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August 23, 2000

Ben Curtis


Q. Tell us about -- close call today.

BEN CURTIS : Yeah, I was -- it was very close. You know, I started off playing really well, just didn't make a few putts, then made a couple in a row and then, you know, I was able to get a few up at the turn. Which I was looking for. And then just played pretty solid on the back through 14 holes and then, you know, just made a couple bogeys and let him back in. I think he made a great birdie on 17, and unfortunately, you know, he got in trouble on the last hole and I was able to come up with a victory.

Q. What happened the last hole? Take us through the last hole that was decisive.

BEN CURTIS : He hit first, hit it in the right trees. So I figured if, you know, like he'd probably either have to punch out or would have a difficult shot to the green. So I just, you know, made sure I hit a good shot, tee ball, hit it down the middle. Killed it. I only had 150 yards. So I was able to, you know, put the pressure on him by hitting a good drive that he would have to force himself to make par. When he hit a punch shot, he didn't get it back to the fairway from the trees. And then, you know, he hit it just short. From there I knew if I hit the middle of the green and get my par, that I had a real good chance of winning the match.

Q. You did that.

BEN CURTIS : Went 25 feet, just left of the hole and was able to knock down there a couple of inches.

Q. What did you learn from last year that you have taken to this tournament?

BEN CURTIS : You just got to be patient. You know, the qualifying is difficult enough, and you just got to go out there and play, you know, solid golf. And I was scared after seven holes, I was 5-over, so I had to kick myself in the butt and get myself going. But eventually I got it going and played really good the last, you know, 30 holes or so.

Q. Ben, every time you saw David Gossett on TV playing this, playing that, did you kind of have a bittersweet opinion of what was going on because of how close you got and maybe that could have, should have been you?

BEN CURTIS : Not really. I took the attitude of I played good, I had a great tournament and I'm not going to get down on myself for not winning or beating David, and, you know, I was happy for David. He's a great player, you know. And all the luck to him. He's, you know, he deserves it. And, you know, I didn't look at it like that or was disappointed or anything, I looked at it as, "Hey, he's the one who beat me to win." So that tells me something about -- at least you lost to the champion, which feels good.

Q. You see what happens to Kuchar when he comes back. It's so hard to repeat to get there. You know, that potentially could happen to any of you. What are your expectations when you get into obviously just get into Match Play, you've got to be thinking, "Boy, I want to get back there again."

BEN CURTIS : Yeah, you definitely want to go out there and win. So -- and the hardest thing is just staying focused and not letting last year get into your mind. You just want to think about what I'm doing at this present time, and not look back and say, "Hey, this is what I did last year here and there," and, you know, you just -- the big thing is just stay patient and stay calm and never tell yourself you're out of it.

Q. How long did it take you to get over last year? Did that stay with you for a while or did you put it right out of your head?

BEN CURTIS : I put it pretty much -- I went back and I got sick for a week and really didn't get out of bed. So I didn't really think about it; I was just trying to get healthy again and be able to go out there and play again. But no, it didn't take me long. You know, a lot of great things came out of it for finish in semifinals. That was one good perk, knowing that, you know, you could play in pretty much any amateur tournament that you wanted. That's pretty nice.

Q. Can you talk about the psychology of Match Play?

BEN CURTIS : Well, it's basically you got to take it one hole at a time. You could be 4-down, 4-to-go and you still can't be worried about the 18th hole. You got to be focused on the hole that's at hand, and the thing about Match Play is that you can -- what I like is when you feel like you're in control, it's kind of good, because I mean if he hits it in the trees, like for example on 18, and I hit it down the middle, I felt pretty good if I at least make par, I could at least be going to the first tee. You're not going to lose the hole. So that was a good feeling. That's what I like about Match Play. Same thing, you could, for example, if I was in his shoes in that hole, you could make a great par and just kill somebody. You know, it gets them down.

Q. Can you take more risks?

BEN CURTIS : Yeah, you can. You can play more aggressive, but at the same time you got to know your limits.

Q. Has anyone ever said anything to you, try to get in your head? Have you ever tried to do that to other people?

BEN CURTIS : No. I just let the golf take care of itself. You know, I treat everybody as equal and I just go out there and try to win the match. But I'm not rooting against the kid or the guy or whoever.

