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October 16, 2008

Mike Stevens

Hal Sutton

THE MODERATOR: I want to thank you for joining us. This is our third national teleconference of the 2008 season, featuring Mike Stevens and the latest addition to the rookie class of 2008, a gentleman that's had major success on the PGA Tour, and past champion of the Shell Houston Open, Hal Sutton.
We'll have opening remarks from Champions Tour president Mike Stevens followed by remarks from Hal, then some questions and answers.
Mike Stevens is president of the Champions Tour. Mike is an 11-year TOUR veteran. He's a former tournament director at our Hilton Head event with the PGA TOUR. He also founded a sports marketing and event management company in Hilton Head. He's responsible for all aspects of the Champions Tour. Prior to assuming his current role, he was chief operating officer of the Champions Tour. Mike, along with all of rest of us, are excited about Hal's debut this week.
Here is Mike Stevens.
MIKE STEVENS: Good morning, everybody. It's great to be here. Appreciate everyone joining us this morning as we welcome Hal Sutton to the Champions Tour.
Before I get started, I wanted to say a few words about World Golf Hall of Fame member Seve Ballesteros, who as I understand underwent nearly 12 hours of brain surgery yesterday for removal of a tumor. We are not certain what the situation is currently. However, I do want everyone to know that our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. We wish him all the best in his recovery.
Seve obviously had just an incredible golf career. We were lucky enough to have him come out here and play with us last year in Birmingham. I'm sorry he just hasn't been able to play with us week in and week out, but we wish him the best.
I am delighted to welcome Hal to the Champions Tour. Before we get started talking to Hal, I wanted to briefly touch upon the Champions Tour season to date.
We're through our 26th of 29 events. The season is characterized by great performances from both our veterans and our rookies. The rookies have come out, played well, and have established themselves as stars. So a little pressure on the gentleman sitting here to my left. But the veterans have not yet decided that they're going to step aside and hang up their shoes just yet.
17 different winners in 26 events. The winners have included Tom Watson, Tom Kite, rookie Bernhard Langer, Mark Wiebe, Jeff Sluman, Fred Funk, Jay Haas, and actually Loren Roberts and D.A. Weibring's great championship last week at the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. Nine multiple event winners so far this year, eight of them with two victories, including Eduardo Romero, who has three. Unfortunately Eduardo is not playing in the field this week, just taking the week off before he finishes the last two. And we've had a lot of playoff wins.
We're on the road to Sonoma right now with the Charles Schwab Cup. It's a very tight race with only 28 points separating our current leader Fred Funk and Jay Haas, with Bernhard Langer in third just 217 points behind Fred. It's going to be an exciting week as we make our way to Sonoma here in just a couple weeks.
Beyond the Charles Schwab Cup race, we have a few races going on. Obviously the top 30 Money List for those to get eligibility into the Charles Schwab Cup, and eligibility into the Champions Tour next year. Then obviously we'll be voting on our Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, various other awards later in the year.
As far as the year-to-date, as it particularly relates to this week, I just want to thank Administaff for all of their support for this tournament. It's truly a great championship. What a great decision to move the golf course back here to The Woodlands. There's been such tremendous history with the Shell Houston Open being here for so many years. Many of the players who are playing on the Champions Tour right now were playing in that event back when the PGA TOUR was here. Certainly the tournament has seen great and exciting championships through the year. We're delighted to be here.
I flew in last night. I understand the golf course is in great shape despite the heavy rains we got yesterday. I know all the folks and players are very much looking forward to playing here. I hope the fans here in Houston and The Woodlands come out and enjoy the tournament like they did back in the PGA TOUR days.
Let's get to the man right here to our left. Enough about the Champions Tour. It's great to have our newest rookie join us here in Houston. He's had 14 PGA TOUR victories. The last of his 14 victories came here at the Shell Houston Open. So what a great way to start your Champions Tour career with your last victory here on the PGA TOUR.
His 14 wins include the 1983 PGA Championship and two PLAYERS Championships in 1983 and 2000. We all remember the great shot you hit on the 18th hole at the PLAYERS in 2000. "Be the one, be the one." We said that many times when I played the 18th at the TPC at Sawgrass and unfortunately it was never the one. Captain of the Ryder Cup in 2004 and also in some distinguished company with Tom Watson, Jay Haas, Gary Player, and most recently Davis Love III as recipient of the Payne Stewart Award in 2007.
No more fitting introduction for the Champions Tour's newest member Hal Sutton than to describe the criteria of the Payne Stewart Award. The Payne Stewart Award is given annually to the player who reflects the late Payne Stewart's respect for the traditions of the game, his commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support, and his professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to welcome to the Champions Tour Mr. Hal Sutton.
HAL SUTTON: Thanks, Mike.
I knew I was excited to be here when I walked in the locker room and I knew everybody walking through the door. Looked for my name on the tee time list, and I knew everybody that was on the list, too. I thought I was at home when I got here.
On the serious side, I'd like to thank Administaff for their support of the Champions Tour. I'm excited to be out and see old friends, to get back into doing something that I at least at one time knew how to do.
I haven't been very involved in the actual playing side of golf for four years, so my expectations are not as high as I probably should have them right now. But I felt like coming here this week to a place where I'd had some success might be somewhat comforting when they call out my name on the first tee because it hasn't been called out in quite some time.
Anyway, I'm excited about being here this week and being at The Woodlands. A little note about The Woodlands. I was really sorry to see it leave the TOUR. I felt like it had probably the most exciting finish outside of TPC at Sawgrass. Starting at the 13th hole here, you'd see everything from eagles to others coming down the stretch. You never knew who was going to win until it was holed out on the 18th hole. I think that's one reason why we had such big crowds here and everything else, it was exciting. I mean, it's exciting when you see guys making eagles, birdies, doubles, all sorts of stuff. I can't tell you how many times I thought I hit a really good shot on 17 only to watch the water splash on the right-hand side.
I think the fan base in Houston should look forward to an exciting event. I know the field is very strong this week. It's certainly a field of names that everybody has heard of and can relate to. I'm excited to be in the field.

