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April 14, 2011

Nick Price


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Nick Price in the interview room here. Nick, former winner of this event. Your first Champions Tour title came here, and you finished in the top 3 in your last three events, including a win at the Toshiba Classic.
Maybe talk about your game coming in here. It's been a good start to the 2011 season.
NICK PRICE: Yeah, it has. I think what's been frustrating, as well as I've been playing, I've had three out of the last four weeks off. It's tough to get on any kind of roll.
I've been practicing and playing a little bit at home, but my game is in good shape. I've hit the ball well for a year and a half now, maybe a little bit longer.
But the belly putter made a big difference last year to me, and then I switched to more of a blade-type putter with the belly, and that's made me putt a little bit more consistently. That's been the difference this year.
I think if you look at my stats, my putting stats are a little bit more consistent, maybe half a shot less than they were last year. That's been the difference.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: I think you we're in the Bahamas last week, right?
NICK PRICE: Yeah, I just went over for a day. I had something to do. Opened up a golf course that I finished in Mexico about the week before last, so got a few things going on. I'm looking forward actually to the next two, three months until I take a little break for the summer.
You know, I want to get on a little bit of a roll and see if I can play a little bit. We've got more tournaments now, so that should be -- hopefully can get on a roll.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: We'll just open up it for questions. Wait for the microphone, if you could.

Q. Can you just talk about the relief and perhaps confidence that you've got from winning here? You've gone on to win three more times after that. Was that kind of a relief to get that off your back?
NICK PRICE: Yeah, I mean, if you look at how poorly I played for that period from sort of '05, '06, '07, you know, winning here in '08 - '09, sorry - was a huge thing for me, because I basically hit rock bottom in my career for the way I was playing in about '06, '07, and then slowly started picking it up.
At that stage, even though my last round was really ugly with all the double bogeys, I think, you know, I just felt that I could still win again. That certainly spurred me on. It wasn't until probably a little later in '09, middle of '09, when I really felt that my game was coming into shape. Part of that was probably the confidence that I got from winning here.
My putter was very bulky until I went to the. Very inconsistent. I wish I had found this putter when I was 25 years old, because I think I would have won more tournaments in my career.
It's always been my Achilles' heel. When I do putt well, I putt really, really well. When I don't putt so well, I just putt average. It's not like I go through really peaks and troughs with the putter, it's more level, more even.
So, yeah, I would say that, as you say, confidence that I got from here certainly helped me.

Q. I remember you saying that when you were really going good on the PGA Tour, it was just a matter of how low in the 60s you were going to go. Are you in that sort of groove right now?
NICK PRICE: I wish I could say yes, but if I had been on the regular tour, I probably would have played -- out of the last nine weeks, I probably would have played seven events. I think I've only played four on our tour, so that's been a little tough, a little frustrating.
That's why I say I'm looking forward to hopefully getting on a roll here the next two months or so, because we've got more tournaments, you know, back to week and then we have a week off and then we have a few others.
Golf is about continuity. Like any sport, golf is about momentum and getting confident and just getting on a roll. For me anyway. Some another guys, they can sort of the play well all the time. For some reason, I get on these spurts, and I don't know if it's putting or confidence or ball striking or a mixture of all of those things. I'm chomping at the bit now trying to get going.

Q. On the subject of going low, kind of still gets lost in the shuffle, and everybody looks back at '86 because of what Jack did at the Masters , and on Saturday you shot 63. Jack missed, I guess, a short putt in the first round of the U.S. Open when it was at Baltusrol. Nobody's ever shot 62 in any major championship ever. Other than the fact that it's hard, is there any logical explanation that nobody's done that?
NICK PRICE: It's golf. I don't know how to say it best. There have been a lot of guys that have chances at 62, but it just seems like a number that's hard to make for some reason. I don't know. I'm sure they'll beat it at Augusta one of these days. Records are there to be broken.
If you look at the way the young guys hit the ball now, seriously, very, very few par-5s you can make long enough for those young guys. I'm sure that's going to be broken at some stage. Why it hasn't been broken, I have no idea.

