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July 6, 2004

Darren Clarke

Tom Knoll

Ken Vedder

TOM STRONG: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Tom Strong and we also have with us today, Tom Knoll of the Northern Ohio Golf Charities and on the phone from NEC USA, we have Ken Vedder, and Ken is director of advertising and Internet services. And then in the back, we have Chris Reimer. Chris is representing the PGA TOUR. Shortly we will have Darren Clarke join us via teleconference. We've put together a short video for you today just to kind of capture the moment, if you will, of going back to last August. (Video played). It gives me great privilege to introduce Mr. Ken Vedder who again is representing NEC USA and is the director of advertising and Internet services for a few comments. Ken?

KEN VEDDER: Thank you very much, Tom. On behalf of NEC Corporation, I'm pleased to be able to take part in this press conference for the 2004 NEC Invitational. Since its inception, the NEC Invitational has continued to grow as an outstanding event showcasing top golfers and the challenging course of Firestone. The excitement of the fans both on the course and watching on TV seems to increase each year and NEC is proud to be the title sponsor. We would like to thank Darren Clarke for taking the time to participate in the conference today, and I'm sure we are all interested in hearing his thoughts about returning to Firestone for this year's event. Speaking of Firestone, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the great work that the volunteers contribute to making the event the success that it is. Their sacrifice and love for the game is extremely gratifying and we thank them. Finally NEC also appreciates that the NEC Invitational continues to give back to the local community by providing benefits like the First Tee Program and local charities like the Children's Hospital. Last year we had a great tournament and for the first time, I believe in 16 years, we had no rain. We are looking forward to a repeat this year. Thanks again, Tom.

TOM STRONG: Thanks, Ken. I'm glad you reminded us of no rain. That was an excellent. I'd now like to introduce Mr. Tom Knoll, again representing Northern Ohio Golf Charities and Firestone Country Club to make the Ambassador of Golf announcement.

TOM KNOLL: Thank you, Tom. It is a pleasure for me to be here this morning representing Northern Ohio Golf Charities and the PGA TOUR to announce that the winner of the 2004 Ambassador of Golf Award will be Lee Trevino. Many of you know, this award was instituted back in 1981, so we are in our 24th year of presentation. The award is presented annually to a person who has fostered the ideals of the game of golf at the international level and whose concern for others extends beyond the golf course. Clearly, Lee fits into this category and by being named as the Ambassador will join many, many other great players of the game, some of whom were his contemporaries. Among them Chi Chi Rodriguez, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Peter Thomson, Robert De Vincenzo, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen, certainly elite company. As you may be aware, Lee was legendary both on and off the golf course. On the golf course in the course of his career Lee was the winner of the U.S. Open twice, the British Open twice, the Canadian Open three times, the PGA Championship twice, and THE PLAYERS Championship one time. Lee won 29 times on the PGA TOUR and recorded 29 -- has already recorded 29 Champions Tour victories as well as 21 victories throughout the world. Truly an international player and an international representative of the game. Trevino was also a member of seven Ryder Cup teams and was a team captain in 1985. In 1981, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida. His accomplishments off the course are probably as legendary as they are on the golf course. The Merry Max certainly was one of the great favorites of the game of all-time. He has an engaging personality which you just can't avoid, and certainly his humor both on and off the golf course is legendary. I still can visualize in my minds's eye the time he dragged the snake out of the bag on the playoff. But certainly, we at the Northern Ohio Golf Charities as well as the PGA TOUR and Ambassador of Golf committee are very, very pleased to welcome Lee into this elite company, and we're looking forward to the tournament on Wednesday night when he will receive that honor and we hope you will all be with us. Thank you.

TOM STRONG: Thanks, Tom. Before we go to Darren Clarke, I just want to give you a couple of highlights of what's taking place over the last year at Firestone. They modified the golf course a little bit, like it's not long enough. They have made two changes. To hole No. 2 they have actually created a new tee which is down to the right and lengthened the hole by 29 yards, so it takes that hole to 526 yards. And then they narrowed the fairways and decided to put a bunker out there about 300 yards just to make it a little more difficult for these guys. Hole No. 11, they have also added a new tee, and lengthened that hole by 48 yards, and also narrowing the fairway will make it not only longer, but requiring morre premium on their tee shot. And then also, the last change they made was they narrowed the fairway on hole No. 8 to create a little more premium on the tee shot. So from that standpoint, I think the course plays difficult the way it's normally set up with these changes will actually enhance the way they play the golf course and we will be happy to hear what Darren has to say about the modification. Also, ticket sales. Ticket sales are going very well, we still have tickets available for all days. Our weekly package continues to be very, very popular and probably the best deal going. People can order by going on-line to WorldGolfChampionships.com or they can call our 800-number, 877-942-4849. The last comment I want to make is we still need volunteers for our gate and marshal committees, so again, if anybody has an interest, have them all our 800-number. While we wait for Darren, let's open it up for questions to myself, Tom Knoll and Ken Vedder still on the line.

Q. Ken, can you talk a little bit about the Akron advantage of having the NEC here at Firestone once again?

KEN VEDDER: Sure, I'm happy to do that. Akron kind of has a unique position with NEC. As you probably are aware, we've been a participant in golf for a long, long time, and the NEC Invitational is the most recent iteration of that. So we feel a relationship with not only the tournament people, but the volunteers and members of the community, as well. So, it has a special place in our scheme of operations that is hard to duplicate anywhere. So we are really pleased that we are at Akron in terms of having an event and support that we get, not to mention the great facility that's there and the efforts that the PGA TOUR has put to improving the course each year and the facility. So it just makes an outstanding event for us, an event that we are proud to offer to our customers that we bring to the event to share the excitement and the other activities that surround the whole tournament.

TOM KNOLL: One of the things, we've got a couple of minutes, I don't want to discourage questions, but I'm sure you'd like to ask questions of Darren when he gets on the line. As many of you are probably aware, at Firestone we are celebrating the 50th year of tournament golf at the club. I'm sure there are other clubs that probably have as long a history of tournament golf, but I can assure you there are not very many. We are also celebrating this year our 75th anniversary as a club, and there are some events planned around that celebration in late July. But, I do want to acknowledge the Akron Beacon Journal for what I think will be, which has started off to be very interesting coverage and I think will continue to be. The Beacon Journal is going to be running 50 stories on tournament golf and related matters as it pertains to tournament golf over the course of the next several weeks. I think all of you will find it interesting reading because there's a lot of history in there and there's a lot of interesting stories about culture at Firestone. And obviously if any of you are interested in learning more about that, we would certainly make people available to talk to you about that but I do thank Marla and the staff for what's started off to be a very interesting series of articles.

Q. Can you give us an idea of how much has been raised in the 50 years of tournament golf for the golf charities?

TOM KNOLL: I don't have those numbers at my fingertips but I know it's in excess of $15 million that's been raised over the course of 50 years. For a number of years we started off with 40,000, $50,000 and we reached the apex of over a million dollars for severely years. We are now close to $1 million every year. Certainly is at that level. It has benefitted not only charities in the Akron area, but we have now extended our focus to the northern Ohio area and we are benefitting some Cleveland charities, as well. But we look forward to getting close to that million dollar number again this year and turning that over to the charities of northern Ohio.

TOM STRONG: Tom Strong here. Just a quick intro for you, no intro needed, but Darren is our defending champion and he's really the only player that's won more than one World Golf Championship. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to join us today. What I thought is why don't you start us off before we go to questions by just talking about last year what the tournament meant to you and we'll go to questions.

DARREN CLARKE: Okay. Well, I think Firestone has been or is one of my favorites golf courses in the world. It's one of the best. You know, I remember the first time I was there playing I walked into the dining room and all of the pictures of the great players that have won there before and certainly for me to have picture joining those elite players is a great honor. The couple of weeks previous to Firestone last year I felt as if my game was coming into shape, but unfortunately I missed the cut a couple of weeks before. And to get there and play as well as I did and win another World Golf Championship was certainly very special to me, probably more enjoyable than the first one at La Costa.

TOM STRONG: Very good. We're going to go to questions.

Q. Just curious where that plane went after you left here last year.

DARREN CLARKE: You want me to reveal all of my secrets just in case I need to go back to the same place again? It actually took me to Providence, because the week after was Boston. I found a very, very nice, accommodating Irish bar swiftly after I landed, and they didn't close for many hours afterwards.

Q. No. 2 and No. 11 have been thing lengthened; and is Firestone still one of your favorite courses?

DARREN CLARKE: It is and it always will be. No. 2 I've heard the tee gone back, have they lengthened it much?

Q. 46 yards?

DARREN CLARKE: What was it beforehand, 500?

Q. 497. They lengthened it about 29 yards.

DARREN CLARKE: Well, that's going to make a big difference going into there because the greens being so elevated it's going to make a huge difference. Birdies and Eagles won't be quite so easy to come by. No. 11, if there's a new tee there, that was one where people more try to get it on and hit the fairway than go at the green, but again that's going to make it a little bit tougher. Hopefully, they won't make it any tougher because I thought it was tough enough last year even though I managed to win. I hope that 16th green is a little bit softer this year.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the keys to playing well here at Firestone, is it just to keep the ball in the fairway, keep it out of the rough, not short-siding you on the greens? Can you talk a little bit about what gives you a good score here?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, last year I drove the ball particularly well. Because I missed the cut the previous week in the PGA, I got to Firestone early and I was able to practice a lot around the greens and practice for four days. Because of knowing where the pins were going to be and having played there many times before, I was able to really work on my short game around the greens. And you're right, with the rough as severe as it has been, it's very difficult to get anywhere near the green, let alone close to the flag out of that rough. You know, I was more wary last year of, as you said, short-siding myself and I managed to do a pretty good job of avoiding that and I think that was a key element and how I managed to win. But again, last year, the course was playing firm and fast, which I haven't played under those circumstances before. So if anything, I probably made it a little bit easier for us, as well.

Q. I understand you've lost like 30-something pounds, I think, since you were here last year?


Q. I was just curious as to maybe you could explain your motivation, and did you start when you were here or how did that happen?

DARREN CLARKE: Basically started because I was too fat to tell you the truth. (Laughter.) It wasn't doing my golf game any good. Certainly the celebrations afterward Sunday night didn't do me any good either. But it was an area of my game which I took a look at during the season last year, and the only area I had not worked on was my physical fitness. I took a look at the guys in the Top-10 in the World Rankings, even though I was just outside of, and I wasn't as fit as all of those guys in the Top-10. I was strong when I was playing, but I put down some of the mistakes I was making coming down to the stretch due to not being physically fit enough, which was then going on to making mental mistakes, and that's what I was doing. So I started in September, just after Firestone, when I got back home . I've got a trainer called Steve Hanson that travels around the world with me. He goes everywhere I go and has me religiously in the gym even when I'm not feeling like it. You know, certainly I'm twice as strong as I've ever been. Hopefully you'll see a difference whenever I get back there between again. But my waist has gone to six inches smaller and I'm an awful lot lighter. Unfortunately my timing has been a little bit affected thus far this year because of losing so much but I'm starting to figure it out and get it sorted again.

Q. Overall with the weight loss and everything like that, is your game as good now as it was last year when you won?

DARREN CLARKE: I'd like my game to be as good every week whenever I won last year but unfortunately it's not. This year, I've had some good weeks and some bad weeks. I haven't managed to win so far this year. But it's particularly frustrating because I've had one good round and then I figure the next day, I'm so-so. I'm working very hard on my swing and my game. And I'm trying to get that little bit of consistency to come back into it again which I feel I'm getting closer to.

Q. I think I read somewhere you gave up or you were drinking only white alcohol?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes. (Laughing) You're very interested in my personal life, I'm starting to worry here. (Laughter.)

Q. Well, maybe we all want to tips. I'm just curious, how much do you credit that and as far as the working out?

DARREN CLARKE: There's a lot to be said for Tanqueray and tonic, I have to say, Marla, it's very nice. But definitely, the beers have all gone. It's just something that my trainer wanted me to do, too much carbs in them, so I managed to cut those out. And thankfully I'm sticking to, lighter refreshments, shall we say.

Q. What's your schedule between now and the NEC and how do you handicap the British Open?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm currently sitting in the media center here in the Barclay's Scottish Open in Loch Lomond. Next week we have the Open at Troon and then I have 10, 12 days off and I'm flying over to the States and doing a little work on a course in Palm Beach. So I have to go down there for a couple of days and go to Whistling Straits straight after that and then straight to Firestone. As regard to next week at Troon, I played reasonably well there whenever we were there the last time in '97, so I'm looking forward getting back to it again. I hoping to do one bit better.

Q. Are you still working with Butch Harmon, and if you are, how much is he helping you get your game back together again?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I'm still working with Butch. Obviously spending my time, currently my time in Europe, it's very difficult to work closely with him with him being in Vegas and me being over here. He keeps an eye on things on my swing, to take a look at over the Internet and he watches me on the Golf Channel. So, we're still working together and, you know, I'm very happy with what I'm doing at the moment. I just need to shoot some good scores to get myself back where I want to be, just get the confidence level up a little bit.

