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July 12, 2007

Paul Stankowski


STEWART MOORE: We'd like to welcome Paul Stankowski here in the John Deere Classic interview room. Great opening round 64 today, capped off with a holed-out bunker shot on 9, the last hole. Talk about what it was like out there.
PAUL STANKOWSKI: The weather is perfect, the golf course is playing nice and soft, the greens have obviously picked up some speed overnight, which was great. They're rolling perfectly.
As a whole today, for me it was kind of very average ball-striking, but I made some really good putts and I took advantage of a couple really good breaks with a couple tee shots and holed a bunker shot on the last hole for birdie. That kind of summed it up.
It wasn't any prettier than any of the rounds I've played the last eight weeks, but I made putts. That's the name of the game, I guess.
STEWART MOORE: We spoke to Neal Lancaster about the wind out there. Seems like it was nice and calm this morning, but as the day progressed it was definitely picking up.
PAUL STANKOWSKI: Yeah, the back nine got a little squirrelly and it looks like it's increasing even now. It's nice to play in the calm conditions, it's nice to be on the right end of the draw. Lord knows I've been on the wrong end a few times recently, so it's good. It was nice to play benign conditions on the front nine. Yeah, it's definitely helpful.

Q. You said you took advantage of a couple breaks. What were those?
PAUL STANKOWSKI: I drove it in the trees on 18 right but had enough of a shot that I could hit a little punch cut 6-iron in there, and hit a great shot to about 18 feet, made that for birdie. You know, five feet left or five feet right and I don't have the shot.
And then I hit a ball on 6, I drove it a little bit left and caught a tree that was up there about 180 yards off the tee, and it deflected a little bit to the right and kept it from going into the thick rough trees or hazard or worse, so it stayed in the edge of the first cut and I was able to hit a 9-iron on the green and make par there. But it kicks a little left and goes right through the trees, it's probably in the hazard, as well, so that was a nice break.
And then on No. 8, I drove it a little bit left and it kicked off the hill into the bunker, and from there I hit it onto the front of the green and made about a 45-, 50-footer for birdie. A couple good breaks down the stretch, and that's always nice.

Q. Obviously it kind of looks a little bit like the "Redemption Open." Do guys like you who have been maybe struggling a little bit come into this tournament with a different attitude when the field is maybe a little less than what you'll see week to week?
PAUL STANKOWSKI: You know, no. Every week is golf, and I don't care if it's the U.S. Open or the John Deere Classic or a mini-Tour event. I approach it the same way. The golf ball doesn't know or my clubs don't know what tournament it is, and this is a great golf course, it's a great tournament, the people here at John Deere do a fantastic job running the event.
The moment I touched down the very first time in the Quad Cities, I fell in love with the place. The change in venue, the old course was nice, and this one, as soon as I saw it, I was like, wow, this is my home. It's just a nice -- it's beautiful. D.A. did a great job designing it out of the trees and used the natural terrain. Yeah, it's one of my favorite places to play.
So I'm excited. To me every week is a U.S. Open, and being injured most of the last four years and missing the entire '05 season, I feel like this is my second chance anyway. I thought I was basically retired. I couldn't hold a golf club most of '05, so to be back playing again and granted, it hasn't been very good golf this year, but I'm still playing, which is nice. I feel very fortunate and blessed to even have an opportunity.

Q. I'm sorry, I should know, but what was that injury?
PAUL STANKOWSKI: I've torn cartilage in my left wrist two occasions, had two surgeries there, and then my first tournament back after my second surgery, at Pebble Beach in '05 I tore a tendon, and that put me out the entire season, all in the left hand. And while I was out I had a torn ligament in my left shoulder. Everything was kind of breaking down. They say at 30 it hits you, and it happened at like 32 for me.

Q. Just tell me a little bit about this last year, kind of having to survive the Q-school and getting to this point now.
PAUL STANKOWSKI: Yeah, '06 for me, like you said, it was an amazing year. I fully enjoyed the year and a half I was home. I have two kids. My son is almost eight, my daughter is five. In '04 when I had my second surgery, I got to spend a lot of time at home with them and started to really build a bond, especially with my daughter. My son and I have gotten along great ever since he was born. My daughter didn't really know me since I was gone so much. So I enjoyed that experience. I did some work with Golf Channel and XM and did some -- just felt like I was on the verge of retirement.
So last year when I came back and played, it was just -- I enjoyed it. I felt like a completely different person. I felt like a rookie again. I still feel like a rookie, I missed so much time.
So last year I fully enjoyed playing again for a while. I think golf had gotten stale in the early 2000s, and last year was a -- I was thrilled to death to be playing. I enjoyed the process. I didn't play very well, but I enjoyed it, which was different, because usually I never enjoyed it when I played poorly and my attitude was bad. So it was a lot different. I felt like a different person coming back.
But had to go to Q-school and had to go to second stage. I got through both, and I changed my golf swing back in October to accommodate the injuries. My first event with the new swing was the second stage of Q-school, and I finished third, I believe.
It is, it's a different deal this time around. I had a great run in the late '90s, and since then it's been pretty much crap (laughter), professionally speaking. But it's been the best time since '04 -- since I got hurt in '04 the second time, it's been a great run as a dad, as a husband, and getting a chance to play again. It's been a thrill.

Q. And it was this tournament last year that you came up just a little bit short to send you to Q-school. Does that play at all into your mind?
PAUL STANKOWSKI: Yeah, this was my last event last year to keep my medical, which would have basically allowed me to play the rest of last season whenever I wanted. I fell $3,000 short, and then I had to get in -- my number dropped considerably, so I got in fewer events.
But yeah, I made sure at the start of last year, I knew I had 14 events, and I told my manager, I said, I want to make sure John Deere is my 14th event because I want to play, and I liked it here and I really thought I'd have a good week. I made the cut, I just didn't have a very good weekend. But I do love this place from top to bottom, from just the scenery -- they've got a picture there. I love all the corn, and it's really a cool place. The people are great. Yeah, it's one of my favorite places.

Q. One thought about just having the family here, too, and what that means to you.
PAUL STANKOWSKI: Yeah, this is the first time we did an RV thing. We rented an RV for two weeks, and my father-in-law and mother-in-law drove down with us, so he drove the thing 900 of the 903 miles. I drove three. I just wanted to give him a break (laughter). So we're doing that this week. They're staying in a hotel, and it's me and my wife and my two kids in the bus, and it's a different experience. But it's pretty cool. My wife loves it and the kids are having a ball. So it's neat.

Q. Is that something you'll do more often now with the RV?
PAUL STANKOWSKI: This is my first time.

Q. Will you do it more?
PAUL STANKOWSKI: If my wife has her say, yeah. We may have to go look and buy one because renting it is pretty expensive. We may want to do it.
You know, the kids are in school. Josh will be in second grade, Katelyn is going to be in kindergarten, so the full-time travel thing isn't going to happen, and we're not going to home school. But I think in the summertime it'll be a blast. My wife can come out every week, which is cool. I wouldn't mind using it when it's just me, have a little more room than we have now (laughter). But it's pretty cool. Yeah, it's fun. I wouldn't be surprised if we do it again in the future.

Q. Rewinding a little bit, too, when you were going through Q-school, how did your wife's support help you then?
PAUL STANKOWSKI: She's always been supportive of me. I remember back my rookie year on TOUR in '94, I had come into the last event of the season, Las Vegas, and I needed to finish probably Top 10, I think, to keep my card, eighth or tenth or something like that. I needed a lot of money. She told me before the tournament started, she said, you know what, it doesn't matter. If we have to go back and play the Nationwide Tour, which I had never played before, I went from the Golden State Tour right to the PGA TOUR, and she said, I'm content with that. I was very relieved, and I went out that week and just finished fifth and kept my card.
But she's been supportive. You know, she knows this is my passion, this is what I've done since I was a kid, and this is all she's known. I was on the mini-Tours when we got married, so she's been right by my side the whole time. And that's huge. Golfers' wives -- I think athletes' wives in general have got to be from a different breed because it's a tough road for them having to manage the home with the kids when the husband is gone, and then when we come back, we throw a wrench into her deal because she's got it all ironed out and then all of a sudden there's one more person to figure out. So it's a tough life for them. She's done a fantastic job raising our kids, and I couldn't ask for a better person.

Q. My wife would love it if I was gone four weeks at a time.
PAUL STANKOWSKI: There are times when my wife wants me to go out. Fortunately it's very, very rare, so I'm thankful.

Q. How do you digest a round like this, coming back from everything and now being up in contention after the first round?
PAUL STANKOWSKI: You know, if I had hit it really, really good today, I'd feel a lot better about it. Unfortunately I've really been struggling with my swing, but I think I'm coming around the corner, which is nice. In golf I've always tried to keep things very even keel in golf and in life, and I'm not a big fist pumping guy. I've tried to do it and I feel like a dork (laughter). I try and keep everything at a -- my highs and lows at a minimum.
So obviously not too excited about today. I mean, I'm thrilled that I shot 6-under. It's nice to be under par and near the lead as opposed to being over par and near the end. The front is a lot better than the back. But I'm going to go as soon as I leave here and go back out to the range and try and hone this thing I'm working on and see if I can get a few more shots to repeat.
That's been the thing for me is I've had to struggle hitting two or three shots in a row where I want them to go, and that's -- or even the shape I want them, and that's frustrating for any athlete. A guy is trying to throw a curve ball and he keeps throwing fastballs, or hitting it up the middle and you get a rock. That's what I've been hitting, I've been getting rocks. No not for lack of effort. I've been working my butt off, and hopefully there will be some fruit in that effort.

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