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July 1, 2004

Ben Curtis


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: British Open Championship Winner Ben Curtis, thanks for joining us. First round 67. Talk about your day, a good one for you today.

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, it was. I got off to a very good start, 4-under through 7, and then just kind of struggled with the driver and mis-hit a few iron shots, and then nothing through 14 holes, and then eagled 15 and birdied 17 to kind of get it back in there. It was kind of got off to a hot start, cooled down and finished off.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Talk about your season so far. You played well at the Memorial, T8, and then at the Open made the cut and played pretty well under some really difficult conditions. Do you feel like your game is kind of coming around now?

BEN CURTIS: I do. This is the time of year where I start playing better, get a little bit more comfortable. The first part of the year is over with and you've worked really hard on what you needed to work on, and then everything kind of fades off later on in the year. It's usually about the time where I start playing well. I like the Midwest and the rotation here, and so it's always been good to me, and you just feel like you're playing at home and it's great.

Yeah, the last couple weeks have been good and the last couple finishes, and I'm pleased with it.

Q. This is kind of where it all began for you last year. Do you have a special memory coming back here to get you to Royal St. George's?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I've had a lot of history with the WGA. I finished runner-up in the Junior event and the runner up in the Amateur, and now coming here, so I just know a lot of the guys who work for the WGA and John Kaczkowski, so it's always a good feeling that they put on a great tournament and they pick quality golf courses. Cog Hill is a great golf course, so I have a lot of memories coming back here because it brings back a lot of old memories, even back to when I was 16, 17 years old. It's always good to play for a great organization like themselves.

Q. Which year was your Amateur?


Q. Have you thought at all about, in a couple weeks, the kind of blitz that will probably descend on you? I know you're playing the European part-time this year and been over a couple times. Will that help that you've kind of gone -- they've done all the "Ben Curtis returns"?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I haven't really thought about the week. I've just been thinking about the tournament a little bit, getting prepared for that. Yeah, I haven't really -- I've done a lot of stuff for that week in advance, so when I get there I can kind of concentrate on golf and get all the media stuff done beforehand, so that week I can go in there and really concentrate on golf and spend some time with the family.

It's going to be a crazy week anyway just because I'm defending champ, but it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it.

Q. When you have gone back and played in Europe, what is it like? Everywhere you go you're the Open champion. It's a big deal here, but not like it is there.

BEN CURTIS: It would just be like what Jim went through last year being the U.S. Open champ. You go over there and it's like you're their champion. It's a special feeling. You get special treatment because of that, and it's a fantastic venue. The European is a great Tour and it's a lot of fun.

Q. There's been a lot of players that have come here over the years and they say they love the course and the tournament, but because the British Open is such a change to a different style of golf, they can't really practice here, it doesn't really help them prepare. Did you find last year that you were able to do any sort of preparation for the British Open with the success you had?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I think I took a lot of confidence -- I think I made four, five, six cuts in a row going into the Open. I just felt confident. Being a rookie year, each week I kept improving and having better finishes, so for me it was just the sequence of just getting more confident.

It's hard to work on the shots you need to work on here for over there, so unless the wind picks up, that will be the only difference. The ground is going to be firm, you know that. The greens probably won't be real fast, but they'll be firm, whereas here the fairways are kind of wet and the greens are a little damp yet still, so it's a lot different. It's a totally different style, so you can't really work on it. I think a lot of guys come here and get a good finish and just get some confidence from it.

Q. When are you headed over and how familiar are you with Troon?

BEN CURTIS: I'm heading over Sunday. I'm playing the week before at the Scottish Open, so it'll just be wet and soupy there, so there won't be much preparation going in, but at least I'll be playing and swinging the golf club and putting. I've been to Troon. It's a great golf course. It'll be a great test for us. It seems like you're going to have to drive the ball really well and putt extremely well. The greens are relatively flat, but if you can keep the ball in the fairway you're going to give yourself chances for birdie. It's like that every week, but especially in those type of events.

Q. Now that we're almost a year removed from winning the Open, can you reflect on how that Open has affected your game, positively and maybe not so positively in the last year?

A. I think everything has been positive. I think the first three or four months was hard because it was hard to go home and practice. I was so tired and drained because to come here, and you're on the go for 12 hours a day, and you get home and you just want to relax and enjoy your time, but I don't think that anything -- I don't think there's anything negative, it's just all positive. You look back on it and say every time I got myself in contention, I just reflected on that and had a good time with it. I think I just learned a lot from that, just being able to -- not to be afraid and just go out there and attack.

Q. How did you deal with the expectation level being significantly raised from where you were a year ago?

BEN CURTIS: It did, but I didn't pay attention to that because I knew -- I was still a rookie. Just because you win, I mean, I felt like I was still a rookie and I was seeing a lot of places for the first time, and even this year, I think this is the fifth time where I've come back to the same course. Coming here I just feel a lot more relaxed since I've been here and played here numerous times. It makes a big difference. So the expectations I just didn't worry about.

Q. Are you truly a Bears fan or just playing to the home crowd?

BEN CURTIS: No Bears fan, just a deal I've got with Reebok.

Q. What kind of reaction are you getting wearing that?

BEN CURTIS: Just like the Saturday Night Live skit, "Da Bears," stuff like that.

Q. Are you Browns or Bengals?


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we could touch on your round and we'll take one last question. Start on the front side. You had four birdies in the first seven holes, starting with No. 1.

BEN CURTIS: I hit -- it was about 35 feet, just straight up the hill, made that. I hit an 8-iron.

4, I hit 8-iron in there again to about 25 feet, made that one.

5, 6-iron in there to about 35 feet, made that.

7, I hit wedge in there to about eight feet.

Bogey on 9, three-putted.

13, I hit it in the rough, had to punch out, didn't get up-and-down from 130 yards or so.

14, I hit front right bunker, just didn't get that up-and-down.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You came back with an eagle on 15.

BEN CURTIS: I hit 2-iron in there about 35 feet, made that one, and then 17, hit it in there, 8-iron in there, about 12 feet.

Q. How far out for you on 15?

BEN CURTIS: I was 230 to the hole.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Ben Curtis, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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