Danny Lee Talks: 2009 US Masters
US PGA Tour | 2009 US Masters | Preview | 08 Apr 2009
Ed Herlihy: Good afternoon. We are delighted to have with us this afternoon, Danny Lee, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. Danny is the youngest player to ever win the Amateur, and one of three teenagers making their Masters debut. Danny has built upon his success in the Amateur when earlier this year, he won the Johnnie Walker Classic. On a happy note, Danny is staying with us on the grounds this week in the Crow’s Nest and we are delighted to have him. We wish Danny only the best this week, and now invite any questions you may have.
Q: Yesterday Rory McIlroy was in here and said that he had not yet felt any really awe of this place; he attributed that to the fact that he had already won professionally. I’m wondering if even winning as an amateur, winning a professional event, helps you deal with any feelings of possibly awe in this event this week.
Danny Lee: Yeah, it makes me – I don’t know, just I think winning the professional event as an amateur, is winning another event. I don’t think it’s a different tournament or like that. It’s the same tournament I’m playing in.
And, I don’t know, it might be, you know, makes me feel more relaxed for playing in the Masters, yeah.
Q: And do you feel any kind of an awe, or what’s your feelings this week so far walking around here and playing here?
Danny Lee: First thing I notice is everything starts with green over here. It was my dream course to come over here and play on this course. I see why all of the players can’t make lots of birdies over here. The course is playing amazingly long, and the greens are really fast out there.
The weather is turning out really cold and windy out there, and I think it’s playing really tough out there.
Q: You’ve been here a couple of days now. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve had from the players you’ve played with in practice rounds?
Danny Lee: I don’t know. I played with Ian Poulter yesterday, and he told me not to ram the putter. I was hitting my putts really firm on the greens, and so Ian Poulter said: “You have to try and dribble in every putt. It makes it worse if you force it in the hole.” I think that was good advice.
Q: Did you play with Greg Norman, too?
Danny Lee: No. I was planning to play with Greg Norman yesterday, but no, I think he’s too tired after playing last week.
Q: I understand that Fuzzy Zoeller played with a local caddie, and he won it as a rookie. Are you using a local caddie? How much have you learned from him in the practice rounds?
Danny Lee: A lot, actually. First time I came over here, I thought it was an easy course and the fairways were wide and the greens weren’t that fast my first time playing here. So I just aimed everything at the flag and aimed it straight and tried to hit it long off the tee, and with the second shot, just try and hit it on the flag every time.
Now like a couple of days, pars; and a caddie told me, you can’t play like that and you have to think and you have to really think about what you’re hitting into, the greens, the slope of the greens, and the tee shots where you’re hitting your second shots from. Yeah, I’m learning quite a lot.
Q: I should know this – I apologize. I’ve forgotten. Are you going to turn pro next week or after the Open? What’s your plan here as far as the states and exemptions and what you’ve got lined up?
Danny Lee: I’m definitely going to turn pro after the Masters, after this week. So I don’t know what tournaments I’ve got an invite into. But, yeah.
Q: And that’s why you didn’t play Bay Hill, because you wanted to make sure you could use your exemptions to make money towards your card?
Danny Lee: No, I really wanted to play in Bay Hill. But it was sort of like I got a really bad cold from the New Zealand Open and it was really cold down there. I wasn’t feeling that well, and that’s why I pulled out.
Q: When was the first time you played this course, and how different is it this week from when you first played?
Danny Lee: You know, the first time playing here, it wasn’t that hard. It was hard to understand why the players struggled over here. It was an easy course. I thought I could shoot 5-, or 6-under easily.
Now, today, I’m playing in this tough conditions out there, fast greens, and fairways still wet; I can’t really hit it really far enough. Now I think I am understanding why they can’t really go low. You know, it’s playing really hard out there.
Q: Do you remember the ’97 Masters? Do you remember, did you watch it on TV, Tiger’s first win here?
Danny Lee: I think I did.
Q: What are your memories of him over the years at this course? Do you have specific ones that stand out?
Danny Lee: The chip on 16, he made that chip from the back left. I liked the way he chipped it and the way he fist-pumped it. It was really cool.
