The Media Day Press Conference for the Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Sunday.
Defending champion Ken Tanigawa was the guest and held a press conference, talking about defending his title from May 25-30.
Q. Ladies and gentlemen, Southern Hills Country Club and the PGA of America are thrilled to welcome our defending champion Ken Tanigawa here in Tulsa. Ken, if you don’t mind, take us back to Rochester and that thrilling final day where you had to come from behind to kind of clinch it, didn’t you.
KEN TANIGAWA: I did. You know what, I remember a lot about that day. Right before I played I ran into Jay Haas and he was done early, and he came up to me and he was done, and I was going to the putting green. He’s like, Hey, Kenny, par is going to be your friend today, just hang in there and par is going to be your friend because it’s a tremendous difficult venue.
So I remember when I was playing I missed some opportunities early on. It was like, shucks, right? You had birdie chances there. It played tough, but I kept saying, Jay Haas kind of knows what he’s talking about. He told me par is my friend. It really helped. It kept me patient and kept me in the game.
I remember playing with Scott, my old teammate at UCLA, that was fun.
But I really didn’t know how it panned out because there weren’t a lot of — I really didn’t see the scoreboard until maybe coming down the stretch. I wasn’t looking at it. I wasn’t paying attention to it. And then I kind of found out on 16 — 17 how I stood.
And then a little bit of nerves kicked in.
Q. Talk about those nerves a little bit. On 18 you had to make a 10-footer, but walk us through 18.
KEN TANIGAWA: I knew where I stood. Scott hit a bomb. He hit a great drive down there, so it’s one of those holes where if you’re not in the fairway you’re not going to hit the green. If you’re in the rough or in the bunker it’s not going to happen, so now you’ve got to get up-and-down. Of course he hits a great one and I hit a bad one. I flared it out in the bunker. So I knew now it was just a matter of getting it out in the fairway to try to get to a decent number, which I did. I was like 128 or something to the pin, but it was like 135 to that back edge.
So the way the green was sloped I knew if I could fly it back there it was going to spin back. Right was no good; it was going to go down, it wasn’t going to work.
I hit the right number, hit it in the right direction, and it spun back down to where it was an uphill putt. Yeah, fortunately it went in.
Q. Who was more emotional, you when you had a chance to lift the Alfred S. Bourne trophy, or your wife who is over there in the white jacket, Angela?
KEN TANIGAWA: Well, I was emotional after picking it up because I realized how heavy it was when I picked it up. But after that, I think — there’s a lot going on and there’s people, so probably she was, I think. I think initially, because she was there to see it unfold. I think it’s always more nerve-racking watching, right, because you’re kind of out of control of everything.
It really didn’t sink in until after I remember sitting in the room after with you and my caddie and Greg and Angela and having that wine and it kind of sunk in, like God, you just pulled this off, and what a win at a tremendous venue kind of like here. It was just amazing.
Q. So 156 players we will see next month at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. You just had a chance to take a peek at this monster. Is it the monster that everybody says it is?
KEN TANIGAWA: You know, I’ve heard great things about it. You walk away from a course, and it really did live up to what I expected it to be. I didn’t know it was going to be on such a big piece of land, first and foremost, but I’ll tell you, off the tee it’s great. It’s a second-shot course. The greens are challenging. You’ve got to really know them. It’s going to be a tremendous, tremendous test, no doubt about it.
Q. You mentioned being kind of shocked with the property. What was your initial reaction pulling up the drive to Southern Hills?
KEN TANIGAWA: Well, when I was coming in I was kind of wowed at how big it was. I didn’t know — it was just so spread out. It was just — I don’t know, somebody said it was maybe 300 acres or something. I didn’t expect that.
But I did — that was first what got me was the wow factor. The short game facility in the back there and the short game facility out front all looks tremendous.
The clubhouse I figured was just going to be a beautiful piece of property, which it is.
But yeah, I mean, it is, the course is what I expected it to be. A great venue, tremendously difficult but challenging but fair. You’ve got to kind of — you have to hit good shots, and if you hit good shots you’ll get rewarded. But it is, it’s expected — I expected it to be what it is, and it lives up to it.
Q. There are so many factors going into this championship, you defending your title, conquering this course, playing in front of fans again. What excites you the most about this upcoming championship?
KEN TANIGAWA: I think the challenge for me is being the defending champion, but it was a couple years ago. But to play as the defending champion is obviously cool, but I think the challenge of this golf course, the history behind it. I know Retief (Goosen) won and Tiger (Woods) has won and all the tournaments that have been held here. To be able to compete on that venue with that history and then to challenge yourself against the best in this demographic in an environment run by the PGA of America, I think all that makes it really cool.
Plus, Tulsa seems amazing. People have been super friendly, and I met some yesterday, so yeah, the hospitality I think is going to be a lot of fun.
Q. A lot of people have said this is a shot maker’s golf course. When you were out there today, where did you think the most trouble might arise during the Senior PGA Championship, and what are certain areas that you might need to conquer to win this thing?
