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May 25, 2004

Ben Curtis


RODDY WILLIAMS: Ben, welcome to Wentworth. I believe it's your birthday tomorrow, so it's going to be a nice way of celebrating with a victory week, perhaps.

BEN CURTIS: Well, it would be really nice. You always here about guys that play well when their birthdays are coming around. Hopefully it will be a good week.

RODDY WILLIAMS: Your second visit here, you played in the World Match Play, got through to the semifinal. How do you feel about the course at this time of year?

BEN CURTIS: Well, it's playing pretty similar to the way it was in the fall, very firm and fast. There's a little bit more rough, though, so it's going to play a little more difficult.

So, you know, I'm looking forward to a good week. I know you're going to have to hit the ball straight, and you're going to have to make a lot of putts just like any other week but more importantly, you're going to have to hit the ball in play.

Q. How much confidence does it give you knowing that you did do well here at The Match Play?

BEN CURTIS: Well, it's always good to come back to a course that you've done well at in the past. You know, only being six, seven months ago, it obviously brings a lot of memories. I remember the whole course. And just playing a few holes today just reminds me of what it was like in the fall. The weather was a little bit cooler then. But for the most part, it's always good to come back to a familiar course, and somewhere you've been before. It just makes it a lot easier. A lot of times when you go to a place for the first time it takes three or four days to get situated with the golf course, the clubhouse, the facilities, and now I know where everything is and just go.

Q. What's the main difference between the two Tours, do you think?

BEN CURTIS: I think it's a little more relaxed here, I feel like. The crowds aren't as big, especially early on in the week. They get obviously during the weekend, there's quite a few people. The players are a little more friendly, I feel, and the media, it's not as hectic and interviews and all that stuff. I mean, everywhere you turn your head, the local TV, there's just a lot more people around.

I think it makes it a lot easier when there's less people around and you have more time when you're at the course to get your work done. I just feel there's quality of golf over here and it's a good way to see the world and get away, and when I'm away from golf, it's a lot easier to be away from golf. Instead when you're on tour, it's basically, golf course, hotel, golf course. There's not much, maybe dinner every few nights, but for the most part, you're just going from the golf course to the hotel.

Q. So are you making that extra effort to get out and see things when you're here?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I've been here a couple of times now, London, so I don't feel like I have to get out too much.

Q. More so than you would in the States?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think so. You always want to go try the local spots, the restaurants, pubs and cafes and all that good stuff. We are staying just right up the road so it's nice. We are not too far away. There's plenty of places to eat. It makes it good. Sometimes in the States you get sick of the same chain restaurants every week, so sometimes room service is not a bad deal.

Q. Is that the downside of the victory in Sandwich, the attention that you get everywhere you go in the States?

BEN CURTIS: I don't look at it as a downside. I think it's always harder when you go into a bigger event to get a lot of practice done early in the week. I think you've got some requirements to do, which is fine. You don't mind doing it but then it takes away from your time. You don't know going into it, you figure you get to the golf course 9:00 in the morning, eat breakfast and 10:00 you'll be hitting balls but you just never know. Sometimes it could be 11:00, 11:30 before you step foot on the range because a long walk between the clubhouse and the range could be five, six interviews.

So depending on the week but here, it just seems relaxed. I know come Thursday it will be a lot more electricity in the air and a lot more people around.

So I think you just never know, but it just seems like every time we've played over here, I know if I get to the golf course at 9:00, I want to be on the range at 10:00 and I will be so it's not a big deal.

Q. Have you changed anything in the way you practice, the way you play, the swing at all?

BEN CURTIS: No, not really. Obviously you're always trying to fine tune your golf swing and improve it. So I haven't done anything drastically. The only thing I'm trying to do is shorten the swing and make it more compact. It's just taking time. I've been working on it all year and it's getting shorter and shorter and I'm never going to get it to where I want it right away, so it could be a year or two before I get there.

I'm not trying to do anything too drastic right away because then it could just cause problems. I've been hitting the ball really well all year for the most part, good enough, and it's just been the putter and a few shots here and there.

