rough, but it's still not that easy. When you hit it in the fairways, it's easier for sure.

Q. (Inaudible)

TOMMY GAINEY: It's early. There's still three days left, but I'll tell you what, I like my chances starting off. I didn't hurt myself with an 8-under round today. I mean, I feel good about my game and half this game is confidence.

Q. Do you feel you can maybe go even lower?

TOMMY GAINEY: I think it's possible you can take it lower. I missed a few putts out there inside of 10 feet, probably two or three, I think. I think somebody can take it deeper. As a matter of fact, Johnson Wagner was out there, he was 8-under and I think he had four or five holes to play. It wouldn't surprise me if he got it to 10.

Q. How many times did you look at the leaderboard out there?

TOMMY GAINEY: I always look at the leaderboard. It's no big deal though. It's nice to see your name first, but it's just the first day. Three more days to play. The only thing you can do on the first day is shoot your way out of it, and I definitely didn't do that today.

Q. You looked like you were having fun with the gallery? They were talking to you, having fun.

TOMMY GAINEY: I always socialize with the gallery. They holler at me and I try to speak to them. That's just the way I am.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TOMMY GAINEY: Actually the putter got hot from the 1st hole because I think I made like a 40-footer on the 1st hole, maybe a little further, maybe a little less. So I birdied the first two, and any time you can birdie the first two you've got a chance to really take it low.

Q. Coming in here I think (inaudible)?

TOMMY GAINEY: Yeah, I played horrible this year, I played horrible this year. What I've done, since I shot 60 last year and won that tournament, the McGladrey Classic, I felt like I put more pressure on myself to play more consistently and to do better. Actually, when you put that excess pressure on yourself, you know, it hurts when you're not playing up to that potential. I know what to do now, I'm just trying to have more fun and letting the game come to me instead of trying to force it.

Q. How do you approach the next day? TOMMY GAINEY: Same as today, I'm going at it. MEDIA CENTER INTERVIEW:

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Tommy Gainey after a very successful 8-under 62 in round 1 of the Greenbrier Classic. Tommy, congratulations on a great round. Certainly kind of had reminiscent of McGladrey at the end of last year. That being said, just some comments on the round and we'll take a few questions.

TOMMY GAINEY: Well, you know, I'll just start out by saying the golf course is really soaked, it's really soft, and with the players that we have out here, when you have soft greens and the rough is not too penal, I mean, you can really score low out there. I just was one of the lucky ones to make some putts, hit some fairways, and you know, we all know it's all about making putts out here.

MODERATOR: You had mentioned, I read something earlier in the week where you had talked about just what a frustrating year you've been having and how that really adds to the pressure and the pressure you tend to kind of force things. What was the difference between prior to today and what happened today?

TOMMY GAINEY: Well, you know, my family and my support system around me, they just -- they noticed that I've been trying to force the issue. Ever since last year I feel like I should be playing more consistently, playing a lot better, contending more, and that wasn't the case. I was just putting so much pressure on myself and they noticed it and they had a talk with me and we sat down and tried to iron it out. Now I'm just trying to have fun again because that's what this game is to me, it's a lot of fun. I really don't want to go back into a factory, even AO Smith, working on an assembly line because I love what I'm doing right now.

MODERATOR: Well with that being said, we'll open it up and take some questions.

Q. First, talk about your front nine, finished with a 5-under 29, and second, take us through the decision to use a putter on 16 and leave the flagstick in. Of course you hit that dead center.

TOMMY GAINEY: You know, the front mine, I believe it's essential to get off to a good start on the 1st hole of the day and the first round of the tournament. You know, I hit a good drive, I hit kind of a poor second shot because I think it was like 40 feet or so, but I made the putt. It felt like I hit it five feet and made it. I made a 40-footer, got off to a great start, then the next hole I hit it up there 15 feet and made another putt. So I birdied the first two holes, got off to a great start, got the momentum built up, and I just tried to ride it on through the rest of the day. You know, I don't know what to say. There was a few holes in there that I missed some good putts at it, but you know what, you're not going to make every putt. I just hope to make the majority.

