January 8, 2003
MODERATOR: Happy New Year.
NICK PRICE: Thanks.
MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for a few minutes here.
NICK PRICE: My pleasure.
MODERATOR: What a great place to begin the new year.
NICK PRICE: Very happy to be here. You know, unfortunately through most of my good playing years back in the early '90s, mid '90s, I had a commitment to play in South Africa during this period because our touring is the same time, January/February, as the West Coast. I felt obliged and also my duty to play in South Africa during that period because the sponsors there wanted all the top players at the time. As you'll see, Ernie, Retief, all those guys are going back next week to play some of the tournaments there. So I missed this event for many years.
I think this is a great place to have it this time of year. It certainly is a soft start to the year, if you want to put it that way (smiling). You're not thrust out. I couldn't think of a better place to play now at this time of year, to be honest. I'm very happy to be here.
Q. What changed, that you no longer play in South Africa? Is it the schedule on your part?
NICK PRICE: They don't want me there anymore (laughter). I'm not a top player.
No, I've got to go back in two weeks for Dimension Data tournament, our AT&T equivalent. I go opposite Phoenix to that. It's a contractual thing for me. I'd probably go anyway.
That's basically the only reason. My wife -- I took my wife and our kids down to New Zealand for the last three weeks. We were down there on holiday. It was perfect coming straight up there here from there. Even if I hadn't gone to New Zealand, I would have come here for sure.
Q. Schedule after this? Honolulu next week?
NICK PRICE: No. My next tournament will be LA after this week.
Q. Do you set goals for yourself at the beginning of the season? If so, what do you hope to accomplish this year?
NICK PRICE: Much the same. I'm in this to win, as early as I can, as early in the year. I was explaining to someone yesterday that where I am in my career now as opposed to, say, eight, ten years ago, eight or ten years ago, one out of every three, maybe four tournaments I entered I had a chance of winning. I either contested or won.
Nowadays, that's down to about one and eight, maybe one and nine. If you only play 20 tournaments a year, that gives you maybe two, maybe three chances a year to win.
I hope that two of those three opportunities, two or three of those opportunities, will be in major championships. That's why I still keep playing right now, is the fact I feel deep down inside I can still win a major championship.
As soon as that feeling wanes, I think my desire will go a little bit. You know, that's just time. I don't know. Might be this year; might be next year. Certainly to win again this year, to win a major, is right at the top of my list.
Q. Which majors do you feel you have the best chance to win?
NICK PRICE: I can kiss Augusta good-bye. I might as well go fishing that week, to be honest. What they've done with the golf course is basically just said there's going to be maybe seven, eight guys that can win round there now. I'm certainly not one of those. Although, stranger things have happened. I will tee it up there.
British Open. I haven't played Olympia Field, so I don't know what that's like. Where is the PGA this year?
Q. Oak Hill.
NICK PRICE: Oak Hill, okay. Played there. I don't know what they've done to that golf course. It will be interesting to see.
But, you know, British Open is really my most obvious opportunity, I think. Last two years I played really well in that.
But the US Open, you know, this year, if it hadn't been for three of the holes, I think I would have had a chance at winning. There were three holes there that were almost unplayable for me as par holes.
It will be interesting to see what they do at Olympia Fields.
Q. Have you heard anything about it? Is it too far off the radar screen right now?
NICK PRICE: Yeah. You know, I don't know, I spoke to a couple of guys, they say, "You'll really like the golf course." I don't know what length it is. I really know very little about it. But I certainly hope that we don't have 265- or 270-yard forced carries off the tee.
I think the USGA learned a little bit of a lesson last year. I think the guys who run the major championships need to look at the R&A. The R&A are dealing with golf courses that are a hundred years old. Those courses are still competitive without having to put 50 yards on every tee. There's a message there somewhere that those guys. Augusta, USGA, PGA do a pretty good job, but they need to look at what the R&A are doing. They're dealing with golf courses that are a lot older than their golf courses, yet they're still holding up to the modern equipment. That's something I think. I've always been outspoken about this. The greatest thing about this game is it was always the ultimate test of David versus Goliath. It's not that way. It's rapidly changing. It's moving to all Goliath now. I don't think that's the way golf should be played.
Q. What does the R&A do? What do you like that they do?
NICK PRICE: It's not one specific thing. They narrow up the fairways, put in some extra bunkers. They just make club selection off the tee very important. You can go anywhere from a 3-iron to a driver. It seems like every hole, you have an option. You can hit driver, so can Tiger, so can Phil Mickelson. They have to hit it in 25 yards like I do. They opt to hit the 1-iron, where I hit my driver. They're smart.
The Links courses, I don't know, Muirfield this year, 6-under-par, one day with wind. Would be interesting to see if we had consistent 15, 20 miles an hour wind, see what it would have been like.
There's all sorts of ways. Extending the hazard lines down the left-hand side or right-hand side of the fairway, whichever you decide, so that the fairway is the same width at 295 yards as it is at 275 yards. That seems to be the real key.
Q. You talked about your chances of winning now are different than they were before. No Tiger this week. No Phil Mickelson this week. 18 of the 36 guys are first-time winners. What are your chances this week?
