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January 15, 2019

John Smoltz

Mark Rypien

Jeremy Roenick

Lake Buena Vista, Florida

THE MODERATOR: If I could get the media room's attention, please. On your left is Mr. Mark Rypien, on your center, John Smoltz, and on your right, the long drive winner, Mr. Jeremy Roenick.

Gentlemen, nice to have you here today. Let's start it off. I'm looking at the William Hill odds, and they have this tournament Mardy Fish favored at 3-2, Mulder at 2-1. Mr. Roenick, you're at 10-1. John Smoltz at 15-1.

JOHN SMOLTZ: We're going to take care of that.

THE MODERATOR: Mark Rypien at 20-1. Why don't we start off with Mark on the left there, tell me what you're thinking about at 20-1 going into this event today.

MARK RYPIEN: Five bucks will get me a dinner for the day after the tournament, and that's probably all I'll put on myself. I love this event. I love the format of this event. What Insurance of America has done at being our title sponsor, along with Diamond Resorts, to put an event together like this and very unique, have a Stableford system that rewards aggressive play. Obviously, even to a point where double bogey, you don't lose points, and I think that's something unique.

They're playing a 5, 3, 2, 1 system where, no matter what, you're always in the hole, and you work for a bogey to try to get a point every hole, and I think that's been different, where you hit a ball in the water and now you're looking to have a double and lose two points. This is, I think, a format that's going to reward aggressive play.

Always, especially for guys like myself who come from the north, to putt these Bermuda or TifEagle greens, it's very difficult to know the green, understand the grain. It's going to be a fun week, and it's already been great to sit there on the driving range and see the ladies hit golf balls and how effortlessly they swing at it.

I'm always excited to play with them and excited to see these guys and talk shop and just a wonderful week here in Orlando.

THE MODERATOR: John Smoltz, qualified for the U.S. Senior Open last year in a playoff. You've got a history of playing tough and playing consistently. What are you thinking going into this week? You've got a couple guys that are favored above you. What are you going to do with them?

JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, I'm a Dumb and Dumber fan. "So you say I've got a chance" is a line I live by in my life. No, I'm training a little bit differently this year coming in. I'm excited about a four-day tournament. I couldn't have played a four-day tournament -- we play with the Pro-Am, and it's five days in a row. That was tough for me, and I'm learning how to do that now.

As far as the Senior Tour, the Senior Open, that was the greatest experience of my life, very humbling. If you're sitting at home and you're a scratch golfer and you think you can break 80 at any Major, forget about it. There's no chance. But it was fun. I learned a lot about my golf, and I learned a lot through failure anyways.

So playing in this tournament with young, strong, hit-it-a-mile-type guys, it's an actual challenge that every day I feel like I'm going to play great, and if I don't feel that way, then I shouldn't be doing it.

THE MODERATOR: J.R., you finished second in this event last year. You're always in the hunt. What do you think it's going to take to win it?

JEREMY ROENICK: Yeah, that's why 10-1 boggles me a little bit.

THE MODERATOR: Where did we get that?

JEREMY ROENICK: Yeah, I may put some money on myself in that aspect. Maybe I understand a little bit because I've been really close but haven't been able to close it out. One time was to Mark a few years back at Tahoe. He put on probably the best three holes I've ever seen to finish out a round, went eagle, birdie, birdie to close out a round and beat me there in Tahoe.

This kind of stuff is great for us because it allows us to get back into what we love, and that's the competition, to get those energy -- those juices flowing to go out there and compete, and that's what I love the most is to be able to come back out here and focus the way I focused before I played a hockey game or before he played a football game or before he pitched a Major League Baseball game. We miss those days, and when we have great events like the Diamond Resorts that allows us to come out, have some fun with each other, now play with the LPGA champions. I'm really excited for that because, when you play with the best of the best in the sport, that brings the best out in you.

So it's going to motivate me to play with some of the LPGA players this week. I think it's a great combination. It's the start of their season. Hopefully, we don't screw them up enough off the start to get them going on their season. But I think more importantly, we get to come have fun, and we get to raise money for charity with the Children's Hospital here in Orlando, which is such an inspirational organization that Mike Flaskey and Diamond Resorts really takes a lot of pride in.

And for us to come out here and try to win a golf tournament and compete but also raise money for kids that need it, there's nothing better in the world.

Q. This is for all you guys. You mentioned it a little bit. These girls are not just out here playing hit and giggles anymore. This is a big deal for them, Tournament of Champions. How do you compete in your own event and stay out of their way?
JEREMY ROENICK: I don't know how these guys feel, but I literally want to go out and try to beat them. I'm not trying -- I'm not kidding. I have that kind of competitive mode in me. Even if I have no chance, at least in my mind, if I can go out there and try to compete with them and try to hit the ball in the fairway, hit greens, and try to push them, to me, that's going to be a great inspiration for me.

They are awesome athletes. There's no question about it. It is the start of their season. Just like we just saw out in Hawaii with the Sentry with the men, this is an important tournament for them, but I think they want to have fun with us too, which I think is really important.

MARK RYPIEN: I'm going to embrace it also, this opportunity, this chance. I think the interesting thing that these ladies are going to find out is that, when they're playing competitive golf, they're going to have -- if they're playing with two guys, they're going to have two cheerleaders cheering them on and rooting them on and anticipating them to make the putt. And maybe because they're going to hit it proximity-wise closer to us than the hole, they're going to get some reads on putts that normally they wouldn't when they're playing with their gals.

We are competitors too, and the better we play will motivate them and vice versa. I think we can feed off it without taking away from the competitive nature that they have and the competitive nature that we have.

JOHN SMOLTZ: I just like learning, and I like watching great players. So when I see somebody make a really good swing, it helps me. And then, yeah, I'll probably ask them if they hold their breath on their backswing or not. No, I won't do any of that.

I think everybody understands that the personalities in your group, when you play with other people, you know who wants to talk and who doesn't. You learn -- you just know to stay out of some people's way and let them do their thing and let them get comfortable. We've done this a bunch, and you just learn that in Pro-Ams or anything like that, you just try to stay out of the way.

But I'm with Jeremy. I use it as a nice gauge to see if I can win that group. I want to always win my group. I don't care who's in it. I want to win it and then see what happens.

JEREMY ROENICK: I think what they're going to find, I'll be totally honest, the celebrities that Diamond Resorts invited here can play golf. It's not like they're going to get some hacks who are going to be throwing it into the woods or into the water a lot. A lot of these guys can play the game, so it's not going to take them out of their realm very much because these guys are just as competitive, in a different sense, than they are. So it's going to be a nice little matchup, I think.

Q. Jeremy, speaking of being competitive, you just won the long drive by three yards over the guy next to you. Just your thoughts on that and how competitive you felt going into that?
JEREMY ROENICK: I felt good. I've been hitting the ball really well. I felt I hit the ball relatively far. I'm turning 49 this Thursday, a little bit younger than these cats next to me. So I was pretty worried about Brittany, to tell you the truth. I've seen her pound the ball. I saw her big Alabama 60 degrees. I was going to ask her to hit the 60 degree just to make sure that all of us got the best of her.

But it's all just catching one. You can hit it as far as you want, but if you don't hit it in the middle, it doesn't matter. I just had fun. I had fun out there. It was great to be with the boys and watch Brittany swing the club. It was pretty special.

JOHN SMOLTZ: We actually hit it the same distance, truth be known. I'm 51. He's 48. That's three yards. That's a yard per year.

THE MODERATOR: Plus you had a stiffer wind than he did.

JOHN SMOLTZ: So basically same distance.

JEREMY ROENICK: I like that. Pretty good analogy.

MARK RYPIEN: What was my excuse? I was 40 yards behind, and I'm only five years older than you.

JEREMY ROENICK: You've won enough already.

Q. Quick question for Mark. As you were addressing the ball, somebody asked you who you think is going to win the Super Bowl. You said the Saints. Can you tell us why?
MARK RYPIEN: I think they're just -- the chemistry that Drew Brees has playing in New Orleans in the NFC Championship game is going to be so difficult for Jared Goff and the Chargers -- or the Rams to go in there and play. So I think they get in on that alone is the crowd noise, and I've played in the New Orleans Superdome. It's an awesome, awesome environment for the home team, not so good for the visiting team.

So it's going to be very hard for the Rams to win, and I think the Patriots are going to struggle, but I think they find a way in the Super Bowl. It's Tom Brady again.

JEREMY ROENICK: Why are the Patriots going to struggle?

MARK RYPIEN: They're not going to struggle.

JEREMY ROENICK: They're not going to struggle. They're going to win the Super Bowl, and Tom Brady is going to be --

MARK RYPIEN: They're playing the third loudest stadium in the NFL, and that's Kansas City. So that will be different. It's just Tom Brady though, and Tom Brady finds --

JEREMY ROENICK: Tom Brady won that game on Sunday. He could have won with his left hand. That's how good Tom Brady is. Tom Brady is going to go down in the history of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, and he's going to be right in front of Mark Rypien, who's number 2.