Q. 16?

TOMMY GAINEY: 16, I hit a poor wedge shot, hit it fat, laid the sod over it, whichever one you want to use, but I normally putt off the green, because I feel like I can putt it closer than I can chip it. It just so happened that it went in.

Q. Pretty much going steady dead red here, 21 or 22, I think Stuart shot two 58s or two 59s, is that out there this week, 8 already?

TOMMY GAINEY: You know, I believe you can get to at least 20 this week, maybe a little more. I think it also depends on the weather. I mean, if the wind gets up, if more thunderstorms come in this way, which I think there is some more rain on the way as we're speaking right now, so it depends on how much more rain we get and how much softer this course gets. You know, I still feel that you can go at it.

Q. How nice is it to be in the house in early? These afternoon guys, who knows, there could be a lot of stop, starting, that type of thing?

TOMMY GAINEY: Absolutely, I'm very happy that I got my round in without no delays because I believe, as I've heard, there's more rain coming. I'm glad I'm not in the afternoon and have to deal with all the delays because it could be one or two or it could be four or five, you just don't know. It could be a start a stop, then a start again and a stop. That wear and tears on you a little bit when you have to go through that.

Q. The rest of the day, are you going to do some skeet shooting or go to the casino, take a nap?

TOMMY GAINEY: Probably going to take a nap, I've been up since 5:30, so I'm going to definitely gets some good food here shortly, kind of hang out with the family, see what they want to do. The Greenbrier is America's resort. I've seen the commercial with all they have to offer, I see why they call it that. I'm just going to try to experience America the beautiful.

Q. Tommy, out there you mentioned you put a new driver in the bag, the Callaway. With so much made about equipment, that's the first club you (inaudible) all day. How big was that driver to you?

TOMMY GAINEY: It was big for me. If you look at my stats in driving accuracy, it's going to be around 30 percent this year leading up to today. Let me tell you, I don't know what other pros will tell you, but in my opinion, the tee ball sets up the rest of your game. If you don't hit it in the fairway, you're just trying to knock it on the green and make par because hitting it out of this rough is no fun. Trust me, I've been doing it for the last three years.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about that meeting that you had with your family, when it was, who was there?

TOMMY GAINEY: You know, my wife, Erin, my sister-in-law, Loren, my brother-in-law, David Robinson, my agent, Paul, we got together and just kind of talked about different things, said, you know, you're playing bad, what's going on? I feel like I'm trying to force the issue. They said listen, you won a tournament last year because you were having fun playing the game you love to play. I had gotten away from that and I'm trying to get back into that now. I've got to say, it's a lot better when you have more fun playing the game you love to play because it's easier and it's less stressful. How long ago was this? This was probably, the last month, within the last month.

Q. How hard was it to hear some of the things?

TOMMY GAINEY: It wasn't hard at all. I felt like I knew what was going on. I was putting too much pressure on myself. I knew I was doing that, but it's -- sometimes it's easy to change. I mean, it was just hard for me to change that and I'm just trying to have more fun now and it seems to be working out.

Q. Tommy, this tournament, all tournaments have great story lines, but this tournament certainly has with how the champions have been crowned. Have you kind of followed that, is that kind of a motivational tool for a player at this event?

TOMMY GAINEY: Absolutely, absolutely. Look at the last three winners, Stuart Appleby, Scott Stallings, Ted Potter, Jr. You know, Scott Stallings is a friend and Ted Potter, Jr.'s a friend. I used to play a lot of mini TOUR golf with Ted Potter, Jr. Guy's got some game. You're not out here if you don't have game, that's just the way it is. Especially last year, he won in the playoff, it took him I think two holes maybe in the playoff, he had to play 18 the second time, made birdie, good night. I mean, it was -- guy can play. Everybody, I mean, there's different story lines. There's a ton of story lines out here. You look at me, I grew up poor and I'm playing on the PGA TOUR, I'm a PGA TOUR winner. It doesn't get any better than that.