So if I can get that a little more consistent and make a lot more putts, then hopefully things will turn around. It's real close. The last few weeks, I had some really good rounds, and then just add a couple of bad ones in there. If I can get those bad ones down to even par instead of three or four over par, I'll be all right.

Q. Do you feel any pressure coming here as the Open champion and how will it feel going up to Troon as the defending champion in terms of pressure?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I don't feel a lot of pressure here this week.

I think just going back to earlier what I said, just being in a familiar place always helps. I think, you know, I just feel like putting more pressure on myself than maybe, say the media or the fans. I think I just want to go out there and play good golf and I'm just trying to take it one shot at a time and whatever happens, happens.

I mean, obviously I'm coming here to win and want to do well, but, you know you can't play good every week and you can't play bad every week. So it could be a great week or it could be a mediocre week. Hopefully everything will work out.

I've been working hard on the game and hopefully good things will happen. Obviously Troon will be a different story than here, coming in as the defending champion, it always is a different story, but I feel like if my game is in shape, then I'll be fine, because you'll get an extra adrenaline boost and the excitement. It's always fun to defend a tournament that you've played in before and it just gives you a little extra juice and extra confidence. So I think that's a good thing. I mean, some people look at it as a negative going in as the defending champ, but I look at it, I look at the positive side of it and just go out there and do the best you can.

I played Troon a couple of weeks ago, so I know it's going to be a tough test of golf. The wind and the weather is going to have a determining factor how we play, so I think it's going to be a tough week, and just know that if you're going to shoot par you're going to gain ground.

Q. How did it compare with Royal St. George's?

BEN CURTIS: Well, it's a little bit different. You see a lot of the shots in front of you. St. George's has a little bit of mound and you can't really see the fairway if you hit over a hill. There's just a couple of holes like that over at Troon. For the most part you just see everything right in front of you. It's a little easier on the eye and easier to pick out a target. You're pretty much going down into the wind on the way back.

Depending on which way the wind blows, it was blowing right to left going out and left to right coming in. It played tough just that way so I know if the wind switches just a little bit just how much tougher it could get.

It's very similar. The wind could just change in a heartbeat, but the greens are very similar. It's a little bit greener, there's a little bit more grass on the ground probably because it's springtime and St. George's was in the summer and you guys had a hot summer over here, so I know what that's like. I'm sure it will be a tough test of golf and hopefully the weather will cooperate. The course is in great shape but to keep it the way it is should be a good test.

Q. What scores did you make on 11?

BEN CURTIS: I made a 5. It was dead into the wind. It was about 45, 50 degrees, so still a little chilly. I hit driver, 2 iron was still short of the green.

Q. Have you ever seen anything like Postage Stamp?

BEN CURTIS: You know, it's very similar to Pebble Beach, No. 7. It's a short hole, but at any given day you could walk up there and be hitting six iron, or be hitting sand wedge. Just depending on the wind, that's the whole hole. If there's no wind, the hole is not that hard. But if there's some wind, it becomes very tricky and it looks like from the tee, if you hit it just right of the hole you're fine, but then it slopes down and the next thing you know you're 20 feet up to the green.

So, there's no easy miss on that hole. You've just got to hit it on the green and take your 2 putt or make a birdie and get out of there. If you can hit that green all four days, you'll be doing well.

Q. What did you do?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I played the hole 12 times, so... (Laughter).

Q. Go on.

BEN CURTIS: I hit it close several times and most of the time if I missed it, it went to the right because it was blowing left to right. I mean, I'd rather miss it to the right than be in the Coffin, they say. So you don't want to go in there. The greens were slow enough, if you hit it in there it was fine but you obviously want to keep it right in the middle of the green and put it wherever the pin is.

Q. How many out of 12 on the green?

BEN CURTIS: I would say nine, eight or nine. (Laughter).

Q. You mentioned earlier the fresh attitude here among the players, perhaps as more pronounced than in the States, is that something that Europe can use to their advantage during the Ryder Cup, do you feel that there is a stronger sense of camaraderie among the European players?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I believe so. Every night the last couple of weeks we've been here, someone has always said, let's go to dinner, let's do this. Sometimes in America, you can go out there for two weeks and not have someone ask you, and if it is, it's usually a European or someone you've met over here. I know a few people from America over there, so I've gotten to know them and we'll go out to dinner and stuff like that.

