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January 3, 2006

Bart Bryant


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Bob Bryant, thank you for joining us. Welcome to Kapalua, the Mercedes Championship. Last time we saw you, you were in the winners chair at THE TOUR Championship in Atlanta. You had a dream season last year. Maybe a couple comments about coming back to Kapalua.

BART BRYANT: You know, it's a great part to win during the year. I got my first taste of it last year after winning at the Valero Texas Open. When you've been here once, you get a taste of it, you really want to come back because, all these folks know, it's a great place to hang out for the week. It's a great place to start the year.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Have you had a chance to reflect on your season last year, winning the Memorial, THE TOUR Championship. Obviously a tremendous year.

BART BRYANT: Yeah, I did. I've done a lot of reflection, relived it many times, watched the telecast a couple times at home. Had a big party with my friends and family, just kind of celebrated.

It's really been a fun off season, just to kind of look back over the year and kind of celebrate my good fortune. But, you know, it's 2006 now, so it's time to move on.


Q. Considering both had strong fields, which gave you more satisfaction, making par from a hazard or killing everybody?

BART BRYANT: Well, yeah, like you said, it's almost two different animals, wasn't it? But winning THE TOUR Championship was awfully special. Of course, you know, you win the Memorial, we were talking about this earlier, you make a putt to win the last hole, walk off the green, and there's Jack Nicklaus standing there waiting to shake your hand, I mean, that's like golfer utopia. You know, that was really special.

Winning THE TOUR Championship, you know, by that margin, being able to kind of best a quality field obviously of the top you know, top 30 guys who are on their game last year was something that will be very meaningful to me.

You know, they're kind of unique in their own ways, but both of them are very special. It's kind of almost hard to put one above the other, to be honest with you.

Q. So you're not going to.

BART BRYANT: Sorry (smiling).

Q. You left Atlanta for Orlando that night and had the doctor the next morning, is that correct?

BART BRYANT: I did. I saw the doctor Monday morning and had surgery Tuesday.

Q. What did you do in between? Go crazy?

BART BRYANT: Between Sunday night and Monday morning?

Q. Yes.

BART BRYANT: Literally I had a doctor's appointment Monday morning at like 10:00. I got home at midnight. I had from midnight till 10:00. I celebrated by sleeping about nine of those 10 hours (laughter). It felt good.

Q. Can you give us a run down on the procedure.

BART BRYANT: Yeah, what I had was a little piece of cartilage that was just kind of hanging there, just kind of flopping around, almost like a hangnail that just caused a little bit of irritation. We went in to cut that off.

At the same time I just had some fraying of the cartilage underneath the kneecap a little bit. So they went head and just kind of shaved that down, smoothed it out. That's something that we really hadn't talked much about before the surgery. That's put me back, because we did that, it put me back a little bit more than I had expected.

But overall, I mean, I think it's doing very well.

Q. Is that golf related, that injury, do you think?

BART BRYANT: Yeah, but you know, probably just from years and years of, you know, swinging the golf club, walking up and down hills, being a pansy.

Q. Being a year to year guy for so long, how much did the multi year exemption last year free you up to find out how good you could really be out here?

BART BRYANT: Well, I mean, I think I sort of answered that question in a way by winning in 2004 and having 2005 as a free year basically. It did, it freed me up to concentrate a little bit more on winning, playing the schedule that I wanted to play as opposed to playing where they told me to play, which is what I've always done.

I skipped a few events where I haven't done well in the past, played all the events where I felt very comfortable, which were mostly venues that are warmer, dryer, where the ball rolls a little bit more. I stuck with that, and that seemed to pay off for me in the long run.

Q. The knee doesn't affect your swing?

BART BRYANT: No, doesn't affect my swing.

Q. Walking?

BART BRYANT: Walking is not bad. Just really walking downhill is what really is getting me right now. It gets really sore at the end of the day.

I think as long as there's a soreness, it's not going to be an issue, but if I start feeling some kind of sharp pain in there, then I might need to consider what I'm doing. But I expect to be able to play this week. As far as the golf swing goes, it's just not creating any problem there.

Q. When were you able to hit full shots?

BART BRYANT: I probably hit some full shots about a month removed from the surgery. That would be about the 8th or 9th of December. I say I was hitting full shots, I mean, very few. It probably was just up until about a week and a half ago where I actually had a day of practice, where I really went out and hit balls for two hours, putted and chipped for an hour. You know, prior to that, it was, you know, go out for 15 minutes or something.

Q. Had you played the Masters before?

BART BRYANT: I have not.

Q. This will be the first one?


Q. Did you get the invitation in the mail?


Q. What was that like?

BART BRYANT: Already in a frame on my desk. Right there, man. Went in the frame the first day I got it. It was pretty cool. What was funny was, I didn't really know you got an invitation. My manager called me, said, "Hey, did you get your invitation yet?" I hadn't got it.

He said, "It should be coming."

I got it the next day. I wish he hadn't told me, because I think it would have been cool to open it up and go, "Wow, an invitation," because I didn't know you actually got an invitation in the mail. I thought it was pretty neat.

Q. Had an inkling with who it was from from the return address.

BART BRYANT: Yeah, no doubt.

Q. When will you go there?

BART BRYANT: I'll probably get there on that Monday.

Q. You won't go ahead of time?

BART BRYANT: Yeah, no, I went up there right about the 8th, 9th, 10th of December, and I couldn't play, but I took a buddy up there. We had a friend who invited us up. I played about four or five holes each day, then just sat in the cart. Putted on some of the greens. Got to see the golf course and get a feel for what it's like.

Of course, you know, it was overseeded, cold, wet. I mean, the course is going to be totally different when I see it.

Q. Not necessarily.

BART BRYANT: Well, let me say this: I hope it's going to be a lot different. If it's like it is, I'm good for about four 80's, I think. I mean, it looked tough.

Q. What was your first impression, just the whole experience?

BART BRYANT: Yeah, I mean, it was neat just to, you know, drive down Magnolia Lane. You've seen it on TV. It was neat to walk out of the back of the clubhouse, just kind of look across there, you know, you see 18, you see 9, across down the hill at No. 8 fairway. Of course, No. 1 is off to your right. You know, I'll remember just kind of seeing that whole panoramic view of walking out of the clubhouse, that will stick with me.

Of course, you know, when I get there for the Masters, it's going to look totally different because you're going to have people and tents. It's amazing how spread out it is.

Q. No tents.

BART BRYANT: Is that right?

Q. No tents.

BART BRYANT: Okay (laughter). Strike that.

Q. Did you get a chance to play 4, among the few holes you did, the par 3?

BART BRYANT: I did. I played 1, 2, 3, 4. The second day I played like the first few holes on the Back 9.

Q. Club selection on 4 was a 3 wood?

BART BRYANT: No. 4 was a 3 wood. Hit it right in the middle of the front bunker, yeah. You know, like I said, I hadn't played I hadn't even swung a golf club hardly, and it was cold. I mean, it's just going to be totally different when I see it next time.

They've added some new bunkers, some new trees. I think, you know, not having played there before, I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing it's going to be much tighter than the guys are used to seeing it.

Is it 15, the par 5, downhill? I know on TV, we used to watch it, they would kind of bomb it down the right, roll it down those hills. Well, there's trees there now. You can't do that.

It's going to be interesting. No. 7, tree lined, long. I mean, there's going to be some... 11, trees down the right now. I think it's going to be a lot tighter than the guys are used to seeing it.

Q. Sunday at the Memorial, almost for the entire THE TOUR Championship, you were handling that high pressure with remarkable calm, almost like you were Retief Goosen. What was going on in your head and how can a guy who hadn't been there before just handle it like he'd been there all his life?

BART BRYANT: Well, you know, I've been asked this question so much. I think there's several things that contribute to the fact that I was able to maybe come through under pressure. One of them obviously is I'd been there at the Texas Open, had been successful. That gave me some confidence. You know, I had a three shot lead going into the last day.

I played the mini tours in Florida for, gosh, five or six years. You know, I was able to make a living doing that. But to make a living doing that, I mean, you had to win a lot. I mean like, you know, at least once every two or three events, you needed to win to be able to. This was back when we were playing Orlando on the winter tour, the Florida summer tour, and the purses weren't like they are. They had the Coca Cola tour. They have a couple tours down south.

Q. Gateway.

BART BRYANT: You can get like 20 or 30 grand for winning. Well, the ones I was playing in, if you won, you got 2500, maybe three grand. To feed your family, I mean, you had to learn to win. I learned to win at that level, won a lot of golf tournaments. Obviously, the competition was immensely different. But winning is winning. I think I learned how to win.

The third thing was, you know, I think going through tour school as many times as I did, having to sleep that night before the sixth and final round, knowing you have to go out and shoot a 71 or a 70 or whatever it is, I mean, it's hard to get more nervous than you are before that last round of tour school. It seemed like every time I had an opportunity to be successful and make it, I did every time. I shot the number that I needed to shoot.

Now, there are a lot of times I went to tour school and I wasn't even close. But the times I was close, I needed to shoot a number on the last day, I made it through. I think my heart had kind of felt all that pounding before and I'd kind of been through that. You know, I'd come out successful many times.

So I think, you know, all of those factors, a lot of history built up to that point to where I was able to be successful and maybe be a little calmer than I was expected to be.

You know, too, I'm 43. I was 42 when I won those two events. You know, there's a little bit to be said for being a little bit older, having a little maturity. You know, maybe not caring as much as you used to about what people are going to think about you. You know, sometimes it can be brutal out here. If you have a chance to win, you don't come through, especially early on in your career, you can be labeled a choker, they start questioning your ability to pull through in the clutch a little bit.

I think there comes a point as you get a little older and a little more mature where you kind of throw that out the window and say, "I'm too old to worry about that any more. It's time to put it on the line."

Q. Do you set your schedule up now that you have some flexibility based on how far you drive the golf ball? Have you looked at 2006 and said, "There are some courses that are just too long for me. I don't have to play them now because I'm not under such pressure"?

BART BRYANT: I did that last year. I alluded to that. The places that are wet, that play long, I stay away from. You know, I'm playing here, I'm playing Sony, playing Bob Hope this year. You know, I used to always love playing I'm not going to play Phoenix this year. That's a place I love to play.

I hate to say this, but I stay away from San Diego probably now, stay away from AT&T, both places that, you know, it can get very kind of damp, wet, can play very long. It's just not good for my game. I mean, I love those places. They're beautiful. They're great tournaments. They do a fantastic job putting the tournaments on.

If I'm going to play the best place where Bart Bryant has a chance to do well, I'm not going to pick places like that. This gives me the ability to do that.

Q. When you said a minute ago, how can you not play here, however you said it, what goes through your mind when you first hear that three or four guys don't show up this week?

BART BRYANT: Well, gosh, this is a hard one to dance around. I hate it. I mean, I wish those guys were here. You know, I wish they were here for various reasons, for Mercedes, for the fans, for ESPN, for the players. You know, even for us, I mean, it's going to be a fabulous week.

There's great players here, no doubt about it. But, you know, to lose those four players, even from a player's standpoint, there's just a little something missing. I mean, I hate to say that because it's going to be a great event it always is and always will be. But for those four guys not to be here, even as a player it feels like there's a little something missing, so.

Q. Given that you pick and choose what's right for your game, schedule, things like that, are there certain tournaments that maybe the obligation should be a little stronger?


Q. This early in the year, we're going to leave it at that?

BART BRYANT: Next question (smiling).

Q. Do you feel a line in the sand, fresh start, or do you feel you have momentum built off of last year?

BART BRYANT: I feel like I have a little momentum. Although just from the knee issue, not being able to really practice and be prepared to play this week as well as I would like to, you know, I hopefully some of that momentum is going to carry me through some of my inability to prepare as well as I had. But, you know, it's just one of those things. I mean, I knew I had to do that all year long. I just had to take care of it. This was the best time to do it.

I mean, in a perfect world, it would have been nice to take two weeks off, maybe do one silly season thing and practice really hard for three weeks and get ready.

This is a great opportunity to get off to a good start. We got 28 guys playing this week. It just gives you a really good opportunity to really get the year kicked off good. I still have that opportunity. I'm not trying to say that I don't have a chance to play well, because I do think I have a chance to play well. I would have liked to be a little more prepared and kind of allow that momentum to spark something. But who knows. Might still happen.

Q. You talked earlier about your schedule. How much different is it or do you have to massage it a bit since this is the first year you're eligible for all the four majors?

BART BRYANT: Yeah, I will. I'll have to massage it a bit, if you want to call it that. There are a few events that I love to play that I may end up missing because, you know, of being in all four majors. I'm going to try to play about 26 events, which is what I played last year. Of course, in the past I've played that many and I wasn't getting in any of the majors. There's four tournaments I'm replacing right there. I got three World Golf Championship events probably. That's going to take the place of a couple of events.

I am going to miss a few events that I really love to go to.

Q. When is the last time you played match play?

BART BRYANT: Man, that is a good question. I don't even know. I played a match, some kind of amateur match play deal in New Mexico before I turned pro. I mean, I don't even know if I've played a match play since I've been pro. It's terrible. I have no clue. I may be giving guys 10 footers out there. I don't even know what to do in match play. Hopefully I can get mean enough by then.

Q. Speaking of match play, I don't know The Ryder Cup standings, but where are you?

BART BRYANT: I think I'm 12 right now.

Q. Is that obviously a goal for you this year?


Q. How do you think you can handle that environment?

BART BRYANT: You know, I'm starting to believe that I can handle it okay. I couldn't have said that a year ago. I would really be nervous, would have a hard time sitting here saying that I'd be able to handle the nerves and do well for the team.

You know, having a little success last year, as we've alluded to, maybe coming through in the clutch, has given me a little bit of confidence that if I were able to have a great year, make it on the team, hopefully I could help the team out and do well for them.

It's absolutely one of my biggest goals this year. I would love to be there. I'd love to play for Tom Lehman, for sure.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Bart Bryant, thanks.

End of FastScripts.

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