Q. Rory came close in the first round at the Old Course last year. In your 63 at Augusta, was there any hole or any shot on that round that if it had come off, you would have shot 62 that day?
NICK PRICE: My putt on 18. (Laughter.) If you look at it, I was putting from about 2:00 where the pin was set. I was just past pin high, and I had a putt that went sort of a little bit up and then over the hill, and then the ball broke to the left. Probably broke about 22, 24 inches.
You know, I wanted to give it a go, but the ball actually went in the hole on the right-hand side and came around and crossed the line that it went if in on. So it wasn't a 360, because a 360 would have come straight back at me. This thing went all the way around and actually went, what's that, 450. I mean, it was unbelievable how that putt never went in.
I thought when it hit the hole it was going to go in. Like I said, I think Bobby Jones' hand just came up and said, That's enough, son. That's enough.

Q. Correct me if I'm wrong, but did you use a wooden-headed driver that year?

Q. So you're the only one that's ever shot at Augusta with a wooden-headed driver.
NICK PRICE: Nice. That's a trivia question.

Q. Another question. If we take a look back early years for you, mid-90s, three majors in two years, No. 1 in the world. Then you talk about the fall in 2005 or so. When you were going through your tough time on the PGA Tour, did you ever think you would be playing as well as you are right now? And what are you playing for now? What motivates you? What are your priorities?
NICK PRICE: If someone had asked me at 34 or told me at 34 that I'd be having as much fun playing golf as I am now, I would say, No way. I'm enjoy playing golf now as much as I ever have.
I feel like I've done this full circle. Everything in golf and life is cyclical. I certainly feel like I've come back around. I feel so much more relaxed on the golf course than I've ever felt. I feel more confident within my ability to not hit off-the-wall shots. And when I do, they're few and far between.
I'm just having fun playing golf again. What motivates me is I know I've only got three or four years left. And I said to my wife when I came out on the Champions Tour, If I had one wish, it would be just to play like I know I can for a period. That's what I want to do before I hang my clubs up.
I've said I'll probably play for another two or three years, but in two three, four years' time if I am still playing well out here and I still have a chance to win, I'm going to keep playing. It's too much fun out here.
I think what happened to me back in the sort of early 2000s was that the equipment didn't benefit me for some rhyme or reason as it did the other guys. When you're 47, 48 on the regular tour and you're suddenly 40, 50 yards behind all these guys, there was a huge differential.
Certainly when I was 20-something I wasn't 50 yards longer than the guys who were 40-something. But there was that big gap. So whatever happened, equipment, whatever you want to calm it, it was there.
In order to compete, I just felt like I had to hit the ball really hard, and then of course everything just went haywire. You're now playing golf courses where I'm hitting a 3-iron into a par-4 that for 15 years I was hitting a 5- or 6-iron in.
They have now decided to put the tee back 30 yards, and you're playing against guys hitting 6 and 7 irons in which was the way the green was designed. It's a whole new ballgame. I think I kind of got caught up in that a little bit. There was a lot reasons.
Anyway, that's behind now. I wish I was 24 again. Don't we all? I would love to go out there and play with all the experience and knowledge that I have, learn more about myself over the years, and get out there and play.

Q. Going back to the stop/start scheduling to start the year, you did play Honda, made the cut, and played pretty darn well, and then went out and shot lights out the next week. Was there anything specific - confidence I'm sure - you were able to take out of Honda and take into Toshiba and win the thing?
NICK PRICE: Well, obviously the conditions at Honda were brutally hot. I think I shot 9-over or something and I played my tail off. The golf course was long. It was totally different to the golf course that I won on in California.
I think the simple fact that I played under those extreme conditions for four days, suddenly when I got to Toshiba the wind dropped the and sun was shining, and it was beautiful. I played really well there, obviously.
But I think the main reason was the fact that I had played the week before. Didn't really matter where I had played, but most of the other guys had had a week off. So the fact that I had played and gone through -- and I wasn't tired, that helped me an awful lot.

Q. Are there other spots on the schedule where you're looking at...
NICK PRICE: There are a couple other tournaments I'm looking at. I've got about five or six gaps in the tour between now and August. British Open, I'm thinking about going to the British Open. Back of my mind I'm thinking about playing the PGA Championship. I'm kind of figuring if I don't go this year if I'm ever going to go back.
But I've always said I would only go back and play in those if I feel like I have maybe a chance to win. I'm not going to embarrass myself out there. You know, last couple of years I probably could have gone to the Open Championship.
I'll see how the next month -- my entry has got to be in by May 15th, I think, so I've got a month, three tournaments, to play in before I make that decision.

