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August 11, 2009

Rich Beem


KELLY ELBIN: Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA Champion. Rich won here seven years ago at Hazeltine National Golf Club, holding off Tiger Woods by one stroke.
Rich, welcome back to Hazeltine, and must be some great memories whenever you walk around here.
RICH BEEM: Absolutely. It's always nice to see a golf course that you're familiar with and had some success with, and, yeah, it's always nice to come back. I've been back here about a dozen times since '02 to play golf with some friends up here and been a few changes since '02 and it's fun.
KELLY ELBIN: Can you elaborate a little bit on the changes? The golf course today as compared to the one that when you won on seven years ago.
RICH BEEM: I hope Mr. Jones doesn't take this offensively, but I think Mr. Jones went down to every tee box and looked down every fairway and turned around 180 degrees and just started walking.
This thing is just long. I mean, it's just excessively long, and it's nowhere near the same golf course that it was. But it's the state of the modern game, I guess. In order to make it harder, just make it longer.
But it's still a fair test of golf and I'm sure we won't play it at the full 7600 yards that it can play, but I would imagine it's going to play -- we're going to have a healthy test out there with our long irons this week.

Q. Rich, we know the golf course has changed quite a bit. How has your game changed over those years since you won in 2002?
RICH BEEM: Honestly, I think it's gotten better over the last seven years. Results may not reflect that fact, but I believe that my game has gotten a lot better. I think that I'm swinging the golf club a lot better than I ever have.
And I struggled there for a little while, and my scoring was affected. But I think my golf game is, like I said, I think it's better than it was seven years ago.

Q. A, I was wondering if I could get your thoughts when you saw your pairings what your reaction was to that playing, with two guys we just saw last weekend. And, B, looking back, it was kind of a whirlwind summer for you when you won this thing, I guess The INTERNATIONAL was just two weeks before. I'm trying to remember. Were you really prepared for what happened to you after that and how fast everything changed for you, and did you get kind of caught up in it? Did it change you as a player or person at all?
RICH BEEM: Yeah, first question, first answer is that I was pretty much expecting to be paired with Tiger. Wasn't too sure who the third paring would be with Padraig. But yeah, with the history that apparently this championship has, the reason why I won, and holding off Tiger in 2002 at this golf course, I mostly expected it. I wasn't caught by surprise too much on that one.
So I mean everything obviously back in 2002 after this championship really changed my life. And it was fast and furious. To be honest with you, I wasn't prepared for it. And I think it took its toll. And I think going back to his question I think that's why my golf game suffered a little bit.
I think everything happened so fast and so quickly and so unexpectedly, that -- how do you prepare for it all? It's really tough and so I handled some things exceptionally well and I handled some things not so well.
And I wouldn't change any of the life experiences that I have because of how I did it. I think that I expect to win again. Hopefully I can contend in a major and hopefully I can win another major.
But I wouldn't trade any of my experiences from what happened back in 2002 for anything. I actually have grown up because of it in a lot of ways, and in some ways, I'm still a young guy at heart. But I wouldn't have traded anything.
I think that you learn a lot from it. And could I have handled it better? Could a lot of people handled it better? Absolutely. We did the best we could and go from there. We just didn't know any better.

Q. Following up on those thoughts, what did you learn? What do you think you could have handled better?
RICH BEEM: Definitely I could have handled the perception of other people about myself and about my game. There was a few things in the media. And I always thought that coming in here and being cordial all the time and giving the media a lot of time and a lot of -- taking the time out of my day to talk to them, I thought they might sometimes be a little sometimes nicer.
The written word always comes out a little different than how you and I just sitting in the back of the room over a beer shooting it. But I must say I was a little more sensitive to some things in the media than I should have been, and it got under my skin and it bothered me, and in turn it bothered my golf game.
And I just wasn't -- I just wasn't prepared for that. I thought that if you were -- I considered everybody friends. And unfortunately it's not like that. And I know a lot better now but at the time I didn't.
And that's just kind of the tip of the iceberg, I guess, more than anything else. Just so many things kind of happened; the travel. I never took enough time off for myself. I never took a month off and just went out and enjoyed myself and didn't play golf. And looking back on it now, that's probably my one biggest regret that I just never really took the time to enjoy.
I was always doing something with somebody else instead of just doing something with just my wife and I and relaxing and having a good time that way. But like I said it was fun while it lasted.

Q. Last time you were here and talking about the Pepto-Bismol and all the stories about that, do you still do that? Do you still get that kind of nerves when you go out and play?
RICH BEEM: Well, of course. I mean, you look forward to getting nervous. And I'm going to say this as delicately as humanly possible here. The reason why I took the Pepto-Bismol and other pills or whatever you want to say, is because when I get nervous. I've got a weak stomach. It doesn't help calm my nerves. It keeps me from having to run to the nearest port-a-let; you can understand where I'm going with that.

Q. The second part of that, when you go out there tomorrow and you're playing with Tiger and Padraig and two guys who are playing as well as they are, do you think that kind of buoys you and lifts you and carries you along with them, especially when you get to a venue where you had a very positive memory?
RICH BEEM: Yeah, it almost would be impossible not to playing with the world's best player. I mean, you want to play well. I think it kind of narrows your focus a little bit, and certainly playing with both of those gentlemen who played extremely well last week, you know, they do drag you along with them, which is nice. Because Lord knows I need some help right now. My game is -- I must say, it's not the sharpest it's been in a while. But I'm looking forward to going out there and playing with those two gentlemen.
But the thing I'm looking forward is going out and playing a golf course that I've had success on and that I really enjoy playing. That's what I'm looking forward to.

Q. I didn't understand the port-a-let thing, could you expand on that for a minute. (Laughter) Serious, there's not many guys when they win a major at a rotating course like the PGA or U.S. Open develop such a unique relationship with the club. Can you just talk about how that came about and some of the things you've done?
RICH BEEM: Yeah, it's been fantastic. About six months after I won, a gentleman who is a member here, part of the tournament committee, the championship committee, his name is Patrick, Patrick Hunt. And he contacted me about coming up to Hazeltine bringing some guys from El Paso Country Club for a home-and-home match. Came up to Hazeltine and later in the fall they came up to El Paso. Came down here the first time just actually had a blast. Brought 12 guys from El Paso Country Club. Played golf for two straight days. They absolutely slaughtered us. But my guys from El Paso hadn't quite seen a golf course like this before. And that evening they made me an honorary member here at Hazeltine.
I've had an opportunity to come back. I've played about a dozen times since 2002. And every time I come back it feels fantastic, just a very nice club, very warm atmosphere to come in. And when they build the new clubhouse here next year they're going to give me my own locker and things like that.
So ever since 2002, they just really embraced me. It's been fantastic, and I'm very honored to be a member here, and look forward to coming back in years to come.

Q. How many members do you know?
RICH BEEM: I know probably 20 to 30 by face. By name, I'm always fuzzy with names. But I know in my phone book, I've probably got at least half a dozen names of the members here.

Q. My apologies if this has already been asked, but the difference between the course now and when you won in 2002. Is it more difficult? Has your game come along so it doesn't make any difference or you're coming here often enough so you know the course as it is now rather than the way it was?
RICH BEEM: It's a little bit of both. I play here kind of sparingly over the last few years, but I think in the last year I've probably been here probably the most.
When I've been back here this last year, I've probably gotten in four or five rounds before this week over the last month and a half. Every time I've played it from the tip. So I pretty much know what it looks like from 7,600 yards and it ain't pretty.
So I'm looking forward to actually moving up in some tees, moving up in yardage when we start on Thursday. But I've gotten used to the golf course where it's set up now.

Q. What's your best round in these half-dozen rounds?
RICH BEEM: I think when I came back about five weeks ago, I shot 69, with limited wind. The golf course wasn't playing as -- the greens were a little bit slower than they are now and this and that. But I shot 69. That was a hell of a round, I thought.

Q. Over the years, you hear the anecdotal stories from some of the other names that are on that wall behind you about guys they won their first major, and they just knew it was the first of many or they told themselves that; onward and upward, not the pinnacle, I'm going to get better, the climb continues. It seems like for you, since you were at that point in your career this was all kind of almost a novelty to you at that point; so much changed so fast. You were kind of, where do I go now what do I do now, what's next, it was almost overwhelming.
RICH BEEM: Yeah, I think you kind of hit it right on the head. I didn't know what to do or where to go. It's not like I was building up to that. It was kind of something that, I don't want to say fell in my lap, but if we're going to be honest here, it almost did.
I went out and I won it and I earned it. But to me it wasn't a major champion. I just went out and won another tournament. And all of a sudden, wait a second now; now it's something different. And it was very overwhelming after, with the accolades that came with it, people recognizing me and people writing about me who I had never met before and this and that. It was very bizarre.
I remember sitting in this room seven years ago after I won and people were asking me, how good are you? I said, two things: I know that I'm this good to win this, but I also know how bad I can be. I know when things aren't going very well. Sometimes I'm not the greatest player in the world. I'm not going to shy away from that. I think it's clearly obvious that sometimes I'm not. But at the same time I know how good I can be. I know how good I have been. And I still expect to win again, and I don't think there's any doubt in my mind. If there were, I probably wouldn't be in here today competing, getting ready to compete. I'd probably just be in here as a past champion, go to dinner tonight, have a few martinis and talk about that 5-iron I hit back on No. 11 to make eagle, because the stories are only going to get bigger and better. (Laughter).
But I still think like -- like I said, I think I still have some really good golf in me. I just need to get back in the mix a little more and continue doing what I'm doing, which is working hard.