NICK PRICE: Pretty good. I mean, I've got to go out and play well. If I play well, I think I have a chance. You still have Sergio, Ernie, Retief, Chris DiMarco, Vijay. The list, just shows you the depth of our tour right now that you have two of the top two players not here and there's still going to be a fight out there. Scores are going to be good. You're going to have to play really well, as we've seen. You have to shoot 20-under around here to win. I know I can do that if I can play well. It's just a question of playing well.
Length is such a huge advantage, especially on this golf course because the fairways are so wide. You can just stand there and wail on it. Not ideally suited to me, this golf course, but I can still win out here.
Q. You had talked about length being a factor. It's a factor everywhere. Another theme on the tour is younger players that are coming out, how far they hit it, things they do. You and Jeff Sluman, a lot of other guys, enjoyed success last year.
NICK PRICE: Look at the golf courses we won on.
Q. Like Colonial.
NICK PRICE: If we played more of those, I'd probably win a little more often. Go from Colonial to some of the longer golf courses now, even like Chicago, that's just to name one, but there's so many. Bay Hill. The old Doral type golf course is becoming a thing of the past, Doral, Colonial, Hilton Head. Fortunately on the tour, we aren't as aggressive with our changes as Augusta and the USGA are. I've tried to explain to Finchem how we should set up courses a little bit more, which I think would not just even up the field, but give a shot-maker the ability to compete still. That's what I believe. If they do that, by extending the hazard lines, putting trees in, making it more precision players as opposed to standing there, hitting it so far and so high off the tee. It's great to see that. There are holes where there are certainly advantages being a long-hitter.
Q. And there should be.
NICK PRICE: There should be.
Q. But not on every hole, every golf course.
NICK PRICE: Exactly. When you have hazards at 265, the fairway opens up to 40 yards, most of us are threading the ball around there. It's interesting because the USGA, their comment after the US Open this year, they were trying to defend their position by saying, "Well, look who finished in the Top 10." Scott Hogue, Nick Faldo, myself. Realistically we never had a chance of winning. We all played our tails off to finish in the Top 10. There was no way -- we finished eight shots, nine shots, 10 shots back of Tiger's score. No way either one of us could have won.
Q. I think there are seven or eight 40-and-older who finished in the Top 15. You're right, nobody was real close, threatening.
NICK PRICE: Exactly. Phil Mickelson made 22 birdies at the US Open or something obscene this year. I don't think I hit double digits in birdies. If you took Olympic in contrast to last year at Bethpage, huge difference. I can still win at Olympic. My length of play. I keep talking about mine, myself, but I mean players that hit the ball my length. There are a lot of us out there who are really good players who are going to have a tough time winning Augusta, which I think is very unfair. If you look at the history, you have Doug Ford, Gary Player, a lot of great players over the years, even Ben Hogan wasn't that long. You now have eradicated that type of player from winning Augusta. I think it's pitiful.
Q. How do the perceptions of a Rich Beem change the mind of the players now that he's won a major championship?
NICK PRICE: I think Rich kind of served notice when he won Kemper. That's the great thing about this game, he's obviously done a lot of work. He's worked hard at his game. He played a lot of tournaments I know at the beginning of last year in a stretch. If you keep knocking on the door, you keep pounding away, things are going to happen. He was just really fortunate they happened in two consecutive weeks, and one of them was a PGA.
He's one of those players, probably be able to play through his career and maybe pick up another major or two. He can catch fire, that guy. The fact that he had Tiger breathing down his neck for 27 holes there at the PGA, I think, and held him off, was great.
Q. Are there pitfalls to avoid once you win a major as far as trying to overschedule yourself?
NICK PRICE: There are thousands of pitfalls (laughter). It's just a question -- I'd say if I had one piece of advice to give him, it would be to manage your time correctly. On one hand, people are throwing all this money at you to go and play all over the place, yet you have to remember what got you there. You have to try and balance it out a little bit. You can get greedy and go and take all the appearance money all over the world, but you're going to suffer over here.
I don't think he's going to do that. I think he'll play and keep focused on improving his stature as a player, but also trying to improve his game each year.
Q. If you had a choice of venue for a US Open or a PGA Championship, which venue would you choose?
NICK PRICE: Bellerive and Southern Hills (laughter). The kind of courses over the years I've enjoyed, obviously are the older ones. I really loved Baltusrol, great test of golf, Lee Janzen won. Pinehurst was really good. Unfortunately, with the size of the major championships nowadays, with all the corporate hospitality and sales that they have, there's very few golf courses that can hold those events. People will say if you look at Merion, Pennsylvania, great golf course, they just haven't got the room to have the US Open on there. That's unfortunately a fact of golf these days because corporate sales drive everything. Those are the kind of golf courses that I really like. They're all traditional ones. Even some of the newer ones, I think TPC at Sawgrass is a great golf course, I really do. I think over the years it's been refined. If they do something to that 17th hole, we'd have a fifth major. As you guys all know, that's a bit goofy. I've tried to talk to the commissioner about doing something with that hole. If you have a look at the other 17 holes, we have 17 fantastic holes on that golf course, then all of a sudden you come to this hole that just doesn't fit. I'd love to see that be a fifth major. Certainly is the strongest field in golf.
