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March 28, 2003

Craig Perks


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Craig, thanks for joining us, defending champion shot rounds of 68-69, birdied three of your last five holes in your first round this morning, then came out with a 69. Let's just get some opening comments about maybe your first two rounds basically.

CRAIG PERKS: I started poorly yesterday. I bogeyed No. 2. It seemed after the 9th hole I got into a really good rhythm, birdied 9 and 11 and 12 and hit some great shots on 13 and 14 and then we had the rain delay so I had some really good rhythm. I think the thing that helped me this morning was that I had about a 6-footer to start off and I made it. I bogeyed 15 but then I birdied 16 and 17, and then starting the second round I got off to a great start, birdied 10 and then eagled 11.

Overall I'm obviously very excited where I am. I really didn't know what to expect coming back here. I've got obviously some incredible memories, some fond memories and it's certainly inspired me to play a lot better than I have so far this year. I really basically just didn't want to embarrass myself these first two days and just kind of represent THE PLAYERS Championship like a true champion, and I think I've done that.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You eliminated most of your mistakes. Had four bogies in 36 holes which on this golf course is good. You made a birdie on 18 from 60 yards out. Just talk about how you're eliminating most of your mistakes.

CRAIG PERKS: Well, I'm driving the ball a lot better. Everyone probably knows I've worked extremely hard on changing my golf swing, but I've driven the ball a lot better than I certainly did last year. I think I'm just becoming a little bit -- well, I'm learning the golf course. You know, this is only my sixth competitive round out here, so I'm kind of learning where you can kind of error on one side of a certain hole and where to err on certain greens. I'm certainly striking it better but I am playing a lot smarter.

Q. Craig, talk about what was going through your mind this morning when you went to the 16, 17, 18 stretch, and then I guess just the way things fell because of the rain delay and then you've got to turn around and start on the back so you've got them coming up on you before you know it. You hit some of the greens, missed some of the greens but you got up and down every time you missed one. Talk about having that stretch so close together this morning and what were you thinking about.

CRAIG PERKS: You know, obviously I birdied the 14th and then I had a poor tee shot on 15 for the first round, but I came back and had just a great tee shot on 16 again. It was playing downwind where I had 5-iron on the green. 17 I hit one of the best shots I've ever hit there, it was into the wind out of the right, and it was kind of overcast and you really couldn't see how far the ball was going to go and I hit a great shot in there. Obviously I have great memories on that hole, but you're right, to play those holes early and then to have to start back on the 10th hole again, like I said, I got off to a great start, birdie eagle on the second round, and 16 for the second round, I didn't hit a very good driver, left it out to the right and then I made a good par there, but 17 I hit a great shot in there but with the overnight rains the greens are softened up a lot and the ball just spun.

For the first nine holes that's the thing I struggled with the most. The ball was spinning a lot more than I've ever played this golf course. That was one of those things that I think experience would probably play a huge part in. I didn't realize the ball was going to spin that much. I hit a couple shots where the ball would land 15 or 20 feet past the hole and then spin all the way off the greens, and that was the case on 17. I guess it was good to kind of get them out of the way, to get them out of the way early this morning and then come right back so you kind of had a good feel for how the holes were playing.

Q. Counting last year and the two times you made that swing this morning, you've got eight putts in nine holes there. How do you account for that? Were you nervous at all on 16 tee this morning?

CRAIG PERKS: For the first round or the second?

Q. First round.

CRAIG PERKS: No, not really. I just wanted to -- I hit a poor tee shot on 15 so I wanted to come back with a good one. I think that's the most important thing about my golf game right now is the changes that I made when I do hit a poor shot, I know what I did wrong and I can fix it the very next swing.

I was nervous teeing off yesterday for the first hole. You know, the hole -- first tee shot since I've won, and there are obviously a lot of expectations from a lot of people for me, and I just wanted to -- like I said, I just wanted to represent THE PLAYERS Championship and myself extremely well.

Q. Craig, your remarks outside, it seemed as though you felt slighted by the reception that you've had, maybe the advance notices of your play coming into this tournament.

CRAIG PERKS: No, I don't feel slighted. There was a thing in USA Today where I was given 1,000 to 1. I think you earn respect from everybody. You earn respect from your peers, from the media, by winning golf tournaments. Obviously Tiger has the utmost respect of every single person. He's won 4 million golf tournaments, I've won one, so I have to earn that respect. Just the way that I look at it is that no one gave me a chance to win last year and I did. Obviously there's something about this golf course for me that kind of get along. I don't know if it was some of the comments were deserved. Obviously I haven't played very well since I've won. People who know me know that I have made some pretty significant changes and I've made them for the long haul. I certainly didn't feel slighted. I think you earn that respect, but I'm still the defending champion, my flag is still flying out there and hopefully it'll be that way Sunday evening still.

Q. Craig, first of all, going into last year's tournament did you really give yourself a chance to win like we all probably didn't? Secondly, having won, what does that do for you come the weekend here in terms of defending and knowing that you've done it already?

CRAIG PERKS: Well, last year I was on a very good roll. Nick Price told me at Hilton Head the following probably four weeks after I won, he looked on the leaderboard on Sunday and said the guy that had been playing consistently well all year was myself out of all the guys at the top excluding Tiger and people like that. So the momentum of my golf game yesterday led to my performance last year. Obviously that's not the case this year, but obviously I have extremely fond memories. I've had an incredible year and it's gone by so fast, and I think when you experience what Maureen and I experienced for last year, I think we're now better able to deal with it.

All I've got is good experiences out here, and I think that will certainly hold me or give me confidence for these next two days. Obviously I know I can do it. I did it last year. That doesn't mean that I will, but I'm learning more and more how to play this golf course. I'm starting to see some quality golf shots, and like I said, when I do make mistakes I can basically fix it on the very next swing. You know, who knows?

Q. Who odds would you have given yourself entering last year's tournament, better than 1,000 to 1?

CRAIG PERKS: I'm not an odds maker, but everyone in this field obviously with what I did last year, we can all play. We can all compete. Things just have to fall your way. It's kind of like it has been so far this year. I've made some putts, hit some good shots, sometimes I've missed some greens in the right spots and have been able to get up and down and I haven't made too much mistakes. You know, I don't -- I guess I just don't come to golf tournaments -- I know deep down how I'm playing and I knew I was on a good roll last year. I certainly didn't come here going I'm going to win this golf tournament, no big deal. The momentum continued to build and I just continued to gain confidence.

My golf game is a game where I am going to be aggressive, but I'm never going to quit. I've got such a good short game where if I do get too aggressive and hit it in some wrong spots I can get it up and down. That was certainly the case today and last year, but it's a golf course that has rewards risk-taking and that's how I play.

Q. Craig, you had the biggest event of your life on the golf course last year and you changed your swing. What brings that about?

CRAIG PERKS: Well, it was the third biggest event of my life. I had two kids and then I got married.

Q. I meant on the golf course.

CRAIG PERKS: On the golf course, yeah. To be perfectly honest with you, my golf game had become very stagnant. I had the momentum of last year -- if you look at the record of Craig Perks on the PGA TOUR I was less than a 50-percent-cut-maker, and what I had done last year is I had made seven straight cuts coming into this week so obviously the momentum was there. If you look at my performance afterwards, it was the old Craig Perks. Obviously there were some things contributing. The reason I made the changes is I was sick and tired of the way I had been playing for the last three or four years, just very, very inconsistent. I wanted to build a golf swing that was going to become repetitive, going to become what was going to be a lot easier to manage under pressure. I could know my misses, I could know my tendencies and I could fix it when I made those mistakes. Before I just hung on for dear life on every swing, 5 to the right, 5 to the left and 3 straight. I didn't want to play like that anymore. It was too hard, it really was. I had to chip my behind off every day to just break par, and I was sick and tired of it. I was just extremely fortunate that Rod, my caddie, introduced me to Steve. He's just given me a really clear picture. He's so passion at about the method, and one swing, and this is the honest to God truth, I worked on trying to get my left wrist flat -- I've worked on many things, but left wrist flat for nine years, and on one swing -- I could never get it. I'd get it in behind me and I'd do whatever. In one swing we fixed it, and from that point on I knew I was on the right track. I was up and down and up and down. Obviously when I played well I performed well, but it was three or four times a year. I wanted to compete every single week. Exclude Tiger, but David Toms and Davis Love, when they play well they're going to play well every week. I played well two or three times a year. I wanted to raise the level of my game, and I think the win afforded me the opportunity to step back and assess where my golf game was and to make the necessary improvements.

Q. Have you had an increase in your endorsement business since you won down here?

CRAIG PERKS: Well, all I'll say is that when I won I had nobody representing me, and now I'm with Gaylord Sports. David Yates who was actually my golf coach at the University of Oklahoma when I first came from New Zealand to America is now managing me, so they're doing a very good job -- of managing someone that is obviously a PLAYERS' champion but has obviously disappeared. If I play well I'll do a better job in the business end of it.

Q. Did I hear you say you've had three caddies this week?

CRAIG PERKS: I have, yes.

Q. Should we delve into that a little more?

CRAIG PERKS: Well, Rod is my caddie and he caddied for me 15 holes yesterday. When I showed up this morning he wasn't here, so I was fortunate enough to have a pastor or a chaplain of the caddies here at TPC, and he caddied for me the last four holes, and then I had Tony Lingard who's been out here a number of years. He was on Aaron Baddeley's bag. He was a first alternate, so we just had an unfortunate situation with Rod, and everything is fine and he'll be back on the bag tomorrow.

Q. How many years did you play the Hooters Tour?


Q. Four years. Did you ever win the Hooters Championship that they play at White Water?

CRAIG PERKS: No, I didn't. I won out there four times in the four years that I played, but never won the Hooters Championship.

