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BUICK CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY
May 23, 2006
BRADFORD BABBITT: I want to introduce a gentleman that needs no introduction. He is world renowned in the sporting industry. Best of all for us and lucky of all for us, he is a huge friend of this tournament. We are most grateful that he's here today and most grateful for all his support year-round, Chris Berman, who is going to interview or champion, Brad Faxon. Chris.
CHRIS BERMAN: It's a Brad overload. We're going to have a seat up here in a minute with our champ. I think I speak for everybody, I would be remiss if I didn't put out a couple of things. We'd like to thank the folks at Buick for helping keeping us on the map big time so that we can move forward as we're all so excited of the events of the last month, but let's not forget without Buick, we might not be in such a position. Larry, Tim, the guys, thank you very much.
I think without much further ado, we're hear in June for now and four more years, we've had a lot of exciting finishes, one of the oldest events on TOUR, but we have rarely has as exciting and popular a result as we had last August. At this point I'd lake to call up my friend and the champion of last year's Buick Championship, Brad Faxon.
BRAD FAXON: Thank you.
CHRIS BERMAN: A southern New Englander winning here. Brad, your chart at Hartford was not as good as your chart at a lot of other places.
BRAD FAXON: Right.
CHRIS BERMAN: What does it mean to you to be from Rhode Island, win here at an event you've come to 22 times, it's been eight or nine months since, but are you still glowing from it?
BRAD FAXON: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, there were so many things that happened well that last day. You know, I started out the day really not thinking about winning. I was seven back. I played okay, but nothing spectacular. Got off to a quick start. Birdied the second and fourth holes. I had a fun pairing, then had a tear right through. Birdied 9, 10, 11 and 12. All of a sudden, everything happened.
To finish off the way I did, then have to wait an hour, you know, to have the last group finish, have van der Walt make birdie, you don't want to get in a playoff, you're kind of like this. To go back out and win it with a great shot out of a bunker, you know, you sit there and you're stomach is in a knot. You want to do well anywhere you play, but especially at home.
CHRIS BERMAN: Where is that 7-iron? Still in the bag, over the fireplace somewhere?
BRAD FAXON: No, it needs to be over the fireplace. But I actually just switched irons last week. That day, I had five birdies with a 7-iron, two of them out of fairway bunkers.
CHRIS BERMAN: You played golf since whatever age. You think of some shots you might hit. Fairway bunker to three feet to put yourself to win a tournament, did that ever come up at 2 a.m. in your REM mode?
BRAD FAXON: Never.
CHRIS BERMAN: You don't have to sing any REM songs.
BRAD FAXON: No. I'm probably the worst fairway bunker player on the TOUR.
CHRIS BERMAN: Come on.
BRAD FAXON: Maybe second to last after last year.
I think really if I could set up the shot for you, you know, I hit first, hit it in the bunker, didn't know if it was in the bunker or on the edge. Van der Walt hits it to the right, kicks down in the middle of the fairway. He got kind of lucky. I'm not saying that because I thought he hit a bad drive. He got that big bounce to the left.
CHRIS BERMAN: Member's bounce.
BRAD FAXON: Total member's bounce. The only thing I had that was lucky, the ball had rolled down from the edge down to the middle of the bunker. I had a pretty good lie. If you play the 18th hole here, there's a bunker on the front right of the green. The pin was on the front left. I didn't have to go over the bunker, which was a great thing.
I was kind of behind the eight ball. I said, you know, I really got to go right at this flag. Harvey Penick took dead aim. I know he's going to hit it close with a wedge. I hit a 7-iron out, right of the flag, let it draw. It came out picture perfect right at it.
CHRIS BERMAN: You know sometimes the sweet spot, but out of sand could you tell it was going to be okay, pretty good?
BRAD FAXON: I thought pretty good the whole way. I never thought great because if I had to say one thing about the shot that wasn't perfect was it was a little low. It was just going a little low.
CHRIS BERMAN: I meant to bring that up.
BRAD FAXON: I wanted to hit it high.
CHRIS BERMAN: It was low.
BRAD FAXON: I can't believe after watching it on replay that it actually stopped as quickly as it did. I landed pretty close to the hole, then it took one bounce, kind of did that, coming in like that. It was nice.
CHRIS BERMAN: By the way, did you have a 61 before you played that hole? How many 61s in your career?
