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July 20, 2016

Mark Mulder

Eric Gagne

Mardy Fish

Mark Rypien

Stateline, Nevada

THE MODERATOR: We have three of our leading contenders in the media room this week to talk about chances to talk about their golf games and anything else that they find relevant.

MARK RYPIEN: The third one is not here. Only two of the contenders.

THE MODERATOR: So it's already started. I love it. Let's start off with Mr. Mark Rypien, the happy guy that just did that.

In the middle is Mardy Fish, who is at 3-to-1, co-favorite, along with defending champion Mark Mulder, also at 3-to-1.

Ryp, you started it off. Let's get the volley going. Tell us about what's going on, what do you anticipate this week and what are you seeing out on the golf course?

MARK RYPIEN: First, I think -- maybe these guys can attest to it -- these greens are as difficult and as beautiful as they've been.

There's not getting a lot of action on the greens. A lot of times here you can spin the ball 30, 40 feet. They're really firm and fast. And the course is playing firm and fast. It's as maybe as beautiful as I've seen it.

I just played yesterday, and I'm going to go out and play again today. But I just think it's a different golf course, it seems like, from the past. The greens used to be spongy and soft and you get a lot of action on the ball.

There's going to be a lot of -- if you miss the greens, I think up-and-down, it's going to be a point of contention, just because it's more difficult as the weeks go on, the day goes on, and as we get closer to the weekend. But the course is beautiful.

There's no excuse for not playing well, other than I'm not playing well.

THE MODERATOR: Mardy, you've been here -- how many times have you been here?

MARDY FISH: Third time.

THE MODERATOR: Is the third time a charm?

MARDY FISH: We'll see. Like Mark said, the course is beautiful. It's in fantastic shape. We came Monday. We came out to hit some putts and couldn't believe how fast the greens were and how tricky they were.

I think a lot of people are going to struggle on the greens 2-putting and lots of 3-putts, and so it should make for a really exciting stuff.

And the course is beautiful. The weather looks beautiful. It's the best week of the year. It's fantastic to be back.

THE MODERATOR: The weathermen have mailed in an 82-degree average for the rest of the week. So that ought to be okay.

Mark Mulder, defending champion. You took this course by storm last year. You've now had the mantel of victor for the last year. Tell us what that's been like.

MARK MULDER: It's been good. It was a lot of fun. I think this is my sixth year playing in this. And it's always been a goal of mine to win this and finally did that last season and going to try to do it again. But like they said, the greens are awesome.

I don't think the scoring is going to be like it was last year. We were in the low 80s, I think. I don't foresee that happening. The greens are rolling great. But as fast as they are, I think you're going to see -- it's going to separate a lot of guys. And whoever putts -- I think it's going to become a putting contest, to be honest. Because a lot of guys can hit the ball well, but the greens are where you can separate yourself, definitely.

Especially if they stay like this it's going to be incredibly difficult.

THE MODERATOR: Let's go through the room, who you guys see besides yourselves, of course, as the favorites, who else in the field.

We have Steph Curry coming back. We know Steph just got through with basketball less than a month ago. He hung pretty good. He's at 6-to-1 at the Harveys and Harrah's sportsbook odds. It's been a while for him.

Who else do you see? Eric Gagne is going to be in here in a second. Eric is a big hitter, obviously he finished second last year, played with you, Mark, the last two rounds, if I'm not mistaken. And who else are you seeing that's on the horizon?



MARK RYPIEN: J.R. is sporting a bit of a back injury. He said he's not up to snuff.

MARDY FISH: He can't putt either (laughter).

MARK RYPIEN: Steph learned from a pretty good guy, Dell. Dell is a pretty good player.

MARDY FISH: I played with Steph last week up in LA, and man he can hit the ball well. He's got an awesome swing for anyone, really, for anyone, and especially for not obviously hasn't played much in the past, probably in the past six months.

He said he played maybe once a month now that he's starting to --

MARK RYPIEN: Steve told him he better go out and play.

MARDY FISH: Now he's starting to play a little more, he said. And he'll be real tough as well.

MARK RYPIEN: Let me tell you something, the way Mardy played and Mark played, you've got to look at these two guys. Mark played last year, and that was as fine of golf as you're going to see, Mark and Eric and Josh -- was it Josh? Josh coming down the stretch.

I mean, that was as good of golf as you're going to find anywhere, other than maybe Mickelson and Stenson battling it out at the Open. Maybe. Compared -- (laughter) -- I mean saying from sitting there watching from the clubhouse, watching these guys hit shots under pressure, it was amazing. Mardy played so well at the Diamond Resorts event in Orlando.

Literally just ate that golf course apart. It wasn't an easy golf course either. So you've got to look at these two guys.

Eric, too, Eric played well all the way through last year. Hits the ball a ton. Hits probably the 3-wood further than -- Mark hits --

MARK MULDER: I was barely getting my driver past --

MARK RYPIEN: His 3-wood he hits further than Mark hits his driver.

MARDY FISH: Last year I hit driver on 18. The second day I played with him, he hit 3-wood, 34 yards past me, past my driver.

MARK MULDER: It's crazy. I played with him a bunch in Scottsdale also. He plays his cut, and he can't -- the reason he hits so many 3-woods is because he can turn over his 3-wood a little. He can't turn over his driver.

Like on, say, 18, he can't hit driver there because those trees on the left, which is why he hits 3-wood. It's still right next to my driver, which last year I got really good. And he might have been two, three yards behind me.

MARDY FISH: He's as long of a hitter as -- I've played with Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, seen those guys play right next to me. He is further than them. He's as long as anyone I've ever seen.

MARK RYPIEN: He never gets cheated on his swing. Goes after it.

MARK MULDER: 10 or 20, that's what's amazing.

MARDY FISH: I love the way he plays. He puts the peg in the ground, puts the ball on the peg, swings as hard as he can. Then he goes to find the ball and does the same thing again.

THE MODERATOR: He said last year the only thought he has is "swing as hard as I can on every shot." He goes "no strategy. That's my strategy."

Rip, you've won this tournament, won the inaugural in 1990 and won again in 2014.

MARK RYPIEN: Consistency. (Laughter).

THE MODERATOR: What do you think it's going to take to lessen the years between wins?

MARK RYPIEN: Obviously getting in the high 60s, low 70s you'll be in the top five, if not maybe win it this year. What Mark did last year.

Mark, I think -- probably when Billy Joe won it four years ago -- should have won it. I was playing with him. He hit a ball out on 14 -- 13, I don't want to bring back bad memories.

But literally was playing, missed some birdie putts, and after that swing he kind of had a little bit of a meltdown. Should have won that year. Has been in contention. Loves this golf course and hits the ball as far as anybody and putts and has a short game for a tall, slender fellow, he can chip and putt with the best of them.

And so -- he's got some guns. He has to get those registered with the Brady Bill with those guns he's got. (Laughter).

MARK MULDER: Recently I started hitting the ball -- I started noticing it at my course this winter that I needed an extra club on certain holes. About two months ago I started working out with this trainer. Not really because of golf, just because I figured if I don't do it now I'm not going to do it. So why not.

THE MODERATOR: We've heard you guys over the years talk about this week as being extremely special. What makes it so much fun each time? Start with you Mark.

MARK MULDER: For me last year was having my kids here. While sometimes they're an absolute pain in the butt being as young as they are, it was so cool having them out on the green last year.

And we finished that hole and the next thing I know I had two of them, one on each leg and stuff like that, that they came running out. My wife and I usually bring them every other year. Well, now they're back this year.

So I couldn't leave -- yeah, I couldn't leave them at home because, "Dad, when do we get to go to that place where you golf on the lake?" That's literally what they call it.

So they were out with me yesterday a little bit driving me crazy. And I put two of their clubs in my bag so they can hit some shots on 17 and 18. And people clap for them and they think it's really cool. So it's a lot of fun doing that.

MARDY FISH: Same here. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old now, and he's swinging the golf club a little bit.

THE MODERATOR: He is swinging, he has a driver over in the ACI tent.

MARDY FISH: Which is really fun. And for me it's such a humbling place, going to the meeting tonight and being in the same room with all these incredible athletes and celebrities and entertainers and guys that did what they did at such a high level makes you feel like whatever you did pales in comparison. It's really fun.

It's awesome that everyone is really approachable. I'm such a huge sports fan as well and I was a fan of these guys when they played. And so it's fun to be able to say hello and they know your name, too, and it's -- so --

THE MODERATOR: You're saying they're a lot older than you?

MARDY FISH: I watched them in diapers. And -- no, it's just it's a really humbling fun place. It's really cool to be invited to an event like this.

THE MODERATOR: Ryp, you're the veteran. Been at this for 26 years, missed one, you've seen it over the years, how it's developed. Give us your impressions.

MARK RYPIEN: I think to share it with others, like these guys articulated the same thing, to be able to share this with others, families, friends, people close to you to come out here and it doesn't get any better whether your golf is good or bad. We obviously want to play well. That's important. But just to share it with your closest people.

But I also can remember -- Tuesday's Pro-Am yesterday, they've added like ten teams more than they've had in the years past. They're having a Pro-Am down at Genoa Lakes for guys that aren't playing and they're adding another 20 teams down there at Genoa Lakes.

The amount of people that are here today, it was about the total of the three days of the first event that we had out here. It was kind of an anomaly. People didn't know what the heck it was, what it is.

Now, there's 800 guys that want to be a part of this, want to come out here and see what this is all about. I think when you first come here, it's so unique.

It's so unbelievable. And where it's evolved to today, it's at a level of a PGA TOUR event, when you think about it. And everyone wants to be a part of it. And obviously having Steph Curry here is huge.

The Bay Area is close. Gets a lot of people to come up from the Bay Area. Having the gals here, the six gals here this year, they're going to bring a throng of people that want to see them do well as Annika did a couple of years ago. This is pretty cool.

THE MODERATOR: When you guys travel a little bit, now that you've been on this, you've been in the hunt, you've won it. People talking to you about, hey, we saw you on NBC, we saw you during the coverage of the event. What are you hearing? Is it kind of fun when you travel the country?

MARK RYPIEN: You get more ribbing than you do anything, if you don't win it. All the guys back at the club, what are you doing hitting in water at 18?

Billy Joe was in the lake and he made par, all you had to do was make par. And, okay, you get your ass -- excuse me -- you get your butt out there and your hand's shaking and you got Laimbeer Lake there in front of you. Yeah, I dunked one in there. It happens.

MARK MULDER: It's cool. I have a lot of friends who end up watching this thing. Last year when I got done, after winning, I must have had about 80 to 100 text messages just by the time I looked at my phone.

That might have been 10, 15 minutes after I got done. And then this year I've already had a whole bunch of people, just friends and acquaintances saying good luck.

So it's really cool how many people actually watch this thing and how big it's become. And like he said with Steph back this year and Timberlake -- I mean, there's a very good chance this year could be some of the biggest crowds, I think, I've ever personally seen in the six years that I've done this.

Q. Mardy and Mark, I don't know if you played for USA Baseball at all, but it may pertain to you, too. This year golf added to the Olympics. A lot of the top golfers are dropping out, pulling out. You know, what are your thoughts on that? You're a silver medalist. Do you think they're doing the sport or the Olympics a disservice by pulling out? Or do you just think it's --
MARDY FISH: It's hard. The sport, especially an individual game like I played and they play, you have to be selfish and you have to look out for your best interests.

The Zika thing is real. I can't speak for any of the other stuff, if they're going to be ready or anything like that. In Athens, I can remember they were talking about security concerns and we didn't -- they didn't have anything going there. And we didn't go but 10 feet, people with a machine gun protecting us.

So that will be fine, I'm sure. And there's nothing like competing for your country. That being said, tennis is pretty similar in golf where the week after I lost in the gold medal match, the U.S. Open started, and that was a bigger event than what we had just played.

Golf and tennis, you know, baseball, things like that, there's so many bigger trophies that you'd rather have, unfortunately. I feel like the Olympics is sort of the old school sports, the decathlon, the marathon, the swimming, the gymnastics, things like that, that they really gear up every four years towards.

There's arguably four tournaments that you'd rather win, especially golf for sure, and I guarantee you guys would rather win PLAYERS Championship than maybe a gold medal after they played a couple of times.

That being said, it was really awesome to be able to add to the medal count and have a medal forever. No one can ever take it from me unless they take it from me. (Laughter).

So it was great to be an Olympian and be a part of it. I'm sure that -- I'm almost 100 percent sure that Rory and Jordan and those guys will eventually play. This time probably wasn't the best one.

I think the next one's in Tokyo. I think they'll probably be a little more comfortable there.

MARK RYPIEN: I'll say this, of all the Canadians, if they can't fill the team, I'll be more than happy to go down represent Canada in golf.

MARK MULDER: I played on the Pan Am team in '99. I pitched actually the game that qualified Team USA for the 2000 Olympics. That's when Ben Sheets beat Cuba for the gold. It was really cool to win that game against Mexico so that that team could go to that Olympics.

That's essentially what that was at that time. We had to win that semi final game. So to be a part of that was huge.

But to speak on what these golfers are thinking or guys that aren't going to go -- and I haven't -- I don't know a whole lot about the Zika thing, but it does say -- a lot of these guys pulling out are younger guys, if they're looking to have families this and that that would be the first and foremost concern.

