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AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA CONFERENCE


July 10, 2013


Derek Lowe

John Smoltz


STEVE GRIFFITH:  Thanks for joining the American Century Championship call, which is next week, just a few days away.  We're looking forward to seeing everyone out in Lake Tahoe.  John and Derek are on the line with us right now.
John, Derek, thanks for joining us today.  We appreciate your time.
Let me start with you, Derek.  What have you heard about the American Century Championship from others over the years that you haven't been able to play because of the Major League Baseball season?
DEREK LOWE:  First of all, it's an honor to get invited to the American Century Championship.  People say it's a lot harder than they thought.  I think all walks of life, wherever we're coming from here, we're not used to playing golf in front of people.  That's the one thing I've heard.  It's almost settling the nerves, finding a way just to play golf.
I've watched it every year.  I've always enjoyed it.  The field is always great.  The competition, especially at the top end, is always fun.  I know John on the other end is probably itching to get back and get his first win.
STEVE GRIFFITH:¬† John, you're still relatively new to the tournament, considering it's been around for 24 years.¬† I guess the Harrah's Harvey's Sports Book has you at 5‑1; Derek, you're 25‑1.
John, talk to us about what you thought the first time you came out and what's changed since you've had some experience there?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  First and foremost, it's the greatest event we get to play in.  I think after three years, I figured out how to not get so excited when I get there.  First year experience was tremendous.  Billy Joel set an all time record, so first place wasn't attainable.  Coming down the stretch, finished seconds, was fun.
The last two years have been pretty difficult for me, but I've learned a lot.  Physically I'm in a better place, so hopefully it will transcend into better results.
The greatest tournament for the celebrities.  It's a lot of fun.  Any time you have a chance to look at a leaderboard and see where you can finish amongst your peers, it's a blast.

Q.¬† John, there were reports out this week that Biogenesis suspensions may be coming out after the All‑Star break.¬† Could be looking at up to 20 players.¬† How big a deal is this for baseball?¬† Is this the biggest steroid‑related news?¬† Bigger than the Mitchell Report?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  I don't know about that.  It's going to take way too long to play itself out.  It's just the start of something that will have an end point.  When we stop talking about this, this should have been over three or four years ago, but hopefully this is the calm before the storm and it's over after that, whatever comes out of this.

Q.  Bud Selig said in 2010 the steroid era was a thing of the past.  Is that the end point you're talking about?  Does this suspension show he spoke too soon?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  Yeah, I think everybody was in disbelief with the way certain things came out.  I think when penalties become stiff enough, we'll be able to deal with this in some capacity.
Fans deserve better.  Baseball is a great game.  As soon as we're talking about this, it still remains cloudy.  I'm confident we have some clearer skies ahead.

Q.  John, you threw 10 games during your career where you struck out 10 without a walk.  Randy Johnson leads that category with 36.  Matt Harvey this season has done it three times.  My question is, how meaningful or telling do you think that stat is?  Does Harvey in any way remind you of Randy Johnson?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  No, he doesn't remind me of Randy Johnson.  I don't think anybody reminds me of Randy Johnson.
I think for Matt Harvey, he's certainly a cross between Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver maybe.  He's got a great future.  He's got an incredible pitch repertoire.
As far as the strikes with no walks, it's nice.  I don't think it's a precursor to anything other than the guy has great control.
There's times you got to walk guys.¬† The game works itself out.¬† The strike‑outs have become big things lately.¬† What I mean is not too many people think it's that big a deal as far as the hitters striking out at an all time rate.¬† Great young arms in the game and they're feasting off their ability to pitch.

Q.¬† This season is looking like it's going to be a record for that stat.¬† Kind of on Harvey.¬† Terry Collins said he's going to sit Harvey on Saturday so he can play him in the All‑Star Game.¬† Is he a deserving All‑Star starter?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  I think that's actually a brilliant move for a couple things.  You give the kid a rest.  The Mets are in transition.  They're having a nice rebound the last month.  They're playing good.
But he deserves to start the All‑Star Game.¬† The city deserves to see him start the All‑Star Game.
I guarantee you Bruce Bochy is not disappointed seeing him, because it gets the National League to get a leg up.  I think the National League has the best pitching staff representing right, left and closers.  It should be fun to watch.  I don't know there's going to be a lot of scoring.
DEREK LOWE:  I agree with that.  Especially being a young pitcher, especially starting pitchers, you ask what is the hardest month, everybody will say September.
Any time you can give a young pitch any rest is a wise choice.
Like John said, this is great for the city.  He's created such a tremendous buzz, rightfully so.  Guys want to see him pitch.  The city wants to see him pitch.  If he pitched on Saturday, he might not be able to pitch on Tuesday.
Now that I've become a fan, I think it's a wise choice.

