The PGA Championship

Interview with Ben Curtis

August 12, 2003

JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. British Open Champion Ben Curtis joins us at the 85th PGA Championship playing in his first PGA Championship.

Ben, welcome to Rochester. Some opening thoughts and then we'll go to Q&A.

Ben Curtis: Thank you very much. Just looking forward to this week. It's been a long few weeks, but I'm looking forward to getting back out there and competing again.

Q: Can you tell us about the demands on your time since the British Open and maybe what's been the most fun perk that you've enjoyed since the win?

Ben Curtis: Well, it's been very hectic the last few weeks but it's been a lot of fun at the same time. I've been asked to do a lot of things, but trying to pace myself to where I can do both things at once.

The biggest thing so far was meeting the President. That was pretty cool.

Q: Is there some pressure for you this week to go out and have the kind of showing that people would expect from a British Open Champion; has that crossed your mind?

Ben Curtis: Of course. Obviously when you come off a major win and this is the next major, you're going to be asked to play well. I try not to worry about it, just go out there and play my game and have a good time and hopefully shoot a good number.

Q: Just as Julius introduced you, are you used to having British Open Champion as your first name now and Ben Curtis your last name; does that sink in when you hear it?

Ben Curtis: Now it's "Ben Curtis, Open Champ." It's a lot of fun and I'm enjoying it. I'm looking forward to playing. It's a lot of fun to have that name. It's pretty cool.

Q: Would you just talk about how you are hitting the ball and how this course might fit your game this week?

Ben Curtis: I am not hitting it as good as I want right now but I've got this afternoon and tomorrow. I feel pretty good. The short game is where I want it to be, and tomorrow hopefully I'll get the driver fixed out and if I can get it in the fairway, that's a big plus.

Q: What kind of a complement of people are you expecting from your home and is it being complicated because of the wedding plans of who might be able to be here and who might not be able to be here?

Ben Curtis: I'm going to have some family and friends here but not as many as I would hope.

It's still a long ways from home, six hours from where my parents live, but I'll have a good following.

Q: Are you comfortable with all of the attention or do you still feel like it's a little bit surreal?

Ben Curtis: I'm getting more comfortable each day. I'm just taking it one day at a time. I'm really enjoying myself. It's a lot of fun, but you hear your name everywhere, it's a lot of fun. I'm just trying not to worry about it and go about my business.

Q: It seems that there are times where you're a little bit nervous after the Open in talking about it, and talk about whether you were nervous on Letterman with the aroma crack?

Ben Curtis: It's just nervous being in front of a big crowd like that. You can't see anybody when you're on stage, but I'm just enjoying every bit of it and having a good time. Try not to worry about it and just continuing forward.

Q: Have you been able to regain your focus and concentration on your actual golf game since the British? And secondly, has the other famous golfer from Columbus spoken to you since your win?

Ben Curtis: Well, I got a letter from him last week. And I've been at home the last couple of weeks. I played the Buick and went home and was able to work on my game a little bit. That part of it, it's coming around, getting to practice a little bit more.

I haven't got a phone call, just a letter.

Q: What did he say in the letter?

Ben Curtis: He just said, "Great playing. Looking forward to meeting you down the road." He just said, "Good job."

Q: What the gallery is saying, I would assume that you are kind of the underdog. What have some of the comments been like?

Ben Curtis: Nothing too bad. Just like 2-for-2 and stuff like that. Just a lot of comments like that. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Q: Wondered about the demands on your time; how many people have approached you for endorsements or corporate outings or playing overseas, and do you feel there might be a risk that you can accept too much too quickly?

Ben Curtis: Well, obviously you can. I'm just letting the managers take care of that and let them go and just advise me of what I should do. Just take it one day at a time and hopefully some more opportunities will come about.

Q: Describe your experience of carrying the Claret Jug home on the plane, and you are not exempt yet for THE TOUR Championship; is that something that you are looking forward to trying to make?

Ben Curtis: Well, yeah. I'm just going to try to play each week as it means something, so I'm just going to go out there. That's obviously a goal of mine. Each player wants to get there at the end of the year. It's a great perk and hopefully as a rookie I will be able to do it.

It was really neat to be able to carry that jug on the plane. It was between Candace and I and on the floor and we kind of had our hands on it at all times.

Q: Can you elaborate on what your wedding plans are, playing that weekend and making contingencies?

Ben Curtis: We didn't really change anything. We just hope everything runs smoothly with the weather and that's the biggest issue. Hopefully everything will go well and we'll just plan on getting married on Saturday.

Q: What plans have you made, how are you going to get from the course to the church?

Ben Curtis: Well, they are 20 minutes away so hopefully that won't be a factor. Just hop in the car and be home in 20, 30 minutes.

Q: Tiger a little while ago mentioned that he called you shortly after you won the Open and congratulated you. What kind of response have you gotten from other upper-echelon players besides Tiger, offering you advice or anything as far as the demands on your time and that sort of thing?

Ben Curtis: Well, they have all been very supportive. Everyone has come up and congratulated me and just been very supportive to say, hey, take it a day at a time. Like I talked about before and try not to play too much, try not to do too little. Just balance it out and get an even balance going.

Q: Your game really started to turn around when you brought Danny Sahl on. Can you talk about what he's done for you and talk about having him back; and winning your first major, was it bittersweet not having him on the bag?

Ben Curtis: Danny has been good to me. We played college golf together for three years. He's a normal guy and we just go out there and have fun. We don't worry about the game and just play. He helps me out every now and then when I need some help.

Q: Just wondering if you could tell me, what are some of the things you've done or some of the places you've taken your Claret Jug and have you had any bizarre experiences now that people are starting to recognize you, anything weird, any sort of weird things that have happened that didn't used to happen to you?

Ben Curtis: Well, I think the biggest thing is just when you go out to eat. I go out with the family and before I could go out and have a quiet dinner but now people recognize who I am, especially around home.

I really haven't done much with the Claret Jug. I took it home for a couple days down to my parents' house and it's just sitting at home right now.

Q: You seem a lot less surprised about what happened at the British Open than the rest of us. Is that a confidence issue or did you expect to reach this level at some point in your career?

Ben Curtis: At some point in my career I always wanted to be here. I didn't expect it to come quite so soon. Especially I haven't played that well up until that point. I've been working hard on my game in the last few months and it just kind of came around at the right time.

I knew I could win majors; I just didn't think it would happen this soon. I thought maybe as soon as I got 10 or 12 under my belt, that maybe once I got in contention a couple of times. I was surprised to win but at the same time, I wasn't.

Q: After the British Open, you had withdrawn from a couple of events and there was some criticism from players. Was that warranted and what did you learn from it?

Ben Curtis: We just made the commitments early on in the year and we just kind of -- once I won at the British, I just kind of took it back and just said, hey, we just need to go over our schedule, and we just kind of took it week by week, see how I felt.

I just wanted to come into each tournament prepared and I just didn't feel like for those that I was prepared.

Q: Will you be able to enjoy a honeymoon or are the demands on you such that you will have to play that following week?

Ben Curtis: Well, I'm going to play the following week, but we are going to go on a honeymoon in September. We are going to take some time off and go then.

Q: I don't know if you've had a chance to see the course, but if you could just talk about it, and if you had a chance to see it and how tough it's playing out there?

Ben Curtis: Well, it's pretty wet right now. But the rough is really long so you've got to keep the ball in the fairway. Especially around the greens, you'd rather be in the bunker than, let's say, in the rough. The greens are not real quick yet, but I'm sure if it dries out the next couple of days, it will get firm and fast.

You know, you just have to keep the ball in the fairway and below the hole. You're going to have chances for birdie but you're going to make some bogeys.

Q: You mentioned that you were not hitting the ball well; is there something that you could specify about, something you're working on with your swing? And also, do you think that the way major courses are set up that there's something about them, the difficulty of a major course that maybe is suited for a guy who hits as straight as you do?

