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July 13, 2011

Rick Rhoden

John Smoltz

Billy Joe Tolliver


THE MODERATOR: We are joined by: defending champion Billy Joe Tolliver; eight-time champion Rick Rhoden, and last year's second place finisher, John Smoltz.
Let's start it off with Billy Joe, defending champion. You've had a lot of people talk about the record last year and the chances of repeat. What are you saying?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: Well, I'm sure these guys will have a lot to say about it. But, you know, I just try to play my game. And some years it goes in the hole; some years it doesn't. But last year it did.
And as of Friday morning, when we put our peg in the ground, last year's over, gotta go out and figure out a way to do it again.
THE MODERATOR: We see Harrah's Race and Sports Book has Mr. Romo and Mr. Rhoden at 5-to-2, and you're listed a little bit down the road. Does that give you any other impetus to try a little harder?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: I can't try any harder than I try. I mean, like I say, it either goes in or it doesn't.
But they better watch out for Mark Mulder. You can say what you want to, but Mulder may be the best player here that nobody knows.
THE MODERATOR: That could be good in the pools. Questions.

Q. We had you on a conference call a couple of weeks ago and you were talking about the transition from pro sports to golf, and then now trying to aspire to be professional golfers again. You all talked about trying to basically take those opportunities as best you could. John, you learned a big lesson here a couple of weeks ago. Do you carry that on to the course here with you at Edgewood; and with that being said, do you guys think that John learned a lot from that and what advice do you have for him?
JOHN SMOLTZ: I can only speak of what I learned. And I learned a lot. I had to deal with the back end of it of all the people that want to say what they want to say. But I think, in sports, if you are not a -- if you're not afraid to fail, you'll experience some greatness afterwards.
And certainly I'm yet to be determined whether that failure will lead to a better tournament-type playing, because that's really what I need experience in.
And I haven't played in a lot of tournaments. So after I was done being ashamed of the scores that I put up, I realized the work that was yet to be done. And had it gone a little bit smoother, I don't know that I would have learned as much, if that makes sense.
Golf, and anything in sports, if you're not confident before you do something, it's going to show eventually. And you gotta be committed and a non-committed shot will show up itself.
And I just learned, I learned faster than most through failure, because I've had my share of it.
THE MODERATOR: Rick, you've had a couple of folks talking to you this year, eight-time champion. You've said it yourself: Quote/unquote, kind of elder statesman, seems like you might be like a fox laying low in the bushes here watching to see what happens. But how are you looking at your chances?
RICK RHODEN: Well, really the way I look at it, it doesn't matter what anybody else does. If one of us plays pretty good, we've got a chance to win. That's the way it is.
I can't do nothing about what Billy Joe's doing anyway, or John.
JOHN SMOLTZ: I can, I can get into Billy's head if I wanted to. But I don't want to do that.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: No chance. He's been trying for years.
RICK RHODEN: Like I said before, the way I look at it is the same way as when I pitched: I always looked at it's not who you play against, it's how you play. Doesn't matter if Sever, or Carlton, or somebody is pitching, if you pitch a good game, you can win.
Same with golf: If you play like you're capable of, if you're one of our better players, you've got a shot to win. Sometimes it's hard to do it three days. Fortunately I've been in the last group a lot of times in our golf tournaments and it makes it easier. Doesn't make it easy, but makes it easier; and it usually comes down to the last three holes because of the length -- these guys can definitely get to 16 and 2. I probably have gotten there four or five times in all the years I've played. 18, anybody can eagle that if they put the ball in the fairway. Doesn't mean you're going to. But it's there if you make a good shot. A lot can happen those last three holes.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what it's like playing on this kind of Tour, the Celebrity Tour, how people treat you, how you're treated. Seems like from the outside, seems like a pretty good gig.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: You're fresh in.
JOHN SMOLTZ: Post-playing games I watched this every years while I was playing, just to keep tabs of what it would be like some day to play in it. And when I retired and got an opportunity, it's just -- for me, it's the greatest event. It's marked on my calendar. My TV contract knows that this week is off regardless of what happens.
And it's just something you put forth all your efforts to. I wish I could come here in a different way, meaning practice a little more, but I use these three days to practice.
There's something about competing in a tournament, whether it's with your peers or not, but this event and this venue and the people that come out and support it, there's also something about seeing the scoreboard and knowing that there's a little bit of pressure. And I love the pressure.
It doesn't mean success will always be there. But I love it. I think for this tournament, I hope to play in it as many years as I can.

Q. Did the three of you find it kind of as a fix now that you're retired from active professional sports; is it something that fills the void as far as the competitive juices?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: Well, it's definitely something that you have an opportunity to compete and compete against guys that are pretty good and guys who know how to compete.
But it don't -- I mean, I love coming here. I mean, it's our Masters, it's our U.S. Open, our British Open. It's our major. And we love being here and competing for it. But it doesn't match putting your hands on the center and looking across at Ray Lewis.
It is a good void-filler, but it will not fill it up.
RICK RHODEN: I think, obviously, the golf is a given that it's the best thing we can play in now, and I think John and I have realized, as I have, and I think Billy Joe will agree with me, the longer I come here, the more I realize the best deal about this whole thing is really the people you get to meet that you wouldn't have met if we didn't play in this, guys from different sports, entertainers.
We've been doing this 20 years or so now, become good friends with most of these people and have seen their kids grow up. And that's pretty special to me. I enjoy that. Of course, the golf is a given that we're here and we're competing.