Q.¬† No backlash from Mets fans who want to see him participate in regular‑season games?
DEREK LOWE:  It is New York, so there's probably going to be backlash for everything.  Doesn't matter what you do, people are going to say it's a bad choice.
I think if it didn't happen, I think people will be disappointed they didn't get an opportunity to see him pitch.  There's only one start.  You have plenty of chances in the second half to go out and see him pitch.

Q.  John, how does Edgewood match up with the courses you normally play?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  It matches my eyes.  Since my shoulder surgery, I asked the doctor to put a fade in there, and he did, so I can't draw the ball anymore.  Just about every hole, you need a good shot.
I love Edgewood.¬† All comes down to the greens, putting them, trying to find a way to make putts.¬† There's no lip‑ins.¬† There's just lip‑outs.
It's a great venue.  The American Century Championship has set itself up in a way, it's like our major, our only major.  It's a lot of fun.  The people enjoy it.  I love playing the course.  This year I've learned my lesson from years past.
I've tried to play catch‑up, but that doesn't bode well.¬† I kind of hit the wall come Friday.
DEREK LOWE:  I'm doing the complete opposite.  I'm doing what John did his first year, get there early, having never seen the course, but I have heard a lot of people say, and clearly John knows, it is the fader's golf course.
But, again, it's something that I can't wait to get out there for.  I think that's maybe your biggest downfall.  You do have to find a way to settle down, go out and play the game.
Again, this is our biggest championship.  I've never played in it.  It's an honor to go out there.  Guys love to compete.  Especially if you love the game of golf like I do, there's really no better venue.
For me, the more times I can play it, the first time out the better you will be.

Q.  John, you might be able to play beside Chipper Jones and Greg Maddux.  How terrific would that be?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  It will be fun for people if they like to see shots all over the place (laughter).
No, I'm kidding.  I just never want to have my back to Chipper.  He can hit it a country mile.  It will be a fun event for him.  First event since retiring.
Greg is starting to catch on a little bit.  Played a hundred or so more rounds with Greg.  When you get out in that arena, high expectations, you start doing things you would normally never do on the golf course.
Probably have to help Chipper out a little bit because he's going to hit it a long ways.  But it's a matter of keeping it on the course the first time.  Like Derek said, you just want to do well and have a blast.  The best way to have a blast is not chase your ball around too much.

Q.  Derek, how would you feel about getting back into the National League, maybe going to work for the Giants?
DEREK LOWE:  In the front office or play?

Q.  That's your call.  How about both?
DEREK LOWE:  Actually, it's funny you should bring up SanFrancisco.  It's always been my favorite place to pitch.  I think it's pitcher bias.  The park sets up so great to be a pitcher.  Seems like it's always cold at night, high grass.  They've obviously found the formula out there.
But, you know, right now, I don't know how I got released.  I had a 9 ERA through the first six weeks.  All kidding aside, I haven't put all that much time and effort to think about baseball.  You still keep yourself in shape.  But I think for the most part you've pretty much mentally have accepted where you are, and everyone has to come to that point.
You just hope when you get to that point you're happy with it.  As far as the game goes, you never can say never.  More than likely, you've probably thrown your last sinker.

Q.  Derek, on that last question, has your agent contacted the Giants to perhaps get you an audition?
DEREK LOWE:  No, no.  Again, the thing about kind of how my last two stints were, or I should say three, with Cleveland, New York, Texas, having been very fortunate to have somewhat of a more important role, starter, closer, what have you, for me kind of at that state, just kind of putting on a uniform and pitching, it was hard.  I really struggled with it this year in Texas.  More importantly, that's probably going to be a role moving forward.  That's why I pretty much made a decision that it's time to move on and do some other things.
I think I've been fortunate to play on some cool teams, win a championship.¬† But I turned 40 on June 1st.¬† Just to go out and be more of a fan, so to speak, is something I'm not willing to do at this time.¬† Again, having 9 and 13‑year‑old kids, to be able to play in the American Century Championship is a great honor to move on to your second stage of your career.

