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September 11, 2007

Mark Calcavecchia


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Mark, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the TOUR Championship. We were just discussing, you've made the cut in all three events leading up to the TOUR Championship and the playoffs. You started out very well with a good finish at Barclays and you've maintained your position in the Top 30, joining us here at the TOUR Championship. The other thing we were discussing is you played in the first TOUR Championship. How does that make you feel?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: I did. I think I'm the only guy here playing who played in the first one. My longevity is hanging in there, so it's good.
Yeah, I was hoping to play this one obviously. It was my hope at the start of the year, and I knew going into the Barclays I was in good shape, but I've never played good at Boston and never played good at Chicago, and that held true to form (laughter).
Thankfully my finish at the Barclays secured my spot here. I knew when I went to 9th at the tournament, I wouldn't get past 21 guys in two days.
At any rate, it's always my goal every year to get in the TOUR Championship. You know, and I was obviously hoping to have a chance this week to win the whole thing, but that's not the case. It's nonetheless great to be here.

Q. Could you speak about the condition of the greens and what impact they might have on the tournament, please?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: The greens are ten times better than what the TOUR told us they were going to have. From what I heard, I think that might have been kind of a plan so nobody would be completely in a state of shock when they got here. The greens are going to be fine, honestly. Some of them don't look so good and there's some bare spots on them, but they putt very nice. They're closer to good than they are bad, let's put it that way.
The greens I don't think are going to be an issue, maybe for the last couple, two, three groups after 26 guys have been on them, which isn't still very many, there might be a few spike marks or raised areas because they are so soft because they've had to over seed them and water them to grow some grass. But there's no root structure. But again, they putt fine. I don't think the greens are going to be, after the first day, really an issue at all.

Q. You've reduced practice on the course?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: I don't know how many people have played here in the past couple weeks, but from what I've been told, I talked to the greens guy out on the 6th hole, he said they've come a long way in the last four or five days, a long way. I thought they were going to be fine. No Pro-Am was probably a good idea, keeping the least amount of traffic on them as possible was also a good idea. But again, they're not bad enough where we shouldn't have been able to play a practice round today or tomorrow, and I just played eight holes today, skipped the second hole like I was supposed to, but not many guys are going to play all the holes today, so there won't be any traffic on them really until Thursday. Still, that's only 30 guys. So they're not going to get beat to death, and that's why the greens -- they'll be fine.

Q. Scale of 1 to 10, what would you put on them?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Like I said, they're closer to good than bad, so I'll give them a 6, 5 being average. I was expecting about a 2, to tell you the truth, and I kind of think that's what they wanted everybody to think so when we got here we wouldn't be shocked. I think everybody is going to be slightly shocked that they're as decent as they are.

Q. Should they have done that for the promotion of the FedExCup, say it was going to be a complete disaster?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: That could be next year's plan.

Q. Did you look at 2, 13, and 15?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: No, I just played 1 and then skipped over to 3 fairway. I didn't look at those three. But again, they'll put a pin on those greens if they're the worst three where the most grass is, and there's going to be enough grass -- we're TOUR professionals. I guarantee all of us have putted on a worse set of greens than these in our lives. Again, that's not a problem.
I grew up playing on greens that you were lucky if you made eight-inchers, let alone ten-footers.
The fairways are the best fairways in the history of golf, by far. You could eat off these things they're so good. You could throw your fried egg down there and eat off them and not have a problem. Everything is beautiful, fairways, rough. You could have a great lie or a horrible lie, which is not a lot of fun. I hit a couple drives that sat up and a couple drives that disappeared, so the rough is going to be 50/50, probably get more bad lies than good, but it's going to be a good tournament, and I hope we get a good crowd out here.

Q. What was your whole take on the prize money going into a retirement fund instead of flat-out cash?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: About the same as K.J. Choi's was. I would have liked to have seen a pile of $10 million sitting out there on the back fringe on Sunday, like in the World Series of Poker. That would be fun. Actually they should have stashed it on the first tee every week for the last four weeks and on the 18th green, just to give everybody a shot at seeing what $10 million looks like.
You know, it's nice to know that I'm going to be in good shape when I'm 62 if I can get that far (laughter), or whatever it's going to be, however old I am when I quit or just flat-out retire. But it would have been nice if it would have been readily available, let's put it that way.

Q. Do you feel the playoffs have been a success?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Yes, they have, and mainly the only reason is because pretty much the right guys have won the last two tournaments. Boston was fabulous as everyone knows with Tiger and Phil playing as good as they did, and of course last week with Tiger. So it assured both of those guys showing up here, which isn't always the case, either. There's going to need to be some adjusting, some tweaking. I think in my opinion you need to keep the points a little tighter together. I mean, only three guys here have a chance to win the thing, so I'd like to see not 9,000 points for the winner and the guy who finishes, whatever, get 1,500 points. I mean, there's too many points to make up and too big a gap can be created. So I'd like to see more guys have a chance in the last tournament, so maybe just not have such drastic point differences between 1st and 20th or something.
But I think it was a success. FedEx has always been a great sponsor of the PGA TOUR, and they are again this year and they are again next year, and for however long, I don't know, but it's -- I think it was a success. Like every first-time venture, you know, nobody ever gets it dead-on right the first time.

Q. Any other changes that you'd recommend?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Probably, but I can't think of any right now. My brain went blank after that last answer (laughter).
I mean, the last four I would definitely force everybody to play all four of them. I think if you miss one, you ought to be technically eliminated. That would be like the Colts deciding they didn't want to play in the NFC Championship game or AFC, whatever league they're in. You should have to play all of them.
The scheduling I know is tough. How are you going to get everybody to play all four tournaments next year when the Ryder Cup is the week after? There's issues like that that need to be addressed, but I think if you're serious about winning this week, you need to play all of them.

Q. Can you talk about the motivation of the other 27 guys who can't win it?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Cash. It's a golf tournament. We're here to win. There's only 30 guys. You figure five or six of them are just going to flat-out play bad. Hopefully I won't be one of those five or six. If you've got any game at all, you've got about 21 or 22 guys to beat. Some guys are tired, I'm one of them, but I worked out a little bit this morning and liked the way I hit it. I made a few changes yesterday and think I'll do well this week.
But it's still a golf tournament, it's still nice. Even if you can't win the FedExCup, it's still nice to win the TOUR Championship. It's probably -- other than the majors and the World Golf Championships events and the TPC, I'd say it's our biggest tournament.

Q. That said, the guy that wins this thing might not be the same guy that wins the $10 million. What's the bigger story? How do we serve two masters?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: The bigger story is the guy who wins the FedExCup because that is what the whole season points thing is kind of supposed to lead up to, the so-called playoffs. You know, if Tiger or Phil or Stricker, if one of those three don't win the tournament but win the FedExCup, I think that's the bigger story as opposed to if I happen to drop in and win the TOUR Championship. Believe me, I'll be plenty happy.
If Stricker wins the FedExCup, we'll have a party (laughter). I'll make him drink more than two beers. I think that's his max, from what I read.

Q. Could you make the argument that the top three guys in the standings have had three of the best years out here? I mean, does it work in that sense?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: I'd probably have to stop and -- you know, other than Tiger, Phil kind of had a tough stretch in the middle of the year where he played some bad golf, his wrist was bothering him, he missed some cuts in the majors. You know, Tiger always has the best year, in my opinion, other than that one year Vijay won nine times.
But Steve Stricker, from where he was 18 months ago, basically with no status, other than past champion status, to be comeback Player of the Year last year, and every week he's playing unbelievable. Making every putt you look at certainly helps, but you could say the same thing about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. They're great players because they putt great, day in and day out. Not everybody hits every shot the way they want to, but those guys are our three best right now, and you've got to give Steve Stricker a world of credit.
But yeah, those three guys, as it turns out, I would say probably are our three best players this year.

Q. You used the word so-called playoffs. A lot of players use the quotes around the word playoffs. To make it more understandable to the average fan, is it easier just to drop the word playoffs and call it something else?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: I don't know, I haven't thought about that. Playoffs is kind of a cool word because there's a finality in it all. But as I said, I said this last week, it's an okay system for me because all year I've been on the inside looking out. I've been inside the numbers, so I haven't had the panic over being 145 or 121 or 31.
Now, if I'm one of those guys and I'm 71 after Deutsche Bank, then I'm going to say probably not a whole lot of good things about it.
It still is and always has been a system geared for the best players, and the best players are at the top of the list.
But it was interesting to see each week who had to shoot what and who had to kind of roughly finish where to get to the next week. Like Rich Beam had a good tournament at Barclays, so he had to finish first after Boston to get to the next tier. It's kind of interesting to look at the list and see how those guys were playing. Was I bummed out somebody didn't quite make it to Chicago or whatever? No, because as I said, I'm on the inside looking out, and I knew my spot was safe.
Maybe they could come up with a better word other than playoffs.

Q. You mentioned Tiger and Phil going head to head in Boston and obviously this weekend you have the two of them going for the overall title. In that sense, why they created the FedExCup and the end of the season, has it worked?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Well, I think it has. The public, the fans and everybody watching TV, they want to watch Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. You know, not taking anything away from Furyk or Steve Stricker or Ernie Els or Adam Scott or any other Top 10 players in the world, but Phil is Phil because people love him because you never know what you're going to get from him or where he's going to hit it. Pretty much the same with Tiger, he can hit one 50 yards off line sometimes, too. But he seems to be swinging as good as I've seen him swing it in a long time. His swing, as you've probably noticed, is a lot more upright and closer to the way it was in 2000. He's not laid off and over-swinging with the club pointing that way, he's back up into this kind of cupped position, standing closer to the ball and clearing his left hip and letting it rip. I just gave him a lesson he didn't need to know (laughter), but he's swinging almost like he was in 2000, and he's driving it straight. I know he hit a lot of fairways last week.
You know, Phil played just awesome in Boston. So if it comes down to those two, and maybe Steve Stricker thrown in coming down the stretch, it's a total success. You know, they couldn't have asked for anything more.

Q. The past few weeks we've heard some bellyaching from players about the schedule, the bonus payout at the end. Do you think the TOUR players as a whole need to be conscious about not turning off fans when they're complaining about this kind of stuff?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Yeah, I think that's a good point. The fans don't really want to hear us bitching about the quarter of a million we're going to get in 10 years or 15 years or 20 years, whatever it's going to be. But that's a good point. Having said that, I wouldn't mind standing out in right field maybe be $13 million a year batting .250, catching a couple pop flies and still collecting my 65 grand a game. That's pretty good, too. We realize we're fortunate to play golf for a living. That's why I've tried not to ruffle any feathers out here. I try to stay out of the way and just accept what comes my way and say thank you and leave quietly.

Q. Any thoughts on two putters in the bag this week, and how are you holding up after three consecutive weeks?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: No thoughts. I've mastered the belly putter on long putts. What I do is just pull it out of my gut and stand a little further away from the ball and use my regular claw on longer ones. So it's basically a short belly putter because I've got shorter legs and a big belly so I don't need a very long putter. So I just kind of putt my 50-footers with it that way.
I'm back down to one putter. What was the second part of the question?

Q. How are you holding up after three weeks in a row?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: I'm wrecked, I'm destroyed. Like someone else said, Tiger is tired after two weeks. I've got him by 80 pounds and 17 years. How do you think I'm doing after eight out of nine? He could run from here to downtown. I couldn't run out of a burning house (laughter). Yeah, I'm tired.

Q. What does that do --
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: I'll suck it up this week, though. I'll be all right.

Q. What do you recall of the atmosphere when you went to the first TOUR Championship?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: It was at Oak Hill, right? San Antonio, 1987? I was 27. Yeah, it happened so fast. Kind of almost a Steve Stricker type comeback story. To start '86 I had no status, and then in September of '87 I was sitting at Jack Nicklaus's house on the Ryder Cup team. So it happened fast for me, and there I was in the TOUR Championship with Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus and whoever else. I was coming into my own kind of quickly like a Brett Wetterich has in the last couple years. But I was still pretty much in awe of my surroundings at that point. I wasn't quite cocky enough or brash enough as I would say, because I'm kind of quiet and shy for the most part. But I was cool, I was glad to be there. I was like, all right, Top 30. At that point I'm still counting how much I get for last.
What do I get for last this week?
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: More than you got in 1987.
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: As I said, I love playing this tournament. Most of us it's our goal at the start of the year. It's not a goal for Tiger or Phil because it's automatic, or Furyk, but for guys that it's not automatic, this is a -- this is the only reason my wife didn't go home. She probably said it the best. I said, we're going to be bored stiff. I got done at 10:00 o'clock Sunday. Why don't we just fly back to Phoenix, you stay there, I'll shoot over to Atlanta. She said, because it's the TOUR Championship. I want to watch you play because you earned your way there and it's a big tournament. That's the end of that discussion right there.
She's sitting in the hotel bored stiff, like I said (laughter).

Q. You mentioned that it probably ought to be that you have to play all four to win the Cup. Do you think that the TOUR powers that be would be willing to put that kind of rule in?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Yeah, I think they would be. But that doesn't mean they're going to play all four anyway. You know, if Tiger wins or Phil wins, you know, they may go, well, I won it last year, we'll let someone else win this year and maybe play two out of four or three out of four and then get ready for the Ryder Cup. You can't chain up a guy and drag him here if he doesn't want to play. If he says okay, I'm not playing Boston or I'm not playing Chicago, then okay, you're not winning the FedExCup, either. But if you're in the Top 30 you can come here and play. I don't see what's wrong with that rule.
If I'm in this position I'll be at all four, and 98 percent of the guys probably will, too. But with the Ryder Cup being the week after next year, I just don't see some of those guys playing all four.

Q. Did you ever notice in all of your years that the TOUR Championship lost some of the appeal that it had back in 1987 or 1989?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: No, I don't think so. All the ones I've played in, this tournament still has the importance and the atmosphere, even though it's a little earlier in the year and it's a little different situation. There are a few tournaments that have kind of lost a little bit of their -- I thought last week was kind of shocking. The first couple days, it just didn't have the -- normally when it was the Western Open over the 4th of July weekend, the crowd was excited, every place was packed. It had kind of an atmosphere. This year was kind of like -- the first couple days there weren't very many people there and there wasn't anybody out there watching me at 7:45 Sunday in a solo match. There are some tournaments that have I think lost a little bit of atmosphere, but this isn't one of them. This one I think still has all of the atmosphere and importance it's always had, this year especially because of the potential Tiger, Phil and Steve Stricker showdown coming down the stretch.

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