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May 26, 2005

Ben Curtis


RODDY WILLIAMS: Ben, fine round of 68 out there. First of all, talk us through today and particularly those last three holes and that eagle at the last.

BEN CURTIS: Well, you know, I played pretty well today. I struggled off the tee quite a bit but got away with it, made some good pars.

Then 16, just hit a 2 iron, sand wedge to three feet and tapped that in.

18, I hit two 3 woods on to the green and made a long putt.

So it was a good way to finish. It's one of those courses, you know that you can make some birdies coming in, so you know if you're a couple over par, you know not to worry because there's some birdie holes coming in.

RODDY WILLIAMS: You've been over here a couple of years now. What is it about this course that particularly appeals to you?

BEN CURTIS: I just like that you don't have to hit driver on every hole. You can think your way around the golf course. A lot of courses that is we play today are 7,500 yards and every par 4 is 460 yards. Just have to step up there, hit it as hard as you can, hope you get it in the fairway, and take your chances from there. There's a few long par 4s, but other than that, it's one of those courses that you like to place your shots in and go from there.

Q. Were you pleased with the way you came back after dropping those two shots?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I was. 14, I felt like I hit a pretty good shot in there, just playing it a little too far, laying it on top of the shelf and laying it on the back rough. It was unfortunate to hit it there but made a good bogey I guess. Could have walked away with a five or six there, from where I was.

So, yeah, I never I didn't get down after that. I just kept doing the same thing. And I felt like 15 was a key hole, if I could hit it in the fairway there, then I felt like coming in, I would be all right. But just because I wasn't hitting my driver very well or 3 wood, really, off the tee, so I felt like 15, it's one of those holes that you've got to hit a good tee ball, and fortunately I did.

Q. Has it been the driver that's getting you into the most trouble this season?

BEN CURTIS: Well, really, everything (laughs) especially with the driver. The last tournament I played, Wachovia, I hit it a lot better. Didn't hit a lot of fairways, but the fairways were tough to hit. They seemed like they would go right to left and sloping left to right. It was one of those courses it's hard to hit fairways.

For the most part, leading up to the Wachovia for about four or five weeks, with the driver, just hitting two or three balls out of bounds in 36 holes, and then hitting it in places you shouldn't hit them. But just working hard on getting it back. I hit some good drives today, but unfortunately I hit some bad ones, too.

Q. When you come over to Britain, do you still find that your profile is higher over here than it is in America?

BEN CURTIS: Not really. I think it's about the same now. Just because I haven't played that well, so it's kind of yeah, it could be a little bit more, but for the most part, it's about the same.

But coming back here, it's a special feeling. I like Wentworth a lot. It's a great area and London is a good city, even though I haven't been in town yet this week. It's just a fun place to come, and it's a good way to kind of get an extra preparation for the Open.

Q. You're staying with Brian Davis?


Q. How does that come about?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I've known Brian for a couple of years now, but I think for the most part, the wives. They are good friends. Brian and I have a good relationship. We just have some fun.

Q. Your struggles on the course this season, is it just bad golf or is there anything else?

BEN CURTIS: No. Working hard, just trying haven't changed, really. Actually working a little bit harder than usual, but it's just one of those things where I think every pro goes through it at one time in their career when they struggle, and hopefully this is my time and hopefully I can get out of it. Last year has been frustrating, but that's golf. You've just got to stay positive and move forward.

Q. Do you ever feel frustrated or feel that "I'm the Open champion, I should be playing better," or do you knock that out of your mind?

BEN CURTIS: I try to block it out of my mind. To be honest with you, I think four or five years ago, I struggled a little bit and went into the U.S. Amateur, I finished semifinalist and that kind of got me going.

So I think maybe a week like that or just a couple tournaments in a row where you're playing four rounds, just getting in the thick of things maybe a couple of times, I think that could turn your game around. There's so much confidence involved, and after you miss several cuts in a row and maybe you miss a couple by one or two shots and you think about over six weeks, all of the bad shots I hit, you can think of one or two that could have made a difference and maybe you play on the weekend.

I think for now, just worry about making cuts and trying to get into the thick of things and hopefully this week I can do that. I'm just going to go out there tomorrow and try to do the same thing I did today. Just try to hit a lot of fairways and greens and make a few putts.

RODDY WILLIAMS: Can you go through the details of your birdies and bogeys?