I think as you've seen in the Ryder Cup before, they always talk about how the Europeans are a little closer than the Americans, and I think it's just because of that. I mean, here, a lot of the players stay in the same hotel and here it's different, because a lot of people live around here. But most of the time here, people stay in the same hotel, you go to the states and there's 15 different hotels. So I think a lot of people have gotten to know each other because of that reason. It's fun, it's good. You meet different people from different cultures and that's always fun.

Q. You've got a hotel, I hope?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, it's a nice one. Can't complain. Oh, you're talking Troon? We got a house there for the week. My parents and Candace's parents are coming over so we got a little house for the week.

Q. Can you just talk a bit about how things have changed for you as a golfer over the last 12 months or over the last nine months?

BEN CURTIS: The biggest change is I can basically pick my schedule. Going into the Open, I was just going week by week. Funny stories, was like when my mom and dad would call and say, "Are you playing next week," and it would be Monday the week before and I would say, "I'll tell you on Friday." Sometimes it would be even later in the week. I've even got a call on Tuesday a couple of times saying, you want to play this week. That was always tough because you could never set your schedule.

Now that I can, it makes it a little bit easier. If I have two weeks off, I know that I can take a week and just kind of rest and the next week just start getting into things. That's just been the biggest change is no one you know when you're going to tee it up again and you don't have to worry about thinking anything, just go out there and play golf. It's been a lot easier on my game even though some parts of the time I haven't shown it.

I'm seeing these courses a lot of times for the first time. Some of them, you've got to have a lot of knowledge and you've got to be there several times. Just like I said before, just knowing where you have to go once you get there, and that stuff just adds up so much. If you've been there before it just makes it so much easier.

Q. Do you think winning the Open over here has had the recognition back home in the States that it deserves?

BEN CURTIS: Well, yeah, I've gotten a lot of recognition. I think the last several months it's kind of died down because of Phil, obviously, what he's done this year. I think him winning a major, it's kind of overlooked. But once Shaun and I kind of came from familiar backgrounds and got a lot of attention and spend a lot of time together. For the most part it's been good. There's been nothing bad that's come from it.

A lot more attention over here, obviously, just because this is where it was played and this is where it was won, just like Shaun and me, any time he goes anywhere in the northeast, he gets a lot more recognition than he would in California. So a lot of it has to do with where it was played.

Q. What about the pressure to follow up now from that victory? Do you feel any more pressure?

BEN CURTIS: You know, I don't personally feel a lot more pressure. I just go out there with a goal in mind and game plan and try to follow it and keep improving. If you go into an event saying "I'm going to win this week," most likely you're going to be slamming the trunk on Friday because you have that pressure on you already. If you go out and bogey the first three, four holes, I'm done. I can't win this week.

But, obviously, you want to go out there and play good on Thursday and Friday and get yourself in position. I've had a couple of weeks where I've been in position and just didn't follow up on it. But, you know, I showed improvements and I think that's all I can ask for. I think golf is such a fine line because finishing 40th and first. If I would have played well last weekend, who knows what could have happened. I'm not going to say I could have won, but I could have easily been a Top 10. And that's the thing you've got to look at, you've got to look at it as the positives of it, and just like last year. I didn't play good, and then three weeks before, I started playing really well and it just got better every week and every week, just as it's going now. So I feel any moment, something good could happen.

Q. How often have you watched the video?

BEN CURTIS: You know I haven't watched it a whole lot. When eve been home, we just moved in and we just bought a place in Florida, so we just slowly we're always working on that. We've always got stuff to do other than just sit there and watch that.

You know, in the next couple of years and this off season, I think we'll get to see a lot more of it. I've got tapes stacked up to here, DVDs and tapes of the whole Open. So it's just amazing how much stuff I've gotten. So to be able to go through it and see it all will be a lot of fun.

RODDY WILLIAMS: Ben, thanks for coming in. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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