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June 10, 2010

Casey Wittenberg


COLIN MURRAY: Alright. We'd like to welcome Casey Wittenberg to the interview room here at the St. Jude Classic presented by Smith & Nephew. Bogey-free 6-under, 64 this morning, which I believe equals your low round on the PGA TOUR. Give us a couple quick comments obviously on the opening round and doing it right here at home.
CASEY WITTENBERG: Yeah. We got off to a great start today, teed off on the back-9. Figured with the rain last night that the course conditions would definitely play a little softer and they definitely did, especially on my front-9. Fortunate enough to hit a good 7-iron on No. 11 to about 15 feet. Knocked that one in. Hit a decent four-iron on 14, pulled it just left of the green but was probably 20 feet from the hole. Could still putt it with a putter.
We made that. Then we got the 15, had a pretty good number. Hit a fairly decent wedge shot in there. 16, hit a good 3-wood from like 64. Just got lucky. Ball missed the front left bunker and rolled book there about 15 feet.
Then we kind of calmed down. Hit some good shots on -- lit a good shot on 18. Didn't make it. Hit a great shot on 1. Pretty much was a tap-in. Didn't take advantage of 3. Hit a good shot on 4. Didn't make that, either. Then just kind of hit a decent shot on my 17th hole, No. 8, par-3. Couldn't wiggle that one in.
Overall, I think I was definitely pleased with how the round went. I definitely hit some good golf shots. I stayed loose out there. My dad is caddying for me this week. Got a lot of friends and family, and I figure if I can just have a good attitude and approach it maybe a little bit looser than I have in the past, hopefully it will encourage me to play a little bit better golf.
COLIN MURRAY: Questions?

Q. Casey, Lee Westwood was in here earlier. He said he had never placed the course. You live right on the course. Can you talk about the advantages that you have just living on this course?
CASEY WITTENBERG: Yeah. I mean, I did get a lot of rounds on this golf course. I'm familiar with all the looks of the holes. I'm familiar with where the ball needs to be. I'm somewhat familiar with the greens. They aren't really like this all year-round, but they are definitely similar and we know where -- my dad and I both out there. We know where to put the ball and where the best place is for us to try and make birdies from.
It's just about execution from there.

Q. Can you contrast the pressures of playing at home with the familiarity of playing at home, if there are pressures of playing at home? Maybe there aren't.
CASEY WITTENBERG: I think it's maybe a little bit different for me this year. Last two years I qualified for the U.S. Open coming into this week, and unfortunately I didn't qualify on Monday. So I think I'm a little bit more relaxed in this golf tournament setting.
I'm not so worried about what's going to happen next week. I'm not so worried -- I'm not looking ahead and, you know, really to be perfectly honest, I hadn't played that well in the last couple months, in the last month even on the Nationwide Tour. I haven't played terrible, but I haven't played very well.
My expectations are really kind of low. I knew if I could come out here and hit good golf shots that maybe I could get something going, and that's kind of the attitude I took this morning.
I literally showed up on the practice tee 45 minutes before I teed off. I played no practice holes, no practice round, nothing. I played the course a bunch in early May and, you know, we were just kind of -- I putted on the putting green and tried to get some speed. But other than that, that's about the extent of it. It's a lot more relaxing week for me and, you know, worked out today. Hopefully, it will continue to work throughout the week.

Q. Casey, can you just kind of take us through the last couple of years since the runnerup at the U.S. Amateur, and just talk about what that experience has been sort of leading up to now and frustrating, anything along those lines?
CASEY WITTENBERG: Okay. Yeah. After runnerup in the Amateur, obviously went off and played fairly decent in the two Majors that I had starts in as an amateur. I had high hopes and expectations coming out. Probably didn't perform as well as I wanted to, and some of the people that are in my camp wanted me to as well. Played the mini tours. Got my card in '08 on the Nationwide Tour.
I think the thing I struggled with the most coming off Nationwide Tour on the PGA TOUR I never really had an off-season before, and I always had to go through Q-School. And so when I had that six, seven-week break there late November, early December, I really, after playing 30-something tournaments on the Nationwide Tour, I really didn't want to play.
It was a big mistake on my part. When I showed up at Sony in '09, I didn't -- I had people obviously, I have a lot people around me, especially here in Memphis that play on the PGA Tour. I didn't know the importance of really as a rookie being ready to play, and I made those first couple cuts out there, but I didn't realize if I was more adapt and ready to play that, you know, I might have been -- might have been to my advantage.
I didn't realize David Toms and those guys, lot of those guys literally pull their golf clubs out of their Club Glove at Sony. By the time June rolls around and they've got a couple of months of golf under their belt, they're little bit different players. That was my fault, something I learned. I won't make that mistake again. I'll be more adapt and ready to play golf come the next opportunity I get.

