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July 30, 2008
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO
RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Brad Bryant to the interview room this afternoon at the Broadmoor. Brad is our defending champion, having won the 2007 Senior Open last year at Whistling Straits. He's playing his fourth U.S. Senior Open Championship this week.
Maybe you could just start us off, tell us what it's meant to you this past week to be introduced as the U.S. Senior Open Champion.
BRAD BRYANT: It's been a good thing to be introduced that way. It's really funny, last year in San Antonio, somehow after I won the Senior Open last year, it didn't get into the system, and they weren't announcing me as the Senior Open champion.
So I would just get up there and they'd announce me the way they normally do, the second best player in my family, and that was it. So my mom and dad went with me to San Antonio, and my mom walked to the first tee just to hear me announced as the Senior Open champion, and they didn't do it. It was a great disappointment.
It's been a great year. The guys have just treated me so wonderfully, Pete Kowalski and all of his crew have been great to work with. It was really fun having the trophy at home. We put it at Lakeland Country Club for a while and then put it up at Champions Gate, the places where I play golf at home. The people really enjoyed having it. My buddies ate Doritos out of it. It was really fun. Everyone enjoyed having the trophy around. Lots of people at Lakeland got their picture made with the U.S. Open trophy, so that was really fun.
So I would say that things have calmed down a lot as we've come into this tournament. As we've come into this tournament everyone sort of realizes, okay, Brad won last year but he's not really the favorite this year. You've got Greg Norman playing this year and playing well. Tom always plays well in major events.
So a lot of the focus and the attention has really gone to other players, and that's a good thing. I kind of like that. I would rather sort of slip in under the radar anyway.
RAND JERRIS: Is there something you learned about the perspective of the year, looking back at Whistling Straits; is there something you learned about yourself and your game that week that has sort of changed your game and the way you play?
BRAD BRYANT: I don't know. I haven't played that well since last year's U.S. Open. I've gone back and looked at films of my swing and the swing started getting too long at the Senior Open last year, and going back and looking at that footage, it's kind of amazing that I really played and hit the ball as well as I did. I think that my rhythm was just so good.
One of the things I think I learned from the tournament last year is that if you have really good rhythm, and you can overcome some bad mistakes in your golf swing. That's really helped me this year. I started off really, really good this year, and as long as I've had good rhythm for an entire week, I've actually played fairly well.
So here we are back at the Open again, and Tony and I have been out on the practice tee for the last three days working on my rhythm and not so much on the mechanics, just trying to get it smoother and a little less jerky. And I think my golf swing is improving now because that's what we've been working on.
RAND JERRIS: Obviously aesthetically there's big differences between Whistling Straits and The Broadmoor. Talk a little bit about this golf course and how it plays to the strength of your game.
BRAD BRYANT: Well, this is not really a golf course that plays to my strength. This golf course is really about being able to read plenty of greens, hit the ball in the fairway, although I do have to admit that some of the holes fit me very nicely off the tee because I'll be able to hit a lot of 1-irons here, and that's going to be a real good thing.
In the practice rounds what I found if I can kind of bowl the ball down there and hook it on the fairway, I can hit a 1-iron pretty far. So some of the holes are going to fit me pretty nicely. I never have putted poa annua greens very well. And last year at the Senior Open, I really didn't have one of my best putting weeks, but I had one of my best ball-striking weeks. So I'm sort of hoping that that trend, that's what I'll do this week is my ball striking will come around and I'll be able to get the ball on the proper part of the green.
At Whistling Straits, the wind was so strong it was much more about managing the flight of the ball and getting the ball on the green so that you could putt. This week we're probably not going to have that much wind. We're going to have to be much more precise trying to put the ball below the hole so you can have uphill putts. That's going to be really important, and very often it's much more important to have a 25-foot putt uphill than a 12- or 15-foot putt downhill.
You can be really aggressive if you're going uphill 18 feet, but if you're coming downhill, you're putting very, very defensively. So I think that the strength of my game doesn't lend itself greatly to this golf course. I think this golf course is going to be really suited for Greg Norman. I think that he has somewhat of an advantage here.
I think that Bernhard Langer; John Cook is playing awfully well. Right now, if I had to pick somebody to win this golf tournament, it would be John.
RAND JERRIS: Thank you. We'll take some questions.
Q. Have you got a 1-iron in your bag?
BRAD BRYANT: Yes, sir.
