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July 19, 2009

Rick Rhoden


THE MODERATOR: We have eight-time winner, Rick Rhoden, in the interview room.
First of all, congratulations. Eight-time winner. We know it wasn't the way anybody wanted it to finish, quite frankly. But you ended up on top. Tell us about those last few holes.
RICK RHODEN: It's like yesterday, everybody said they'll probably break the record. The last day's always different. Seems like you play more by what's going around you instead of just playing your ball and trying to shoot the best you can, is what you should do.
But I never felt real comfortable today. At the start I hit some nice shots; the first few holes, I had 3-putts probably six feet for birdie, didn't even come close.
Just played bad pretty much all day. I got up-and-down a couple times. Saved pars. And a few I should have I didn't get up-and-down. I figured, when I stood on 16th tee I figured I had a four-point lead, I needed one birdie for sure. Someone would have to make all three birdies or make an eagle in there.
I had a good chance at 16, got it in front of the green. Thought I hit a good chip. And that green's firmer than most the others, and it went on by. I hit a bad putt again.
Pretty much another mental lapse on 17. I had to beat Danny or shoot the same thing he did on the last hole. He was playing real good. He played good all day. He hit a lot of really nice shots, quality shots. 18 was pretty much the only hole he didn't hit the shots he's been hitting all day. No one in our group did.
So I'm really happy I won. But I didn't play very well, that's for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Eight-time winner, how good does that feel?
RICK RHODEN: They all feel good. I've been playing really good. I played good the first two days. I expected to play good today. It just didn't happen. I think sometimes in golf, more than in other sports, the harder you try, the harder it gets. You learn something every time you play, you learn something about yourself.
And today pretty much was the most nervous I've been in a while playing golf. I don't know why. I didn't feel comfortable over the ball. I think that's what makes you nervous. The situation didn't make me nervous, just standing over the ball not feeling like I had control over it was what made me nervous.
THE MODERATOR: You have the trophy and Liz has the check again.
RICK RHODEN: Liz usually does get the check. (Laughter) But that's okay with me. As long as somebody in my house got it.

Q. Rick, I'm sure there were times when you pitched where you felt like in the first inning, second inning, it just wasn't there. Did you rely on anything today? Did you kind of fight through it?
RICK RHODEN: Golf is like pitching. Every day is different. When you're playing well, you hit it at the flag. When you're not, you kind of have to play it at the fat side. I never felt in control of too many shots all day long. And I just kind of knocked it around on the back nine.
And I think I got one birdie and one bogey on the back and the rest pars. No way if you told me starting at the back nine that that would win, I would say no way because Danny was playing too good.
And who knows. I really didn't -- I couldn't believe still coming in that I had the lead, the way I was playing. But I knew I had to do whatever Danny -- I had to shoot the same score as he did on the last hole. I assumed he was going to make a birdie the way he was playing. And it didn't happen for either one of us.

Q. Watching you on No. 17, it seemed like you were maybe rushing some of your shots quicker than before?
RICK RHODEN: You know, I don't know. Sometimes when you get under pressure, you get a little anxious, you move a little quicker. And that's probably when you should slow down.
I really was surprised that I felt the way I felt today near the end, because I think I've been in the last group probably 15 times here, or 12, 13 times. And last year I was very calm coming in, and I was behind. But I felt in control of my swing last year. I felt in control putting. And today I didn't feel very much in control of anything.

Q. Why two in a row now and not when you were younger?
RICK RHODEN: Well, I think the other players have something to say about that sometimes. I've played some pretty good rounds here where I came in second. I think the year that Chris Chandler got 78, I got 74 or 5.
So we have a lot of guys now, more guys, anyway, that can win than there used to be. I still believe Tony Romo one year is going to win this event pretty soon. He has a lot of talents. He needs more events.
The biggest problem we have now we don't have many events to play in. You come in here, you're not used to playing tournament golf, and you make some kind of bonehead play or two that you wouldn't have played if you had played more tournament golf.

Q. I'm going to apologize before I say this, but in years past it seems like you've been very focused and maybe not in a real humorous mood. This year and last year you seemed to be a little more, laughing a lot more. Is that accurate? And if so, why?
RICK RHODEN: Well, I think I hurt my neck, got hurt in 2002 and I played a long time hurt. And it's been a real struggle. I'm just glad I'm playing golf now.
I remember last year, the second day -- Bobby Mercer is a friend of ours and he passed away last year during this tournament. Sometimes things like that put your priorities -- you know, golf's great and fun and winning tournaments fun, but things like that happen, if you're healthy and your family's healthy, it's a lot more important than hitting a good shot or hitting a bad shot.
So I just try to -- like I told my caddie today, whatever happens today, just let it go and just keep going, just go from there and whatever happens happens and see what happens at the end. And luckily it was good enough.

Q. Who did you feel breathing down your neck the hardest?
RICK RHODEN: I'm watching Danny, I'm watching him hit a lot of really good shots all day. And it just looked to me like coming in he was the guy I was going to have to beat by the way that he was playing. I had the lead, as long as I had the lead, as long as I could keep making pars he would have to make a birdie or two. And he did.
He made a couple really nice putts coming in. And I was just getting by. But because I had the lead he was going to have to make a birdie. But I know coming in Danny's probably going to be the toughest competition for me.
You can go back and look over the tournaments and see who the better players are. So he's been through it as many times as I have. And we just didn't perform that well at the very end, that's all.

Q. Looking back, 9 and 10 were very key holes for you. Can you talk about how important those were and obviously at the end of the round they were really important.
RICK RHODEN: I was hitting a lot of bad shots. And I made a nice up-and-down on 8. Hit a terrible iron shot into the bunker, made a nice up-and-down to get a par. And then on 9 I hit about three bad irons in a row.
And I had 210 yards and I hit a 5-iron and hit probably the best shot I hit all day, hit it 15 feet and made the putt. The next hole I hit a good drive and shot in there, too, and I did not hit the -- I didn't think the putt was going in. I hit it, it squirted right. And I gave up on it and it went into the hole.
So maybe that made up for some of the ones I didn't make. But, yeah, those two putts won me the tournament, really.
I think that's probably the fewest amount of birdies I might have ever made in a round here, I don't know, too. Most of the time when you get eight birdies or so in a round the next day you don't get a lot. You don't think that way, but it seems to happen that way a lot.

Q. Did the nerves really kick in on 16, because it looked like you were going to expand your lead to six or seven points and Danny rolled in that 20-footer?
RICK RHODEN: I was in perfect shape in the fairway but I was in between clubs. I had a rescue club that I really had to hit perfect to get it to the green. And the 3-wood was going to be too much. I knew if I hit it a little short it wasn't going to be a hard chip shot. And I hit the chip shot like I wanted to.
A lot of the balls out here, when they hit on the green, they kind of -- they just stop and this one just released. 16 is the best green out here. And there's no excuses to miss it, if you have a pretty good putt. I just pulled it. I pulled it and missed it, and Danny made a great putt there.
And 17, I just -- I thought I hit a pretty good second putt. And it kind of wobbled around there by the hole. But I thought I did a lot of things okay, and they don't work out right. And I'm sure it's the same for all the other guys.

Q. Looked like you were going to make birdie and Danny was going to make par.
RICK RHODEN: It turned around. You can only do what you can do. I'm trying to do the best I can do. You can only play from wherever your ball goes and you get behind a tree, have to figure out how to get from around the tree and get it on the green.
That's the way I was playing. Like I said before, when you feel in control of your game you step up and you feel very confident and you hit good shots. When you're not -- also seems like you're in between clubs or you just can't get the rhythm going.

Q. Is there any significance to how you marked the ball? I think I saw a circle.
RICK RHODEN: I always marked it that way, just so I know I don't hit somebody else's ball. No other reason. It's pretty easy to see. Doesn't bother me. Some guys don't like to look at a lot of stuff on the ball, but it doesn't bother me.

Q. Did you today, when the round started -- you talked a lot about 68 points or last year's score wouldn't be enough to win. But you started today with 56. If someone would have told you would have an 18-point round, would you have thought, what, fourth or fifth place?
RICK RHODEN: I wouldn't have thought I would have won. If I had 18 points, that means the two guys behind me at 49 were going to have to make 25. That's not that easy. But I would have, sure would have figured that Grant would have beat me the way he had been playing.

Q. What's your plan for next, later this year and next year in terms of qualifying for other events and Champions Tour?
RICK RHODEN: Depends on how I'm feeling and playing. I haven't made up my mind if I'm going to go to the Senior Qualifying School or not. That's in November. A lot's going to depend on how I feel and feel like I'm playing. I'm not going to try it if I don't feel I'm playing good.

Q. You're physically okay, so it's the level of your game at that time?
RICK RHODEN: Yeah. Both. Today's the worst round of golf I've played in probably two months. But yesterday was really good. So I expected to play well. I've been playing well. But you can't always do what you want to do in sports.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Rick.

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