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March 25, 2003

Craig Perks


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Craig, for joining us for a few minutes. Great to be back here at Ponte Vedra. I'm sure you had a chance to play this morning. Why don't you talk about just the excitement of being back.

CRAIG PERKS: It's a thrill to be back, it really is. Even just driving down the street and seeing my ugly face on all the posters, it's been great. I've gotten out to play yesterday and today, and it brings back a lot of memories. I've come here in the past, a couple of months here and there, and now with all the stands up and some people flowing around, it does, it relives some memories. I've got one big smile on my face again for an entire week. It's great.

Q. Talk about the state of your game this year versus last year at this time.

CRAIG PERKS: Last year I was on a pretty decent roll. I hadn't missed a cut all year and I played extremely well at Doral two weeks prior, so I was coming here on a good roll.

This year I think my game is actually in better shape, but the results certainly aren't there. I've made some pretty significant changes in the golf game, golf swing certainly, and I'm still not as comfortable as I'd like to be on every shot, but the quality of my shots is a lot better, and I just need to be -- the reason I made all these changes was to become more consistent, and when that consistency comes I think I'll be a lot better player.

Q. Craig, when did you decide to make the swing changes?

CRAIG PERKS: I've been really wanting to do them for a couple years. I just never really had the chance, was always grinding every year to try to keep the card and stay out here and obviously with the win, brought me, I guess, the chance to more just step back and look at the state of my golf game and evaluate that for me to get -- obviously I had a great week here last year, but the weeks came so few and far between, and what I wanted to do was to compete every single week, and really I started to change about the PGA of last year. I was introduced through a good friend of mine to a guy named Steve Aumock who is an instructor in Dallas who had worked with Hank Haney for about eight years. I was really sick and tired of being sick and tired about my game basically, and everything that I knew to be true about my golf game or most things have really completely changed. It's been very difficult. There's been a lot of thought gone into it, a lot of hard work, and I'm just starting to see the benefits of it now, but I think the changes I made were really needed for me to get up to that next level and compete out here week in and week out.

Q. So do you look at this year as if you don't have the year that you had last year that it's all right because things will be better down the road?

CRAIG PERKS: Not necessarily. I want to play -- like anyone else in this field we come to win, but what I -- the improvement that I've seen in my golf game since the PGA of last year, really started this year really when I got a little more comfortable with it, I know it's there, but I've just got to become more consistent. I hit a lot of good shots. Like I said, the quality of my shots are a lot better than they used to be. They're still a little bit few and far between, but when it all rounds out and comes together, the parts all come together as one piece, I think I'll be a far superior golfer than I was.

Q. Craig, can you sum up what the changes are? Is it a setup thing or something --

CRAIG PERKS: It's basically the whole package. It started with my setup. I had a lot of tilt in my setup and I had a lot of drift off the ball. I got into a very neutral position at address, being very stable when I take the club away, and basically in a nutshell I want to be on one plane or parallel to it at all times. My golf swing got very vertical in the middle of it and I had to kind of flatten out and catch up. Now it's a little bit more rounded out, and the club is, like I said, on or parallel to that one plane.

My timing doesn't have to be perfect to hit a good shot. It all just kind of matches up. I think the thing that is most impressive to me is that my ball flight has changed so dramatically. It's gone from these low squirly cuts or low hooks to the ball up in the air with these tight draws. I'm able to start the ball a lot more consistently on the lines that I want to when I hit good shots. It's just a matter of hitting more good shots.

Q. Craig, can you talk about the risk players take when they decide to make fundamental changes? We always hear about some players who make changes, and they go downhill from there, and the debate in your mind about that.

CRAIG PERKS: It was a risk -- it would have been a risk for me to stay where I was, I think. You know, like I said, I was a very inconsistent player. If you look at my short career on the PGA TOUR it was very inconsistent, I missed a lot of cuts, over 50 percent of my cuts. The risk was not taking the risk basically. What I wanted to do -- a lot of guys in the past have made significant swing changes when they've won, but I firmly believed that I needed to do it, and I've seen the results immediately. I've played a lot better but haven't scored quite as well, but it really was a pretty simple decision for me.

Like I said, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and if I played 30 weeks a year, for 22 of them I was so frustrated of how stagnant my game had become or how inconsistent. It seems like now I'm really, really excited to go out and play and practice, and I'm really committed to what I'm doing. Like I said, I think the risks would have been not making the changes and trying to play -- fortunately enough, I had the wind grinding me five years out here which is the best thing that could have happened. Granted, the five years' exemption out here was the best thing for me. I didn't want to be one of those players that I had one great week and no one ever heard of again. I want to get back up to one level, raise my game to that level and compete at that level consistently.

Q. Craig, did you have any hesitation as far as along with the swing changes you also changed equipment, or was the equipment change kind of fitting in with the swing changes almost?

CRAIG PERKS: I think one of the main reasons that I changed equipment, I think manufacturers these days are -- once you sign with a manufacturer, they really want you to be head to toe. They want you to wear the shoe and use the ball, which is great. I don't see it as a problem changing equipment. I think the technology today, most everyone's equipment is as superior -- everyone is on an even keel when it comes to equipment. You get your lie and your loft and all your specs to your standards, it's fine, but I had a big problem trying to change golf balls. I didn't want to do it. I've been a Titleist guy ever since I've played golf in New Zealand in 20 years ago. It was a no-brainer for me to stick with Titleist golf balls and I was comfortable with the shoe.

I think the product is an excellent product, and I think the whole package, me changing my golf swing, and I think the driver is an extremely good driver along with the new ball, and just the whole package has been very good for me.

Q. Does your instructor, Steve Aumock, teach pretty much exactly the same way that Hank Haney teaches, and if he does, have you then talked to Mark O'Meara about the length of time Mark took to fix -- not fix, change his swing?

CRAIG PERKS: I know that basically they stuck to their one method. I think it's the same all the time, so I'm pretty sure that Steve is teaching -- I've never met Hank Haney. From what I understand there's one method and that's it. It doesn't change day-to-day depending on what color shirt I'm wearing. I have not spoken to Mark. I've always been a student of the game and always liked the way Mark swung at it, but I've never really spoken with Mark O'Meara.

Q. How much tougher would it have been if you hadn't won this tournament last year and got that five years to make these changes? Would it have been a tough decision?

CRAIG PERKS: I probably wouldn't have made the change because it seemed like every year -- basically to get better I think you've got to take steps back. I mean, you never want to play worse, but obviously when you've got that many swing thoughts and that significant a change going through your mind, it's tough to come out and compete, but every year when I'd just grind it and grind it and grind my way through the Tour to try to keep my card, but the end of the year I was beaten and worn out, and I tried to take a month off and try to prepare for the next year. I never really had time to do it. It was hard for me to -- you know, when I won here and jumped all the way up to second on the money list, my goal then was to finish in the top 30. Once I saw where my game was continuing to slide back throughout the summer, I said, you know, do I continue on that slide and just play good two or three times a year, or do I make -- a friend once told me one time that insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results, and that's what I've done for nine years. I had to make a change, I really did, and without the win I probably never would have done it. The win afforded me the chance to really become a far better golfer.

Q. Craig, could you talk about the most interesting and unexpected ways your life has changed by winning the players?

CRAIG PERKS: To be honest with you, I really don't think my life personally has changed. I think what I did not expect when I walked in this room Sunday, a year ago, was to get the attention that I would get. I have the utmost respect now for the best players in the world who have to deal with it -- I've dealt with it for maybe a month after I won and then in certain spots. It's difficult. It's really hard to have that many demands on your time and still try and give your best effort you can on the golf course.

I have matured as a player and as a person knowing how to deal with the demands of a champion on the PGA TOUR. That's been the most interesting thing that I've dealt with because I didn't expect it. There's just been so many people -- obviously the accolades and all that, just people knowing who I am now is pretty special to me. You know, when I walk down the fairways here, people know who I am, and at other golf tournaments it's pretty cool. But I think the hardest thing that I didn't realize that now I do is just all the demands that we as players and we as champions, the requirements of us, and it's tough. You've got to learn to manage your time extremely well and that's something I'm slowly learning to do.

Q. In the euphoria after winning last year, were you tempted at all to say, hey, maybe I can continue on with the game I got? Did it take a spring or a summer slump to say, I have to make these changes now?

CRAIG PERKS: Good point. Probably after I won I basically disappeared, and I thought after winning I'd gain the confidence, and obviously I think with all the demands on my time and just pure exhaustion of playing so much and what I went through, it finally caught up with me. I think it got to a point where, like I said, I just had become so stagnant that I knew a change had to be made. I got to a certain level and competed, and when I did play well I could compete. Those weeks became so few and far between, and I'm glad that I met Rod and Steve and have made the changes. I'm really excited about where my golf game is right now and where it can go.

Q. Back to talking about adjusting and dealing with the attention that came with winning last year, there were 18 first -- you were one of 18 first-time winners last year. Does that hold true for all of those guys or is it because this event was so high profile? Is getting the second and third win maybe harder than the first one?

CRAIG PERKS: The thing that I'm most proud of is obviously in a year of 18 first-time winners, I was one of those guys that won if not the biggest event on the PGA TOUR. I'm honored to be known as a PLAYERS' champion and all the great list of players that have come from here, but I'm most proud of letting everyone know that there's a lot of Craig Perkses on the PGA TOUR that can compete at this level.

To answer your question, I think it's hard winning your first event, but I think knowing what you have to go through to win I think probably -- to get that second one is probably the most difficult because you know how difficult the first one was, and I think if you're lucky enough to win that second one, then I think they start to become a little bit easier. I think things go in cycles. Last year 18 first-time winners; this year, we haven't had one yet. I think we kind of got the veteran standard up, we kicked their hinds last year and now they're doing the same to us. I think things go in cycles. I think once you win once, you know you can do it again. I think it gives you confidence, but I don't think people who haven't won out here, they don't appreciate what actually goes on once you have one, the demands you have. I think that's when you see a lot of players, the first-time winners, their games might fall off a little bit for a little while. They get comfortable and hopefully they can raise the level of their game and win again.

