AT&T National interview: Ken Duke

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June 26, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: AT&T National transcript archive

THE MODERATOR:  I'd like to welcome Ken Duke.  Ken, you picked up a big win last week at the Travelers Championship.  If you kind of want to recap the last couple of days.  Anything interesting that's been going on?  And then we'll have a few questions.

KEN DUKE:  It's just been great.  I didn't realize a lot of people were really pulling for me.  I've got a lot of text messages and e‑mails.  Sorry I haven't got back to them yet, but it's just been awesome.

I haven't been out to the course yet.  This is the first time I've been out here.  I haven't really seen the guys.  Got a few people saying hi and congratulations.

It's just been great.  My mom and dad came in, and my wife and two kids came in Monday night.  We did some tour stuff on Tuesday.  That's always fun.  Got a big surprise yesterday.  We're down at the Capitol tour, and a friend of mine got Senator Mark Pryor to recognize me at the senate.  That was a pretty good twist and unexpected obviously.

It's just great to be here at Tiger's event and AT&T and just looking forward to coming out and playing again.

Q.  Ken, I've known you for a long time.  Your preparation has always been spot on.  You've been working with Bob Toski a lot over the past number of months.  How is your preparation different this week, if at all, than last week now that you're a winner on the PGA Tour?

KEN DUKE:  I haven't touched a club since Sunday.  I did have to do an outing up in Canada, but I only played a few holes.

It's no different.  You've just got to come in every week and compare ‑‑ obviously, the greens are going to be a little bit different here, and the rough is going to be a little different than we had at the Travelers.  This is a big golf course.  This is probably too big golf courses for me.  I don't hit it as far as some of these guys.  You've really got to hit it long and high here on this golf course.

It's going to be fun to play.  I played here before.  Seeing all the military here, that's what it's all about.  I have photos of honor on my bag, and just all they do with Dan Rooney and Major Ed and all those guys, it's just great to be here to support everything.

Q.  Ken, I don't know if you know this, but for a while on Sunday you were actually trending on Twitter.  Did you ever think Ken Duke would be a trending term on Twitter?

KEN DUKE:  I don't know anything about that Twitter stuff.  My kids might help me on that.  That's all new to me.  I'll learn more about it, but I don't know if I'm going to get too deep in it.  I might ask you for some tips, if that's okay.

Q.  I also heard a rumor that you've been keeping either a can or bottle of Coke in your bag for a while.  What's behind that story?

KEN DUKE:  I don't drink.  I've never drank for a living, liquor or stuff, I've never done that, but I've always drank Cokes.  A lot of people that knows me knows that's what I drink, probably been drinking a little too many.  So my trainer has been on me about cutting them out.  So I'm trying to do that.

My caddie and I joke around the last few years, if I ever win, I'm going to have a bottle of Coke or a can of Coke and take a drink out of it because we're big NASCAR fans and you see that on NASCAR.

So he had one in the bag, and you never know what's in the bag because I just look at the clubs.  I don't know what's in the bag.  But he's there, and he gave it to me.  I said, man, this is our moment right here.  So I had to give it to him.  So it was special.  Coke's my thing.

Q.  The cameras cut out on TV, on live TV before.  I saw you shake it up.  Did you actually spray it around?

KEN DUKE:  Oh, yeah, just sprayed it everywhere.  I wish I'd had another one.  I would have done that too.  It would have been great.  But it was fun.  It was great.

THE MODERATOR:  Your caddie's name.

KEN DUKE:  Chris Carpenter.

Q.  How old was the bottle of Coke that was in there?

KEN DUKE:  We just got it out of the clubhouse.  We were waiting for the last two groups to come in.  I didn't know what was going to happen after that.

Q.  What's been the neatest thing that's happened since you've won in terms of ‑‑ you mentioned the text messages and phone calls, that sort of thing.  Who have you heard from?

KEN DUKE:  Just getting a lot of text messages from a lot of tour players out here.  You see them week in, week out, but you don't really know they're a big fan or they watch my game.  Obviously, you kind of watch their game.

But Mr. And Mrs. Nicklaus, I'm good friends with them.  I'm good friends with a lot of country music stars.  They sent me text messages.  A couple of basketball players.  You didn't really realize that people are really watching you.  Obviously, they're a big fan of the game and like the game of golf, but you don't know if they're watching you.  They're watching sort of the big names.