MARK RYPIEN: Thank you, but no (laughter).

Q. Just to clarify, New Orleans over New England in the Bowl?
MARK RYPIEN: Yes, that's who I got.

Q. And one last question for John. Hall of Fame voting is coming up. Who do you think is going to get in?
JOHN SMOLTZ: That's always a great question. The criteria is changing a little bit. Guys have looked at careers a little differently. I don't know if Mariano is going to get in or not. Maybe -- yes, he's going to get in 100 percent. And then Edgar, I'd like to see Mussina, Mike Mussina. I think that's where it starts getting close. If three get in, that would be incredible because Mariano Rivera is going to probably set a record, I would think, for voting percentage, not that that means anything. When you get in, you get in.

I'll be up at the network next week for the announcement, so I look forward to seeing how it all shakes out.

Q. As golfers, we're always working on something, so my guess is each one of you is working on something. So can you share that with us so that, when we watch you in the next few days, we can see how you're doing.
JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, for me, I'm literally working on a whole new move and a swing, so I don't know if I'll get to use that in the tournament, but I'm going to try. I'm learning how to get the acceleration through the ball again, to actually freedom swing a golf club. Wherever the ball goes, it goes, but I've always been holding on and being defensive, and my goal this tournament is to actually, when I get over the ball, let it go.

So I'm going to be working on staying connected and firing through the zone again because that's been something I haven't been able to do in a while. I'm actually excited about that. Whether it relates to good scores or not, we're going to find out.

MARK RYPIEN: I'm going to work on chipping and putting. I think these greens, they fool me all the time. I see the sheen. I see it dark. I see that you get uphill. They just drive me crazy at times. So putting will be a big part of it. Chipping is something I'm doing differently now. I'm doing the Vijay Singh left hand low, and I'm taking my flipping hands out of it, and it's working pretty good. So we'll see if that -- how that does under pressure, though.

JEREMY ROENICK: I'm just working on getting my head out of the game, not letting a bad shot make me so angry I want to break a club, and that's usually my problem is just staying focused one shot to the next, one shot to the next. The game's usually pretty strong, but I can't let the little things overtake the big things. So for me, it's my anger in my head. That's what I'm trying to get over.

Q. We'll watch for that. Thanks.
JEREMY ROENICK: You'll see it for sure.

THE MODERATOR: Jeremy, you did bring up the fact that most of the players that are coming here are very good golfers. Comment on Larry the Cable Guy at 1,000-1.

JEREMY ROENICK: At 1,000-1, Larry the Cable Guy, he's probably one of the guys that has some of the most competitive golf in him. He played on some of the mini tours and has a very, very good swing. I think -- oh, I'm talking about Colt Ford. But, yeah, Larry the Cable Guy -- don't bet on Larry the Cable Guy because he's going to talk too much, he's going to tell jokes too much, and he's going to be all over the course, and I told him that last time.

JOHN SMOLTZ: But he actually --

JEREMY ROENICK: He'll be one of the most fun guys to play with.

MARK RYPIEN: He's gotten way, way better the last couple of years.

JOHN SMOLTZ: In fairness to him, he can't be a great golfer, even though he is, because it doesn't work with his line of work.

JEREMY ROENICK: He's a comedian.

JOHN SMOLTZ: Nobody is going to take him seriously if he's a great golfer. He's playing to the role that fits him best in life, and I think it's admirable. He probably could shoot 4 or 5 over if he wanted to.

MARK RYPIEN: I've got a question for the media. Who's the gal that's favored? And what are the odds on the gals, if there is any? Who's favored?

THE MODERATOR: Don't know. Don't have that.

Q. Lexi Thompson is favored every time she tees it up.
JEREMY ROENICK: I'm looking forward to watching Brooke Henderson go. Little Canadian girl going at it. And the fact that Michelle Wie is coming back after her hand injury, I'm looking forward to watching Michelle play too. That would be great.

THE MODERATOR: Michelle had to withdraw.

JEREMY ROENICK: She did? She didn't tell me that.

THE MODERATOR: The injury is still there. She's still working it out.

JEREMY ROENICK: When did she do that?

THE MODERATOR: A week or so ago.

JEREMY ROENICK: Gosh, my bad. I've been on NHL Network too much. Dammit.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you all three so much. Good luck this week. We appreciate your time.

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