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February 22, 2005

Nick Price


CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome World Golf Hall of Famer Nick Price to the media center. Nick, talk a little bit about the state of your game.

NICK PRICE: Well, it's probably a lot better than it has been in the since probably July of last year. I felt my game was starting to slide a little bit after my summer holiday with my kids. I came back and played the World Series and Hartford and didn't play very well at all and was actually going to take some time off and work on my game, and the hurricane hit us at home. So that put a bit of a damper on working on my game and getting it back.

By the time we had finished everything there, the year was just about over. So I did go back and play in South Africa in December, and played pretty well.

But this year started off a little differently. I just feel that my game has made a little bit of a turnaround. There was no light at the end of the tunnel in August of last year. I can now see a little ray of hope there. So I'm hoping that my game will be a lot better this year than it has.

My putting basically the last year, two years has salvaged my game. If I hadn't putted as well as I had done, I'd probably be down the road a little earlier. But now my long game seems to be coming home, and if I continue to putt like I have done, hopefully this will be a year to look forward to.

I'm pretty excited about playing this year, but tomorrow I have my work cut out. I'm No. 64 in the world and playing No. 2 in the world. I don't have an awful lot to lose tomorrow. I feel that if I play solidly and don't make any mistakes and make four or five birdies, I think we'll have a good match, 18 hole match play is very unpredictable.

Tiger is obviously going to have a huge advantage over me distance wise because the course is so wet. But it's going to be screwy out there, the ball is going to be sliding all over the place and it's going to be, I think, a patience game, as well. It's not going to be the normal kind of golf like you'd expect to play; it will be probably lift, clean and place, which will reward the guy who hits the most fairways, as well. That also helps me out a little bit. I've got to play well tomorrow, there's no doubt.

CHRIS REIMER: Less pressure playing against Tiger; you play like you have nothing to lose?

NICK PRICE: Yeah, in 18 hole match play, the underdog always has the slight advantage from a mental point of view, because you've really got nothing to lose. And you have to go out there and just fire. And that's what I'll tend to do tomorrow. I've been on both sides of the coin, and when you are playing well you're at the peak of your game and suddenly you shoot a 68 or 69, you come up against a guy that shoots 66, you're down the road. So it's something that Tiger has enough experience, he knows what that's about. And so do I.

But I hope we both play well tomorrow, that's what I want. I don't want either person to play poorly and not make a game of it. I'm looking forward to it, to be honest with you, I really am.

Q. Can you remember a situation where you were like 1 or 2 in the world and you were playing in other match situations where the situation was reversed?

NICK PRICE: This event unfortunately wasn't around when I was up top 4 or 5 in the world. The World Match Play, first couple of rounds, even then you would play guys who were 9th, 10th or 11th or 12th in the world. It wasn't like you were playing up against the guy that was 64th. In all honesty, if you take the top 6 players now in the field and you look at say from 7, 8 onwards, there's not a lot that separate those guys from the guys that are 50th.

There's obviously no doubt Tiger and Phil and Ernie Ernie is not here, but Goose, those guys are all have shown how strongly and well they've played over the last four or five years. But the rest behind that, they've all been sort of jockeying for the places behind that. I can't really remember, to be honest.

Q. When you were up there in that top 4 or 5 in the world, do you remember a time that all of the top guys were peaking as much as it seems like these top five guys are in their best form, maybe

NICK PRICE: There was a period there where Fred Couples, Greg, myself and Nick Faldo were all playing really well. I think the only time we really got together in those days was at major championships and The PLAYERS Championship. But certainly '93, '92, '93, '94, all four of us were playing look, I'm not going to say we were all playing as well as these guys are, but relatively speaking, compared to the other guys we were. We were dominating the game at that stage. We played Skins Games against each other, but nothing of this magnitude.

Q. How exciting was that for you guys participating in it as well as do you think for the people watching it?

NICK PRICE: There's nothing better. People often ask me what was the most memorable round of my career, and one of them was certainly in the top 3 was playing Seve head to head at the Lytham Open. We were both playing extremely well, and it was you whoever won that championship wasn't going to win it by the other guy making mistakes, he was going to win it. That's the great thing.

When you're playing that well you hit shots and you do things that sometimes surprise yourself. And it's a great thing to be a part of, let alone watching it sometimes.

Q. Do you think playing Tiger tomorrow will bring out some of that magic? Are you going to be looking for something like that?

NICK PRICE: I hope so. I hope so. Like I say, mentally I've done a big turnaround as opposed to say this time last year where I really wasn't looking forward to playing that much. Now I am. So that's one step in the right direction.

