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August 10, 2010

Mike Small


KELLY ELBIN: Mike Small, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 92nd PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, 2010 PGA Professional National Champion. Mike is a three-time National Champion. He's also the men's golf coach at the University of Illinois.
Mike, welcome back to Whistling Straits. This is your sixth PGA Championship, and you had the opportunity to play here in 2004. You've had a chance to get some practice in so far, thoughts on the course, please.
MIKE SMALL: Thanks, no, I have. And I played nine holes on the front yesterday and nine holes today. But I don't remember much from 2004. My memory isn't probably as good as it should be, but the course is great. It's soft out there, I thought. It will play a lot differently usually on Thursday and Friday than it does on Monday or Tuesday. But I notice the rough is a little more gnarly and twisted and difficult than I remember in 2004.
KELLY ELBIN: What are your expectations, Mike, coming into this week as the head of the 20 PGA Club Professionals in the field?
MIKE SMALL: I just want to play to my potential. I want to -- I made the cut a couple times in this event. I would like to obviously make the cut and play -- obviously play on the weekend, and obviously you don't know what's going to happen there, and free-wheel it and have some success. But for us club pros, we have to make the cut before we can think about doing anything else.

Q. Throughout the year, I guess describe the experience of participating in a PGA Championship event like this.
MIKE SMALL: This is my sixth time, but I look forward to this more than anything. I;ve played in three U.S. Opens and I consider this -- obviously I'm a little biased, but this is such -- this is the best championship I can play in.
This is a big deal to me. I love being a PGA Member. It's a big deal to me being a PGA of America Member, and to come to this event; and I know most of the officers, a lot of the employees at the PGA of America, and obviously being the strongest field of all the majors is a unique thing.
So to come here and have a chance to compete with these guys and maybe, who knows, beat a few of them, it's kind of fun. I look forward to it.

Q. Can you describe what this year's been like for you between winning a third title, and the year that Scott has had in recent months?
MIKE SMALL: It's been great. Sometimes I catch myself letting it sink in that I've done it three times, which is has been difficult for guys to do, and I kind of get a little good feeling about that.
But at the same point in time, it's been so busy. I've been using the exemptions from last year's PGA Championship or PNC Championship on TOUR. And my job what I am coaching, I'm very busy in the spring and fall. So I scrunch all those into the summer; and between recruiting and playing and summer camps that I run, it's been a very busy summer. I think I've been home maybe a week all total all summer, and I've been on the road a lot.
But again, I wouldn't trade it. I'm very grateful for it, but it's been very busy.

Q. What did it mean to you to win it a third time and tie the record?
MIKE SMALL: It was pretty neat because the first two I won, I came from behind on Sunday to win. And didn't really know -- the first one, didn't really know what I was doing just playing golf and ended up wining.
The second one I knew I had to play well on the weekend, and I did, but this one I had the lead, a four-shot lead. And even my two Nationwide Tour event wins when I was on playing full-time I came from behind.
So this is really the first tournament of any significance that I won from out in front. That meant a lot to me personally to do that. It was slipping away a little bit that last round, but I got a hold of it, turned it around and won by three. And to me that, the championship is great being a champion. But the way I won this year gave me a lot of confidence about how I did it.

Q. I know that you say that this is your sixth PGA Championship, at what point do you quit being a PGA Club Professional and another player in the field, or do you kind of always know that there are 19 other guys thats you at the same time support, but are competing against? And I'm thinking about that image of you and Tiger at Southern Hills there on the green and is that a -- is that a motivating goal for you coming into the week, standing there on the 18th green on Sunday?
MIKE SMALL: Yeah, it's kind of a tournament inside a tournament. And I tell you what, I've only told the officers of the PGA America this, but I really appreciate the effort they have given the last few years to the PGA of America Members in the playing side. They have tried to really make our championship bigger and better through the media and through the venues, and they have tried to -- by giving the low club pro here an award on Sunday with the champion, really brings some credibility and some interest to the pros.
And that is a big deal. It's our tournament inside a tournament for us, and that's when you want to win. That's kind of a neat deal. I know my job I got a lot of nice exposure and credibility after doing that, and I know other pros have too.
So you want to play well. You want to win some money. I mean, you want to come here and compete, because we're all professionals, but at the same time that tournament within a tournament is a big deal.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record, Mike was the low club pro at the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club.

Q. Wanted to get your thoughts on a couple of the holes. No. 6 the one that has the bunker in the front of the green, and then 18 where you have the series of bunkers on your left, and you have a chance if you're along driver to kind of reach the back of the fairway. Just your thoughts on those two holes.
MIKE SMALL: Like the bunker on 6, those kind of things, those changes he made, those difficult bunkers are going to be really challenging if the wind blows.
Like today, even if they put the pin up, front guys with wedges are going to be able to send it behind that pin and still play it. But if the wind gets howling and blustery, you're going to see some balls down in that stuff, and that's pretty severe.
Same way with 18. 18's long. I hit a really good drive today and I had probably the best drive I can hit and had 4-iron into the green. I don't know if I can play that tee back all the time. I would think they're going to move that up a little bit.
But those bunkers to the left and that fairway to the left with the tee back there doesn't really even come for a play, I don't think the fairway doesn't, but the bunkers do and you've got to kind of hit over them at an angle, which if you miss your drive, you're going to have to punch out of the bunkers or blast out into that new fairway. So I think the conditions are really going to determine if those changes really have an effect.