Q. Has there ever been a point where when you're going through this weight loss and the physical fitness and it had some effect on your game, you wondered if it was worth with it?

DARREN CLARKE: The thought did cross my mind this past month or so whenever I've been walking 20 yards right of fairways to go and find my ball. I have considered having a few pints of Guinness to get me back on the right line again. (Laughter.) I'm committed to what I'm trying to do. So, you know, I'll take a look at the end of the year, reassess at the end of the year. You know it would be a shame if I decided I needed to put my weight back on and have to spend most of the off-season in the bar.

TOM STRONG: Darren, Tom Knoll has a comment he wants to make.

TOM KNOLL: We met last year. I'm the chairman of Firestone Country Club. I just want you to know how much we are looking forward to seeing you back here last year you made and always have made a great impression with all of the people who are associates of Firestone Country Club. I know they are all eagerly awaiting your return here, if you would do me a favor, personal favor if you won into Mr. Patty O'Looney (ph), would you please give him my regards.

DARREN CLARKE: I will indeed. I can't wait to get back to Firestone because that $1,050,000 didn't last for too long.

Q. I actually had a question for Marla to see if she's given up cigars.

DARREN CLARKE: Absolutely not.

Q. Three questions for you. First of all, and you touched on this earlier, did you take more satisfaction out of winning at Firestone, 72 holes of stroke-play over 60 world-class players or La Costa where you had five round of 18 holes match-play and then won in the final against Tiger?

DARREN CLARKE: Most definitely Firestone, because that's one of the best courses in the world against the best players in the world and 72 hole stroke-play. While La Costa was still fantastic and a World Golf Championship event, more or less head-to-head against one guy in that particular round. But over 72 holes, you get the best player that week, usually wins, and it sounds very obvious, but competing against the guys I was competing against and to win in the manner in which I did was certainly more enjoyable to me than La Costa.

Q. I also wanted to look ahead a little bit to Troon which was probably your first great run at a major. Could you talk a little bit about what sets that links apart from the others, and have you ever been under more pressure to make birdies on an outward nine than any place you played?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, I'm not sure what sets it apart. Some links courses I get to and I can see shots on. Some I get to and I find it quite difficult albeit I've grown up playing on links. But Troon, I don't know what sets it apart. But compared to -- if you want doing to go down the pressure route, that was like a tea party compared to Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is the ultimate so far. You just asked me about the front nine, I was coming down the stretch on the back nine with four or five holes to go need to go make a birdie, that would be different, but certainly the Ryder Cup is the most pressure I've felt in any arena so far.

Q. I don't mean pressure, per se. I just meant the fact that the wind is with you going out and dead into you coming back, how much pressure there is to make birdies?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, if you're playing well, it doesn't make any difference if the wind is behind you or the wind is against you. Sometimes it's much better to have the wind against you than it is with you. So, if I'm playing well it doesn't particularly bother me where it's coming from or how strong it is.

Q. I also wanted to ask you, last year you finished your last round earlier than you wanted, obviously, curious was to where you were when you heard that Ben Curtis had won the Open Championship and if you knew who he was.

DARREN CLARKE: I was comfortable sitting in my sofa at home because I only live two and a half hours away and I was watching the last few holes unfold. I watched them from about 14. And to be perfectly honest, no, I didn't know Ben at all, I didn't know who he was. But, you know, did he what he had to do down the stretch. He made a fantastic putt on 18 under that sort of pressure to give himself the opportunity to win, and, you know, it looked very difficult. I've played with him a lot of times since and he's a great guy, he's a gentleman and I really enjoy being in his company.

Q. Does he get more respect in Europe as the Open champion than he probably does in the U.S.?

DARREN CLARKE: That I don't know, to comment about how much respect gets over there for being a U.S. Open -- not a U.S. Open, but being British Open Champion. You know, the Open Champion is somebody who has won the oldest major in the world, and, you know, no matter where they are playing, they should be seen for that.

TOM STRONG: On behalf of everyone here at Firestone I want to thank you for again taking time out of your schedule and we look forward to seeing you in August and good luck this week and also at the British.

DARREN CLARKE: Thank you. Please make sure there's loads of gin and tonic and loads of ice and lemon in my locker. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts...

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