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May 25, 2011

Mark Brooks


KELLY ELBIN: 1996 PGA Champion, Mark Brooks joining us here at the 72nd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. Mark, this will be your debut in the Senior PGA Championship, but certainly coming back here to Valhalla must hold some wonderful memories for you as an event, a place that changed your life I'm sure in many ways.
MARK BROOKS: It is and it was, of course we came back in 2000 and the golf course was basically the same in 2000 as it was in '96 and there's been quite a few changes. Of course the conditions are not the same this week as they were in '96, probably, or 2000. So there's a lot, the golf course plays completely different.
But as far as the coming back to Louisville, I love it here, it's a great town. I come back and do a deal with Steve Flesch every summer and that's a lot of fun, just over the river there, and I like it here. It's a great place.
KELLY ELBIN: Can you talk about in particular some changes to the course since 2000 at least that stand out as far as the playability of the golf course.
MARK BROOKS: Well, I guess on the front nine there's probably four big changes.
2, they changed the entry to the green. And again this week being wet it probably wouldn't make as much difference. But if I remember correctly there was actually a way you could kind of bounce the ball into the second green before and that's kind of been blocked off now.
With it being wet, of course it depends upon the wind, because I think we're going to get a different wind direction, so there may be a couple days it will be easier to fly it on that green with a good drive.
The next big change of course is 6 which I'm sure everyone's discussed. That was not there in 2000. I think that was the Ryder Cup change. And honestly, I don't know if 6, y'all can correct me, 6 been talked about? Everybody talk about 6?
MARK BROOKS: For me it's, unfortunately, I think you have to almost view the golf course being as wet as it is, that it's almost a par 73. That hole is, it's, that's kind of like the short par-5 on the front nine with a par actually going up a shot. You wouldn't really call it, you know, a true par-5, but it's more like a four and a half.
Because you really, it's just one of those, if you could play it perfectly of course you would hit it down the right edge of the fairway and hit a hit some kind of long iron into the green, but because that's your best angle as well.
But I think I'm going to kind of view it as a short five. And that doesn't mean lay up, it just means two fours and two fives there for the week wouldn't be the end of the world. But because I don't think you, I don't think that trying to risk the tee shot into some perfect spot is worth it. There may be days I don't even hit driver there, so.
But the next change of course for me is the front of 7 with the walled up, the way they put the rock and moved the lake up to the edge of the green. That was a much more, it was an easier hole to maybe try to put your second shot, knock it at the green.
Again it's so wet that hole's really long for that back tee. Of course they can move the tees up and things, but unless you can fly it on that green, you almost can't go, unless there's, there's certain obviously pins up against the, like guys can play their second shot green high. But that's a big change because in '96 I actually went at that green I know a couple times. And I didn't hit it a whole lot further in '96 than I do now.
The 8th green's been changed, of course, and it's just a different green, and it's difficult in a lot of ways, a lot of movement on it, and the old 8th green was a tough green as well.
Then you go to the back nine and I think 11's probably a more difficult par-3 now. A little longer. And the par-3 -- help me out. 14?
MARK BROOKS: 14 is a longer hole. The back section that have green, I know when they rebuilt that green for the Ryder Cup that green got pushed back a little bit. And because I never hit more than a 3-iron there in '96. And it, that you can get a pretty big yardage to the back pin there. And it wasn't as big a step or a tier if you want to call it that. That hole is more difficult.
16 is way more difficult if the tees are way back. That green has been completely rebuilt. That was, it was a really good golf hole and in '96 as far as not being, it was into the easy hole by any stretch and but it had a little simpler green complex in '96. A lot more straightforward, didn't have a bunker in front.
And then of course 17 with the new tee, again. And if I remember right I don't think it had the right bunker in '96. But of course it was, if you missed it right there you went down in the woods. So I don't know that that bunker made it much more difficult.
Then 18's probably a little longer, but I think that was done in 2000, so. The big changes were, really there's a handful of tees and which is kind of a shame for and I -- I dabbled in golf course architecture and this golf course, all these changes were made, of course Ryder Cup, you got mostly under 40 guys, that really, really hit the ball a long way and you're going to play in September when you're expecting it to be fast and firm. So it's very understandable why the tees would be moved back in all those cases.
So it's -- I'm, they're going to use their heads and move the tees where they're supposed to be, but the ball's basically plugging in the fairway and when the tees are designed to have 30, 40 yard run outs on drives, you got a different animal you're dealing with.
And the greens don't match, they're not as soft as the fairways. So it's not like you're hitting a 3-wood into a green that's going to plug, it's going to stop. The greens have actually held up really really well to the rain and they're in great shape. And they're not mushy. So I wouldn't call them hard by any stretch, but they're certainly not like mush and I hope they use their heads and consider all those factors in the setup because I think it's going to have a big affect on the scores this week.
KELLY ELBIN: Open it up for questions.

