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May 25, 2021

Scott Verplank

Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

Press Conference

Southern Hills Country Club

JOHN DEVER: Good afternoon welcome back to the 2021 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship here at Southern Hills Tulsa Oklahoma. We are joined by local golfing legend, Scott Verplank. Two-time Ryder Cup member too. Have to think this is a fun week for you to think about as you saw it on the long-range calendar. Maybe explain that excitement, but also your relationship with this golf course that I imagine you played a number of times.

SCOTT VERPLANK: Yeah, it is obviously exciting for -- well it's good for me because it's only an hour and a half from home, I have played here a number of times, whether it be in college and then in major championships here and a few times just out of the blue. But it's great for the state of Oklahoma and great for golf. This is a great golf state. Just to have this tournament this year and then followed up with the big one next year, it really couldn't be any better.

JOHN DEVER: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Could you estimate how many times you've played Southern Hills? Do you have any clue?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Oh, I probably would have to say 20, 25. We used to come over here once or twice in college and then played the U.S. Open and the PGA here and then I played here a few other times. So, yeah, I would say if you add them all up, practice rounds and all that, about 20 or 25.

Q. Enough times. And being in your home state would it make it even more special if you were able to do well here?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Oh, absolutely. Just because it's -- I mean, it's kind of my area. Not really my area, but it's our area. Oh, it would be awesome. Southern Hills is such an iconic place. The people of Tulsa are great. There are lots of Oklahoma State people here, which will be good. I think it would be very exciting. It's up to me to figure out how to play again.

Q. Back in 2007 you talked a lot about the reception that you got from the locals, people handing you OU hats even to sign. Can you talk about how special that reception was and how much more excited it makes you to return?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Oh, yeah, listen, that was -- I mean it was awesome to have it here. Obviously it was unbelievably hot, but standing on the first tee on Saturday in the last group with Tiger, when Tiger was at full throttle, it was -- I didn't end up playing very good that day, but walking down the first hole it was kind of like all the Tiger and red on the left and all the OSU and orange on the right and it was kind of like a football game.

So he and I were kind of laughing about it walking off the first tee. I think I might have said something like, You've never had this many people against you, have you? He laughed. Of course then he kicked my rear.

Q. What emotions did you have when you heard about getting inducted into the Oklahoma golf Hall of Fame?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well, just, honestly, just a privilege. Just to be included in the family of golf in Oklahoma and to be kind of propped up by your peers, that kind of says you've done something maybe above and beyond regular duties. So it's -- and it's a complete honor. I don't always feel like a Hall of Famer, but if they want to induct me, then I'll gladly accept.

Q. Being an OSU guy, looking at what the golf team was able to do right now, how invested are you in keeping tabs on them?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Oh, absolutely. Listen, they were kind of scrambling early in the year and they are peaking at the right time. It's one of those deals. They got a bunch of kids led by Austin Eckroat that can really play. So if they keep playing like they have been playing, I would say that they're going to be hard to handle at the end of the deal. But it is match play and anything can happen. So it will be exciting to watch.

Q. When we talked last week you said last week was the first time you've been here since the restoration was done. And now you're back here again. What's some more maybe some course prep you're getting done and what do you think, some more initial thoughts?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well to be honest with you I haven't been out on the course since I played here last Tuesday. I've been doing television work for the last two weeks. So I haven't had time to practice that much -- I practiced enough, but I'm going to play today in the pro-am, looking forward to seeing the course again. I loved it a week ago I played and I thought it was just a great redo, the golf course is as cool as it's ever been. I think it will -- it's one that stands the test of time and I don't see that changing for quite awhile.

Q. The experience too of calling the PGA, how was that?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well it was actually, it was really fun. Now they worked me way too much. I think I was on, I was on ESPN Plus doing feature groups and I think I worked 40 hours last week, on the air. But I did have Phil's group Saturday and Sunday, so they put me with the best group. I know Phil very well, was in touch with him all week and I wasn't as excited as those people that rushed the 18th green, but I was trying to keep it as neutral as possible, but, yeah, I thought that was unbelievable and it was a great experience for me.

Q. Obviously it would have been interesting to have Phil here this week right after he did that. But give us a few names of who you think, what you've seen of the course changes and what you know about how to play this course that we should all be watching for this week?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well, it's kind of like the old days on the TOUR when there were about a handful of guys that just dominated. And that's kind of the way it is right now on the Champions Tour. But Stricker is the second best 50-year-old player in the world in my opinion, right behind Phil now. Not that Phil was -- he might have already been, but, Stricker, Furyk, Ernie. Retief won here. Langer is unbelievable, he puts in all the hard work, kind of like Phil has done the last couple years and he's always prepared to play. And then there's a few or guys that I know I'm not mentioning, but these guys, a lot of these guys are playing more inspired golf than they have ever played, so it makes it very competitive.

Q. Where does Phil's accomplishment rank to you among things you've seen in golf?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Oh, boy, I would say -- it's right there with the '86 Masters and the really and really Tiger winning a couple of years ago at Augusta and all of that would have been topped if Tom Watson would have pulled it off at Turnberry when he was 59 and a half. But that's still right up there too. But, yeah, what Phil did last week, like I said, I watched three of those four rounds, called his shots for three of his four rounds and he was 3-over after 6. And I'm sitting there like going, you know, Phil just, this golf course is not going to fit Phil. From that point on he just whipped everybody's butt and he played the best. I got to watch all the guys that were in the lead or in the last groups and call the shots and, listen, he just played better. He played smarter and he, for him, it was important he led the field in driving after two rounds, which is really unusual. He didn't drive it as good on the weekend, but it gave him enough confidence and when he had to step up there on the back nine he hit two of the best drives of his life on 15 and 16 when he needed them. So that was the difference.

Q. Did going back to the changes in the course, what do you think you guys as players, what's the biggest changes that have happened that you're going to be able to recognize this week?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well I think it's going to be the -- hopefully it doesn't rain too much, but it's going to be the runoffs, the greens are perched up high, they have got things mowed down and feeding into some of these runoffs, if you get a little bit off and it will now roll 20 or 30 yards off the green. Whereas in years past really only 9 and 18 would do that. But now there's quite a few, 10, 11, obviously 12 always runs in, but a lot of new holes or not new holes but new areas that will run off a lot further away from the pin position. So that will make it play a lot different. They just lengthened it, they cleaned up a lot of the trees, made it actually I think it looks better. I love trees on a golf course, but they did, they pulled the right ones out and I think they did a fantastic job.

Q. Have you learned anything from being up in the booth with these younger guys? What have you learned that you might not have seen on the course playing?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well, I've learned that they're all way bigger than me (laughing) and they hit it way further. Listen, golf has changed quite a bit, obviously the guys at the top can still really play, but it's turned into obviously turned into more of a bomber's high trajectory whereas in the past it was move the ball around, hit different windows. To be honest with you, I think that's what -- like last week, it was amazing that a guy 50 years old, he bombed it when he needed to, but he also played the right shots and I made the comment during the last round, he didn't hit, I don't know, he missed quite a few fairways, but he always missed it in the right place, which is, to play a golf course like that one or this one, you've got to be able to -- your misses have got to be in the right spot. You got to know where to miss it and if you don't hit it in the fairway then you've got to be in a playable area. So that's still -- I've always tried to play that way. Some of the younger guys don't necessarily, I think they just can overpower everything, but I would say the younger guys probably kind of should learn a lesson from last week and maybe revamp a little bit of their style and figure out how to get the ball in the hole faster and not just beat the crap out of it.

Q. Being from Oak Tree National, just speak a little bit about Willie Wood and Brandt Jobe and playing with those guys all the time just for those people that might not know Brandt as well kind of tell them about his game and Willie's?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well Willie, he and I have been, he was a senior when I was a freshman at Oklahoma State, we have been friends forever. Great guy. Consistent player. He could play good here. Listen, he drives the ball very straight now and he's probably the best putter I've ever played with in 40 years of golf. Around here the greens are so pure that if you get it going, you could fill it up.

Brandt is, he's really a remarkable athlete for a guy that's 52 or 53 years old. He still kills it. He bombs it. But he likes to tinker and he's always like a typical guy that bombs it, he's always complaining about his putting and then he's hitting balls on the range (laughing) but he should play well here. I know he's got a little family, his son is graduating Thursday night and I don't know if you know about his son, but his son is an all-world baseball player. Out of high school he's a top-10 draft pick in the major leagues. So I know Brandt's thinking a lot about that too, but I wouldn't be shocked at all if Brandt played very well here.

JOHN DEVER: I want to ask you about the major championship season which didn't exist or barely existed last year and for the PGA TOUR Champions and you had the Regions a couple weeks ago and now here, how important is that for everyone in the field to have something to kind of like hyper focus, laser focus them in and get that, get back in that major championship groove.

SCOTT VERPLANK: I think it's very important, actually. I think this tournament and the Senior U.S. Open are the two best tournaments that we play. They're just a little different than other events and you come to a venue like this, you don't get to play places like Southern Hills all the time, so I think if you're not laser focused this week, then you might not ever be that way again.

Q. The next 12 months golf in Oklahoma and Southern Hills specifically is kind of going to be in the lime light. Can you talk about your thoughts generally on the state of the game in Oklahoma and how lucky we are, we have got Pete Dye's and Perry Maxwell's and MacKenzie's and all of these things, just talk a little bit about how you feel the state of the game is here?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well kind of like I said earlier, I mean Oklahoma is actually a great golf state. It's highly underrated. People here love golf, we do have great golf courses, starting with Southern Hills, Oak Tree National, there's six or eight Perry Maxwell's, Karsten Creek and Jimmie Austin for the colleges. And that helps too, OU and OSU are both top 3 if not the best two teams in college golf, so that always adds a little interest and a little -- it kind of just shows that Oklahoma takes golf pretty serious. I know it seems like football only, but golf is pretty strong around here. So people appreciate it and particularly in the last year, 15 months, all the stuff we have been going through, the rounds of golf I think everywhere but in Oklahoma have just exploded. So that's good for the game.

Q. Being in your home state, being an hour and a half away from home, being a course you're so familiar with, do you feel like you have an advantage going into this?

SCOTT VERPLANK: If I get to playing well then, yes, I know I'll have a few extra people pulling for me. You know, I, it should be familiar with the weather here (laughing) it's not always an advantage to have a windy days, but if you're playing well then at least you're used to it. So it is, it will be good, it's great to be here and it will be an advantage if I play well.

JOHN DEVER: I wanted to ask you one question about the fans. Getting them back in the fray here. Obviously we talked about the support and the golf culture here, but I don't know what's been going on on the PGA TOUR Champions, the fans, but I'm thinking you're going to have good numbers here. How important -- that's important for the guys in the field to feel that energy from them and draw from it.

SCOTT VERPLANK: No question. I think last week showed, fans want to get back out and it adds to the enthusiasm and it adds to the excitement. So even at this level it's still important to have appreciation when you hit good shots. I mean it always, that's kind of one of the reasons you play, you know, you play for yourself, but you also, if you're really, really good, you're putting on a show, you're putting on entertainment for fans and that's kind of why we have these big tournaments. So I'm looking forward to it. It's great to have people around.

JOHN DEVER: I think that will do it Scott, thanks so much.

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