Q. Tommy, was playing in the tournament, did that have anything to do with the proximity to your home? In other words, did you really want to be here because it's not too far from South Carolina versus maybe being on the West Coast? And the other thing is, who did you bring with you this week?

TOMMY GAINEY: Well, you know, I'll give you that, the West Coast, I've played poorly on the west coast the last few years. I don't know why is that, I have no clue. You know how this game is. But for me it seems like I'm either hot or I'm cold, there's no in between for me and I'm trying to get better at that and that means trying to be more consistent. Trust me, that's hard, it's hard. But as far as proximity, you know, it would help if I was in South Carolina playing in a tournament because I would have the home crowd behind me, have a lot of family and friends there, I mean, that's awesome when you can play in your home state and have everybody pulling for you, rooting for you to win, it's a great feeling. But here, this is just, I mean, how beautiful is this place? The Greenbrier, it's just awesome. I brought my wife, Erin, her sister, Loren, and my brother-in-law, David. We're here and we're just going to have some fun with it.

Q. Tommy, you talked about not wanting to go back in the factory. I would imagine that's a pretty big motivating factor for you not to have to get a job like that when you can do this.

TOMMY GAINEY: Absolutely, I mean, you get spoiled out here, you get spoiled out here and I have, I've gotten spoiled out here. I have to say I'm very proud to have AO Smith, the company I used to work for, as a sponsor because we have a lot of things in common. We're like family and that's good to have that support.

Q. What do you remember from those days, from working there to where you are now?

TOMMY GAINEY: From working there, it's a class company. I mean, they stick by what they say. They make the best water heaters in the business and they stick by that. If you're not happy with that, they'll make sure you will be happy with it. They'll make you happy with it. You know, I'm just proud to have them -- proud to be a part of the family.

MODERATOR: Tommy, congratulations. Happy Fourth of July and hope to see you back in here the rest of the week. TOMMY GAINEY: Oh, yeah, God bless and Happy Fourth of July to everyone.

* * *



MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Johnson Wagner to the interview room after a very successful 8-under 62 round 1 in the Greenbrier Classic. Great playing, happy Fourth of July, all that other good stuff. That being said, just some comments on the round and then we'll open it up and take some questions.

JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, happy birthday, America, by the way. It's nice to shoot a good round on Independence Day. Had a nice start to the day, birdied 3, 4, 5, hit a great shot out of the trees on 7 to about three feet, birdied 9 for 29 and maybe my first competitive 29 on the PGA TOUR, which was cool. Then the 59 thought started creeping in, blocked it out for a few holes and birdied 11, chipped in for eagle on 12, and then the 59 thoughts really got in my mind. But I managed to hit really quality shots and quality putts coming in. I've been disappointed with 72s and 79s last month, so I'm very happy to be disappointed with a 62 today.

MODERATOR: With that being said, we'll open it up and take some questions.

Q. The mustache. With a good four days here, does it come back, does it stay


JOHNSON WAGNER: I mean, it will definitely come back at some point. I love irritating my wife too much with it to let it go for too long. We just celebrated our 7th anniversary on Monday and I didn't get her a gift, so I thought surprising her with a clean lip would suffice.

Q. Tommy Gainey also had a 8-under today. He said he thinks the scores can go even lower. Do you concur with the course conditions?

JOHNSON WAGNER: Obviously it's been a really wet spring here, we've had a lot of rain the last couple days. It's soft, it's very playable, we played ball in hand in the fairway today. Probably didn't have to, but with rain in the forecast it was a wise decision. Yeah, I think the scores can go pretty low. I think 62 will still be in the Top 10 by the end of the day. It may be leading, but yeah, who knows.

Q. Adjectives to describe your year to this point. I know it hasn't been exactly what you wanted with the cuts and the WD at the Memorial. Was that an injury by the way or what?

JOHNSON WAGNER: No, at Memorial we got blown off the course. I had three holes to go on Friday, was shooting a million, I thought we were going to come back the next morning and I needed some rest. I felt bad to withdraw from Mr. Nicklaus' tournament, but I just didn't want to come back out and sit out a 17 hour rain delay.

