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PGA TOUR MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 10, 2007
LAURA NEAL: I'd like to welcome Ben Curtis and thank him for talking with us today during his week off. As all of you know, he's the 2003 British Open Champion and he will be heading over to Carnoustie for that event, and at the end of the month will return to his old stomping ground, so to speak, for the final World Golf Championship of the season, the Bridgestone Invitational. He hails from Columbus, Ohio, and he's certainly a local favorite in the Akron Cleveland area.
I'd like to turn it over to you for just a few brief opening comments. I know you have a busy month or so ahead of you, and talk about what's in store for the next few weeks.
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, it's going to be very busy. Obviously the British Open coming up here next week is obviously very exciting and looking forward to a great challenge at Carnoustie. I've played there a few times and it's going to be a tough test, and obviously the weather is going to predict everything. They are probably not going to get as crazy as '99 where you have 10- or 11-yard wide fairways. I imagine it's going to be a fair test, but obviously the weather and the wind sitting right there on the water is going to be tough. Looking forward to that. That will be a unique challenge and especially having played over there this year, it's going to be even more difficult than in the past.
And then obviously a week off and back home for Firestone. It's one of my favorite events, and I'm glad to be back in it after the last couple of years, and just really looking forward to it. It's a great golf course and it's very tough and you know, the weather should be good and it should play difficult.
Q. I had a question for you about the year that you had with the Claret Jug in your possession from 2003 to 2004; where did you keep it in the house, and what was the most fun that you had with it entertaining family or guests at a party with the jug?
BEN CURTIS: I remember the first week, we did nothing but party with it. (Laughing) I think it was always in my possession or close by. I remember flying home and got to the Cleveland airport, probably 50 or 60 family and friends came by and just came to celebrate. And we went to IMG, which is right there in Cleveland, and fortunately for me it was in my backyard. We went there for a few hours to entertain and had a lot to drink. It just seemed like I was intoxicated for the first week. (Laughing).
It was very fun. I just kept it actually in my house just right above the TV, so every time I sat down, I looked at it, just something special. We didn't do anything too crazy with it. Just put a lot of different drinks. We had everything from water to coke to alcohol, so it was just good fun for a year and took it with me a couple of times throughout the year. After a couple of times I did it, it kind of becomes a hassle because you have to check it and they what it is and I have to carry it on and it seemed to be more work to get to the tournament. That was a lot of fun having it for a year definitely.
Q. Would you say more beer, more wine, more champagne between the alcohol; what was the beverage of choice between those three?
BEN CURTIS: Probably more beer than anything. I don't like champagne that much. Definitely don't like wine. And I always grew up drinking just a little bit of beer, so beer was definitely the drink of choice.
Q. You know, a few years ago, the Plain Dealer ran a headline on you in their "Golf Monday" section to effect of, where has Ben Curtis gone after he won the British Open; and you went into a little bit of a slump there. But shortly after, you picked up your second win and last year you picked up your third at the 84 LUMBER in Farmington; how gratifying was that to pick up your second or third win after people thought you were a one-and-done sort of thing with the British Open?
BEN CURTIS: Obviously you know it was a very difficult time. I didn't play very well, and when you don't play good, it just makes things tougher; and when you play good everything just seems to fall into place.
It was a difficult time. I needed to -- I was focusing on the wrong things. And after the win of '05, I believe it was, just looked back on everything and just concentrated on things I needed to work on.
Yeah, last year was very satisfying to me. It was tough. It's always hard to get that second victory, especially after a major. Everybody I've always talked to has said it was the hardest. Just getting over that hump was great and it's very satisfying to know that all of that hard work put in paid off. To have two wins in a year, it's almost like a dream come true. You don't really -- you think about getting one win a year and that's kind of a goal you set; and to have two in one year is just awesome.
Q. How excited are you to be coming back to northeast Ohio to play in this event over at Firestone?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, it's one of my favorite golf courses. So obviously just to be able to play in that, you know, just to be able to play that course is just a lot of fun for me. To stay at home in your own bed, it's everybody dream, to be able to not to have to get on an airplane, stay in a hotel; everything is going to be very familiar. It's just going to be a lot of fun. It's also a tough week, as well; you have a lot of people with friends and family around. You have to deal with that, as well, and obviously I'll take that over any week.
