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July 11, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Brian Urlacher, Jerry Woods, Adam Napier and John Smoltz.
John, tenth year at this tournament. You're going off as one of the favorites at 6-to-1. For everybody who doesn't know John Smoltz, how about an eight-time All-Star, first-ballot Hall of Fame, and as a guy who used to hang a lot of curveballs, the best dang baseball commentator I've ever heard.
Left side of the room, Brian Urlacher, also his tenth time here at the American Century Championship. Hall of Famer with the Chicago Bears.
And we are honored to introduce these gentlemen -- retired Marine Captain Jerry Woods, the winner of the 2019 Warrior Open. And with him, on his bag this week, his caddie -- we've got a Marine captain and we've got a U.S. Army captain, Adam Napier.
Q. John, you've been here a few times. You've been playing on the Senior Tour, played two or three different events this year. You won the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in January in Orlando. You're on a roll. What's your game like?
JOHN SMOLTZ: I don't know about "on a roll." That was back in January. It was modeling my baseball career where I was supposed to win a Cy Young just about every time and I didn't. Maybe 10 is a perfect number to get off the schneid here in Tahoe, which is by far the greatest venue for us and so much excited people to be here.
So I've learned something yesterday that I think is going to help me navigate the next three days. When you spend seven hours in an airport because you miss your flight, you've got time, I ain't going anywhere fast. It helped me today.
I'm slowing things down to actually deal with the environment here, and I think that's what you've got to do.
Q. Tomorrow it sounds like you're paired with your two Hall of Fame pitching compatriots from the Atlanta Braves days. I think you said something about you'd like to see something about improving their game?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Yeah, they need to push me a little better. Play a little better. No, we've matched up seems like every tournament. Obviously, it's Reunion 101, we've played so much golf together.
For whatever reason, none of us ever get off to a fast start. So I'm going to tell them on the first tee I expect them to make at least two or three birdies so that will fire me up, because obviously I don't want to lose to either one of them.
If I do, then I've got to move out of Georgia. (Laughter).
Q. Brian, you're going off at 100-to-1 odds across the street. Pretty solid bet for you?
BRIAN URLACHER: Seems a little low, honestly, as well as I'm playing right now. I've not been playing well. Few years ago I played really well, I think I finished eighth or ninth a few years ago. It's just gradually gone down to 25, 30, 35 finishes the last couple of years.
I don't know what it is. My game is getting worse every year. I feel like I'm hitting it better each year but we'll find out tomorrow how good I think I'm hitting it.
Q. The reason you're in this room quite frankly is because Jerry Woods has always looked up to you when you played in Chicago.
BRIAN URLACHER: My man is from Wisconsin. It had to be tough living up there, all those Green Bay fans, being a Bears fan. Definitely appreciate you supporting us all the way up there.
Q. Jerry, a little background and history on that, would you, please?
JERRY WOODS: So born and raised in Wisconsin. All my family, Packer fans. For some reason obviously '85 was a pretty good year for the Bears. So I was young and I just fell in love with the Bears and ever since I've loved them.
It's an honor to be sitting here next to this guy. Met Coach Nagy last night. It's an honor to be here and meet these guys.
Q. Adam, you're packing this week, how did you get this job? Let's hear the background on this one.
ADAM NAPIER: So it happened a year ago, we met Jerry. We played in a golf tournament together, which we've learned over the last couple of years that golf is a tremendous asset to veterans and helping them deal with a lot of the issues they have.
We were part of an organization that brought us together, complete strangers, we didn't know each other a year ago. Played in a tournament in Roanoke, Virginia. Then we came to California, played in another event together.
I told him about the Warrior Open. And then he signed up for it, got chosen to play in it. And son of a gun, he went and won it, while I couldn't play because I was getting married that week. Terrible timing. (Laughter).
When he found out he was getting to come do this, he called me, Hey, man, would you carry my bag? I said, I'd love to, man. And it's just the game of golf bringing us together, an Army guy and a Marine. It doesn't happen a lot. (Laughter).
