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September 18, 2009

Heath Slocum

THE MODERATOR: We want to thank Heath Slocum for joining us, winner of the Barclays the first PGA Tour playoff event. Heath's going to arrive at East Lake Golf Club next week ranked Number 5 in the FedExCup standings. As one of the top five, he's guaranteed to win the FedExCup with a victory at the Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola.
Heath's made the playoffs pretty much by the skin of his teeth. Number 124 in the standings, but made the most of his opportunity with his win at the Liberty National at Barclays. Heath, you could say the sports analogy your victory at the Barclays, especially when you look at the players that finished one stroke behind you -- Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els -- it's similar to the Number 16 seed winning the first round of an NCAA Tournament. If you don't mind, just kind of start this call by going back and talking about that win.
HEATH SLOCUM: Obviously, that win meant a lot to me for a lot of different reasons. It obviously gets me into -- it got me automatically into the Tour Championship, which is what I think we're all striving for. What it also does just for my confidence is it just tells me that all the hard work was paying -- has paid off.
But for next year, it sets me up for I think all the majors. And it allows me to get into some of the bigger events that I would have had to otherwise qualify for. From there, I've looked to finishing out the playoffs on another high note, kind of just to bookend it.
So it was a great win. It's one of those things that you wish just happened more often. But from that point, I also want to say it's made me hungrier, if that was possible.
So from this point on, like I said, just look to continue to get better and going into next week to see if I can't make some more noise.

Q. There's a lot at stake next week with the FedExCup on the line. But is there any added importance to the Tour Championship since it's right in your backyard? You live in the Atlanta area?
HEATH SLOCUM: I wouldn't say there is any added importance. But I think it's going to be a little more exciting to me just because I think that being here now for three years, you know, I've just met more and more people and I'm going to have more and more support out there.
Like I said, after winning the Barclays and getting myself in this position to have a chance to win the FedExCup, yeah, I'll have a few more supporters out there. And I'll get to stay at home, so it's going to be an exciting week no matter what happens.

Q. Were you surprised at all that you slipped so little in the points after missing the cut at Deutsche Bank?
HEATH SLOCUM: I was a little surprised. But when I did miss the cut there, I did anticipate to drop some. I knew that the emphasis going into this year's FedExCup playoffs, they were going to put a huge emphasis on winning. They had made that clear early in the year.
But I was still surprised that I didn't drop any at all. And the following week I knew a lot of people had pulled in closer. So with a middle-of-the-pack finish, I knew I was going to drop some spots the following week, but I was a little surprised. But I kind of knew going in that they were definitely putting a huge emphasis on winning.

Q. Could you give us a little bit of an update just on what you've been doing practice-wise, and how your game is shaping up for Atlanta?
HEATH SLOCUM: What I've done this week, for sure, is watched it rain. It has been raining here I think every single day. But I have made it out a couple times just to stay loose this week. Hopefully, the forecast is a little better for the weekend. Most importantly what I've done is relaxed and tried to recharge.
I feel like my game's in good shape. I don't have to do a ton of work going in a week out. The most important thing is to be fresh both mentally and physically.
Again, I feel fantastic. I feel like my game's on the up and up, and as long as I'm fresh mentally, I feel like I can go make some noise and hopefully get into Sunday. Have a chance to win the Tour Championship and the FedExCup.

Q. Lately you've gotten to play with Tiger quite a bit. I'm just curious from your standpoint. The guy endures a lot of scrutiny from us, the fans, what have you. It seems like the world's ending when he doesn't win or finishes second or what have you. I'm just curious what you noticed about his game? If you didn't hear any of that other chatter, would you ever wonder if anything was the matter with Tiger's game?
HEATH SLOCUM: No. You can see how -- and I think this has been pretty much been covered. Typically, the days that he struggled the most with me out there, he kind of lost some drives. His irons are spectacular. At times they are unbelievable.
But I tell you what is the most amazing thing about him and why he puts himself in contention and wins so many golf tournaments is his short game. It's razor sharp. He gets almost everything up-and-down. He makes lots and lots of putts as he demonstrated at the BMW.
But I would say the only thing that could have possibly played in is I would say he's played a lot of golf the last six, seven weeks which I would say he's not accustomed to. He's definitely in good enough physical shape to do it.
But I will say from my own experience is what I went through after winning Barclays, I had already been on the road for a couple of weeks. But it definitely takes a lot out of you to be in the situation and to be grinding out for a win and trying to win golf tournaments. It takes it out of you. And I paid a little bit of a price at Deutsche Bank just hitting a wall.
So you could see how maybe he was a little bit tired. It takes maximum effort from everybody, including Tiger, to be on top of your game. To try to win on the PGA TOUR, you have to be, I would say, 100% mentally focused, and sometimes that's the first thing to go. But I didn't see anything that would indicate that his game's not there.