Q.¬† 25‑1 odds pretty much accurate for you?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  No, no.
DEREK LOWE:  Yes, it is.  Southwest Florida, I live down here, it rains every day.  You have to have some excuse.
Again, we're kind of saying the same thing.¬† John said it earlier.¬† You're going to do some things you normally don't do on a golf course, and that's strictly nerves.¬† I've never thrown gone to the mound and not worried about getting the ball to the plate.¬† There's times I've stepped on the T‑box worrying about what direction it's going to go.¬† That's something you're going to have to deal with.
Until you're in that arena, you never know how you're going to perform.

Q.¬† John, 5‑1 for you.¬† Have you played with Tony Romo?¬† Do you look at him as your biggest competition?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  Tony is not going to come this year because of the Hall of Fame game that the Cowboys are in, so Tony's training camp actually starts next week, unfortunately will not be with us.

Q.  That opens it up pretty good for you.
JOHN SMOLTZ:  I actually scheduled that Hall of Fame game (laughter).  No, no.
I'm my own worst enemy right now.  I always think I'm going to win.  It's a matter of putting it together.  There's so many guys out there that can play this course.  The way this course sets up, it's a risk/reward course.  To give you an example, I have yet to make an eagle on the par 5s, which all the winners do, with the exception of Jack Wagner.  He doesn't take any chances and it paid off last year.
5‑1 is fair.¬† I need to do better than an eighth or ninth‑place finish, whatever the last two years were.¬† I'm really looking forward to it.
The broadcasting gig gets in the way a little bit.  I'm at the mercy of where I'm going, whether I can play a little bit of golf here or there.  I think my new approach when I get there is going to pay off.  I'm going to be a little more rested.
STEVE GRIFFITH:¬† Dan Quinn is favored at 7‑2.¬† Rick Rhoden is 4‑1.¬† Billy Joe Tolliver 9‑2.¬† Then John at 5‑1.¬† Jack Wagner rounds out the top five at 6‑1.¬† Then other notables, Elway is 10‑1, and then Jerry Rice 30‑1, all the way down to Charles Barkley 500‑1.

Q.  Derek, it sounds like you're officially retired, is that what you're saying?
DEREK LOWE:¬† I mean, I'm kidding with my dad.¬† If you're not playing, I call yourself retired.¬† I've never been a guy where you have to announce anything.¬† I think it's pretty self‑apparent if you're not playing, you're retired.
But, yeah, I mean, again, I repeated earlier, I've always prided myself on being a competitor.  I think when the role dictates that you're really not going to compete, you're going to have to fill up the stat sheet till nine innings are played.
That wasn't something that I was willing to do.  There's other kids.  You got to give other guys opportunities, too.  It's not like I was really going to make a big impact on Texas, though I was so grateful they did give me an opportunity.
Again, I said earlier, I think at any point of anyone's career, if you can look at yourself in the mirror, say I've pretty much done everything I can possibly do, you're okay with that, I think you've had a successful career.  I was able to do that.
Again, to leave this game healthy, this is my 17th year, to never have to go on the DL, never have any nagging injuries, that was part of it, too.

Q.  What is your handicap, Derek?
DEREK LOWE:¬† I think it's like a zero‑point‑something.¬† But I think they have me in there as a 2.¬† Again, I don't think the handicaps are going to matter.
Experience, guys that kind of know.  John has figured out a formula of how to go about this year.  I'm on the complete other spectrum.  I need to play as many times as I can.
Again, how much more can you ask of just having a great field, great sponsors, it's going to be on TV, the whole nine yards.  You look forward to getting out there and try to compete the best you can.

Q.¬† John, Dan Quinn, probably one of your biggest hurdles here at this tournament, he caddies for Ernie Els.¬† The odds makers at the British had them at 85‑1 for both‑of‑them to win this weekend.¬† What do you think Els' chances are, if you have an opinion?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  I hope one of the two of them win.  I think it would be neat that the guys have been able to work together.  I'm a big Ernie Els fan.  The Big Easy, for golf, kind of resurrected himself after some injuries.  Dan Quinn is a solid player.  He really doesn't do a whole lot wrong.
You see the guys that have done well here, maybe with the exception of Billy Joe Tolliver, a course director waiting to happen, he gets after it.  He almost doesn't care, that's what makes him so dangerous, but he's got such a solid game.  The guys that plod along, don't take chances, don't make double bogeys, that's what wins in this format.
It's going to be a fun challenge and a good thing to see if that could possibly happen on the same weekend.
STEVE GRIFFITH:  It has happened twice before.  In 2002 Quinn and Els both won.  And last year, they both win, Quinn at Tahoe, and Els at the British.

