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June 2, 2009

Ben Curtis


MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Ben Curtis to the interview room. Columbus native. Ben, if you'd just start off and give some general comments about how you're playing coming into this week and your thoughts on the week. Then we'll take questions.
BEN CURTIS: I'm playing okay. I had a couple of good weeks in Europe last two weeks.
So, obviously, playing pretty decent. Just kind of struggled here and there, bits and parts of my rounds. But overall, it was pretty good. Look forward to being home and playing a great golf course this week.
Just played a few holes. The course is in great shape. Greens are really quick. You know, but they're receptive. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Q. Ben, what do you think of when you think of Muirfield Village?
BEN CURTIS: I think, you know, I think back of when I was a kid, just, you know, most anticipated week of the year for us here in Central Ohio. It's kind of like the Masters for most people.
You kind of look at this tournament, and you kind of get the same feel as Augusta. Obviously, a lot of similarities in it.
It's kind of the start of the golfing season for us Ohioans.

Q. I meant in terms of the course. Muirfield Village means what? Long, fast greens? Something like that?
BEN CURTIS: It's spectacular more than anything. It's just a fun course to play. From tee to green, it doesn't really -- you might think you're favored long around here, but you've got to putt well, as well. You've got to do everything.
Just every hole is a great hole.

Q. How does the rough compare to last year?
BEN CURTIS: I didn't hit in it today, so I couldn't tell you. I didn't hit any shots out there.

Q. Really? That's news in itself, isn't it?
BEN CURTIS: It didn't look as long as last year.

Q. What made you decide to take two weeks and go overseas and come back here? Take the two weeks before. Because that's kind of difficult to be two weeks there and then come here.
BEN CURTIS: It just fit in my schedule more than anything. Two weeks in London made it easy for the family. That was it more than anything.
I love playing Wentworth. I think it's a fun course to play. The conditions were -- they got it right this year with the weather. Made it enjoyable.
And then the next week, just being an hour away from where we were the week before just made sense. You know, especially for an American joining the European Tour. Two weeks without being on an airplane is a good thing.

Q. Ben, the first year that you played here, 2003, did you get in on an exemption?

Q. And did you apply for it? How did you get about getting it? Could you go back over that a little bit.
BEN CURTIS: Well, it was something, as soon as I got my tour card, we started working on -- I was with IMG at the time.
We just wrote a letter to Jack and Dan, the tournament director. We kind of just got on it right away. Fortunately for me, it didn't take very long to get it.

Q. Was that nerve-racking to play in that first tournament?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I think, yeah, any time you play in front of your hometown it's a little bit more than usual. Not just a normal event.
But, no, I tried not to -- at the time, I tried not to look at it that way. Just tried to go out there and play.
Obviously, the first hole, I was a little bit nervous. After that, I was okay.

Q. Other than the $10 million bonus on top of the $10 million purse, what influenced you to play more in Europe this year? How much are you playing besides the past two weeks?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I'm going to do -- they require 12. They ask that you do all 12.
The main reason was, I think, I had a good year last year. Felt like my game was in the right place. And I felt -- my confidence was high. I felt like why not see what I can do on both tours as a challenge, just to see if I can, you know, get in the tour championship over here and also play in the Race to Dubai over in Europe.
That would be some accomplishment for me that I would be very proud of doing. I like going over there and playing as well.
I mean, there's more than just the money factor.

Q. And I saw where the last time you, I guess, played a lot over there was '04, the year after you won the Open. Did you learn anything from that experience about how you're trying to schedule yourself to do this?
BEN CURTIS: You've just got to kind of -- over there, they do a lot. You can play in Europe one week and fly 12 hours to China for a week and then back to the mainland here. You've got to fit the schedule and how it's going to fit best for you. Just for example, two weeks in London is pretty much a no-brainer. I never even heard of the London Club until I got there basically. I didn't know much about it.
A lot of people look at the golf courses as the number one reason why they choose to play someplace. It just happened to fit the schedule.
You know, just try to do it that way where you're not killing yourself on jet lag.

Q. Of those 12 you're going to play, do they include any more tournaments beyond the Majors and the World Golf Championships?
BEN CURTIS: The Race to Dubai counts as the 12. And all the Majors and the World Golf Championship count.

Q. So you're not going over for any tournaments like you did the past two weeks?
BEN CURTIS: I don't think so.

Q. Are you received any differently over there as a former Open champion than you are here?
BEN CURTIS: I would say so. Especially at Wentworth. They're a very knowledgeable crowd. They're a lot like the British Open. They're there -- you know, you don't hear the shouts that you do around here, you know.
Every time you hit the green, they clap. It just seems sometimes around here, they're out there having a good time, having a lot of beer. Over there, it's more for golf.
But, you know, we have great fans as well. You know, over there they take their golf very seriously. That's for sure.