Q. This is the sixth year we've had a Wounded Warrior representative at this event, and American Century Investments got together with the George W. Bush Foundation to put this on to award the winner of that tournament a playing spot. And you guys, Jerry, you've got some work to do. Chad Pfeiffer played in this a couple of years. First year he came in here, he was the leader after round one. Won about $25,000. No pressure but --
JERRY WOODS: I've talked to Andrew and Chad, and they gave me some advice, obviously told me to have fun, but they gave me some pointers. I think I'm ready. I'm going to come out here. And my plan is to win. I didn't come out here just to have fun. Yeah, I'm going to enjoy the moment out here, but I'm going to come out and win. Probably the biggest one I want to beat, though, would be Aaron Rodgers. Being a definite Bears fan, he's brought some heartache to us. I'd love to take it to him.
Q. Adam, there's supposed to be a 10 percent caddie involved in this. The winner gets 100 and a quarter. That would be a good weekend for you.
ADAM NAPIER: It would. It definitely would, and it would be worth the walk for that. Have I mentioned how good of friends we are, Jerry?
JERRY WOODS: Maybe a little more than 10 percent.
Q. Adam, I think you probably answered one of the questions I was going to ask, but listening to your accent, what part of New England are you from?
ADAM NAPIER: So since there's a lot of Packer references here, I'm from the second biggest Packer fandom. I'm from the Hattiesburg, Mississippi area, had a pretty good Packer quarterback that played at my alma mater Southern Miss. I'm from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Q. Jerry, how did you get stuck in Morgantown, Pennsylvania?
JERRY WOODS: It's Mechanicsburg, a suburb of Harrisburg. My final three years I was stationed there. The Marine Corps called me up said you have orders to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. I said, where? It ended up being a blessing in disguise. I have two kids, got settled up there. Schools are great. We decided it was time to grow some roots and we settled there in Pennsylvania and let them finish out school; and instead of moving around, we did it for 20 years, so we figured it's time to settle for them.
Q. John, last year you were hurt at this tournament.
JOHN SMOLTZ: Second round.
Q. What happened? Can you walk us through your last two days here?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Just made a swing. My back went out. And it was the worst-looking swing you've seen the next two days. I didn't want to withdraw. Probably should have. But I finished -- you come this far. You're going to have to find something worse than that -- I just told the guys I was playing with just don't look when I swung. It was bad. But it's just that way it is when you travel that much.
Q. Finished tenth, you did fairly well.
JOHN SMOLTZ: I had a really good first round, which I was ready to.
Q. 21 --
JOHN SMOLTZ: -- to finish in the 60s, but it didn't work out.
Q. John, obviously the word has been getting out, everybody knows you've been playing in a lot of different Champions Tour events this year. Does that help prepare you for this? Is it a totally different deal, or is it, hey, it's this weekend and this swing?
JOHN SMOLTZ: It helps. If I have a chance to do it again next year I'd like to bunch them together a little closer. They're three separate tournaments two months part. And just when I can work it in my schedule. But I learned a lot about myself in those events. It's stroke play, which is way different than this. You've got to be a little more aggressive in this.
But casual golf is nowhere close to playing tournament golf. And so what I've had to learn is play with what I've got that week. And I haven't been in position, really, to be as right as you want to be, because of my broadcasting schedule and baseball.
So I make no bones about it, trying to pull off a miracle, but it's been a blast and it's helped my golf game. It's hurt my physical ability to do certain things, though, because that's what I've got to change.
So I'm going to try to find a way to change my body a little bit while I travel, fly and play golf.
Q. Besides yourself, give me your next three favorites in this event?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, I mean, it's hard to go against Romo, Mardy Fish and Mark Mulder. And everybody else is always looking at them, especially Mardy and Mulder. In January, that's all I was looking at and was lucky enough, in four rounds, to hold them off. But this event as we talked about is all about the greens here and being able to make putts. Nothing lips in.
You've got to be at times you've got to be willing to try to make a three-footer coming back. It can humble a lot of good golfers, because the greens are very tricky. The layout's awesome. Love the layout. For my eyes, love it. But it's the greens that you have to find a way.