Q. Have you watched last year's finish on tape?

CRAIG PERKS: I've seen it many times, yes.

Q. What are your thoughts about it when you watch it or at least the first time you saw it?

CRAIG PERKS: I was a lot more nervous watching it than I was playing, I can tell you that. You know, my wife and I still pinch ourselves saying: "Is this really true." We look at each other and she looks at me and says: "You are the PLAYERS' champion." It's pretty special. I know when I was out there I was really focused. My mind never drifted about if I do this I can win; if I don't do that; if I don't get up and down on 18 I'm going to get into a playoff. I was really focused on the shot at hand and what I had to do to hit the shot the best I could. We still pinch ourselves, there's no question. Here's the 203rd ranked player in the world that no one knows about except for close friends and goes and wins if not the biggest event on this Tour. It really has been a special year, especially to sit there and watch it. You see all the ads for the preview of THE PLAYERS and there I am again on -- it's cool to just sit and watch the coverages on network television, on the Golf Channel and ESPN and places like that and see the reaction to the shots that I hit and know that that's actually me.

Q. Craig, when you're seeking greater consistency do you actually study Tiger Woods at all who is the ultimate for that?

CRAIG PERKS: I think absolutely. That was one of the things that we talked about when we first got involved or I started to think about what I wanted to do with my golf swing. It looks like he and very few others do certain things in their golf swing. You know, the guy is basically superhuman. When he's at his level, at his highest level, it's hard for, I think, anybody to compete. I'm not sure if I personally can get to that level, but I want to get as close as I can, so we've studied it and I've tried to do a lot of things in my golf swing that he does, as well. I don't know if I'll ever get there but I'll sure try.

Q. Who made the introduction, and how many other teachers did you consider? Did you have a phone book, a list of teachers?

CRAIG PERKS: Actually Rod back there is a good friend of mine who actually caddies for me. He had known Steve for maybe four, five, six years or something, and I had gone through a couple of guys who were regularly out on the PGA TOUR, and I was just dissatisfied -- I was basically getting the same information that I had gotten for a number of years. Rod introduced me to Steve. I've been trying to do something in my golf swing, actually trying to flatten my left wrist, for about nine years, and within two swings we had it as good as I'd ever had it. So right there and then I knew we were on the right track. I sifted through a few guys, and I was looking for -- the teacher that I've had for nine years was a gentleman in Atlanta. He was unable to come out to golf tournaments, and I had gotten to the point where I really thought that I needed more hands-on on the golf course, hands-on on tournament sites, and he was unable to travel.

Steve is 100 percent in my corner, will really drop anything at the drop of a hat to come be at tournament sites. Not knowing how good his method was and the significant changes that would come about so quickly, knowing that he was in my corner that much and was willing to come that quickly at the drop of a hat was very important to me. That was as important as the method itself really to knowing that he would come that quickly but he also had an incredible method that was going to steer me in the right direction pretty quickly.

Q. If you were an odds maker, what odds would you put on somebody doing what you did on the last three holes?

CRAIG PERKS: 1 to 1.

Q. Easy, right?

CRAIG PERKS: Yeah, it was easy. Only if it was me.

Q. When you commented Tiger Woods is superhuman, what do you and your peers think of a guy coming off knee surgery, wins three out of four, wins Sunday with food poisoning, double a five-shot lead? When he does things like that what do you guys think?

CRAIG PERKS: Basically he's just too good, he really is. The thing that impresses me about Tiger is, and I've been fortunate enough to play with him one time, is how focused he is. I didn't see a lot of that coverage. I've really seen the highlights. If you watched him hit a shot at Bay Hill on Sunday, it's like nothing was wrong. He made his perfect golf swing, hit great shots, and as soon as that shot was over then he was in pain. I've been in situations where I'm sick, and when I'm over the ball it's like I don't know how to hit this shot, but he looked like he was just in perfect condition, perfect shape, nothing wrong when he was over the shot, but when the shot was over and everything was done, then he was on one knee and throwing up. That's what's so impressive about Tiger.

Obviously he's got the physical skills better than anybody else, but his mental strength, his mental focus is even more superior than his physical skills, and it's just -- it seems like when he's over that shot, nothing is going on, nothing is wrong, everything is perfect when he hits that shot, and then when he's out of the shot and just walking like the rest of us down the fairway, that's where you can see he's in pain. That's what is impressive about Tiger obviously. He can pull off some of the greatest shots that we could probably never think of because we'd have doubt. He just thinks he can pull off every shot he can and he just goes and does it, and when he's done he's just a regular person.

Q. Last year after you got done his first words to you were: "You're unbelievable." What do you think when you hear that from Tiger Woods?

CRAIG PERKS: The thing that amazed me about Tiger when I played with him, he's very, very, very respectful. It doesn't matter if you're a Q-School guy that's just come out as a rookie or a seasoned veteran, he's very respectful -- very respectful of me the first time he met me. He's just a class guy. I think that he knows how to say the right things. He won't put his foot in his mouth, and he's just the total package.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Craig, for joining us.

End of FastScripts....

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