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June 3, 2004

Ben Curtis


TODD BUDNICK: Ben Curtis, 4-under 68 today. Off to a slow start with seven straight pars but no bogeys on the card. That's a nice round today.

BEN CURTIS: Exactly. I hit a lot of close shots the first seven holes. I was a little disappointed I didn't make any, but I just knew if I stayed positive and kept my head up and kept grinding away that I would make some. I was having trouble reading them the first seven. I didn't know how much they were breaking, and once I got accustomed I was able to make some.

Q. This is just your second appearance. You missed the cut last year. What did you take away from last year that allowed you to play today.

BEN CURTIS: I think I knew where every pin was before the round started from last year. You have that mind set going into it. You've been here before and this gives you a little comfort zone. I played here as a kid growing up, but it's not the same, it's totally different. It feels good to go out there and play on a course like this.

Q. Talk about the first birdie on 8. How much did that relax you after having maybe a little trouble the first seven, getting that birdie on 8?

BEN CURTIS: That felt good. It was probably one of the longer putts I've had and it rolled right in the middle of the hole. It's always good to get off to a good start, and that's what I wanted to do. Every week I try to go out there and get red numbers and you always feel a little more relaxed. That's what I was trying to do. I didn't try to get upset or down when I kept missing those short birdie putts. Once they went in -- 9 was just a 6 or 7-footer on the fringe, but the putt on 10 was huge. It was 35, 40 feet. To be able to knock that one in gave me a big boost.

Q. Can you describe what it's like staying at home? Is the phone ringing all the time or does it seem like it is when you just go home to visit? How does that go?

BEN CURTIS: Well, it's a lot different. The phone is ringing a lot more. There's people stopping by that normally wouldn't be. It's a busy week for my mom and dad more than me. I mean, they're trying to coordinate the tickets and everything like that, so it's just a lot of fun to be able to -- to have a good time and spend some time with them, because we're gone 30 weeks out of the year and it's tough. Whenever you can stay at home it's always fun.

Q. Does it relax you? Do you feel less --

BEN CURTIS: Well, I feel more relaxed this year than I did last year. I mean, last year I was very excited to be here. It was only like my seventh or eighth tournament of the year. I was happy to be here and to be part of it.

But this year, knowing before the year started that I was going to be here, you kind of prepare yourself.

Q. Speaking of last year and being from around here, what are you laughing at? You had a lot of friends and family watching you last year. How is the support different this year now that you have that little Claret Jug?

BEN CURTIS: It's not so much the support I get from the family and friends, that I've had before, but just the community in general. I mean, I think every hole that I went up to, people were clapping, and it felt good, whereas last year I could hear the familiar voices yelling out to me, but obviously it's a lot different now. I think last year a lot of people didn't realize who I was, and now since I won, a lot of people have noticed me.

Q. Was it a noticeable difference even though you're from here, more fun for you to come back?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think so. Every player wants to be able to play where they grow up. I came down here I think starting around six or seven years old to watch this golf tournament. It's always fun to come and play. That's your dream. When I was growing up this is where I wanted to play, thought it would be fun to play in this event, and now I can do that.

Q. How are your expectations coming into this event than they were last year where you had just gotten an exemption to get in here?

BEN CURTIS: Well, obviously I'm here to win, and that's what I wanted to do. Last year I felt the same way, but at the same time my game was struggling a little bit. I was just trying to make the weekend. Here I'm not worried about the cut, I just want to go out there and play good golf and try and get in contention.

Q. How much more comfortable are you this year as opposed to years past?

BEN CURTIS: Well, just that one year gives you a lot of -- you know the ropes, you know the shortcuts from the driving range to the clubhouse. I just think last year I didn't know a lot of the players, either, and this year you know more and you get to sit down and talk to them, whereas last year it may have been a little tentative. I think you just feel a lot more relaxed, and I found the shortcut down here, so that makes it easier.

Q. Talk about playing on both tours, the European and here on the PGA. Talk about maybe the differences or what it's like playing on both Tours.

BEN CURTIS: Well, I think it's great. I have a lot of fun playing both tours. There's so many good tournaments on both sides of the pond. It's always good to play against some international players. There's so many good players over there that we haven't heard of yet but eventually will be here. I'm just trying to play against the best players in the world, and sometimes that means taking me outside the U.S. It's a lot of fun to get to see the world and travel a little bit and get to play in different kinds of conditions.

