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May 9, 2018
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Scott McCarron here at 2018 THE PLAYERS Championship. First I want to talk about why you're here and how you got here. This trophy right here you earned at the 2017 Constellation Senior Players Championship. Can you talk about that win and what that meant to you? It was your first major.
SCOTT McCARRON: You know, I'm very fortunate to be competitive after I turned 50, and it's been a lot of fun. I won six times, but to win my first major at Caves Valley, winning the Constellation Senior Players was really quite a thrill, and not only that, to come back from six shots to beat Bernhard Langer and my college roommate, Brandt Jobe, even made it that much more special. To be able to come here and play THE PLAYERS Championship, a tournament I haven't played since 2009, then actually came back and did some TV work for Golf Channel in 2013, never really thinking that I would have a chance to come back and play this tournament, really is kind of a dream come true.
This golf course is absolutely phenomenal. It's in the best shape I've ever seen it, and to be able to play on really one of the biggest stages in the world, on one of the best golf courses in the world, with the best field in the world is quite a thrill for me.
THE MODERATOR: This is your 14th start here. Can you talk about the history your past competitions here.
SCOTT McCARRON: Well, luckily I'm old and I have a bad memory because my -- I haven't had a great record here. I think I've made four cuts. I think someone pointed out my best finish was maybe a tie for 35th.
So it was always a very difficult golf course for me back in the day. I've always been a guy that moves the ball left-to-right, a cutter. Some of these holes didn't fit my eye, 2 and 10, and I think that at that point in my career I was one of the longer guys on TOUR so I was hitting driver everywhere, and this is a golf course that you've got to take what it gives you. I'm probably only going to hit four or five drivers all week on some of these holes, and some of the other ones I'm going to lay back and try to hit the fairway. I am a higher ball flight, higher spin guy, which with these greens are starting to firm up will certainly be an advantage.
You don't have to be long to win at this golf course. We have had guys from Justin Leonard winning and then we have got guys that are really long like Tiger Woods win. So anybody can win here, but you got to drive it in the fairway and be able to control the distance on the greens.
THE MODERATOR: There have been some changes to the course since the last time you played it. Do you think those will play to your advantage at all?
SCOTT McCARRON: Well, I don't know if they're going to play to my advantage, but the golf course is certainly a lot more open. The routing is still the same. Obviously the 12th hole is completely different than what we used to play, but it's just more esthetically pleasing. It's so open, and just the drive in is so beautiful, what they have done. This is a golf course that they have softened up the greens a little bit, made them a little bit bigger in some of the quadrants so there's more hole locations. I like the golf course the way it is right now, and I honestly think that as I played here the last couple days it's in the best shape I've ever seen any golf course I've ever played.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Are you as long now with the equipment and the ball as you might have been in the '90s or so when you were coming here every year?
SCOTT McCARRON: It's interesting, I think I am. I'm driving it on our PGA TOUR Champions like 292 yards and some change, so I'm like third in driving distance. I would say back in like '96, '97, '98, I was probably only around 278, 279, 280, which would have been long back in those days. So I'm actually driving it maybe a little bit farther than I was during my career on the PGA TOUR, and certainly my iron distance almost exactly the same. I still hit pitching wedge 130 yards, 9-iron 140. That has not changed at all.
But I think I'm in better shape than I was even at 35, 36 now that I'm 52. I work out quite a bit. Bernhard Langer is the guy that we're all chasing, and if you're going to beat him, you'd better be in good shape.
Q. And do you have a -- do you come here with a realistic goal, or do you do what you do with any course, when you tee it up, you play with the intention of winning?
SCOTT McCARRON: Well certainly you'd better come here with the intention of playing well and having a chance to win. Being here at this golf course, I do feel like I can compete here. You don't have to be long. And if I'm driving the ball well, which I hit like 73 percent of our fairways on the Champions Tour, if I can do that here and drive the ball and keep it in play, I can be competitive. Whether I feel like I can go out and win this tournament, I believe if I play some of my best golf, which I've played really well over the last couple years, I can certainly be competitive and maybe have a chance with nine holes to go. You never know.
