SI: Guys like you aren't supposed to win tournaments like this. What kind of finish would you have been happy with, given the field?
BB: Really, I was shooting for a top 10. I was 22nd on the money list, and I wanted to eke into the top 20. That was my goal.
SI: What's more impressive--getting to 17 under at East Lake, winning by six or going wire to wire?
BB: What surprised me the most was that I managed my emotions every day. There was only one time I really started to question my swing--on Saturday, toward the end of the round, when I hit some weak fades that didn't really go anywhere. I went to the range and couldn't work it out, so that's what I went home with. Then I lay in bed and decided to concentrate on getting off to a strong start on Sunday, and I did, with three birdies on the first four holes.
SI: After 20 years on and off the Tour, you've now won three times in 18 months. How do you explain the turnaround?
BB: Somehow before that first win [2004 Texas Open] I found a little bit of confidence. That's what has bred this success. Before that week I had always let myself wimp out. When I had the opportunity to take leads, I didn't feel comfortable. I didn't want to be in the limelight, and I didn't want to put my head on the chopping block--taking the lead only to lose it and then being labeled a choker.
SI: Earlier this week you said you still felt that you didn't quite belong among the elite. Weren't your two previous wins [including the '05 Memorial] enough?
BB: I had started to feel like I belonged. Don't get me wrong. It's just that not too long ago I didn't see myself being in the winner's circle this much. I had to go from thinking, O.K., maybe one of these weeks things will come together, to thinking, You know, I'm playing good, there's no reason I shouldn't win this week.
SI: Before winning last year, how many times had you been to Q school? Why didn't you give up?
BB: At least 10 times. But there was a chorus of people telling me not to give up, most of all my wife, Cathy. She had every right to say, "We've given this a shot, we need some security, let's get you a job." There were other people involved in the decision, but in some way it was her call.
SI: If you made the Ryder Cup team next year, would you ask for autographs?
BB: [Laughs] You know, I probably would.
For SI's Golf Personalities of the Year go to SI.com/golf.
What golfers are talking about
•FADE away President Bush presented Jack Nicklaus with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor. Conservatives okayed the move because Jack's preferred ball flight was left to right.
•TV TEE OFF Natalie Gulbis's reality show begins next week on the Golf Channel. It's scheduled for four episodes, assuming Gulbis makes the cut.
•OLD NEWS Gary Player turned 70 on Nov. 1. Nick Price would've attended the party had he been invited earlier.
•HEADLINER Annika Sorenstam (right) won a record fifth straight Mizuno Classic, her eighth W of '05. Fine. But where did Michelle Wie finish?
•WE'RE NO. 1 (BILLION) The Tour wrapped up its Drive to a Billion, proving it's not only how much you give to charity but also how much you brag about it.
Winners who led the field in driving accuracy and greens hit (Bryant and Fred Funk).
FRED VUICH (BRYANT)
At 42, Bryant truly arrived on Tour in '05, winning two premier events.
KOICHI KOMASHIDA/GETTY IMAGES