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January 14, 2014

Brendan Steele


MARK STEVENS:  We would like to welcome Brendan Steele to the media center.  Brendan, welcome.  This is a home game for you, you used to come as a kid.  If you want to kind of talk about that and then we'll take some questions.
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, I grew up in the mountains right here in Idyllwild and no golf course up there. The house I grew up in was 5,600 feet, snow in the winter time and not too much this winter, but as a rule there is.
As a kid I used to play desert junior golf and we could come down to this event and get to see the big boys hit it around.  And I have a lot of fond memories of walking around here with my brother and my dad and getting autographs from my favorite players.
And kind of a cool story, Corey Pavin was my favorite player growing up and I got his autograph out here at this tournament.¬† When I won at Valero a couple years ago, they asked me about who I kind of idolized growing up, and I said Corey Pavin and I told the story.¬† And when I got done at Valero on Sunday night, I was going through my text messages and e‑mails and all that stuff.¬† He had left me a voice mail and got my number, he had heard the story and gave me a call.¬† So that was a pretty good thrill.¬† So that's a good tie‑in back to this event.
MARK STEVENS:¬† First start of the year, also of the calendar year, on the new wrap around schedule.¬† Just talk about your game and what you did over the break ‑‑ over your holiday break.
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, it was kind of nice, I had a little longer break than usual.  I know everybody's kind of talking about how the break's been shorter, but for me it was actually a little bit longer.
For the first about six weeks of the break, I really just worked on my body trying to get stronger, trying to make sure that I was healthy, putting the clubs away a little bit, playing once or twice a week.  And then over the last two weeks or so, I really started grinding pretty hard and kind of addressing a few things and feeling pretty good.  Haven't seen the workouts kind of tapered down and carry over into the actual game.  Trying to feel like a golfer again.
MARK STEVENS:  Questions?

Q.  I've been talking to a couple of guys, specifically Rickie Fowler and John Merrick, who had similar stories to yours about coming to this tournament.  Merrick had a great story about stealing golf balls from the range because he needed balatas back then.  But, was this a tournament you came to all the time or was it on your one.  Was it organized?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Just my dad and my brother.  And we came two or three times as a kid, and it was really the only event that I ever went to as a kid.
So, I don't think I went to another event until I was like 16, 17 years old.  So this was it for me.

Q.¬† I guess in that sense kind of talk about the evolution of the tournament over the last few years, it was kind of hanging on by its finger nails for awhile, and now with Humana and Bill Clinton and everybody, there are‑‑ there's some optimism for the future of this tournament?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, it's breathed a lot of life into it, which is great from everybody's perspective.  But, it means a lot to me being such a special place.  I get a lot of friends and family out this week, so it's nice to be able to kind of start the season with a lot of support and have it be a home game for me, so to speak.
But, I think what's so good about Humana and President Clinton coming on, it gives it some energy and changing the format, I think, helps get a better field as well.  So, whether they need to call in favors to make sure that the guys come or just having less amateurs, faster pace of play, getting the courses situated a little bit better now.
It's little more fair now from the course standpoint, because if you got over to The Classic Club, or even SilverRock, on the wrong day you would be in trouble.  And now these three courses, the scoring average I don't know exactly what it's been on all three of them, but it's probably pretty close.  I feel like they're all about relatively equal.  So, I think that's a good combination of things to really keep it going moving forward.

Q.  Of the changes that have been made, from five days four, from four courses to three, cutting out more than 200 amateurs, this year they're basically getting rid of the celebrity field.  Are any of those from players standpoint, more important than the other ones?
BRENDAN STEELE:  I think they all play a factor.  I think that having less courses to prepare on is always good, and having the last couple years, it's been the same rotation so I think that's good.
One less day is good because if guys want to go play at Sony, it was almost impossible to get over here and get prepared and feel like you could compete in this tournament with taking a red‑eye back Sunday night, getting in Monday morning, not really feeling very good Monday.¬† I did that my rookie year when it was still five rounds, and it's really tough to do that.
So, I think you'll see more guys that want to play both now, but I think that of all the changes ‑‑ I think they all play a role.¬† So, I think they're all equally important.

Q.¬† Talk about your game.¬† The last time we talked, I think it was last year, you talked about some of the things that you have done diet‑wise and workout wise to kind of hone your game.¬† Talk about that evolution over the last year.
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, just taking everything off the course a little bit more seriously.  Before, I was kind of just playing how I played in college, which was just eat whatever I want, do whatever I want, and then just go out and hope that I played well.  And I'm trying to just control the things that I can control now.  Diet, exercise, making sure that my body's in the right kind of shape when I start a tournament.  And there's a lot that goes into that.  Obviously, sleep and staying injury free and those types of things.
But I'm trying to get stronger to have more speed, to be more consistent, and to prevent injury.  So, trying to do all those things to help me keep up with all the other guys.

Q.  So, you listen to the message of this tournament and took it seriously?
BRENDAN STEELE:¬† Yeah, yeah it's actually that's a good correlation.¬† Definitely.¬† I actually started ‑‑ I'm just over one full year into this exercise routine, new diet, new everything, and so I'm seeing a nice base from the last year, and I think it's just going to get better moving forward.

Q.  You said that you used to eat whatever you wanted in college.  What am I missing?  You're rail thin.  So, what you would like to eat was what?  Like rabbit food?
BRENDAN STEELE:¬† I went kind of the reverse Atkins Diet, I had all carbs and pizza, pasta, you know, whatever.¬† And just because I was thin didn't mean that I was in shape.¬† It didn't mean that ‑‑ like my body fat was still high, even though I would look like I was skinny.¬† So I was, when we first started this I was 175 pounds, but I was 16 percent body fat.¬† And now I'm 182 pounds and at 8 percent body fat.¬† So it's a big change.
I know it probably just looks like I'm still just a skinny guy that could eat whatever he wants, but it is a big change.  And I feel a lot different, I'm probably three times as strong when I'm in the gym.  I've seen my speed go up in my swing, seen all my carry numbers and everything go up and I had the healthiest year of my life last year too.  I didn't really get any kind of injuries, nothing major that happened over the entire season.

Q.¬† What, did you do golf‑specific?
BRENDAN STEELE:¬† No, we don't do any golf‑specific stuff.¬† We are full strength building, like a baseball player, hockey player would.¬† Like any other kind of rotational athlete.¬† We just did six weeks of what they call Russian conjugate training.¬† Which means that you have a heavy day for upper body, a heavy day for lower body, and you have a more of a rep day for lower body and a rep day for upper body and it keeps your body kind of in shock the whole time for big strength gains.
So we just did six weeks of that and then tapered it down into what we call an unloading phase, which means we do less exercises, we cut the sets down, trying to get ready for the tournament.  So you're not sore and you're feeling good and your body reacts really well to it.

Q.  Who is your guy?
BRENDAN STEELE:  My trainer's name is Brad Davidson.  He's at Stark in Irvine.  And they work with a lot of hockey players, Olympic athletes, baseball players, football players.  And a couple of hockey guys got me had in there, told me I needed to get it going a little bit.

Q.  How did you change your diet?  What do you eat now?
BRENDAN STEELE:  So I went from basically all carbs and whatever I wanted, it was literally pizza one night, pasta the next some chicken thrown in there, turkey sandwiches for lunch.
To now I eat more for function.  So I eat a lot of fish, all different kinds of meats, beef, bison, whatever the case may be.  A lot less carbs, I only eat complex carbs and I only eat them at night.
So that what we're trying to do with the diet is really be stable throughout the day.  Not have the peaks and crashes, especially for such a long sport like golf.  You got to be kind of steady and stable for five, six hours at a time.

Q.  Complex carbs being?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, that kind of stuff versus breads and stuff like that.  I try to stay away from gluten as much as I can.

Q.  What about fruit?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Fruit, I have a little bit of fruit in the morning, but don't eat much fruit throughout the day.

Q.  You said you had a pretty good time off here.  I take it this feels January just like January did last year, even though you already got some FedExCup points and some money banked already.
BRENDAN STEELE:¬† Yeah.¬† It feels the same.¬† I always play the fall events anyway, so it really didn't change anything for me.¬† I played Fry's and Vegas, Malaysia and Mexico.¬† And the year before I didn't go to Malaysia, but in 2011 I went to Malaysia, and I've always played Fry's and Vegas, I played Sea Island last year.¬† So I'm used to staying active through the fall and even played the Shark Shoot‑out in 2011 and 2012, so I was still playing in December.¬† So that's why I had a little bit longer break, we didn't play this year.