Q. How much have you been able to practice? Did you pick up clubs two weeks ago, a week ago, yesterday?
HAL SUTTON: Let me give you a history of the last four years. About three weeks ago I started thinking about playing this week and I started practicing. When you haven't played that much, to go out and spend two or three hours on the practice tee was exhausting. So this has been a slow, gradual process.
I've progressed to the point that it's fairly solid on the practice tee, and we'll see if we can get part of that from the practice tee onto the golf course. But the main purpose, I wanted to play these last two events. They were close to home. Kind of stick my toe in the water, if you will, see what needs to be done in the off-season and really go at this full steam ahead next year.
I've got a lot of friends here in Houston, a lot of friends in San Antonio, so it made sense for this to be the two events I played.
I really like The Woodlands. I really like Oak Hill. It's a nice time to be playing in a golf tournament.

Q. Where is your head now in terms of playing golf? You haven't wanted to play that much in the last four years. Where are you mentally?
HAL SUTTON: I think in a healthy spot, to be quite honest with you. I think I'm excited about playing. Certainly want to do the best I can. I'm certain my expectations will grow with every shot that I hit basically.
But I'm not going to live and die on every shot. I mean, that's not just the nature of 50 years old. I think that's one of the nice things about the Champions Tour. When you're trying to prove to yourself and to the rest of the world as a younger player that, hey, I fit in, isn't that what the world is trying to do, fit in kind of? Regardless of how good you are, you burst out onto the TOUR. Who bursts out onto the TOUR with more credentials than Tiger Woods? And nobody was certain how he was going to fit in. He's proved he really fits in well.
There is uncertainty in other people's minds as you prove to yourself, or you don't, you're angry, you're living and dying with every shot, aspiring to be the best you can be. I don't think at 50 years old there's any need in crying ourself to sleep because today was a bad day. I think your celebration lasts a little bit less in victory because you know it's just taken in stride. You're trying to slow time down is what I'm trying to say.
I think my head is in a healthy spot here. My kids have taught me how to be a little more patient.

Q. Are you still doing design projects? Are there other things you're going to be doing along with playing the Champions Tour?
HAL SUTTON: I don't have any plans on that. I helped the TPC at Treviso Bay, and that golf course turned out really good. We got a lot of nice of accolades at Boot Ranch. I feel very rewarded in what little design business I've been in, too.
This is what I know best: playing golf. I tell you, life's simpler just by playing golf. I mean, when you have to take on everybody else's wants and needs and desires, opinions, every other thing, it complicates process.
I mean, truthfully, I'm really looking forward to playing golf.

Q. (Question regarding seeing familiar faces and stories.)
HAL SUTTON: I don't know that we shared any stories yesterday. I mean, all of the conversations yesterday were brief, welcoming. I think at sight, memories come back to you. You know, when you see your old friends, you know he knows the memories, I know the memories. We didn't even talk about them really.
But, you know, they certainly welcomed me and said, We're glad to see you out here. Bruce Fleisher had something really funny to say. He said, Let me tell you about the SENIOR TOUR -- Champions Tour, I'm sorry. When do I get fined?
MIKE STEVENS: Got it right here (laughter).
HAL SUTTON: Anyway, he said, When you see these guys, they walk out on the range, you'll look at them and say, I know he can't beat me, look how old he looks.
It's really funny. I mean, at least to this minute it's not about this to me, winning or losing. I'm sure there's still some of that in everybody. We're competitors at heart. I just don't think our self-esteem is going to be -- we're going to derive our self-esteem from victory. I think that's the healthier spot I was talking about the brain being in.

