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March 28, 2007

Nick Price


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Nick Price, welcome. Thoughts on the golf course.
NICK PRICE: I haven't been up here for maybe 15 or more years, and to see the development in this area is mind-boggling. But to get to the point, this is a wonderful place. This resort is -- I mean, it's five-star, first-class, A1-plus. It's phenomenal. I got in last night, checked into the hotel and I mean, it's wonderful. The golf course is one of Jack's best, there's no doubt. I mean, it's an incredible piece of property, and the 9th and the 18th holes along the ocean there are something special.
I'm just so impressed with it. This is a gem of an area, and you know, I've sort seen some of Bobby Ginn's other projects, and he does things first class. This is just I suppose an indication of the work that he does and what he puts together. But it's wonderful. If the weather stays like this, I don't think we could have a better week.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Talked to a couple of your Pro-Am guys, you played okay today. How was the golf course tee-to-green?
NICK PRICE: It's very good. We played medium-length today, it didn't play particularly long but I think if the wind picks up, it will still show some teeth, this golf course. There's not much rough out there, but you are rewarded for driving the ball in the correct side of the fairway as the hole determines, so it's not really just sort of wide open and just smash.
But the course is in great shape, with the winter that we've had down in Florida, we've had extremely unusual growth throughout the winter, so the golf courses are really blossoming now.
But I don't know what to say about the golf course. It's one of Jack's best that I've played. The 9th hole you feel like you're in Ireland or Scotland somewhere; if you could just put four sweaters on and drop the temperature about 40 degrees, you would be. But it's absolutely -- they have outdone this golf course.

Q. With a lot of past PLAYERS Championship winners here and you have a course where the ocean breeze can influence things, given that and given the fields here, over a three-round basis, could this wind up having the feel of a PLAYERS Championship in combination of course and conditions and the competition around you?
NICK PRICE: All the ingredients are here for that. Whatever they want to make this championship to be, they can do, because the facility and the golf course, and then just having a look at the organization that they have put into this with the tents and the hospitality that they have here, this is strong.
So, you know, they just keep doing what they are doing, this will probably be one of the -- certainly, look, I can't speak because I haven't seen every tournament on the Champions Tour, but certainly the ones that I've played in, you know, this is right up there. So I'm pretty sure that they could do it, they could take this to whatever level they wanted to.

Q. Talk a little about making the transition from being on the regular TOUR to the Champions Tour this year and what the fans here can expect to see this week as part of the caliber of talent and competition.
NICK PRICE: For me, my game went on a slide about middle of 2005 and last year, half of 2005, and last year, certainly the first start of this year, was not very good.
However, I have found a little bit of form, getting back, from the start of the year, I started hitting quality golf shots again. And the last couple of weeks, I worked sporadically on my game because I had my kids on spring break and I was in South Africa. But today is about as well as I've played for two years, so I'm excited about playing again.
I think more than anything else, it was a lack of consistent -- being in contention consistently has hurt my confidence and that's where my game has been lacking more than anything else, just not having any kind of self-confidence. But like I say, it's starting to change, whether it happens this week or next week, it's going to turn around, because I know I can't keep playing as poorly as I have forever. So I'm excited about that point of view.
But I think one of the great things about the Champions Tour is that it's so much more relaxed. There's not a huge, mad, rush, fanfare that you have at a regular TOUR event.
Now, some guys like that. Certainly when I was in my 20s, I enjoyed that. It just much lower key and it's much easier for the fans to get closer to the players. You know, with the masses that we have and the great support that the public gives the regular TOUR -- here I don't know how many people will be here this week, but it won't be as many as we have at a regular TOUR event. So the fans can get closer, and I think that's what we made the Tour back in the 80s, so the crowd could get really close to the players. And I think that's what we can offer that the PGA TOUR can't right now.
And it's just the way the TOUR's gone. It's become so popular, you get 50,000 people at an event on a Sunday. You know, so a couple of my friends came out the last few weeks, and they really enjoy watching and they said, well, it's nice not having to beat your way through the ropes and when you get to the concession stands you don't have to stand in line for 20 minutes waiting for a beer and it was just a lot easier.
I think everyone is just a lot more relaxed out here. That's not to say that they are not trying to kick your butt every day, but there's no doubt about it, they can still play. People that say, oh, no one practices out here and no one does this; these guys can still play.

Q. Have you been surprised by what kind of form you need to be consistent --
NICK PRICE: Well, I didn't expect any less of what -- I think I've been pretty much, after having played the golf courses and the Pro-Ams on Wednesday and Thursday, talking to my caddie, we sort of say, oh, between 15 and 16-under is going to win this week, and I've been pretty close each week.
So the golf courses are set at a length where all of us can still play and compete. You know, I think that's one thing that I've noticed.
The players, the guys who play a lot out here, have an edge on their game which is what you need to have to win out here, the Dana Quigleys and Bobby Watkins' and Tom Purtzers, they play an awful lot of golf and they expect their games to be sharp. I think if my game gets in better shape, I feel like I can win, too, I can go out and compete. It's just a question of getting my game into shape.
And I think as I get more and more into it, I will start being able to realize, you know, this is what I've got to work on. It's been pretty hard the last two years for me, because the golf courses, they were beating me up, and I didn't know what to work on in my game because if I didn't do everything absolutely perfectly, I couldn't play.
So this is a wonderful reprieve. This is like, you can go back to playing golf. And most of the golf courses I won my tournaments on over the years were this sort of length, a lot of drivers, mid-irons, a long iron here or there, maybe two of the par 5s you can reach in two out of four. Last couple of years I couldn't whiff a par 5 unless I hit three cart paths.
But you know, this is a very special thing for us guys who are 50 because the camaraderie and competition out here is strong, it really is. It's entertaining because some of the guys can still shoot 62s and 61s, which I don't care what kind of golf course you play on, if you shoot 62 or 61, you've played some great golf. I think Hale Irwin, the way he's played the last ten years is just phenomenal. So had he been a little longer off the tee, he probably could have plaid the regular TOUR as long as he wanted to.