Q: Can you describe what your time in the Crow’s Nest is like, and is anyone else in there with you?
Danny Lee: Yeah, the British Amateur Winner champion and Drew Kittelson, who I played with in the U.S. Amateur. First time I gone up there and I thought it was really flash rooms up there, but even the stairs, you can barely fit in there. In fact, guys can’t fit in there. (Laughter) And really steep stairs up there. I thought the rooms were going to be big, but it’s like half of – it not even half; it’s smaller than this, half of this room here. I was really surprised how they sleep in there.
But still, it’s great, great history has been in there in that Crow’s Nest, and I’m sleeping where Tiger slept, so that might help me play better.
Q: A quick follow-up question, and one additional. You were asked about the Masters round before, when it played easy. When was that? When did you play?
Danny Lee: That was seven days ago.
Q: And do you think it’s possible, could a guy like you at your age and lack of experience, could you win this week?
Danny Lee: No. I’m having really bad nerves at the moment, seriously. All of the crowds yesterday, I was nervous, really shaking my clubs, and wasn’t swinging properly. I’ve never seen that many crowds out there, and, you know, that many greatest – one of the greatest players playing in this tournament.
I’m still nervous, and I’m trying to relax every time and trying to practice hard and see how it goes.
Q: What was the deciding factor in your decision to turn pro?
Danny Lee: I just wanted to play on a different level of golf, and I think as an amateur, I’ve done everything. Winning the U.S. Amateur and winning the Western Amateur and winning the professional event as an amateur; and I want to play in more harder level and more competitive golf.
Q: How would you characterize your game right now? You’ve played a couple of weeks in Nationwide events overseas. How are you feeling now? Are you all better from that cold?
Danny Lee: Yeah, I’m getting much better. After winning the Johnnie Walker, I didn’t really – I didn’t really take care of myself. And all of the reporters and that stuff, I didn’t really control nicely. I played pretty awfully at the Moana Classic and New Zealand Open.
I learned quite a lot of things from there, and hopefully I’ll do well this week.
Q: I see you’re wearing a Masters sweater. What sort of souvenirs, what sort of merchandise are you collecting this week?
Danny Lee: This is, just bought it because it’s so cold out there. (Laughter).
Q: Do you and the other teenagers have a low-teenager bet going on for the Masters?
Danny Lee: I’m not sure if they are having a bet or not. I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about that stuff before.
Q: You and Rory are Manchester united fans and they are one-all after 55 minutes in the Champions league match. Do you get on well with Rory and what do you think of him as a player? And do you look at what he’s achieved at his age as a professional example?
Danny Lee: Yeah, I watched him winning the Dubai Desert Classic and that was really impressive. He struck the ball really nicely and putted nicely, too. I’m pretty sure he’s a great player.
Q: You are a Manchester United fan, aren’t you?
Danny Lee: Sort of.
Q: You have the two-year exemption to The European Tour. Can you clarify whether you’re planning to use that immediately, or are you going to get some exemptions in the U.S. and play the PGA TOUR?
Danny Lee: I would really love to play in the U.S. events because it’s more exciting, and it’s like every time lots of people is following.
I mean, Europe, it’s a great tour, too, but I don’t know, I’d like to play in both and see how it goes.
Q: I’m worried about you being nervous. This is a long way for a boy from Rotarau High School; will you get your nerves under control if you smack it the first time?
Danny Lee: I’m working on it. Still having nerves from the media stuff again.
Q: All friends, Danny.
Danny Lee: I’m trying to think this is friends, and when I get nervous, I can’t really talk properly, because my nerves are breaking down and I’m having a stomach ache, too. (Laughter) I’m serious.
I’m trying to relax and trying to calm myself every time, but I know as soon as I go outside the clubhouse and watch all of those crowds out there, I cannot get relaxed or like nice and calm like that. But I’m still working on it.
Q: We won’t bite you; promise. Have you ever met or gotten to know K.J. Choi at all?
Danny Lee: Yes, actually I played a practice round with him at – where was it – Singapore. I played with him nine holes, and he’s a really great ball-striker. He’s such a nice guy, and he gave me a few tips, yeah.
