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March 18, 2003

Scott Hoch


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Scott, for joining us for a few minutes in the Bay Hill Invitational press room. Congratulations on your victory at Doral.

You had a chance to play today, so if you could talk about the course. Tiger gave us an indication that it was soft. Then we can go into some questions.

SCOTT HOCH: I guess so, yeah, the course is in great shape. Unfortunately, we got some rain and it's playing a little softer and a little bit of mud out there. We have a few holes that are always a lot wetter than others. With it being 85 or 90 and no rain the rest of the week, it should dry up pretty good. I know Arnold would like to see it play hard and fast because that's the way it plays the most difficult.

Q. Regarding the distance issue, it's not a new issue, but I just wanted to get your take on the longer ball, longer clubs, the combinations thereof, and what that does to not only the professional game but your opinion on the amateur game?

SCOTT HOCH: Well, actually I did comment about that. They had something on the Golf Channel. They asked me if there should be two different sets of rules.

You know, I think there probably could be. I wouldn't have a problem. As far as the amateurs I don't think they need to be as strict on the same rules as we do. If they determine that our equipment is making the courses obsolete and they have to gear it back, okay. If that's what they decide, and it's the same for everybody, but I tell you, instead of worrying about the courses being so long they could just put more trouble on it. And then if the guy hits it long -- but if he hits it straight, more power to him. If they grow more rough, put more bunkers, whatever, so people can't cut corners and stuff like that, that's a good way to cut it back.

You don't want to be doing stuff like what I heard last week where guys are hitting irons off the tee the whole week because of where they have the hazards. You still want to be able to, if the guy is long and straight, let him use that to his advantage, but make it to where you penalize the errant shot.

Q. You found yourself at Doral hitting completely different clubs through the years in a ten-year span --

SCOTT HOCH: Oh, it was ridiculous. 11, I almost hit it in the bunker by the green the last day. I hit itself ten steps from the front of the green.

Yeah, plus it was playing firm. It doesn't normally play that firm down there. It's getting that way. Whether the equipment gets stronger or whatever, yes, it is playing shorter.

Q. What's your take on the Tiger/Ernie rivalry? Do you think it's really there or is he just the latest in a long line of guys to make a run?

SCOTT HOCH: Well, until somebody beats Tiger I'm not sure there's any rivalry. But I think he's the best of anybody else right now and they really haven't played against each other much lately. It's not a game where you play against each other. You play against everybody else. But both of them have very impressive records this year, they are by far the best two in the game right now. The press are the ones that make up the rivalry. The players don't.

Q. What have been some of the comments since the win at Doral, and did you feel like you got put in an uncomfortable position to have to make the call to halt play?

SCOTT HOCH: I wasn't the least bit worried about it, no. I didn't have a bit of a problem with it. Other people said they might have had a tough time making that decision and stuff but that was the only decision I thought there was to make.

No, the comments -- all of the players have come up to me and said congratulations. And then everybody is saying, "Great move to do that." Obviously it's a great move since it paid off for me. But if I'd missed the putt and Furyk would have won, people would have said: "Well, you made the wrong choice you should have gone ahead and played." But whether I won or lost it was still the right move for me.

Just like all the other players, it's a great move but they either say -- well, I don't think I would have had the balls to do that or I'd have been able to make that decision. But, I've learned from past experiences and I guess that's one of the advantages of being, as they said in the telecast, 47 years old, over and over and over.

What was it, Beth Daniels thought her middle name was "45 years old" a couple years ago when she was contending during the Open. And I heard Jay Haas thought what his whole name was, 49-year-old-Jay-Haas. So, they are pretty enamored by age, I guess. And they shouldn't be at this time because a lot of good players, why should age determine how well a person plays.

Q. Along those lines, do you think at age 47 or whatever you are --

SCOTT HOCH: I think we know what age I am by now. Go ahead.

Q. At age 47, without equipment, would you be as competitive you are today, without the advances?

SCOTT HOCH: I think I would be more competitive.

