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March 13, 2007

Rod Pampling


COLIN MURRAY: Rod Pampling, defending champion this week. If you could start off with just a couple quick comments on coming back to Bay Hill this week.
ROD PAMPLING: Obviously, this is great memories, just coming back here again and once you get out and play, you're just enjoying the holes that you played well. Just bringing the whole atmosphere back in again and getting ready to defend.

Q. Two-parter; how disappointed were you when you heard that The INTERNATIONAL folded, obviously having won there in 2004, what was your initial thought?
ROD PAMPLING: Disappointing. Obviously the last four years I've played really well this, obviously having the win thrown in, and the rest of the other three were Top 10's as well. It's obviously a course I felt comfortable with. It's definitely sad losing a tournament like that. It's sad losing any of the tournaments that have been around for a long, long time. I suppose eventually they all finish at some stage.
Yeah, it's definitely disappointing. They are great people, the Vickers. Certainly it's a great location, a great golf course, and obviously it's one of those that you would love to play every year. But have to win another one now.

Q. If I could follow up, obviously there's been a lot of talk about the new tournament replacing it in Washington, D.C., that it may not be a full-field event, which The INTERNATIONAL was, and some of your peers have said it should be a full-field event, have more players, more spots; which side do you come on, that it should be an invitational or a full-field event?
ROD PAMPLING: Obviously the Invitational was -- I'm assuming the field size was 144, but they had a lot of international players in, as well. So it still wasn't the full field from the U.S. Tour getting in.
You know, the position I'm in, it's sort of -- it doesn't really affect me in any way. Thankfully I'm inside that number so I'm not really worried about what number it's going to be.
Yeah, I don't know why they have decided to do that. Whichever course they pick, obviously it's going to be -- they may have the course already picked out and it may be a course that doesn't fit all of those golfers on there. Maybe that's their reasoning, I don't know.
Yeah, it's a tough question. Obviously there's 50 percent of the TOUR think it's a great idea; 50 percent don't. Like I said, fortunately for me, I'm on the right side of that 50 percent, so for me, the less field the better. The more chance I have of winning it.
Yeah, as I say, it's a tough one to give the exact answer for.

Q. Have you played the course this week yet?
ROD PAMPLING: Yeah, just out this morning.

Q. How does it set up compared to last year as far as firmness, length of the rough, that sort of thing?
ROD PAMPLING: Well, it's two shots harder, the 5s are 4s.
The rough, I think it's a little bit thicker again. The course was actually quite soft, considering I think -- I guess there has not been that much rain around here. I think it's obviously to keep the rough to a premium. The course is beautiful. I haven't seen as much grass on the greens in the years we've been coming. They look really nice. I think it will definitely -- if you've got the putter working, you'll make a lot of putts out here.

Q. Will driving accuracy be at a premium this week?
ROD PAMPLING: It always is here. It's always a tough driving course, and it's -- if they keep the fairways a little bit softer, it's going to be a lot easier to keep hitting the fairways. I'm pretty sure they will start drying out a little bit more and certainly, you don't want to be in the rough. It's difficult to get anyone near the greens with any sort of control.

Q. How about the state of your game, I see you've made every cut this year, but you haven't really contended, has it been just like in between?
ROD PAMPLING: Yeah, it's kind of like one week, the driving -- everything is better I think stats-wise except for the putting, and that's what it comes down to, basically. It's just one of those -- I've worked hard on the putting the last month or so, and it started to show some benefits from it in the last couple of weeks.
So I think the game feels nice. It's just getting the putter on, and then I think it's just freeing myself up to actually think about my head a bit more and just concentrate on what I'm doing out there and just focus on what I need to be doing, instead of worrying about my golf game, just focus on how to get around the course.

Q. How if it at all does your approach change now that numbers 4 and 6 are par 4s instead of par 5s?
ROD PAMPLING: It's interesting, I still -- we played the back nine first and I still got onto 16 and I hit my second shot on to the green and just for old time's sake, I threw my ball down and hit my third shot in thinking it was a par 5.
Still, I think even if you miss the fairway, you're still going to have to play from there. It's still a number that goes down. I can understand 4 being made a par 4. I think 16 would be a great par 5 still. It's just that obviously it's Arnold's decision on what he's doing. It just a number at the end of the day, and obviously the tees are up a little bit which helps get an iron in your hand. But at the end of the day, it's a number.

Q. As a player, hearing about another player being involved in an accident, we don't know exactly what the involvement was, but Arjun Atwal, what was your immediate reaction to hearing about it?
ROD PAMPLING: Well, you just -- and I don't know, I think the guy was a friend of Arjun's and that, and he knows well enough now that he shouldn't have been doing what he was doing. Yeah, I think it's just sad for the person to be killed as well. That's going to be tough on Arjun to live with that for the rest of his life, just hearing that.
Yeah, you never want to hear that, from anyone, let alone one of your fellow players. It's going to be tough for him to deal with that. Yeah, as I say, it's just something that you don't want to hear. It's a tough thing to comment on. You don't know what really happened yet, so it's hard to say what's going on.
I think it's just -- for him, it's going to be tough. If that was a friend of his who was lost for doing something that they realistically should have been doing on a racetrack or something like that, yeah, it's going to be a tough one for him to swallow.

Q. Do you know Arjun well?
ROD PAMPLING: A little bit. We played a little bit on just different tours around the world. So I know Arjun relatively well, yeah.

Q. There's a stereotype that pro athletes, professional golfers included, like to drive fast cars at high speeds. Do you think that's a fair or an unfair stereotype?
ROD PAMPLING: If you say pro athletes, I guess yeah. It depends on how fast, I think we all like to drive fast every now and again, and as to what speeds. I don't know what speeds they were going at. If you're going to go those speeds, I think there's certainly a place for it, which is either on a racetrack or an area that's been designated for that.
Yeah, I suppose you could stereotype it that way, athletes in general.

Q. And that would be fair or unfair?
ROD PAMPLING: Oh, I think it's a fair comment. I think most guys have cars that are relatively a little bit quicker than the standard car.

Q. Almost all of the tournaments you've played this year has had longer rough; what's the difference in your approach as a result of meeting that type of rough week after week now?
ROD PAMPLING: You know, basically for myself, like I'm not a -- I can't get into the rough and smash it out like Tiger and Vijay and those guys. It doesn't seem to affect them in any way; whereas, it affects me a lot. I don't have the shot to get it to the greens that they have.
Basically I'm trying to work on hitting obviously as straight as I can and hitting the fairways, and well, if I don't, then it's working a number that I have a full shot into the greens so that we can still make a par from instead of just trying to hack something out and hoping it gets there and then leaving yourself no shot. It's basically leaving myself back and then having a full shot in.

Q. This being the first Arnold Palmer tournament, what is your favorite memory of Arnold, favorite Arnold story?
ROD PAMPLING: Handing me the trophy last year. That one's pretty good.

Q. What did he say to you?
ROD PAMPLING: Well, it was all very quickly when I turned around, and it was still -- I think we were both amazed sort of how the finish had happened. It was, you know, there wasn't much said. It was just "congratulations" and "wow, what a finish" sort of thing. Yeah, there wasn't much to be said.
Yeah, I think for myself, that's obviously the best moment I've had with Arnold.

Q. Did it mean more getting a trophy, a championship trophy from somebody like Arnold?
ROD PAMPLING: Oh, yeah, I think just the tournament alone with Arnold's name on there, I think it's right behind the majors. So it's a great tournament to win.
And then yeah, to have Arnold still hand the trophy over is, yeah, very special.

Q. What are your memories of one or two shots that stick out for you from the final round?
ROD PAMPLING: Yeah, I think obviously the one that -- I think the shot I hit onto 18 was one of the best shots I hit all day. I had been firing at the pins sort of most of the day, and then to actually step away and just focus on the center of the green and hit the shot to there under the circumstances, that was I think the shot I hit -- and it was perfect. I really flushed the shot as well, which in the situation, that's what you put yourself under to be there; and to actually hit the shot was I think definitely one of best shots I hit.

Q. If we could just review 17 last year. As I recall, you were watching Greg's first putt that he missed, but you didn't even see the second because you just assumed he was tapping it?
ROD PAMPLING: Basically I just started walking. Yeah, you hear the crowd, and then I turned around and I see it sort of back there and I was like "oh." And yeah, it was an instant, well let's just get to the tee and hit the shot and not think about, now you're tied for the lead. Just get up and you've got to hit this shot. Obviously we hit a great tee shot down there.
Yeah, it happened -- obviously he had around so quickly, it happened really quick, so I didn't see him hit that third one.

Q. You were actually walking to the next tee?
ROD PAMPLING: I had just started to turn. I only had a chance to turn and take half a step; it happened so quickly. It wasn't something where I had taken three or four paces because obviously he was around there really quick and missed it.

Q. But it was short enough that it never occurred to you that it wasn't a tap-in?
ROD PAMPLING: Yeah, it was small. Obviously I don't know the exact size, but it was small enough that you wouldn't think he would miss it, that's for sure.

Q. And when that happens and suddenly the whole mind-set changes; how do you deal with that?
ROD PAMPLING: Well, that's why I didn't allow -- I didn't want to have the pressure of you're tied for the lead. It was just like, I had been thinking about that hole and I had birdied it two of three days, so that's what I had to do. I was just focusing on that and trying to live on the memories of hitting good tee shots and good second shots. So I didn't think about tied for the lead. I just got up and was thinking about my tee shot.

Q. Have you two spoken about that since, or do you just let is slide?
ROD PAMPLING: Not about the 3-putt. But oh, you know, Greg is a great guy. We've talked plenty of times about -- not about the actual what it happened, but just about general things, golf and whatever.
Yeah, it hasn't affected us in any way that we kind of blind-side each other and just keep passing each other and not talking. It's definitely not like that.

Q. You spoke of there being more grass on the greens, does that do anything different to your approach shots in your mind?
ROD PAMPLING: Not really. It's basically just with more grass on the greens, there's more coverage. Sometimes the grass gets a little bit thin here and there. It just means the ball is going to roll a lot smoother along the greens come Saturday, Sunday when it dries out a little bit. You don't get the imperfections as much when there's leaf on the greens.

Q. You talked about having a chance to get a couple of weeks off and you don't have that opportunity very often, with the FedExCup this year, do you think about that as far as making out your schedule or will those kind of things affect you at all?
ROD PAMPLING: Obviously it's compressed so it's now trying to -- I know I operate better when I have two weeks off. A week off, it pretty tough to wind down and then wind up again to get out and play, especially with two young kids. By the time you get home for that week, you've got the kids for the seven days and you're ready to come out Monday and you have to start practicing.
So the preparation is certainly not as good with the combination, with the year being compressed as much. That's something I have to deal with, and that's why I've just had the two weeks off to get ready for here and actually prepare correctly for here. And then hopefully if we can play well, then towards the end of the year before the FedExCup actually starts, we can take make, you know, give up one of the tournaments I'd like to play.
That's the hard thing is giving up tournaments you like to play. Like I like playing Tampa, but to take the two weeks off, I had to give up on that course, which as I say, it's a good tournament to play. You know, that's the decisions you have to make.

Q. So it seems like your philosophy is basically that you're going to kind of load up and get yourself in position where you don't have to scramble at the end?
ROD PAMPLING: Yeah, I've got either a week off in between tournaments now. I think for the rest of the year, it might be two on, one off, and then three on, one off sort of thing. It's not the usual where it's been three on, two off, just to have that nice break in there.
That's the schedule at this stage. So hopefully if we play well we can trim it up a little bit and find a couple-week gap in there.
COLIN MURRAY: Thanks for joining us.

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