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May 11, 2006

Bob Estes


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Bob Estes, thanks for joining us here after a 2 under par 66 over on the Cottonwood Valley course. You played with Steve Lowery today so a couple good rounds. Maybe some opening comments on a good day.

BOB ESTES: Thanks. I can't believe Lowery got that drop on 16. I heard him talking about that. I wouldn't have given it to him, but the official let him drop it (laughter).

My round, yeah, I actually had forgotten I bogeyed No. 3. I was thinking I played a bogey free round because 3 played so hard. No. 3 was playing dead into the wind, and I guess that was my only bogey of the day. Then I had five birdies to offset that.

But hit lots of good shots that did turn out and a number of good shots that didn't turn out, but it was that kind of day it was because of the wind, the velocity and then the changing directions. It was tricky; it was tough to always hit the right shot and pull the right club.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You had another good finish in Texas a couple weeks at the at the Shell Houston Open, finished second to Stuart Appleby.

BOB ESTES: Yeah, things are getting better. I'm still working on the same stuff I have been for quite a while. I'm getting closer and closer. I've narrowed things down a little bit, my game and knowing exactly how I want to do things and approach it. It's getting a little more simplified, so that's going to be reflected in my score as time goes by. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm definitely playing better in the last month or so.

Q. You said you had narrowed things down a little bit. What are some of the things you've checked off the list?

BOB ESTES: I thought you would have gone the other way with that.

Q. We can go the other way.

BOB ESTES: No, that's fine. That's actually a good question. Well, I mean, I'm getting real settled on like the irons that I play. I've got the CG 1s, and the 7 , 8 , 9 irons are blades. I'm playing the cavity backs in the longer irons to help me get the ball up in the air a little higher. It's also a little bit more forgiving.

That's one thing I have come up with in the last couple months. I've tried that before, but the irons in particular I'm playing now just seem incredible. So that's one thing.

I've got a 3 wood that has been really good, really consistent all year long and going back into the end of last year. I've got a 5 wood that I really love. I've gone back to the Bulls Eye putter.

But even with a few of those things, something might just change slightly occasionally, like I might change the length on the putter just a fraction of an inch or change the weight a little bit, might adjust the grip size just slightly. There's so many little things that you can adjust, and I don't ever make changes to make changes unless I'm just going out and experimenting and trying something. Any time I make an adjustment there's always a reason for it. My swing changes and my game evolves as I work with my teacher, so sometimes the equipment has to evolve with that.

Q. As a guy who likes to tinker a lot

BOB ESTES: I don't like to tinker a lot. Everybody says that. I am sick of this stuff. I am so ready to have my game and my equipment nailed down that all I have to do is show up; I don't even have to go to the driving range if I don't want to; I go to the tee and play.

Q. When you read you change equipment more than you change underwear, you don't like that?

BOB ESTES: No, I hate that.

Q. You don't like changing your underwear?

BOB ESTES: Is that what he said?

Q. Where I was going with this is as a guy who in the past has used many different kinds of equipment and experimented with many, what did you think of Mickelson using two drivers, and had you ever tried that?

BOB ESTES: Yeah, I thought about that way before, tried it. I always hit the ball left to right, and this would kind of lead me back into asking about the tinkering question, too, because my golf swing for my entire career has been so bad. It's as good as it's ever been right now, but I've done what I've done on this Tour with a very poor, sloppy, inconsistent, unreliable golf swing.

But as far as Phil goes, yeah, I actually at one time I can't remember, I don't think I actually put two drivers in the bag, but I know that I was thinking about having a driver that had more of a square closed face to make it easier to work the ball right to left, and who knows, maybe Augusta might have been the place that made me think about that because it is such a demanding driving course. There's so many holes where you do want to work it right to left to take advantage of the slopes and get closer to the green. So I had certainly thought about it before.

Depending on the golf course, it's a great idea. I don't think that it's mandatory by any means, but that's something I thought about a long time ago, so it didn't surprise me. It wasn't like a shock to the system when I heard that Phil was doing that. But it sounds like he figured out a way to make it work, and he definitely has two clubs he can move both directions. Yeah, that's a great idea, but then you have to leave another club out.

