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June 13, 2003

Nick Price


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Nick Price. 5-under par, 65 today. What was the difference in your game out there today from yesterday to today?

NICK PRICE: Well, I just hit the ball a lot better, to be honest. I hit more fairways and more greens, but I had more birdie opportunities, because I hit better iron shots. I don't know, I just got on a roll. I birdied 5, great birdie any day. And turned downwind and birdied 6. So I played to -- I tried to play smart from there in. I didn't have any goals today other than staying within four or five shots of the lead. And that started to set my day up. And as I continued I started continuing to hit the ball well and hitting a lot of good shots. And my only blemish, really, was a couple of missed greens, but I missed a green on 12. I was in between clubs, and pulled my 7-iron in the bunker and didn't get up-and-down. So other than that I don't think I could have done a whole lot better today.

RAND JERRIS: Could you take a moment and walk us through the birdies and bogeys?

NICK PRICE: No. 3 I hit a 9-iron for my second shot, about 12 feet left of the hole. No. 5, 5-iron no my second shot, left it 3 feet under the hole. 6 I had a driver, and 2-iron in the bunker right. And knocked it out about 3 feet from the hole. 10, a 6-iron for my second shot to about 2 feet, and then 12 I pulled a 7-iron in the bunker to the left, and knocked it up about 8, 9 feet and didn't make it. And then 13 an 8-iron for my second shot to about 12 feet into the hole. 14, a 7-iron to probably about 15 feet, and then a good save on 15. I pulled a 7-iron, probably same sort of swing, I was in between clubs, again, same sort of swing I put on the 7-iron on 12. And then managed to get that up-and-down, and probably a 9, 10-footer there to save par.

Q. Has there been a common thing thing that's gone right with your game, and what do you seem to be doing this week that seems to be clicking?

NICK PRICE: The greens have always been at the U.S. Open so treacherous, and I'm not saying these aren't. They're not up to the speed that I think they're capable of getting into. But in years gone by, certainly my Achilles heel was on the greens at the U.S. Opens. There's been a few -- Baltusrol in particular in '93 was the best I played from tee-to-green at a U.S. Open. And I putted very poorly.

And Olympic I played well, I think that was in '98 or '99, when Janzen won. And I felt I had a pretty good chance to win there, too, but putted poorly the last day. So that's been my real problem at the Open. And certainly for the last few years my putting has improved. And within the last, again, I think I went up another level with my putting, when I started at Wachovia and started using the putter that I've got now, after spending a half a day with Scotty Cameron in February, just before the Matchplay, I learned more about putting in two or three hours with him than I probably learned in the previous 26 years of my trying to be a good putter. And that's been the difference. My speed is so much better than it has been in the past. And so I think that's probably the reason.

Q. Furyk said set the 36-hole scoring record, which at this pace would be 14-under over 72 holes, which is probably going to make some people go into hysterics. What are your thoughts in the sanctity of par, is it just a number here or should this golf course -- is it too easy?

NICK PRICE: Well, if you look at what the normal weather Chicago has in June, you'd probably have nice, bright blue sunshine skies, sunshine and the normal southwest wind, which is hot, and would have dried these greens out, and probably 2-under par would be leading right now. So I think it's more about the climatic conditions, as opposed to the way they set the course up. This is what I believe, this kind of golf course is what they need to do more of. And I'm not saying that just because I shot 65 today. I said that in the practice rounds. It certainly allows shotmakers the opportunity to do well here. And it's not just about driving the ball 290 yards through the air.

