And he did so with some dramatics, coming from behind to edge out Luke Donald by one stroke, rolling in a 2-foot putt for par on No. 18 to post a 6-under 66 and finish 13-under for the tournament.
Verplank, 42, a native of Dallas, Tex., became the first Texan to win the Byron Nelson since 1992. Here is what he had to say about the championship.
Q. Can you take us through the week that it's been for you.
SCOTT VERPLANK: You know, there's no question in my mind that the stars lined up and I got a little help from upstairs. I haven't really done that -- I just haven't been playing that good. I've been playing okay, but my shoulder has been hurting, and I went to one -- one thing I did that helped physically was I changed irons, changed shafts, and got really good with the steel shaft. I've been playing graphite forever to protect my body. I mean, I hit the ball at the hole, especially today, all week. As far as physically, that's it. I still didn't feel like I was putting like I can. That may be with age, though (laughter). I don't know, but I had some help there on the last hole, there's no doubt. I walked off the tee and felt a cool breeze, and it wasn't cool out there. You know what, I hit a beautiful drive and I hit a great 7-iron and hit the putt pretty good obviously. It's hard to tell -- it was hard at times to tell the difference between a good putt and a bad putt because they were really quite bumpy. But the little two-footer to win, I don't think it was a very good putt, but you know what, I got an assist and it went in. I was so -- I'm not sure I knew where I was at.
Q. Talk about winning here. How special is it for you?
SCOTT VERPLANK: It's -- I mean, I think it's obvious. It's a childhood dream. I was a little kid, you know, riding out in the back seat of somebody's car going out to watch the Byron Nelson when it was at Preston Trail back in the '70s. You know, I walked around, I ran around, watching Tom Watson play. He used to win -- seemed to me like he won every year at Preston Trail, and I think I was there for all of them (laughter). I loved watching him play. I knew that he was a close friend of Byron, and that was another reason why I always -- that was a reason that I admired Tom, one of the reasons.
Yeah, then I carried the little standard bearer deal, and gosh, met some of the old-time pros. They didn't remember me obviously (laughter). Honestly I'm not sure if I can remember all of them now.
Yeah, I grew up wanting to do that. I guess it's like a kid peeking through the wall of a baseball stadium and wanting to be on the Yankees one day. That's what it was like for me. I was a kid wanting to do that, and I can't believe I pulled it off.
Q. When the putt did drop and you kind of looked down and looked up, what were you thinking then? Did you know what you were doing at that time?
SCOTT VERPLANK: Oh, yeah. You know what, I mean, I knew what I needed to do, the same stuff I've been practicing my whole life. It's not a very hard putt. The only thing that made it hard was it was to win and the greens were bumpy. I hit it hard enough and it went in, and at that point I just kept saying, oh, my gosh, I can't believe it. That's what I think it was. I mean, I couldn't believe that it happened. It was a dream. You know, and then I looked up and said thank you. Incredible.
Q. When you give one of you guys an absolute look at a ten-foot putt you've got to assume the next guy is going to make that putt. Did you already start thinking about walking back to 18, or what was your mental state at that point?
SCOTT VERPLANK: No, I assumed he was going to make it. He putted actually pretty well most of the day, he just got in a little trouble in the middle of the round and then he started making nice putts there again at the end. My putt broke a lot more than I thought. I had it like right edge, and I actually hit a pretty nice putt, and it broke, gosh, all the way across the hole and a couple inches left of the hole. I'm going to guess that the same thing happened to him. He didn't see all that break. Like I said, I had a little help.
Q. Would you talk a little bit about earlier in the day? You had those three birdies in a row, Luke had the double that kind of opened the door for you and you just kept it going.
SCOTT VERPLANK: Yeah, well, Luke started off really good. He birdied 3 and 4. I actually kind of -- not totally, but I kind of saved my round getting up-and-down on 4 out of the bunker for par, and he had a gimme birdie, so I knew I was going to be three or four down, which is not the most important thing to me. I just wanted -- you don't want to get too far behind because then rallies might come up a little bit short. I knew I was hitting the ball at the hole, so my key was driving it in the fairway where I had a perfect lie, and I knew I was hitting iron shots directly at the hole. I've been doing it for two or three days now and I haven't been doing it for the last year. It was a little bit of a crapshoot on the putts, but if you got it in there close enough you were bound to rattle a few in.
Q. You sound a bit like Crenshaw did when he won the second Masters after Harvey died, and he said similar things. Do you believe in destiny or divine intervention or that kind of thing?
