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October 17, 2006

Brian Bateman


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Brian, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Funai Classic. It's coming to the end of the year here, a lot on the line. We talked about it. Just talk about your not emotions, but how you face it.

BRIAN BATEMAN: Well, this is the first time I've been in this position. When I kept my card a couple of years back I was well within the 125. And the years I missed it, I really had to play top three golf the last tournament.

I don't really feel I'm bubble boy yet because it's still a week away, but it's been a long year for me. I fought through some injuries. I had surgery in December. And that set me back a couple of the months at the start of the year. And finally in the middle of spring got my knee back in order and had some habits that had formed because of that, trying to swing around a bad knee. So I overcame that.

And then the last four or five weeks I started playing well. After I had my good finish in Boston, I was playing well in Canada, and then I went to 84 Lumber and really felt good about my game and started having back spasms. And that's been going on for about five weeks now. Not to make any excuses, but that's been another setback. But my back is starting to feel better.

Like I was saying earlier, it has been a long year and I'm kind of ready to get it over with. But I still have work to do. I'm glad to be back in Florida. I haven't been back in a while. I like the golf courses. I like Tampa a lot. It's a hard golf course. Usually the harder the course the better I play. I feel good about the next two weeks. Like I said, I don't feel like a bubble boy yet because it's not the last tournament.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: So a lot of positives right now. Questions.

Q. (No microphone)... you can shoot 65 one day and lose ground. Talk about maybe the different approach. I know it's not the only time this year you do that, but how that changes, do you try not to look at score boards if you're off late?

BRIAN BATEMAN: Well, I've learned out here you can't look at score boards especially early in the week because it doesn't matter. In my case, the last few weeks, I just have not played very well. But I do normally play harder golf courses better. My best finishes on Tour have been days where on golf courses there haven't been a lot of birdies made. In Boston, it was cold and bad weather, and besides Tiger and Vijay, it was a pretty bunched field, but only 7 or 8 under par.

This normally is a birdie shootout. Although last year, after the changes to the Magnolia, we felt it was playing a lot more difficult, and Lucas still shot 20 something under.

But I've got to start playing better. Regardless if it's a hard course or not, I've got to make more birdies and try to keep the ball in play a little better. I've been struggling off the tee a little bit. And you just can't play out of the rough these last few weeks, especially this thick Bermuda, it's tough to judge distances.

Q. Just wondering if finishing in the Top 125 this year, if there is any more urgency because of next year, because of the FedEx Cup and if that's gone through your mind at all. Maybe there's less opportunities, obviously, because the schedule is condensed next year, and if the guys talk about that at all.

BRIAN BATEMAN: Well, I still think next year, I'm a PAC member, and we have these meetings every couple of months. This is still an experiment. We really don't know how next year is going to play out. Obviously you can make a plan and try to make the right decisions, but until a year passes and we go through the whole synopsis and the year plays out, I don't think any of us, including Tim, knows how it's going to happen.

I don't think the playing opportunity is going to be that different. I mean, Briny Baird finished 126 last year, and he's actually played more tournaments this year than I have, and I went through Q School and got by card back through sponsor exemptions and so forth. So I don't think the opportunities are going to be that different.

Obviously you want to be in the top 150, so at least you still have status and you still have the ability to get in tournaments. My goal, and I told my media guys back home, they just want me to keep my card. That's like a huge deal to them. Sure it's maintaining your job, but if your goal is just to get inside 125, you're going to linger right around 125 all year. If you just come out here each week and try to make a cut, then you're going to look up with a couple holes left on Friday and you're going to be right around the cut line. So my goal is not just to finish in the 125.

Obviously with the year that I've had with injuries and ups and downs with my game, if I finish within the top 125, I'll feel good that I didn't lose my privileges. But I feel I should be in the top 50 and I just haven't done it.

I could win this week and win next week and be in the Masters and that could change everything. I think it's a goal. There is a mentality out here. I think the top players just, they never get impatient because they know it's a long year. And I think the guys that struggle with their games or rookies out here that don't have an early win and get that monkey off their back tend to stay in the middle. And you just don't realize that you can set your goals a little bit higher and it makes things a lot easier, whether you achieve them or not.

If your disappointments are not getting in the TOUR Championship, that's a lot better than getting in 125.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: How many weeks were you out in the early part of the year?

BRIAN BATEMAN: I skipped the first couple and I tried to come back in San Diego but it was too early. I was in the reshuffle out of Q School, so I had to play through Tucson so I could get into Florida. That was tough to do because I wasn't ready.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: So what you've done so far has been pretty good for four months maybe?

BRIAN BATEMAN: I've never had back problems, and for it to go out finally when I turned the corner with my knee and starting to play better was really disappointing, because like I said, I didn't do anything to it, I've never hurt my back before, but it slowed me down the past month, especially when, like I said, I felt I had turned the corner and was playing better.

Q. Have you gotten to a point where you look at a tournament within a tournament. Koch is $648 behind you which is probably one missed two and a half footer over the course of a year. Do you find yourself looking in the rearview and how those guys are doing versus who is in first place, or does that just drive you nuts?

BRIAN BATEMAN: I don't look at it shot by shot, because each week you can go back and find a shot, and it doesn't necessarily have to be the last five footer on 18 for par on Sunday that cost you money. I know it's a cliche, but that counts just as much as a ball in the bunker on the first hole on the first day.

But it's hard not to look at what guys are doing around you, because they are thinking the same thing you are.

Q. They are looking at you?

BRIAN BATEMAN: Yes. So it's a strange scenario because there is a golf tournament this week to be played. And if I play well this week, then I won't have any problem next week. If I don't play well this week, I won't have any problem next week either, but it will be the same cycle I'm in this week.

It's crazy the money list is run, it usually goes up $10,000 a week. I missed the cut in Greensboro and didn't move a spot. But I missed the cut in Jackson and moved seven spots. Because with the World Golf Championship, Darren Clarke and Westwood made some money over there and passed me.

Another thing, in my position, I've fallen back a lot in the past two months because we've had four first time winners out of the last six tournaments.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: That came from behind.

BRIAN BATEMAN: All but one were outside the 150. Troy Matteson has finished 8, 6, and 1 in the last three tournaments. Three weeks ago he was trying to get in the 150, much less the 125.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Also, right after Southern Farm there was a big discrepancy between 126 and 125. It was like $70,000. It went from like 630 to like 572 or something. I have the numbers. But it was a big chunk in between. I think it sat that way the next week and then it changed last week.

BRIAN BATEMAN: Because it all depends on who plays well and when. Last week Duffy and Geiberger both were 130th, about 100 behind me, and I know Geiberger played well. I don't know what Duffy did on Sunday. But all of a sudden the number went from where you thought it was safe and it got right in your rearview mirror all of a sudden.

Like I said, I don't study the stats. I don't pull against anyone. Because I think all of us out here realize if we play the way we're supposed to play, your golf should take care of that. I just haven't played well the last five weeks.

Q. Back to how it's jumped around. D.J. goes from 142 to 75. Troy goes from 143 to 71. Can you look at that and say, hey, I can boom, I can jump 50, 60 places?

BRIAN BATEMAN: Right. That's what I was saying earlier. If I play well here and win Tampa, or win here and top 10 in Tampa, that's how quick it changes out here. Those guys, they played well.

Each one of them that won, from Eric, actually, to Troy, to D.J., to Will MacKenzie, you can't tell me those guys knew what was at stake, not only trying to win their first tournament but they were so far back on the money list, a top 10 would have made them feel good. A lot can change. And if I can playing like I'm supposed to play, I don't have any problem next week. But I've been telling myself that for five weeks.

Q. Asking you this more as a PAC member than a guy looking after his own interests, but when you were having meetings about how the new schedule would impact let's say those kind of partially exempt categories, 126 to 150, Q School, Nationwide, there had to be concern in the number of starts. When you say number of starts will be equal, you include mean post Tour Championship. So there will be more pressure to get inside that 125 number for guys in general, right? Because generally speaking, especially the early part of the schedule starts for 126 to 150, Q School, Nationwide, those will be limited. A big question, I know.

BRIAN BATEMAN: I'm just trying to figure out the right way to answer it. I don't think field size change per week. It's still going to start out 144 and go to 156 throughout the year. We still have to have 156 guys to fill up the field in New Orleans. So regardless the format has changed point wise with the FedEx Cup, you still have to have 156 guys and that's just not going to change regardless.

It may toward the end when you're maybe trying to battle to get into those last three.

Q. You mean more in the summer part of it between the Masters and the U.S. Open?

BRIAN BATEMAN: You might have guys playing more, but the year is still so long and there are so many tournaments, that the guys' schedule is not going to change. So those fields are pretty much going to be the same. There's always going to be a little bit of Q School, a smaller event like Hilton Head, it's still going to go into Q School, right.

Once we get 132 there, once it gets 156, it's still going to go into Q School and into 126 to 150, because you still have to fill the field. I don't think that's going to change. It may affect tournaments later on in the year, maybe 2 or 3 or 4 leading up to the FedEx Cup, but by then you are 25, 30 events in, if you played a lot of golf. That's why I don't think it will change playing opportunities.

Q. Was it a specific goal of the guys on the PAC to try and make sure that that didn't happen, which is to say introducing the new event in Mexico, the new event in Puerto Rico, the idea to make sure that those front end?

BRIAN BATEMAN: That was our take on it. This tour is not made up of five guys, although one of those five is the major draw. I mean, it's a tour in general. There are 150 of us, say. And we all have livelihoods, we all have to make a living, we all want to play for a living, whatever, we want to play on the PGA Tour. So we had to make it where it was fair for the membership, in general, not for 50 guys. And that's the reason you have the opposite field event, because that makes the playing opportunities equal.

There are arguments on both sides, and not just from guys that only play in the World Golf Championships. Some of those guys feel like there should be opposite fields. And there are some guys who play in those events that say there shouldn't be because that dilutes their product.

In general, for the membership, we all have to have a place to play, and that's the reason why. And when you can find a sponsor that wants to put on a new event and you can fill up 38 events, or whatever tournaments we have, that's great, that's what this Tour is about, to expand and get bigger and bigger and bigger, not condense.

Q. Is there any discussion amongst the players and you guys on the board, or concerns, about whether the Golf Channel can carry load next year, whether they're ready for that and whether that's going to hurt the product?

BRIAN BATEMAN: I haven't heard anything. I've talked to a few of the Golf Channel guys and they are looking forward to it. They are loaded. They are going to do 102 events next year, which is a lot of golf. I think the Golf Channel can handle it. I haven't heard anyone think they couldn't. It's going to be different, especially for those guys, because I think when we were in Reno, they were doing four events that week. They were doing Reno, they were doing the U.S. Am, they were doing Nationwide, and maybe doing a Senior. But it's going to be like that every week for those people, just about. So their boat is going to be full, but they can handle it. But I haven't heard anyone say they couldn't or have any questions about that, no. It's a big operation, though, it is.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Brian.

End of FastScripts.

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