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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY
March 7, 2017
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
ALEX URBAN: We'd like to thank you for coming to the media day here at the THE PLAYERS Championship 2017. I'm going to turn it over to Jared Rice, our executive director, who's going to ask Jason a couple questions, and then we'll turn it over to you all for questions.
JARED RICE: Thank you, Alex. As he mentioned, my name is Jared Rice. I'm the executive director of THE PLAYERS Championship, and on behalf of our proud partners Morgan Stanley, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Optum, we thank you for being here on media day, and again, a very special welcome and thanks to Jason Day, our defending champion, for coming back. Thank you again for being here.
JASON DAY: Cheers.
JARED RICE: Last year a very memorable win. It was a wire-to-wire victory for you, only the fifth time in tournament history that's happened. Last time was Hal Sutton in 2000. With that victory, you join a very prestigious group of your compatriots in Mr. Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Davis Love, to name a few.
As you come back on the property, see some of the changes out here amongst our group today, what are some of the things that you're feeling coming back to defend?
JASON DAY: Yeah, it was quite a special win last year because obviously I was just explaining it a little earlier that I typically don't play too well around here. I think my best finish prior to last year was a T6, and everything else has either been a missed cut or somewhere just making the cut and finishing just on the weekend somewhere.
Last year I was coming off a tremendous run, especially at Bay Hill and the Match Play, playing some really great golf, and then coming into this week, I had a game plan of actually taking the driver out of my hand. Obviously I put the driver in my hand today and didn't do too well. But I hit a lot of 2-irons, and that club alone won me the tournament, just from the positioning that I got to be in off the fairways. Last year the fairways and greens were running very, very hard and fast. It was really dry out here, so I could get away with hitting 2-irons, and they were running at least 300, 320 out there, and that's just like a normal drive for us on any other week.
The memory of actually chipping in on the Saturday, that will go down, because obviously I was over on 15, hadn't hit a bad tee shot on 15, hit the tree above me, then kind of chipped it down, went up the front of the game, came back down, and with how fast the greens were, how difficult the course was playing that day, to be able to chip it in and make par instead of a double bogey or worse really propelled me forward to go on and finish strong.
JARED RICE: One of the founding principles of Commissioner Beman and Pete Dye when they built the golf course was to build it beyond the fact, like you just described, that there's risk-reward on every shot, it favors no one's style of play, but also that it was built for the fan and built with the fan in mind. Thinking back to last year and for the assembled group here today, speaking to a lot of our golf fans here in northeast Florida, maybe talk a little bit about the energy, the buzz, the vibe here at TPC Sawgrass when you play for THE PLAYERS?
JASON DAY: Yeah, you really forget how many people come out to this event. You're playing golf events all year, but then you come to an event like this, this is THE PLAYERS Championship. This is our tournament, the PGA TOUR. The PGA TOUR does such a tremendous job with not only looking after the players but looking after the fans. You know, the fans are a huge part not only for a week such as THE PLAYERS but throughout the whole year, and to be able to generate the amount of people that come through, it just -- they make it so easy for fans to come in, get out, make it easy for the fans to actually stay here the whole day and enjoy themselves.
Obviously with the changes on 12, 6 and 7, to make it more exciting in a way that their shots can go either way on the golf course, leads can change quickly, it's what fans want to see, not so much what players want to see but what fans want to see, definitely.
Q. Dustin is on a little bit of a run, similar to last year, that 15-, 17-tournament run, a couple of other real significant victories. Rory is prone to hot streaks, Jordan had the year he had. Everybody knows about the depth of the younger players on the TOUR right now. Is this going to be kind of the dynamic where one guy gets on a really strong roll?
JASON DAY: It seems to go that way because, I mean, there was Hideki that went on a pretty strong run at the start of this season, same with Justin Thomas went on a pretty hot run, as well. It seems like it just comes in spurts and these guys play very, very well.
You'll typically see a Dustin Johnson play well every year. Dustin Johnson plays great golf, and he just kind of really came into wedges and putting over the last couple years, not only just because he worked harder on them. You see him out now with the TrackMan on the range before and after when he's practicing, when he gets here, working on the shorter stuff because let's face it, he's the longest guy out here. When you're hitting it as long and as straight as that, you're going to have a lot of opportunities with wedge in your hand, so if you can kind of get that proximity closer to the pin, you're going to give yourself a lot more birdies, and that's why he's playing so great.