Q. Why is it so much pitchers and quarterbacks? One theory is that you guys have it so easy in your regular careers that you've got more left over for golf?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Billy Joe has got that one that nailed. He's right on that.
RICK RHODEN: We finally have some baseball players that are pitchers here playing. I think it was me and Mike Schmidt and Rollie Fingers were the only baseball players here forever. Now we actually have some really good golfers. Not that they weren't. But we have guys that are pitchers, that pitching and golf is very similar: You better have a short memory or you're going to be in trouble real quick.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: Again, we're the best athletes, end of story. (Laughter).

Q. This question is for all of you guys. Can you give kids my age any advice on how to get to the next level, which is the pros or college even?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Mine would be always have goals and dreams, and never be afraid of failing. I think kids trying to get to whatever level it is, high school, college, pros, they give way to too much of the you'll never have a chance, the numbers are against you, and they forget to fulfill and go as far as they can with whatever they want to do.
And I think failure really squashes a lot of dreams for a lot of kids, because they're afraid to fail. So my biggest thing is never be afraid to fail because that's when you learn the most. That's when you grow.
RICK RHODEN: My thing is I think for kids, I think there's too much pressure put on them to try to be so good, they've got them in all these leagues, just play, have fun, and don't worry about if you get to be good enough to play pro ball, just try to be the best player you can be. If there comes a time when you get to be 17, 18, 19, if you're good enough they'll come knock on your door.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: And, see, I don't agree with Rick on that: I believe you decide what you want to be and go be it. The pressure's there. You want to be a professional, then you gotta live it. You got to start at early as you can and you gotta eat it, breathe it, sleep it, drink it every day. There's no easy road in this deal.
It's nice that you're out there and enjoying it and all that stuff, but, hey, you make it, great. You don't make it, at least you fired your gun. That's the way I see it. Decide what you want to be and go be it. I'm going to make a T-shirt for that, that's pretty good stuff there. But I'm not arguing your philosophy. It's just the way you do it. I believe --
RICK RHODEN: I did it like you did it, but I don't recommend it to everybody.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: Everybody sitting up here, you ask everybody that same question they'll tell you what I told you. But now they'll tell their kids something different. Man, just enjoy it. You got a long life. No, man, when you're four years old you get out there I want you lifting weights, man, pulling logs with chains. Didn't everybody see "All the Right Moves"?

Q. Billy Joe, you said on the practice tee yesterday your goal was to go out and get 25 points per day. With that in mind, is it possible for somebody to put a big round together and charge from behind, or do you think, guys, it's important to get out and get a lead in this thing and hold on those last two days?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: Well, if the wind keeps up like it is right now and the greens stay like they are, you know, first guy to 70 looks pretty good, 68, 70. I mean, historically you get anything between 68 and, what, 76, 78, something, 75, whatever the number is, you're right there. And I just try to go out and get 25 points a day. Some days I get 22. Some days I get 23.
You know, you just -- that's just what I try to do. It doesn't mean that's what it's going to take to get there. I mean, you might find yourself setting in the clubhouse with 75 points because you got your 25 every day and you lose by three.
But, you know, that just tells you what to do on Sunday. All I want to do is get in a position on those last three holes on Sunday to decide if I've got a lean on one or if I can go and put it in play and knock it in the bunker up there in two and make birdie.
JOHN SMOLTZ: I would say I learned last year I put myself in too big a hole. I had a horrible first day. I think first days you can lose a tournament. I don't think you can win a tournament the first day.
So I think it's important to go out and put yourself in a nice position. I tried to rally, but he wouldn't let anybody rally the last couple of days.
And that's the position you gotta be in when you're in first place.
RICK RHODEN: Strange things happen on the last day. Whoever is leading a lot of times -- I know I've won this a lot of times and a lot of times in the last day I get 19 points. So it's better to get a good lead.
But also you can't come from behind. We have enough guys here that can get 30 points. One year I got 14 points the first day and got 30 the second and 30 the third to win. So it can be done. I think it's easier to have the lead.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: I agree, too, because in this format, last man standing, I mean last group Sunday matters. And you know you try to get it day one, keep it for day two, I mean the more opportunities you have to be in that last group, better situation you're in. And like Smoltz talked a while ago about getting in my wig and all that stuff, but he's got to play his ass in the final group before he can do that. Damn. That just happened. (Laughter).

Q. I'm always amazed at how many athletes in their chosen field go and play golf and do well at it. I think Barkley is actually good, watching him on the driving range. Has there ever been a sport that you've been asked to do where you just tanked?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: I can't serve a tennis ball.