It just seems the things I've been working on with my game are starting to respond a little bit than they did in times gone to a year ago. You can certainly feel over a period of time that your game starts sliding. And I felt that toward the middle of 2003. My iron game wasn't quite as crisp, my driving wasn't quite as accurate. And what made it more frustrating was the more practice I did, that didn't help. It just sort of like kept it at a certain level, instead of sort of getting better. It just seems that recently now when I've been practicing, I've seen a spike in the way I'm playing. So that's important, you know, to me. So mentally I feel a little more that I have a chance.

Q. I'm curious with all the ebbs and flows you've had in your career, what the craziest this game has ever made you?

NICK PRICE: I think I'm a realist in that I don't blame things that happened to me on the golf course to third parties or to outside influences. Pretty much from an early age, I was lucky that I would recognize where I was at fault and I would address the issue. Case in point was that Open at Lytham against Seve when I didn't putt well. I said to my wife after I finished that he beat me on the greens today. And if I'm going to win a major championship, that's what I've got to do.

So some guys go into a corner and they hide away or whatever. Golf has always meant a lot to me, but it's never, ever been the absolute end of all ends. And the peaks and troughs that I go through, I felt when I went through a trough it was the best to get away from the game a while and not scrutinize it too deeply, go and fish a few weeks, get away from the game, do something that would take you away from the game and come back with a fresh start. And that worked for me my entire career.

When I started my my game started going south a little bit in 2003, again I started saying this is 47 or 46, that's what is supposed to happen, when you get to 46 or 47, your game is supposed to slide, it's not supposed to be as sharp. But I felt watching Jay Haas last year and the year before, that I could get it in myself to go to the practice tee more often that I could elevate my game. But of course when I did that, it didn't happen.

So this has been the first period now for me where I can actually say that I've made an improvement in my game by practicing. So what that does, it sort of builds on itself. You want to go out and practice more. You actually want to go hit balls as opposed to just going through the motions and warming up.

Emotionally this game it affects everybody so differently, and I think that it also shows what kind of character you are.

Q. Do you think there's any advantage to playing Tiger right out of the box as opposed to maybe three or four matches into it where he might be feeling like he's rolling?

NICK PRICE: He has played awfully well the last few weeks. I think having won the Buick, he likes this neck of the woods, there's no doubt about it, excuse the pun. He likes this part of the world. He's played awfully well here, and his record in this event is pretty strong, too.

So Tiger is Tiger. I don't care whether you play him in the first or last round; you've got your work cut out. For me I would like to have two or three rounds under my belt and have a little more confidence. Tomorrow is only going to be my third round on the PGA TOUR this year. It would have been good to have had two or three and then faced him, had a feel of the course or whatever. But match play I've got to say is unpredictable.

Q. How frustrating was the weekend sitting around, and now coming here and sitting around, not getting out, and how difficult does that make it, given that it's match play and you don't get this couple of rounds to kind of get in a rhythm?

NICK PRICE: It wasn't that frustrating for me, because I didn't really have an opportunity to win last week, I didn't think. Had I been 5 or 6 under and had an opportunity and was playing well, and had a chance to go out on Saturday or Sunday and make up ground, I would have been extremely frustrated. I wanted to play four rounds going into this week.

I knew last week where I was going to be playing, and I needed to play a little more golf. So that part of it was frustrating. It's hard for me to feel frustrated when I look at what the superintendents and everyone at the tournament did last week. That golf course was in such immaculate condition on Tuesday, and to see what happened to it, my heart goes out to the superintendent, because I spoke to him early in the week and he had worked so hard. I've never seen Riviera so good in February. So my frustration pales in comparison to that [].

Q. If you had not already qualified to be in The Masters field, the last week of the season with the top 50 rankings would have bumped you out. When nobody played that week, all the people that moved around and jostled between those spots, but do you think in that respect that's kind of a quirky barometer of who's in and who's out?

NICK PRICE: You know, I haven't really looked at the way the point system works. I know they revised it last year. It's not something that I go and look at every week, but I think if you look at the top 10 in the world, they've got the recipe right. It's always indicative it's always a good sign to see that we've got those players. Vijay deserves to be No. 1, there's no doubt about it. So they've got that recipe right.

For me, you know, last year I was watching that, because had it had a lot of relevance on this year. But also you have the chance I can get the chance to get back in the top 50 by playing well this stretch. So I said to myself, if I'm out of the top 50, I have to play well, the same with the U.S. Open, and accrue some points and get on that deadline.

Q. They eliminated the automatic qualifier for the PGA TOUR winner. You have to do something to go beat the other guy, whereas you're kind of splitting hairs between 47 and 60 on that thing. Should they tweak it in any other way?