Q. Mark, being part of the baseball experience there and helping the team get to the Olympics, do you think it's better to have baseball in the Olympics or golf?
MARK MULDER: I don't know. I mean, to be honest with you, I don't know if I really have an opinion on it. I mean, I think baseball guys could go either way because it's something that they would -- I know in the past they've talked about using Big League guys, but then what do you stop the regular season?

I mean, it just creates so many issues. So if you're using the Minor League guys, you can take them away, which is what I was in '99 when I was on that Pan Am team. I left my Triple-A team for those two weeks. And to be honest, we were up in Winnipeg and Vancouver and I forget where else but it was an amazing experience.

It's something I wouldn't trade for anything. But you can't just stop the Major League season for a couple of weeks so they can do this with the Major League players. I think it's why they do the World Baseball Classic, so they don't have to do that.

MARK RYPIEN: Can you take a photo of all of us?

THE MODERATOR: Mr. Eric Gagne just joined the group. Finished second in this event last year. Eric, while you've been gone, they've been bagging on you, just a little bit.

ERIC GAGNE: I like it. I will too later. Right in front of them.

THE MODERATOR: They've been talking about your philosophy of golf, which is swing as hard as you can on every shot.

ERIC GAGNE: That's right. When in doubt, swing hard, right?

THE MODERATOR: We talked a little bit before you got here about odds. You're one of the favorites. Tell us about your golf game, what kind of shape it's in, and what do you think you're going to do with these guys next to you.

ERIC GAGNE: I think knowing the course a little better it's going to be a little easier, I think. And my game's doing pretty good. You never know, it changes every day. So I feel good.

And I am going to swing hard. So we'll see what happens. Very hard.

Q. Mardy, where does golf figure when you were growing up, did you take it anywhere near as seriously as you did tennis?
MARDY FISH: No, I didn't take anything as serious as I did tennis, but I played junior golf just in the city where I grew up, Vero Beach Florida. But apart from a few summers, playing a lot, I didn't have a lot of time. Especially once I was 16, I stopped playing pretty much everything to concentrate on the tennis.

And I turned pro when I was 17. So I didn't have much time for anything else.

Q. How long would you say you've been a serious golfer?
MARDY FISH: Am I a serious golfer? I don't know. Never. I just do it for fun. This week is serious. And then I go back to fun.

Q. How much did the Diamond Resorts help you confidence-wise to play against some of the guys you're going to see this week?
MARDY FISH: I grew up in Florida. So that course is -- you know, that type of grass, those greens I grew up on. The weather helped a lot.

But I've come out here and played well at times. And this is a tough golf course. I haven't played, put together three rounds in a row here, and that's pretty much what has separated it, I guess, and that's what anyone up here can do if they put together three rounds they're probably going to win.

Q. For the Marks and Eric Gagne, Kevin Durant goes to a team that beat him in the Conference Finals, would that be the equivalent of you signing with the Cubs, you signing with the Giants or the Eagles, something like that?
MARK RYPIEN: I did sign with the Eagles. Played one year with Gruden and Ray Rhodes. That's sports today. That's what free agency is. I was one of the old dinosaurs back before free agency and you kind of played with a group of guys and practiced with a group of guys and spent your offseason with a group of guys for a long period of time.

So it is the nature of the business. And each and every player has an opportunity to make this a business for themselves, and you can't argue the fact that when free agency comes up, the open market comes up, you've got to take advantage of it when you can.

Q. Were you surprised at the backlash that he's gotten?
ERIC GAGNE: I think when you have the money he's got, I don't think it's about money anymore; it's about winning championships. I was able to go to Boston and win a championship. And I mean there's guys that played everywhere and never win.

So I think it plays a lot, once you're secure, your money and everything, I think you want to win, and I think that's pretty much the move he made.

I think the team -- he went to the Warriors, are an amazing team, and with him it's going to be hard to beat. I think winning is pretty much everything, once you're settled in your career and you have a lot of money and you're lucky to, don't have to work anymore. So I think winning is a lot. For me I think my career is pretty much full with that championship with the Red Sox.

MARK MULDER: I feel it's the way the game is going, especially basketball. You see it all the time. Guys signing with certain teams to play with certain guys to hopefully win championships. You saw it with LeBron and Wade and things like that. And I think basketball is that one sport where you can really do that.

I mean, I hate to say it -- not that I follow basketball that much -- but, what, there's three, maybe four teams that have a chance to make it to the finals next year. Baseball is not like that.

Football is not really like that. So it's just what they have in their CBA and the way it works and other sports aren't quite that same way.

MARK RYPIEN: I will say I don't know if they have enough basketballs for that team now.

Q. All of you have been in the thick of this on Sunday, coming down the stretch. How does the pressure you felt then kind of match up with the pressure you felt during your playing days?
MARK MULDER: To me it was completely different. I don't care if there was a million -- I could be in Game 7 with a million people in the stands for baseball and it wouldn't be any different than Game 1 of the season in the fifth inning because once the game starts that's what you're focused on is making a pitch. And you know as a player what's at stake.

You know the situation. But it's what you're confident at. It's what you did your whole life to build up to that moment.

Golf is not what we do. Golf is what we do for fun, to be honest; and, yes, we love to compete. When my career ended, I wanted some sort of where am I going to get those competitive juices, where am I going to get that energy. And golf is kind of where I found that.

And last year coming down 18, he knows this, we were playing, I didn't get nervous until I got to the green. Once I hit it on the green and kind of knew unless he made an eagle putt I was pretty much going to win this.

I couldn't feel my body. I mean, I had 30-foot putt for eagle, I couldn't tell you if I was going to hit it five feet or 50 feet. I left it way short. And then three jacked to win. But, man, it was an awkward feeling, because first hole on Friday and on Saturday I'm still going to be shaking a little teeing up that ball up on the first hole.

It's the way it is. It's not what I do. Once we leave that first tee, I'll be better. But it's not what I have all the confidence in the world in.

MARK RYPIEN: Like Mark said, totally out of our element. Golf, when it comes to competitive golf, when you're having a five-foot Nassau putt with your buddies, it seems pretty easy.

But out here, 5-footers for a bogey are absolutely the hardest putt maybe you could have in golf, because you know you're losing two points. And it's hard to get those two points back.

When I won the first year I was beating Frankie Avalon and Tom Dreesen. That was my competition. Nothing against those guys, but heck of a win, you know. (Laughter). And I love those guys to death.

But the competition was pretty incredible and -- the competition now is pretty incredible. Coming down the stretch a couple years ago, we had that big rain delay. I know talking to Annika, she was licking her chops going, "This is what I do. We have rain delays all the time. We come out of rain delays and I'm going to birdie, par birdie at worse and win this thing."

She didn't know I was going to go eagle-birdie-birdie. And she didn't know I was a mudder from up in the state of Washington that liked the rain. She got a little surprised there.

ERIC GAGNE: I think we're going to get nervous, like they say, it's a hobby for us. It's something that we love to do.

And I think most of us out, after our career, you look for something to do, something to get nervous about, and that's what we live for in baseball and all of our careers, and I think we get a little bit of that with golfing.

I think -- we don't control anything. I think that's the biggest thing is trying to get better every day, and that's what we try to do. But getting nervous, last year I think he's gotten better because of that because he got nervous, he knows what to go through.

I've never been through that yet. So I think it's going to be another learning process. It's going to be fun. I hope I get nervous. I hope I don't feel my body on 18. That will be kind of cool.

Q. The question always comes up with you guys when you're in the hunt, hey, did you put a wager on yourself before the tournament. Mark, we've heard your story how your mom was supposed to put the bet down and decided you shouldn't be gambling, so no money got put down on you last year. Do you guys usually put a little wager on yourself over at the book?
MARDY FISH: I have for the last two years. The first year I was 28-to-1 and last year I was 15-to-1. I won't this year. But I'll put some on them.

ERIC GAGNE: Gotta hedge a little.

MARK RYPIEN: I'm 0-for-10 in my wagers. So I don't think I'll put anything down.

MARK MULDER: I did a few different ones yesterday.

ERIC GAGNE: Yes, I will. But I will bet on a couple of guys here.

MARK RYPIEN: I like the head-to-head stuff. Those are good.

MARDY FISH: Curry/Wagner is going to be a good one.

THE MODERATOR: I understand, Eric, we might be seeing more of you up in Tahoe these days; is that correct?

ERIC GAGNE: That is correct. I bought a property here right next door, Tahoe Beach Club, and that will be fun. I love it here. Hopefully I'll get better at the course, get used to it, play more rounds.

MARDY FISH: That's not fair.

MARK MULDER: That's like home course.

MARK RYPIEN: Home course advantage.

ERIC GAGNE: Florida, it's not how we play in Florida.

MARK RYPIEN: No, but Gagne and I want to play these guys in hockey, that's now what we're talking about.


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