KEN TANIGAWA: Well, I don’t think it’s as much off the tee — well, maybe to position yourself, but I think it’s definitely a second-shot golf course. The greens have a lot of movement, a lot of slopes, a little bit of saucer shape around the edges. You’ve really got to pay attention to that depending on the angles you’re coming into the greens, it could accentuate those saucers around the edge.
That’s where the challenge would be, to learn the greens. It’s definitely more of a second-shot golf course. It’s got a wide — it’s got a feel where you can let it go. It’s wide, but there’s trees that are positioned there, but it’s not like — you’re going to find your ball, so it’s not like you’re going to hit it in the hay and it’s gone and you’ve got to hit another one, so you can always chip out or find it, which isn’t going to do you any good because of the way the greens are anyway. But the challenge will definitely be around the greens, the second shot, chipping, putting, all that. That’s going to really make the difference for any player out here.
Q. You got to play today with Cary Cozby, Director of Golf here, and some members, as well. How nice was that to play with people who know the course your first time here? And Cary is also playing in the championship, so that’s kind of neat.
KEN TANIGAWA: Yeah, to play with guys who know the course, I was picking their brain and asking them questions about it, and Cary was telling me here and there, and both Scott (Mabrey) and Andy, as well, they were telling me the shots, the patterns, the sight lines, where you want to be. So that was — yeah, I mean, informative and an advantage in a way to be able to do that.
And for Cary to be out here, I know he’s happy to be here and what a treat that is, but to be able to play in the tournament I think is really cool. I think he’s going to do great. It’s going to be a lot of fun, I think, for the club here to have somebody like that to cheer for, as well.
Q. Any thoughts on holes that strike you as particularly memorable after your first time around? Kind of hazard a guess as to what you think a winning score might be if conditions are like they are today.
KEN TANIGAWA: Well, 18 kind of caught my attention. I hit a good drive and hit a 5-iron off a little downhill lie and the green is so elevated and I hit a good 5-iron and I still didn’t even come close — I was in the middle of the green, so that’s challenging. That really stuck out, wow, that was a tough shot.
But all the holes, like on 10 caught my attention. I hit it on the green but it was out of the right and it spun a little left and caught that tier and it went down that slope. Those are things that being a first-time player out here you don’t know, you don’t realize until you realize that your ball is here instead of here, which is fine, you’ve just got to hit a better shot and know the course better.
18, what a finish, to come out of the clubhouse and you see this and the backdrop and all that, but 18 kind of stood out. I think it’s going to be a tremendous challenge.
And the winning score? I think — boy, I think if you get it under par, it’s not going to be — it won’t even come close to anything double digits for sure. I think anywhere from 2-, 3-under par, maybe 6. It just depends on conditions and firmness of the course, but I think anything under par is going to be — at least going into the last day will probably have a shot at it I would assume.
Q. The theme around here is that it’s a fair course, you hit on that a couple times. But good players, in fact I think I’ve heard Coz mention it, good players can make a bogey on every single hole on this course. It seems like there’s not really a break. I know you only played it once, but is that the sense you got, as well?
KEN TANIGAWA: Yeah, we all play golf, so I think you could bogey any hole, really. But here good players can bogey — it’s out there for sure. I mean, it’s a fair course, and it’s not tricked up. You have to learn it like any course to play well, but it doesn’t seem — again, be careful saying this because I don’t want to jinx myself, but it’s not a course where there’s a lot of trouble off the tee where you’re going to make big numbers. You’re going to get it up there, but yeah, you can start making a lot of bogeys if you’re not doing the right thing or hitting it in the right spots. But it is very fair.
But it’s a tough fair. It’s a great fair. It’s a great golf course.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what your time just in the city of Tulsa has been like so far and what your preparation looks like here in the next month leading up?
KEN TANIGAWA: Well, my wife and I, we came in yesterday. We just got in around 1:40 so I had to do — I did a clinic, a chipping clinic out here, which the club was very gracious to allow us to do that with MidFirst Bank.
And then I saw that we’re saying at that resort, the casino out there. The folks that were there and around here, the hospitality has been great. Nothing that I didn’t expect, as well.
You know, I’ve got a full day tomorrow, going to that OKC, the stadium where the Drillers — I’m a big Dodgers guy so I think that’s really cool. I’m looking forward to that. He mentioned doing BP, but I said I’ve got to play next week, so that might be a bad idea. If it was an off week I would have been totally in. I would have done it for sure.
As for preparation, we’ve only played three events this year, but after here I’m going down to Houston, playing the Insperity, and then the Tradition, the Regions, which is one of our majors on the Tour, and then Atlanta. So I’ll play three in a row, which is great, because the only real way to prepare for a tournament is to play tournaments, play in competition. Then have a week off, which is great, because our daughter is graduating from University of San Diego that weekend, so it’ll be perfect, and then come out here and have some fun.
Yeah, really cool.