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April 5, 2008

Bob Estes


DOUG MILNE: Okay. Well, bob Estes, thanks for joining us here at the Shell Houston Open. Great round today. 8-under, 64, really put yourself into the mix of things going into tomorrow's final round. Just a couple keys to the round today.
BOB ESTES: Making some birdies early got me off to a good start and gave me some more confidence. Still have to kind of go back over the round just a little bit to remember which all holes I birdied. I know I hit it close on No. 2. Had a good birdie putt on 1 backing up that I thought was in. But making birdie on 2 and 3, you know, got me off to a real good start.
Let's see. Sometimes I kind of get the 9s flip-flopped.

Q. Just talk about what got you back on playing the kind of golf we're used to see you play. What got you back into good play?
BOB ESTES: Interlocking grip.

Q. Why did you go to that?
BOB ESTES: Because the other two didn't work. They never really have. I've always just kind of gotten by, just kind of done the best I could, and my swing still is not, you know, that great right now. I still have a lot of residue from all of the past stuff, you know, with the overlap grip and the ten-finger grip.
But anyway, the week before Puerto Rico I was off that week and, you know, still -- obviously, if you looked at my scores and what I've done so far this year, I wasn't playing very well. I mean, I was actually playing the game okay, but I couldn't hit it well enough, and then at times my putting was not that good.
I'm always good at managing my game and, you know, managing the golf course, but when you can't hit it where you're trying to, it doesn't really matter.
The week before Puerto Rico, I'm always, you know, thinking about how to get better just like everybody else is and so, you know, wasn't comfortable with the grip. I've always got like gloves in my bag just in case. I haven't used a glove since 1991. Anytime I maybe did experiment with the interlocking grip, it felt terrible because the two fingers would slide around. Didn't feel secure enough.
I just grabbed the glove out of the bag and made some swings indoors on like a Wednesday evening. It felt good. So the next day I went out and hit some balls and hit it really well and actually spent time on the range at Austin Country Club, hitting balls with the overlap grip, the ten-finger grip, and the interlocking grip, and for the most part of the overlap grip the balls went right.
Ten-finger grip, most of the balls went left. With the interlocking grip, the balls went straight.
I deduced -- is that a word? -- deducted, deduced?
BOB ESTES: -- that the interlocking grip was probably the right one.

Q. Why do you supposed that's the case? Why do you supposed it feels right and the ball went straight?
BOB ESTES: Ten-finger grip is dangerous. Anybody ever tries that, especially with any kind of clubhead speed, is going to fight a pull hook. That's why Harry Vardon invented the overlap in the first place, you know, to take some of the right hand out of the golf swing.
But, you know, my body is not perfect and my -- my hands make it a little bit difficult also. Things just don't quite fit together real well with the overlap grip. My right side kind of rides high, and so I hit a lot of pulls or come up out of a lot of shots and block them right.
With the interlock grip, I can still get my hands unified, but I can keep my right elbow down and right shoulder back a little bit better.
So, like I said, my swing still isn't where it needs to be or where it will be in a month or two, but I've got a good start. Now I know how to grip the club.

Q. How exciting is that discovery, or how much of a relief is it at this point? What was your feeling when you deduced it?
BOB ESTES: It's more of -- it is exciting. More of a relief. And so it's kind of weird to think the times I tried it the last however many years I might have already been playing that way if I would have been wearing a glove. Every time I tried it, I wasn't wearing a glove, I could tell it wasn't going to work because I was either going to rub big blisters or not stable enough.
So -- yeah, once I tried it with the glove, I could tell that it was going to work. And yeah, I was talking to Joe Durant about that a little bit yesterday. He was kind of saying the same thing, you got a glove on with interlocking grip, it feels real, real secure. For me it wasn't without. Anyway, just another one of the little things that we go through -- it's a big thing but, you know, small things like that can make a huge difference out here.

Q. I hate to belabor that point. How long were you on the ten-finger grip, and how long were you on the overlapping grip, and how long have you been using the interlocking grip?
BOB ESTES: I grew up with the overlap grip. I played that until May of 2001 for the most part, the majority with it. There might have been a week where I experimented with the ten-finger grip. I switched to that in May of 2001. Then I played it all the way until the fall of 2003, you know, so I won three tournaments in the fall finish with the ten-finger grip, and so everybody is like, "Well, man, why don't you get back to that?"
I knew that wasn't quite good enough, and my teacher, Craig Koy, knew it probably wasn't quite the way I needed to do it to play at the highest level, and, you know, especially when you play in Major Championships and things are really intense or you really have to be precise.
So, anyway, I switched back to the ten-finger grip at the beginning of this year or actually the last nine holes of last year, because by that point I was caught up with the overlap grip. And, yeah, so I played the ten-finger grip all this year up until Puerto Rico. Played with interlocking grip the week of Puerto Rico and hit it pretty good, but didn't putt very well at all.
But I still thought it was maybe just a little bit too soon. Because I knew I had to make some adjustments. I had to change my grips on my clubs to make the grips a little bit smaller because I've always got them built up when I'm playing with baseball grip.
Last week I played with the ten-finger grip and was driving me crazy. I hit a lot of good shots. I think I tied for 33rd, but I hit a lot of terrible shots, also. That's usually what I'm gauging it by. It's not how good your good shots are. It's how good or bad your bad shots are. I shot 68 last week. I hit it in the trees four times. I got away with a par every time.
Anyway, I had a pretty good idea I was going to get the grips changed this week and get back to the interlocking grip and just go with it.

Q. You played well out of the bunkers today, too, Bob. The 14, Par-3, pretty long bunker shot. Do you feel that kind kept the momentum going, saving par there?
BOB ESTES: Yeah. Anytime you make a good save on a difficult up and down, because I don't like making bogies. Sometimes I make a lot of birdies, but, you know, a lot of times I might only make two, three, four birdies. So you like to keep those bogies off the card. But then again I guess especially when you've really got a good round going, keep the bogies off the card.

Q. The way you went out, making birdie after birdie and seems like not having to do crazy things to make them, you weren't having to make 50-foot putts. Sort of routine type of birdies. Did it kind of get your mind racing this could really be a really, really special round? Nobody wants to throw back a 64, but you did your damage early. Were you thinking big things?
BOB ESTES: Yeah. I was just trying to keep it going. When I birdied No. 11, I hit it in there real close, just tap-in birdie, you know, I knew I had an opportunity to keep it going on the back-9. We played -- everybody out here plays a lot of rounds. They shoot, 3, 4, 5, 6-under but don't keep it going on the back. Sometimes it's real hard to do that, but I didn't have to stay patient very long because it only took, you know, until No. 11 to hit one close and make birdie.
Then on No. 12, short par-4, you know, you should birdie that if you're a professional, but with that pin tucked over the bunker on the left and the breeze blowing, you know, that's a tough shot.
Yes, that was about a 10, 12-footer on 12, and then kind of the same thing I think on No. 13.
I was still trying to make birdies, but those are some hard holes. 14, not a good pin for me with the pin on the left side, hitting a 4-iron in. 15, I thought I made that birdie putt. That would have been a nice one to get. 16, misjudged the wind a little bit. And 17 and 18, you know, for the most part, you're just trying to make pars.

Q. Any thoughts of Augusta creeping into your head?
BOB ESTES: I'm well aware of the situation. I've been there numerous times before and played well there, too, and would love to go back. I do plan on going back, but I'm not overly concerned about that. I mean, I'm going to try to win the golf tournament no matter what. It might be tough for somebody who had maybe never been to Augusta before. I've played the Masters eight, ten times. It might be a little tougher for somebody who hasn't been there before. It might put more pressure on them thinking "This is my chance." Could be your only chance. Anyway, so I'm aware of the situation. Nice place, isn't it?

Q. Going to be nice to be in contention again on Sunday, isn't it? Been a little while?
BOB ESTES: Yeah, it has. I struggled with, you know, lots of things. Like we just talked about, if you don't even know or you're not comfortable with how your hands are on the club, then, you know, there's not much hope to play well very often or play with any kind of consistency.
So, we've been working hard at it, but maybe just now kind of finding some real answers.

Q. Last year, is there a comfort level playing in Texas, though? You played well here last year.
BOB ESTES: Yeah, there is. It's nice to be able to just drive over from Austin and know when we're done, get in the car and drive back. So lots of -- I've got some friends here and lots of Longhorns for sure that are out there shouting their encouragement. It's a nice, comfortable place. But then again, the golf course probably isn't, you know, best for me by any means. It's definitely set up for guys that hit it long and hit it high.
Maybe that's part of the reason that I play well here sometimes, too, is because since I don't launch the ball real high off the tee and I'm not able to cut some of the corners that the other guys are, I have to stay so focused on where I do want to play and knowing what I want to avoid, that, you know, I'm really usually into it when I'm playing this golf course. So I don't have as much margin for error as some of the other guys do.

Q. Do you play a lot of golf with Harrison? You both being from Abilene?
BOB ESTES: No. Harrison was younger than me. I can't remember when he moved to Dallas, but Harrison was kind of -- he was behind me in school, and no, I didn't know Harrison when I lived in Abilene. I guess he's about five years younger and maybe moved away before he really started getting into golf.

Q. So you were an overlap guy when you played well here a couple years ago. I'm trying to trace your --
BOB ESTES: Yeah, I finished second in 2006.

Q. First year on this course, yeah.
BOB ESTES: Yeah. What I did say, 2003? So from the fall of 2003 up until the last nine holes of Disney last year, yeah, I was still using the overlap grip. My teacher and I were trying to find out just how, you know, how good I could get with that grip, and I never could quite get over the hump.
Of course, when you have success with something else like I did with the ten-finger grip and knowing that other people are kind of wishing I would kind of get back to doing that, too, you know, especially my agent, you know -- so that was always in the back of my head, too, that I know I've had success, but I know it doesn't feel quite right. Sometimes I would try to get back to that.
Yeah, it's been kind of a painful process and it's taken a ton of patience to keep it together, up to this point to finally maybe figure out that this is the way I'm supposed to hold on to the golf club.
It's an odd, weird story, but, like I said, it wouldn't have been quite like -- nobody -- when I grew up, the people that were helping me out, they were Ben Hogan disciples. They taught me to grip it with the overlap grip. Somebody like Nicklaus, I don't know who told him unless it was Jack Grout to grip it with the interlock grip. I was always taught the overlap grip, but I knew it never quite felt right and never worked that well. I've never been that great of a ball striker. I've kind of survived with my short game and course management, stuff like that.
Out here you got to hit the golf ball. You've got to hit quality golf shots. Lot of times not just quality golf shots but high quality golf shots. So that's why the guys who for the most part hit the ball the farthest, they usually hit their irons high, too. Most of the guys are the best players in the world if they've got some short game.

Q. That was a nice run you had with the ten-finger grip and all. Was it in some way sort of a fool's gold kind of thing? May have set back your development?
BOB ESTES: Yeah. I've got lots of bad habits and residue that I'm going to have to work hard to overcome, but now I have kind of a starting point in a sense. So there's some other things, too, that needed to be adjusted.
My clubs were a little bit too long. Lie angle was a little bit flat. So many different things I was trying, trying to overcome something else, and sometimes I might make something better but something else would be worse. So there was a lot of give and take.
It's been a real frustrating process. I hate to have to sit up here and talk about all the changes and stuff that I've gone through, but, I mean, now you know why.
If I haven't figured out how to hold on to the golf club until the age of 42, then you know why I've had to go through so much.

Q. The speed on your putts looked really good all day long. Could you just talk about that and just talk about the greens here at Redstone.
BOB ESTES: The greens are perfect. We got some rain yesterday so they still seemed a little bit moist, probably slowed them down just a touch. They're fast, but not too fast. Yeah, for the most part, most of my longer putts -- I was able to lag them up there pretty close and had good speed on a lot of the putts that, you know, maybe were going to have to break a little bit right or fall a little bit left, you know, to make a number of those birdie putts that I did.
DOUG MILNE: Okay. Bob, thanks for joining us. Best of luck tomorrow. Appreciate your time.

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