Q. Casey, how long have you been coming to this event and what does this tournament mean to some of your memories?
CASEY WITTENBERG: The golf course has been here since '89. My dad played in this event when it used to be at Colonial and Old Colonial. It's -- this golf course has got a lot of history, and Phil Cannon and everybody associated with the golf course, they've done a great job. It's a tremendous charity. For the people that have been down there and seen what the charity work is for this tournament, I think it's something that's very special, and I know it's something that's definitely close to my heart and my family's heart, and I hope that we get all this stuff worked out. Now we got a lot of people behind the scenes working hard to make sure this thing keeps going year in and year out.
Also, I think people don't know. Players really like this golf course. Obviously, you have some people that aren't huge fans of bermuda that don't like the golf course, but if you're a fan of bermuda, you really like the golf course, and I don't hear too many negative things. It's one of the few golf courses that's actually been changed in modern time that took a golf course that used to be 28-under par to win to 4-under won two years ago. That speaks volumes, and top ranked players obviously like coming if the course is going to play difficult, and I think it has over the last couple years. Maybe -- Brian Gay ran away with it last year.
I think the date helps. Being the week before the Open gets people likely Westwood here. And it's great for Junior Golf here in the city, and it's great for the golf course, and obviously it's playing well and it's even better.

Q. Do you remember coming out here as a kid?
CASEY WITTENBERG: We always had a player stay with us when my dad played on Tour. Became friends with Bobby Wadkins. I remember being involved in the golf tournament. I definitely remember coming out and watching Wads play. I drug Anthony Kim here one year. Got him to come one year. We got to watch him in '07 play.
I can't really pin down any grand moment that I've had. I watched Norman birdie 16, 17 and 8 to win that one year when he played. It's pretty exciting. Other than that, I can't draw back on any memories.

Q. Was there any point today maybe when you were, what, 6-under after ten holes that you started thinking about some kind magic number or whatever?
CASEY WITTENBERG: No. It's like I told everybody outside, first round of a 72-hole golf tournament, it's not -- there's a lot of golf ahead. I'm sure the golf course is going to get more and more difficult if it keeps raining, and I'm going to have to play better golf than what I did today in order to be in contention in this golf tournament. And I had a great round of golf today. I had a good stretch of holes, 4-under par in three holes kind of jump-started my round forward. This golf course is difficult. It's got stretches of 4, 5, 6, 7, they're kind of difficult stretches where you got to drive the ball well and then hit a good iron shot and you have to execute.
If I can continue to do that, the course continue to get more difficult, I would like to think that would play into my advantage because of my knowledge of the golf course, but just kind of take it one shot at a time and not try to get ahead of yourself.

Q. Not so much thinking about the remaining rounds but the round today, did you --
CASEY WITTENBERG: I felt if I could get to 8, that was a great number. I had a chance. I got it to 6 through 10 holes. I missed the fairway on 2. I didn't hit a very good wedge shot on 3. I was kind of short. Hit a pretty good putt. I ran into a tough stretch of holes. It's tough to get the ball close to the hole on 4.
5, I hit driver, 3-iron short of the green. 6, I hit a fairly decent shot and left my putt short. 7 was kind of playing difficult. You know, I just didn't -- like I did on the front-9 where I kind hit some in there, kick in or made a good putt. I didn't do that on last remaining stretch of holes. That was the reason I wasn't making birdies.
COLIN MURRAY: Maybe one more.

Q. How satisfied are you with this being your first PGA Tour event of the year to come through like you did?
CASEY WITTENBERG: Yeah. I can't say how much I appreciate the opportunity that Mr. Cannon and everybody gave me to be able to come out here and play at home this week. It's worked out pretty well. The Nationwide Tour is off this week. So it's kind of a free week for me to play, and it's definitely a fun week. Git to see a lot of friends and family I didn't get to see a lot during the year because of how much we travel in this profession. It keeps me a little bit looser. Hopefully, I can just continue to do the right things this week and see where it goes.
COLIN MURRAY: Alright. Thanks Casey. Play well the rest of the week.
CASEY WITTENBERG: Sure. Thanks guys.

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