BRAD FAXON: Let me count. One. I think I actually had a 61 at one other tournament when I was an amateur. I can't remember too many in that position.
CHRIS BERMAN: It was all lined up, you were at home. You actually play well in Boston the next week. Winning in New England, you played here 22 times.
BRAD FAXON: Probably. I don't think I've ever tried to skip playing here. If I did, it was from an injury, maybe a British Open, I don't know. I think it's really hard to play well in front of hometown crowds a lot of times. You get psyched to play. There's a few extra distractions. I think the try-hard factor is there. You're always kind of like, I want to do well, I want to play good, because everybody expects you to play well. You have your family there. You're leaving extra tickets for everybody. You know you're going to get double coverage on ESPN. I think it's hard.
Sometimes it messes you up. At the same time I've played well at home before. I played well and won what's now the Deutsche Bank Classic, when it was the New England Classic. That meant a lot to me. Like you said, I've never played well from here. This is kind of out of the blue. Just made the cut on the number, not thinking you're going to win.
CHRIS BERMAN: Car packed, ready to go home?
BRAD FAXON: Car packed, ready to go home Friday afternoon.
CHRIS BERMAN: You had more free time Sunday night after the interviews; you didn't have to pack.
BRAD FAXON: That's right.
CHRIS BERMAN: You've won it now eight times. This is your eighth win on TOUR, which is a significant number. To us on the outside, He hasn't won in two, three, four years, '01 Hawaii.
BRAD FAXON: Yes.
CHRIS BERMAN: It's so hard to win out here, we know that. By doing it eight times, that's saying a lot. In your own mind, a year, another year, do you wonder, Am I going to be able to do this when I get in position? Do you start to play head games with yourself?
BRAD FAXON: For me, I don't want to jinx myself here, but I'm a knucklehead. After I win a tournament, I tend to play crappy for a while. I think, okay, now I've won, now I can go get better, fix things. You've seen it happen with a lot of guys that get 10-year exemptions, Dennis Lutz, Fulton Allem, Ian Baker-Finch, Craig Perks. I won a major, I can go work on it, instead of just saying, already, I won, I have to keep doing the same thing. I think I did that again this year. I had the surgery, too. I've messed up a little bit like that. Instead of using it to propel and keep going, I did the wrong thing this year. I can feel some good things coming on pretty soon.
CHRIS BERMAN: You had ACL surgery, you're back playing after four months, you told me.
BRAD FAXON: Right.
CHRIS BERMAN: That's pretty quick.
BRAD FAXON: It's golf. I'm not getting tackled.
CHRIS BERMAN: You're walking.
BRAD FAXON: I'm trying to walk. We're walking on some hilly courses.
CHRIS BERMAN: Kapalua.
BRAD FAXON: Bad place for me to come back. Good place to go for my wife.
CHRIS BERMAN: You're playing okay, but you're still pretty early in rehab.
BRAD FAXON: Yeah. For the first three months, I would say legitimately it didn't feel right. It felt funny. Every week, How is your knee? Are you feeling okay? It kind of wears on you after a while. Now it's not an issue. If somebody says it to me, it's like, No problem. I can honestly say that.
CHRIS BERMAN: Two parts to this. You're from New England. You're the defending champion. You almost were going to come here today and in June, almost were, as the final defending champ of this event. You were almost the final defending champ, if you will. How did that make you and TOUR player feels? The event might not stay on the TOUR. What were your thoughts?
BRAD FAXON: Well, I was mad, you know. I talked to Larry earlier, obviously Ted Nathan, all the time about what can we do to make the TOUR pick us and keep us. With the FedEx Cup shrinking out, somebody is going to lose out.
I've always been the guy, here is the tournament here for 50 years. You have a tournament like the 84 Lumber that can buy their way on. Players were mad. Guys like Sindelar, Olin Browne, Azinger, Can you believe what's happening in Hartford? Ted is over there, when the new schedule for '07 came out, it's like, What do you mean? Ted was calling me, Should we go to September? What do you think the field is going to be like? There's a lot of unknowns right now.
First of all, is this FedEx going to make the players play more? I hope so. Is it going to make the end of the year more exciting? I hope so. Is The Golf Channel going to help or hurt? I hope it helps. I don't know, who knows. What would these tournaments going to be like after THE TOUR Championship? I don't know. I still don't think they know. They don't even have a tournament yet.