Q. The rookie class, you and Fred Funk and Mark O'Meara, you didn't have to transition to was interacting with the crowds -- do the guys on the PGA TOUR, even though there's bigger crowds, is there still room for some of the guys to loosen up a little bit?
NICK PRICE: I think what happens, because my first five or six years on the regular TOUR, I was very intimidated by the size of the galleries. Over a period of time you get used to it and then you realize it's not just a whirl of faces you're looking at; each one of those people is an individual and they do have a sense of humor and you can joke with them and make fun of them. There's nothing better than when you go to a tee and you hold up and you see a guy who is wearing a useless hat or a ghastly-looking color scheme; you just look at him and say, "nice color scheme," you know what I mean. The people, they love it.
So any kind of interaction with the gallery is special for the gallery, because, you know, they can sit there and watch robots all day playing golf. So it is important to do that.
But I think I certainly didn't do it as much earlier in my career as I did later on. Everyone is laid back and people talk in the gallery while you are playing. It's not a big deal. You don't see people, guys out there, guy is not stopping his dog from moving four fairways across. They don't have rabbit ears out here.
But you know, I think that the intensity of the PGA TOUR kind of lends itself to that a little bit more. We've been through that and done that, but it's not like a big thing at the end of the day. Most important thing is to go out and enjoy yourself and try and put on a good show.

Q. Specifically one player, Fred Funk, on the Champions Tour is that like throwing a fish in water, is he the kind of guy who will really thrive in the atmosphere?
NICK PRICE: I don't think enigma is right word, but when he started off, he came on TOUR as a very mediocre player and has progressed and smoothed all the rough edges and over the last four or five years has become an incredibly good player and consistent and competitive. If I were he, I would probably play on the TOUR as long as I felt that I could. Always he can come back here and play, he has obviously played a little bit, but he could do a Hale Irwin out here, no problem at all.
He's been one of those late bloomers in life and having not played well through his 20s, 30s, or he wasn't even playing; he was coaching for awhile there in Maryland, but certainly through his 30s and early 40s, he was a journeyman and then all of a sudden as he got to his mid, late 40s he started blossoming and now he has that bit between his teeth; he doesn't want to let it go.
Fred will come out here. As we progress more, he will play more and more out here.

Q. Obviously this is a first-year event but doesn't seem to me to have the look and feel of a first-year event; what are your thoughts on that.
NICK PRICE: Well, they have done an incredible job, as I said Jack did a wonderful job with the golf course. The resort itself is phenomenal and the organization that has been put into this week, it's what you would expect of Bobby Ginn. He just does things first class. Gary asked me earlier where I thought this tournament was going, and I think they can take this tournament any direction they want to.
This is, for a first-year event, it's a wonderful, wonderful effort.

Q. What's the hottest you've ever played in an event condition-wise?
NICK PRICE: It's a toss-up. Asia gets unbearable at times. But fortunately I didn't play there in the heat. Japan in the summer can be awful.
But I would say the hottest I have ever been on a golf course is probably 4th of July weekend at Chicago at the Western Open at Cog Hill. The one where all of those guys went down, the ABC cameraman went down in front of me and two caddies went down. That was probably the hottest day I've ever experienced on the golf course.
I have no idea what the heat index was that day but it had to be in the 115s, mid teens there, it was, oh -- we're drinking a bottle, two bottles of a water like this a hole; if you didn't, you were going to go down.

Q. A couple of players mentioned on a year-in, year-out basis, I heard Memphis and Williamsburg, are those pretty bad?
NICK PRICE: The old Memphis course we played, what was it called -- I can't think of it now. That place used to get incredibly hot, because it was down in the valley, where Southwind is up a little bit. Colonial Country Club, that place was hot. They had a practice area that was down in the trough and that was like, you might as well just go and put sweaters on and go into a sauna. It was brutal. There was not a lot of practicing done that way. It was literally, ten hits and you had to change your glove.
Williamsburg was also, I mean -- but that was just flat-out humid. The temperatures never seemed to get extremely hot, not like Chicago and Memphis, but if there's no wind, that's the thing, it's brutal.

Q. I'm doing a piece next week just about first-time impressions of Augusta National when they first arrive there and see the grounds for the first time. What were your first impressions of that place?
NICK PRICE: You never get to see on television how much of an elevation change there is on property, so when you stand up on No. 10 tee and look down, what is it, 80 feet down to the fairway, you think, wow, they never showed me this on TV.
And then some of the lies that you've got on the fairway, like No. 13, the par 5, I remember going to that green the first time with like a 3-iron and the ball was about eight inches above my feet because it's got that, I don't know what the grade is on the slope, I think it's about seven, eight percent. It's very sharp. That was one thing I didn't realize.
And then also the speed of the greens. Those greens speed-wise are not -- there's lots of greens we putt on that are as fast as those, but not with that slope combined. So you end up having breaks on putts that are like 30 feet, and you can have like a 25-foot of break on a putt. Most of the time, greens that get that fast don't have that much slope, undulation to them. That's probably the thing.
And then the other thing is the beauty. It's like playing golf in a botanical garden. I'd love to have the annual budget on flowers and what they spend there. It certainly is one of the prettiest places.
But I think the young guys now will be shocked when they see the length of that golf course because it's long now.

Q. What was your first year?
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Nick, thanks very much.

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