Q. With the wide fairways here and so forth, what is this course's main defense?
BEN CURTIS: I would say just anywhere within 20 yards of the green. The green's number one. And then you just can't short-side yourself here. You have no chance.
Even with the bunkers being good this year, it's still not going to make much difference. You've only got six, eight feet to work with around the greens. If you short-side yourself.
So it just makes it very difficult. You know, everybody's going to hit the fairways. And it's just a matter of what they do with their pro shots. As long as they're smart with that. And you've just got to putt well.

Q. With the defending champion in Kenny Perry -- he's won here three times. You played with him last year on Ryder Cup. What makes him such a viable player this late into his career? He's already won again this year.
BEN CURTIS: Well, I think, one, he hits it really good. It's a long ways, but more than that, he knows what the ball is doing. He knows he's going to hit a five to ten-yard draw. Doesn't matter if he takes two months off or just played yesterday. He knows what that ball is going to do.
I think for somebody like him he knows his game very well. So it's -- I think it makes it easier to continue on. You know, some of the best players in the world, when they're not playing their best, they still shoot a 68 or 69. They know what they're doing wrong, and they can fix it on the golf course. That's what makes him so good.

Q. I wonder where you fall on the spectrum of opinion as far as last year's setup.
Some players were critical. Other players like Rocco said, if you don't like the rough and the traps, don't hit them in there.
Obviously, they've cut the rough this year. They don't have any furrows in the bunkers anymore. I guess they've backed off a little bit all over the Tour. Where do you fall on how the setup is here and on the rest of the Tour?
BEN CURTIS: To be honest with you, everything's fine. I think here you can have the rough almost as thick as you want because the fairways are 40 to 50 yards wide. We're not used to that. We're used to 20, 25 yards wide.
For us, the fairways are fairly wide. Last year it did get really firm and fast. So the balls were rolling a lot further than people expected.
I'm not a big fan, if you hit it two yards off the fairway, that you have to hit it 20 yards. But at the same time, the fairways are pretty generous. So it's your fault for hitting it in there.
As far as the bunkers, to be honest with you, I think -- I mean, as long as you didn't -- if you short side yourself, doesn't matter how good the bunkers are. It's going to be a tough up and down. Didn't really make that much of a difference with the bunkers.

Q. Are you old enough to have played with the old grooves on the clubs?

Q. Is that going to be a thing for you next year?
BEN CURTIS: No. Last year I was using the irons with the new grooves in them. So I'm used to getting the fliers now. As far as the wedges, it's going to take time for everyone to adjust, especially out of the rough.
But I think out on the fairway you wouldn't see much difference.

Q. Have you ever hit a Persimmons wood? Do you know what one is?
BEN CURTIS: I hit one two weeks ago at Wentworth. The guy who I hit with had an old one.

Q. Who was that?
BEN CURTIS: An amateur player.

Q. Who was that?
BEN CURTIS: In the Pro-Am.

Q. He brought a Persimmons with him?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah. That was all he had was 3% in woods. The irons were older than I was.

Q. Was he playing the Spalding Dot?
BEN CURTIS: He was a Hugo Boss. He had a brand new Titleist ball.

Q. Good branding there.

Q. Ben, if you could, when you come to the Memorial, is it almost like a flashback 15 years? For example, are you still staying at your parents' house this week and trying to soak up some of the old home week a little bit?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah. I mean, it's definitely different now that you have kids. That's for sure.
You kind of schedule around the kids more than you do yourself and the golf. You kind of -- it makes it a little bit different.
Yeah, I mean, it's always fun to come back. You know, this year we did something a little different.
Yeah, to see the family and friends. Tonight we're having a big party at my parents' house, all the family coming over. It will be fun.

Q. Ben, welcome back to Ohio. Can you talk about what's the best part of your game now? What are you most at ease with with your game at this point?
BEN CURTIS: Well, it depends on after each round. It feels like I'm hitting the ball good. But there's some days I go out there.
Like last couple weeks, on Friday and Saturday, both weeks I just struggled to hit the ball. Was putting decent. So I got away with it.
And then Thursday and Sunday, hit the ball really well, got some good results out of it. I would say everything is okay, but nothing's spectacular.
I think, if anything, the last few weeks is the putting. It's been a little disappointing.
MARK STEVENS: Thanks for coming in, Ben. Good luck this week.

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