Q. Will you play Firestone this week or are you going to wait until you get back from the British?
BEN CURTIS: I'm going to probably play this week a couple of times. That will be it, because we're going actually to Orlando after the British for a few days just to chill and unwind before we come back here.
Q. What do you think -- I don't know, is there something you need to work on before the British that's been dogging you; is it still your putting?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, a little bit of putting. But I think there, it's always difficult to putt there because of the wind. If it doesn't blow, if the wind doesn't blow, it's not that difficult because usually the greens are relatively flat and all that. But when it blows, it just makes it that much more difficult.
Hopefully it will be windy here for the next three or four days and give me a couple of days to practice in the wind. Obviously to hit knock-down shots, because we haven't hit too many of those in the last couple of months out here on TOUR; it just seems like everything, the weather has been great, not much wind, so you're just flying everything right to the hole. So you have to hit those knock-downs and bump-and-runs; it's going to take a few days to get used to it.
Q. I have kind of a weird question. Tiger mentioned last week about becoming a dad that he hoped he could kind of be like the Nicklauses in how successful they were in raising their kids. I'm just wondering from an Ohio guy, did you ever look to the Nicklaus family and hope that you could do the same thing that he and Barbara did when he was playing so well?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, definitely. I think to raise a family is one of the coolest things you can do, especially if you're close -- if everybody's close, and it's a lot of fun.
We're just enjoying it right now, and we're just trying to go through the small steps and just learn as we go, because it's definitely a lot of fun and a lot of work, and obviously Jack did it right. I believe he had, what, five kids or something. And to be able to do that and travel and compete at the highest level is very difficult to do. You know, I don't -- I don't think we're going to go that far and have five kids. Obviously I want to be able to travel and Candace and the kids to travel and be a family and have some fun doing it, as well. There's a lot of great places we get to go and a lot of great cities, so just a lot of fun. And to do it together would be great and hopefully, you know, I'll continue to play well.
Q. I guess what's so amazing about it is they were such a close family and he was jetting all over. It just seems amazing how he was able to pull that off.
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, obviously financially for him at the time he was very well off and he could afford to fly privately everywhere he went, and that makes a huge difference. We haven't got to that point yet. Hopefully we will just for the sake of family reasons, if I go away for a few days and I get back, as soon as I'm done Sunday, get back within a few hours, instead of having to wait until nine or ten o'clock the next morning.
Q. Firestone has added a little more length to holes 8 and 9. Do you think the course is going to play harder with some additional length on those couple of holes?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think 9 was always a very difficult hole for me anyway. (Laughing) To add the length, I don't know, I haven't played it yet all the way back to see the difference. Obviously you're going to come in with more club. And if you don't hit the fairway, you're probably going to have to lay up and have a wedge in for a third shot. So it's just going to play -- I never hit the fairway anyway in two years I've played it, so probably won't matter. Probably play easier for me.
No. 8 I think is going to be the biggest change. We'll see. Before you had to hit it up the left-hand side, and now you're going to have to carry it a little bit further to catch a hot spot to get down the hill. If you do get down the hill, you're going to hit either the same distance or on the downslope and that's going to be difficult. If you miss the fairway, obviously there's going to be a lot of rough, and, you know, you're not going to -- instead of going in there with an 8-, r 9-iron out of the rough, you're going to be coming in with 6-, 7-, 5-irons, so it's going to be difficult to be able to control it.
Q. And 16, when they move the tee all the way back, is that still kind of a challenge to try to keep it out of the rough and get on in three?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think you stand up on the tee, a number of par 5s, if you stand on the tee, you know if you miss the fairway, you can chop it out and have no less than a 7- or 8-iron into the green. On that hole you definitely have to hit the fairway off the tee.
In years past, I remember playing it, even the lay-up was difficult because the fairway became so firm that you had to just carry that bunker in the left-hand side, and it still almost ran through and you almost had to hit like a low hook out there and just control the -- just try to keep it down the left-hand side so it wouldn't bounce into the right into the rough.
