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March 29, 2003

Craig Perks


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Defending Champion Craig Perks. Thanks for joining us. You gave us a lot of excitement today on 16, 17 and 18. Before we go into questions if you could go through those three holes, starting with an eagle on 16.

CRAIG PERKS: There's some magic out there for me. I have no idea why. 16 played a little bit different than it had in the past two days. It was into the wind when we got there and I hit a fairly decent drive, got it in the fairway and I had about 220, I hit a 2-iron rescue just left to the green and when I got there it was sitting down pretty thick and I didn't have much green to work with and I was considering bumping it up the hill. I went with my trusty flop shot. I've been working hard on that shot along with a new method and it came out just perfectly and I looked up and looked down and it went in. It was kind of deja-vu all over again. I had a great walk to the 17th hole again, a lot of cheers, a lot of people saying here we go again, defend your title. So that's always a lot of fun.

Then 17 I kind of hit it exactly where I was aiming. I hit a 9-iron, didn't want to force it all the way back there knowing it could go over the green, and I made the putt. There we go again, one putt in two holes.

I decided to hit 3-wood off 18. It was the correct play or the smart play, I just hit a poor shot. I hooked it in the water.

Q. Pretty good bogey.

CRAIG PERKS: I hit a great bogey. I made a smart decision on coming back maybe another 15 yards where I was to get into the fairway, hit that rescue again. Actually I thought it jumped up and got up next to the pin, but it got up there and fed all the way down. It was a good two putt and I was disappointed to make a five after going birdie, eagle birdie at 15, 16 and 17 but it was a good five, so it leaves a good taste in your mouth.

Q. Craig, last year at this time I think you asked a rhetorical question or you made a rhetorical statement: Why not me. What would you say this year, this time, right now?

CRAIG PERKS: Well, I mean, that was my MO last year. I really don't have one this year. The thing that's kind of driven me is that obviously no one expected me to win last year and I did, and obviously everyone wrote me off this year. Like I said yesterday, I wanted to just play well and to kind of just represent THE PLAYERS' champion and the defending champion of THE PLAYERS Championship well. Obviously I've done that.

Q. Obviously this was a subject that we were talking about yesterday. What was it like to have Rodney back on the bag today and was there any awkwardness?

CRAIG PERKS: No. I called him basically as soon as my work was done here yesterday. We talked on the phone briefly. I told him that you've got to be accountable for your actions, and he learned a huge lesson. He probably matured more in 24 hours than he has in his entire life. You know, I was disappointed obviously. This is the biggest week of my career so far trying to defend my only championship on the PGA TOUR, and he let me down. I think it was a situation where they might have overreacted a little bit, especially in the circumstance when he was caddying for me, but you don't want any special -- you don't want to be treated any differently than what a normal person -- if you do something like that. We talked about it, and then in the morning I went and got something to eat and I came back and I called him again and we worked out this morning together which we do all the time. You know, he's obviously disappointed and he let me down. He feels extremely bad for what happened, and we've just left it at that. Obviously I enjoy having him on my side. He works extremely hard and he's a good friend. He feels a lot worse than I could ever make him feel, so we left it at that, and then we just conducted business as usual.

Q. Padraig was just saying he likes being the hunted going into this final round. How do you feel being one of the hunters?

CRAIG PERKS: I don't really think it makes a difference. Obviously I think you'd always like to be in the lead because if you're in the lead and you play well you can separate yourself from a lot of people. I was disappointed with the six I made at 14 and the bogey at 18. Take those two holes away and I'd be leading, but I've just got to go out there around get off to a great start, which I haven't, on the front nine anyway at this championship, and if I can kind of get my name back up on top and scare a few people when we get to my magic little area there on 16, 17 and 18, they might all collapse.

Q. Craig, your cards here are amazing to look at. Can you explain or talk about what goes on with all the circles and squares and how they look at the end?

CRAIG PERKS: Well, today was a little bit different. I felt like -- apart from 18 I really felt like I drove the ball extremely well. I hit a lot of quality golf shots today. I missed a lot of opportunities, and to sum it up I three putted from eight foot on No. 1 for bogey so that kind of got me off on the wrong track. The first two rounds I made some good putts to start my rounds and it kind of got me rolling. I do, I kind of have a flare for the dramatic here, and like I said, I've got some magic back there on 16, 17 and 18. It's nice to always get those double circles on your card for eagle. Obviously 17 is a kind -- it's always an extremely tough hole there and I kind of have to get it on the green and make some putts. I'll try to strictly have all pars and birdies tomorrow.

Q. Was Rodney on the bag last year?

CRAIG PERKS: No, he started at the Western around July 4th.

Q. Even though he's several shots back of the lead, do you take note of Tiger and where he's at going into tomorrow?

CRAIG PERKS: Where is he?