Q. Why?

SCOTT HOCH: Because, well, what you have, you have equipment that makes the ball, it's easier to hit it straighter. That doesn't work in my benefit. I hit it pretty straight anyway but it straightens up a lot of the other guys, whether you are talking about irons, grooves, whatever.

With the balls, yes, it goes farther for me but not as far as the longer hitters. The longer hitters get more out of it, especially the new balls.

Like I tested the X ball against the Pro V the one I was using and for me it was not the same. For the longer hitters that swing harder and have more clubhead speed they really get the benefit of it.

So I would think since I'm more of a shot-maker, I think it would be easier for me to compete if the ball and equipment was like it used to be because that's what my game is.

And that's what everybody is saying, it's taking the shot-making out of the game, so by doing that, I think I'm at a disadvantage rather than helping me.

Q. Would you rather that be your middle name, shot-maker instead of 47?

SCOTT HOCH: It doesn't make any difference as long as they pay me.

Q. This may be a little hard to do but if you could take the different factors in distance, whether it's clubs, balls, coaching at a young age, lawn mowers cutting the fairways down to nothing, which would you assign more weight to?

SCOTT HOCH: You mean the thing that's changed the game the most, made it easier? Probably the woods, the metals. It would be closer between metal woods and balls but they pretty much go hands in hand. Titleist, their X ball, they have a club, that in testing, just about all of the clubs go about the same but I tested this one driver that Titleist has with their ball and it was ten yards farther every time.

I think it's probably equal, you give equal credit to the ball and the metal woods as far as hitting a little longer and straighter. Metal woods help you hit it a lot straighter. That's just about as important as the length that you get.

Q. Is it that have a far greater impact than conditioning of more athletic looking players we're getting today, the coaching at an early age?

SCOTT HOCH: Well, you coach at an early age, but a guy has to have talent and still has to hit the shot. Coach doesn't hit the shot. Matter of fact sometimes I think guys depend too much on them, the guys that go see them all the time. I mean, all of a sudden, if they have a problem they can't figure it out themselves.

That's all good. And I figure that whatever is best for you, that's what you've got to do.

But another big factor for the courses playing shorter is the guys are in better shape than they used to be. They work out, they are in better shape, got a lot better competition. There are a lot of different factors but I still think the ball and the metal woods make the biggest impact.

Q. Last year there was a ton of first-time winners, there was a lot of talk about that. This year, for the most part, it's been the established Top-20 players have won. Is that just water finding it's level or how do you explain that?

SCOTT HOCH: Well, if you have so many first-time winners that won last year, then all of a sudden we don't have so many first-time guys that can win. (Laughter.) That might have something to do with it because they had so many last year.

I can't say why. I think if it starts early in the year where some young guys win I think all of a sudden their contemporaries think: Hey, if this guy can do that, I beat him in a practice round, I don't know I didn't can't win. If young guys win, it probably gives more young guys the confidence that they can win and vice versa; that if the old guys can do well, then they figure, why can't I?

I heard when I won a couple of times a few years ago, I read a quote, I don't know if it's true, but I did read it where Nick Price said, well, he figured if Scott Hoch could win -- not down grading me, but if I could win, he was just a year younger than I am, or two years younger, then why couldn't he win last year. Age, as long as you still have the skill and the will and the mind to do it, why can't you.

I've got confidence out of seeing Jay Haas play so well early this year. I think the young guys build on the young guys playing well and the 40-somethings feed on other 40-somethings playing better.

Q. At Doral you joked about being undecided which picket line you would want to get into at Augusta.

SCOTT HOCH: I just said they had so many choices now, it makes it tough it pick. I'm not going to get any -- I don't picket, I'm not a union guy. I'm nothing. I just go out and play. I'm just going out and play.