It's a very good hole, but it's also very difficult. You definitely need to hit the fairway there, and if you don't hit the fairway, you can be left with a 2- or 3-iron into the green.
Q. What about the upcoming FedExCup? I know the World Golf Championship Bridgestone will be just a few weeks before all that gets started. Just talk about the excitement of the FedExCup among your fellow competitors.
BEN CURTIS: It's great. It built a lot of excitement. I think beginning of the year we just wanted to play golf and we didn't really think about it. Now that the Playoffs are coming, guys are talking about it; "I need to play here so I can get my seeding" and all that good stuff.
At the beginning of the year, it's just play golf. It's still the same sport but with the new era coming in, it's bringing a lot of excitement. It's definitely different for us and we're not used to it.
It will definitely take a couple of years to get used to it and figure out your schedule in the best way you can so you're not tired, running; because obviously I'm not where I want to be in the points and I feel like I should play more, but at the same tie I don't want to wear myself out. Obviously if I play good in the next couple of weeks it will take care of itself and I'll jump up, and I'll be able to play definitely the three Playoffs and hopefully make a good run for THE TOUR Championship.
It's one of those things; everybody is going to treat it differently. Right now I'm trying to treat it as any other year, but I'll look back on it this year and maybe see if I need to make some changes.
Q. Will we see, are you wearing all Browns paraphernalia this week? We certainly hope you won't wear Cincinnati or Pittsburgh stuff when you're at the Bridgestone.
BEN CURTIS: I think I'll wear Cleveland all week because I don't get to wear it very often, and to be able to wear it all week will be great and it will be a lot of fun. Obviously in Pittsburgh I was wearing Browns every day and got everybody mad at me. On Sunday I wore Steelers, get them back on my good side, but definitely will be wearing Browns all week.
Q. Playing at Firestone kind of in your own backyard almost, did you consider that more of an advantage, or like you said with some of the distractions and whatnot, is it more of a disadvantage for you?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I don't know if it's a disadvantage at all, but it definitely makes the -- it just adds a little bit more to the week than maybe what you normally would have on the road. You go to your hotel and you go to dinner with your wife or maybe a buddy on TOUR and go to bed.
At home, you have the phone ringing all the time; you have people coming by knocking on the door; and you have dinner plans, a few more people, but it's a lot of fun. At the same time you can look at it in the positive because when you're away from the golf course, it's relaxing and you just have a good time. You don't really think about the golf. But also at the same time, you want to be thinking about it a little bit and you need to focus on what you need to do.
Q. You had such a great 2006; talk about going into this season, what's been some of the struggles and how tough is it to carry that success over from one year to the next on TOUR?
BEN CURTIS: I think every time you have a good year, I don't know if you relax a little bit or whatever. But this year's been pretty good. I made a lot of cuts. I've just struggled on the weekend or one round has killed me and just never got over the hump. I've never got close to having a good week or a really good tournament. I don't know what it is. I don't know, if I let my guard down for a minute or two; you can't do that out here. It's a little bit frustrating, but at the same time working hard to get it back and hopefully add one good week and get another Top-10 this year.
It's just frustrating when you finish in the middle of the pack or towards the bottom after you've made the cut. You want to be near toward the top and you want to build momentum. That's what happened last year. I might make a cut and finish tenth and then miss a cut and then come back and finish 15th or 20th. So you're always building that momentum because the more times you get into contention, the better off you are.
Q. How often do you think about the weekend at the British Open in 2003 and how that changed your life and everything that happened after it in the weeks after that tournament?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, you know, you come home during an off-week and you just drive around, look around and you're just like, wow. Before you didn't even think about, you know, we've got two great houses, just stuff you don't even think about and you just realize how lucky you are and it just kind of brings you back to that moment.
So, yeah, I think about it quite a bit. When I'm on the golf course, you think about the feeling you get, you know, back then. But obviously when you're home more and you see the trophy, you sit back and relax and that's when you reflect on it more than anything. It comes across your mind more than you think. I think you think about it a lot more than I say I do. You just kind of remember what you thought you did that week and why everything went so well because you all want to be in that position. Tiger is obviously very, you know, very good at that and obviously he's very talented, as well. He always thrives on that. Obviously I do, too, but I just need to find what works for me.