Q. In your own case, coming from where you have - 124 starting to this position - do you almost feel like you have nothing to lose? Or is your attitude more, I'm this close, you know, I want to take advantage of this opportunity that you've given yourself?
HEATH SLOCUM: Well, a little bit. I would say a little bit of both. Definitely going into the playoffs and the Barclays, I had nothing to lose, whatsoever. If I shot 80, I just would have gone home and reassessed my situation and tried to move forward.
But going into the Tour Championship to have a chance to win the FedExCup is going to be a little bit of that attitude as well. I do have nothing to lose, but at the same time I feel like I squandered a little bit in the situation with last Sunday playing poorly, because I could have gotten maybe up another spot. All those spots, I guess, if you win doesn't matter, but at the same time we're all competitors. We want to finish as high as we can every single week, no matter the situation.
I feel like I've got nothing to lose next week. I am going to go out and have fun. At the same time I feel like my game is -- if not there, it is really close to being as good as it's been in a long time. So I'm going to try to use that opportunity and go out and, again, just give myself a chance going into Sunday to maybe, you know, get a win. Like I said, I just feel good right now.

Q. The East Lake Foundation and the impact that it's had on that area specifically and in the Atlanta area, it's just one of the examples of the PGA TOUR's dedication to charity. I know that you're a guy that's lived there for a few years and maybe seen some of that. If you don't mind, talk about that, and even the tour's charitable outreach?
HEATH SLOCUM: Well, that is the thing about the tour. They give back to so many communities that we go to, and to so many charitable organizations. You have to tip your hat to what the tour does. When they go to a community, they try to leave it in a better situation than when we got there.
With the Tour Championship helping out the East Lake Foundation, I mean, again, it's just another example of not only the PGA TOUR, but the East Lake coming in and, the Tour Championship of wanting to help directly help the impact of where the tournament takes place, and all the surrounding areas around Atlanta.
Being in Atlanta, you can see the benefit. Especially, with us kind of maybe losing, you know, the Bellsouth and some of those charitable organizations are mostly taking a hit. But they're getting grouped into some of the charities. So they're actually getting benefit from the tour champions as well.
Any little part that we can play as players and especially from me being living in Atlanta now, I'm going to try to help out as much as possible and do my part. But, again, I think it just says a lot about the PGA TOUR and about the Tour Championship and how they are reaching out to help so many people.

Q. You played well in '07 in East Lake, I'm wondering, have you played since at East Lake? What are your impressions of the golf course? How does it suit your game?
HEATH SLOCUM: I haven't played since '07, so I haven't played on the new greens. But, saying that, I feel like it's a golf course that does suit my game.
You have to drive it straight. We've had a bunch of rain here lately, so the rough is going to be definitely thick. It's going to be well-watered. With the greens being a little firm, I think it's going to be not only difficult for me to hit greens, but everyone else.
I think what I've been doing best lately is scoring. So I'm just going to use my ability around the greens to try to salvage some parts here and there and make some birdies.
I think it's a golf course that I definitely can play well on. It's going to matter making putts, which, again, is one of the things that I felt like I've been doing really well lately. So, again, I'm looking forward to it.
It's a difficult, demanding golf course that requires good shot making. All things that I feel like I can do well, and what I'm hoping for is kind of a week like the Barclays where everything kind of comes together. You have to have a few things go your way. But, again, I think it's a golf course that I can play very well, and that I can win on.

Q. The tour obviously has done a good job this year of making it so that everybody at the Tour Championship has at least a mathematical shot at winning the whole thing. That wasn't the case the last two years. Just curious from your standpoint and if you talked to any other players, would you prefer to see them take it even farther? I mean, there have been other things thrown out there like just letting the winner of the tournament win the FedExCup. Let all 30 guys have a shot, or any other such tweak. Do you guys talk about those things or are you okay with how it is?
HEATH SLOCUM: I will say that I haven't heard a ton of chatter yet about it. I mean, it's been talked about maybe a little bit. But I think after the Tour Championship and everything plays out, you'll start hearing, you know, more chatter about it to what they thought and to what maybe can happen and what can be changed and what can be tweaked.
Right now I kind of agree with the current system that there is. Everybody has a mathematical chance. But you also want to give, you know, someone like Tiger or Stricker, you take those two, for example, that have won -- they came in 1 and 2, right? And they each have won a bigger advantage than someone that say came in at 30th and won the Tour Championship to win it all.
There should be an emphasis on winning, but in this case I don't think that if you win the Tour Championship necessarily should you automatically win the FedExCup. I think there's got to be a prerequisite for some good play earlier in the playoffs.
I'm not saying this system is perfect by any means. I think we'll have to let it play out and see what happens at East Lake. But I think we're on the right track to getting this thing to where not only is it really fun for the players to get involved and embrace it, but also for all the fans. You know, and all the sports writers that are going to cover it. Not only to pump it up, but to be truly excited about a product that they can be proud of.
That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to create interest. We're trying to get more people involved in our sport and to recognize our sport. Whatever it takes to do that, it might be the best system. So hopefully, after East Lake, there's tons of drama again, and we put on a good show, and not only are the ratings good, but the fans have fun. It's something to write about. Something for people to start talking about well into next year about how much they enjoyed these playoffs, you know.
If not, maybe again, we'll go back to the drawing board and make a few tweaks here and there to get to that point where we have a system we know we can embrace. Going into it year after year we kind of know what the formula is and what to expect so all the fans can have something to look forward to.