NICK PRICE: You know, I'm sure they'll continue to tweak it. There's always going to be inequities down the way. There was always that one where the guy who won the week before didn't get in. That was terrible, because you always want if I was Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup captain, my two picks, I would look really hard at the guys who have played the three weeks before going into that. So that was really one of the flaws in the old system, so I think it's a lot better now because in my early days the international players were very few at Augusta. Now there's 30 guys or 40 guys. It's a lot easier to get in as a foreigner to Augusta through the World Ranking than when I started out playing.

Back in 1980 had there been a World Ranking, then I certainly would have been in the top 50. And there was no way I was going to get in Augusta. I won three events around the world, which would have probably put me in the top 50 on the World Ranking, but they weren't even going to look at me. I won the Swiss Open and two tournaments in South Africa, and finished top 10 six, seven times in Europe. But now I think it's better because the guys who can really play get into that tournament.

Q. Harrington was in a while ago, saying that this was the real game, match play, that's how it's meant to be?

NICK PRICE: It's a great game, no doubt. Is there room for more match play on the Tour? I don't think so. I think 72 hole stroke play, the pressures and the rewards of playing consistently let's say it was flipped and you had 43 match play tournaments and one stroke play. The World Ranking I don't think would look like it does today; it would look a lot different.

Q. Do you like match play?

NICK PRICE: I do, yeah. But Presidents Cup, this event, World Match Play, that's enough. We don't need to have five or six events a year. Match play is great fun. The only sad thing is you can be playing as we mentioned earlier, you can be playing great, shoot 66 and you come up against a guy that shoots 65 and you're down the road. And if you played any one of the other 31 guys you would have gone through.

That's where it's unfair sometimes, whereas in stroke play you go into the next day, you're one behind the lead. You're one under the lead. And that's one thing that's kind of sad. And I think also match play has a tendency for getting sometimes getting lesser players through to the quarter finals. Once your top players are gone, the interest just isn't the same. You've got to have your top players getting into one or two of your top players getting into the quarter finals, you have to; otherwise it's just not the same.

Q. At this stage in your career, what are your personal expectations out here on Tour?

NICK PRICE: No. 1, make The Presidents Cup team this year. That's a huge motivating force for me this year, to make it in the top 10, and if I don't accrue enough, to show Gary Player that I've played well enough to warrant an invitation. That's what I want to do this year. Of any event that I ever played of in my life, when I stop playing golf, that will be the one I miss the most. I've become a big fan of the Presidents Cup.

Q. What about in terms of winning tournaments or competing in majors?

NICK PRICE: Yeah, you know, if I start playing well if I continue to show the form in my game and it improves, then winning will be an option. If I putt well and keep doing what I'm doing, I think I have a chance to win again this year.

Q. Did you talk to Ernie? Do you thank him or curse him for pulling out?

NICK PRICE: I haven't spoken to him. Well, really if you look at my predicament, it's either Vijay, Ernie or Goose or whoever else, it would have been Phil. It's jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, so it doesn't really matter.

Q. What was tougher for you to handle mentally, when you were at the stage of your career where you thought you were hitting the ball well and you couldn't make a putt or you were putting well and your ball striking hasn't been quite what

NICK PRICE: The past few years it's been very frustrating. I kept saying to my caddie and my wife, if I putted like this when I was hitting the ball so well, I probably would have won 50, 60 tournaments. But unfortunately I had to learn to putt properly two years ago. And I won't say I putt great all the time now, but more often than not I putt well.

My long game now has decided to head out somewhere. But I've got a feeling, honestly I have a really good feeling that things are going to come together a little bit better this year. And I'm looking forward to playing, honestly, I really am. It's the first time in probably three years that I've actually got some desire to go out and practice and compete again.

Q. You've been a critic in the past of the way they've tweaked some of the courses to make them longer and the like. How does this course match up for your play? What do you think of LaCosta in terms of that light, being an old traditional course?

NICK PRICE: I think the course for this time of year and being on the West Coast, it's a great pick. Obviously with the resort here it's very comfortable. Everyone's right on premises. The golf course unfortunately this time of year is never in great shape. It seems like we get skunked by rain every year. But when you look at guys, long hitters get beaten here. It's not really just a long hitters' golf course. There's still a premium on accuracy here and iron play. So it's a good venue for this event, I really think it is. And it's helped boost the course over the years and I don't think it should move anywhere else in a hurry.

Q. What is it that you found in your putt, is there any particular

NICK PRICE: I went to Scotty Cameron three years ago, on the eve of this tournament, and he basically showed me the required amount of loft. He put me on track. I was close all over, and when I got all of my angles and everything right the ball started rolling properly. And that was something that I could never do really well. I would do it in streaks, but I never really understood why. And having worked with him, I now have a better understanding why. I have a better understanding of how what it takes to putt more consistently, and I've got a much better feel. And of course your line is related to your feel. And that's what's helped me so much.

End of FastScripts.

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