Q. What kind of stuff came back to you when you showed up yesterday?
HAL SUTTON: Well, parking spot with your name on it. That was the first thing I noticed. I don't get that anywhere else.
MIKE STEVENS: You don't get that at the grocery store.
HAL SUTTON: Exactly. Then, you know, I don't know, just golf course in perfect condition. I mean, we get spoiled. You forget how spoiled you are until you go back to the real world and you realize that, hey, they do aerify birdie cup greens everywhere. We just don't happen to see that because everybody is aspiring to have their golf course in perfect condition when the tours show up. So we don't ever see that. But that's part of the everyday life of a golf course, is though things.

Q. Did you get to play?
HAL SUTTON: I played 10 holes. The golf course is perfect.

Q. You're playing at a different time of year than the old Shell. That was in April. Here you are in October. That's a big difference.
HAL SUTTON: You know, they keep telling me they're making these clubs and balls go further. Unfortunately, I can't drive it in the same place I was driving it in 2001. I don't know if it was because it was wet or what. I don't know whose fault it was, but that's an excuse, it's always somebody else's fault (laughter).

Q. Did you think back to winning here? You mentioned the excitement coming down the stretch every year here. Did your mind flash to anything in particular, the familiarity of being here?
HAL SUTTON: You know, I won it once and had three or four other occasions that could have one it. I was in the group that got caught in the aqua on 17. Had high hopes until I gave it a bath on 17.
The main thing that comes back to my mind here is this was one of my favorite places to play. The hospitality of everybody, the Houston Golf Association, everybody that's always been involved in any golf event in Houston, I just got a lot of really good memories of Houston both on and off the golf course, friends.
I'm staying at Champions with Jackie this week. Jackie has become one of my very dearest friends in the world. I enjoy spending time with him. This has become almost like a second home to me, so...

Q. What does Jackie say to you about starting your new adventure here?
HAL SUTTON: He's excited to see me play some. But he said, Don't get caught up in playing till your 70 years old. He said some people get caught up in doing that. I said, Jackie, what are you doing at 85, tell me? Running a club, you know.
The core of this whole thing is this is what we do. For our sake, fortunately, the world, the Tour, lots of people that love the game, have found a place for the Champions Tour. I think it has a special place in a lot of people's hearts. I think that guys support it very well. I think it's kind of nice when you see old names you've had a lot of Sunday afternoon memories with embark on your town and do their thing one more time. I think for that reason we should all be thankful for that.

Q. You mentioned Treviso earlier. I wanted to ask you if going through that process with a TPC course, setting up holes, thinking about what a TOUR player would do, helped you out at all or helped keep that part of your mind fresh?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I think, first of all, Treviso Bay was a fun project with Sanjay and his family. They were tremendous, the developers of the project. They wanted a tremendous product, and hopefully they think they have it now that we're finished with it. We built that golf course with TOUR players in mind, trying to keep it as fair as we possibly could keep it for the average player, which is the bulk of the game, but at the same time wanting to challenge guys that feel pretty studly about their game. I think we did a good job there. But it did keep my mind fresh, knowing how I felt everybody wanted to picture a hole in their mind and then see it with green grass on it.
I think it will be very challenging when and if we ever get there. I think we probably will one day. So I enjoyed the process.

Q. I wanted to know if you had planned on trying to play any PGA TOUR events in the future? A lot of players try to play a balanced schedule.
HAL SUTTON: Well, I don't have any plans of trying to do that right now. I think we'll take this one step at a time. I think I tee off at 12:00 tomorrow on the 1st hole. Right now my mindset's trying to hit the fairway at The Woodlands here on the first shot. We'll move on to the next shot after that. Somewhere down the line, if I play well enough, I might think about playing out there.
But those guys, as they say in their commercials, Those guys are good.

Q. When you were at Treviso, you were talking about the dinner that Paul Azinger had with some of the former Ryder Cup captains. Can you go back to that, the process, assuming you watched it, seeing the U.S. winning.
HAL SUTTON: First of all, which golfer didn't watch the Ryder Cup? So that obviously answers your question. Yes, I did. I was there, too, by the way. I thought Paul did an incredible job. I think he had a great group of assistants in Dave Stockton, Olin Browne. I think he had a great group of hungry young players that didn't give two cents about what had happened over the last 20 years, were looking to make their mark in life, and certainly they did.
I mean, as an American, it was nice to look up and see Americans holing putts, making birdies. I think the way the golf course was set up, it was set up for that. I think he felt like at the end of the day Americans could make more birdies. I think that's pretty much what ended up happening and why they won.
So I think my hat's off to Paul. I think he did an incredible job. I always thought Paul would make a great captain. But at the end of the day I think all of your past captains would say this, including Paul, it only is going to be effective if the guys hit the shots and make the putts. We can all go back, as we do throughout time, in all walks of life, second guess and be an armchair quarterback. Certainly in failure we would all do things differently.
But he did a tremendous job. I don't think we should take anything away from all the players. I think everybody played great. I think that's why America was victorious.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody, for joining us. We look forward to a great week. Again, welcome to Hal Sutton, part of the class of 2008.
HAL SUTTON: Thank you.

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