Price picks up where he left off after long summer break

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August 29, 2008
Lauren Deason, PGATOUR.COM Editorial Coordinator

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- As he has done for the past five years, Nick Price put his clubs down for the entire summer. They gathered dust for seven weeks. Price didn't even touch them.

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Instead, he spent the whole summer with his wife and three kids. They hung out for a while in the Bahamas, went to the west coast of Florida for a week with friends and vacationed in Mexico for three and a half weeks.

"They are growing up so fast now I just feel like I'm going to miss out on so much if I don't at least get to spend the summer with them," Price said of his 17-year-old son, 15-year-old daughter and soon-to-be 12-year-old daughter.

"All of them are at very impressionable ages. That 13 to 17 age range is a time you really need both parents to be around," Price added. "I don't spend a lot of time away from home, not as much as I used to. It's an important time.

"For so many years, my wife and I dragged the kids around in June, July and August to the U.S. Open, the British Open, then the PGA Championship and that wasn't much of a summer holiday for them. Anytime they see my golf clubs, they sort of associate them with my going away from them. That's one of the reasons why I don't even play."

Naturally, taking seven weeks away from golf doesn't do wonders for his game. But Price, a three-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member, picked up right where he left off on the Champions Tour. Prior to his return at last week's Boeing Classic, his last paycheck came on June 29, when he tied for second at the Commerce Bank Championship.

That was his seventh finish inside the top-10 in 11 tries, which meant that Price was near the top of the Charles Schwab Cup list -- which rewards top-10 finishes -- without a win.

Though he said parts of his game admittedly need polishing to smooth out the rough edges, Price tied for seventh immediately after his summer vacation. After one round at Del Monte Golf Course for the Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach this week, Price was 3-under par and again hovering near the top 10.

"I was really happy the way I played last week because really I've done no work at all," he said. "I'm putting one foot in front of the other. Today I played pretty well and then stumbled coming in but that's fine. I'm happy with my lot in life."

Price's "stumble" cost him a chance to sit one shot behind the leaders. He began on the 10th hole and quickly birdied No. 11. He made five straight pars before rattling off four straight birdies on Nos. 17, 18, 1 and 2. That put him in fine position, as the clubhouse leaders were finishing up at 6-under par.

Then Price faltered. He bogeyed the fourth hole then made bogey on No. 8 to drop two strokes. His 69 was still one of the top scores of the day, but he will need another strong round on Saturday at the tougher course Pebble Beach, which yielded only two of the top-12 scores on Friday.

In the past, Price has fared fairly well at Pebble Beach. His best finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was a tie for third in 1989. He tied for fourth at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1992 and tied for 27th there at the Open in 2000.

But that's Price for you. Usually known as Mr. Congeniality on the PGA TOUR for his genuinely kind personality -- Davis Love III once said, "People always ask who's the nicest guy on tour, and Nick Price's name always comes up" -- Price was also Mr. Consistency.

His current streak of seven consecutive top 10s in tournaments -- it would be nine straight if not for a tie for 11th at the AT&T Champions Classic -- is nothing new. He finished inside the top 10 in 24.5 percent of his starts in his nearly 30-year career on the PGA TOUR.

Still, top-10s are nothing if you don't win every now and then. Since his debut on the Champions Tour in 2007, Price hasn't captured a title.

"When I get all my ducks in a row, I think I'll win. That's what I'll do, I've got to get them all together," Price said. "Winning is a priority, you obviously want to win out here. I need to put in more work if I think I'm going to win."

As for this week at Pebble Beach, he's just trying to continue that impressive top-10 run.

"I'm hoping I just pick up where I left off. I think I will go through a few bumps, a few humps and hollows before I get back to where I was," he admitted.

But that's not the most important thing at the Walmart First Tee Open. He said his favorite part is hanging out with the kids. He even went so far as to say that the pros actually have more fun this week than the teenagers.

His junior partner, John Catlin, awed him on the course -- Catlin and Price were 8-under on Friday, meaning Catlin helped the group by five shots -- but was even more impressive off of it. Catlin and Tom Watson's partner Sara Diaz were both recipients of an $8,000 scholarship from Oroweat. After their rounds on Friday, Price and Watson attended the ceremony to see their juniors win the award.

"They told me before we teed off that he had won an award, so I looked at him with a discerning eye. I can see why he won it, he's such a good kid, a really, really great kid. The First Tee is a wonderful program and this is a great event," Price said.

"No doubt we are re-living our lives through these kids."

As for his own kids, well, Price misses them even though he's only been on the road for almost two weeks.

"I spoke to my two girls last week when I was at the Boeing Classic and they said, 'We miss you, Dad. It's funny not having you around,'" Price said. "You feel good but you also feel bad at the same time."

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