Q: What was his best tip that he gave you?
Danny Lee: I don’t know what kind of tip he gave me. Just practice hard, that’s it.
Q: Being a New Zealander, you obviously had a little bit of help from Michael Campbell who has won a Major, and that’s quite an achievement. What help has Michael given you in preparation for the Masters?
Danny Lee: I don’t know.
Q: He’s given you advice, isn’t he?
Danny Lee: Given the opportunity to play in the Masters, he won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, and I think it makes me easier to play in the U.S. Amateur. I don’t know, maybe Pinehurst likes New Zealanders.
Q: Obviously you’ve attracted your share of attention and you’re trying to adjust to that; have you seen all of the attention that Ryo Ishikawa attracts among the Japanese media, and do you think you would be able to handle that, do you think?
Danny Lee: No, not as good as him. I saw him playing yesterday and there was lots of Japanese media following him. I think he is handling it very nicely, and he’s a great guy, too.
But me, it’s been really hard. My English isn’t perfect, and so dealing with all of this media here, it’s not easy for me. But I’m still working hard on my English and trying to get relaxed from the medias.
Q: I think you were one of the last ones on the range last night. What were you working on last night?
Danny Lee: I wasn’t really working on my swing. I was just trying to hit the ball straight. Finally, it worked out, so I left. (Laughter).
Q: Johnny Miller has been quoted as saying that you can contend this week. Is that too much pressure for you to carry into the Masters for someone like Johnny Miller saying you can win?
Danny Lee: No. I went to the amateur’s party last night and some people have been saying that. It gives me extra pressure. No, I don’t know why people think I’m so good at golf. Because I won the U.S. Amateur?
But no, I don’t try to think I’m going to win this week or like that. I’m just going to think about one shot at a time and keep focused on my game and trying to relax every time and try and deal with all of those crowds out there.
Q: Just a quick question on your tee time. I see you’re not teeing off until two o’clock on Thursday afternoon.
Danny Lee: You serious?
Q: Yeah. What will you do all day? Will you go out and follow some of the other groups, or what?
Danny Lee: Yeah, I like playing early, but two o’clock, it’s – I don’t know. Greens are going to get extra faster and it’s going to be playing tough. But I’ll see how it goes.
Q: What sort of influence has Tiger been on you, just following his career? What has that done for you and your golf?
Danny Lee: When I first started golf, I always watched Tiger play. I’m always trying to follow what he’s been doing, and how his practice, like how he played in the tournaments. He was my idol whenever I started to play golf and he’s still my idol.
I don’t know, he’s kind of encouraged every young guy who wants to play golf, and he’s kind of like a golf hero like that. I’m always trying to follow what he’s doing and how he practices. I’ve never had a chance to talk to him this week, but hopefully I’ll have that tomorrow, whenever.
Q: What moment or moments have been the greatest joy, the greatest thrill for you this week so far here?
Danny Lee: Meeting all of the greatest players in the world, and like I met Gary Player a couple of days ago and he was a really nice guy and he encouraged me to practice harder. He said I’ve got the greatest golf swing in the world, so I’m really believing in that.
It’s like playing in the Masters and playing in this Augusta National golf course, it’s really special. It has lots of histories in this tournament, and I’m playing in this golf course and I’m playing in this event. So that’s why it’s so special about it, and meeting all of the greatest players outside the golf courses and playing with them, and you can play competitive golf with them.
Yeah, I think that’s what’s so greatest about it.
Q: You mentioned Gary Player. Did he tell you or give you any advice about making sure to enjoy everything that happens to you here and talk about his relationship with the place?
Danny Lee: Yeah, he said to me, “Don’t try and play well and enjoy it.” That sounds to me like you’re not good enough to play well. He could mean that different ways. Lots of people have said don’t try and play well; enjoy what you’re doing, and enjoy this week. And I’m trying to enjoy this week, and you know, see how it goes.
Ed Herlihy: On that note, it was a privilege to have you and we really hope you enjoy this week and play well. Best of luck.
Source – The Masters