Q.  You mentioned this is kind of like a home tournament for you.  Does that put any more pressure on you as a player to really produce in front of your friends and family?
BRENDAN STEELE:  I don't think so.  It's nice to have the support.  If I don't play well, I don't play well.  That's the case with golf.  You're going to have five, six good weeks in the year and it would be nice to do it in front of the home fans or friends and stuff, so to speak, but I haven't traditionally played that well here, even though I'm really comfortable.  So you can make of that what you will, whether it's just kind of rust kicking off from the start of the year or extra added pressure, I don't really think there is any, I really like the support.

Q.  It's local, but is it a good event to kind of kick the year off, just it's a little more forgiving, you get some red numbers, you make some birdies that kind of thing?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, it definitely can be.  You get three rounds, no matter what, so you get three rounds to try to get your self going for the year.  And you're going to make some birdies even if you're not playing well and if you hit a few bad shots it's not going to kill you.
So it is nice, a nice way to kind of ease into the year and then you go play some harder golf courses the next few weeks, Torrey South isn't going to quite give up as many birdies as you're going to see out here, but at the same time you still have to hit good shots.  There's still plenty of bad places out there and if you're not going well, you're going to get in a lot of trouble still.

Q.  As a result of the changing your body and so forth, do you feel '14 is going to be your best year and how has the exercise and the diet changed performance, other than what you said, speed and carry distance?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, I definitely do think it is, now that I have a year under my belt.  Because when I first started this in December of last year my body went through a lot of changes.  I got a lot thinner, dropping all the fat and had to try to rebuild the muscle.
So going through that was a big change last year.¬† And now that I've got that under my belt I feel like I've got a nice base and I just feel better throughout the day.¬† I've got a lot more energy, I can accomplish what I need to in the day, don't have as many up‑and‑downs.
So I feel like it should be a little bit more consistent and adding the speed and the ball going further is going to help, but not if you can't keep the mental game where it needs to be and the other parts of the game as well.  So it's a delicate balance with everything.

Q.  How did that affect your swing when you were first starting through this transition?  I mean, I would imagine it's a lot of moving parts that all of a sudden felt differently than they had before and you got to work through that?
BRENDAN STEELE:  It really only feels different when I'm really sore.  So when we work out really hard, like in the off season, I would get done with a workout and go try to hit balls and it's going all over place, right?  But over the last couple weeks, when we have been when tapering everything back, it's really felt good.  And I felt like, being stronger, I can get the club more in the position that I want to, so I feel like it's definitely a big advantage.

Q.  How much do you do then during a tournament week?
BRENDAN STEELE:¬† During a tournament week I still work out four days a week.¬† I do a warm‑up in the morning before every day too, so I'm still doing a lot of stuff, staying active trying to keep my body in the right position, but I'm not in there pushing as hard as I was, especially over these last six weeks was really our time to get after it.

Q.  Was there a period last year where it was tough getting used to new yardages; and then how much equipment change did you have to do this year?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, a little bit.  Every week that we play the yardages are a little bit differently anyway.  The ball's going to go far out here this week, it's warm, it's dry.  And then next week it might be a little colder, you're by the ocean so it's not going to go as far.  And then you go to Phoenix and the ball goes far.  And then you go to Pebble and it gets cold.  So you got to make adjustments every week for elevation and all that stuff anyway.
But there is definitely a little bit of an adjustment period, just to know that you if you got 165 to cover and you could never hit 8‑iron 165 before, you go, okay, this is the right club.¬† You need to commit to that and just let it go and not try to offer do it.

Q.  Any equipment differences?
BRENDAN STEELE:  I adjusted my driver a little bit to accommodate the new speed.  I wanted a little bit less spin on the driver.  And that seems to have worked pretty well.

Q.  Did you have a new head or new loft?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Still the same driver, we just moved the weight around a little bit in it.
MARK STEVENS:  Okay, well, thanks for your time, Brendan, good luck this week.
BRENDAN STEELE:  Thanks, guys.

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