Q. Did you carry that 1-iron last year in the Senior Open?
BRAD BRYANT: Yes, sir, I did. In fact, I hit it off the last tee at the Senior Open last year. I hit the ball, I hit a 1-iron off the last tee and just hit a really beautiful shot and then hit a 3-iron to the green. That's the one thing about this golf course that's sort of redeeming or that does fit my game is my 1-iron fits down the fairways here nicely. Other than that, this golf course is really not my forte.
Q. What else is in your bag? Do you mind?
BRAD BRYANT: No, not at all. I've got a 3-wood that I've been using for a couple of years that's sort of a real freak. I hit it pretty far.
And I've gone back to an old driver that I had used for several years, this week because I can hit the ball pretty far with it.
It looks like on this golf course I may only hit two drivers the whole time. Looks like I'll be hitting a lot of 3-woods and a lot of 1-irons here and hitting a couple of drivers. At least that's the way it looks right now. Unless the wind switches around, I won't be using my driver very much.
I have a new set of Adams irons that's a prototype that I really like. These are something they've just come out with, and I'm really enjoying them. So that's been a real good thing. And then, of course, I have -- I know Adams isn't going to like this, but I have two Cleveland wedges that I've been using for many years. And that's the way it's been. I'm using the same putter that I've used for the last four years.
Q. What putter is that?
BRAD BRYANT: It's an Odyssey, one of the real old 2-ball Odyssey putters.
Q. The driver and the 3-wood, could you tell me what brand they are?
BRAD BRYANT: Well, I'd rather not.
BRAD BRYANT: Adams is going to get mad at me. They're old. How's that?
Q. Brad, if my memory is correct, is this the first Champions Tour major you're playing in since the Senior Open?
BRAD BRYANT: Yeah. That's exactly right actually. It is. I haven't played a major -- I didn't play the PGA. No, I played at JELD-WEN last year and Baltimore last year.
So if you want to call those, I played those two. Although I would like to be very -- I'll kind of go on the record here and say that as far as I'm concerned, we only have one really true major, and this is it. The other golf tournaments are majors for us old guys, but they don't really have the feel that the U.S. Senior Open has. I've played another major since the last U.S. Senior Open, and that was San Diego. And this tournament is the only tournament that has the feel and look and the true, sort of major -- I don't know.
It's hard to pin down what a major is. To me, a major is a great golf course with the best players in the game, and you know, when we played the PGA this year, I didn't go to the PGA. But obviously the golf course got so overdone, the rough got so deep that it really didn't identify -- it was much more about, can you just kind of hold on and who can make a few putts; and, of course, Jay is one of our best players and did very well.
I think that the graduated rough that we had at San Diego and that we're having here this week is the best thing I've ever seen in golf. This is just tremendous, and I really want to applaud the USGA for what they've done both at the Open this year and at the Senior Open. I think we're going to finally see some guys go out in major championships and get some birdies. The guys did that at San Diego -- although par was still a really good score, but at San Diego, you could go out and get some birdies, and I think that's exciting for the fans. I think it's a whole lot more fun than watching a guy miss the hole by three. It's going to be exciting a lot more for the players and the fans.
Q. The reason for the question about how much you've played on the Champions Tour, there's a confidence you probably got by winning at Whistling Straits last year. That's not something that everybody can say they have. How does that feel as you come into this year's Senior Open?
BRAD BRYANT: Well, one thing I learned last year about playing at Whistling Straits about looking over the last two years, is if it gets really, really hot and the wind blows 30 miles an hour, I'm pretty good.
It's really been funny. Bruce Lietzke walked up to me one day and we played somewhere and the wind started howling, he said, "Well, you're favored today. You'll have a low score."
And I looked at him, and I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Every time it blows hard, you play good." And I hadn't really thought about that.
But the times where I've played really good golf over the last couple years, I've played really good on some very windy, difficult days, and I think that I never felt like I could play in a strong wind, and winning last year at Kohler, at Whistling Straits, that last day was as difficult a wind as I've seen, and I managed it very well.
From that standpoint it gave me a whole lot of confidence that, okay, maybe I can compete with some of these guys even when the wind blows really hard.
Q. Did you grow up with the 1-iron?
BRAD BRYANT: I didn't grow up. I just got older.
Q. How long have you had the 1-iron?
BRAD BRYANT: The 1-iron, I've been playing the 1-iron since -- it would be 1978.
Q. You're one of the few that's still in the bag.
BRAD BRYANT: I think the only two players left in the game of golf that play 1-irons that were playing together this week, me and Joey Sindelar.
