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July 19, 2002

Nick Price


STEWART McDOUGAL: Nick Price, 70, 138, one under par for the Championship and joint leader of the golf course. How did today's round go.

NICK PRICE: I didn't hit the ball particularly well from tee to green. I struggled off the tee today, just trying to find some consistency. I played pretty much like I did on the front nine yesterday and I putted so beautifully today. I made a lot of great long putts to save pars, and I just kind of hung in there today.

It was one of those days rather than 6 and 7s with my swing, I hit some really poor shots, but managed to only make, I think, three bogeys, which I was really happy about, because I could have blown myself out of the championship if I hadn't putted well. But I managed my game well. That's one thing, I guess, I did do today and it's easy to manage your game well when you're putting well, because you feel you don't have to attack any of the pins, you can lob the ball out 35 feet away from the pin and take your two putts and go, and I didn't feel today like I would 3 putt from that distance. So I felt that was one thing, but I'm going to have to start hitting the ball better than I have now if I want a chance to win this championship because I know that kind of ball striking I had today catches up with you. I have to sort something out. Thank God I have some daylight left today. It wasn't pretty.

Q. How big of an advantage because it looks like it could be tight, how big of an advantage is it to have been there before?

NICK PRICE: If we were talking about 1994, '93, I would say it was a huge advantage, but I haven't really -- well last year at the Open, I had a chance to win at Lytham, I think I had a putt on 12 to tie Duval and finished very poorly down the last six holes.

But my major championship performance hasn't been outstanding so there is a little bit of a negative there, however I won in May, and I won on a golf course that requires the same kind of shot-making as this golf course does. So as I say, I'll feel a lot more comfortable if I can hit the ball a little better because I need to bring it up a notch or two with my long game.

Q. Do you prefer this kind of course?

NICK PRICE: In this day and age, yes, because length -- some of the golf courses we've been playing in recent years have been extremely advantageous to hit the ball a long way, and that's not true of this golf course, you have the option of hitting a driver on every hole on this golf course, if you want to, but if you don't hit it straight or goal the distance you hit it, you get into a lot of trouble. So it's nice to play a golf course where your strategy starts from the tee, and not from the second shot, and I think that's what they've done a great job with this golf course.

Q. When did this latest streak start on putting?

NICK PRICE: Nine weeks ago. I worked on three or four things over the last two years, and I think each one of them has contributed to where I am now. More than anything else, it's been the pace of my stroke that I worked really hard on, because for so long, particularly from the 15-foot range, I'd hit good putts and they would either go through the break and hit the top edge of the hole or they would die across on the low edge of the hole. The only thing, when you're hitting that way you're aiming and it keeps doing that, there's something wrong with the speed of your stroke, so I've worked hard on getting my stroke more like a metronome, where it's the same back and the same through.

I always believed - because I grow up on slower greens - that you had to accelerate through the ball, so my old stroke would be back at one and through at one and a half or two, and with the greens being a lot quicker, obviously not this week, but in the modern day it's more of an arms and a shoulder stroke, and I think I had a bit of a time adjusting to that. I got it right for three years and then I went off the ball but this feels comfortable right now with what I am doing.

Q. You're popular with Open crowds. What does this tournament mean to you?

NICK PRICE: Well, when I think back to 1975, when I played as an amateur at Carnoustie, it's 27 years ago. I've had so many wonderful things happen at the British Open, but I've always had some bad things happen to me. It depends on which way you want to look at it, '82 and '88 -- '82 was really a lack of experience that I didn't win there and then in '88 I played as well as I could and came up against a juggernaut in Seve and he was holing from all over that place the last day. And then finally to win in '94 that settled things down again. I suppose in the back of my mind I still feel I can win.

Another Championship. I keep saying to my wife, I've got - I don't know - a hundred times more than I ever wished that I could have in my life, so anything from here on in is a bonus. I've achieved more than I thought I ever could achieve in this game, coming from where I come from, and I've had a great time playing golf. I guess that's probably one of the reasons I play well here, is because my attitude is that everything from here on in is a bonus.

There is no pressure on me to prove anything to anybody, but deep down inside, I want to win a major championship, I really do, and I think the thing that's hard this day is they're stretching these golf courses out and if we were playing golf courses that were still 7,100 yards in length like this one is, I think I would still have four good chances a year, but I'm probably down to about two now because certainly the U.S. Open and the Masters I don't have a prayer, unless I get a bazooka for a driver.