When the choice is made to go to the Champions Tour, I think that's your best choice right now. Then all of a sudden Sunday night of the Masters, get the phone call. Henry called me at home on the Masters Sunday night, Look, we got a great thing happening. I was like, Oh, my God.
It's justice. It's justice.
CHRIS BERMAN: Other guys feel the same? You talk about it?
BRAD FAXON: Without a doubt. I told a bunch of people. I spoke this morning over it for the Chamber of Commerce. I said, you know, a lot of the guys love playing here. They think this is one of the best TPC courses we play. A lot of guys that don't kill the ball can play well here. Pavin, Olin Browne, Jacobsen, popular guys. It's not just let it fly. There's some strategy.
CHRIS BERMAN: You've won before, some big events, before. Yet this one with 50 plus years, if you get a chance to look at, on the Cup we have Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, even more recent.
BRAD FAXON: Lanny Wadkins. Great names.
CHRIS BERMAN: Nick Price. I'm talking about Snead, Palmer, Trevino, Brad Faxon. You look at that, say, Is that me?
BRAD FAXON: I do all the time, just the fact I'm out here playing with those guys. I told everybody this morning when I first played here in 1983, Trevino, he was like a hometown guy. Fred Kask, guys I played with in amateur golf from the Hartford area. To be able to play here was just an honor.
Then to see the evolution of the TPC here, play the old crisscrossed, one hole, one set of 9 over there, a set of 9 over here. It's changed for the better every time. Now I think we've got something now that really can work.
I love the fact that the TOUR is going to commit to doing a new driving range. You can see them putting the fences out now. Something needs to be done. We've talked with Ted about trying to do a great First Tee Program here, upgrade the whole facility. I know we can do it.
CHRIS BERMAN: You're right there with Palmer, all those guys.
BRAD FAXON: It's nice. It's nice.
CHRIS BERMAN: Way to go. We'll do some questions.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHRIS BERMAN: Has it moved up from top five to top one or two?
BRAD FAXON: I can't get anything to go ahead of it.
Under the situation, playoff, bunker, to win, I haven't hit a better shot. I mean, I've had some memorable shots. I made a putt in '95 at the PGA to make the Ryder Cup team. That's not a shot. Putt is kind of just luck. You're lucky you're a good putter, you know.
The Sony Open, the last hole, I hit a 4-wood from 267 yards that went to eight feet, made an eagle to win by four. Nobody said anything about that. I thought that was a great shot.
I've had a few more. I remember putts more than I remember shots. As far as dramatic, I don't think I'll ever hit another one like that.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD FAXON: You're getting picked on. Is that the feeling? Is it something personal? I think the TOUR knows they need to be in New England, but there's so many factors now. You have to have a great title sponsor. Buick has been unbelievable for the TOUR because not only have they had four tournaments, they have three now. They're a constant partner with the TOUR every week. You have to have great title sponsor, great city, great fan base, great community businesses that support it, the fans that want to see it.
Some of the places you think would be great places to have a tournament like LA, you don't get that local community feeling, Atlanta where people all come together. You get that feeling here. You've got that at Pleasant Valley. Sometimes there might be like a clubhouse that's not big enough or an 18th hole that's not wide enough, parking that's not great enough. It becomes financial, some of the things you do, the economics of it.
CHRIS BERMAN: You talked about this of course in particular, like 15 is unique. Not that it needed a rebirth, but now there will be momentum of the core TOUR players.
BRAD FAXON: I think so. History has proven for this tournament that in the summertime, the fields are better, the crowds are definitely better. I think this Back 9 is an exciting nine holes. It's a little bit like Augusta's Back 9 in the fact you can shoot 30 or you can shoot 40. You can make two eagles out there. TV likes the birdie/bogey hole, the go for it, lay it up thing.
In today's day and age, the crowd is a little more vocal. You can get up on 15. Say you had a one- or two-shot lead playing the 15th hole, you play safe. You're going to get jeered. What are you doing? You're a sissy for laying up. They're not afraid to tell you.
Then 17, I chickened out last year, went left, got lucky to stay on the cart path. These holes really make you play.
CHRIS BERMAN: Will you go out to 18 bunker for the hell of it while you're here?
BRAD FAXON: I thought that would be a good thing to do. Go back out there, recreate that shot, look what happens. It's a little windier.