Q. Usually when guys make cross over to start doing some TV work, that's the end of the line. Not many guys come back and play. There's been a few exceptions. Can you talk about that, and just like the gap years as your PGA TOUR career wound down until you turned 50, did you really expect -- were you planning on playing this TOUR, and how did that all work out, especially the TV thing? That's usually the finish line for a lot of guys.
SCOTT McCARRON: I got injured in 2006 and was off half of 2006 and half of 2007 with an elbow injury. At that time I was just trying to get back into golf, just trying to play pain free. I was able to get my card back but still had a little bit of pain and finished in the 126 to 150, which got me limited status. It would have got me a lot more status back in the day, but the way we did some of our criteria it got me a little more limited, so I decided to do a little TV, and I worked about 12 events for Golf Channel for a couple years, played 10 or 12 events on the PGA TOUR, which wasn't enough, so at that point I thought I better start playing some golf if I'm going to get ready for the Champions Tour, because this is a TOUR that a lot of my friends were playing. They were talking about how much fun they were having, how competitive it was, and so for the last couple years before I got on that Champions Tour I did some TV work, did Golf Channel, did FOX, did the whole U.S. Open package and all the USGA events. Had a lot of fun doing it.
But I learned a lot. Being an on-course commentator, I got to walk with guys that were winning major events, how they handled themselves, how they controlled their emotions, how they didn't let too many of the bad breaks or bad bounces get to them, where I think I might have worn a little more of my emotions on my sleeve during my PGA TOUR career days. So I actually learned a lot, and each time I went out there as announcer, yes, I was trying to do a good job announcing, but I was also trying to take something from that to put into my game that I could use when I got to the Champions Tour.
So I think the TV really helped me those kind of gap years where I wasn't fully competitive on the PGA TOUR and not playing as much as I would like to where I when I got on the Champions Tour I kind of hit the ground running. I love it out there. People have asked me what would you do if you won this week. I mean that would be phenomenal, obviously, to be able to win, and maybe I would add some of the majors, but I know where I belong, and I belong on the PGA TOUR Champions, and I absolutely love it out there playing with my buddies. We're so competitive, but we also root for each other and it's a great time in life to be able to, at 52, still be able to play the sport you love for a living.
Q. You won four times on PGA TOUR Champions last year. How does your confidence coming into the PLAYERS this week compare to the confidence that you had in all your previous starts?
SCOTT McCARRON: I think I'm coming in here to the PLAYERS Championship with a lot more confidence than probably I ever did coming in as a PGA TOUR player. I do feel like I drive the ball a lot straighter now. This golf course has softened up just a little bit as far as the greens and stuff, some of the undulations, but the routing's pretty much the same. So I do have a lot of confidence because have I been very competitive out there, and the more times that you're competitive and in the hunt, the more times you're able to handle your emotions well. Again, confidence breeds more confidence, and playing well certainly does that on the PGA TOUR champions.
Q. I'm curious, with a couple of the marquee parings this week specifically Tiger, Phil and Rickie, you're in the tournament, but how much of a fan of the game are you watching some of these pairings going out, the drama created around that, and then secondly, a follow-up on PGA TOUR Champions, how much do you guys still keep up with the PGA TOUR, the young guns out here, even some of the players that maybe in their late 40s that you played with a lot of your career?
SCOTT McCARRON: I think it's very exciting and really good that they put out those feature pairings. As soon as they put those out, Tiger, Phil, Rickie, and Jordan and Justin and those guys playing together, I thought, if I was not playing, that would be the groups I would go watch. To have some of the best players in the world and some of our icons Tiger and Phil playing together with Rickie is going to be something to watch. So I think it's great. The feature pairings create a lot of buzz. I liked it a lot. What was your second question?
Q. On PGA TOUR Champions week in week out, how much do you keep up with the PGA TOUR? Do you follow this great crop of players and also the guys that might be in their '40's that are competing?
SCOTT McCARRON: We still keep up with the young guys. We're always watching to see what Tiger and Phil and Rickie and Justin and Jordan are doing. I think golf is in a great spot right now. These young kids that are out there playing, and I say kids because I'm 52, they really do a good job. They do a great job with the fans. They do a phenomenal job with social media. They do great job in interviews and on TV. They're fun to watch. They're exciting to watch. These players are -- you got to look at Jordan, Justin, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day. I mean, it's -- you look back, it's like watching Jack and Arnie and Lee. I mean, so every era has their guys, and golf is in a great position right now.
So we certainly keep in contact with them, and then we're also looking at the guys that are 45 getting ready to play the Champions Tour. We have got some guys coming out this year, Darren Clarke will be coming out, Chris DiMarco will be coming out the end of the year. You see some of these guys, and it's so hard now to keep your TOUR card from that 45 to 50 age. These young kids, it's tough to compete with them at 22, 23, 24. They hit it a lot farther than we do.
There are certain golf courses we can still compete at, but over the course of the year, they're going to have a huge advantage. So a lot of guys at 45 to 50 aren't playing a lot, whether they've got to go play the WEB.COM from 48 to 50 to kind of get your self prepared, because once you get on the Champions Tour, you'd better hit the ground running. These guys will step on your neck real quickly. They can play phenomenal golf, and I always say this, if they held a Champions Tour event, a PGA TOUR Champions event and had the PGA TOUR players, the winning score would not be much different. There would be more guys inside the top-10, obviously, but the winning scores are not going to be much different than what we're out shooting out on the PGA TOUR Champions.
Q. Can you talk about what's the biggest change in your game now from 10 or 15 years ago when you were prime time of your career, and also what's the biggest change in equipment-wise in your bag from your setup maybe at your peak?
SCOTT McCARRON: Well, some of the things that -- I made some changes before I got on the PGA TOUR Champions. I started working with a teacher, EA Tischler, which he's kind of a biomechanics guy, getting me more to swing like my body's supposed to swing. I think I was doing some things in my golf swing that led to some of my injuries, especially with the elbow.
So he really taught me how to learn how to swing what your body type is. Being a under golfer, I started to deliver the golf in the more under position as opposed being one more top. More on top would be more like Hogan, as the club face is turning down, and I actually -- my arms hang kind of open, so delivering the club more open, and I was like, oh, I remember this, this is what I did in high school and college where I really wasn't thinking much about my swing, so he helped me tremendously. And then getting married to my wife Jenny; we were at the Bass pro Shops two years ago and got married, and ever since then, I've been on a tear, won six times. I guess I should have got married earlier.
Q. Anything about your clubs that's dramatically different?
SCOTT McCARRON: The clubs are pretty much the same. My lofts and lies are almost exactly the same as when I played on the PGA TOUR. Wedges, everything the same. The distances I hit my irons are exactly the same as I did back in '96, '97, '98, and the driver, I've been playing an older type driver, so pretty much everything is the same. I did switch to a golf ball -- Titleist makes a golf ball called the Pro V-1 Left Dot, which is a lower-ball-flight lower-spinning golf ball. And that helped me a lot because I've always kind of a high-ball-flight, high-spin guy and I was spinning wedges off greens too much. And when I switched to that golf ball just to keep that ball flight down a little bit and a little bit less spin really helped me a lot. That's the only thing that I changed since I've been winning.
Q. Putter the same?
SCOTT McCARRON: Putter's the same. I'm still playing with that TaylorMade Ghost Spider. Unfortunately, it broke about four weeks ago when I was flying to -- I usually put it upside down in my golf bag with a PVC pipe on it so it doesn't break. TSA decided to take the PVC pipe off and then stick it back in the normal way, and it broke. And so unfortunately the putter that I've made all this money with is no longer.
So I'm having -- they don't make that putter anymore. I've got two more left as backups. They weren't the same, so I had to cut them down. I'm trying to add the lead type trying to get the gram weight exactly the same, and this week I've finally got it to where it feels the same, but it's been a process over the last four weeks.
Q. Specifically to the tournament, the Constellation Senior Players Championship the last couple years, Philly Cricket, Caves Valley where you won, two of the best courses in the country if not the world, this year going to Exmoor, one, have you played Exmoor yet, and then two, just the excitement of going to Chicago that is a big market for this tournament?
SCOTT McCARRON: I have not played Exmoor yet, but I've heard a lot about it. Great old-school golf course. It's been fun to play some different golf courses. We played some great golf courses as you mentioned, but I'm looking forward to getting up to Chicago. Looking back at my Western Open days playing at Cog Hill, we always got so many people out to watch us play, and a lot of the same people that came out and watched us play on the PGA TOUR at the Western Open I'm hoping come out and watch us play at the Constellation Senior Players at Exmoor. These are legends, these are Hall of Famers. It's the same people you saw back in the '80s and '90s and 2000 before we don't have any more golf in Chicago. So Chicago is a great golf town, and I'm sure they're going to come out in droves to watch us play.
Q. How did you transition from the longer putter when they took it away from everybody? Had you been using it up to that point?
SCOTT McCARRON: Well let me correct you, they did not take the long putter away from anybody.
Q. Or the anchoring I mean?
SCOTT McCARRON: There you go. That's the way to say it correctly.
Q. But were you anchoring up to the point where you couldn't or had you transitioned a little bit?
SCOTT McCARRON: No, I putted with a long putter anchored since 1991. I still putted anchored up until my last event, which was in Newport, before the rule change, and then I spent a good three or four months trying to figure out how to putt not anchored, and it took me awhile. I had all kind of different theories, would I add more lead tape to the top of the grip, try to make the top more stable. Did I need to get longer or shorter did I need to get heavier. So I was trying to go through an experiment phase, and it took about three, four months of practicing putting not anchored, then I went back and putted normal, I putted with the claw, played a few tournaments that start of that year putting with a short putter and a claw, and then it was -- we had about a three-week gap after Biloxi, or before Biloxi, after Tucson, that I kind of figured out what I needed to do, and I cut it a little shorter, added some lead tape to bring the gram weight up, and I started putting great with it not anchored, and it was a freer stroke, and that was a thing that I always -- wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do, but once I figured it out, I putt better now not anchored than I ever did anchored, so even if they decided to change the rule back, I would not go back to anchored. It's just a lot freer stroke. It's an easier way to do it.
Q. With the rules changes pending for 2019 and a lot of them are simplifying you can leave the stick in, the drop rule's different, are you a little surprised that they didn't consider revisiting whether to allow anchoring again?
SCOTT McCARRON: You know, I'm not, and I actually worked a little bit with Mike Davis. I was working for FOX at the time when that was all going down, so I was working with the USGA and Mike Davis and all the guys, and I used to see them at tournaments, and I went and showed them, I said, listen, this is what I'm probably going to do is just putt not anchored. He said, you know, that's what we figured most guys with the long putter would do. Our goal was really to get rid of the belly putter. They did not like the belly putter. They did not like the idea of someone sticking a chipper in their belly and chipping that way.
The long putter, they knew guys were just going to continue using a long putter and just using it not anchored. I don't know if they foresaw Bernhard Langer and I were going to use it better than we ever did and than what anybody else ever did. So it's nice for to us come out -- I know last year there were there was some controversy in the media, Langer and I just held our head high and this is the way we putt, and I've always been that I'm not going to change a person's opinion of it, but I can teach them how to putt, so I want to make sure that I teach everyone I can, even when you're out on the golf course following me around and you want to learn, I'll spend a couple minutes with you teaching you how to putt with the putter not anchored. It's an easier way to do it, but it does take practice like anything.
Now, it's hard to do it if you've never putted with a long putter ever before. Luckily I've been doing it since 1991, so the motion is pretty much the same. But if you're going to do it, you'd better spend some time to practice.
THE MODERATOR: Great. Well, thank you, good luck this week and good luck at Exmoor this summer.
SCOTT McCARRON: Appreciate it. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports