The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass is considered by some as the 5th major and rightly so. It is one of the biggest stages of golf where only the most elite golfers of the world are able to compete. Three years ago, KJ came out on top with his 8th and biggest career victory.
After a two year win drought, KJ led up to the Players Championship with a T3 at New Orleans, T8 at the Masters, and a T6 at Bay Hill. This win put KJ at number 15 in the world rankings; the highest he'd been since the beginning of 2009.
KJ's best career finish at TPC Sawgrass was only a T16 in 2006, but somehow KJ's swing coach Steve Bann knew that "a win was coming".
Here is an exclusive interview with KJ about his memories about the win.
KJ, what was your mentality going into the week of the Players Championship? Were you expecting to win at all?
I had never played well at the Players so my only goal for the week was to make the cut, but after every round, my goal for the week went higher. It went from 'let's just make the cut', to 'let's get a top 20', to 'let's get a top 10', to 'let's win this thing'.
How were you able to handle yourself and the pressure of being in the final group on Sunday?
Toms and Mcdowell are world class players and I have very deep respect for them, but I knew that I had as much of a shot to win the tournament as they did. Mcdowell didn't get off to a good start, but Toms was solid during the entire round. I prayed and tried to play as relaxed as possible.
What is your biggest memory about your final round?
My biggest memory was on hole number 16 the par 5. My ball had a weird lie in the rough about 235 yards out for my second shot. I remember thinking that I should lay up and not risk the ball going into the water. Then I heard the crowd around me go 'ahhh' (referring to the sound of the gallery when Toms hit his ball into the water). I asked Andy what happened because I wasn't looking. Andy told me that Toms laid up in a bad lie because he didn't want me to try and put the green on in two after knowing that Toms hit his ball into the water. I didn't know that Toms hit his ball into the water until I was walking up to my laid up shot. Seeing him take a drop let me relax and hit my approach shot very close. Sadly, I missed the putt.
When did you feel the most pressure during the tournament?
People think that I might have felt more pressure during the playoff hole coming into the 17th, but I actually felt the most pressure on my 5-foot putt on 18. What started off with me having a one shot lead going into the 18th suddenly ended with me having to putt in a 5-footer to force the play off. Starting from his bad lie in the divot to the 18th hole playing as the hardest hole on the course, I had no expectation for Toms to birdie. If I missed that putt, it would have been all over.
How do you think you will do this week?
I always try my best try to do as well as I can. Sometimes I make mistakes, but I think I can play well here. This course lay out doesn't play well to my game, but I've been working on a draw ball flight with Banny so I think I can play much better this year.