Q. The missed cuts, obviously your game's not been up to par?

JOHNSON WAGNER: No, it hasn't been. I've struggled with my ball striking all year, even my good finishes, which there were maybe two at Kapalua and Harbortown, which was the last cut I made, my ball striking's been terrible. After Hartford a couple weeks ago my coach watched me play Friday. We hadn't been working all that much together this year. He said come down -- he's at Westchester county at Old Oaks Country Club. He said, Come down and get it straight, that's where you always are when you struggle. We got into a position after three, four days where I kind of felt like I did leading into the Sony Open last year and Kapalua last year, where I played the best golf of my life. Confidence for me can turn around real quickly. Before I won my first tournament, the Shell Houston Open in 2008, I think I made $40,000 the first tournaments of the year. So my past performance really doesn't mean much to me unless it's good.

Q. Was there any particular part of your game that you needed to work on with him or --

JOHNSON WAGNER: It's all set up for me with driving the golf ball. I've been driving it short and crooked this year. My fairway percentage is way down, my driving distance is way down, and I've never been that long anyway to be good enough to miss fairways and coming into these greens with 5-irons. It's amazing, I think I gained 15 yards with my driver and I'm hitting it straighter. It's nice, it's nice to feel like I know what I'm doing again.

Q. One other question, you said confidence can turn around quickly. What have the last couple months been like mentally for you?

JOHNSON WAGNER: I mean, it's been tough, it's probably -- I love my job, I love playing the PGA TOUR, I love playing golf when I'm at home but the last couple months, I mean, have been really hard. I just haven't been much fun to be around and it's just been tough. Nobody likes to be bad at what they do, especially golfers.

Q. So who did you bring with you this week and would proximity and fan support and support from family have with anything to do with what happened today?

JOHNSON WAGNER: A little bit. My wife and kids are here. They haven't traveled to a tournament since my last cut made at Harbortown, maybe that's something there. And her parents are here with us, we have a nice cottage up here at the Greenbrier, such an incredible place. My parents and brother and his wife usually come, but they're all coming with me to the British Open, leaving next Thursday after the Open Championship. They gave this one a miss this year, but I've got a nice group with me this week.

Q. Quite a few Virginia Tech fans following you around out there as well. You mentioned your family being here. Any added pressure with that?

JOHNSON WAGNER: When I'm playing poorly and shooting high numbers, yes. When I'm playing well, I want everybody that I know to be out following me. I love putting on a good show for my family and friends.

Q. Johnson, just bringing up the putter situation, just out of curiosity, what's your feelings on the 2016 plan to ban anchoring?

JOHNSON WAGNER: I use a short putter, so I really -- it really benefits me, I guess. I really didn't care either way, but once the USGA made their decision I am really, really happy that the PGA TOUR is following the ban. I think if we had gone against it and three of the majors had been played with no belly putters and the PGA TOUR allows them, I think it would have been really confusing to the general public golf fan that -- the game's already confusing enough. So I think it was an incredible decision that the PGA TOUR made and I'm really pleased that we did it.

Q. Johnson, what was it about this golf course that got you going today?

JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, I've always loved Old White. I went to Virginia Tech and we would come over I think maybe two or three times when I was in school, we would come over and play. I'm a really big fan of Seth Raynor and CV Macdonald designed golf courses and this is just kind of my paradise playing a tournament on his course. Where I won at the Sony Open in Hawaii, it was also a Seth Raynor golf course, so I really enjoy playing classically designed golf courses.

Q. How does it feel with you and Brendon being at the top of the leaderboard former teammates at Virginia Tech?

JOHNSON WAGNER: It's great, for years I've wanted to be paired with him Saturday and Sunday when it mattered. We've been close a couple times, but it would be cool for us to be fighting it out coming down the stretch. He's had an amazing last four or five years and he's certainly overdue for a win and I would love to take it away from him.

MODERATOR: Okay. Well, Johnson, we'll let you go, enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Congratulations on a great start.

Courtesy: The Greenbrier Classic, Tee Scripts