Q. I just wonder if you felt that the issue, wherever you land, if it's hurting the game at this point?

SCOTT HOCH: I don't know if it's hurting the game. It's certainly not going to bother us in playing because we are going to be inside playing and it's going to be business as usual once we get on the grounds. The traffic might be a little slower or whatever. It's something that's been made a lot, to me, it's something that's been made a lot bigger than it should be. That's the press. They made it that way. But they are always looking for something when you have Augusta and you think of Augusta as squeaky clean and you have something like this, they always like to write something about that.

I don't know if it's hurt it. I would not say it's hurt the game. It might have affected Augusta in some way. Obviously financially it's hurt them. But as far as the game I can't see how it's hurt the game any because it's not about the game; it's about a tournament, a tournament.

Q. Have you noticed a little difference, usually the road to the Masters starts when you get to Florida, Doral, Honda, wherever and you're talking about course changes, favorites who, is on top of their game and who found most of the questions centering on one particular issue.

SCOTT HOCH: Yeah, it's taken -- it has. They are asking more about that than really who are the contenders for Augusta.

But I think the reason they don't ask that is that's pretty much a given who the contenders are. (Laughter.)

Q. On the one hand we are talking about length has come into the game and yet you and Mike Weir are both --

SCOTT HOCH: Mike Weir hits it pretty long. He might be short in stature but he gets it out there pretty good.

Q. Given the way you've played, do you think Augusta has been -- the length, how will it affect you?

SCOTT HOCH: Well, I remember saying last year before I saw it that I had a good deal of reservations about it, because from what I heard when Tiger and O'Meara came back, what they said about it, they said that it was really going to be something and something very difficult. But it was more playable -- when I got there, it was more playable than I thought it was.

It's not to my benefit, no. But yet, it doesn't -- the changes they make are pretty good. I don't agree with all of them. They don't make it before long hitters can hit it just about anywhere and they were big-time favorite. Now they make to where big hitters are favorites but now they have to control their ball, more trouble with bunker or they have to lay-up some. They just can't be as aggressive as they used to be and the long hitters have to hit it straight.

And so in that regard, I think they did a good job with it by making it just so the good players have the advantage or the guys playing well; that they just don't have it to where all long hitters don't have a big van. It doesn't fit my game. They lengthened it. I don't care if the course is 8,000 yards. I don't mind that as long as they have rough and penalties for errant shots. For Augusta, that's not the case there and that's not a course that really fits my game.

Q. Three years, five years, ten years from now, do you think the controversy about Augusta this year will be remembered that much?

SCOTT HOCH: I don't think so.

The thing I don't understand about it, what's the big deal about letting one -- most likely, one rich white lady into a club? I mean, how is that really going to change the land skip of America? Shoot, I think if they are going to -- there are a lot of issues out there that I agree strongly with the women about; that I think would help a lot more women than this particular issue. But why has this become so important? I think it's just the press have taken it because of the way Augusta is.

And Hootie didn't help with his response, either. I mean, I just think that there are a lot more issues out there that can help a lot more women and be beneficial to a lot more women than just letting a lady member in Augusta. It's not as if they can't play and they still have a lot of members there.

They can let a female member in. I really don't -- that doesn't bother me at all. But if it's their choice, so be it.

Q. Because of the way conditions last year at Augusta were, the true nature of the changes were not really revealed. What do you think the winning score could be and how is it going to play different when it's hard and fast?

SCOTT HOCH: I don't know. I haven't played it hard and fast so I can't tell you. All I know is I remember hitting 3- and 4-irons into 18 every day after really good tee balls and that's not a hole that you want to be hitting long irons into.

It's difficult. I'd have to play it hard and fast before I could find out how it would change and what the score would be.

After all of the rain I've been getting and I would imagine they have got a lot of rain, too, I can't see it playing hard and fast. I think the whole East Coast has got a lot of rain this winter. I would doubt that it would be hard and fast. Jacksonville, they are supposed to be so soft, they have had so much rain up there.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Scott.

End of FastScripts....

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