Q. We've been talking about Fancourt. Do you see this as a credible year for The Presidents Cup?
NICK PRICE: I do. First of all, The Presidents Cup has to be competitive. That's what's made The Ryder Cup what it is today. I think if it's still the US versus Great Britain and Ireland, it might not have the same kind of impact as it's having now. Because it's come down the wire every Sunday for the last eight, nine Ryder Cups, that's the reason why The Ryder Cup has become so popular, because it's a great contest.
If The Presidents Cup can be the same way, we can compete against America consistently, it will also become popular.
It is popular right now in other parts of the world. You guys have got so much golf on your doorstep. For South Africa, southern Africa, this is going to be a huge, huge thing, just as it was in Australia. I think the Americans were a little overwhelmed when they got there and saw the attention, how much the Australians have done to make The Presidents Cup a very special event down there. I'm hoping it's going to be the same in South Africa.
From my perspective, I'd be very disappointed if a lot of the US players didn't go mainly because they have to understand the impact that they're going to have on golf in southern Africa, not only with the youngsters, the juniors, but how much interest is being created there right now by The Presidents Cup going there. I think it's very important that they look outside of themselves for this short time and just look at how much good they're going to do for golf in southern Africa.
I mean, certainly if Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player hadn't traveled, there's no way I would be sitting here. I saw Jack and Billy Casper play in South Africa. Those guys had such an impact on me. Deep in the back of my mind, even today, I can still remember those days very clearly. So it's important that the young guys, especially the stars of the American team, understand how much good they're going to be doing for golf in southern Africa.
Q. Will you lobby someone like Mickelson? Will you explain the impact he would have?
NICK PRICE: It's not my duty to go and lobby to him. It isn't. Phil, as you know, will make his own decision, as will Tiger, as will the other guys. The only thing I can say to him is just think, please, of how much good he will do for golf in southern Africa, particularly the juniors.
Q. We've had nail-biters in The Ryder Cup for the last 20 years. The level of play is probably even tighter, if not better, in The Presidents Cup. How do you explain the blow-outs we've had?
NICK PRICE: The Europeans play together a lot more than the international players. If you have a look, I think the great thing that we did, we had Maruyama, Joe Ozaki, they played together. That was really good. So keep the same guys playing with each other I think is very important. Ernie and Retief, McNulty and myself, we understand each other's games. Every time we got away from that, we kind of lost a bit of momentum, what little momentum we had there.
I think the pairings last time we played, I questioned them. Peter Thompson felt that he was doing the right thing, which was good. I think over the years, we've been weak at the bottom. We need to be stronger at the bottom. Our eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 player. We always have top six or seven strong, but down at the bottom, we haven't been that strong. That i think has changed this year. I looked on the world ranking the other day, the guy who is 12th in our team is now 35th on the world ranking. That's a lot higher. Before we had to go down to 60th. So that's a really good sign, as well.
I think we'll be a little more competitive this time.
Q. Because you travel outside a lot, what do you hear about the Augusta National and the women's issue?
NICK PRICE: Oh, Hootie Johnson. He's made a lot of our lives very uncomfortable. There's issues that they've brought up that they've made our issues because you guys ask us about them all the time.
My stand on it, everywhere I go I'm asked that question, whether it's South Africa, New Zealand three weeks ago, at home, whatever, they're a private club, they can do what they want. But they do have a public event there. They make money from having us there. I've said this right from the get-go. They're 10 years behind the times. They should have had a lady member in there 10 years ago. There have been so many great girls that have contributed so much to golf, Peggy Kirk Bell, Judy Bell. You can just look, there's so many girls, ladies, who could have been members there. If they don't want it, I can't do anything about it.
Q. Is the issue as big outside the United States as it is inside the United States, do you think?
NICK PRICE: No, no. It's certainly a talking point, though. I've had dinners with a cross-section of people. It always seems to come down to that question: "What do you think?" Could have been a little more diplomatic about it.
Q. I didn't ask you what you thought. I just asked you what it was like outside.
NICK PRICE: I couldn't help it.
Q. Has it already tarnished the reputation or the image of the Masters or has it not at all?
NICK PRICE: I don't know. That's a good question. That's hard to say. It will be interesting to see this year how much corporate support they get, though. I mean, it will be interesting to see. It will come down to numbers in the end, I suppose. The town of Augusta, how many homes weren't rented. There's a sign of the times right now because we're in a little bit of a depressed economy. But I think it's going to impact it quite a bit.
Q. When you think of the Masters, you probably immediately thought of the beauty. When someone mentions Masters now, do you think of controversy?
NICK PRICE: I think of how they messed up the golf course (smiling). Really, I do. I do. That's because Augusta to me is the golf course. The membership, that's a whole new ballgame.
The golf course, I mean, there were a lot of things I didn't like about the golf course the way it was, but it was still a great course. They didn't need to do all these changes. That's what I think about it.
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