And I'm hoping to do something I haven't done in 10 years. I don't think I have an eagle in this tournament. And that is pretty shocking for me. And I would like to wear the hat.
Q. I was going to ask if you were going to wear the hat.
JOHN SMOLTZ: Make an eagle or two and get rewarded.
Q. Brian, you've been coming out here for 10 years. You and John, I believe, are two of the 16 Hall of Famers that are competing in this event. The reason you're here, what, have a lot of fun?
BRIAN URLACHER: It's a blast. I love -- I'm not on the level that John is with competition, I like competition golf. It gets my nerves going. Gets me a little nervous and it's exciting. Plus you play with different people every day.
Today is one of my favorite days because I play with the same group every year. And we have a good time. But during the tournament every year I get paired with somebody new. Cool to do that. Competition golf, you see how your nerves are, people watching, and brings out different nerves than it did on the ball field.
Q. Jerry, wondering what your buddies told you, Andrew and Chad told you, what the tips are, but you mentioned earlier, hey, you're out here to enjoy it, but any strategy?
JERRY WOODS: I played with Andrew in a practice round for the Warrior Open. And after I ended up winning the Warrior Open he came up to me, he was like after that practice round, I knew you'd be one of the guys to compete for this. And he said it was great that you won.
I have a nice fade, he said, and it's going to work great up here. And I did notice the first two days in our practice rounds that I like the way it looks. The fade works here. So as long as I can control it and then my short game keeps me in it. I'm not as long as a lot of guys, but back home I play with quite a few guys that are way longer than me and I just don't let that intimidate me. I just know that I can chip, get around the green. My short game makes up for it.
Q. Adam, any calming influence that you're going to provide?
ADAM NAPIER: I'm going to do my best to stay out of his way. I'm not real sure about his decision-making picking me as a caddie. But I'm going to be there, I'm going to be his biggest supporter here. I'm going to be cheering for him and do everything I can to help him.
Q. If you have a message that you want to give to other veterans by being involved in this event?
ADAM NAPIER: For us, like going back to what you asked us earlier how does an Army and Marine guy get along, the way we get along is the game of golf. We're golfers, that brought us together. We're really good friends now.
And it happened quick and it happened on the golf course. I'd say within six holes of us playing together you'd thought we knew each other for 10 years.
And to all the veterans out there, find something to get out there, get involved, get out of your house, get back involved in the veteran community. We're using the game of gold, but find something to get you out and get you involved. It does wonders for you.
And for us, the game of golf, I tell a lot of people, to play golf it takes a lot of concentration. I think the reason it's so beneficial to a lot of veterans is for four or five hours, like playing a course like this, you really have to put a lot of thought into every shot.
And that's a break from any issues they have, any PTSD, any stressors in their life, gives them a chance to forget about it for just a few hours. And that break can be refreshing. So find something, find a passion, get out and get involved and go with it.
Q. Jerry, how much has golf helped you with your recovery?
JERRY WOODS: It's helped a lot. I mean just recently with meeting Adam and other veterans out there, but it helped me recover from my injuries, both mentally and physically.
I've always loved golf. But it definitely helped me make that recovery but then also make the transition from military to civilian life. I met a lot of great people out on the course, not just veterans, but civilians. And like Adam is saying, veterans out there, you know, if you need someone to talk to, it's not easy to do but you need to do it. And the golf course is a great place to come out and do it.
And I want to dedicate this round for those guys that can't be out here, we're honored enough to play in the Warrior Open and we were selected, but to be here and representing the military and all the veterans and especially those that gave the ultimate sacrifice that are not here today.
So I hope to represent this weekend and bring home a win.
Q. I think you saw some of the feeling and emotion last night when you were introduced at the player meeting with a prolonged standing ovation for you and then to have you come up and say a few words. It was very moving.
JERRY WOODS: I was just honored. Just for everyone to stand up and then they told me to come up in the front of the room and they yelled speech, speech. I was just -- you know, it was a true honor and obviously to be around so many heroes that I've looked up to throughout my life and to be accepted like that and shown the support, and not just in the celebrity community but I think nationwide, we have so much support for us as veterans and the troops and we definitely appreciate that.
It makes it easy for us coming home and making that transition or just being able to relate to the civilians. We appreciate all the support from America.
Q. John, for you to start if I could, I was curious, following up on how you were talking about this course and putting being so important. Does that really put more pressure on you and your putter, or does it put more pressure on you and your wedge game?
JOHN SMOLTZ: No, it's a totally different surface than I'm used to. Poa annua -- I never used to understand when I was watching professional golf why guys from the west have struggled putting in the east or vice versa.
You get on certain surfaces and your eyes and everything you feel like you can make a lot of putts. And out here it's a little different.
The greens, I'm going to say, are the best I've ever seen them, especially on a Thursday. So you could just roll five or six balls and they may or may go the same direction. So you have to really -- this has been my philosophy that hasn't always worked. But it really shouldn't be short on a birdie putt, and I better not be crazy on a par putt, and an eagle putt better get to the hole because those points are too valuable.
So, if you 3-putt on a birdie putt, so what. If you 3-putt on a par putt that's when you get in trouble. So those are the things that -- you do things differently casually than you would in a tournament under the gun because typically what happens when you miss a putt and it hits something or goes left, the first thing everyone else is thinking is that the pressure got to you.
It's not really the case. It's just the surface is different. And I'm learning how to adapt to the surface.
Q. Kind of a follow-up to the PGA, open golf kind of question, I think there's six guys in the field this year that have done that or are doing that. You and the three other favorites you mentioned are four of them. Do you guys have an advantage over everybody else? And does anybody in that group of six have an advantage over anybody else?
JOHN SMOLTZ: I think the biggest thing with what Mulder and Romo did is that's the big boys. That's the PGA. For me in the Champions Tour, it's helped my -- it's really navigated my golf game differently.
I don't come on the first tee and feel like I used to. I don't let certain shots bother me when I didn't know what that meant before.
But when you're out of your element, it doesn't feel good at times. And getting in -- I can play with a lot of those guys casually. If you get in a tournament, there's a 15-shot difference in three days, easy. That's unbelievable.
That helps you know when you get here it's a little different, it's a little more relaxed and it's not as much -- you know, one or two bad swings out there, that's a triple bogey you don't get back. It's only minus two here. You can get them back really quickly with birdies and eagle.
It's a total different mindset when you're -- I would love to play stroke play all the time. I play differently. I navigate the golf course differently. But when you've got to get aggressive and make birdies and eagles it's a little different.
Q. Brian and Jerry, as members of the Bears fraternity and family, I saw Jim McMahon out here yesterday wearing green over yellow. Packers colors. Any thoughts?
JERRY WOODS: I did notice that, too. So I met Jim McMahon last year in the Veterans Golf Association National Championship, and obviously a true honor being a long time Bears fan. I'm not sure why he was wearing that. You have to ask him. Maybe Brian knows.
BRIAN URLACHER: I didn't see that. I wasn't here. He played for the Packers, too. Did you know that? He played up there a little bit more north than where we are. Maybe that's his reasoning. I'm not sure. I can't speak for him.
I'm playing with him tomorrow. Myself, him and Robbie are playing tomorrow. I'll ask him.
Q. Or lost a bet?
BRIAN URLACHER: Could be as well.
Q. On the 7th hole today you probably all noticed they kicked it up a notch, made it a little more interesting for you. And it's all a benefit for the Stowers Institute for their cancer research fund. And they had a beer-drinking contest out there. And Jerry aside, because I know he probably would win it anyways, from Marine to Marine. And, Brian, I know that your glass kind of slipped there at the end or right over your shoulder.
BRIAN URLACHER: It was weird. It was warm when I grabbed it and I just -- first of all, I don't like beer, so I just kind of threw it over my shoulder. I'm not a beer guy, man. I'm not going to drink it if it doesn't taste good.
Q. How did the rest of you guys do up there?
JERRY WOODS: We didn't get a chance to play today. We just came out and practiced.
JOHN SMOLTZ: I don't like beer either, but I hit it to four feet and birdied the hole. So I like the hole.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports