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March 27, 2008

Scott Hoch


DAVE SENKO: Scott, thanks for joining us. Maybe just get us started. You had missed Valencia a couple weeks ago, but you've had two wins, leading the Money List right now. Just talk about your year so far, a tale of two seasons actually.
SCOTT HOCH: That's what it would be. The first two weeks I played in Hawai'i. I felt great, and I did not think I could play that poorly feeling fine (laughing). I was in need of something good happening.
Well, I turned things around. Short story is I went to get a lesson, not so much hitting the ball. I think I was hitting it all right, I just wasn't scoring and wasn't making any putts, and when you don't make any putts at all, I think it's frustrating for the rest of the game. Then you feel you have to hit it closer to be able to score, and if I missed a shot a little bit, missed a green, chipped it up, didn't make the putt, then it was just a cycle that got worse.
When you're not making putts, to score you have to try to force it, and I wasn't hitting it well enough to force it to get closer to have birdie opportunities.
But then I went and I got a lesson. Like I said, it wasn't too much for my hitting the ball. It was very minor stuff that we worked on. But I found my putting was bad, and he put me on this machine, this computerized thing, and it had way too much information for me. I said, "Look, just cut to the chase. What does all this stuff mean?" He said, "Well, the putter you're using now is very consistent. You have a very consistent strike but the ball is not rolling well because you've cutting across it."
It's one of the heel-shafted putters where it was doing too much of this, and my pathway was not good. I said, "Well, let me get another putter." I had one in my trunk that I putted well with from time to time, which was a Futura, Scotty Cameron, which is a face-balanced. It means if you hold it by the shaft here, the face is like that. It doesn't turn so much. A heel-shafted putter, you hold it by the shaft and the toe will point down towards the ground. That's the explanation for the readers or listeners or whatever.
So anyway, I tried with the face-balanced putter that I had. My stroke may not have been as consistent as the other one, but the ball came off of it much better. The club head wasn't turning. I was hitting my lines better. So he said -- he gave me all this stuff, and I said, "Wait a minute, what does all this stuff mean?" He said, "That putter is better for you right now." So I switched putters. The first week I made a lot of putts, and then the second week I made some and I made some key putts for those two wins.
It was disappointing, I went out to the West Coast and didn't play so well, and then I hurt my back so I had to skip Valencia. That's kind of the year in a nutshell. I'm still feeling good, so I'm looking forward to playing well.

Q. You won at Doral and you had a string of good finishes at THE PLAYERS.
SCOTT HOCH: I can't play Doral now. I would have loved to play. All the tournaments I liked on the regular TOUR I can't play now because either they're FedEx events or World events.

Q. But that wasn't always the case with you in Florida, especially this time of year, but now you've won a couple on the Champions Tour in Florida. Was putting on these greens and playing in weather that can be a little bit capricious and windy, was that an acquired skill that you got over the course of your career?
SCOTT HOCH: I actually don't know why -- I prefer to putt on bentgrass. I had most of my success on bentgrass. I grew up on bentgrass. To this day if it's certain Bermuda, I can read other Bermuda that's a little more subtle. Some of the Bermuda we played in earlier this year is pretty pronounced; you can easily see the green and the different colors of the grass and it was easy to play it. And then you get on some other ones that are Bermuda but a different type, and I have a little more difficulty reading the grain or figuring how much it's going to affect the putt. But when it's pretty pronounced I can see that.
I think the first week was that way, plus I had a caddie that grew up on Bermuda, and he read them really well. As a matter of fact in Miami, when I won there he was on my bag. We stayed overnight like we did this time with Jim Furyk. My caddie read a ten-footer to break one way and I read it to break another, and it was getting pretty dark, and I said, "Guys, it's too dark." And he was right. He had it read right. The next day when I saw it in the light I could see the break and made that one and birdied the next hole to win in Miami.
But that's really the only time I've won, I think, on Bermuda. That wasn't even so much Bermuda, that was -- in March that was probably a mixture of maybe rye cut down or whatever. I don't know what they had five years ago. What's the grass on these greens, do you know?
It's not a prominent Bermuda. It might be -- it could be that, where you really can't see much, you've just got to got to know what it is. It's not as obvious when you look in the hole and see the worn edge, which the way the cut is going, especially if we're playing earlier.

Q. (Inaudible.)
SCOTT HOCH: No, they're bentgrass, yeah. Well, what happened there was I didn't make the cut before they had rough. Actually I think I might have made a cut one time, and I had to withdraw after about three or four holes. I was playing with Norman. It was either my back or something was bothering me. That was a long time ago.
I really didn't make a check, and then Beman came to me and said, "Why don't you play here," because I skipped it. I said, "Hey, 100 percent of zero is still zero." And then they called me later and said, "Hey, we have rough this year." That was right after Norman shot nothing and won that year. They said, "We're going to have rough." And from that day on I played at that course really well. I think I only missed the Top 10 once out of maybe seven years.
You kind of get in a comfort level, and all it was was just rough where it made a difference to drive it straight. The greens certainly I don't think were any different, but since I played better, I hit the ball better knowing the course was more conducive to me, beating the other guys. I just felt better and played better. Why, I don't know; like I said, I don't think the greens were any better. I putted well there, but why didn't I put well on the same greens before they had rough?
I think golf is definitely a mental game, and that's all part of it. The mind plays tricks on you, and if you go there thinking it's not a good course for you as a player, then you're probably not going to play well. That's what I did before, whether it's putting, hitting, whatever. Since they grew rough, all of a sudden I felt better about the whole place and played better.
That goes back to any course. If the course looks good to you, something about the look of it, course sets up well for you or you like the greens or something, you're going to play better there. But if you go to a course and just -- no, I just don't particularly care for this after playing a couple times, most likely you're not going to play well. It's tough to overcome your mind saying you don't particularly care for this course.
I'm not sure if I've ever won a tournament where I went there and didn't like the course, although the greens were -- I went there one year expecting to have a lot of rough like they always did, but they cut it down like the PGA did back in the late '90s. They cut all the rough down. But I still won. But it wasn't anything about the course, it was just how they had the rough set up that year.
But getting back to, I guess, the original question, I prefer bentgrass to Bermuda, and this Paspalum, that's pretty much a new grass. I think we're all starting to play on it a good bit, and it probably wasn't prevalent until two or three years ago. I'm not sure about it, especially since I don't even know what it was.
I think that's what it is. That's what a lot of the courses have down near the ocean now because it's a lot more durable.

Q. Do you approach or look at golf and the competition -- do you like to approach it the exact same way you did on the regular TOUR, or is it the atmosphere out here makes it a little different and it's a little bit more laissez-faire?
SCOTT HOCH: No, I look at it the same way. I always have. I try to prepare. If we had the same thing where we had one Pro-Am and three days off -- I mean, three days of the tournament, if we didn't have the Wednesday Pro-Am, I'd still do the same thing. I'd still play two practice rounds and play the tournament.
That's probably the reason that my career was a lot better than others from 42 or 43 to 47 and a half before I got hurt and I was out for two or three years. But I always did the same thing, and I still like to do that now. If it's a major, I'm still going to do the same thing, a couple days' practice.
But that's probably why a lot of the other guys, hey, they may have made their bones early, played well, won their majors and coasted. But for me, it was always the same. I did the same amount of practicing, which wasn't that much. I never did. But I did pretty much the same thing to prepare for tournaments back in the day as I do now, except now -- here I played two Pro-Ams, but that's because I did not play in LA, and I just needed to get a little more playing under my belt because I didn't play this past week.
I was alternate for the Tavistock. Actually that might be one of the main reasons that I won those two tournaments. If something pisses you off, pisses me off, then I tend to play better. And I got the call right at the weekend of the second tournament in Hawai'i saying -- well, actually it was between me and J.B. Holmes. They said, you guys figure it out who's going to play (laughter).
So actually we have the same agent so I took the bullet. I said, "Look, the team will probably be better with him on it, although I really want to play." I disagreed with me not playing, put it that way. But I thought that J.B. would be a better pick for the team than me. So I said, rather than flipping a coin or whatever, I said, okay. It turned out pretty good for him, didn't it? He wins a car, $500,000, plus the team money, won the individual. So it worked out good for him, and I was right to sit down and let him go.
That still didn't make me feel any better. In the long run it probably was better off for me because that put a spur under my saddle, so to speak.

Q. (Inaudible.)
SCOTT HOCH: No, I don't expect it. He did it on his own. I wasn't caddying for him or anything, I just gave him the opportunity.

Q. Watson hasn't got a whole lot left to prove in golf, but he still seems very passionate about being out here. Does that surprise players at all? What's his presence out here?
SCOTT HOCH: Well, he was the top guy in his era there for a while, and he can still play. I've always been amazed at his swing and how well he does play. I'll tell you what, he hits the ball as good -- probably better now than he did back then. It's just he was probably a better putter -- I know he was a better putter back in his heyday. But he really hits the ball well.
I haven't been paired with him out here, I've just seen him, watched him some on TV, and before I was even out here I watched some of the bigger tournaments because that's really the only ones he plays in. He still hits it awfully well, plus I talked with some of the other guys.
The thing is had he just kind of stopped it -- he enjoyed the competition. I think it's got to be really tough for and or Jack to finally just say no, as long as you can play and be competitive -- he's more than competitive. If things go right for him, he can win whenever he tees it up.
But it would be tough to just not play if you're able. I found that out being out for two and a half years, that I don't mind taking off, but all of a sudden when you want to come back, you can't. That's when it becomes tough.
I don't know if real competitors ever lose that competitive spirit. It's just like all those guys, like Jordan, Michael Jordan. He still likes the juice. He still likes to gamble and do stuff, and that's instead of playing basketball; that's how he gets his thrills and his ups. Whatever kind of gambling he does on the golf course or whatever -- maybe he can teach us how to gamble.
You don't lose your competitive fire, but you might not be able to sustain it as long. Maybe that's why he only plays a limited schedule because if he did play more he probably wouldn't play as well, because going back to the mental part of the game, he probably wouldn't be as much into it mentally as you are when you play selected events.

Q. A question about the course. Talk about this course, what it brings to your game, what you have to do to be successful playing out here.
SCOTT HOCH: This particular course? Well, last year we definitely saw a lot of wind. I don't know what it's going to be this year, and I had trouble with the wind last year. I didn't have a ball that worked well for me in the wind. This is the tournament that made me change balls. But I had to find the right one.
Yeah, I mean, I thought I played well last year but the wind got me. I couldn't keep the ball down, couldn't hit certain shots I wanted to. That's what everybody has to do, especially with seaside courses. Most of the time the wind blows, you have to be able to control your ball and hit different shots and be able to hit a low ball normally. Although I played with Jerry Pate in Hawai'i, and he still hits a high ball even though the wind was really blowing there. If you're just used to one shot and can control and know how much the wind is going to affect that one shot you have, then great.
But that's not how I always played. I always moved the ball around depending on the shot I needed, high, low, left to right, whatever. But I think you definitely need to be able to control your ball here. When the wind is blowing, it's really -- you really have to be a solid striker of the ball because the wind definitely will not forgive you at all if you mis-hit any.
I would think that the guys who are going to do well here are going to be the guys that are going to hit the ball really solid and be able to do what they want with it, and I would say they have to make some putts.
The course is in great shape. To me this is one of the best courses we play. It's a good course, good design. It's in good shape. It's just a well-designed course.
Usually what makes a course that everybody likes is variety. I mean, I haven't looked at it, haven't thought about it that way, but lots of time what makes good variety is having par-3s, different length par-3s, different type of shots, and here you have some hard holes that either -- one or two of them are going to play really hard during the day because you have 18 and 9 going opposite directions, so whatever the wind is blowing -- 9 could be very tough when 18 plays a little easier, but 18 even a little downwind yesterday is still a very tough, still a fairly long hole.
It's just a lot of variety, and it's a good shot maker's course where you're not going to get away with hitting mis-hit shots.
I think also because the greens aren't goofy. We play too many where the architect was just trying to do something different or whatever, and you have greens that are too severe or too squirrelly. That's one thing that players don't like.
DAVE SENKO: Thank you, Scott.

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