MORE INTERVIEWS: Valero Texas Open transcripts archive
ROYCE THOMPSON: We'd like to welcome our defending champion, Ben Curtis, to the media center. Ben, if you could, just some opening comments about your year and coming back this week as the defending champion?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, most definitely. Just glad to be back here. It's always nice to come back where you've played well in the past, and being the second year here, it's still trying to learn the place a little bit. But, obviously, I like the golf course and things like that. I have great memories here. So it's a fantastic golf course, and in great shape again.
Hopefully, the weather will cooperate with us. Looks like Thursday on it should be good. Yeah, just looking forward to going out there and playing some golf.
I haven't played great this year. I've had a couple of decent finishes, but just trying to get the snow off from home. But it's coming around. So I'm liking the way things are progressing.
Q. You talk about you're still trying to learn the course. Lot of guys here. Jim Furyk, other guys who have never played here before. One of those guys walks up to you and says "How do you win on this course like you did last year?" What do you tell them?
BEN CURTIS: Obviously, if you do everything good I drove it really well, putted well it makes things a little bit easier. You're not putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Especially on this golf course, if you can drive it good, you're going to give yourself a lot of good opportunities for birdies. And as long as you don't short side yourself and leave yourself that difficult up and down.
But with the changes this year, there are not as much fairway runoffs, a little more roughs. So I think you'll see a little bit lower scores this year, and guys will probably get a little more aggressive than maybe in the past.
Q. Along those lines, this is the fourth toughest course on the TOUR, and there are a lot of little parts of this course that I know players have even talked about coming in and talked about softening the greens. Are there a couple of spots where even now as you've played out there today that you say, boy, I'm going to dread this tee shot, or is there one spot here that's really you've got to watch out where you are?
BEN CURTIS: Not necessarily any tee shots for myself in general. But number 8 was one of those last year that was really difficult to get aggressive when the pin was in the back of the green, because there are only maybe 8 to 12, 15 feet of green there where they put the pin. Even though you're coming in with a wedge, it was really windy and it made it awfully tricky. So you have to be really precise there.
Now there is a little bit of rough there. You know you're coming in with wedge or so, you might see guys get a little more aggressive. You might see a few more shots over the back of that green. Whereas, last year, I think most of the guys, if they didn't just get over the ridge and they kind of trickled back down and had that 30 40 footer up over the slope, they would have taken it. But I think you might see a little more aggressiveness on that side of it.
Like on 10, I noticed to the right of the green, it's not that fairway now. So you might see a few more shots to the right of the green. It won't be a terribly difficult up and down.
Q. This year you talk about maybe some of the snow being on the game. You don't feel the pressure to get back out this year like last year where you were trying to get things going.
BEN CURTIS: Well, last year I spent three weeks in the Middle East to start the year, mid January through the first week of February, so that kind of helped me out quite a bit. This year it seemed like Hawaii, the weather was the way it was, and it was so windy, it was really hard to focus in on the game the couple weeks there.
I played in San Diego and then went to Dubai, and it seemed like I couldn't get to Dubai until Wednesday, so I didn't really play well Thursday, Friday. So then I flew home Friday night and didn't get a lot of practice in those two weeks as well because of that. So it just seems like the game was slower. Where last year maybe I was pressing it a little bit more and playing it a little bit more, whereas, now, I could kind of set the schedule and play at my leisure when I need to and feel like I need to.
But I obviously know that I generally start playing well about this time of the year through September which is where I made most of my money and played well. So it's just me being from where I'm from in Ohio, the season starts off the week of the Masters. It's kind of when the people start getting excited about playing golf.
Q. Last year when you won here, I think I saw the comment that you had gone over and had a drink before you caught your flight out of here and no one really noticed you. Has that happened this year? Or have people after last year it finally sunk in that that's Ben Curtis?
BEN CURTIS: Not really, actually. Last year after we won, we went up to the sports bar up here at the hotel, and we sat there for four hours and no one even one person came up to us the whole time we were sitting there. They had the Golf Channel on, all the TVs and we just kept kind of ducking our heads, but it was a fun evening. It's just a fun memory to have and things like that.