Q. Maybe one of the best things that happened to you from last summer is it seems like you're more confident now. You had a heck of a summer. Are you more confident now and are you a better player to go along with it?

BEN CURTIS : Yeah, I'm a much better player. I feel like all aspects of my game have improved. Just knowing it's a confidence booster walking to a tournament and everybody's like the U.S. amateur, and I've done it before. I don't take it like that, but I don't let it get to me, this is the biggest tournament for amateur golf. I try to treat it like any other tournament, and just like you're playing golf with your buddies at home. You just want to go out there, have fun, enjoy yourself. A lot of times when you do that you play well.

Q. Is that difficult, thinking like that?

BEN CURTIS : No. I mean 'cause I love playing golf. It's just the big thing. I like to compete, too, and I just -- I mean like during the practice round, 14 holes the second day, I'm like -- I just want to go play. I mean I seriously felt like just walking in and just wanted to play in the tournament, you know. Sometimes it's, you know, I get so excited that you just want to get right to the tournament.

Q. Some of the guys that are here for the first time, I'm sure you see them on the range for six, eight hours, where they should save some energy. Maybe you're a little bit beyond hitting balls forever when it's not counting.

BEN CURTIS : Right. I'm not much of a practicer. I like to play. So I just go out and play and hit maybe, you know, 30, 40 balls just to maybe work on a few things. Just get a good mindset for tomorrow. And that's all it really takes for me. I mean within an hour after I'm done playing, I'm gone. So...

Q. Is a match like you had today -- I mean would you have been able to finish it off before last year? Did last year kind of toughen you up a little bit?

BEN CURTIS : Well, I think -- I mean last year I played really well in the summer. I had a lot of confidence going into the championship. I, you know, I think I would have been able to finish off last year as well. You know, the kid played really good coming in. It was pretty tough because he made a lot of good birdies. You know, the only thing I could think about is just make sure, you know, you can come out on top.

Q. Where are you in school now?

BEN CURTIS : I just finished my eligibility, and I got a semester left of class.

Q. What are your plans after that?

BEN CURTIS : Well, it's -- it all depends on what happens here this week. I mean hopefully I can go play Sunday, and if I'm still playing Sunday, I'll be around for a while. If not, it's kind of -- it's a blur.

Q. Can you talk about the match and how the tide turned late, when you let him back in the match.

BEN CURTIS : It turned on -- really on 16, because 15 I made a bad swing and just hit it short of the, you know, short of the green and hit a bad chip. I didn't let that bother me. Then went to 16 -- had a good drive. He hit it in the left bunker off the tee. He hit it about 20 yards short of the green, chipped up about 30 feet when I was in the middle of the green. Just kind of steered my putt, just looked -- slope, downhill putt, I was 35 feet. The worst thing I didn't want to do is leave myself 6 feet coming back. I left myself 6 feet down the hill. So it was, you know, I kind of overthought that. I should have stroked it like it was a normal play. ^ check (take out looked) I think that was the turn there. Then he hit two drivers on 17 to get to the green, was just on the fringe. I went for it as well and hit it in a right bunker and was kind of up against the lip. So it was a difficult shot.

Q. Do you have to guard to not rush through this and get back to where you were last year? Do you have to say, "I still have to reach Saturday or Sunday, I can't just assume I'm going to be there"?

BEN CURTIS : Well, my only mentality is just one match at a time. You know, tomorrow, it's going to be a tough match. James McLean, he's a great player. So I got to get ready, maybe after tomorrow ask me, if I'm still around. But I think tomorrow's match is going to be difficult, and I think that's my main goal, is to just get by that one. Just one match at a time is what I'm really focusing on.

Q. Does the best player win here or the luckiest or some combination?

BEN CURTIS : A lot of times luck doesn't win you a tournament. I think it's all whoever's playing the best that weekend. I think on this course it's who's putting the best. I mean there's some tricky greens and I think whoever makes the most birdies and most putts will win. And not -- I mean you can get some lucky bounces out here because of the way the greens slope. But for the most part, I think the most skilled player will win.

Q. Are you a good putter?

BEN CURTIS : I putted good for the first ten holes -- first nine holes today. But I mean, I had a couple putts that went by the hole and kind of came around back in the last two days, so my brother's like, "Just hit it." I mean that was in the worst spots and I end up making them. He tells me hit it in the worst spot.

Q. Thank you, Ben.

BEN CURTIS : Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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