But it feels great just to kind of feel like I'm in.  That's one thing I told my wife that I wanted to do before my career is over is to win a Tour event.  I've won on just about every tour I've played on, and to get that, that's kind of the moment her and I had when we saw each other Monday night.  We finally did it.

Q.  Who are some of the music stars or basketball players?

KEN DUKE:  Barkley sent me a text the other day.  Some of the other guys from the Heat.  Obviously, Ray Allen is a big fan of golf.  I met him a few weeks ago.  Congratulations to the Heat.  I'm good friends with Colt Ford and Mark Wills and Joe Don from Rascal Flatts.  There's just a bunch of them.  I'm a big country music fan, man.  I'm from Arkansas.  That's what it's all about.

Q.  TPC River Highlands is a place where people get their first wins ‑‑ Bubba, Mahan, Leishman.  It's a place where it's sort of ripe for that.  You got a chance to play 18 basically more than anybody in a long time.  Talk about your nerves on the tee, your final drive finally was where you needed it to be, and how you were overcoming those nerves in the playoffs and how that might serve you this week.

KEN DUKE:  In the regulation, I hit a bad drive.  That's kind of my tendency.  I get quick with my swing, and I'll push it to the right.  I didn't know if I was going to get in the playoff obviously, but in the playoff, I just had to calm down a little bit.

That's the beauty of that tournament.  I mean, a few years ago, when Bubba won, he's a long hitter, and I think Corey Pavin was in the playoff with him.  It's a long hitter or short hitter, it just doesn't matter about that tournament.

And Travelers gets a great field.  It's right after the Open.  They get a great bunch of guys there, and you just never know.  That's the kind of course that place is.  Any kind of player can win the tournament.

Q.  Transition in nerves, talk about that.

KEN DUKE:  The nerves, well ‑‑ obviously, I was probably nervous on the regulation.  I hit a bad shot.  After I got up there and saw the ball's okay, I felt okay.  Obviously, make sure you try to get it in the leather, putt it in the leather.

In the playoff, it's just one‑on‑one, and you've done this before.  Just relax.  I thought I had a chance in the first playoff hole, and then Chris made that putt.

But in the second, I said, I'm not driving this golf ball really good for no reason, I should not hit this fairway.  One of the top guys in driving accuracy this year, I got to hit this fairway.  I've done it many a times, and that's kind of the mindset I was thinking when I went back to the next playoff.

I knew if I could hit the fairway to where my ball was ‑‑ I don't hit it as far as those guys, and they get it down past the road, the cart path, and it's a harder shot from there.  But where I was going to be, it was going to be a perfect wedge for me, and I've just got to hit the fairway.  I had a great number and hit a great shot.

Q.  Ken, a lot of guys who are seeking their first win will say that there comes a point where they have to stop thinking about it because it's almost detrimental to their game, the pressure of thinking about getting the first win out of their way.  Did that come for you at any point?

KEN DUKE:  I think it did.  Last year I finished in the top ten, I think, six times.  I had a lot of expectations coming into this year.  I should have played well early.  I think that's what happened to me.  I put a lot of pressure on myself early in the year and just lost my confidence.  You can't compete out here if you don't have confidence.

Did I think I'd ever win?  You just never know.  I mean, I thought I could, and I thought I was good enough too, but getting it done is a different story.

Q.  You mentioned briefly about Monday.  Was that when the emotion of what you finally had done hit?  Or has it sunk in more the last few days?

KEN DUKE:  I don't think it's sunken in yet, to be honest with you.  I just know I had a commitment to do, and I did that.  That's the way I am about things.  Sometimes it's better just to stay away from all this, and you don't get caught up in it, for a few days and then come back and attack it.

It hasn't hit me yet, and maybe until I show up at Kapalua, then it might really sink in after that.

Q.  Ken, what's the biggest perk, other than winning itself?  Is it the paycheck?  Is it the Master's invitation?  Is it going to Kapalua?  Is it the two‑year exemption on Tour?  What's the biggest perk of all?

KEN DUKE:  I think all of the above.  Probably if I had to pinpoint one, it's the two‑year exemption.  I lost my card after 2009.  I had my best year ever in '08, and in 2009, I come out and lose my card.  Since I haven't won, I had to go to the Web.com.  If I'd have won, maybe I could have gotten a Champions category and might have played some events and maybe stayed out.

This is a big relief.  Obviously, with the new change in the schedule, the new qualifying school, you don't know what's going to happen.  You don't know what the future brings about all that.  So it's a big relief to have that two‑year exemption, if I had to pinpoint one.

Q.  So going forward, you've always been pretty much a goal setter throughout your career.  Going forward now, how do you look at things differently, or how do you look at things goal‑wise?

KEN DUKE:  I just think I'm going to look at it more ‑‑ my caddie's been on me so much.  Just free it up, Pro.  He calls me Pro.  Free it up, free it up.  It's hard.  It's really hard.  I try to play free as much as possible, but I think this is going to help both of us.

He's had some tough times, and I've had some tough times out here obviously, but I think it will help us both to just relax more and say, you know, it's okay to go at this pin or go at this par 5.  If you don't make it, you don't make it because you know that you ‑‑ like we talked about.  You have the job security.

I think, when you play more free ‑‑ and it seems like over the years, once I think I have a number, made enough money to keep my card, I played better because that ease comes on you, that load comes down.

We're going to have fun with it.  I'm not going to change my schedule.  I'm a guy that plays a lot, and I enjoy playing.  I enjoy all the tournaments.  I wish I could play them all, but it's just hard to do.

Q.  Ken, a good finish this week, and next week I don't know if you plan on being out in West Virginia, but will put you in a good spot for the British.  How much do you think about that at this point?

KEN DUKE:  Not too much.  I like the Greenbriar.  Played there well last year, obviously have good memories.  Almost could have won that one.  Not really much.  I played the Open Championship a couple of times and really like playing over there.

The weather has been horrible when I played over there, but if you go over there and it's 70 degrees, it's not the Open Championship.  It would be a great honor to get in, but I've just got to focus on this week and accept what's going on this week and the next week, and we'll see what happens.

Q.  Difficult or easier to kind of get into this week after the win and everything afterwards?  Hard to refocus or easy?

KEN DUKE:  I think it's easy.  You don't have any expectations now.  You just go out and have fun and play.  Everyone's going to say, I hope he wins again.  Well, I do too.

This is a totally different golf course than Cromwell at the TPC course.  It's a lot longer.  It's a different ball game.  We're going to have fun with it.

I think my caddie and I will be talking about what happened last week and probably not focus on this week, but sometimes that's good because you don't think about what's going on.  You just go have fun.

This year at Memorial ‑‑ I've never really played well at Memorial.  I didn't even play a practice round.  I teed up on Thursday, and I think I finished 16th.  So no expectations going in there and same with this week.  We're just going to look at it and go have fun.

Q.  I'm just curious if ‑‑ do you feel like some of your near miss opportunities in the past that you finally learned ‑‑ something you learned from that carried you this time?

KEN DUKE:  I just think you have to put yourself in that position over and over again.  You've got to be patient out here.  You can't make things happen.  You've got to let it happen.  You just have to be patient.

It's hard to do because you want to ‑‑ you want every putt to go in.  You want this to happen.  You want this person not to make the putt.  It's just ‑‑ it is what it is.  With this game, you've got to have patience every time you play.

Q.  I just wondered, do you also get a sense that, no offense, but because of your age, you might be the ultimate underdog, like everybody might kind of pick up your cause now?

KEN DUKE:  I'm always an underdog everywhere I go.  It's just the way it is.  Obviously, everyone out here ‑‑ you know the big names out here.  If they're in the field, you're an underdog every single time.  So just every week that's the way it is.

But I've always said, if I'm in the tournament or if anyone else is in the tournament and you play well, you might win.  You have a chance.  If you're not in the tournament, you don't win.  Now, are you supposed to win?  No.  Was Justin Rose supposed to win a couple weeks ago?  He was picked, but he wasn't supposed to win.  But he played good enough to win, and he was in the field.  I think that's the way it is.

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks for your time, Ken.  Best of luck this week.

KEN DUKE:  Thank you guys for everything.

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