CHRIS BERMAN: Hit low. That's a good shot. What is up for you?
BRAD FAXON: I don't play in tournaments you play in.
CHRIS BERMAN: I know. Memphis tomorrow. Stand behind me.
BRAD FAXON: I'm going to play the Memorial, Westchester. I have to qualify for the US Open. Hopefully I'll get in that. CVS tournament days after that. The Booz Allen follows that. If I qualify for the US Open, I probably won't play the Booz Allen. Then we come to Hartford. Actually qualifying for the British Open now is the Monday of Hartford. Last year I went over there.
CHRIS BERMAN: Can you do that over here?
BRAD FAXON: I can't go over there now. I have to qualify Monday of Hartford unless I win a tournament between now and then. That would exempt me, which I could do.
CHRIS BERMAN: By the way, as an aside, a couple years ago, you're a hero in Britain now for being an American, going all the way over there, reversing Paul Revere's charge to qualify. They loved you. You feel that when you get over there?
BRAD FAXON: Yeah, I like the spirit over there. I like the style of the game that you play. Last year was a big year for me winning the tournament. If there were two things that singled out last year, winning here the way I did, then going over and qualifying. The players that have won the Payne Stewart Award, they vote on it. I know Arnold Palmer mentioned that to me. He said, You going over and qualifying for the British Open, that was big.
CHRIS BERMAN: You're one of them now. I don't know if you wanted to be. You're an Old Englander and a New Englander.
Q. You mentioned you changed irons last week. Is that related to a sponsorship?
BRAD FAXON: No, just a style of iron. It's actually very similar. Every maker comes up with new models. I use Titleist, I was using a 735, now I'm using a 755. It's a cavity back forging, newer and improved. They are actually very nice, great clubs.
CHRIS BERMAN: How often do you change putters? Such a good putter.
BRAD FAXON: 13 years. Once every 13 years. Next year it will be once every 14 years. I don't switch a lot. I don't know if that means a whole lot. Look at the history of great players, great putters. If you started at the top, Jack Nicklaus used that George Low putter for 19 out of his 20 majors. Tom Watson used that Ping for a long time. Ben Crenshaw used that 8802. Arnold Palmer was one of the few guys that changed all the time. Tiger Woods has used the same sort of Scotty Cameron putter, even though he's not with Titleist any more.
I don't see the greatest players changing putters a whole lot.
CHRIS BERMAN: It's like a comfort.
BRAD FAXON: The Indian, not the arrow.
CHRIS BERMAN: Socks, no underwear.
BRAD FAXON: Check before you play.
CHRIS BERMAN: You're going to give a clinic out here. If there is one thing that the average Joe or Mary should think about when they putt, you're such a good putter, always have been, I know there's probably 18 things that go through your mind.
BRAD FAXON: You know, the one thing that I would give isn't really like a tip like lit grip pressure or take it back inside. The one thing I would tell putters, I would want everybody to listen to this because it seems to me, I wasn't kidding before when I said people think you're lucky when you are a good putter. You're so lucky, you're a good putter, like you were born that way. I'm like, Really? I used to practice this a lot. I've done this a lot for a long time.
The thing I'm most proud about, when I first started on the TOUR, I was a pretty good putter, but I wasn't a great putter. In the mid '90s, I had a streak of three, four, five years where I think I putted statistically as well as anybody's ever putted. I got better. I got better as I got older when I was on TOUR. Where it's harder the better you are to get better statistically, isn't it? We're trying to improve by a hundredth of a point or a tenth of a point on the putting green, my stats got better.
To everybody out there, I would want them to know that you can get better at putting. It's not just something, Oh, my God, I don't have it. If you want to think that way, it could be that way. Everybody can get better. But you got to work at it. I think you got to work at it more. Everybody that wants to shoot lower scores, if you're a golfer, you want to, you want to say I shot 79, broke 80, broke 90, 100, whatever the case is, you're going to do it by improving your putting. Everybody has to finish it off.
If you can think about putting great, if you can think about go out there today, the one putt that you hit, if you think about that the rest of the day instead of I 3-putted seven times, what's the old adage: Go to dinner with a great putter. I think that's important.
That doesn't leave you with something tangible, like it's grip pressure, lock your left wrist, whatever. Everybody wants something that they can bottle up and sell. To me it's knowing that you can get better by thinking better is hands away the most important thing.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD FAXON: You're saying that because it's FedEx, and FedEx is a company you thought the TOUR wouldn't have branded with?
Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD FAXON: Like the World Series doesn't call them -- I think it's a bit of a sellout. Obviously they've said, Look, we've seen the success NASCAR has had with Nextel. We feel like we need something that finishes off our season like the World Series, the Super Bowl, like NASCAR does now. We need something that kind of keeps everybody together and has a fantastic finish.
I think it's going to be great. As long as the system is kept where you're rewarded for good play, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. If it looked to me like this was going to be something where, oh, my gosh, it's going to give guys from last year a better chance, going to only favor certain guys, then I'd worry about it.
This is golf. You're starting at zero every week, tied with everybody else. You go out and play Thursday through Sunday. If you play good, you're rewarded. If you don't, you have to go play good next week.
There's less tournaments, so I think you're going to see kind of the schedules -- I think everybody is going to play a little more. I think early in the year next year guys aren't going to know really what to expect, so they're going to go crazy early. I'm still thinking you have to pace yourself, it's still a long year, still going to be one of those where you're going to make 80% of your money in 20% of the tournaments, that 80/20 rule.
It will be interesting to see if there's four or five tournaments from the PGA to THE TOUR Championship, I really think it's going to be exciting because the numbers to the players are going to win are pretty high. I still don't think Tiger and Phil are playing for the money. Everybody might say it's easy for them to go at a flag. They got X amount of dollars in the bank. I think that's why they have money, is because they know how to play.
I think it's exciting. I'm excited about it. I wish I were 35 instead of 44.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD FAXON: What do you think? I'd love to see Tiger here. I would have thought this might be a year you might see him. I know he doesn't commit till the Friday before the tournament. He doesn't typically play the week before a major. If he keeps to that schedule, I'm sure he's going to play the Memorial because he plays well there. He'll take the week off of Westchester, Barclay's, play the US Open. Who knows.
I'd love to see him play here. I know everybody here would love to see Tiger Woods come to Connecticut. It's a hard call to say.
CHRIS BERMAN: We'll get him here. Kidnap him.
BRAD FAXON: Put him in the ProAm with you.
CHRIS BERMAN: That won't work.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD FAXON: Well, point-wise, I'm struggling. I was doing well after Hartford last year. I haven't finished in the top ten this year, I'm out of the top 30 in points. I haven't really paid attention. With points double and triple, it's one good tournament away. Lehman has done a very good job at keeping everybody excited about playing in the Ryder Cup. Not that you need that, but I think he's going to be a good captain. He had a little like cookout for all the players in Charlotte.
You know what, I'm just looking forward to a streak where I get a couple good tournaments in a row and catapult up there. To me the Ryder Cup is the ultimate play in golf. There's nothing more fun or nerve-wracking than doing that.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD FAXON: Competition is too tough.
People have mentioned that to me, said, Would you like to do that, could you do that? Are you talking like a Johnny Miller in the booth, telling even how bad they are? I don't know. I think I could do it. I think I have some insight. I could ask Chris if he thinks I have a future.
CHRIS BERMAN: Come join Maltby for two days at the US Open. Happy hour.
BRAD FAXON: I'd have to gain some weight.
CHRIS BERMAN: That's okay.
BRAD FAXON: I'm still trying to play good. I still think I can get better. I still think I have some years ahead of me. I've done little bits in the booth for CBS, ABC a couple times. I don't think it's easy. I think you got to dedicate yourself. I think it's hard to do it part-time. Guys like Lanny and Curtis found out you can't do both.
CHRIS BERMAN: You'd be good at it. He's still a good putter, you know. Have we changed the microphone in the last 13 years? No.
Anything else for our champion? Without going overboard, I say that we've had a lot of great ones here, but the momentum, I don't think you could follow it. I don't think the Grand Prix has a chart like that.
BRAD FAXON: No.
CHRIS BERMAN: The momentum for what we have going here in this tournament, this championship, began when you didn't drive off to Barrington Friday night at 36 holes. To quote Rod Stewart, you wear it well, pal. Our champion Brad Faxon. We're happy to be represented by you.
BRAD FAXON: Thank you.
CHRIS BERMAN: Now you have to show us how to improve our short game. Should take 20 minutes.
BRAD FAXON: Shouldn't take long.
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