Q. That assessment sounds a little depressing, but --
MARK BROOKS: It's not depressing, it's just, it's a different golf course. And, you know, I'm a traditionalist and I prefer things to match. And you can't control the weather, but you can control how you setup a golf course as far as distance. So when you have firm fairways and firm greens and everything matches, then it's great. That's what you want. Ideally.
You don't want fairways that back up and greens that are rock hard. And we, but that's too common. I still play, I still play a lot on the Regular Tour the last four or five years and that's a very common theme. Very soft fairways, very firm greens. And I don't think it's a good match. So from a traditional golfer, from a traditional standpoint, I would like to see the conditions match more closely.

Q. With that said, is there any extra excitement for you coming back to a place where you have won a Major and now you get to play I guess it is your second Champions Tour Major at a course where you won before, even though it is a little bit different, is there anything that stands out?
MARK BROOKS: I think the fairest answer would be pretty early on all the way back to my college days they built, Jack Nicklaus built a golf course in Austin where I went to school at the University of Texas outside of Austin. And it was probably the first when I played basically five days a week, and I got to -- of course that was back in probably whatever, about '80 to '82, '83. So I became very fond of Jack Nicklaus golf courses even though you wouldn't think they would fit my style of play, they made me pick a better player by playing there every day.
Of course I had several good events at Muirfield, which was one of my favorite tournaments on TOUR besides basically the Majors, depending upon where they played, and Colonial. The Memorial was one of my favorite golf tournaments. No question.
And again you wouldn't think it would fit me, but Jack's courses were very fair generally speaking off the tee and demanded great iron play. And so I think I had a lot of respect for the golf course and I won't say I knew how to play them, but I had a pretty good inkling of the strategy required, where you would miss shots and how to get up-and-down and things like that.
So I think to answer the question, long answer, but I really like Jack Nicklaus's designs. I think he'll go down as one of the, a hundred years from now he'll be right there with the Donald Ross's and Tillinghast's, going to go down as one of the great golf course architects as long as with some other different golf course designs like Pete Dye and a few others, but right now I would put those two at the top.
There's a lot of beautiful golf courses being built, but there aren't a lot of great golf courses being built and I think Jack's built a lot of great golf courses.

Q. You have a unique perspective because you played and won the first PGA here at that time the course was 10 years old now it's only 25 years old, but does it feel like a big time event venue when you come in here?

Q. Yeah, around here, Valhalla.
MARK BROOKS: Yes. I mean, the PGA of America does a great job, not only just running the Tournament but doing the setup and I like the score boards, I think the manual score boards are fantastic. I wish more tournaments would do it. They feel like Majors. And of course they do that at Muirfield. And it just make it's feel like a Major.
And of course when you come to an area that doesn't have a golf tournament every year, normally you're going to get really really good crowds that actually want to go see golf and see the players play.
They're not just going for a social event. Even though that's a big part of golf tournaments, but that's not the only reason they're going to come out here this week.
Hopefully, our weather will get good Friday through the weekend and they will have a bunch of people out. But, yeah, and when what I was referring to earlier setup, I'm not talking about the rough and all that kind of business, it's just flat how long are you going to let it play and where balls are going to go.
And I know they consider that and yesterday in the pro-am they had them up on a couples holes where you would go, this is where we probably ought to be playing.
But, no, it's great coming here. I wish they would end up playing the Ryder Cup here every year. This would be a great permanent site for a Ryder Cup. A U.S. Ryder Cup. And because this golf course can be setup differently. You can have really really high rough, you can have no rough. They can do a lot of things in September here that would be cool. I think this would be a wonderful place.
KELLY ELBIN: When you play here do you think back when you come out and hit shots here do you ever kind of reflect back on shots that you hit in '96 or is it just simply what you're doing today.
MARK BROOKS: It's been a long time. I've, I've hit a lot of bad shots between 1996 and today. And some good ones. But probably the most memorable thing I did, or sequence of shots, would be on 18 in regulation.
And I didn't hit a particularly good second shot, I hit it in the fairway off the tee, but I, my intended miss was hit it either really flush and get it on the green or be in the bunker. And I ended up in kind of a funny spot in the front bunker and then got it up-and-down.
And clearly my bunker shot and my putt to get in the playoff, those were probably the two biggest shots I played, other than getting through TOUR school a couple times.
The playoff was, you know, I'm sure it's been rehashed a few times, honestly there were, if you thought what's the most vivid memory it's not what Kenny Perry did, it's actually more like I want to say what Steve Elkington had a shot, I know Vijay made six on 18 in regulation and missed the playoff. So it was pretty close to being a four man either no man or four man playoff.
So I remember -- and of course I would have been seeing that on tape later, but when you saw it later you're like there should have been two other guys in this playoff.
I had had a good year, I had been playing pretty consistent golf for probably five or six years leading up to that and so I was due and I wasn't -- it wasn't an overwhelming position to be in at the time. But my bunker shot and putt to get in the playoff were definitely the two biggest.
KELLY ELBIN: Mark Brooks, thank you very much.
MARK BROOKS: You got it.

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