Q. Curling?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: I've been doing the curls this whole week I've been here.
JOHN SMOLTZ: I grew up in Michigan, I've never put on ice skates. Believe it or not, I can't ice skate at all.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: I grew up in Texas and I can.
RICK RHODEN: I grew up and never had skates on. I don't plan on putting any on.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: I'm a little different than you all.
JOHN SMOLTZ: You didn't say you can skate though.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: Oh, I can skate.

Q. As far as the course is concerned, what kind of shape do you see it in? From what we've seen so far this year, looks like it's in some of the best shape it's been in a long time.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: Well, the rough's up a little bit. The golf course superintendent does a great job here every year, because he's so tied to the snow schedule and how late you get a snow here and how much snowpack he gets on the greens during the course of the year and how long they stay and all that.
And you know, it just seems like every year we all complain about it Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And then come Friday, Saturday, Sunday, everything's in a little better condition as far as the green firmness and things like that.
But I just understand what the super's got to deal with. He's got, what, 1200 guys walking on the greens for three days. That's pretty tough.
RICK RHODEN: No matter what kind of shape it is, they've got to give a trophy to somebody on Sunday. It's the same way for everybody. Some years are better than others. But somebody's going to find a way to play pretty well, I'm sure.
JOHN SMOLTZ: I got here Monday, and I thought they were really ticked at Billy Joe because the rough was the highest I've ever seen. I lost two or three balls. So I saw they cut it. So Billy Joe must have said something to them.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: Gotta do what you gotta do.

Q. In light of last night's All-Star game, since we have a couple former Major Leaguers up there, and the National League's dominance in the pitching department, do you see it changing from the days you were there? Does it seem like pitching owns the game right now more than hitting, or is it just a cycle or is it not?
JOHN SMOLTZ: It's always tough to face ten pitchers is what the National League used. The All-Star game is all about timing and being in the right spot in the right situation. It's the greatest exhibition game of all the sports.
It's still played the truest. And I think it's just -- the American League has dominated for whatever reasons, and last night there was a lot of guys that had to be replaced and certainly took advantage of it. But it's timing.
And my timing couldn't have been worse. I gave up two runs in eight All-Star games and got two losses. So that's just the way it goes. You're just playing in those games. You do the best you can. And the National League, I know there was a lot big to-do about home field advantage. I hate it. I know a lot of people hate it. Hopefully some day soon it will be changed, because it has no bearing whatsoever. It should not have any bearing on home field advantage.
And they talked about how to spruce up the game. And I think we shake our heads -- going to games is great.
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: Cheerleaders would do it.
RICK RHODEN: I think there's two reasons why pitching usually dominates in the All-Star game. One is the time they start the game. They always start the game during twilight now almost for TV, which first three or four innings they can't really see the ball.
Plus, the hitters, as great as they are, they hit .300, hitting off the third, fourth and fifth starters, you don't see them in the All-Star game, they're facing all the number one guys and the number one relievers. When you have to face a number one guy, different guy three different times, it's hard to hit.

Q. How would you rate Keith Bell's pop-up slide when he came in --
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: He took a big divot.
JOHN SMOLTZ: There was a bunch of people going: Ah, what? More power to him. I could see just San Diego if he had gotten hurt. Things in sports -- I know a lot of people want to have kind of the moment, the gig, the gig, the music, whatever. And unfortunately, in sports, when you see celebrations at home plate, and a guy missing all year and guys getting hurt in situations like that, I know there's some fun stuff and to have fun, but that was a little -- I don't know, that was a little much for me.
RICK RHODEN: I can just see Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax and those guys, what they would be thinking. I mean, I don't know. There's a lot of stuff that goes into sports today that I don't agree with. It's TV's changed all the sports a lot about what goes on.
But I have a hard time liking, seeing it myself. I think it just takes some of the respect out of the game and what guys did before. That's just the way I look at it.
JOHN SMOLTZ: Billy Joe, by the way, can bring the heat. He could have been a closer. He flat out brings it.
RICK RHODEN: He was the number one guy on his team in Louisiana, in the men's league.
JOHN SMOLTZ: You're still pitching right?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: I'm still in the old man baseball league working people over.

Q. Not much movement on the ball?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: No, you couldn't touch it. I'd strike you out in two pitches. My change would be so good you would swing at it twice and be done (laughter).

Q. Billy Joe, I wondered if you would be able to packetize your game this week to win again?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: You know, I've been working on the packetization of everything that is entailed when you come up here. And right now I'm not very packetized. But I'll get there.
I mean, the light doesn't come on until Friday. So we'll find out. But my buddy Jeremy Roenick, he's coachable, by the way, he's teaching me to be more patient and understand who I am as a human being.

Q. Billy Joe, in years past you've been known as "The Big Deal." On your hat I see it says "The kid," are you changing your nickname?
BILLY JOE TOLLIVER: No, this is for Gary Carter. Gary Carter, he's got, I believe it's inoperable, right? He's in really bad shape. So he's a good friend of mine. I'm just wearing it for the kid, and we talked at length about it. So that's what it means.

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