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April 20, 2006

Jerry Smith


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Jerry Smith for stopping in after a 5 under 67 in the first round of the 2006 Shell Houston Open. Jerry, everything cruising along the whole week, just a little bogey on 18, but that's going to be a hard hole this year.

JERRY SMITH: Well, yeah. It's a great finishing hole, and I'm sure there will be a lot of drama if it comes down to that, if it's a close event, which I'm sure it will be, which is typical out here.

I wouldn't say it was cruise out there. This golf course I've seen, I think it fits somebody, at least for a right hander, that moves the ball right to left, and I don't move it that much in that direction. I find a lot of tee shots out there are ones I have to really focus on and keep my target and just hit the ball there.

I was pleased with how it went today; I didn't hit it in the rough very often, and I think the approach shots into the greens were fine. It's just getting it in the fairway, and I did a good job with that, so it's just what I've got to continue doing.

TODD BUDNICK: Two top 20s this year, you're 113th on the Money List about a quarter of the season through. Assess where your game is right now.

JERRY SMITH: Well, last year I played the Nationwide and I finished very strong the last three events. I came right out and I felt like I played very similar to the way I did then in both Hawaii and Phoenix, and actually the first couple rounds at AT & T. I haven't felt as good really since then. I haven't played much. I only played one of the last five events.

For me I like to get out here and play and kind of just play into a good rhythm or what have you. And then you get on a golf course that doesn't really fit my eye I actually was a little surprised how well I scored today. Just in the practice round I thought this was going to be a difficult golf course, and as it will be, I think, throughout the week.

I'm very pleased with today, and I just need to get out here and get some starts and kind of get back into a good rhythm.

Q. How do you think you kind of overcame the not fitting your eye thing today? How did you get some good thoughts in your head?

JERRY SMITH: Well, I actually called I work with Manuel de la Torre and a lady, Pam Barnett in Phoenix. I called Manuel last night in Phoenix and it just helped. We talked about focusing on your target and swinging your club to it. Manuel seems very simple, a lot of the things he says, but he has a lot of wisdom and experience, and I think a lot of what he has to say in his teaching works with the mental side of the game. I think getting maybe my mental focus a little different or a little better, I'll be able to go out there and play a good round of golf.

I wasn't comfortable last night actually before I was getting ready to go to bed really for this golf course, and I think it's going to be a challenge for me all week. I don't try to deny anything, but maybe my game will start feeling a little better as the week goes along, and like I said, I work into my game. I hope that's the case, and I'll probably call Manuel again tonight and talk with him again.

Q. Jerry, playing only once in five, was that your decision? Other than The Masters, I guess, and Players, was it your decision to take a couple off?

JERRY SMITH: It wasn't a decision. I had a good number coming off the Nationwide Tour and I pretty much got in everything on the West Coast. I was actually the last guy in at LA. I got a call Wednesday night, went over and played and I missed that cut by 1 and I missed the cut in Tucson by 1, and that kind of hurt because the reshuffle happened because I ended up being second alternate at both Doral and Bay Hill, and I didn't get in. So that was unfortunate.

I was kind of prepared to go down there and play, and then I played, I guess, the Honda. I did all right there, 31st or 33rd or something like that, and then I don't know what I guess The Masters is in there. I didn't play that, I played Atlanta. I played okay in Atlanta, I didn't putt the ball very well, so I kind of focused on that as I went home.

Then last week I got in The Heritage on Wednesday, and with Easter and family and so forth, I just wasn't really prepared to go down there and play, so I didn't. It looks like a good decision at this point.

Q. The reshuffle, why didn't you stay where you were? I thought you had

JERRY SMITH: Well, I started and my number was 9 at the beginning of the year and I went to 8 after Tucson and then the next reshuffle was after Atlanta and I went to 10. So I have a good number, it's just difficult to get in a lot of events early in the year. It should get easier now with the expanded fields, so that will be in my favor, I guess.

Q. You had a three year run out here and have had to work your way back. Can you talk about the path getting back here, what that was like and how you're different now than your previous go around?

JERRY SMITH: I don't really feel any different other than I think just experience. I think it's just learning that I could do it again, I guess. It took me a long time to get out here initially. It wasn't until I was 35 I got out here my first year in 2000. I had some good through those three years, my first year I came out and played very kind of similar to the way I'm playing now, very consistent, made a lot of cuts, didn't really contend that much, but I was there playing a lot of weekends.

As the years progressed my cuts kind of decreased. I wasn't contending really in any events other than a couple. I did finish 3rd back at Disney and then came out and finished 5th the next year at AT & T. So really at that point, that was 2002, felt very good the first part of the year and was feeling much more comfortable out here and was prepared to, I felt, start contending.

But it didn't happen. It could be a lot of reasons. I've started a family and our second child did come along later that year. I moved into a new house. I mean, there was just a lot of other things, I think, away from the golf course that maybe took some of my focus away.

It's a very fragile business that we're in, this game. Confidence is key. My confidence, I think, got beat up a little bit. I came out in 2003 and had just a miserable year on the Nationwide Tour and the Nike Tour, I believe. I felt lost all status, and it was kind of a decision for me at that point. It was gut check time or whatever, and I still had the passion and loved to play and I felt like I could play, so I wouldn't say I did anything differently. I'm still kind of playing the same equipment and working with the same people, but I was able to go out and play the Gateway Tour, which is a great developmental Tour, and do very well on it. I was kind of the leading money winner that year, and I think that was just the confidence I needed, and I'm just progressing to kind of that same level that I felt like I was.

I can't say that I'm a better player, I think I'm just a more experienced player and just still working at improving all the time like all of us.

Q. What's the biggest challenge when you're waiting to find out will I play, will I not play, in terms of is it tougher to keep sharp mentally, keep sharp physically when it's a 1 in 5 situation when it's a Wednesday and you're wondering "Am I going to get into this event?"

JERRY SMITH: Probably the best word for it, it's a little frustrating. You want to come into a tournament and get there and prepare and feel prepared. For me, I got in two of the events on Wednesday, and when I went over to the LA Open and attempted to play and didn't play very well. Harbor Town, I got in and decided not to do the same thing.

It is challenging. The other events, I've been on site and sort of prepared and done well. I was the last guy in the field at Phoenix, which it's at my hometown right now so it was easy to prepare, but I was out there on the weekend preparing for the golf event expecting to get in and I did and I went out and played very well.

That's a hard thing, and a lot of guys out here experience it. It's kind of unfortunate, the way it's set up, that so many guys do seem to pull out sort of the week of the golf tournament, and it makes it difficult for guys like myself to just get there and be ready and prepared.

So I'm sure it's frustrating for a lot of us. It's what makes it hard for rookies coming out here to do well unless you get off to a great start and contend and win somewhere like a J. B. Holmes or Camilo, how well he's played. It makes it tough for the guys to come out here and get off to the start they need and carry it forward throughout the year.

Q. To follow up on that, with the daylight savings now and the bigger fields, are you able to somewhat set a schedule now through the next month?

JERRY SMITH: Well, I hope so. I'm planning on playing the next four, maybe five if I got in Colonial, and I feel I've looked at the schedule going forward. I have in my mind what I'd like to play. It might vary somewhat, but I think there's enough tournaments out there that I'll be able to get sort of in that rhythm I'd like to get into and hopefully contend in some tournaments this summer.

Q. Any one part of your game especially please you today?

JERRY SMITH: You know, I hit some good approach shots that were most of my birdies today were from very close range, so I was pleased with a lot of my approach shots. Typically that's I'm pretty good at controlling my distances and a little bit my ball flight with the irons. Like I said, the direction of the holes and so forth, I don't turn it over with the driver very much, so that is a challenge for me.

But the approaches were good today, I kept it in play, kept it in front of me. Just didn't really have any difficult shots into the greens, other than I was in a couple of fairways bunkers like on 18. I tried to basically play it short of the green thinking I could get it up and down. I just need to go out and work and hit some balls and kind of get that rhythm I've been referring to and go out there and just trust it.

TODD BUDNICK: Let's go through the birdies, Jerry. 1st hole.

JERRY SMITH: 1st hole I hit a good drive and had kind of an in between yardage, had 113 exactly and I tried to chip a wedge in there and it actually probably landed pin high but hopped over the back of the green, and I chipped that one in, so it was a nice start there.

5 is a good par 4. I didn't hit a particularly good drive there. I was well back in the fairway with 6 iron to probably a couple of feet, so a kick in there.

9, I hit, like I said, my 5 wood and hit it probably to about four feet there on that hole. That's a great hole. It's playing 238 today, I think.

10, I hit a wedge in probably about eight feet.

11, I hit an 8 iron in probably about five feet there.

13, I was able to get just short of the green in two and chipped it up to a foot there.

And then the bogey on 18, missed probably a five footer there for par.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Jerry. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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