Obviously, this week I've seen my picture around a few places, so it's a little bit different. But, yeah, it's obviously a family friendly place, and there are lots of families running around, so it's a lot of fun.
Q. Obviously, a lot of good memories from Britain from having won there before. When you went back last year after the Texas Open win, did people say, Hey, we saw that you won the tournament and things looked to be going well?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I went back in May to play at the BMW Championship at Wentworth, yeah, obviously, I was in good form because of the stretch that I had after I won here. The three weeks after I played really well, had a week off and went over there. Obviously, I was playing really well and things like that.
It's probably more noticeable there because I won there and on their continent the oldest championship in golf. So I think not to say there's more respect, but maybe they follow the guise of one, Justin Leonard went over there, Tom Lehman, Americans, and Todd Hamilton as well. I mean, they kind of follow us probably more closely than say over here. But that's just because they have a rich history of golf over there.
Q. Your game now is it just a matter of repetition and getting back into the flow of things, or do you feel maybe some bad swing habits have cropped back up and you just need to work those out?
BEN CURTIS: Well, it's a little bit of both. I played nicely at Bay Hill for three and a half rounds and when we went back on Monday to finish up, my timing just seemed to disappear, and I just haven't gotten it back yet. So I've been working really hard the last couple of days to get the timing of my swing down, especially with the driver. I'm doing okay with the wedges and irons and the chipper and putter. It just seems like I was playing nicely last week. The last four holes, the driver just disappeared and hit two of the worst drives I had hit all year and it cost me four shots.
I just know if I get the timing down with that club, I'll be fine. Especially here, you've got to drive it good here.
Q. Speaking of the course, if I can go back for a second. There were some changes made during the off season. Number 12 is completely different, the green and everything. Did you notice? Were they noticeable changes, if so, how so?
BEN CURTIS: Well, on 1 and 10, it was really hard to see, 4, the slope wasn't as severe on the right hand side. So I'd say 1 and 10 were very hard to see, but definitely on 12 was a big difference because I noticed the shots we hit a few today and the pin was in the middle, but we kind of hit it back leftish, and it kind of stayed up on the slope; whereas in the past, there was only maybe 12, 15 feet of green there. Then if you didn't get it up there, it was either over the green or it was 20 yards over the green or it was 45 feet short of the pin.
Now, I think you might see some guys bump and run it up the hill a little bit more. I think you're just going to see. It's going to be totally different especially on 12 with that pin on the left. 1 and 10 are still going to be difficult holes depending on the win.
Yeah, so I think that hole, they moved the tee up on 1 as well where we played the back tee in the previous years. Yeah, it's going to be, I think just 12 is probably the biggest difference you'll see.
Q. Houston kind of tabbed itself as the ideal set up to Augusta and the way they've emulated the conditions there. Is there anything about this course that lends itself to practice certain shots for Augusta, or is it just a completely different test all together?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I never looked at Houston as like I've got to play there because it's very similar to what Augusta is. They set it up similar with the fairways and mowing and the short rough and everything running off the greens, they mow down quite a bit just like Augusta does.
But as far as here, for me, if the conditions and the course is in great shape, the greens here can get quite quick and fast and they've got enough elevation on them. So I think that is the biggest thing for me is not so much the shots you have to hit but the greens. There is more slope on these greens than Houston. Houston is pretty flat. They're very subtle. They're hard to see the slopes in them. But, yeah, I think this would be a great test before Augusta because of the greens and how quick they can get.
Obviously, I think the wind might be more of a factor here than at Augusta.
ROYCE THOMPSON: Ben, if you could real quick just talk about your foundation? Obviously, it's kicking off, and just some thoughts about that.
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, my wife and I started the Ben Curtis Family Foundation. We're kicking off the website this week. Basically, what we're doing is helping kids in Kent, Ohio in our community. Eventually, we'd love to spread around and help out other kids and other communities that need it, and families that are in need of financially of helping kids get food, clothing and things like that, educational needs.