There's two par-5s that I can reach, No. 6 downwind, without any wind, I don't know, but that certainly makes it a lot easier for me. But you have to play -- you have to manipulate the ball here, and you have to have the ability to hit soft iron shots and put the ball up in the correct spots on the greens. And that's always -- a great golf course is when it dictates as you get on the tee what you have to do. It's not just a smash and then play from there in. This golf course you have to draw the ball. You have to cut the ball. You have to hit 3-woods on some holes. It keeps you on your toes. It's very similar to links golf here, because the position of the bunkers. The bunkers aren't as severe as the bunkers we play on the links courses, but you get it up in the face of these bunkers and you're in trouble. And that's the thing, if we have the wind switch around tomorrow and come out of the southwest, we've got a totally new golf course. And there's enough release in the fairways that downwind, where you were hitting a 2-iron the day before, you'll be hitting a driver into the wind the next day. And it's not too often that you experience that change in distance -- that's if the wind changes. But who knows?

Q. You're one of a sprinkling of big names on the leaderboard, but this morning there were four or five guys who at one point on the leaderboard that had never won a PGA tournament. Is there anything about a U.S. Open that maybe leads to a few more maybe unknown contenders, and a Masters or one of the other majors?

NICK PRICE: We've seen that, the first day or two there's always guys who -- names that I suppose you guys aren't familiar with that come out of the pack and play well. And some of them have gone on to come close to winning at times. But I think that's the same with any major championship. Well, this is more of an Open. You see this at the British Open and the U.S. Open. At the PGA and Masters, you see more names that you're familiar with. But you see guys, open qualifiers, Tom Gillis, we know for example, he's on the Nationwide Tour, but the guy can obviously play, but it's not a name that most guys are familiar with. But there always seems to be the first two or three days that that happens.

Q. You're one of that elite group of players that has a 63 in a major. Allowing for these conditions, what would be more impressive, 63 at Augusta, or somebody breaking the record and shooting 62 at Olympia Fields? NICK PRICE: Well, 63 at Augusta is 9-under. 62 would be 8-under here, but there's only two par-5s. That's a close call. The day I shot 63 at Augusta, it had rained the night before, there was no wind whatsoever in the morning, and the greens were receptive enough that you could throw just about anything from a 5-iron down at the hole. Probably for shotmaking, I would say shooting 62 here, because they can -- again, it depends on what they do with the pin placements, but you can get some very, very severe pin placements here. And couple that with every one of us out there knows that the sand in the bunkers in the faces is about 8 inches deep. And every time your ball heads toward a bunker, you're praying it doesn't pitch in the face, because you know it's going to plug. So that, as well. But I think maybe 62 here would be a slight edge.

Q. What would winning the U.S. Open mean to you at this point in your career, and do you even start thinking about that?

NICK PRICE: Someone asked me that question ten minutes ago, and there's been way too much water under the bridge for me to start thinking about Sunday afternoon. And my game this year has been a little inconsistent. My driving has been my Achilles heel this year. And if I drive the ball well the next two days, I think I might have a chance come Sunday. But I'm not going to think about that until 14 on Sunday.

Q. You said you think you still have another major in you?

NICK PRICE: Yeah, I think I've got another major in me. And certainly the British Open last year and the Lytham I played well enough to win there, and the PGA at Medinah I played really well. So maybe I'm hanging on to a dream, but I still feel I have an outside chance.

Q. How key are those first six holes to get go off and running here? It looks like -- based on what you did and what a lot of others have done, you've got to stomp on it right out of the gate here, and the rest of it play tactical and pick your spots and hang on. How does that set up in terms of endings maybe for Sunday night?

NICK PRICE: Well, this course has got a great balance to it. And I'm trying to figure out which way it's going to play harder, with the winds out of the northeast or southwest. Southwest wind is going to be warmer, so the ball is going to go further, that's going to be better. Out of the northeast, obviously it's been cool, and the ball doesn't seem to go as far. But you start off both nines, the first five, six holes are into the wind, with the exception of 3. But you play 10, 11, 12, then you play 14 into the wind, starting the back nine. And the front nine you play 1, 2, 4, 5 into the wind and then 8, you've got 8. There's a nice balance of downwind, into the wind holes, from whichever direction the wind blows. At the moment what you're trying to do, exactly as you say, is to try to get a score on the downwind holes -- in the into the wind holes, and when you make the turn to come downwind, just hold it together.