Q. Craig, before this week had you felt that the swing changes had taken hold?

CRAIG PERKS: Well, I've seen significant improvement really since day one, but it was so uncomfortable. There's so much work on every single swing. It's hard to stand out there competitively and have a lot of swing thoughts and try and hit a shot in competition. It's fine to do it on the range because it doesn't really matter. Basically since day one I saw an instant improvement. I'm getting more and move comfortable. I think the most important thing, like I've said, is when I do hit a poor shot or a poor tee shot I know exactly why now, and I never used to know why. Like I said, the quality of my golf shots are so far superior than even last year, it really is a joke. I've just got to just become more comfortable with what I am doing and free-wheel it and let it go on the golf course. It's hard to do that when you've got a lot going on.

Basically what I knew about my golf swing before to what I know now is 180-degree difference. It's hard to make that big a change, but I knew I had to do it and it was the right thing to do.

Q. Craig, once Davis got on his roll how much fun was it out there? Do you have any opportunity to play with somebody like Davis who's played this tournament about 20 times and won it once? Did you pick up on anything?

CRAIG PERKS: Well, obviously Davis is a true champion. I've never played with Davis before, and the thing that amazed me about Davis is he's been out here, I don't know, for 18 years or 20 years, 15 wins, and he's a real gentleman. But I think what distinguishes the average player from the true champions is what Davis did on 18 the second round, and then he made five birdies in a row. He had a putt on No. 1 when he doubled 18, he had run a birdie putt five or six feet past. It could have all fallen apart right then, he made that putt and then he birdied five holes in a row. He was fun to play with. I'm just honored to play with these guys to be honest with you. I feel fortunate every day to wake up and to play the PGA TOUR and play with guys like Davis and Vijay.

Q. Obviously you say you have good feelings on this course and you're very happy what's going on with your swing. Two great days already so far. How surprised would you be if you'd be able to pull this off again the second year in a row?

CRAIG PERKS: Well, I know I can do it because I've already done it once. I would be surprised because of the changes that I have made. They still don't feel comfortable, but take all that away, all the changes, I've still got a lot of heart, I've still got a great short game and I'm never, ever going to quit. I think those three qualities will kind of hold me in good stead, and with the high quality of golf shots I'm hitting, why not? This is a fun week, it really is. I'm learning more and more about being a champion. You know, I've gained a lot of experience this year and playing with great champions, and I think it's holding me in good stead, it really is. I know inside a lot more what's at stake that I did last year, what it means. I was just trying to go out there and free-wheel it last year and I won and I didn't know what it meant, but I do know. That will make it a little bit more difficult, but I've got the experiences from last year to draw on.

Q. What happened with Rod this morning?

CRAIG PERKS: He was not here when I teed off this morning, and we'll leave it at that.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You birdied 10 and eagled 11 if we could go over your card.

CRAIG PERKS: I've been aggressive off the tee so I hit driver there. I hit an 8-iron, the pin was all the way in the back and hit an 8-iron. I kind of backed off because I didn't want to hit it over the green and I probably hit it about 30 feet away made it and made it up the hill and then hit a beautiful tee shot on 11 and hit my little rescue club. It's a 19-degree kind of like a utility club and just hit a beautiful high-tearing cut in the air, a shot that I could never, ever hit before, a cut that started left and worked back towards the pin ten foot, and I knocked that one in. It was a great way to start the day after the three birdies in five holes from finishing off the first round.

7 I kind of reverted back to my old Craig Perks, I kind of held on for dear life, I didn't want to hook it, hit it in the right rough, hit a great shot out of the roof, hit it where I was aiming but a little too far. I hit a phenomenal chip from nowhere, probably about three and a half, four feet. I was unsure. The speed threw me off more than anything else, and I hit a good putt, just hit it too hard, lipped it out. I came back on 8 with a 4-iron about 205 yards, and like I said, the mistake off the tee on 7 I knew why, so I made sure I corrected that and hit a great shot in there probably about 6 feet behind the hole and hit a really nice putt right in the center. That's kind of me. I come right back.

Q. What was the yardage on the second shot on 11?

CRAIG PERKS: 232. I think 221 front and 232 flag.

Q. Now, before that rescue club what would you have hit there if you hadn't --

CRAIG PERKS: I've kind of had something along those lines. I've used the old rescue and then I've used a high lofted fairway wood and then I've had this rescue in the bag probably for maybe eight months, six, seven months. It's a club that -- I've never really been a fan of a 7-wood or a 6-wood and this is a club that's got some meat behind it. It's a club that I can carry 235 yards easily and hit it way up in the air.

Q. There's a lot of stuff to carry on that hole and then not much green to get it to stop on?

CRAIG PERKS: It was a Tiger Woods-esque 2-iron. I'm able to hit shots like that now, way up in the air with a nice cut that started in the left center of the green and cut towards the flag. I have confidence and the know-how how to hit that shot now, so I can do it.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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