We get spoiled over here where it's always sunny and warm. Over there you never know, but fortunately, for me, the weather has been good the whole year, but it's a lot of fun, I think expanded my career a little bit and allowed me to pursue other things.

Q. On the telecast they were saying you bought a place in Jupiter. What was the reason behind that?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I think it's better for my career. As you know, up here it's quite cold and windy all the time, especially the first part of the year is where it really hurts you. Off weeks I'm coming home, and who knows if I'll be able to get out and practice at all. It's just to be able to expand my career and allow me to practice full-time and get prepared for each event.

Q. You said you've been coming here since you were six or seven. I'm wondering if coming to this event, with that as part of growing up I guess part of the inspiration of why you pursued golf so heavily?

BEN CURTIS: I think so. I think, first of all, growing up on a golf course had a lot to do with it, but to come down here every year and to be able to watch some of these guys, watch Payne and Freddie and all these guys, now I'm playing with them. It's always a dream to play in events that you -- I think every player has an event that they grew up watching or went to that they have always wanted to play in, and it's no different for me.

Q. I think you were in contention like a month ago. Did you feel like anything was coming in the game, things coming together before you came here?

BEN CURTIS: Well, yeah. It's been up-and-down. It's normally how I putt the ball. If I putt well, I'm close, and if I'm not then I'm going to be right around the cut line. I've been working hard on it. There's been up-and-downs ever since the MCI, right after The Masters. I had some really good putting days, and then I've had some days where it's just been awful. It's getting more where the days are getting better.

Q. Was there anything that Herb said to you when you went to him to talk about your putting?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, we worked on a few things, but most of the stuff I figured out on my own. I had equipment problems with the putter. It was actually bent and the lie angle was way off.

Q. How did that happen?

BEN CURTIS: I have no idea (laughter). It was funny because at The PLAYERS we got it checked and everything was fine. We got it reshafted, they put it 2 degrees up, and Monday of MCI, it had 3 degrees of loft and was 2 degrees flat.

Q. And then you went out and shoot 66 in the first round.

BEN CURTIS: Exactly. Once I started rolling the ball well and got comfortable with the putter, that's all it is, is confidence and how comfortable you feel on the green. Once you do that, you can make a lot of putts.

Q. Are you doing anything differently with your swing?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I'm trying to get a little more tight, trying to get it to where it's not so long. Usually my two faults are over the top, or if I get too long then I hit it to the right, a weak shot. I'm trying to get it with the driver, a little long, and with the irons a little bit tighter and not so much hand movement. That way I keep it on plane the whole time.

Q. Being such a longshot winner, are you tired of hearing that? Do you need another Top 10 or victory to move beyond that Cinderella story in any way?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I don't pay attention to it too much, but, I mean, I haven't really done anything since. I finished 2nd in Japan and had a couple other decent tournaments, but I haven't done anything that's spectacular, so until I do, it will be a Cinderella story. That's a good thing. Hopefully I can build on those experiences and move on and try to do better.

Q. Do you feel any pressure because of that?

BEN CURTIS: Not really. There's some times when I put a little too much pressure on myself, but if I don't do that I'll be fine.

Q. If you never won again, but you do have obviously the British Open, would your career, in your mind, be successful?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think so. If someone would have told me ten years ago if I would have won a major, I would have said, I would have retired after I won the major (laughter).

Q. How many tickets did you have to get this year versus last year?

BEN CURTIS: I got the same amount, actually. A lot of people had tickets this year, so it made it better, made it a little less hectic on my wife and family.

Q. This is your first tournament in Ohio since the Reebok deal. Any "Go Bengals" today?

BEN CURTIS: (Inaudible).

Q. Considering how well the Bengals worked, you don't think you should reconsider playing?

BEN CURTIS: No, I don't think it's the shirt, at least I hope not.

Q. As a Browns guy, doesn't it bother you to wear -- usually the Bengals and the Browns --

BEN CURTIS: When you look at it, it looks weird, but once you have it on -- at least I have the colors right. It's got some orange in it.

TODD BUDNICK: How about your birdies? You hit 7-iron on No. 8 to how far?

BEN CURTIS: It was about 25 feet.

9, wedge to eight feet.

10 was a 35-footer, I hit 6-iron from the rough.

15, got up-and-down from left of the green, made like a 20-footer.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Ben.

End of FastScripts.

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