Q. Is that spoiling golf, do you think?

NICK PRICE: Absolutely. They are taking the game in the wrong direction, and when I say "They," the people who are setting up courses and adding length where -- they're sending a statement out to the youth today to just drive the ball 300 yards otherwise you're not going to be able to play this game. And I think that's very sad, because there's one thing about this game, it has always been the ultimate David versus Goliath game where you had someone like a Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus playing against each other; Sam Snead and Ben Hogan - Hogan wasn't very long; Sam Snead was longer than he was, but there was never really an advantage. A longer hitter had an advantage if he managed his game correctly, which is what Jack Nicklaus did so well during his prime. But nowadays, it's okay to hit your ball a long way and set up a course where you have a 500 yard Par 5, but at least allow the person to run the ball on to the fairway and run the ball on to the green. If you start putting cabbage 30 yards short of the green at this high, then you're basically playing into the long players' hands because they are the ones who can hit drivers and 4-irons this far. The majority of guys are hitting drives and 1-irons or 3-woods into the hole at that length and you can't carry the ball and if you did carry it onto the green it goes over the back. So I hope that the powers at be can come back a little bit with the length. It's all fine putting length on it, but just allow the people -- the average guy to run the ball on to the green.

Q. Is that a commonly held view?

NICK PRICE: I think the guys at my length, yes. David Toms and I were talking about it the other day, I don't know if David Toms -- and please this is nothing negative about his game -- but the length he hits the ball, I don't know if he can win Augusta. He's a 32-year-old, a long career left and they've taken one of the majors out of the game for him. He's proven that he can be a major champion because he won the PGA last year, but suddenly have a person who hits it 280 say you're going to have a tough time winning at Augusta, and I think that's really sad.

Q. (Inaudible)

NICK PRICE: I have to start hitting the ball better, to be honest. If I can get comfortable out there with my swing, I certainly feel like I manage my game well enough out there.

Q. You mentioned a minute out how far you've come from where you grew up. How do you feel with what's going on there, where you are from? I know you keep in touch with what's happening there....

NICK PRICE: It's pitiful. I don't know what else to say. The country is being destroyed right now. I don't know. It's one of the saddest things I've ever seen in my life. I've had so many of my friends who are affected by it. But what do you do? I've done so many good things for that country, I feel, not only as ambassador, but also with the junior golf situation and whatever, but that's all done now. There will be nothing left there in a very short period of time, and it's sad - your home where you grew up is being destroyed.

Q. To return to what you were speaking about before, about the Masters and the length and such, would you maybe be in favor of trying a tournament ball?

NICK PRICE: That's still not going to help because of the way the golf course is set up. What you have to try and do is you have to control -- as far as I'm concerned, when I became a better player, it was because I learned to control the distance. I hit the ball with accuracy, having the ability to manipulate the ball from right to left and left to right. I think all the great players over the years have had the ability to do that. The game is becoming more of a smash from the tee, and when you have fairways at 80 yards wide at Augusta, it's just all about -- it's brought force, so bring the ball back, that's fine, bring the ball back, but now my kind of player, the averaged length hitter is now going to be hitting 3-woods into Par 4s that were designed for 4-irons and 5-irons which the longer hitters are still going to hit into those greens, so it defeats the whole object. First of all, they missed the equipment boat as far as I'm concerned because the equipment is now -- just think for one minute here - if you gave ... Brian Laura a cricket bat that was twice the size of a regular cricket bat, half the weight, what would happen? How many runs would he score? Basically that's what happening with the drivers today. You've got a driver with a sweet spot four times the size of wooden driver, it's twice the size of an old wooden driver, it's half the weight, and the ball comes off it faster. If you did the bowlers in cricket would go berserk, how would we compare ourselves to the great bowlers of all time, because they wouldn't be able to. One day, they would score 600 runs and you wouldn't be able to get anyone out. So I believe if they brought down the size of the driver, not for everyone because I'm for the average Joe improving his game and enjoying the game more, but coming to the professional crux is hitting it in the middle of the club, and Hobday said to me, when I was on the practice round, how do I become a better player and he pointed to the middle of the club, and he said if you hit the ball in the middle of that club, more than the guy next to you, you'll beat him, and he's absolutely right. That's all the game is about. Now the clubs are so forgiving you can hit it all over the face and the ball still ends up in play and straight, and basically it allows the younger guys to swing harder at the ball. That's all it's done. Back 25, 30 years ago when I was growing up, with a wooden driver, you kind of maxed out at about 82 percent of your strength, if you tried to hit it 84 percent you would hit it across two fairways. You lose that control. Well, that 82 percent is now like 95 percent of a person's strength. So that's what we see in the younger guys swinger harder at it. I don't know if bringing the ball back is going to help, but putting fairways like they have on this golf course at Augusta would be phenomenal. Make a guy not just stand there and blast it 320 yards, there is a bunker suddenly at 320 yards. He can manipulate around it, sure, but he takes that chance that if he doesn't hit it absolutely dead straight, it's in that bunker and he's going to pay a penalty. The U.S. Open this year the perfect example was the 12th hole, out of the four days they had a cross bunker there with a fairway on the right-hand side was 11 yards wide and over the bunker at 265 carry the fairway was 26 yards wide. Now three days I couldn't hit it over the bunker, so I had to hit it into 11 yards of fairway where I had 260 yards to the green. The longer hitters drove it over the bunker and had 4-irons in and they were hitting to a bigger fairway. So that's the thing that frustrates me. I shouldn't be complaining because my career is just about over, but I feel they're going the wrong way. They should be making more of a contest for everyone. My passion for the game is to see it stay somewhere where we don't get a little bit like tennis, where it becomes one hard slug with a big serve and the guys up at the net and the other guy has no chance of returning it, because that's not the way this game is intended to go, I believe.

Q. At the risk of eating more into the time left you have daylight you have left to sort this thing out, is it something you know was going wrong and can put it right?

NICK PRICE: I think so. I have a fairly good idea. It's a question of going out there and -- I've got very narrow and very steep on the ball today. So I pinched the ball and it goes off with a lot of spin and I lose control, so I'm going to go out and work on getting it a little shallower.

Q. You were very adamant yesterday about saying this is all about putting yourself in contention for the final nine holes on Sunday. Do you feel about where you are now than you did 24 hours ago --

NICK PRICE: If you said to me that's how I was going to hit the ball today and this is where I was going to be, I would be very happy, and I am. Today I could have shot 75 just as easily and shot myself out of contention. You're always going to have one bad round, and I really hope today was it. Because if you get one bad round and still shoot under par, you still have a chance.

Q. The change of conditions out there today, give us examples of your club collection differences today as to yesterday. How many times did you hit a driver?

NICK PRICE: Again, probably I used a few more drivers today than I did yesterday, because the wind shifted about 90 degrees from when I played. It was down and right to left on the 10th and today it was down left to right, so it probably shifted maybe 90 degrees. The fairways are soft, there is not much run on the ball. I was probably hitting maybe two clubs more on most of the holes than I had done yesterday, but this wind makes the finish tough because you play 12, 14, 15, and 18 into the wind. The only reprieve you're going to get is 17. It's a very difficult wind when it blows from -- blows straight down the first.

Q. Does it surprise you Colin is playing well?

NICK PRICE: Yes. How old is he? 38? He's still got time here. O'Meara won too at 42. Colin has time. It wouldn't surprise me because he is going through a bit of a lull in his career and maybe he's got to prove something to himself now. He's been unfortunate because he lost the U.S. Open playoff and he lost the U.S. PGA playoff, he's had his chances. I'm surprised when I look at him and the way he plays that he hasn't won a British Open, maybe this might be the week. 64 was an unbelievable round today.

Q. A couple of comments about your longevity in the game. You keep going.

NICK PRICE: My wife keeps me young. Desire probably more than anything else. I still want to play. I still go out on the practice tee and like to hit balls. When I lose that. I think when I lose that drive to go to the practice tee and hit balls, that will be the time to hang up the clubs. I always feel I can get a little better. Each year my swing gets a little more refinement to it. I round off a few more of the edges. It's fun. I just don't want to play too much. 20 tournaments a year. I don't know if I gave up or stopped playing, I don't know what I would do. You can only fish for so long. If I can keep playing 20 tournaments a year like I do now, I will be very happy.

STEWART McDOUGAL: Thank you, Nick.

End of FastScripts....

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