Q. We all know that have covered your career all the times had you to deal with pain and in your back and some other things, have you good weeks and bad weeks. And also we heard earlier today that Phil Mickelson is suffering from arthritis, you told us that you've had that, as well. But could you speak about what you have to do to keep yourself fit and what how you have to pace yourself throughout the summer?
MIKE SMALL: I just heard about Phil, and if it's a special disease or situation he has, I don't know, but I know in my arthritis situation, I take medicine for it and you have to stay active. If you sit down and get stale -- I mean, in my job, I sit at the computer and do a lot of office work, and when I get out of there, I'm more stiff than if I'm playing.
So when I'm out here playing and moving, it's not as bad. But that's the good thing about golf and the bad thing about golf; the good thing is you can play competitive until you're 50 or 60s, and other sports you can't. Yet, when you get older arthritis and other conditions are more prevalent with our age, so we have to deal with them. That's just part of the game.
So we're grateful we can play, but also we can't play like we used to because of age and condition. So Phil's so great and so good, he'll figure a way to get around it I'm sure, but for the normal pros, it's just part of the deal, and you've just got to stay active, I think.

Q. What do you make of the U.S. Open and British Open how unheralded guys have been able to come out and win those championships? And do you think like at an event look this that sort of expands the pool of guys who might win because there are a lot of guys who think, well, maybe that can be me next?
MIKE SMALL: Yeah the champions of this event have been through the years -- this event the last 10, 15 years has really elevated itself, I think, and it's really become really a favorite one of the pros. They even say that more and more the way that Kerry has set it up over the years and the winners you've had.
The pros that come out of nowhere for the U.S. Open or British Open, it's really not nowhere because they're great players but they're not the top five or ten players in the world because the conditions are so severe; and the conditions and the courses are so difficult and the situations.
And the PGA has got this reputation of being difficult, yet fair, and the guys like it. They love coming to these events so I think that has something to say for it . But to get guys that come out the future stars that win majors, I think that's a good thing too.
And this week -- I just saw Rickie Fowler hitting balls, these young guys, on a course like this, it's going to take some experience, some knowledge. But at the same point in time these guys are so good, you could get a Lucas Glover or somebody like him who wins their first major, which would be great for them too.

Q. A lot of focus this week is on your old college roommate, Steve Stricker, coming back home here in Wisconsin playing in a major. I guess have you guys spoke recently, and what does it mean to kind of share in this moment together?
MIKE SMALL: We spoke about a week ago, and I know this is a big deal to him and I know he's under maybe some self-imposed pressure, maybe because he wants to win a major and being in his home state.
I know when I played at Medinah a few years ago, that was a unique deal, and it was fun that you're playing near home. But I haven't talked to Steve this week. I'm going to let him be. We always play practice rounds together. But I'm not going to call him. I know he came up here and played a couple times, and I'm not sure when he's coming in. He might be coming in tonight for all I know. But I'm sure we'll run into each other and have a Coke or something and talk, but I'm not going go get in his kitchen. I'm going to let him be and do his own thing and root him on from my perspective.

Q. A couple guys this morning said they were eaten alive by mosquitos out there. Is that something you noticed and is that distracting?
MIKE SMALL: I think it's early in the morning and late at night, those bugs get bad. We took a picture last night. All the 20 professionals that made it here at 7:15 and the bugs were biting then. But I haven't had a bug bite me or -- I think it's so hot, they get in the bunkers and the grass and then they stay there.
And that's one thing about the wind if the wind blows, the bugs won't be a problem. But it's a major. I would put on gravel and play in a mosquito-infested jungle if it's a major. I don't care; I'll do what it takes.

Q. How long have you been dealing with arthritis, and how does that affect your game? And do you have to make any changes to it?
MIKE SMALL: Yeah, you know, I have, I got a disk problem in my back and when I researched that, I have general arthritis on my entire back. So it's stiff, but once it gets going, it's fine.
And my elbow I had surgery on it eight years ago and kind of reconstructive surgery. I got a bunch of screws in there, and I went and got looked at a couple weeks ago, and there's arthritis setting into that. It's just part of golf.
You knows, you hit millions and millions of shots on one side of your body, on the right side. If I had to do it all over again, when I was 20 years old, I might hit just as many shots left-handed as right-handed and build up my muscles and not have all these imbalances.
And I think when you have these imbalances you're whole life and you're continually beating the joints and all that compression and that vibration and all the walking all the years I think it's just sets it up for arthritis and some people get it more than others. I know my father-in-law had it bad and he hurt all time, and it's just part of life. And that's kind of what I chalk it up to when I have it.
I don't talk much about it because a lot of people have it worse than I do. But medicine and ice and just keeping active, is a huge, huge thing.
KELLY ELBIN: Are there any particular holes out here that stand out? You mentioned about the new driving area on 18 that are critical to playing well this week.
MIKE SMALL: I think obviously the par-5s, couple of them are reachable, a couple of them aren't. I think if you don't play those the right way, you can make some 6s out here. And the par-3s, if the wind gets blowing, they stick some of these pins in some of those spots you're going to have some very difficult up-and-downs.
But it's just great -- I like it here. I think it's fun, it's unique, it's a unique look and Pete Dye's done that a lot with his golf courses. I always played his golf courses well, knock-on-wood, so I like the -- I don't want to use the word futuristic, but I like the cutting edge stuff he does.
But I also like classic golf courses too. I love to go to classic golf courses and not have a lot of earth moved when you play them. But it's good to have courses like Pete does where he moves a lot of earth and uses some creativity and some uniqueness, but that lends itself to some -- like I said, if the conditions change, it could be brutal.
KELLY ELBIN: Mike Small, the reigning PGA Professional National Champion. Thanks very much.
MIKE SMALL: Thank you.

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