Q. Okay. Second question, the 1-iron, a very new, windy golf course, now you're going to play on a very old, cranky golf course, cranky with greens. Compare the two of them.
BRAD BRYANT: I don't think that you can really compare Whistling Straits and The Broadmoor. It's kind of like trying to figure out, is Tiger better than Jack, or is Jack better than Tiger. They're so different that I don't know that you can really compare the two.
Whistling Straits is very new. It's very severe. You look at it. It looks awkward. It's just kind of -- Whistling Straits is a somewhat bizarre golf course, especially when you get that wind blowing. You're not real sure where the ball is going after you hit it.
When you come here, you're playing a really old, traditional, wonderful golf course that is much more intimate. I love the fact that you can hit it really far off-line and get it into another fairway. That's good for me (laughter). At Whistling Straits, you hit it really far off-line, and you're like way down a mountain in the tundra somewhere, and so from that standpoint, it's real different.
I think that at Whistling Straits, you have the 16th hole, which was a birdie hole coming down the stretch. But there wasn't a lot of sort of emotion from a gallery standpoint because everyone's trying to hold on and make pars.
Where this week I think coming down the stretch on Sunday, unless the wind blows, you're going to get to see some guys figuring out the greens and make some birdies maybe to win the golf tournament, especially if you look at No. 18. If you just compare Whistling Straits 18 and 18 here at the Broadmoor, you get to see the difference in the philosophies and style of golf.
At Whistling Straits, it's very easy to make a six or seven on the last hole to lose a golf tournament. I don't like that, personally. I played the hole, I think I parred it three of the four days, so I played that hole very well.
Here a guy can hit a good drive on the 18th hole, have a wedge or 9-iron in his hand and make a birdie to win. And I think that's going to be very exciting. And I think the gallery around the 18th hole, they're going to get to see the best shots of the tournament under some pretty crucial conditions. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see of the last ten twosomes on Sunday, to see eight birdies made. That will be a lot of fun for the gallery and a lot of fun for the players.
So if you look at the two golf courses, that's kind of what you see, Whistling Straits is big, wide. And then you get here and it's intimate, and you have to be -- this golf course will take much more focus than Whistling Straits.
RAND JERRIS: Have you been back to Whistling Straits since you won?
BRAD BRYANT: No, I haven't. I haven't been back up there. They haven't invited me. Don't go places I'm not invited.
Q. How much do you play here?
BRAD BRYANT: Here? Well, this century I've played here five times. I actually played the Broadmoor Invitational as a youngster. That would have been in the 70s, I think. I think I've gotten five rounds in on this golf course this year.
Q. Talking about intimate knowledge of the golf course, you came here for Media Day. You got to spend some time with the golf pro, Russ Miller. Did he help you at all with anything, approach to playing the course?
BRAD BRYANT: I think so. I think playing with Russ -- in fact, we actually played three rounds of golf together here. That was a lot of fun playing with Russ. He's such a great guy, and boy, let me tell you they're just doing a magnificent job here at the Broadmoor. They've done an outstanding job, and I think that Russ had little things here and there. For instance, there's one, must be the 11th or 12th -- the 11th hole, I think where you kind of need to aim at the corner of the trees, and it looks like you're aiming down the rough, rather than down the fairway, because you kind of go over this hill.
So having Russ say when I hit it, I thought I hit a pretty good shot and he said no, that's going to be eight or ten steps into the rough. That's hit a little further to the left. I think I got to learn the golf course a lot faster because I was playing with Russ, although I'm a pretty slow learner.
And of course, the other guys will figure it out pretty quickly, too. But playing with Russ was a lot of fun, and then Tanner, his daughter, caddied for me two rounds this week before Tony got here. So that was a lot of fun, too.
Guys, just let me say one thing. I want to say thank you to the USGA, and I would appreciate if you would put that into your article as you do this. It's been quite a year as the U.S. Senior Open Champion. It's been a real privilege and a great honor to represent you all for a year. I hope that I've done a good job. I've tried hard not to embarrass you all too much.
It has really been, I have to tell you, it has been a thrill. It's been a great year for me. You know, as a kid, you think about winning the U.S. Open, and I had my shot at U.S. Opens several times, and to be the U.S. Senior Open champion for a year was really a dream come true, and I really appreciate all the courtesy and just what you all have done for me this year has really been great. Just pass that along to everybody and let everyone know at the USGA that I'm really proud that I got to do this for a year. Thanks a lot?
RAND JERRIS: Thank you, Brad. We wish you luck this week.
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