Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Rory McIlroy (N. Ireland) is happy to be back at the Masters and is even more excited to prove himself from last year's disappointment.
"It's a great honor," he said in a news conference Tuesday.
He says he's been playing some good golf leading up to this week and that he's hoping to put himself in contention to "win this thing."
McIlroy said he wasn't ready to win last year but started putting what he learned into practice.
Many of the journalists in the room brought up Tiger Woods, but McIlroy said he couldn't care less about what the bookies think.
"It's great for the game of golf that Tiger is back playing well," he said. "He creates excitement that no one else in the game can."
While some people are saying Woods and McIlroy are the only two who could win the Masters this year, McIlroy was quick to dismiss that. With the 80-plus players out there, he said it's impossible to focus on two or three guys.
He said he's been taking the comparisons with "a pinch of salt."
While he's trying not to think a lot about last year, he said you've got to be ready to take the losses as a golfer.
"It's only golf," he said. "It's not like anybody died out there last Sunday."
Last year, he said he wasn't himself -- he was too focused and was trying to keep the outside world away.
Last year's tournament ended in heartbreak for McIlroy.
"It was the first time that I had cried in a long time about anything," he said.
He said a call from Greg Norman really put things into perspective. But when he tried to come up with the year of that tournament, he couldn't quite put it together.
"Sorry, I wasn't born," he said to a room full of laughter.
He had another funny moment during the news conference when his phone went off.
"No phones at Augusta," he laughed.
Charl Schwartzel is happy to be back after his win at the Masters last year.
The confidence he's gained from his 2011 win has helped him.
"I now feel that every time I pitch up at a big, major event, that I can win," he said in a news conference Tuesday.
His astonishing finish with four birdies is one that stunned many, but he said he didn't quite realize it was happening at the time.
"When I finished that Sunday, I wasn't even conscious of the four birdies that I just made," Schwartzel said. "I was just over the moon putting on the green jacket."
He said watching it back later that it looked "pretty spectacular on the TV."
With so many solid competitors in the tournament this year, Schwartzel said it will definitely be the guy who finishes the best of the back nine who will win.
He hadn't come back to Augusta National until last Thursday when he came with his brother and father, as well as a member, to play the course.
"Driving down Magnolia Lane as a champion, that definitely gave me a tingle down my spine," Schwartzel said.
While the competition for the coveted green jacket is going to start heating up on Thursday, Schwartzel said he's not scared of the hype other players have been getting.
"I go about my business as I normally do, and I feel -- and I know -- if I play my best, I can compete with anyone," he said.
And don't count him out to win this year.
"I feel like if I've done it before, why can't I do it again?" he said.
His native country was a big topic of discussion. Schwartzel is the third South African to win the Masters. Gary Player, a fellow South African, will be an honorary starter at the tournament this year. He said it "feels weird" that Ernie Els of South Africa won't be there this year.
"I know just how much this tournament means to him," he said.
As for tonight's Masters Club dinner, Schwartzel said he's both excited and nervous.
The menu he selected includes South African barbecue, complete with monkey gland sauce, which he said is not what the title claims it is -- it's more like a chutney. Schwartzel said he's most looking forward to sampling the ice cream.
While he originally wanted to cook the meat for the dinner, he decided it wouldn't be the best idea.
Plus, "I don't want to get too much oil on my green jacket, either," he said.
Found lots of players finishing up at the 18th hole this afternoon, including Jose Maria Olazabal, Charles Howell III, Bo Van Pelt, Fred Couples, Sean O'Hair and Brandt Snedeker.
Also saw K.T. Kim this afternoon.
Rickie Fowler was out practicing as well.
Just gotta love this picture.
The news conference for Tiger Woods this afternoon was standing room only as members of the media gathered to hear from the former Masters champion, who just won big at Bay Hill.
Woods said getting another win felt great.
“The way I hit the golf ball and putted all day, I felt like I went out there and earned the win," he said in a news conference. "It wasn't given to me. I had to go out there and shoot a really good number under really tough conditions."
When asked about where he was at during the tournament in 2010, he said he just wasn’t hitting the ball very well.
“It was just having an understanding of how to play around this golf course, and that's certainly, as I was explaining earlier, is that coming to a golf course that we play each and every year certainly helps,” he said. “And playing here for so many years now; this is, as I said, my 18th year, so understanding how to play this golf course has really helped me over the years.”
But just because he’s hot on the trail of passing Jack Nicklaus’ record, he made it clear he’s here to win for another reason.
“I'd like the green jacket more,” Woods said. “I know the 73 would be a byproduct of it, but I'm here for the green jacket.”
The pairings and starting times for rounds 1 and 2 have been released. Find them here.
Gary Player, a former Masters champion, has a lot to be thankful for.
"There's never a day of my life -- let me put emphasis on it -- never a day in my life that I don't say thank you for everything that I have, because I've seen unbelievable things," he said in a news conference Tuesday.
The South African won the Masters in 1961, 1974 and 1978 and has also finished in the Top 10 12 times.
He will be an honorary starter with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer on Thursday.
"The minute they asked me, I said yes," he said.
Player and his fellow honorary starters have been extremely competitive over the years, which is why he says they'll be extremely concerned about each other's shots on Thursday.
"Between us, we were so competitive, we wanted to beat each other so badly, and we did beat each other on a lot of occasions -- in medal tournaments, in match play events, and we had our share of beating each other," he said.
Player made sure to note that the kind of prize money professional golfers receive today is so much more than what he earned in his prime.
"I mean, I look at some people, they have won one tournament in their lives -- one tournament -- and they won more money than I won winning 65 tournaments and 18 majors, nine on the regular tour and nine on the Senior Tour," he said.
Although he wishes he could play in his prime today with all of the new technology and condition of golf courses, he's not jealous.
"Not at all. It's progress. And if we didn't do that, we would be going backwards," he said.
When asked who he thinks will win this year, he said there's a lot of good guys to choose from.
"So I don't know how you better gauge Tiger; Rory McIlroy is there, every week. The hallmark of a champion, consistency. And Phil Mickelson is playing well," he said.
After a long day of practice rounds, several golfers still got some extra putting time in before calling it a day.
Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain):
Darren Clarke (N. Ireland) on first hole around 5 p.m.
Aaron Baddeley (Australia):