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August 25, 2005

Ben Curtis


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: First round leader Ben Curtis. Thanks for joining us here at the Buick Championship. Good day for you. Six birdies, no bogeys. Start with some opening comments on a great day.

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, it was real good start, the best of starts that you can think of. I hit a wedge in there close on 1, made that. Hit it over the green on 2, actually putted that in. Got off to a good start. Just felt comfortable all day.

Just one of those days where even though the swing didn't feel as good as it could have been, it was good enough to, you know, hit some close shots. When I had the wedges in my hand, I took advantage.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Played well at the Western Open, finishing third there. Since then you've really shown some signs of playing some really good golf. Talk about the changes in your game, mental attitude or what have you.

BEN CURTIS: I shot some pretty good numbers. It's just been it just feels good. Western was a good turnaround, just kind of got that confidence going. Played pretty well at the British, as well. Struggled to make the cut. But there's a seven hole stretch there or eight hole stretch, 7 over par.

Just slowly come around. Just seems one thing's led to another. Started hitting the ball good, started putting good. Everything has kind of come together at the right time.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Sometimes people forget this is only your third year on TOUR. There's still a lot of things you're learning. Winning the British Open, people might have expected too much too soon after winning that. I don't know how you feel about that.

BEN CURTIS: Well, I think so. At the time you try to not think that that was the case. But maybe it was. I don't know. You know, I was just trying to take it one day at a time and one week at a time and try to improve. I think, you know, all the traveling, playing in different tournaments and stuff, you know, it's tough because you've got a lot of requirements when you go in there each week. It was tough.

But, you know, the last year or so, there's been no excuse. Just struggled with the game. Maybe it was just from getting some bad habits from those times.


Q. Was this tournament basically on your calendar, considering that you passed this up after you won the British two years ago?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, you know, I've always watched this tournament on TV, always thought what a great tournament it is, especially the finishing holes, it's a lot of fun. There's some chances where you can make some birdies and chances where can you make some numbers. It's always been a fun tournament to watch. I've always wanted to come here. It just hasn't worked out in the past.

I'm glad to be here now.

Q. First impressions? As you saw it pretty much on television?

BEN CURTIS: It's a lot different actually than what you think it is on TV (laughter). The finishing holes are pretty much the same. But, you know, the rest of the golf course, I thought it was a little bit tighter. I thought it was like No. 10 all the way coming around. It's a little more open than I thought. You know, it's a quality golf course. It's a great tee to green. It's just one of those courses you got to be real precision with your irons.

Q. How about the demands of the last couple years, some of the dumb things that people might have asked you to do since you were the Open champion?

BEN CURTIS: Well, there's obviously a lot of crazy things, but sometimes you don't hear about those. You know, it's been good. I took advantage of the opportunities that I had and played around the world and enjoyed it. I think that was the greatest thing that could have happened for me. When you win a tournament like that, you have the freedom to go play anywhere. That's what I did.

I had a lot of fun doing it, but maybe not the best thing for me. At the time, it was a lot of fun. You can't look back and think that was a bad move.

Q. Do you have any regrets for not showing up here that year? Do you feel the criticism you got was warranted?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I'll just put it this way: I think, you know, it was my rookie year, I pretty much signed up for every tournament I was going to play in. Basically at the time I'm just trying to get in events. I only played like 15 or 16 events at the time. Only made a couple hundred thousand dollars. I needed to make some money. After I won, it was just one of those things, you had to sit back and think about it. I didn't want to come in here and just shoot 80, 80, say, "See you guys later." I wanted to come ready to play. I felt like in order to do that, I needed to take a couple weeks off. I played five or six weeks prior to that.

Obviously I felt bad for not coming here because it's one of the great tournaments on TOUR. It was just one of those unfortunate events that happened, that I wish I could be here. From now, I'll be here in the future.

Q. You go to New York, did Letterman and the Today Show. When did you decide that you were going to pull out?

BEN CURTIS: Well, it was exactly the next week. I didn't even get home till Monday night. I think it was Tuesday morning that we kind of woke up. We had a crazy couple days anyway. I was just too tired. To get on a plane and come here and expect to play. You know, you don't want to come just to show up to play; you want to come ready to play and try to do the best you can.

I just felt at the time I wouldn't have been ready to play. I needed a week. I didn't even get home from Letterman, from New York, until Wednesday night. I just needed a few days to sit back and relax at home and just enjoy the victory as well with the family.

Q. What was the worst criticism you heard?

BEN CURTIS: Well, you know, it obviously hurts when you hear people talk bad about you. You don't want any of that negativity out there. It comes with the game. Maybe it was my mistake for committing too early. At the time, if I would have shot 85 on Sunday there, then I would have been forced to come here and play. Fortunately, I played well, secured the card for five years. It gave me a lot more opportunities.

Look, it's just one of those unfortunate events.

Q. Nothing in particular that was said?

BEN CURTIS: Well, no. I mean, you know, you got a couple fan mail things. They were obviously upset. Nothing too mean. You hear some things in the media. You know you're going to hear that every day.

Q. (No microphone.)

BEN CURTIS: No, not really. I mean, I think Ian was around for a while, too. That was my rookie year. You're getting pulled every which direction. I just made the decision based on how I felt, not on "I should be there." You know, if you win the British Open, every tournament wants you to come and play, and you can't go to every tournament. But over a five or six year period, you want to play in every tournament that's out there. That's kind of what one of my goals is. One of the things the TOUR wants you to do, they want you to play every tournament at least once over a five year span. That's kind of what I was doing.

It was just one of those things, like I said before, if you're not ready to play, then why even bother showing up.

Q. What was it like being almost unknown one week, then next week instant celebrity?

BEN CURTIS: Well, at the time it was overwhelming. But, you know, looking back on it, it was the dream that I always wanted to have, to play on the TOUR and win some tournaments, win some majors. I felt like my game's good for majors. It just happened right off the bat.

It was a lot of fun, too, I mean, just to be in that spotlight. Obviously, I wasn't as prepared for it as next time around.

Q. Did you talk to anybody about what to do in the immediate aftermath or between you and your family?

BEN CURTIS: You know, it was mostly between me and my family. Obviously, my agent, he's a good friend of mine. We talked about it. We talked about it with some friends, a couple other players that also are my friends. It's just one of those tough things you do. You learn as you go. You can get as much advice as you can from anybody; until you go through it, you learn that way.

Q. "Because I won the British Open, I got to do this," what's the best thing you can say?

BEN CURTIS: Travel. Growing up, I didn't have much money. I didn't get to see much of the world. Now I have the freedom to go wherever I want. I think that's the biggest thing. My wife and I, the family, we want to go to Hawaii, Australia, anywhere in the world, we have the luxury of doing that. I think growing up, when I didn't have that luxury, you kind of always see the world as a fascinating place, but you don't get the opportunity to go do it. Now I do. That's just great.

Q. How much did the exemption affect your game in a negative way?

BEN CURTIS: I think more than anything, what happened was I show up at an event, you show up on Monday night or Tuesday, you'd be out here for seven, eight hours, you only practice for three or four. That kind of over a period of time leads into bad habits. You're trying to rush through practice. I think that's where everything kind of led into the bad play. Confidence kind of goes down.

But the last year or so, there's been no excuse. I come every week ready to play, grind it hard. Just haven't had anything to show for it, except the last couple months.

Q. Any particular part of your game that was suffering the most?

BEN CURTIS: Everything (laughter). Mostly I couldn't control the golf shots. I didn't know where it was going. I was just aiming out in the middle of the fairway, middle of the green, just hoped it would land on ground and stay somewhere in the short grass. And also I wasn't getting it up and down, wasn't making those eight to 10 foot par putts, save putts, to keep your good rounds going. I just never did that.

It was a little bit of everything, but mostly putting and the ball striking.

Q. Do you find any irony that in the first round you come here you're leading the tournament?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I think you come and you just kind of like the place. I played Tuesday afternoon. I said, "This is a good golf course." It's one you got to control your golf shots, you got to control the spin of the shots. I just think it sets up well for me in that regard. Just felt very comfortable.

You know you don't have to hit driver, 3 iron to most of the par 4s. Hit it as far as you can, kind of want to place it, have the best angle. Targets aren't very big. You need to be in the short grass.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Six birdies today. If we could go through those. 1st hole, birdie.

BEN CURTIS: Hit a wedge to about five feet, made that.


BEN CURTIS: 2, I hit it over the back of the green, about 25 feet, made that.


BEN CURTIS: 5, hit a 3 wood to three feet, tapped that in.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: 11 on the backside.

BEN CURTIS: 11, par 3. Hit it to about 10 feet or so, just left the pin, made that.


BEN CURTIS: 13, hit it on in two on the front right of the green, 2 putted from there.


BEN CURTIS: 17, hit an 8 iron in there to about 20 feet just right of the hole and made that.

Q. Can you talk about the 15th hole, the risk/reward.

BEN CURTIS: It's funny, because Frank Lickliter and I were talking about it walking up to the green, Frank Lickliter. We're talking about how many guys you think would lay up. We probably both figured that less than 10%. I was saying, "What about 10 years ago?" He said, "It was probably 50/50 back then." It's just amazing the difference now. You have try to be aggressive, make birdies and eagles. I think it's just as hard to hit a 5 iron or 6 iron to lay up as it is to hit driver up by the green. At least you know hopefully you can get it up within 15, 20 feet if you miss the green, have a chance to make birdie.

I hit a bad drive, hit a bad bunker shot, had a long 2 putt. Fortunately, I made the 10 footer for par.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you, Ben Curtis.

BEN CURTIS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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