Q. Pretty special memories of the Bridgestone since you got married at the tournament in 2003; can you talk about what this tournament means to you?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think obviously getting married that week, the golf was very secondary that week. Everything else was more important, getting everything ready for the wedding; and it was a big day of my life, probably the most important day of my life. To think back on it that year, you don't really remember much about the golf.
Growing up, you know, Memorial was in my backyard and this one was kind of one of those special events where I believe it was only like 24 to 30 guys played in it. You know, now that they expanded the field a little bit, it just makes it that much better.
You know, I remember coming up here a few times, and it's just one of the best courses we play on TOUR. And to be at home is such a great feeling and to have one of the best tournaments in your backyard is awesome, as well.
Q. I'm just wondering with you being kind of the hometown guy, and this last year particularly at Firestone, you felt kind of an extra pull from the crowd. How did it feel, did it feel like you had an extra bit of backing, as opposed to the other tournaments you play throughout the year?
BEN CURTIS: Oh, definitely. I see it every week, there's always a local guy that's playing -- like last week was Fred Funk. It's always a few extra people following that group and you hear the crowd a little bit more.
Yeah, you know, when you're that guy, I don't know if you pay attention to it as much. But when you're the outsider looking in, you're like, "Hey, he's getting a lot of support this week." You can tell he's a local guy. Obviously I hear a few things but I don't -- I try not to pay attention to it. I just try to focus on what I need to do. Obviously if I play good, then, you know, you can feed off that.
Q. There's a lot of the tournaments on the TOUR schedule throughout the year; how do you view the World Golf Championships, and what do you think is the significance of this World Golf Championship event?
BEN CURTIS: Obviously they are the tournaments we want to be in. They are very elite. There's only, you know, like the Accenture Match Play is only 64. There's probably only 80 or so for Firestone, or the former American Express, the CA Championship now. The criteria to get in is very difficult. It's even more difficult than getting in a major. It's one of those that it's very elite and they are great weeks for practicing. You really can judge your game and how you're playing at the time.
Also, they are difficult because you know there's no cut and you can kind of come in too relaxed and maybe a little unprepared and say, I'll just play golf and see what happens, instead of just trying to focus like any other week.
Yeah, they are great events. I'd like to see a few more, like maybe CA or the Match Play would travel around the world a little bit so we could get to see other parts of the world. It's a little unfair for the guys from Europe and Asia and Australia that they don't get to go home and play in their events when they are supposed to be World Golf Championships.
Q. Just wondering if you had much of a chance to talk with Ryan Armour who is from Akron; have you had much chance to talk with him, and if you have, have you just been trying to help him get through his rookie year on TOUR?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I've talked to him quite a bit. Obviously most of the weeks I'm playing, he's out there.
Yeah, he's obviously -- spending a few years on the Nationwide Tour helps with learning to travel and all that good stuff. It's one of those things, you're almost better -- if he asks something, I'll just let him know how I feel or what's the best way to do it. But for the most part, I mean, he's a great player, so just play golf and let that take care of itself. It's still the same game. No matter what tour you play or what level you play, you still have to get the ball in the hole as quickly as possible.
So I just let him go. He's a great player and he'll be fine. If he doesn't get in, it's a shame because he's a great player and he will eventually.
Q. I know you're one of the two guys here from northeast Ohio that are still playing and playing well on TOUR, do you feel a little kinship between yourselves?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I grew up in central Ohio and northeast Ohio and he came to Ohio State and I came to Kent State to play so, flipped paths. He's a great player and good guy and there's a good -- there's a couple Ohio boys out there and it's a great golf state. You have Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, the three big cities and they are all big golfing cities. You can come into Cleveland or Columbus and for a week and play great golf courses and not play the same course twice. It's a shame there's not more players out there, but eventually there's a few guys that are up-and-coming that will probably be out there one day. It's always been a great golf city and just right now, the two of us from northeast Ohio will be out there and it will be great.
LAURA NEAL: Ben, we really appreciate your time. Enjoy the rest of your week off and safe travel overseas.
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