Q. Where do you stand on the idea of moving up the off week to after the Deutsche Bank and then playing the last two after that? That seemed to get kicked around a good bit last week?
HEATH SLOCUM: Yeah, you know what, that could be a very good idea. I mean, just coming from my situation where I did play the week before the playoffs because I needed to. It was a lot of weeks -- I don't want to a lot of weeks in a row -- but, yeah, it is. For such big events, you obviously want to have your game to peak. I think it could be a very good idea to have a week off.
But again, the places we go, we have to look at a lot of other things. With sponsors, with timing things out, with weather. I know a lot of times we're fighting with some football stuff with college and NFL. But, you know, I think we need to look, too, can we compete with some of those sports? I think we can, but we have to make sure that I think some of the sponsors and networks are okay with that.
But from a playing standpoint it does make a lot of sense to have two weeks off, maybe have an off week, and then follow it up with the last two weeks. I think you'll keep potentially more people happy that way, and keep them fresh. And you'll see the best golf. See the players' play their best golf.

Q. Could you assess how winning the Barclays has changed your status on the tour among the other players and in general with the fans?
HEATH SLOCUM: I think the players, that's where it appears. But they obviously respect what you've done if you win a tournament that big. It's really nice to have them come up and congratulate you and say job well done.
Hopefully, I made a few more fans along the way. I don't have the biggest personality. I've been, you know, kind of grouped with Boo Weekley and Bubba Watson, because we've all gone to the same high school, and we're talking about two big personalities. They seem to get a little more attention. But at the same time, hopefully, I gained a few more fans and maybe a little more respect by some of the players with my ability.
Not that that's what we're shooting for, but it's always nice to have your peers, and the fans think highly of you and your golf game.

Q. Talk a little about how big a deal it is. Some of the perks you get, especially getting in the Masters, off this win.
HEATH SLOCUM: Yeah, it is. That is one of the wonderful things about winning on this tour, and winning during the playoffs is that you get into the Masters. You get into the British Open. You know, you get into the U.S. Open. I think you get maybe into -- I can't remember if it's one or two of the world golf events.
Obviously, those are really big events with huge opportunity. So with that opportunity, you know, it comes if you play well in those events, you have a chance to not only secure your card, but you get more points and better opportunity to get into more of those events.
It's kind of like a snowball effect. The better you play in the big events, the bigger the ball grows, and it's just easier to keep things rolling. And those are events that you want to win. They have the best players in the world in those events most of the time. Especially the majors, those are the ones that can define a career.
I think growing up all of us golfers have dreamed of winning majors. You can only win them if you're in them. So it's nice to be in them going into next year.

Q. Realistically, after the season you had, what were your expectations coming into the playoffs given how narrowly you made it into the top 125?
HEATH SLOCUM: Well, my goal going in, I'll be honest, was to get to the Tour Championship 100%. I didn't know if I'd do it in one fell swoop or just week by week, taking care of it. Again, I felt like I was playing better than my results indicated. I just had some -- just seemed to couldn't get everything going together each week. My biggest challenge was to stay patient and just to let it happen.
I felt like even the week before I might have been forcing a little bit on Thursday, and, consequently, I played a bad round. The good thing going in from 124 is what it helped me do is just relax. I said, you know what -- I don't want to say my expectations were low because they weren't. But it helped me relax and go out and play golf with a little bit different attitude. You know, you just don't have anything to lose at this point.
What that did is just allowed me to play my best golf. And that little bit of attitude, like I talked about earlier, going into next week. There is a little bit of that attitude that I do have nothing to lose. I have a ton to gain, and I'm going to go out and play golf and enjoy myself.
I'm going to carry the attitude with me that I know I can win, because I've done it, you know just a few weeks ago against some of thee best players in the world. With that knowledge comes some confidence, and with that confidence, hopefully, I'll bring my best game.
THE MODERATOR: We want to thank you again, Heath, for taking the time to join us on short notice. And obviously wish you the best of luck at the Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola, and, again, thank you for joining us.
HEATH SLOCUM: Thank you.

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