Q.  The local boys are putting on the heat on me, Derek, to get you signed for the Giants.  After hearing the remarks, I'm going to give you some tips on the golf course.
DEREK LOWE:  I thank you for that.

Q.  Two to three irons up because you're at 6,000 feet.  If you just relax and enjoy the most awesome scenery you've ever seen at a golf course, you might relax a little bit.  You're definitely going to encounter some unbelievable play up there.  The scenery usually wipes people out.
DEREK LOWE:  I look forward to it.

Q.  John, sounds like you're dialed in, how competitive you are, with your game plan, a true competitor.
JOHN SMOLTZ:  I've got more pressure on me than I would like because when you're supposed to win or compete to win, you don't live up to your own expectations, it's kind of frustrating.
Physically I'm better.  But I want to win so bad that I think I'm going to have to throttle it down.

Q.  Why are you succumbing to the pressure of winning?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  Because I want to take this game to a different level.
DEREK LOWE:  Did you learn something from Mickelson?  Are you taking the private jet in?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  No, those days have ended.
DEREK LOWE:  Mickelson changed this year.
JOHN SMOLTZ:  36 Monday, 36 Tuesday, 36 Wednesday, 18 Thursday, then the tournament, and I wondered why I didn't have my fast ball when I ended the game.

Q.  That's a disease you should see a doctor about.
JOHN SMOLTZ:  When you don't get to play two weeks up to that point, that's what I felt like I had to do, but now I don't have to deal with that anymore.

Q.  John, were you an early starter in golf?  Did you play as a kid or pick it up once you got in organized baseball?
JOHN SMOLTZ:¬† I hated golf.¬† I didn't think it was much of a sport.¬† In my first year of A‑ball, I had time on my hands, I picked that up, and fishing.¬† Became obsessed with it.¬† Didn't understand the history of it, the etiquette, nothing.¬† I've gotten to play some of the greatest golf courses in the world because of baseball.

Q.  You talk about the tournament, a different approach.  As you look at that course, are there some holes you feel you need to play better on and holes that have given you trouble in the past?
JOHN SMOLTZ:¬† Yeah, there's always those holes.¬† The par 5s, it really comes down to putting for me.¬† Last year I hit the first 12 greens and I was 3‑over par.¬† I pretty much checked out after that.¬† I have to find a way to not let the greens change.
Poa annua is different out west.  Players struggle east to west, west to east.  I now understand the difference.  Spend more time putting and chipping when I get there than I normally do.

Q.  Who won the most money when you and Glavine and Maddux would go out during spring training and play golf?
JOHN SMOLTZ: ¬†I was tired of hearing those guys crying about strokes, so I played them two‑on‑one, which allowed them to win a few more times than me.
We had a blast.  Never let it get carried away.  It was hard for Glavine to pay for dinner, so when he won in golf, he got to pay for dinner.

Q.  Derek, back to Biogenesis.  I heard this round of investigations is being treated differently in the clubhouse versus 10 years ago because clean players are more interested in seeing players punished for drug use.  Is that accurate, in your experience?
DEREK LOWE:  To be honest with you, I hardly, if ever, hear it mentioned.  Maybe you and somebody talk about it.  I think there's the frustration level that it seems like every year or two something pops up.
I think we're so fortunate to have guaranteed contracts.  The only way to maybe stop this thing is if someone gets caught, the contract they did have doesn't become guaranteed.  Like John said, science is always going to be ahead of us and I think people are always going to try to find a way.
But as far as the perception that we sit around and talk about it, I know in Texas, there's really not a lot of talk about it.  I think everyone wants a clean game, 100%.  Everyone wants to feel like they're on the same playing field.  As long as there's science out there, I think guys are going to keep trying to find a way.
Maybe if you made the penalties harder, stiffer, if they lost guaranteed contracts, which probably would never happen, but it doesn't seem like these 50‑game suspensions are putting a complete halt to it, which I think all of us wish would happen.

