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August 25, 2004

Nick Price


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Nick Price to the Buick Championship media center. Nick, last time you played here was in '94. Talk about how it feels to be back.

NICK PRICE: Well, when my son got to about five or six, a lot of you know, my priorities shifted a little bit in my life and my career. I did then and I still do today feel guilty playing golf when my kids are on summer vacation.

To clarify that, I don't think it's much of a summer vacation to drag them around in the summer and go to hotels and watch me play golf. That's not a summer vacation for them, and they got very bored and tired of that by the time each of them was about five. Unless it's Disney World or Callaway Gardens or somewhere elsewhere where they have something to do, it's really not much of a life for them.

I said to my wife in the mid 90s, when summer came along I was going to do a Bruce Lietzke, which is take as much time off as I can. I was still playing well, and I felt I had to play in the major championships, and I did up until two years ago when I skipped the PGA because that's just the worst time the tournament could be for me. It's the only time that we could really take a three-week break and be together. It's not asking much to take a week out of your year's schedule to spend an extra week on holiday with your kids. That's why I've done it the last two years.

I wouldn't trade it for anything. I mean, I missed Whistling Straits and I missed not going to Oak Hill last year, but c'est la vie, life is too short and it's too important.

In another two or three years my son is going to be 16 and I don't think he'll want to come on summer holiday with us. He'll probably want to go and do his things with his friends. Until that day comes and my kids want to go somewhere else on summer vacation, I'll continue doing it.

TODD BUDNICK: You're a past champion here, you won in '93 and finished second in '92. Have you seen many changes from those days?

NICK PRICE: Not really. I remember just in June it plays a little firmer and faster. It's a little soft at the moment. The greens are firm but the fairways are pretty soft. I guess the amount of rain, I know you guys had a lot of rain the last week. There's a little bid of mud out there but not bad.

Conditions of the course is still fine, really good. It's a shot-maker's golf course. There's such a variety of shots that you have to play, cuts and draws off the tee, iron shots you have to draw into the green and some you have to cut high, low. There's a good variety of shots here. I guess since they moved it back to this date, it really suited me well. So I'm happy I came back.

Q. How do you feel right now -- inaudible?

NICK PRICE: The game has changed so much in the last two years, it's kind of left people like me behind, unfortunately. It's become such a power game now. Guys who play golf like me don't really have a bright future on the Tour, unfortunately. I think a lot of that to do is with equipment as I've mentioned in the past, but more so now than ever.

If you have a look at the Top 15 players on the Money List and in the world, it's hard to find one guy in there who hits the ball less than 285 yards off the tee, and I think that's pretty sad. I don't really like the way the game is going. You'll recall a Corey Pavin, Gary Player, Hale Irwin type player is not going to have a future in this type of game. I'm very sad to say that, but that's the truth.

I played with Trevor Immelman last week who is probably as good a young player as I've ever seen. He's a wonderful iron player. And we spoke about it, what's it going to take for him to be No. 1. He's got to find yardage and he's got to find a short game. His short game has to be phenomenal. He knows, and he said to me, it's going to be really hard for him to be No. 1. And there is a guy who ten years ago, 12 years ago, would be a really great young player. And he is today. But he wants to get to No. 1 and he knows what he has to do.

Q. (Inaudible.)

NICK PRICE: I was saying to my caddie, Jimmy, last week. We got to the World Series. Every time we get here, "We made a few changes" or whatever, lengthened No. 2 and lengthened No. 11. I said, "Wouldn't it be nice just one time to go to a tournament and say, 'Hey, we haven't made any changes; or B, we've actually shortened No. 3 and No. 7 and No. 15.'" But it's not going to be. The game is going in a different direction.

Q. Are you surprised that Vijay has overtaken Tiger on the Money List -- inaudible?

NICK PRICE: This game is forever changing. I'm not surprised at all. Tiger obviously has not played as well as he did, this last sort of 18 months, two years, and Vijay has played phenomenally well, and so has Ernie and so has Phil this year.

If Phil continues to play at the pace that he's at and Ernie and Vijay keep going, there's going to be four guys vying for that No. 1 spot, because I'm sure Tiger is going to improve. Every great player in the game has gone through peaks and troughs and Tiger is just going through a little bit of a trough now.

I honestly believe it's just a matter of time before he finds his -- gets his game back, his swing. He's really struggling with a driver. He seems to drive well one day, and then the next day it leaves him and then it comes back. So that little bit of inconsistency is what's hurting him.

As soon as he gets that consistency back, he's going to be a force again, because his iron game and his short game is phenomenal. In fact, his short game is probably as good as it's ever been, except he's putting for pars, not birdies and eagles it seems. As soon as he gets his game into shape, and if Phil keeps on playing the way he has, we're going to have four guys who are going to continually vie for that No. 1 spot.

It's going to be a good rotation, and I think that's healthy for the game. Some people would say, you know, Tiger should always be No. 1, but I think that all of the great confrontations in the past, the guy who has dominated for any period has been pushed by other players behind him. And Tiger had it all his own way for a while, and justly so because he played so well. But all of these other guys have elevated their games, and it's going to be I think a really good time for golf the next year or so.

Q. Is it surprising Tiger still finishing second even though he missed so many fairways?

NICK PRICE: That just shows you the intensity and determination and competitiveness in him. Every time I play with him, what amazes me more than anything else is how hard he grinds over a 10-foot par putt, and that, to me, just exudes everything that he wants to see in a golfer.

People say, oh, he's playing awful and he's not trying hard, his fiancee is messing him up and all of these stories. The truth is he's still trying his guts out. Because the way he's hit the ball in some of the events, he shouldn't have shot less than 80, and he's walking off with 72s and 73s; and that just shows you the substance of the man. Every time I play with him, I'm impressed. And I think this period that he's going through now is going to steel him up, it's going to harden him up for when he starts playing well again, and then look out, because the frustration over the last year and a half is going to come out.

Everything happens for a reason in this game. It's going to be an interesting time. But he'll get his game back, there's no doubt. Will he dominate as much as he did? I don't know. I think Vijay and Ernie and Phil have certainly caught up a lot more.

Q. Inaudible?

NICK PRICE: Those guys, they have been playing so well for an extended period now. I don't really worry who is in the field. To me, job one is to go out and play the golf course as best as I can. You know, I've never been afraid to play anybody. The stronger the field, the more you really want to win. To me, that's not even a factor to me. I don't even -- the fact they are not here, well, I'm sorry for the tournament, but it's not going to be relevant on my approach to the week.

Q. Inaudible?

NICK PRICE: I've done that probably for the last ten years. Particularly now more than ever.

Q. Do you base your preparation based on the length and issues you're looking at?

NICK PRICE: I wish I could change things. It's so hard to change anything.

My short game, obviously, you know, you sort of depends, you start depending a little more on other departments of your game when you're not hitting as many greens. When you're hitting a lot of long irons, last week was a perfect example for me. I was hitting a lot of 3- and 4-irons to those greens, and it's very hard to keep the ball on those greens with those cuts. So you end up hitting a lot of fringe and having to chip-and-putt a lot. As a result, your short game does get stronger, and that's happened the last year and a half, maybe two years.

I don't feel like I hit the ball any different to, say, five, six years ago. But the other guys are just hitting the ball so much further now. It's really hard.

It's funny, Bob Rotella and I spoke at The Match Play championship in March this year, February, the Accenture. And he was telling me, you know, he says, "You've just got to go out there and play your game and wear the golf course out with short irons."

I said, "That's fine, Bob, I just don't get to hit that many anymore." I probably only hit five or six 7-irons and less during the round. The rest of the time it's all 4-, 5- and 3-irons. It's hard. It's really hard.

You know, I think one of the things that I still feel quite bad about is I don't feel short. I don't feel like I'm's short hitter, but I'm 178th on the stats this year. It's just getting harder and harder and harder to play out here.

I think as the next couple of years go by, my schedule will start dipping off. But I'll still play the tournaments and the courses that I feel that I have a chance on.

Q. Inaudible?

NICK PRICE: You know I don't work on a whole lot of things now as. I don't work as hard as I used to. I hit balls fairly regular when I'm at home. I go to the golf course for maybe two hours and play five or six holes with friends of mine and I'm home by lunchtime. I'm normally back before my kids get home from school. I don't spend as much time practicing as I used to.

But I find I'm working harder with my short game because it's getting taxed more out there. So I'm being more creative.

Q. Getting in the majors -- do you look to be No. 1 -- inaudible?

NICK PRICE: If you look at my career and you look at that '83 period to '91, where I won in other parts of the world and I didn't win over here that, was a very frustrating period for me. Particularly, '88, '89, '90, '88, the British Open, Seve and I had that showdown. I played really well in a couple of other major championships in that period.

But the frustration came out in '91 after I won the Byron Nelson and then won the Canadian Open, and the next year, won the PGA. All I wanted to do was win tournaments, because here I had gone my entire career, the majority of my career where I had been a sporadic winner, I would win a tournament in South Africa and go to Australia and win. It was just, the winning was just so few and far between.

When I did start winning, I just wanted to carry on winning. And whatever came my way, whether they were majors, regular tour events, I just wanted to win because I had that taste and I had worked so hard for it, and that's what I did.

And then as '94, the end of '93, I had had such a great year but I had won TPC and I had won a handful of other events, the Western Open. The majors are so important and I only had one at that stage. Then when '94 came along, all hell broke loose for me because I played probably a ten-week period there, I played as good of golf as anyone has ever played. I didn't want to let go. That was the most important thing.

I remember Calcavecchia after I won in Canada, he probably paid me the highest compliment any peer has ever paid me. He says, "I've got to look at Nick Price's schedule next year and play all of the other tournaments he's not playing in." That was a very special time for me.

But being No. 1, as with Vijay now, and Vijay and I have spoken about it a lot, it's a by-product of all of that. It's not something that you physically and mentally say, that's when I'm going for the No. 1 spot. It's something that you know that if you win and you play consistently well enough, it's going to happen. Eventually, someone is going to knock Tiger off, be it two or three weeks or five, six months or whatever it is. Someone will.

Q. Are you more frustrated now because you are playing well and the game won't let you -- or were you more frustrated in that period when you were not playing as well -- inaudible?

NICK PRICE: My good old friends, Harold Henning, said it best. When he was my age, he beat me at the Dutch Open in 1982. He said, "You know, I've got a great future behind me." That's what he said. And that's the way I am now. My career has been great. I don't have no regrets and I am not frustrated about anything.

What I think I'm frustrated a little about is the direction the game is going, because in the 35 years that I've played the game or 39 years that I've played the game, I've never seen a change so dramatically has it has done in the last five years. People say, oh, guys are working out and they are doing this. That's BS. That might be five percent of the equation. It's not that. Ernie Els went from -- he gained 35 yards in a month. Now, if he told me that, I'd go and push weights until they came out my ears, but that's not the secret.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much for stopping by.

End of FastScripts.

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