Q. Is the reason your equipment search has taken so long is because your swing has been evolving and has been changing over the years, as you said, trying to find something that is a little bit more consistent?

BOB ESTES: Right. I mean, for instance I want to give you two examples. First of all, let me just say that when I compare with other players on Tour, other people, hardly anybody is as far away from the ground as I am. So I either have to bend over more, flex my knees more, and the teacher that I'm working with doesn't like a whole lot of knee flex. When you flex your knees a lot, things can get sloppy; the legs can get overactive. With me it starts on the takeaway and then it gets they're too active on the downswing. I hang back and hit pulls and blocks and stuff like that.

So a lot of what I've done is I've experimented with longer lightweight steel shafts. I've played clubs that were a couple of inches over standard length all the way through the bag back in 1994 even when I was No. 1 in the all around category, and that was my best year prior to 2001 when I won twice.

But the clubs were too heavy. They didn't have the lightweight steel then, and graphite wasn't reliable enough back then. I'm still trying to find out exactly how long my clubs should be. And then when you do that, it's hard to know for sure what shafts you should be playing.

Then I've also struggled a little bit I've also played grips that were too big for me my entire career. It's pretty complicated, and that's caused a lot of my problems. You know, the tinkering reputation I have, it's just something I've had to go through. It's not just about making swing changes a la Nick Faldo back when he began working with David Leadbetter and just totally transformed his game. Also, my equipment has had to change quite a bit to accommodate some of the things that we work on.

Another example is I well, I mentioned the fat grips. That was always to make sure the ball was working left to right. The fatter the grip, the harder it is to release the club. But we're trying to move me into a little smaller grip size so that I can make a better backswing but also release the club moving down the line. I always played over the top, pull cuts, and we're trying to straighten out my ball flight.

And last week was a perfect example. I mean, it's a U.S. Open setup. Before it rained on Friday morning I guess it was, the fairways were really firm, and in places they were sloping. If you got the ball curving too much, when it lands in the fairway it's probably not going to stay in the fairway. So I'm playing a slightly shorter driver this week than I've played the last couple weeks.

Q. At the start of the season, you started about a month late. Was that by choice or was there an injury or anything?

BOB ESTES: No, let's see, I played at the Hope. I didn't play either Hawaii; first one I wasn't in, next one I skipped. I was going to play the Hope and take three weeks off. I turned 40 on February 2nd, so I think that was the week of Phoenix.

And then San Diego, Phoenix, AT & T, that's how it went. So anyway, that week in between those three, I took a big group to the Bahamas. We went to Paradise Island in the Bahamas. There were about 30 of us. Not everybody was there the entire week, but we had about 30 people there, had a good time, played a little bit of golf, did the fun stuff, the casino, beach, dinners out, stuff like that. Normally we take that same trip, we go to Cabo in Mexico, but this time I wanted to go somewhere different for my birthday.

So I knew I was going to take the week off of my birthday and then one more week to recover to get ready to kind of start back up. So my year didn't really start until Riviera.

Q. You said earlier you were ripping your own swing, and you said something like you've had a nice career, and you said you've achieved what you've achieved with a sloppy, inconsistent you said another word in there, too.

BOB ESTES: I said unreliable.

Q. You've almost made Ryder Cup teams with this. Explain why you're not happy with your own swing. It sounds like a 20 handicapper's swing.

BOB ESTES: It was, but my short game has always been so good. At times I've had the best short game in the world when you put it all together. Maybe I wasn't necessarily the best putter or the best out of the sand, but at times overall I probably had the best short game in the world. I had to or I wasn't going to survive out here.

But I grew up in west Texas where the wind blows, especially in the springtime, almost every day or hard like it did yesterday, and I couldn't even hit balls; all I could do was chip and pitch and putt. Plus I was tall and thin, probably 5'10", 5'11", 6 foot, 6'1", and I probably weighed 150 or 160 pounds. That's not good when it's blowing 30, 40, 50, 60 miles an hour. But I was so motivated because of my high school team and to get a college scholarship and hopefully get on the PGA TOUR right out of college that you couldn't keep me from practicing.

This is obviously away from basketball season because I was doing that after the year. But I was always playing catch up. In the springtime I'd come back out in west Texas, the wind is blowing 30, 40, 50 miles an hour almost every day, and so I was forced if I was going to practice to work on my short game. So I would chip and pitch and putt for hours.

My short game was always way ahead of my full swing, and now my full swing is catching up.

Q. One of the first things you said when you came in here is, "I'm close." Close to what? Close to having your swing the way you want it? Close to not having to tinker? Close to winning? Close to what?

BOB ESTES: Well, it's kind of all that. It's close to having my swing about as good as it can possibly be based on just my body and my flexibility and everything like that. And then the closest I've ever been to having the equipment the right length, the right setup, the right clubs to where I can just go play. I'm out there playing and I'm thinking, man, I wish my 3 wood was heavier or I wish my sand wedge was longer or I wish my driver was shorter, all that stuff.

That's kind of the good and the bad of having so many options. You can get lost in the equipment trailers, and I don't think I've ever been lost in the trailers because like I said, there's always been a reason for the stuff that I have tried.

But at times I was maybe going in the wrong direction with certain things there. But you've got to try. I mean, every major corporation probably has an R & D department, and I have to be the R & D pretty much, also. I'm the one that has to try these things out. I'm the one that has to feel when it feels right.

Actually that's another thing. People talk about me being so mechanical and being such a tinkerer, but a lot of what I do or had to go through is because I am such a feel player. You can't have the short game that I've got without being a feel player. Sometimes I amaze those guys in the equipment trailers that I can feel when a grip is a thousandth off or something like that. I'm so much more of a feel player than I get credit for. A lot of times I look mechanical when I'm playing because I'm still not comfortable with what I'm doing.

Q. With all the adjustments that you've had to make through your career, is there any concern in your mind about being able to leave well enough alone when you get to the point

BOB ESTES: No, because I know there's certain weeks when I'm doing less and less. I'm spending less time in the trailers, less time experimenting on the range, stuff like that. There's always going to be something to try because they keep bringing out new stuff. Even if you have things just as good as you can get them and you don't want to mess with anything, usually they've got a new driver for you to try or a new Rescue club or a new golf ball, stuff like that. You definitely have to be careful, but I think I'm getting better and better at knowing what I need, what I want, and not spending as much time trying so many different things, so many different shafts, so many different shaft flexes. It could go on and on and on.

Q. When you had that great run, was it at the end of '01

BOB ESTES: Yeah, well, I switched to a ten finger grip in May, Colonial of '01.

Q. Seemed like you were in the top six every time you played, and you played with the baseball grip.

BOB ESTES: Baseball grip, the grips really built up. They were really fat.

Q. When did you give that up?

BOB ESTES: When I really knew it wasn't going to keep working and really wasn't going to hold up under the most extreme pressure was at I'm getting a couple courses mixed up. Furyk won the U.S. Open in '03 at Olympia Fields, right? I think it was pretty much that week at Olympia Fields when I knew that I was going to have to kind of learn or relearn to play with the overlapped grip. I've maybe gone back and forth a little bit, but for the most part, I think since U.S. Open 2003, I think I spent most of my time with the overlapped grip.

The problem is I've been able to play pretty good golf both ways, but I'm trying to get great like everybody else is, and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to get great and play well in the majors and hopefully make a Presidents Cup team or Ryder Cup team unless I went back to the overlapped grip and learned to play that well. So that's what my teacher Craig Koy has been trying to help me with through this process.

Q. Was Craig your guy back in '01?

BOB ESTES: He was, but I was playing with a ten finger grip. So he was helping me do the best I could with that grip at the time, and ever since I've gone back to the overlapping grip, now he's helping me be the best I can there.

But the equipment I played then is so much different from what I play now because when I was playing with a ten finger grip, my clubs had to be shorter, they had to be heavier and the grips had to be fatter so as not to hit the ball left every time I swung it.

Q. Was turning 40 some kind of moment of professional reflection for you, and if it was, what were your reflections?

BOB ESTES: No, I don't think so. I mean, I'm trying to get younger as I get older. I'm trying to buy myself time, but I've been trying to do that for the last 10 or 15 years. I know that I've lost time on Tour playing as well as I know I can when I get the physical stuff nailed down because I'm not afraid to win or anything like that. All four of my wins have been by one shot; two of them have been leading from start to finish. So it's got nothing to do with that.

Some guys are afraid to win. Some guys are well, whatever. Some guys are afraid to win, but I'm not one of those guys. I'm just trying as hard as I can to get as good as quickly as I can. But I'm definitely trying to buy myself time because of all the stuff that I've gone through.

Even when I turn 50, I'm not planning on going straight to the Senior Tour, Champions Tour. I'm hoping to still be playing most of my golf out here and being very competitive and hopefully having a chance to still win regular tournaments and hopefully majors.

Q. What does afraid to win mean? What are they afraid of?

BOB ESTES: Come on.

Q. What does that mean?

BOB ESTES: Guys get close to the lead and just don't know how to handle it. Some guys can't get mean enough to finish the job. Usually when I get close, usually I've been able to finish it off. I just haven't gotten close often enough; that's why I've only won four times. So my physical golf game has held me back, not my mental game or not my mental toughness. I mean, I can get mean. I just haven't been good enough physically to let people see just how good I can be.

Q. Do you take pride in having accomplished what you've done with a swing that you haven't thought is very good, or do you tend to be more frustrated with yourself that you haven't been able to get your swing what you wanted it to be?

BOB ESTES: Probably more so the former. I'm pretty proud of what I've done with the golf swing that I had to work with. You know, not everybody, whether through natural ability or instinct or just getting lucky to get hooked up with the right teacher, develops a great golf swing early on. Somebody likes Charles Howell for the most part I'm not saying his swing is perfect, he may not even think it's perfect yet, but he's had so much quality instruction from a young age that as soon as well, even before he got out on Tour, he had a great golf swing. He was a great ball striker. His putting is probably not as good as he wants it to be, but yeah, my golf swing was just never as good as it needed to be.

I feel like I'm finally working with somebody who can take me to the next level, and then if I don't succeed the way I think I should, then I would be disappointed. But I think that I've still got plenty of good years left. Maybe 15. I think I can be very competitive out here until I'm at least 55.

Q. Who works harder, you or Vijay?

BOB ESTES: Vijay, but I'm trying to work smarter. I don't want to stand on the range and hit as many balls as Vijay does. I'm trying to develop a golf swing that I don't have to hit as many golf balls as Vijay Singh because the body is going to break down. I mean, we're both working out quite a bit and trying to build it up, but the back probably can only take so much, and the hips and the elbows and the neck over time and the wrists, so I'm trying to work smarter and develop a golf swing my teacher wants me to be able to skip the warm up if I have to, go straight to the tee and rip it down the first fairway with confidence. I'm trying to get to that point where my golf swing it's my golf swing. He always talks about owning your own swing, or owning your swing. I'm just trying to get to the point where I'm not trying to swing like somebody else, I'm trying to swing it the best I can swing it so we're always working trying to figure out, talking about it. I try to give him feedback. We try to figure out what I can and can't do.

Sometimes we don't know. Sometimes it may take a year to figure something specific out. I'm trying to just find my golf swing where I can just go play and not have to think so much.

Q. Who are you working with?

BOB ESTES: Craig Koy.

Q. You've been with him for a while?

BOB ESTES: From Denver, Colorado. He started helping me in 2001. The first couple years we were together I was almost always playing with a ten finger grip. So once we finally decided or I knew that I had to go back to the overlapped grip, it's almost like we had to start all over.

What's interesting, too, is the last couple times I've been to the Open Championship, one of the most respected teachers in the world is Sam Torrance's dad Bob Torrance. Not that we know each other real well, but both times in the last two years he's walked over to me because he's seen me go over and play in the Open Championship almost every year since 1989, and he's complimented me on how much better my golf swing is now than it used to be. So he's very observant. I knew my golf swing was better, but it's nice for somebody like that, that you would hold in such high regard, to say your golf swing is a whole lot better now. So that was nice of him to do that.


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