Q.  As someone who played 10 years ago, do you notice any gives in the game from a steroid or banned substance perspective?
DEREK LOWE:  I think the home runs are clearly down.  I see guys throwing harder than they ever have.  You look at the majority of these team's bullpens, 95 is the norm coming out.  Definitely the runs and the hits, clearly by the size of people.
But it's still a great game.  Let's not try to get away from how fun the game is.  Again, maybe it's not the home run era, but you still have to play the game right.  You look at guys that know how to pitch, know how to play defense, little things, those teams have as good a chance as maybe 10 years ago.
You look around, there's unbelievable talent, especially young talent that you never saw before.  You didn't see 10 years ago five, six rookies on a team.  It's great to see now.  As a fan of certain teams, I'm from Detroit, but do you see all those young guys, Matt Harvey in New York, like we talked about.  It's a good game and it's the fairest.  You want guys to get as big as they can naturally.

Q.  Derek, have you ever been in this region before, played any golf in the Tahoe area specifically?  And are you a bit surprised by the Red Sox's success this year?
DEREK LOWE:  To answer your first question, no, I've never played out there.  I think that's one of the reasons I'm going to try to get out there, you know, get the elevation change, just to see the course.
Secondly, no, having played for an organization for eight years, knowing how prideful they are, they learned last year from mistakes, call them what you will, but I still know a lot of guys out there, some of the guys from the front office, made a decision to go more about what you would call baseball guys, David Ross, Jonny Gomes.  They brought in a manager that knew how to deal with the city, which I think is very important.  They went back to basics that will grind it out for 162 games.
I think people were more shocked what happened last year than what they're doing this year.  It's great to see because that city, they love the Red Sox.  There's very few places that you want to come the stretch run rather than playing in Boston.

Q.  John, do you have an actual number in mind in points that it will take to put you over the top?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  Yes.  Anything over 16 points in the first round, which I've never been able to top.
I'd love to average 24 to 26.  I mean, that's a lot of birdies.  This format, I think it's a great format for this field.  If you make six birdies and six bogeys, you're better off than making 18 pars.  You really got to make birdies and eagles.  The guy who makes the best birdies and eagles are the ones that are going to win.
I find myself every once in a while getting carried away with a personal score, and there's no reason to do that.  The second year I started out with three straight birdies.  Last year, when I messed up, I was standing on 16 waiting 20 minutes to hit my shot, adding all my points that I was going to get the remainder of the way, it didn't happen, I shanked my next shot.
So those are things you learn.

Q.  John, could you talk a little bit about your schedule on Wednesday.  Obviously you're going to be busy playing early.  Have you been down in Reno before?
JOHN SMOLTZ:¬† I'm going to end up being there from 11:30 to 1:30.¬† I have a unique opportunity not only to speak to the AAA All‑Stars, but my nephew pulled off a miracle and qualified for the junior amateur.¬† After speaking there, I'm going to go check out that place.¬† I'm going to take advantage of the time, break my day up.¬† Guarantee I can't play 36, and enjoy thinking about 27, 28 however many years ago when I played AAA and the opportunity that looks forward for these guys.

Q.  What is your nephew's name?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  Daniel Alt (phonetic).  He won the junior amateurs in Michigan.  Hit the jackpot.  Couldn't be happier for him.  Went home, and he beat me.  I knew he had gone to a different level.
He's a rising senior and hopes to play golf in college somewhere.
STEVE GRIFFITH:  One last thing for you guys.  The greens are in the best shape they've been in about 10 years.  John, who does that favor from among the contenders, would you say?  Derek, is that going to help you or not?
JOHN SMOLTZ:  Well, I'm glad to hear that because I've already had that focus of getting ready to putt the lights out.  Billy Joe Tolliver has, from what I've seen, and have yet to play in a group with him, I don't know that I did yet, he just putts those greens about as good as anybody.
It's a little combination of no fear, being able to make a 4‑footer when you have to.¬† The lag putts just don't go in.¬† Because they can get pretty quick, you have to have the ability to charge a putt when you should and not get crazy when you shouldn't.
I don't mind 3‑putting if it's going to cost me a birdie.¬† It's that 3‑putt that costs you a double bogey that throws you.
DEREK LOWE:  When it comes to greens, I think most courses, depending on where you are in the U.S., they tend to lean one way or the other, towards the mountain, towards the water, towards the city.
It's great for me to hear the greens are in great shape because I have nothing to compare it to.  Again, it's just getting the feel of a course, kind of where things go.
John hit it on the head.¬† Anytime you're going to be a good putter, you can't be afraid of the 3‑, 4‑footer coming back.¬† That's how you make 'em.¬† You got to pick your times to be aggressive, not be afraid to have that short one coming back.
STEVE GRIFFITH:  Gentlemen, thank you.  Thank you, everyone, for joining.  We'll see everybody next week.

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