But you look at it, Jordan is always going to play great. Rory is always going to play well. It just depends on how Rory and Jordan prepare themselves to come into events. It seems like they're doing the correct job because Rory has just had six weeks off and then he went down to Mexico and nearly won Mexico, and Jordan has already won this year.
It seems like the dynamic of the actual player itself is -- they used to say that the guys getting in their primes, they used to call early 30s young back in the day, and now if you're in your early 20s, you're young, but you're not afraid anymore. Back I think when the Tiger era was going around and Tiger was dominating so much, you really forgot about the 20-year olds that were winning those events because of the Tiger era.
But to be able to get such a dynamic group of young guys that have all different styles of games and the way they play is -- it's a fresh air coming through because it's exciting to watch how these guys react and play under pressure.
Q. Is that the lesson, Jordan's short game is well documented, you mentioned Dustin and putting, and then you were hot last year, especially out here, the wedges and putting. Does an alarm bell ring off sooner than later that no matter how long you hit it, you've got to be able to do that other stuff?
JASON DAY: Yeah, these are the three things you need to do: You need to drive it well, you need to wedge it well, and you need to putt well, and if you can do those three at the same time, you're going to win a lot, because you definitely need to give yourself the opportunity coming into the greens.
I think myself, I'm not the longest out there, but I still hit it pretty long. I average about eight to nine times per round of 150 yards and less, so if I can really, really just hit those and give myself the opportunities -- first thing is you've got to hit the fairway, but if you can really do that, give myself opportunities from the fairways from 150 yards and in, do that a lot better, putt better, then the sky's the limit really for guys that have that capability of actually getting a decent length.
Let's face it, most of the younger guys, they all hit it long, so it's just a matter of how good they wedge it and putt it.
Q. Talk about the drivable par-4 and its placement in the back nine here.
JASON DAY: Yeah, that's what I was talking about earlier, you've got 10, 11, 12. 10, 11, 12 are very gettable birdie holes. Obviously this is depending on where and what you do and how you go about it, but obviously 11 is -- I shouldn't say they're not easy birdie holes, but like you get yourself in good position, and that's what's so great about it is that you have to position yourself well, especially around this golf course, to give yourself the opportunities to make birdies.
But 10, 11, 12, you can make that run, but then you've got to -- you don't really have a breather. 13 is a difficult par-3. 14 is a very difficult par-4. And then 15 one can go either way, depending on how you drive it.
Obviously I was just talking earlier about my memory that I chipped in on 15, and it could have been a par or a double bogey.
So you've got that bit of a stretch where it's very difficult, so you can get on a run, you can kind of just need to survive through there, and then you can get a birdie on 16, and then you've got 17 and 18 with -- I mean, there's a lot of history behind 17 and 18, definitely.
Strategically it's placed perfectly.
Q. What are your thoughts just seeing the hole for the first time?
JASON DAY: Yeah, it's going to be interesting where they position the tee. I think -- I'm not sure -- obviously a lot of guys hit it straighter than me, but it'll be interesting to see if a lot of guys go for it. I think the biggest thing is that left-hand side; if balls are bounding down there, will they go in the water or not, that will determine a lot of guys, because it's -- yeah, I think you've got to go 20 to 25 yards between the mounds and the fairway where it kind of runs down, so you've got to be pretty accurate.
If you lay back far enough, you can shoot yourself straight up the green. If you lay back but you're too far up here, then you've got that 45-degree over the mounds, and you can possibly go in the water.
A lot of thinking, which is what they probably wanted, especially when you're standing on the tee on a Sunday.
Q. Health and fitness is a huge part of your game as well as other great players that you described. Is there a fine line between pushing the limit on health and fitness and all that kind of stuff, nutrition and everything, to the point where there's injury potential? Do you know what I mean?
JASON DAY: Yeah, I know. I know exactly what you mean. I think they say everything in moderation, including moderation; know what I mean? If you go too far -- you can always do things too much. You can always be over the top, like for me if I eat healthy, I get very, very miserable because I like eating a pizza. I like eating ice cream and all that stuff. I like bad food just as much as everyone else, but unfortunately I've had some injuries in my career that I know that I need to make the right steps to make sure that my longevity of my career is intact obviously later on in my career.
As time goes on, these guys, alluding to the question earlier about younger guys, they're coming out bigger and stronger and faster. I'm not getting younger. I'd love to say I would get younger, but my body is getting older, I'm getting older, and I've just got to somehow be able to be just as strong as these guys that are coming out at 21, 20, and playing without any fear.
Yes, there is a fine line between doing the right job, making sure you have the right people on your team, pushing you in the right direction, because the biggest thing is that when you have a team, there has to be constant communication, whether it's between coach or a strength and conditioning coach, a mental coach, an agent, your wife. Everything has to be in sync because there's no balance if there's one -- more balance to one side then the whole ship is going to kind of tilt and possibly sink. So there has to be a good balance between all of that and being able to go out and compete and play competitive golf 20, 25 weeks a year.
Q. What percentage of the field do you think is going to drive the green most days? And what conditions --
JASON DAY: I think on the weekend you'll see a lot of guys probably go for it if they're early on because they're just like, let's just get through it.
But yeah, I think -- I definitely think there's going to be a good percentage of guys go for it. It just obviously depends on the tee position. I think if we play from where we were, I think there's going to be definitely a lot of guys go for it. I think it's a good risk-reward hole to go for it. If it's pushed back a little bit that makes it a little bit tougher because it brings in a driver for most guys, and once again, I'm one of the longer guys out here, I hit a couple over the greens from the tee up. That takes a lot of drivers out of the hands of the shorter guys to mid to shorter guys because once again, you're looking at that fairway bunker on the left and you don't know how far -- I don't know how far it is from the back tee to carry. But it's one thing that you don't really want that shot if you pull up short in that fairway bunker, you don't want a 60-yard shot into a green like this.
But I think positioning of the tee is crucial, but I think there's going to be a lot of guys go for it.
Q. Last year when you won this tournament, you noted how this could really set you up for the Hall of Fame. Now that you've had a year to really think about that, do you still think about like your place in golf and how winning this tournament really set you up for that?
JASON DAY: Yeah. I mean, it just depends on how my career goes. Obviously I'm not currently in the Hall of Fame. But that's one thing that you want to be remembered for is winning the toughest tournaments. On a stage like this and the way it presents itself, you know, I drove in this morning and it just felt like a major championship, and we're not even close to tournament time, even with the grandstands that are just slowly going up now, just the whole feel and vibe of it feels like a major championship.
You know, and I said last year, this is one tournament that can propel you into the Hall of Fame if you're right on the border.
I'm hoping that I don't even have to be on that border. I'm hoping I just kind of push through that border and I'm in the Hall of Fame someday.
I've got a lot of golf ahead of me. I'd like to win more than just once here, because like I said earlier, it is a very difficult golf course that gets the toughest field in golf, and it's on a huge stage with the amount of people that come and watch this and the amount of people that watch it around the world is pretty huge, as well.
Once again, I enjoy coming here every single year, and I'm looking forward to coming back and defending this year.
Q. A couple questions going back to last year. What does shooting the course record 63 in the first round do for you going forward?
JASON DAY: I totally forgot about that. I really did, I totally forgot. It kind of means nothing because the course has changed now, hasn't it. So hopefully I can get -- hopefully a 9-under 63 this year would be good to get the course record.
You know, I think I was coming -- once again, I was coming off some pretty good golf, obviously, like I said, Bay Hill and Match Play, played tremendous golf coming into this week, feeling good about my game, and we lucked out with some tremendous weather, course got nice and dry, could take the driver out of my hands, hit 2-iron everywhere, and I was hitting that thing like a rocket.
It gave myself the opportunity -- and I was just putting so well, and to be able to play the way I did, especially I think I was playing with Jordan, as well, and I just feel so comfortable when I'm playing with Jordan. He's just such a good guy to play with. You know, that I just -- when I shot that 63, I'm like, okay, let's just try and not stuff it up from here and just try and keep moving forward. That was my initial thought. Like okay, let's just forget about the 63 and forget about the course record and try and just slowly inch your way to getting in contention, if not just leading the whole way. Pushing forward was the biggest thing for me.
And obviously I think Colt Knost or someone shot a 63, as well, the following day? Yeah, so it wasn't that special. In the end it wasn't that special.
Q. I know we're going to write it the Friday of the tournament; how crazy was Saturday last year?
JASON DAY: Yeah, it was -- I mean, it's hard because we had blistering heat, and I could understand that they wanted to try and make the course just a little bit tougher, but unfortunately the greens got a little quick. It is what it is. You know, everyone had to play through it, so once I knew that, I mean, everyone had to play through it. I wasn't the only one four-putting out there. I knew there was other guys four-putting, as well.
It was difficult, but it was more so than you had to just really focus on your mental side, just put it out of your mind, just get it on the green, somehow get it near the hole, two-putt if not one-putt and just get out of there, and that's the ultimate survival, and I think that's the biggest thing that stood out in my mind was how tough Saturday was, how many ups and downs that I had just like everyone else, how much I just stuck through it and got through that day and ended up coming out the next day and winning, which was good.
Q. How do you balance your travel and practice and play and your family life with your two young kids, and have they started golf yet?
JASON DAY: Yes. That's an interesting one. So I was out in LA, so I have a bus, and I'm very fortunate. Like more so fortunate than most people, I'm able to actually take my family on the road. If I'm playing for like a hockey team or an NFL team and you go on the road, you can't actually take your family and have them with you. They can be there with you, but I'm -- it's weird because I'll be playing golf and I'll be playing competitively in front of a lot of people, then I go back home and I'm dad; know what I mean? You have to definitely have that balance.
Right now, Dash is four. He's turning five in July. My little girl Lucy, she just turned one back in November. It is difficult because you're sitting there -- and my wife is just -- she literally is the best partner I could ever ask for. She is tremendous, because I just sat there and wonder sometimes how women can actually do it because if the men had to raise the kids, there would be writing on the wall. I'd be like, okay, you can have pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I could not handle as much as the women. My wife is so good. She sacrifices so much for me to play well and for the kids, and she always puts herself last, which is just something so special to have.
Being able to have my family on the road, trying to balance -- like you said, trying to balance, it is a difficult part, but we just -- I was in LA, and right after LA, we got sick. Dash got sick, then he gave it to Lucy, then he gave it to me, and then I gave it to my wife, so we had ear infections and we had fevers, and even though we're sick, we're always -- you just feel so hard because you've got little Lucy, she's one. How do you give bloody medicine to a little one-year-old that doesn't like it; know what I mean? We're both sitting there frustrated, and we go through the exact same things as everyone else here in this room that have families.
You've just got to try and do your best. There's no right or wrong way of raising a child. You've just got to try and -- because they all come out different as you know, so you've just got to try to do your best and just go from there. Family always comes first, more so than golf or anything else.
Q. Do you have one single mantra you live by on the golf course?
JASON DAY: Mantra? What is that?
Q. Like a saying.
JASON DAY: Sorry, I'm not that smart. (Laughter.)
Yeah, so you -- I think the biggest thing is for me as I was growing up as a kid, I think going back, my dad would always say, never say die to me. So that's the biggest thing that I live by.
I'm always trying to give it 100 percent. Sometimes my -- I was explaining this to my agent who's standing over there. Sometimes my 100 percent can only be here. Sometimes when I wake up and I'm energetic and my 100 percent is way up here. But whether I'm tired or I'm energetic, you always have to give every day 100 percent, and you just can't quit because you just never know what happens around the corner. You can be on a golf course like this kind of out of a tournament -- I remember kind of Rickie Fowler, he wasn't really out of the tournament, but the year that he won, he had amazing stretch on the back side, and you weren't really thinking about was Rickie in the mix because you're looking at the leaders, and then Rickie all of a sudden just kind of came out of nowhere and had that big stretch of birdies, played 17 tremendously, and then obviously ultimately ended up winning the tournament.
Every shot counts, no matter how big it is. If it's a foot putt to a drive, you have to give it 100 percent all the time. I think that's the biggest thing, my mantra out there, as we say.
JARED RICE: Thank you, Jason. Before we break, I do want to ask our 2017 tournament chair Kevin English to stand real quickly. Again, when we talk about a lot of these changes to the golf course and what we do for our members, our players, none of it could be possible without Kevin and his vice-chairman who are assembled here today, and the nearly 2,000 volunteers that dedicate their time to come out here and make sure that THE PLAYERS Championship is not only best in class for our members but also best in class for our fans.
Thank you, Kevin, and for your leadership team.
And again, thank you, Jason. Wish you all the best in 2017 in your quest to defend, and again, on behalf of the charities, some of which are still here, very nice gesture today to you and Ellie, and we appreciate that gesture.
JASON DAY: Cheers. Thank you, guys.
ALEX URBAN: As Jason moves on to his next stop, we're actually going to continue with Jared who's going to get into some of the things that you can expect this year at THE PLAYERS Championship, some of the things that are new, including this fan bleacher that we are sitting in, which is going to be open to everyone with a Stadium Pass. I'm going to let Jared open up with some comments about this year's tournaments and then we'll open it up for questions.
JARED RICE: Thank you, Alex. I think you heard it from Jason today. Again, just in terms of the facility and what we do for our fans, just a very, very special place here. You're looking at a center piece to the renovation that took place starting the Tuesday after THE PLAYERS Championship last year. We were closed for six months renovating not only the 12th hole, which we witnessed today, the practice grounds, the area between 6 and 7 to make that a much more open and enjoyable vista for our fans, but numerous little touches outside the ropes that will continue to make this tournament, again, as I just mentioned, a best-in-class experience.
Kind of the centerpiece, the biggest change since the facility was even built is right here where we're sitting and should provide some great theater to our fans to be able to witness the putt-out on 12 or if we're lucky a hole-out on 12, and then a few steps behind you, to be able to witness 13, which is a very, very exciting par-3.
I'll open it up to questions, and happy to answer any of them.
Q. I understand this is a new role for you. Over the past few months, how has the experience been so far?
JARED RICE: Thank you. Yes, it's a bit of a new role since December, but I think what has been probably most consistent is our entire team is largely intact. Matt Rapp, my predecessor, is now leading up the division of the PGA TOUR that owns and operates tournaments of which we're a part of. Our leadership team at THE PLAYERS Championship has been together for six years. We have 16 full-time members of THE PLAYERS Championship team that I now work for, and they're the best in the business. Wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Q. Jared, Jason talked about the strategic dynamic of this hole and how the players might play it. What do you see from the fan standpoint -- the par-5, the drivable par-4, the pin on Sunday on 13 is a birdie hole, how do you see that work from a fan dynamic, and is it part of any kind of an effort to try to get people to realize that there's more to this golf course than the amphitheater around 17?
JARED RICE: Well, when Pete Dye and Deane Beman designed the course, one of the many things they were trying to achieve was a really dramatic finish, and 16, 17 and 18 are the most dramatic finishing holes in golf, and they really do speak for themselves.
This corridor that we're in right now, especially on the weekends, you just highlighted it, amazing theater, birdie, eagle, birdie, a great par-3 behind you. You're in very close proximity to easily six or seven shots, a lot of movement up and down the leaderboard, and the course is imminently walkable. So you can come out here and watch this all in person, and we just experienced it via a short walk right across 15 to go see 16, 17 and 18.
Similar things are happening on the front side of the golf course. Our Wine and Dine on Nine area, which is on the ninth fairway, you're within six or seven shots of golf, whether that be 5th green, 6 tee, 7 green, the fairway, they're all right there, so we have these hubs of not only golf activity but also respite, high-end food and beverage, shade, and then permanent roost room facility, so this is really just a furthering of that original vision that Pete and Deane had.
Q. With the changes to this hole, are you still going to have the same amenities, Tacos on 12 --
JARED RICE: Tacos on 12 -- don't worry, Tacos on 12 is not moving. It's a few feet to the right, but it is still behind No. 12 green, and again, this is becoming more and more of a destination. I think when you come in to the golf course over time, people realize it's not that far of a walk out here, and again, there's great golf, TacoLu is very well-known here in Jacksonville, as well as many of the other restauranteurs that we have out here, whether it's Trasca & Co., which you're enjoying today; they'll be having breakfast out here this year. There's a host of them, whether it's Medure, MShack or Medure brand, Mojo's, just, again, a list that is quite lengthy.
That is remaining, and will continue to be a centerpiece of fan amenities behind the 12th green.
Q. It looks like you've picked up some sponsors. Do you feel good about the economy?
JARED RICE: If I could predict that, I would be sitting in a different chair. But we are now fully sponsored, THE PLAYERS Championship, by way of three proud partners, as I mentioned at the outset. We had three, but two of our partners had come into the family pretty close to tournament time, so this is probably the best way to describe it is the first year that all three of them will be fully activating, and that's great for our community. A lot of national and international guests from Morgan Stanley, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Optum, bringing, again, a number of national and international guests into our community during the week of the tournament.
Q. People talk about how the industry is an on upswing. What are your thoughts on the state of the industry from an economic perspective?
JARED RICE: Sure. Having little ones, I have a 10 and 8, and you heard Jason talking about I think he said 5 and 1, youth participation and the fact that a lot of our best players are now I would say younger is probably the better way to describe it. You have this grouping of athletes that are younger generation that are very active on social and digital -- they grew up with social and digital media. They're very friendly. They grew up playing the game together. They're health advocates and really physical specimens.
So I think, again, having this youth movement of them playing well, being great role models, getting the game into their own -- the hands of their own children has been really great for kind of the next generation of players.
Q. The social media team does a wonderful job just getting information out there to people, and really when I come out here, I see young people always on Instagram or trying to engage with you guys via Snapchat or those things. How much do you think that things that aren't Facebook have encouraged more younger people to engage with the players, engage with the tournament and also to get them out here in the first place?
JARED RICE: Again, I have 10 and 8, so they're not quite communicating with me via that way, via text, but I know that's coming some day. We see a lot of it, whether we're walking through the airport, the mall, Publix, whatever it may be, that's a way of life. That's a way to communicate, and being in the live event business, we love it, and we encourage it. Tell your friends where you are. Tell your friends how great it is. Show that you're out here.
Jacksonville and our community never looks better than during THE PLAYERS Championship week, period, and we're displayed to the globe in full force, 225 countries, over a billion households, and for those people on-site, they're telling their networks, hey, I'm having a blast, I'm out here, you should be here, too, it's fantastic. It's great advocacy for us and showing how much fun it really is out at the tournament.
Q. Not to be a negative, but traffic is a problem every year. Have you come up with any solutions?
JARED RICE: Well, realities are, again, with success, you're going to have a lot more people coming. But there's some things that we have done to help alleviate that. One is our four or more park for free program. So if you have four or more people in a car and you download a carpool pass from our website, THEPLAYERSChampionship.com, you can park for free. That's a really strong commitment from the tournament to encourage more people per vehicle, and that helps with traffic.
We've also encouraged fans to come in via the 9B or Nocatee expressway. That's what we're calling it. That can cuss off some time. The other reality is noontime on Friday, noontime on Saturday is a popular time, and there are going to be people out here. So plan to come a little earlier, stay a little bit later, and then take advantage of ride sharing programs. We're going to be working with Ãœber in a bigger and better way this year and some details to be announced on that, but encourage people to think responsibly and think in advance and utilize technology to get yourself out here.
And then if you're local beyond the four or more for free, consider walking, biking, golf carts. There are many different ways to get here.
Q. Do you have any kind of preference about what's the ideal time of year to hold the tournament?
JARED RICE: It's a beautiful day today, isn't it? You know, there's been six executive directors of THE PLAYERS Championship. Four of them are still with the PGA TOUR in executive leadership positions, one of which is the commissioner of the PGA TOUR. There is a lot of pride and passion for this championship, and I think it's very -- it's encouraging, and we're very prideful of the idea that the TOUR, the league could be looking at a tournament of this magnitude and pivoting or really scheduling their entire year off of when this tournament is played.
The reality is as event marketers or as event producers or as volunteers, wherever the sport is best positioned and how we fit in that schedule, we're going to go out and put on a fantastic event.
ALEX URBAN: I want to thank everyone for coming out to THE PLAYERS Championship media day today. I want to thank Jared for his time and obviously Jason for his. I'll let Jared close it up with any final thoughts.
JARED RICE: We appreciate you coming out, being a part of this, and again, between Alex and myself, if there's any time we can answer any questions or provide you some more details, we're happy to do it, make ourselves available at any time, so let us know what we can do for you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports