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August 21, 2003

Ben Curtis


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Ben Curtis, current leader in the clubhouse after six under par 64. If we could start just with some opening comments, a great way to return to your home state today.

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, it was. It was a lot of fun to play in front of family and friends. I just went out there and had a great time and the holes seemed very big today.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: 23 putts, obviously had the short game working. Just talk about overall what went well for you. I think you hit seven fairways, but you certainly made up for it.

BEN CURTIS: Right, just at the beginning I just made some good putts and just didn't hit the driver very well until the last few holes. I kind of got lucky. I was able to advance it towards the green and in most cases even on the green.

Q. Ben, you said you didn't hit the driver well until the last few holes. Did you figure anything out late in the round about the swing?

BEN CURTIS: I don't think so. I think it was just a matter of the timing just came around a little bit better. I was maybe a little bit quick, so I just tried to slow it down a little bit and kind of got it in the slot there.

Q. You're getting married in 48 hours. Is this kind of a release? Most people would say the NEC, oh, my gosh, the pressure is on, but is this more of a release for you?

BEN CURTIS: I'm more nervous about the tee time for Saturday now. Hopefully I'm playing late, but at the same time I'd like to be on time and be able to get everything going on schedule.

Q. Were you thinking about that as you played today?

BEN CURTIS: Not really. I was just having a good time, just trying to make all the putts that I could. You know, good or bad, I didn't care, I was just going to go have fun and this will be the best week of my life no matter what I shoot.

Q. A couple of those saves it looked like you surprised yourself, the one on 9?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, those putts just haven't gone in the last few weeks and they were right in the center of the hole. They were just dead solid putts. A couple of them weren't very easy and I just hit it right on the line I wanted to.

Q. How many times have you played here?

BEN CURTIS: Oh, 15, 20 times.

Q. Is that the lowest round?

BEN CURTIS: I think so.

Q. You had 65 here when you played with him in June, with Herb?

BEN CURTIS: I think I was 4-under. I don't think it was 65. I played well that day, too. The conditions were a little bit different. It was a little bit cooler and wet.

Q. Is it very advantageous for you being very familiar with the course? You missed a lot of fairways but you were able to advance the ball and make some putts. Was that advantageous knowing the course?

BEN CURTIS: Well, yes and no. I think most of it was I just got lucky. I hit it so bad on a few holes that I was actually far enough right that I had a clear shot to the green or whatever, but for the most part I just knew that I had to keep the ball around the fairway. I wasn't pulling out 3-wood on any of the holes, I was just bombing a driver. The better I play, the more drivers I hit, and I felt like if I want to shoot low numbers I'm going to have to get the driver in my bag and hit it, so that's what I did.

Q. So it will be the best week of your life no matter what you shoot. Does that make you comfortable just kind of going out and not really pressing at all in any sense?

BEN CURTIS: It's kind of funny, when you tell yourself to not worry about it, to just have fun, you go out there and you play really good, whereas a lot of times you want to play good and you get tense. I was just having fun and the holes just seemed like it got bigger and bigger as the day went on.

Q. Ben, in that respect, taking that kind of an approach, is that different than the last couple of weeks since the British Open?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, a little bit. I think there was expectations to do well. Even for me, I was putting them pretty high up there. Last week I really wanted to do well, top 10 or 20, but that didn't happen. I think this week -- you don't really worry about it and your mind just kind of frees up. You let your body do it for yourself instead of your mind.

Q. What do you think your fiancee's reaction will be to this round?

BEN CURTIS: I saw her on the 18th hole and she was smiling and cheering away. I think she's going to say, well, the rehearsal dinner might be pushed back a little bit, but I think she'll be happy no matter what.

Q. How many people were here and how many of those were in your wedding party?

BEN CURTIS: Well, there were just a few that were in the wedding party, but there's quite a few guests that were here and some family.

Q. Rough number, rough estimate?

BEN CURTIS: 20-ish. They'll all be here tomorrow probably.

Q. How many greens did you hit and did you make any key putts early, par putts?


BEN CURTIS: I didn't really make it tough on myself really. The key putt was probably on No. 6. I got up-and-down from the bunker on the side hill there, but I made a ten-footer for par and that kind of got it going really, and the birdie putt the hole before, the long curler, it went right in the hole. That one surprised myself a little bit. I was trying to lag it close and it went in. I was stroking it well from the very beginning and just felt really good over it.

Q. How long would you say that was?

BEN CURTIS: On 5? 25 feet. It probably broke about five feet.

Q. Talk about hole No. 16. Tiger earlier in the week said it was made unfair by the lengthening. Do you feel the same way?

BEN CURTIS: Well, today, no, but if the wind switches and if the ground wasn't as firm, I think it would be because it just kind of takes the excitement out of the hole. If you can hit it 325 you're getting in the zone where you're like, well, maybe I can get there. I think it's not really that hard of a hole if you hit a good tee ball. Now you just lay up and you've got a little wedge in being so firm. If they moved the tee box up to the front, you might see some guys going for it.

Q. At the British Open it seemed like you hit the fairways, hit the greens more or less was your game. What does that say about your scrambling ability?

BEN CURTIS: My short game has been pretty good the last few weeks ever since I went over there. I've been putting the ball pretty well and I just try not to worry about -- if I missed the green I was like, well, get it up-and-down. It's just the confidence that I have in myself, and I'm familiar with the greens where if you miss in certain areas you're not too bad.

Q. After this now do you go out and work on anything in your swing or do you have wedding stuff to take care of?

BEN CURTIS: Wedding stuff. I'm getting in the air-conditioning, too. It's pretty warm out there.

Q. And the rehearsal dinner is tomorrow?

BEN CURTIS: Tomorrow.

Q. Are you getting more comfortable playing in front of -- like at the Memorial you seemed a little edgy with all those people cheering for you. Today it seemed like you were having a great time?

BEN CURTIS: The more and more you do it, the more comfortable you get. It's just sometimes when it gets slammed at you all at once, it's like, Oh, man.

Now that I've had it for a few months, it's been nice. You know when to keep your head down and keep walking and you know when to have fun.

Q. Did the shot into 18 come off like you planned it?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I've been hitting a little cut shot anyway. With the side hill lie, I didn't even try to hook it or hold it up against the wind. I said hit it to the left side of the green and let the wind take it and let the lie feed it down towards the right.

Q. What's the lowest round you've ever had?

BEN CURTIS: 63, a couple years ago in Memphis on the Hooters Tour.

Q. Having played here so much, have you ever tried to go for 16 just screwing around?

BEN CURTIS: Well, we threw one down where Tiger hit that 2-iron from 300 yards or whatever, but I've never tried. The green is not very long anyway, and if you go over that green too far it's not very good, so I'd rather take my chances with a wedge.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We can go over your score card. You started out with a birdie on No. 1.

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I made like a 15-footer straight up the hill, pretty simple putt.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: What did you hit in there?

BEN CURTIS: I hit an 8-iron from 100 yards. I was in the rough and hit a punch shot. I hit a great shot, bounced it up the hill and it made it on the green and made like a 15-footer.

5, hit a 5-iron and it landed by the pin and went 25 feet by, made that.

8, hit driver and had 90 yards to the pin and a 60-degree to three feet.

10, I hit a little pitching wedge to like four feet, made that.

11, hit it in the left rough, hit sand wedge on the front of the green and made like a 30-footer.

18, I hit driver and 9-iron to a foot, the easiest one of the day.

Q. Any saves besides 6 that stand out?

BEN CURTIS: 9 was a good one, too. I made a 10 or 12-footer right down the hill, a pretty quick putt that broke a couple inches. It's one of those putts that could get away from you pretty easily but I just made it right in the heart.

Q. You'll go out with the same approach tomorrow, hit it easy, not worry about anything?

BEN CURTIS: I'm not going to worry about that. We'll worry about that on Saturday and Sunday. It's still early, a lot of golf to be played. There's a lot of good players that haven't even teed off yet, so I could be in third place by the end of the night. I mean, I'm just looking forward to it and we'll just have fun.

Q. What did you do on 2?

BEN CURTIS: I hit it in the bunker on the right off the tee, and then chucked my next shot and then hit 5-iron on the green, hit a good shot in there like 30 feet and two-putted.

Q. You had a lot of guys from the Hooters Tour out there. It seems like they've been kind of inspired. What's it mean to have those guys coming back, guys you used to play with now cheering you on?

BEN CURTIS: Well, it's neat. I haven't seen them in a while. They've been playing and doing their own thing and I've been doing my own thing. It's good to see them. I haven't really gotten to see them yet, but I'll see them tonight. It's going to be a lot of fun and they're very supportive and they've always been there for me. It's a lot of fun having them here.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Okay, Ben, thanks.

End of FastScripts....

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