home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


January 20, 2019

John Smoltz

Lake Buena Vista, Florida

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the celebrity portion of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, Mr. John Smoltz.

John, great to have you up here. You've been in the hunt in a number of these events over the years. You've been fighting Fish and Mulder for a long time, and you finally ended up on top.

JOHN SMOLTZ: Took an extra day to do it, which wasn't easy. My goodness. I was ready yesterday to talk about it. This is a great event, and it was a grind. I've learned a lot. This feels good.

THE MODERATOR: Your front nine was pretty solid today, which opened up your back nine, which allowed you to get away with a couple things. What was going on on the back nine there? Were you getting a little tense, or what was it?

JOHN SMOLTZ: I got defensive. You know, when you have a -- it's not really stroke play, but kind of, the way the system is, pars are so important. I started playing for pars instead of playing to hit good shots, and I got a little defensive hitting the fronts of greens, trying to two-putt. And it pretty much worked most of the day until I missed a short putt, which ironically was my only three-putt the entire tournament. It got me thinking about stuff I shouldn't be thinking about.

But the shot I hit out of 15 in the bunker and the shot I hit on 16 with the 3 wood, I thought was enough to win it, making a par. But as Mulder parred out and made me -- I needed to get another point, and that point came in a very hard way on 17.

THE MODERATOR: On the second shot, we were talking about it in here, and it looked like why aren't you staying a little farther right on your second shot on 17?

JOHN SMOLTZ: I tried -- so the lie was not very good and was right up against the hazard, and to hit the ball to the right was actually going to be harder than to hit it straight across. So I split the two and tried to blow it as far as I could over the water with the way the lie was. I thought I hit plenty of ball, and honestly, I couldn't believe it wasn't in the bunker. Your heart sinks a little bit when you realize -- I didn't think I was going to be able to move that ball either out of the -- it was completely buried. It was probably the hardest I've swung in a long time for a ball to go five feet, and I was really happy.

Q. How many golf tournaments have you won over the years, and where does this one rank?
JOHN SMOLTZ: I've never won a golf tournament like this. I've won club championships, but never a tournament, especially a four-day tournament. I've been close a lot. I finished second a few times. Certainly, my schedule, and now being 51, almost 52, I was starting to run out of time. With the way these guys hit the golf ball, if I didn't shoot my 65, obviously, I wouldn't have been in a position to do this.

I can't tell how good Marty and really the top five or six guys in this field are. The conditions today were brutal and hard, and you had to grind, and I learned a lot from just my past year of qualifying for the Senior Open. That, to me, has prepared me to kind of grind out a game when you're just -- I'm not even close to where I want to be, but I'm getting closer.

Q. That leads to my next question. What's your big goal in golf? What's your big dream?
JOHN SMOLTZ: I reached it. I want to do it a few more times. I want to try to qualify again for the Champions Tour Senior Open. And then if time allows, then I can qualify for a couple other events. I would like to do that. I really want to play as much competitive golf as I can in the next nine years.

I'm not kidding anybody or kidding myself thinking I can do it -- there's no way I can do it full-time, or there's no way I can do it other than a handful or a couple of times. I have such respect for everyone who has played this game for a long time. But in the midst of my broadcasting, this sure helps fill the void of not having much competition the last nine years because I've retired. I love to compete. I really do. Today was -- I competed with myself a few times today, and I need to work on that because I need to get more freedom in that swing.

But I haven't played a four-day tournament in so long. So physically, I'm so excited that I was able to play this many days in a row because of what I've been limited to doing before.

Q. You spent some time as a closer. Is there anything that compares between the sports and trying to close in the golf tournament today?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Not really because, as a closer, the adrenaline rush can help you. The adrenaline rush in golf usually doesn't. So I don't want that adrenaline rush in golf because that wins I'm going to swing a little too hard.

I'm going to get to a point -- I've watched these LPGA players play in every kind of wind, and their swing did not deviate one bit. I'm a great downwind golfer. I need to be a really good into the wind, cross-wind golfer, and trust that I can control a golf ball a little bit better than I did at times today.

Being a closer and coming through those doors and getting three outs, that rush is phenomenal. It's adrenaline like you never could imagine, but it's controlled, whereas here, I was thinking -- I'm not lying. I was thinking about math the last five holes. All I was thinking about is how many points I'm up, what does this mean, what are the chances they birdie three of the last four? Because in this format, they're going to have to beat you with birdies. If you make pars, it's almost -- it was almost going to be tough to catch me with four to play. That's all I was doing.

The math on 17 was starting to get fuzzy because it didn't look good for a long period. I couldn't believe I hit the ball down that left side as far as I did, and then when it was up, there wasn't a whole lot of options other than trying to rip it over the water and just take my chances. I never thought it was going to bury below the bunker.

Q. How much a better player are you now than back when you used to play those games against Tiger Woods? And what was the most memorable match you guys had?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Yeah, I'm not going to lie. I wish I could go back to those days. I bombed it. I used to hit it a lot longer than I hit it now. My game got to about a plus 4, but I didn't manage my game like I can manage it now. Obviously, with age, that's going to come. And being under the gun -- you just have to be under the gun to learn what you don't know.

Memorable rounds. Every single one of them we'd play were memorable. To me, playing with him and Annika in the same foursome and the only time they played each other -- that was the first time they played each other -- was an absolute blast to watch the two No. 1s in the world go at it and just see how incredible they were.

So any time I play with greatness, I try to look. I emulate, I see, and I learn. I've never taken a lesson, and I'm working on some things now that three-quarters of the way into the tournament I was able to handle, and then some stuff snuck back in.

I got MLB Network this week. I'm going to go home after that. I'm going to work at my game for a week, go back to the network, come back. I'm going to try to keep doing that every other week.

Q. John, you mentioned playing for pars. Was that a plan, or was that kind of some sort of default mechanism that kind of put you on the edge there?
JOHN SMOLTZ: No, it was planned. Find a fairway, find a middle of the green. I wasn't even looking at pins today. I wasn't even trying to hit one ball close to a pin. Now, I'd like to change that a little bit and kind of split the distances that I had. I put a lot of pressure on some two-putts today.

But in my mind, the way the condition was, getting a little tired. If I started trying to hit the ball hard again and try to muscle through the wind, my game could have gone sideways. So I could not play a better front nine than I did today. That was as good of kind of controlling -- I think I had 19 points after nine holes, so 1 under.

On the back nine, I got off the rails a little bit, and that's where I got a little defensive, holding on to the lead. I didn't care if I won by 1 or 15 as long as I won. I didn't care about golf at that point. I didn't care about score at all. So my score was not reflective of -- you know, I was just trying to stay in the lead looking at the points that he had, and it worked.

Q. Playing defensive is not your style in baseball, is it?
JOHN SMOLTZ: No, not at all. It's not my style in golf either, but I had to find a way to get to the 18th hole with little -- as less stress as possible. Again, it's easier to just say get up there and hit it, but there are ramifications of getting up there and just hitting it. So I didn't want to fall prey to it doesn't matter, I'm just going to swing. It doesn't matter. I'm just going to swing.

To give you a perfect example, on 16, most people in my situation probably should have just played an iron and hit it to the green and two-putted. I said my best odds, my best chances were to drive it up near the green, secure par, and if I roll in a birdie putt, great. I know I can bring in a lot of other things. So I still was kind of aggressive and then would protect.

17, same thing. Rip the driver, never dreamt it was going to get almost into the water. It might have actually been better if it did with where it was and what ended up happening. I had chest pains when I saw that ball buried underneath the lip of the hazard, but it worked out.

Q. John, with the party atmosphere component of this, were you curious how that would affect LPGA pros? And what did you observe?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Yeah, I was a little curious. You know, not being around them very often, just from playing with some occasionally, they were great. I mean, people don't understand it's not easy to play in your own tournament and play with people who either can play or can't play as celebrities. I think all of us who have been in this event long enough know how to stay out of their way, how to make conversations if they want to talk about. And today was a rough day weather-wise.

I think the professionals that we have played with in this format love it although the LPGA played stroke play whereas the Champions Tour guys last year played in our modified Stableford. So a little bit different. And a little bit different atmosphere, and maybe, just maybe, some of them will have learned how to approach some other events if you get too tight or the tournament gets to a point where it's -- you're super focused. This had the balance of everything and a lot of fun. The people were great who came out to watch.

Q. Just curious why you've never taken a lesson before and how you mostly learned.
JOHN SMOLTZ: I never took a lesson for the most part because pitching was so mechanical I didn't want to have two mechanical sports going on at the same time. I'm a feel guy. I kind of work to where I feel something, emulate something. But I have some physical limits where it does frustrate me now trying to do something correct when physically I can't.

So now I'm trying to cure up those physical limits of my shoulders and start trying to get to what I call freedom and being able to make that freedom swing under the gun because casual golf does not do it. Playing with your buddies at the course -- even though those are big shots, it's not even close. You start thinking too much.

And this is a little different for me because I play golf way too fast, way too fast. And so I've learned how to slow it down. And the idle time can get to you, and you can start thinking about negative thoughts. Today probably only two negative thoughts whereas in tournaments in the past ten, five. Obviously, it shows when you're not in the top three when that happens.

THE MODERATOR: John, you mentioned real quick feel. This week seems to be a feel good week. Everybody we talked to has said, hey, we've had a lot of fun out here. We've really enjoyed playing with the ladies, with the women, with the celebrities. What are you taking away from it all in all? And as you look forward to it again next year.

JOHN SMOLTZ: This honestly is one of the -- look, January, for the rest of the country, for most of the country, is not pleasant. Usually cold. To come down here and have three days of really sunshine -- and today was much better than what was anticipated four days ago. So to do this for four days is a blast.

I kept wanting to get here for three weeks. I was working hard. We had so much rain in Atlanta we couldn't play a lot of golf. I was beating a lot of balls. Couldn't wait to get down to Florida. For everything this tournament does, from the charity aspect to the crowd that comes out here to the parties to everything, the volunteers, this is as good as it gets.

Like Mike Flaskey said, we've got this event and Tahoe six months apart. I hate it six months it's apart. I love playing in these. This is going to last -- my guys at my club ain't going to rag me anymore. Let's just put it that way.

THE MODERATOR: Joe Buck might change his introduction of you on the ball games now.

Q. John, so did the U.S. Senior Open experience deliver you to today? Can you articulate on that again?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Yeah, it helped me a lot. The Senior Tour -- the Senior Open, the way it happened last year, just abuzz -- and not to go into any details. It was a crazy stretch. 25 out of 30 days I worked, and then those five days I played in one of the greatest tournaments in the world in the hardest conditions.

And then I thought it would make me better for Tahoe, and then I got to Tahoe and played really well the first round. The second round, my back went out, and I was done. So I've been training to see the fruits of that labor kind of in this tournament because coming into this tournament, this was going to be a little bit of an unknown for me. Could I play six days in a row? And you're talking to a guy who absolutely is obsessed with golf, loves it. I play from sun up to sundown, and I passed some tests today, and I'm going to continue to keep working on being able to stay as strong as I can to hit balls.

I could never practice. I could never hit a lot of golf balls. It just wasn't physically possible. Now I can.

So that Open, no matter what my scores were, taught me that my swing and my physical ability is not where it needs to be, and I've been working on that ever since.

Q. Can you talk about the putter? And then last thing is confidence as you approach Lake Tahoe.
JOHN SMOLTZ: The putter was fantastic. I had it for a while. I hadn't been able to pull the trigger and put it in a tournament yet. These greens -- look, I putt on bent, and now I get it -- I get it now when Tour guys come from the West to the East or vice versa, how different that is, the grain in the grass. So I just never have putted well here.

This year with the Bloodline putter, I only have one three-putt, and that was the absolute snafu I missed, the one-footer on 14. I feel like the putter is the one reason I was able to be up here because I made a lot of putts, and I felt confident with it too.

So today it was so windy I wasn't going to be able to stand it up. So that was kind of a downer. But when I could stand it up and look at the line and then just release the club, good things happen.

Q. Confidence for Tahoe?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Confidence for Tahoe is going to be huge. Honestly, I don't know how many tournaments I'm going to play before I get to Tahoe. Time will tell. It looks like I'm going to be able to play a few.

Just the way to manage this golf course and to know you can get back in it with a really, really good round. So I've made two eagles here in this tournament this week. I've never made an eagle in Tahoe in ten years. So that alone will give me the confidence that I need to know -- and believe me, there's eagles out there at Tahoe. So, yes, I will be very confident.

THE MODERATOR: John, again, congratulations, and thank you very much. Way to go.

JOHN SMOLTZ: My pleasure. I had a blast. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports

tech 129
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297