Ben Curtis: Every major championship, it's very testing. So you have to go out there and do the best that you can. Even-par is not a bad score out there. Even this week, I don't think even-par will be a bad score. My goal is just to go out there and hit a lot of fairways and greens and try to keep it around the red numbers.

Nothing in particular this week. Just working on tempo as usual and make sure all of the fundamentals are intact.

Q: Does what happened with you with the British kind of show that anything can happen, anybody can win this thing this week or any other major?

Ben Curtis: Well, you know, there's so many good players out there these days, there's 156 guys here and any one of them can win if they play well. It's just a matter of who putts the best and who keeps the ball in the fairway and doesn't make too many mental mistakes. There's just so many good players out there. I mean, you look at the top 100 in the world, any one of those guys can compete anywhere in the world on any given day.

Q: Did you play in the U.S. Amateur here?

Ben Curtis: Yes.

Q: How does the course compare to that year?

Ben Curtis: Well, it's a little bit longer. The greens are not as fast as they were then but it was a lot drier. The whole northeast has been hit with a lot of rain so it's pretty similar. Only thing that's changed is the length, really.

Q: At the Western Open, which got you into the British Open, was that even on your mind entering the tournament that that was a way to get in, and did you know your standing on Sunday and were you even thinking about that?

Ben Curtis: Well, yeah, going into the week I was definitely thinking about the British. My goal was to get in the top eight. Especially on Sunday afternoon when we got in the rain delay, Candace kind of said, "We're going to the British, we're going to the British."

I had to calm her down and say, "Hey, we have two more holes left." It was in the back of my mind but I tried not to worry about it. I was just trying to do the best I could for that week.

Q: Can you just elaborate about your meeting with the President? You said it was pretty cool but what were the details of it; how long were you in there and what did he say to you and all that?

Ben Curtis: We were in there for about 25 minutes. We just reflected on the tournament and he kind of went over what the Oval Office means to the United States and each president. He just went over a history of where he came from and how he got there. He was just a nice guy and you could ask him anything you wanted.

Q: That Sunday at Sandwich, what sticks out in your mind a few weeks later or is it a surreal dream or what do you remember the most?

Ben Curtis: I just remember stepping up on the first tee and just once I hit that drive, walking down the fairway I told my caddie, I said, "Here we go." I just remember that particular -- just thinking right then I knew that I had a chance. I was playing really well and I seemed pretty calm and I just tried to enjoy it and we just had a good time.

Q: After you won, getting do you remember getting off on the cart?

Ben Curtis: It was a blur until I saw Candace. Once I saw her, after that, I just started to relax a little bit and had a good time.

Q: If you don't win another major in the next year or so, are you worried people are going to start talking about a slump?

Ben Curtis: No, not really. (Laughing).

Q: Can you imagine what it must be like for Tiger to be the top player in the world and have people talking that he is in a slump?

Ben Curtis: He's won four tournaments this year. He's obviously playing well. He's had a good chance at the British. He's obviously a great player. He's going to be in contention every week that he plays. I mean, it's hard to say he's in a slump when he's won four times. If I win four times each year, I would be happy, even without a major.

Q: When Tiger first came on TOUR, he was fortunate enough to have guys like Mark O'Meara giving him advice. Has anyone stood out, coming forward and if so, what's the best advice you've received?

Ben Curtis: You know, I played with Mark two weeks ago at the Buick, and he's an awesome guy. He just sat down and when we were playing, he just said, "Hey, you've got to take advantage of everything that comes your way. You've got to pick and choose what's right for you and pick out your best schedule."

We basically talked about the schedule and how we should just -- not play in everything, but play in more worldwide events and get known for an international player instead of just a player from the U.S.

Q: Has it sunk in at all about the traditional pairing now, also, that you are going to be paired with the other two major winners; what does that mean to you and could you talk about that?

Ben Curtis: I was fortunate to sit down with Mike at the British for a couple of days before the tournament started. He's a true gentleman. He's a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to going out there and playing with him and Jim. Hopefully it should be a good time and we can all play well.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks very much for coming down, Ben.

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