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May 30, 2006

Bart Bryant


TODD BUDNICK: Welcome Bart Bryant, defending champion here at the Memorial tournament:

Bart, the first of two wins here last year, a great season it turned out to be for you.

BART BRYANT: It did. I was very, very excited and pleased with the way the year went. Certainly winning here I think winning here really gave me some confidence and sparked me on to some good golf throughout the year, and obviously culminated with The TOUR Championship. If I had won this tournament, had success, beaten the top players in the world coming out the stretch, I don't know if I could have done what I did out there.

TODD BUDNICK: Talk about the one top 10, your first start at the Mercedes Championship.

BART BRYANT: I haven't played very well, honestly. You can kind of look at my stats, and I'm probably between 90 and a hundred now. I haven't played great this year. I think it's due to a few factors, neither one of which is my knee surgery the last year. I haven't been able to practice maybe quite as much as I wanted to. In the last couple of months I've been able to hit the range a little bit harder and able to squat down and read my putts now, which I wasn't able to do the first months of the year. Things are starting to get back to normal and I feel like my game is coming around a little bit. I played better last week at Memphis, although I putted awful. I feel like if I can get my putter worked out, get some issues fixed that I might have a chance to recapture some of that magic that I had last year.

Q. If you didn't have Mercedes to play, if Mercedes didn't exist, and looking back, do you think you would have come back to play golf maybe later than you did?

BART BRYANT: No doubt. There's no way I would have gone over to Hawaii for both those tournaments, and not been in the Mercedes, I would have waited. I originally scheduled to play the two in Hawaii and then play the Hope, and then take some time off and rehab. But once I got over there and saw where my knee was, I went ahead and took the Hope off and just basically took some more time off after Hawaii, a couple of more weeks where I didn't play at all, and then started to rehab the knee. It's not a major deal, it's just taken me a little longer to get back than I hoped it would. We can always find excuses, we're golfers.

Q. We're journalists, we help you find them.

BART BRYANT: And we appreciate it.

Q. I remember at the Tour championship you kind of mentioned the surgery that was upcoming, that it would be this minor deal. It's obviously been a little more major than you thought. Is that disappointing to you at all? You talked about it almost offhand in November?

BART BRYANT: Honestly, it is a little more disappointing. When I talked to the doctor, we kind of talked about going in and clipping a little cartilage off on the side of my knee. When he got in there, he decided to swipe all the way over the kneecap, the cartilage. That's why it's taken me longer to come back than we initially thought. It's one of those things. I'm glad that I did, it needed to be taken care of. The second half of the year, I'm not going to deal with it, it's gone, it's not an issue. Had I not taken care of it and probably not swiped under the kneecap, I might have been able to get back a little quicker and play with just a little bit of pain, but probably that little bit of pain would have continued throughout the year and been worse, maybe. Now it's done and I don't have to mess with it. Yeah, my golf hasn't been great, but I think it will come around. I did what I did when I had to do it, and I'm happy it's over with and it's fine.

Q. How did you read your putts without screwing up your back?

BART BRYANT: You know, certainly that's a good question. It was kind of weird bending down to read putts, not being able to squat down, because that's always been a part of my routine. I was really out of my routine. I wasn't reading putts great, whether it be the line or the speed. I think that's kind of carried over to this part of the year where I lost a lot of confidence with my putter, but a lot of it was just because I wasn't doing what Bart Bryant normally does when he putts. But that's changing now. Last week I bent down just about every hole of the 72 holes. And it's feeling really strong. I think I'm good.

Q. Was this just arthroscopic?

BART BRYANT: Just a scope, yeah.

Q. When is the last time you saw bunkers like this?

BART BRYANT: Well, let's see, a little 9 hole golf course in New Mexico. And we had one bunker out on the course that never got raked no, I shouldn't say that. I don't remember. I guess probably back in college, you know when you're using the big rakes, that you rake leaves with or something. And it's going to be different. It will be interesting. I kind of, in a way I kind of like it. It really brings the bunker back into being kind of a place where you hit the ball special, you get a penalty for hitting it there. A lot of times bunkers are so good out here, and the guys are so good out of the bunker, that it's better to be in the bunker for a long draw than another place. Now, especially, I think you're going to see guys hitting out of fairway bunkers. Around the greens you can still kind of get the ball up and it's going to release more than normal, but coming out of those other bunkers is going to be fun.

Q. Can you see a couple of areas around the greens it will get dicey. Left bunker on 14 when the pin is back right, or, I guess, behind 12, too?

BART BRYANT: 12, yeah. But I hit a couple where you mentioned, off 14, I threw a couple down in there and no chance of getting out of there. I couldn't I couldn't come close. I was barely keeping it out of the water going over. It's sitting down in those ridges, you're having to take more sand, and you can't spin it. It will wreak a little havoc on a few holes like that where you get the tough pins.

Q. Are you under the impression that it's a temporary thing, or a test? Or do you think it's going to be the rest of the year?

BART BRYANT: The rest of this year? No. I would be shocked if the Tour implemented this week after week. I was assuming that this was just kind of a test thing to see how it works and what the guys think of it. I'll be surprised I wouldn't be surprised if it continues at this tournament every year, which is fine. But I'd be surprised but what do I know.

Q. Do you think it could also take away from some dramatic moments if you make bunkers does it take away some of the excitement level? Zinger made a pretty good one a couple of years ago out here?

BART BRYANT: It has the potential to do it. The shot that Zinger made, if he was down in one of those ridges, if it hasn't been raked by another caddie, you're going to be in those, and not stop the ball close to the hole. So it does have a potential to take out the dramatic of some of those nice bunker shots that you kind of spin and get rolling softly down to the pin. There will be a lot of pins out there with those bunker shots at 15, 20 feet.

Q. Did you hole any bunker shots last year?

BART BRYANT: I can only remember one.

Q. Here?

BART BRYANT: Here, no.

Q. Tour championship?

BART BRYANT: At the Tour championship.

Q. I was thinking here?

BART BRYANT: You were thinking here.

Q. Didn't you on 17? I thought it was 18 at East Lake?

BART BRYANT: He's talking about at this tournament. I don't remember holing one out at this tournament last year. I do remember last year at No. 12, the par 3, I hit it long left up in the bunker and then had to chip out of the bunker sideways up in the long rough and chipped it in for par. I should get five bucks for that or something.

Q. Does defending champ have a nice ring to it when you return to this place?

BART BRYANT: Yeah, it does. It's hard to believe that a year has gone by. To me, it seems like yesterday. I drove out here and got back on the course, it seemed like it just happened. It's hard to believe that a year has gone by. I hate to know that next week I might lose that title. I hope to retain it. I've really enjoyed being called the reigning champion of the Memorial Tournament. That carries a lot of weight.

Q. Now that you've got a few on your resume, what has to happen in those weeks for guys? Everything goes right, a little luck, what goes into winning the mindset?

BART BRYANT: Well, I think sometimes you just kind of sneak up on it, it's dumb luck, kind of like I did at the Texas Open. And really like I did here. I just kind of hung around, really hung tough and just kind of stayed with the leaders, and all of a sudden you can catch fire on the back nine with your putter. That's usually what happens that you're mixing putts that sort of catapult you ahead of the guys. If you look at the tournament last week, Jeff Maggert, basically he was kind of hanging out. And all of a sudden, he rolled a 40 foot eagle putt. Hold on a second. And then a 20 footer on the next one for birdie. Typically when you look back and win, it's not that you did anything extraordinary, you did some pretty cool things at just the right time, right when you need it. Usually it's towards the end of the tournament. And you've played golf, but you've hung in there all week and given yourself a chance. I think most guys that win for the first time, that's how it happens. You're hanging around and it's dumb luck, and reach in the hole on the 18th and, wow, look what I found. And then when you win more often, your mindset changes.

Q. I'd like to pursue that angle just a little more if you don't mind. You've been on the circuit off and on, have you ever been with a sports psychologist before?

BART BRYANT: Uh huh. I have. I actually worked with Jeri Graham for about three years, who worked with several players out here on the Tour. I haven't worked with her for quite a while. I talk about my golf coach, and he's helped me as much, mentally, as anybody ever has. I feel like he's pretty important. I don't really work with the sports psychologists in any kind of official manner at this point, but Brian and I work a lot.

Q. This year or last year?

BART BRYANT: Every time we get together.

Q. Does he follow you?

BART BRYANT: He gets out as much as he can. He has a life, too. But he gets out and he's teaching quite a few guys out here right now. So he tries to spend as much time as he can. When I'm at home or whether I'm here, every time we work on my golf swing, he's working on my head. Sometimes I don't know it, but he has.

Q. You talked about dumb luck, about holing a shot or putting a shot down, does some of that come in with working with that psychologist that tells you to look at the target and keep on the target?

BART BRYANT: I think that's part of it. I think most guys when they win you know, sometimes it really sneaks up on you, and you just didn't have any idea that you had a chance to win a golf tournament. I'll be honest with you, I didn't win until I at least bought into the belief a little bit that I had a chance to win a golf tournament. And I think I was always kind of sabotaging myself, every time I got close to the lead and had a chance to do well, I always dropped back immediately. And I know you've probably heard other people talk about this, but I felt like in early 2004 that, in a way, that I just called myself out and said this is it. I can't be afraid to go out and take the lead. And if I get the load and I choke my guts out, then so be it. If I'm labeled a choker, I'm going to have to live with it.

Q. Is that where the sports psychologist helped out?

BART BRYANT: Absolutely. At that point, I'm 41 years old. I don't have a lot of career left. It's now or never. I can't say tomorrow or next week I'm going to risk it all.

Q. He's telling you you're the champion, go get it?

BART BRYANT: In a sense, but he's saying Bart, you have to believe in yourself. He took out my stats one year, I mentioned this before, as well as stats from other top players on the PGA TOUR. I said, "Those are really good. He said, "Look at this guy." And I said, "Those are really good." He said, "That's you." He said, "Quit holding yourself back." There's definitely a mental side to the game. And I think once you allow yourself to believe that you belong out here and are good enough to win, it's a lot easier to win, and I think that's how it worked for me.

Q. You talked a little bit earlier about the course you grew up playing, could you talk about the influence your father had getting you into the game and developing?

BART BRYANT: You know, I'm about eight years younger than Brad, I believe. But we moved to New Mexico, I was like three, so Brad was 11. For some reason, my dad kind of took up the game of golf at that point and really got into it. And so Brad started at that age. And my dad was a good athlete and played some college basketball and college football. And for some reason, he just picked up the game of golf and became like a scratch player in about three years. And Brad was excited to play and got pretty proficient at the game. I just kind of would follow him around with a 6 iron, when I was seven or eight years old, just beating it around. That's kind of how I learned to play golf. There's definitely an influence from both my father and my brother.

Q. Where did your dad play college ball?

BART BRYANT: He played at Wayland, which is a it's not a real large school. It's Wayland Baptist College, it's in Texas, I believe.

Q. Purple and gold?

BART BRYANT: I don't know. No, I think that's the Horned Frogs.

Q. You talked a couple of weeks ago about spending so much time searching for this new set of irons, that it was to the detriment


Q. It was so much time that it was to the detriment of working on other parts of your game. I wonder where your game is all around coming into this week?

BART BRYANT: I haven't mentioned it much, but it was time for me to get a new set of irons. You hate to do that when you're playing that well. But irons come and go. They go on the market and they go off the market. When you're playing with a set of irons that have been off the market for a long time and the ^manufacturers representative feels like it's time for you to play a set of irons that are on the market now. So I probably needed to switch irons this year. I've been searching for different irons. I played seven different sets of irons in the last 11 tournaments. But the set of irons I have now are dialed in really well, and this will be my third week with them and I feel really good about them. So I think it's coming around. That was one of the little things that has taken place since last year that caused a little bit of stress and anxiety. But like I said, all these little loose ends are getting tied up and that really helps.

Q. How old were those old ones?

BART BRYANT: I played with those for about five years. Not that exact set.

Q. They were discontinued or something?

BART BRYANT: They are not on the market anymore, let's put it that way.

Q. Have you gotten to the point yet where you feel that the rest of your game is good enough?

BART BRYANT: I really do. I am I know it sounds weird when you look at what I've done this year and probably how I performed and maybe some of my stats as far as my driving stats are always good, but my greens in regulation has not been good, my putting has not been good. But I really believe in my ability to play well now more than I have at any time in the past year.

Q. When is the first time you beat Brad?

BART BRYANT: First time I beat Brad? That's a good question. I tell you, it was it wasn't when I was growing up. He was strong. He was really, really a good player in high school. He won the state championship. He was All American his freshman year in college. He was a very good player. I don't know. I mean I might have been

Q. College, maybe?

BART BRYANT: At least, probably in college and I was probably really on my game and he was probably sicker than a dog, I don't know. But believe me it was a long time before I ever beat him. But you know, I was by the time I'm 7th, eighth grade he's starting to play the PGA TOUR. We didn't spend a lot of time together growing up, to be honest with you. He was gone by the time I really started growing up and teenage years. So we really didn't get to know each other very well the time we were in Florida in the mid '80s.

Q. Did you get to see any of his play Sunday?

BART BRYANT: I finished up in Memphis and walked in the locker room and he was sitting the second shot on 18 in regulation. I got to see that funky swing somehow go up on the green. It was funny. He's a riot. But that was funny watching he and Tony go back and forth talking. He made that putt and they hugged like he won the tournament. It's good to see him excited to be out there playing. It's good to see him playing well. He couldn't take it, his little brother was getting a little bit of attention.

Q. Does being called Brad bother you anymore?

BART BRYANT: You know what, it doesn't bother me. I've been called Brad my whole life. The nice thing is that occasionally now he's going called Bart. So that's the important thing.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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