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July 13, 2008

Rick Rhoden


THE MODERATOR: Rick, why don't you talk about the exciting finish and then go back and take us through the round.
RICK RHODEN: Well, you know, I putted terrible all week. And then just left a lot of putts, six, four, three feet. Just missed, I don't know how many, 10 or 12. Hit the ball well.
Today I didn't hit the ball well. Just scraped it around. But nobody made a big move. The guys that made a move were the guys pretty far back. Nobody made up close a move in our group. I was surprised I was still in the lead going like to the 16.
But you know somebody is going to birdie two of the last three holes. You know they're just going to do. Hit a terrible drive on 16. Put it in play. Made a par. From where I was, par was pretty good. Then I watch Dan Quinn make birdie. Watched him hit one about a foot on 17 and make birdie. And I gotta make birdie on 17 to have a chance. I hit a nice shot. Hit a good putt. Best putt I've hit all day by far and it went in.
And then 18 I'm still a point behind. In fact, the only chance I got, if he makes birdie, I have to make eagle. I have to hit a good drive. I knew what he had done. He hit his second shot, was in trouble, and probably he was going to get a par. I knew a birdie would win.
Sometimes that fairway is awful narrow when you have to hit it in there. I hadn't been putting a good swing on my driver the whole back nine. I didn't want to go right. I tried to hit it down left. Hooked it. It wasn't that bad. I thought it might clear the tree. I didn't hear it or anything. I saw the guy going toward the out of bounds. I was thinking: Oh, man, don't be out of bounds, because over there, more than likely I can get it where I can get the next one on.
I saw him make par. But I couldn't go for the green. If I had a good lie I might have been able to, but I would have had to start it over the lake. So I just laid it up and thought get a good yardage and maybe hit one in. Just give yourself a chance. Give yourself a chance. And I hit a good shot and probably hit it, what, six, seven feet.
Pierre, I was on pretty much the same line. And I saw it was a pretty straight putt. And the best thing was that it was the kind of putt you like when you have to make one because it was downhill. More than likely I was going to get it to the hole, didn't have to worry about the speed. I told myself, for some reason I was much calmer on that putt than I had been on the ones the first three days.
I don't know why. But I was very calm on that putt and just told myself to just stay still and don't look up until it's gone. When I looked up, it looked really good.
And it went right in the middle. I mean, I still don't believe I won the tournament, because I didn't expect to make birdies from where I was over there.
THE MODERATOR: What was the length of the putt?
RICK RHODEN: I don't know. I would say probably six feet, six feet, somewhere in there.

Q. Did your back bother you at all today?
RICK RHODEN: No, I had no -- I'm fine. I haven't been playing much. It had been bothering me up until about a month ago. But I felt good here. I hit the ball. Teed the green, except the last few holes here, I hit it probably as good as I've ever done here. I didn't make anything. Didn't come close to making some putts.
I don't know what happened, the last couple of holes, when I had to make them, almost like I relaxed. It's like you have to make them. If you don't, it's over anyway. So hit it toward the hole. And I hit two good putts.

Q. This is the first year, you have an even number next year at this tournament. What does that mean?
RICK RHODEN: Like I've said, I've lost in a lot of odd years, too. It's funny, I've been complaining to my wife about my putting, my putting. Yesterday, I'm in here, see Bobbie Mercier, a friend of ours, passed away. I told her the putting is not that big a deal. You think it is when you're doing it, but in reality it's just golf. And it's not a big deal.
And I tried to think that all day today. No matter what happened, I'm out here playing. I'm pretty healthy. Everything's going pretty good in my life. And I don't need to be complaining about any of that stuff.

Q. I think this puts you about $3,000 away from a million dollars in this event.
RICK RHODEN: That's unreal, isn't it?

Q. Did you ever think you could win that much money in this event?
RICK RHODEN: Who would've ever thought we'd still be playing like 19 years later. I can't get over it. I've been telling -- all my friends are out here this week. When we first started playing this, the first four, five years, they had people on 1 and 10 and people on 18 and 3,000 people following Michael.
You knew where Michael was because that's where all the people were. He's like the Pied Piper. Still is, but now there's not a hole that doesn't have people on it. We had a nice crowd following us all day. If you looked around, every hole has people going around.
I think it's a great testament to the way the tournament's run. The people they bring in. It's a big event here in Tahoe. I know that. And then the Chamber of Commerce and Harrah's and NBC and all, and they just do a great job. Guys want to come here. They get the guys.

Q. Is that the biggest crowd you've ever had for a final group?
RICK RHODEN: I would think so. I never paid that much attention. You knew they were there today. You knew there were people out there. They were making noise. There was a lot of people. It has to be the biggest crowds they ever had at this tournament. I can't imagine it not being.

Q. I understand you donated $10,000 to the Lance Armstrong Foundation?
RICK RHODEN: Uh-huh. What do you want me to say? (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We got a yes.

Q. Rick, that last little wedge shot from the rough on 18, looked like it was sitting down a little bit and you still managed to put a little bit of spin on it.
RICK RHODEN: That green is a soft green. It's one that has all poa annua on it. Believe me, I was trying to hit it into the fairway, lay it up in the fairway. I had to try to cut it. I didn't have a very good lie and it just came up straight. I thought when I hit it, it was in the fairway. When I started walking, I saw it wasn't. But I had perfect distance for what I needed.
It's a matter of distance. When I hit it, I felt it was a good distance. If it didn't, it didn't hit and go. And thank goodness it rolled probably six to eight feet and rolled up in high. So then all I wanted was a chance on the last hole, chance to make a putt, and I couldn't have asked for a better chance.

Q. Size up Tony's game for us; you played with him.
RICK RHODEN: I was very impressed. Great guy. I mean, you can tell he's played some golf. I know he's played amateur golf, high school golf, stuff like that. He's got a lot of game. You gotta remember this is like his first, second time out here. You gotta get some of these under your belt.
It's tough for me and I've been doing it for quite a while playing some golf but I hadn't played that much at all this year competitive. If he played two, three tournaments come up to this, I'll tell you he would be tough to beat. He's got a good game. It would not surprise me if he wins a few of these and wins one pretty soon, too.

Q. Getting to the 18th hole, did you press down, did you give him the press?
RICK RHODEN: You know, we've been through this before, me and him. So he was six back starting the day and I knew that if I didn't throw up 25 points or so, which I didn't, that there was a few guys back there that could catch. And nothing was happening in our whole group. I had one birdie until 17. And I don't know how many they had. I don't think anybody in our group had more than one or two going to 17.
So everything happened good for me at the right time. But Dan's a great player. I know he's going to be around at the end, doesn't matter how he starts, one of the three days he's going to get 27 points or so. I totally expected, too, myself. Usually one day I have a really good day. It just didn't happen this year.
THE MODERATOR: Why are the Stableford scores significantly lower this year?
RICK RHODEN: You know, I don't know why that is. I think one reason might be is that I think our guys are getting better and they're putting the pins a little harder than they used to.
I mean 12's a good example. They used to put a pin in the bowl there one day. Pretty easy, hit it in a 25-foot circle, you have a real easy putt. Now they're putting it up above the bowl. In the last day, four foot from the bunker. You gotta be a little more cautious of where you're hitting shots. Some of the greens are much harder than they used to be.
There's probably four or five that were new last year and a lot firmer. You have to be careful. I don't know. I think if I putted decent, I'm sure Dan could tell you the same thing, we could have got to the points we always got to. I didn't make putts I should have made. If I did I would have been in the mid-70s again. Just one of these years, made it probably pretty nice for TV because there was a lot of guys coming down six, seven holes that had a chance.

Q. One of the things Quinn said, I thought was interesting, is that a lot of the Celebrity Tour events have disappeared and everybody's playing less competitively. Do you think that's --
RICK RHODEN: Yeah, I didn't think about that. Like I said before. You've got to play tournament golf to get mentally used to putting and thinking through golf. You're used to playing with your buddies, trying to get through in two or three hours and go. You're thinking about let's play fast. You're going for everything. You're not thinking your shots out. Usually the first round or two, if you haven't played in too many of these, most of the guys don't play in too many to start with. Because like the celebrity tournaments, like he said, yeah, I didn't think about that, but that's a good reason, too.

Q. Annika Sorenstam was here in for a press conference. Now that she's retired, someone asked if she would want to play the event. She said if she's asked. If she does play, what do you think that will do?
RICK RHODEN: You know what, I don't care who plays. She might have to play where we play from. She can probably outdrive half the guys anyway, and me included. Who knows. I don't invite people. I just show up when they invite me. (Laughter).

Q. On 16, you had a fire engine that tooted its horn right before you were getting ready to hit. Then you hit probably the worst drive of your week.
RICK RHODEN: Maybe not, because the next one on 18 was pretty bad, too. (Laughter).

Q. The way you recovered on that hole, to still get a par, how key was that for you?
RICK RHODEN: That was big. Luckily, you know, with those trees you don't know what you're going to get. I wasn't stymied. I had an opening. My ball was up against a limb. I couldn't move it. I was hitting half ball, half limb. I was trying to get it out on the green. After that a par was going to be good.
And I actually hit a good third shot out of the lie. I was able to get it. But the fire engine thing, that stuff just happens. That's part of it.
The boats, 17 is not the quietest place in the world. Boats are starting up their engines and stuff is going on. But that's what makes it what it is. Plus, the people are going nuts on 17. It's great. It's great.

Q. Do you have any Champions Tour stuff in the near future?
RICK RHODEN: No. Tours, all it got me was a chance to go Monday qualify, same top 30 guys at the final stage. I got no status. I haven't even tried to qualify since February.
I'm healthier, but I'm not playing -- I don't feel I'm playing good enough yet to go travel across the country and trying to do that right now. Maybe I might get a sponsor exemption or something and go play. But I think I'm going to turn into one of these country club golfers and play in a few of these.
I think it's getting about that time. If I get a chance, hopefully I can play in three or four of those every year, that would be good.

Q. You're looking ahead, you're not thinking about trying out for, trying the qualifying --
RICK RHODEN: I haven't made up my mind yet. I really haven't. A lot of it is going to depend on how I feel. It's not until the end of October. So it all depends on how I feel and how I'm playing. I'm not going to say I'm not going to. But it all depends. I've just been playing now for the last three weeks since April. So I'm just happy to be doing that right now. We'll see how it goes by October.

Q. And it was your back that kept you off?
RICK RHODEN: No, my neck. I've had neck issues.

Q. Kept you off the course a lot of this year?

Q. When you said three or four events a year, did you mean these events or --
RICK RHODEN: I wish we had three or four of these events.

Q. Champions Tours?
RICK RHODEN: I'd like to still play some. They come through the spring in Florida where you can try to qualify. And if I'm playing decent usually every year I can usually get a couple of exemptions along the way, but I'd rather play my way out there than just say, here, come play.

Q. Are the qualifying rules going to possibly change?
RICK RHODEN: Yeah, they're going to change this year, but they're still not good. They're going to go to five spots at Tour school instead of seven like it used to be and four conditional spots instead of eight. And then they're going to have like five spots on Monday instead of two. Now there's nine spots on Monday. So that's where they're getting the guys from.

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