Q. As much as the club has embraced you, you've done the same thing in terms of doing things for sponsors, doing radio ads for them. Is that something that you think you would have done anywhere, or is the relationship that you've built up kind of made it easier for you to take time out of your schedule to do those things?
RICH BEEM: You know, I've been very gracious with my time in the past. I do a lot of things for other people with no expectation of things, anything coming back to me.
The reason why I do a lot of things, that's just me. You ask me to do something, you ask me for my time; okay, what do you need. And there are certain times when I can't do it and it's just overwhelming. But I have a really hard time saying no to anybody.
And so everything that's ever been asked of me from Hazeltine; coming back for media day four or five weeks ago, not a problem. I'll be in; what day do you need me to come in. I came in for three days. And actually it was a blast. I had a lot of fun playing golf with some friends and doing the media thing and going over to the Twins game and throwing out the first pitch.
Of course, I bounced it in the friggin' dirt before the plate. How come it is that you're told you're going to go out and throw the first pitch. Every single person is saying, man, throw a strike in there, man, you can do it, you can do it. Don't bounce it. That's the only thing they tell you not to do. Bounced it.
Anyway I had a blast coming back, and I just -- I don't mind doing other things for other people.

Q. Follow up for how bad you got beaten up here, did Hazeltine ever reciprocate and come down to El Paso?
RICH BEEM: Heck yeah. They came down there and we waxed them pretty good. It was fun. There was 12 guys, and we slimmed it down since then now we're doing just kind of four and four. But they came down to El Paso and we had some fun and it was a blast.
We actually played a practical joke on one of the members here, Virgil. Virgil is in the caddie trailer, in the caddie hospitality area. Virgil and one of his buddies came over they parked in front of my house. They had their rental car. Virgil hopped out left the keys in the car came in the house. We started talking. He said I just left -- for some odd reason we got into I left my keys in the car out front.
I said Virgil you left your keys in the car out front. Are you stupid? No why? I said dude your car's halfway to Mexico right now I'm sorry it's in a chop shop. You've got no car. I had already known his keys were in the car I had one of my buddies take it across the street and park it in the garage. He friggin' lost it. He thought his car was in the middle of Mexico in a chop shop. I made him sweat for half an hour and I said, "Dude, it's across the street, my buddy's garage."
He was panicking. I said, "Dude, you can't get it back, you might as well call Hertz. I don't know what to tell you your car is in Mexico in pieces." It went from a Buick to a friggin' Chevy, I'm sorry, man. It was pretty funny.

Q. Are you happy with every part of your game? Is there something you're changing, fixing, fiddling with?
RICH BEEM: Yeah, it's a never-ending cycle. I'm always fiddling and tinkering and this and that. You know one thing I haven't been doing very consistently as we all know over the last few years, is putting. Putting is just kind of my Achilles heel, and I'm constantly working on it, constantly grinding at it.
My instructor came in this week. We changed a few things and hopefully we're on the right path. But it's just going to take a lot of patience and getting out there and playing some golf with it and finding out how good it really is.
But that's also the great thing about this game is that you're always working. You're always trying to do something to get better. And I think that's why we all love this game. If you could go out every day and shoot par, if you knew it was possible, if somebody did it, that's what they have to prove. They made birdie on every single hole. But unfortunately we can't do that. So we're always trying to come back -- it's possible, but not probable. So that's why we all come back. See as low as you can shoot. Like to go out and shoot 54 every day. But that ain't going to happen.
KELLY ELBIN: Rich, you're the fourth PGA Champion to be the son of a PGA Professional. Can you talk a little bit about your influence dad, Larry, in both your golf career and your life.
RICH BEEM: I grew up around golf my entire life. My dad was a Class A PGA Professional for 30-plus years now. And growing up around golf, because we all know that's why we're all in this room. We just love golf and having him in my life and being around the game for as long as I did, as long as I have been. You just learn to love the game.
I always knew I wanted to do something either with golf or in golf. I just never thought I'd be sitting at this podium and talking about it. But my dad was a very good, very large influence on me as a golfer. And I thank him for that. He laid the groundwork for how I swing the golf club and my attitude how to play the golf course. Without him, I don't think I'd be sitting here.
KELLY ELBIN: Rich Beem, thank you very much.

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