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May 2, 2008

Dudley Hart


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Dudley, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Wachovia Championship. Nice round today, nice position going into the weekend, and you've had a lot of success this year at Pebble Beach and then last week you had a Top 10. Starting to hit the ball really well.
DUDLEY HART: Thanks. I didn't quite hit it well today, but I'll take the score. I don't want to sound like I'm whining, but it was just one of those days where I was a little off with the driver and got some good breaks, made the putts when I needed to, got up-and-down when I needed to. I didn't make a bogey, so I was proud of myself for hanging in there. Could have been a lot worse for sure.

Q. Do you have trouble drawing the ball?
DUDLEY HART: Yeah, I can hook the crap out of it, but I have a hard time hitting the right kind of draw. There's a bunch of tee shots out here that set up for draw. There's some that set up for fades, too, but I have a hard time with certain -- I had a hard time today with certain tee shots. They're just not real comfortable.
Hopefully I'm going to hit some balls here and I'm going to figure out how to draw it more. I'm going to resort to a 3-wood on some of those holes because I can turn a 3-wood easier. My natural shot is a little bit of a fade, and a couple of tee shots I didn't feel comfortable over and didn't commit to the right target and hit a couple bad shots.
You know, if I can do a little better job tomorrow with that, I'll take some stress off myself.

Q. Is there a hole or two that sort of --
DUDLEY HART: 18 is a tough shot for me because I don't really have a lot of room to start it left. I wouldn't mind starting it at the creek, really, and cutting it. But over on that side there's trees that overhang, and you can't -- I don't want to hit a tree that's 60 yards off the tee. That wouldn't be good.
And the wind has been down left to right the last couple days, so that doesn't help me, either. Obviously it's going to kind of drag it that way. But that's a tricky one.
15 is not that bad, but that's one you want to draw.
And No. 3 is a tough tee shot. I should have hit 3-wood there today. I wanted to, and I just decided to try to give myself a chance to hit one more draw, which turned into a block into the right rough.

Q. Do you come here feeling -- does last week carry over?
DUDLEY HART: A little bit. You know, it's a completely different golf course, completely different grass and conditions. I haven't had a huge amount of success here in the past. I like the golf course, but I've struggled with certain -- you know, you go certain places sometimes and certain things seem to fit your eye better than others, and it's just -- I don't know why. I'd like to think when you're playing well, you ought to be able to play well anywhere. But the fact is that's why you see some guys play somewhere and not other places is because for whatever reason they haven't had success there. Hopefully this year I'll change my history here.

Q. It was about a year ago here, I guess, this was your last tournament for a while.

Q. Not to say an anniversary, but would you take us through where you were when you left here a year ago?
DUDLEY HART: Well, I left here a year ago, and I actually went to THE PLAYERS and was playing some practice rounds and getting ready to play the tournament, trying to get ready to go, and my wife was home and just had another -- what we thought was another bad cold. She would get really nasty colds, violent cough and all this, and I got a call Wednesday at about 10:00 o'clock that a friend of ours took her to the doctor, who in turn put her into the hospital because she had pneumonia.
So I talked to her, I talked to my dad who lives about an hour away, and he was going to come over and help. The doctors said they'd probably just send her home with antibiotics and just tell her to rest and take a bunch of drugs.
But about three hours later, I got another call that they did some more tests and they found a softball-sized mass in her lung, and it ended up being a tumor, which they ended up taking that out, and two thirds of her lung.
So this, as it turned out, was my last tournament of the year last year. I took the rest of the year off to kind of help her and the kids and to take care of them. I've been out here -- this is my 18th year. At that time it was 17, and for 17 years it had been all about me pretty much, and I just said, you know, it was time for me to take care of my family and worry about my career later.
We got very lucky with the tumor. Everything came back pretty well. I mean, it had cancerous cells on it but it wasn't cancerous. I'm still not totally sure what that means, but it was not as bad as it could have been. But it could have gone -- had she just gotten over that cold and kind of fought through it and got better, we may have never found it and it may have gotten to a point down the road where it could have been really bad.
Looking back on it now, it seems like a long time ago, but there were a lot of -- she spent almost a month in the hospital and there were some scary times. I had a lot going on, and golf was the last thing on my mind, obviously.

Q. When you got back out here you had sort of a new exemption, I guess?
DUDLEY HART: Yeah, they made a new category of an exemption for David Duval and I, family crisis. Obviously I appreciated the TOUR doing that, and I told them, I'm not a guy to lobby for this and that and the other, and they kind of called and asked me about it, and I said -- my feeling was if you did it for me or whatever, not that you'd necessarily do it for me. Even if you don't do it now, you have to do it down the road because it's a matter of time before -- we all have families, people who are just -- we're people like everybody else and issues come up, and it's hard enough to play golf out here and travel when everything is going well, let alone when there's something possibly really bad happening at home.
Fortunately for me, they passed that new medical family crisis deal, and I was taking the bulk of the rest of the year. I wasn't going to play until probably after the FedExCup no matter what, because I had made up my mind before. To me it was a no-brainer. I don't know how I can say, oh, I hope you feel good and I'm going to go back and work. I could never look my wife in the face again. But fortunately for me they helped me out.

Q. Had the worst-case scenario come to pass and you're a single father of triplets, that whole deal, what would you have done in that instance?
DUDLEY HART: Well, you try not to think of the negative stuff when you're going through that, but you do, and I did. I tried not to stay there very long because it's not a great feeling when you're thinking about it. But my golf career was done. I wouldn't have -- to me, my three kids at home are everything to me.
Some people might think, well, you can take them on the road and home school them, get somebody, whatever. To me if they'd have lost their mother, I mean, there's just no -- how hard that would be on the kids, especially the girls, and Ryan, my son, also, but the girls are so close with her, that mother-daughter thing is just -- fortunately we didn't have to worry about that.
Thinking about it, if anything ever happened to my wife -- this is my job, but my family comes first. I'll find something to do at home to keep me busy and take care of the kids. But fortunately that didn't work out.

Q. Does that situation make playing golf easier?
DUDLEY HART: In a way. I mean, I don't -- I'm not going to sit here and say -- I'm a fairly fiery personality, trying to put it nicely, but I'm very competitive.

Q. She knows exactly what an understatement that is.
DUDLEY HART: Oh, yeah. And for me to say that when I hit a bad shot, it doesn't bother me, all that stuff, when I play bad, it doesn't bother me, that would be a lie. I don't think anybody on TOUR gets to this point without being very competitive.
But what it has changed, it doesn't -- good or bad, it doesn't really change -- I don't really dwell on it as long. In the past playing bad, I'd be moping around a little bit or whatever. Now it's just like when my round is done, whatever it is, it is. You know that -- it puts things in perspective. You know that playing a bad round of golf isn't the worst thing in the world, even though you don't like to do it. But there's a lot worse things that can happen to you.

Q. How much pressure did you feel early in the year to perform well and make sure you stayed out here?
DUDLEY HART: You know, not a lot, believe it or not. A lot of people asked me that. I had 15 events, which in my mind was a lot. That's a full year for Tiger (laughter). But that's over half a year for me. I was pretty confident that if I could play the way I'm capable of playing -- if I couldn't make my money in 15 events, then I didn't deserve to be out here.
I knew that the more I dwelled on that, if I worried about it, it was only going to get in my way. You've got to concentrate on golf and golf only. You can't worry about making X amount of money. You just try to play as well as you can and the money takes care of itself.

Q. Did you stop practicing at any time last year, and did you change anything with the opportunity to kind of start anew somewhat?
DUDLEY HART: Yeah, I didn't practice hardly at all. I played occasionally when my wife -- about two or three weeks after she got out of the hospital, I played maybe one or two days a week with some buddies, but I didn't practice much at all. You know, it wasn't really a priority of mine. Part of it, too, knowing that I wasn't going to play a tournament until January, to be honest with you, and knowing what was going on and what had just transpired in our family, it wasn't a high priority. I didn't really want to. I was trying to do some other things.

Q. What did you do -- since you're now living in the great white north, how did you get your at-bats in over the winter?
DUDLEY HART: Well, I rented a place in Orlando for the month of December, so I spent the bulk of that month down there. I went back and forth for a weekend or so, and then my family came down once they were out of school for Christmas break because my wife's family is in the Orlando-Lakeland area. That's pretty much -- in December until I went down to Florida, I hadn't done hardly anything. I mean, a little bit, hit indoors a little bit before I went to Florida in the dome, which is a big confidence booster when the ball goes 80 yards and hits a wall. Yeah, that might have just missed the fairway.

Q. So with the kind of forced opportunity to step back and look at your game and look at golf, did you -- did it rejuvenate you any mentally and did you make any changes, like I said, coming into this year?
DUDLEY HART: Yeah, it rejuvenated me for sure. I joked about it when I was out in Hawai'i the first tournament, begging to play in the Monday Pro-Am that most guys hate to play. I'd have played the Wednesday Pro-Am, played the off-site Pro-Am, whatever. I was probably more excited to play golf than anybody in the field.
I made a comment before, like I said, I played 17 years. I think after you play 10 years or so they ought to give you an automatic one year off if you want to, if you get burned out or whatever, because it was a nice break.
I know that sounds crazy, and people are like, you're only playing golf, it's not that bad. It's not really the golf, it's the traveling. To be home and to feel like you have the normal life where you're just home taking the kids to school every morning and picking them up when they're done and to have that day-to-day routine, which I've been traveling at least 20 weeks a year probably, 15 to 16 weeks a year since I was 14 years old playing tournaments, 15 years old playing tournaments between college and amateur golf, junior golf. I love to do it, don't get me wrong. But the traveling side gets old to me after a while, and it was nice to be home a lot longer. The circumstance obviously wasn't exactly how I wanted to do it.

Q. Have your wife and kids been on the road with you this year?
DUDLEY HART: No, they're in kindergarten. Actually they came out Wednesday night, and they're here for -- they have a long weekend, skipping school for a couple days, but yeah, they're in kindergarten now, so it's a little bit harder to pull them out.

Q. Obviously there's an afternoon to go, but what do you think of your position or where you are as you look towards the weekend, and expectation-wise?
DUDLEY HART: I feel fortunate to be at 6-under. The way I played today, I'm not trying to say I hit it terrible, but if I had to go back and put me in every other spot, I don't know if I could do -- it's one of those days where I don't know if I could have shot a lot lower. You always say, yeah, I missed a putt on 18, or 9, my 18th hole, it wasn't that hard; it was probably 12 or 15 feet. I also hit a 4-iron from 230 yards out of the left rough to get to 12 feet, so I don't want to go back and hit that shot over again.
I had a lot of things happen -- you can always do better, but I don't want to go back out and play from where I was and try to have to do it again. Hopefully tomorrow I can go back and hit the ball the way I did on Thursday, a little bit tighter. My dispersion pattern was a little wide today, but tighten it up a little bit tomorrow, and if the putter keeps working, it'll be a little less stressful.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thanks, Dudley.

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