Q. He's at 6. He had a nice little flurry at the end that got him into position.

CRAIG PERKS: I think obviously -- I'm a leader board-watcher, so once we get out there we'll see how Tiger is doing. I think from what I -- it's different from there's very few guys, but there's so many guys bunched up there. I mean, obviously he's the best player in the world and if he shoots -- he's at six. I know the weather is supposed to be tough, but he might have to shoot six or seven under just to -- and jump a lot of people, not to say he can't do it. He can shoot whatever he wants at any time, but I think there's a lot of people in between he and the lead and that might make it a little bit more difficult.

Q. Craig, with the changes you've decided to undertake in your game and the struggles that that sometimes entails, knowing the severity of this golf course, did you have any fear coming in here this week?

CRAIG PERKS: I don't have any fear anyway. This is why I made the change, so I could come here to a golf course this severe and know that I can stand up there and hit quality shots, drive it in the fairway when you know if you miss the fairway you're basically hacking out, and hit some nice tearing iron shots, which I was unable to do, and stop the ball on these greens. This is why I made the change, to be able to compete on golf courses, on major championship golf courses.

My game is getting better and better every day. I still revert back and still hit some bad shots, the case on 18, but I know why I hit that shot on 18, where in the past I would have had no idea why. If that was my 17th hole and it was a par 4 and I hooked it in the water I guarantee I could come back on the 18th and hit a good shot, where in the past I would have hooked that one and the next one would have been 50 yards to the right. That's why I've made the changes and I'm excited about how my game is improving.

Q. Without jumping too far ahead to tomorrow, what would this mean to win this tournament a second time?

CRAIG PERKS: What would it mean? I didn't know what winning THE PLAYERS Championship meant last year. With the year that Maureen and I have had and the experiences we've had and the struggles, we know how tough it is to win. I think I would appreciate it a lot more, I really would. It would mean a lot -- obviously I don't want to be known as a one-hit wonder, I want to be known as a champion, and you earn the title of being a champion by winning and winning at quality golf courses against world-class fields. It would be a lot sweeter only because I know how tough it is to win this tournament.

Q. You had your caddie back again today. Any difference, everything fine between the two of you, comfort zone?

CRAIG PERKS: I wish I would have had him yesterday. There were a few times where I was unsure of what I was doing. He has a really good gauge of my golf game. You know, we have a great rapport, and he's helped me a lot and he's meant a lot to the success of having this week and will continue to have in the future. It was tough to have three caddies for two days, but I felt very comfortable with him back on the bag today.

Q. From the 6th hole on I believe you only played two pars.

CRAIG PERKS: Was that last year on Sunday?

Q. What is that like? You were talking about you can handle or you know what you're doing now, but can you handle that mentally? Every time you had a bad hole you came right back with a great hole and then you'd turn around and have a bad hole.

CRAIG PERKS: I think the difference from this year to last year is that there were a lot of quality golf shots in there. I'm going to revert back to Sunday last year. I was all over the place. I'd stand up on one tee, hit it 40 yards right, the next one 40 yards left, bogey, bogey, and then the next one hit it down the fairway and make a birdie. I'm going to give it my best on every single shot. The difference today is there were some high quality golf shots in there. I knew exactly what I was trying to do and how to hit those shots, so that's the only difference. Today was a day that I struggled with the speed of my putter and I think a lot of those bogies can be excluded to missed short putts, excluding 14 obviously and 18, but it was a little bit different today. If you go over my stats, I drove it a lot better, I hit probably a lot more greens. It was just the ebb and flow of a few three putts, missing some short putts. When I did play well I made putts, and obviously 16 and 17 kind of put some excitement into it, as well.

Q. Last year you said that one of your main attributes was to hang in there in any circumstance. Do you still have that and is the fact that your game is starting to round into shape going to change any of that or complement it?

CRAIG PERKS: I think that's the most important part of Craig Perks as a golfer. I've got the heart of a lion. Now I'm putting with that a quality golf game. When things do get off track a little bit, I've still got to give it everything I've got on every single shot, never quit, never get down, make a double bogey and then go birdie, eagle birdie, and then on top of that I've still -- the quality of my golf shots is so far superior to what it was, and I have the basic understanding of when I do make a mistake I know why. I think when you -- obviously if you look at Tiger he's got the physical skills and he's got the mental skills and he's got the heart of a lion. I'm trying to get those. I think I've improved my physical skills, I think my heart is as big as Tiger's, I think it had to have been, otherwise I never would have broken 90. Obviously my focus is not near as good as Tiger's but I'm going to improve it, as well. I'm trying to improve the total package. I've got the heart of a lion, I'm never going to quit, so I am trying to put the physical skills and the mental skills along with the gift I was given.

Q. How will last year's final day help you tomorrow?

CRAIG PERKS: It will obviously give me the confidence to know that I can do it. It's a long grind out there and I learned that a little bit more today. I got off to a rough start and I said just hang in there, you'll never know what could happen. Even though I've only played seven competitive rounds out here, I know what to experience. I know what's going to happen, I know the crowds and I'm beginning to learn the golf course more and more, so I think last year's experience will certainly hold me in good stead for tomorrow because obviously I have all the confidence in the world after what I accomplished last year and obviously I know if I go out there and play well I can win this championship again.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Craig Perks, thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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