Q. Do you know Charl Schwartzel pretty well?
NICK PRICE: I know his dad better than I know him. His dad was a really fine amateur golfer back home, George. We played quite a lot of golf together. You know, I had met Charl over the years, but I got to know him a lot better in the beginning of this year, March and April.
He and Louis Oosthuizen are really close friends, and they like to shoot. I took them quail shooting about a month and a half, five, six weeks ago. We played a bit of golf together and spoke about the transition from South Africa/Europe to coming over here. You know, the difference, what I had struggled with when I came over, which was the speed of the greens. Because generally speaking, we don't putt on greens as fast week in and week out in South Africa and Europe as you do over here.
Very, very astute young man who has I think a wonderful golfing brain, very analytical. None of us who know him were surprised. I think that's the greatest compliment I can pay him. I think we were all surprised when Louis Oosthuizen beat him to winning the first major.
Because if you look at the two, you would say, I would pick Charl first. So when Louis won that, I think that I prompted or fired Charl up.
I mean, I've seen him, I've played with him, I've seen his game. All it was for something to fall into place. You guys saw I think the tip of the iceberg here. I think this guy is gonna win a lot major championships. I really do. He's got such a complete golf game.
And at 26 years old, to have won the Masters, when you come from South Africa or Europe, that's probably one of the hardest tournaments to win because of the speed of the greens.
He looked so mature out there. When he missed shots on Sunday, he missed them all in the right places. You guys are going to be writing a lot about him in the next 15, 20 years.
Four birdies last four holes? Doesn't get any better than that.

Q. Since you won this tournament two years ago, are you going to do anything different this time, or you will remember each hole how you played it? Will you try to improve on that? Is your equipment any better now?
NICK PRICE: Each year the course changes when you come over here. The fairway is a little lusher than they have been in the past. Not quite as much run-out. Some holes where I was hitting 3-woods and 2-irons off the tee, this year, those ones will be either 3-wood or driver because the ball is not running as fast.
I think by the time we get to Saturday, Sunday, if we don't get rain, it'll dry out a little bit more. That'll be an adjustment that you have to make. The strategy is basically determined by the weather conditions and also the firmness of the greens. The angles that you want to come in from, those are pretty standard.
Each year you come here there are going to be slight changes that you make. I know how to play this golf course, and I think most of the guys out here do. So you'll stick to your strategy as much as you can.

Q. Would you say golf is a favorite pastime in South Africa?
NICK PRICE: Yeah, I mean, you know, it's always been a great sportsmens' paradise because we have 365 days of sunshine. We have great weather. It doesn't get too cold. Golf, for the longest time, was very cheap, so you didn't have to come from a wealthy family to play golf.
Most of us as kids, we had a half set of clubs or a hodge podge, a real mix and match, mixup clubs. I played golf for three years before I had a driver or a sand wedge. So I learned to play bunkers shots with a pitching wedge, and I learned to hit my 3-wood as far as I could in those days.
Didn't matter. Most of us, maybe the younger generation, like Charl's generation, we just played golf for fun. It was nothing like a career. My mum kept beating me to death when I was at school, Pass your exams; pass your exams. You've got to get your degree and whatever. She didn't know the first thing about golf.

Q. One of the storylines this week is Jim Thorpe coming back. Are you glad to see him back?
NICK PRICE: Oh, absolutely. You know, he's paid his debt. We miss him out here. He's such a character and has got a great presence in the locker room. Always telling stories. Thorpy is Thorpy. He's got a great sense of humor. I'm glad he's back, and I hope he has a lot success out here now.

Q. One person that is missing is the defending champion and three-time player of the year. Have you had any exchanges with Bernhard since the injury?
NICK PRICE: Yeah. I spoke to him right after he had surgery. I said, How is it going? He said, I'm down for like eight weeks. I can't do anything. He told me probably month and a half before about the injury, and he said, I can play. I went to the doctor and the doctor said I can play, I'm not going to injure it anymore. I think it got so painful that he just didn't feel like he could play effectively.
So, you know, we got to make hay while the sun shines. I know Tom Lehman's taking advantage of it.

Q. Wondering if you talk to each other and say, Take your time. Don't rush back.
NICK PRICE: No, no, no. We need him back. He's such a great player. He had is fantastic year last year, and we miss him out here. We got to take advantage of it while he's not here.

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