BEN CURTIS: No. 2 I hit a 7 iron in there about 15 feet past the hole and made that for a birdie.

11, I hit a pitching wedge in there to about six feet and made that.

12, hit it about 25 feet past the pin and 2 putted from there.

13, I hit it in the trees off the tee, punched out, hit 9 iron on the green from about 25 feet away and 2 putted for bogey.

14, I hit a 6 iron just over the back edge into that rough. Chipped it about three feet on to the fringe and 2 putted for bogey.

16, I hit a sand wedge in there to about three feet and made that.

18, two 3 woods to 40, 45, feet I would guess, and made that.

Q. I haven't had a chance to check your stats on the U.S. Tour this year

BEN CURTIS: Don't bother. (Laughter).

Q. I was hesitating whether to ask you about them or not have. Have there been a lot of missed cuts?

BEN CURTIS: I've made two cuts I think. It's been one of those years. Started off, first of the year I shot 69 and missed the cut the next day by one.

Went to Bob Hope the next week, played four solid rounds and then the last day shot a 72 or 73 or 74 and I can't remember. I thought the year was going to be good. I took 11 weeks off, start the first round, shoot 3 under par, I felt pretty good. Since the Hope, it just went downhill and just gradually got worse and worse.

I think I was just working on the wrong things. I think I had it too far outside, so I started taking it inside and got too far inside on my golf swing. Just hit a lot of wayward shots and mentally, it just got more and more frustrating, but the last three or four weeks have been a lot better since Hilton Head.

So it's just been a lot more positive thinking and attitude and just knowing that I can play. I think before, you kind of get to the point where maybe you are 2 , 3 , 4 over par after nine holes and kind of just, "Oh, here we go again." But now if I get that way, I feel like I can get it back.

Q. You're far from alone in recent Open Champions who have had that sort of run. Is there a link between that, does it increase expectation or something?

BEN CURTIS: I would like to think not, but I think deep down, I think you know that you want to do well. Since your win, you think there's other things that you should accomplish.

I'd like to think that I don't try to think that way and just go out there each week with a positive attitude and try to have a good game plan and go forward. At the end of last year, I think I got in the habit of not being prepared to play. And then this year I came in and said, hey, I'm going to just prepare myself to play every week, and I think I've done that. I've worked hard and got myself a good plan going into the week and worked really hard on my short game.

I'm starting to see some improvements in the short game, and I think it's going to get better and better. I've been working on it quite a bit and not really worrying about the golf swing. I think by not really concentrating on the golf swing, that kind of hurt me a little bit and that kind of went away.

I'm not trying to set any goals really, like I need to win this week or finish Top 10 this week. I'm just going to go out there and just try to get better and improve, and if that means I finish 40th, then so be it. But it's better than not playing at all.

Q. Did any other players or mental gurus give you a pep talk to turn things around?

BEN CURTIS: No, just myself. I think I got quite pissed off at myself and said, you know, no more of this stuff.

I think it helps every now and then to just kind of beat yourself up and just let you know, hey, what's going on and kind of think about things. You really think about, "What am I doing to make me shoot those numbers?" A lot of it probably had to do with attitude. But now it's when I hit into trees, just kind of laugh it off and walk to the ball and act like I just hit it down the middle of the fairway. So that's just the attitude you've got to take.

Q. On the positive side, can you sometimes try and recreate that feeling that you had when you won the Open?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think so. I think all it is is a matter of especially for me, just getting a couple good rounds under your belt. Last few tournaments I played, Wachovia first two days, I played a lot better than the score because the conditions were tough. I was in the Top 15 after two days, even though I won under par.

It's just one of those things I think just doing that, just going out there and trying to play instead of shooting trying to shoot a certain number. For example here, don't try to go out there and shoot 3 under par. Just go out there and play golf and let it come to you instead of forcing it because you know it's a very tough starting golf course here, and it could vary; it could be 3 or 4 over par after six or seven holes because of all the tough holes.

You've got to use the middle stretch kind of where you've got to pick it up. You can't set a certain score and say I'm going to go out and shoot 3 under today and then be 3 over par seven holes and try to force it back. You have to let it come to you. If you try to force it bad things will happen.

Q. Is that the attitude that you had at Sandwich, sort of just let it come to you?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, because the first British Open, the first time playing on a links course really, so I was just wherever the ball went, I was just happy to be there. That's kind of the attitude I have to take from now on until I get to playing at a good level where I can put a little more pressure on myself; hey, let's go out and shoot 5 , or 6 under today.

Right now, let's just try to hit the ball in the fairway and then go from there.

Q. Was there a particular week or moment where you got particularly fed up with yourself, the lowest point?

BEN CURTIS: Well, it had to be Hilton Head. I feel it's just a great golf course for me. Usually I drive it pretty straight. It's small greens, so you can have a good short game. So you know you're not going to hit it perfect there, but I feel like my game is good enough where I can hit some good shots. I mean, I couldn't hit anything. Especially I could not even hit a draw. If I had to hit a fade, I was okay, but if I had to hit a draw or anything like that around the tree, it would just go 40 yards right. That was really the low point. Plus I think I had ten lipouts in those two rounds, so that made it even worse. I'd think, well, if I could have made a few putts, maybe the bad shots, they wouldn't have been such a big deal. In the end, they were. And that was the thing, if I don't make five or six 10 footers for par, then I wouldn't have been able to shoot par.

Q. How does being pissed off manifest itself in such a mild mannered person such as yourself? What do you do?

BEN CURTIS: Basically just a mental thing. You just kind of

Q. You don't kick anything?

BEN CURTIS: No, no, nothing like that. Just kind of like, you just say some stupid things, like "if you miss another cut, I'm going to quit." You know, you're not, or like, "if you don't make the cut this week, then you're done." Just stupid stuff like that to kind of get your mind focused back on the golf, because it's very easy to get distracted. I don't think I was, but you never know. I mean, sometimes if you try to really refocus things then maybe it will help.

Q. What were those two scores at Hilton Head?

BEN CURTIS: I think it was like 11 over, so maybe 75 76. I mean, the cut was 5 over, so it was playing difficult.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on being the only American in the field?

BEN CURTIS: Here this week? I mean, I think for me, just I have appreciation for the European Tour. They have been good to me over the years, the last couple of years. I like Wentworth. I just think the money is so good over on our Tour, I think guys that were playing last week or the week before, maybe decided to take this week off, I don't know.

I think eventually in the future you'll start seeing more and more players come, but the Tour in America, it's just the best Tour in the world, I believe. I know I'm American, but, I think it is. We play on great courses every week. The courses are in great condition. They get some courses that are too long for my liking, but that's the way it is. There's a course probably on the European Tour if I played out here full time that I wouldn't like.

Q. Why do you think more and more will come in the future?

BEN CURTIS: I think it's becoming more of a global game. I think more and more players will see that. You look at Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, and now you've got a lot of Europeans coming over and playing our Tour, and they are always going to come back and play over here.

I think this week, this field is better this week than it is in Memphis. So if I want to get better, I feel like I should play against the best fields in the world. You know, this week is by far the best field in golf. It's probably one of the better ones you'll see obviously on the European Tour all year, and it's a good golf course. And it's easy to get in and out of, being in London. So it's not really any different for me flying from the West Coast in Florida all the way to California.

Q. Would you like to see it almost like the number of our guys going to your PGA, the same eventually that some Americans would come here the same way to our PGA?

BEN CURTIS: I would like to see more younger guys instead of go on the Nationwide, maybe to come over here. Nationwide is a good tour, but I think you can learn a lot more coming here than you can on the Nationwide. Competition is probably a little bit better. You know, on the Nationwide, you're not going to get to see the best players in the world like Ernie and Retief and those guys. Whereas if you come over here and play, if you can play on the Nationwide Tour, you're going to play on the European Tour, and I'd like to see more guys do that, even though you're not going to get the exemption, like you get 20 guys from Nationwide get a Tour card.

Maybe if the Tour can work something out where they coexist, a guy on the Nationwide finishes Top 30 maybe he gets on the European Tour. I don't know. It's hard to say because the money is so good over there. If you think we're playing an average of $4.5 million a week, maybe even more, I don't know. It's hard to tell guys to leave when they have got everything right there.

And it's the same thing for here, the guys growing up, they are going to play the European Tour before they go to America to play on the Nationwide, if that's their dream to get on the PGA TOUR.

Q. Have you seen who is up on top of the leaderboard, and if so, do you recognize many of the names up there?

BEN CURTIS: You know, I haven't really paid attention. I saw a few of those guys up there, and I know who they are. Obviously they are good players; right now, not everyday household names. But being a professional golfer, you know who they are and that they are good players.

RODDY WILLIAMS: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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