SCOTT VERPLANK: I guess I do (smiling) because I think that -- and Peggy told me the same thing, but I think Byron had a hand in this week. She just told me right before I came in here that he picked the winner this week. I think he might have (smiling).
Q. Talk about keeping your emotions intact as you lead. Talk about 17 and just the incredible save you had there that really --
SCOTT VERPLANK: Yeah, you know what, I just -- obviously that's a dicey hole, wind of kind of back and forth, and obviously it's a tough little shot with the pin over there. But I just hit a bad shot. I was so calm and focused all day long and then I kind of got a little bit hyper there coming down the stretch, 15 and 16. That, and then I got in there on 17 and it was a very difficult bunker shot, so I just kind of said, well, it's kind of now or never. You've got to fly it up there pretty close to the hole, don't be afraid, just hit it. I've practiced the shot, I've hit the shot 1,000 times, and it just so happened that it worked out perfect. It got up close enough to the hole where I really didn't have to sweat it.
Q. I think most people are aware of what you've overcome in your career to be successful, but when that putt dropped on 18, did it feel like maybe just the weight of the world lifted off your shoulders because of everything you've overcome, and then to win the tournament you wanted to win the most?
SCOTT VERPLANK: No, I didn't feel any weight off my shoulders. I just felt like I was living a dream. You know what, I don't have -- you know, I don't have that extra weight on my shoulders to overcome. If I wouldn't have won this tournament this week, nobody would really care what I've overcome. It just was -- it's just living a dream. I mean, just winning this golf tournament is a dream come true for me.
Q. Earlier in the week you said you had talked to Peggy, and you said if I'm close coming down the stretch I want you to be here. Did you really believe you'd be in that position, and when did you start believing you would be?
SCOTT VERPLANK: You know, I think that was wishful thinking (laughter). I hadn't seen her in a while, and ran into her right out there after the Pro-Am, I guess. I was just so happy to see her. She was doing a volunteer job. She was passing out brochures or something like she and Byron have done. So I asked her what she was doing the rest of the week, and she said she didn't know, whatever they told her. I said, well, if it so happens that I have a chance on Sunday, coming down to the end I want you to be there. I can't believe it happened.
Q. You said on your thank-yous at the 18th as you were accepting the trophy and the winnings that you really felt the crowd behind you. Did that really carry you through the last three or four holes, that weight of emotion?
SCOTT VERPLANK: You know what, when you know that the majority of the crowd is pulling for you, you know, it's comfortable, actually. I guess that's why some of these other guys are so damn good; they've always got all these big crowds following them pulling them along (laughter). Yeah, it was really nice to have, quote-unquote, the local crowd behind me. I knew they were wanting to see me win.
Q. It's probably impossible to adequately explain what winning this tournament means to you. Can you just explain what winning again anywhere means to you?
SCOTT VERPLANK: You know, I haven't thought about that. You know what, it means a lot to me. You know, it's really -- to be quite honest with you (shaking head), winning this tournament is the only thing that's important to me today. Yeah, I'm glad I won again, but golly, to me this is bigger than just notching up another win on the PGA TOUR. Yeah, it's awesome that I won a TOUR event, I'm very proud of that. But the fact that it's this one, all that stuff hasn't sunk in yet.
Q. Was your first encounter with Byron the thing you said yesterday where he called you up out of the blue and said this is Byron Nelson?
Q. You were 17?
SCOTT VERPLANK:Yeah, I had seen him or whatever at the golf tournament when I'm a little -- like I said, a little bratty kid running around. But heck, he might have said hello to me before when I was a kid, but it didn't register. But then when he called and said I've been noticing your scores in the newspaper and the high school tournaments and all that, that was all him.
Q. Did you think it was a buddy putting you on or did you know it was him?
SCOTT VERPLANK: No, I knew it was him because my mom, I think, had talked to him a little bit because she had been a volunteer in this tournament for a number of years. Byron was the kind of guy that he went in there and talked to all the volunteers and got to know all of them. This was one of the things that made him so special.
Q. What do you think about your new motorcycle?
SCOTT VERPLANK:Wow (laughter). You know, I don't know. One, I'm not sure I'm big enough and strong enough for that (laughter). You know, in all honesty it's going to be a hell of a trophy.
Q. The shoulder, can you talk about where you've been with that and how it has felt this week and so forth?
SCOTT VERPLANK: It went away (shaking head). I'm serious.
Q. When did it go away?
SCOTT VERPLANK: Thursday. I mean, it's still a little beat up, but I'm telling you, I didn't feel any pain, and I've been struggling with it pretty severely. I haven't really said anything to anybody because that's not the way I am, but it's really been getting me down. You know, it didn't bother me one bit the last three days, which is the first time -- you know, I withdrew from this tournament last year in the first round. I played the first round across the street, and my shoulder was so bad and I was hitting the ball -- I couldn't hit a driver, and I played three holes on the TPC and quit and said, you know what, I can't play if I don't have control over my golf swing because of an injury. Maybe it took one full year to heal. I hope it's healed, but by gosh, knock on wood (knocking on head) it's okay. Like I said, I don't know what happened. Maybe it's mind over matter.
Q: 10 of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens today. Just take us through the birdies, that triple stretch starting at 6 first.
SCOTT VERPLANK:Yeah, 6, I hit a -- didn't hit a very good drive but it was in the fairway so I had to hit a 6-iron in there, and I hit it about five feet and made one, so I kind of got off with one.
No. 7, I hit a perfect drive, hit a 4-iron on my second shot. It was just a little short of the green. I kind of knew it was going to be short. I was on a downhill lie and I couldn't get it up quite high enough. I didn't want to hit it past the flag. I chipped up there about a foot.
No. 8, I hit a nice drive right down the middle, hit a 7-iron right at it about 12 feet short, right in a big old divot in the green. We actually had an official come up. I asked Luke if he thought it was a ball mark. You know, [he said] I don't know, and I didn't know that it was, either. So I called an official and he looked at it and said, no, you just got a sorry lie...on the green (laughter). I said, okay.
So I hung in there, made a great stroke, hit it harder than I should, and the ball jumped up two or three times in the air and went in, birdie.
Then I actually hit it close on the next two holes and missed them both. Hit really nice shots on 9 and 10, within probably six or eight feet.
No. 11, I hit a sand wedge about 15 feet, 12, 15 feet right of the hole, made that.
No. 13, I hit a 7-iron right at it and just mis-hit it just a little bit so I knew it wasn't going to get quite to the hole, but it came up just short of the ridge and had about a 25-, 30-footer, hit a great putt and it went in. I mean, that stuff happens sometimes when you win.
Q. After the putt at 8, did you start getting any vibes like this could be happening, or was that still really too early to get those?
SCOTT VERPLANK: No, none of that -- I didn't get anything like that. The only time that it -- this could be happening was when I started getting a little antsy on like 15 and 16. All I was trying to do was say, don't worry about what's happening, just play, do your stuff, and then we'll see what happens at the end.
Q. I'm guessing that in the dream of winning this you probably are walking down 18. I'm wondering what it was like in reality walking down 18 knowing that -- what might happen, but also knowing that you had to protect a one-shot lead?
SCOTT VERPLANK: You know what, I hit such a nice drive and I hit such a good 7-iron the second shot. I got up on the tee, and I said, well, I've just got to make a good swing, got to hit it down the fairway. And I did. Then I said, I've got to smoke this 7-iron. I'm kind of between clubs but I've got to hit it hard, and I did. I hit a very nice shot. And Luke had obviously hit a good shot in there right before me. So I couldn't really bail out to the middle of the green. That wasn't really an option. I don't know, I was really calm. I was really calm until I about passed out over the two-footer.
Q. I heard on TV you said that was as nervous as you've been?
SCOTT VERPLANK: Yeah. I about passed out. I was a little bit surprised Luke missed. It was a tough deal, but I expected him to make it so I kind of expected to go up there and knock that one in and go try again in the playoff. But somehow it just didn't go and somehow mine did.
Q. Does the feeling that you had standing over that putt, can you liken it to anything else in your career?
SCOTT VERPLANK: No, I've never been that light-headed and nervous and shaky over a putt in my life. I don't know. You know what, Ryder Cup, nothing compared to that, to me. I mean, that was a lot of fun today, but -- I don't know, like I said, I was out of -- it was an out-of-body experience.
Transcripts provided by ASAP Sports
April 30, 2007
Coming off his thrilling British Open victory over Sergio Garcia in 2007, Padraig Harrington sat down to discuss his game and his chances at the 2008 U.S. Open. "I have spent my last 10 years trying to adapt my swing to play U.S. Open golf," Harrington said. "I'd say the last two years, that and the Masters have attracted my attention more than anything else."
... full article »