Q. Because of the par-5s are in those first six, too?

NICK PRICE: That's a big thing, too. And the longer hitters certainly could, even into this breeze that we had today, can reach No. 1. But if you can be under par getting through 6, it just gives you -- I guess you feel -- I always felt, anyway, that you were ahead of the golf course, and that you don't have to make birdies, and you can play conservatively, and try and make your birdies from 20 feet, 20, 25 feet. Whereas if you get over par early, Jeff Sluman was a perfect example today. He was behind the 8-ball with his round yesterday. He played great today, but he just couldn't make a birdie, and ended up shooting 1-over, I think, but played really well. It's a tough thing at a major is that if you need to make birdies, it's very hard to make them. And I know this is going to sound strange, but when you don't need them they seem to happen. And today after making three birdies and being 2-under for the championship, I would have been quite happy to come all the way around the back nine and be sitting here at 2-under par. But I made 3 more birdies. So it's a strange sort of psyche you get into at an Open that way.

Q. Does this golf course give a guy like you and a guy like Jim Furyk an advantage over the longer hitters?

NICK PRICE: If they don't -- if their course management isn't good -- think of Jim and I. Jim probably hits the ball a little further than I do, but not much. One of our strengths is our ability to control and manage our games, because if we don't manage our games, we can't get away with things like the mistakes that Phil Mickelson or other guys might make. And I think you guys can see some of the mistakes that the longer hitters make sometimes by trying to take on bunkers, when they don't necessarily have to. So if I'm hitting a 3-wood off these tees, to put myself in position, guys like Tiger and Mickelson are hitting 2-irons. And if they play smart, if they hit the ball in the same place as I do off the fairway, they've got one or two clubs less into the greens than I have, but it kind of tempts you. That's the great thing about this golf course. You want to take on some bunkers, but I wouldn't say we have an advantage. It's still 7200 yards.

Q. What were your thoughts and/or feelings about what Tom Watson did yesterday?

NICK PRICE: Well, unfortunately I didn't see some of the emotional -- some of the experience that he and Bruce had out there. I heard they both had tears in the eyes and that. And I can certainly relate to what they're going through, because I had a similar experience with Squeaky. And it's very hard. I can't say I knew when Squeak got sick that he was going to die, but halfway through his illness things weren't looking very good. And the thing that's very hard is your player/caddie relationship is such a close one. And he and Bruce have been together since 1973. They've shared so many wonderful moments, not only in winning championships, but also as friends and companions. And you're spending seven or eight hours with your caddie each day when you're playing, it adds up to an awful lot of time, where you discuss so many different issues. I can understand the emotion that they went through. And I'm just happy for Tom and Bruce that they played well and they're enjoying more of that -- more of those moments together.

Q. What are you putting with now, and historically have you changed putters a lot?

NICK PRICE: I've probably used about four different types of putters consistently through my year, a blade, a mallet, a cinder shaft, and they've all been variations of a theme. I mean the mallets, some have been face balanced, but I always seem to gravitate back towards a certain type of putter. But what I found when I went to see Scotty Cameron was that because I've always enjoyed -- felt comfortable having my hands in front of the ball that I needed more loft. So he made this putter for me. And when you add more loft generally the face hooks. And I've always liked to see a lot of loft on a putter, but hate it hooked. I would be fighting these demons about the lesser of two evils, do I want more loft or less hook. And he made me a putter that's got five degrees of loft and it sits dead square, and it just feels great. My lineup and hand position at address really dictates my stroke. And I don't feel like I'm having to manipulate the putter to get the ball in line. And as a result my feel has been a lot better and more consistent. And I used this putter at Wachovia, probably had the best putting week of my life, the first two days I felt like Brad Faxon, and I can honestly tell you that's never happened to me before (laughter). I putted pretty well in the '90s when I was winning, but I never felt like Brad Faxon. It's a nice change for me.

RAND JERRIS: Congratulations.

End of FastScripts....

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