May 26, 2004
Note: The news conference was moderated by Julius Mason, the Director of Public Relations and Media Relations of the PGA of America
JULIUS MASON: Like to welcome. Craig Stadler to the interview room. Joining us at the 65th Senior PGA Championship. Playing in his second Senior PGA Championship. Also a man very familiar with the Valhalla Golf Club, after playing the '96 and the 2000 PGA Championship here. Craig, welcome to Louisville, welcome to Valhalla, some opening comments and then we'll go to Q and A, please.
CRAIG STADLER: It's nice to be back here. I played in '96 and 2000, I guess. But so far it's a bit cooler than it was then. Especially '96. But a good golf course. The golf course is in great shape. Greens speed up a little bit, if they do, it will be fun. Got some interesting — a few interesting Jack designs out there on the greens. But just a good solid, good hard golf course. Especially if the wind keeps blowing.
JULIUS MASON: Questions?
Q. Just talk about, if you've already played a round, the differences that you remember between now and they have made some changes, does it play similar to 2000?
CRAIG STADLER: Yeah, for the most part. I played 6 holes on the back nine, I started on 13 and played 18 too. A couple holes obviously are different. No. 2 is now a par-4, which personally I thought it was a better hole as a 5. But we played it in the PGA that way. It's definitely a par-5 green. And with the tee up there, it brings the right rough into play off the tee. The left rough is nothing like it was in the PGA, so obviously you can play out of it. But it kind of turns it, today anyway, it kind of turned it into a 3-wood, 3-iron hole. Which is fine, but it's really not a 3-iron green, I don't think. But so be it. It's a good hard 4 par. Other than that, the only other real hole that's different I think is 16. The tee is up there and it's still a driver, it's a driver 7-iron, 6-iron, possibly 5-iron into the wind. I remember hitting 2, 3 and 4 irons there every day at best when we did play the PGA. But the par?3s are the same place. Most of the tees are the same. Golf course — I said the golf course is in great shape for this early in the year. Greens are good. They're not real fast, but they're smooth, they're very true, putting very well.
Q. After being known as a very good putter early on and then struggling a little bit and then finding the claw, is the claw the answer, do you think, long?term, or do you still fiddle with it every now and then with different grips?
CRAIG STADLER: When I first started trying it, it was at Faxon's, the CVS thing a couple years ago, the tournament in Providence. And I kind of figured it might be a 3 to 4 year fix and two years later I'm still using it. And still putting fairly consistent with it. I wouldn't say I'm a great putter, but certainly a lot better than I have. I've gotten very comfortable with it. As I said, it really doesn't matter what grip you use as long as you have the confidence. As long as you get over a putt from 6, 8 feet and you know you have a pretty good chance of making it. And I was standing over it from 4, 5, 6 feet and trying to figure out which side I wanted to miss it on. And the odds were pretty good that it would be one or the other. But I don't really foresee changing any time real soon. I have good putting week, I have marginal putting weeks, but I don't have bad putting weeks any more. My bad putting days are 31, occasionally 32 putts. But the other difference is, as you said, I was, I thought I was a fairly good putter in the late '70s, early '80s, but I didn't hit the ball very good then. I can't even tell you how many times I hit 11 or 12 greens or 10 greens and shot 5-under par. And I'm hitting the ball better now, I'm probably averaging 14, 15 greens. And the more greens you hit in regulation, the more putts you're going to have, the less short putts for pars you're going to have after chipping. So I don't think the correlation between the two from 20 years ago and now is cut and dry, right down the line as far as number of putts. Because I think it's completely different ball striking eras for me.
Q. Can you look back at your mindset as you approached your fiftieth birthday and what you saw ahead of you on the Champions Tour and then once you got here and win on both tours right away, how much you might have rethought that or reassessed it.
CRAIG STADLER: Well, to be truthful with you, up until I would say probably two and a half months before I really didn't think about it much. My wife did. But I was — I had a pretty, for me and what little I played, I had a pretty competitive summer of 2002 when I was 49. And I had a chance to win a couple tournaments on Sunday. But as I said, I really didn't think about it, I was just going to play my way right into June and then flop right over. But I don't know what happened between the Vegas tournament and the Hawaiian Open, but I came out the first of the year and I was just horrible. I mean beyond horrible. I played in six events, I made three cuts, I finished dead last two of them and maybe 35th in the other one. And I just kind of decided actually before Augusta, probably — trying to think of where I played. Probably L.A., i played L.A. and I think my next tournament was Augusta. Hilton Head. I played 9 holes there and withdrew. I whacked my wrist somewhere along the way. And just kind of got tired of fighting with it. And that's only 2 months into the year. And that's never happened. And I played — well three months into the year. But I played L.A., my next one was I believe Augusta, and then I played the Nelson after that and New Orleans. And that was it. I just kind of won a month. And that, once it got to the point of Augusta, I kind of felt like I embarrassed myself. I'd get a little tired playing 28 on Friday and 32 on Saturday or whatever. However many it was. But I kind of hit a wall and got paired with — I was the last one to tee off on the second round and made a pretty good putt on nine to make the cut right on the nose. So I got paired with Jeff Nokes, got paired with a marker on the third round on Saturday and he went out and just kicked my butt. And I shot just kind of died. I shot 79, so it was just good enough to get paired with him on Sunday and he beat me again on Sunday. After that I said, you know what? That's about enough. And I didn't play after that. I went to Muirfield, I withdrew, I never started. I blew my back out, I got sick and then my back went out and that was it. Then I just said, you know, what the heck, we'll just wait another three weeks or couple weeks and have a birthday and hit some balls and go over here and see what happens. And I came out and probably played the best golf I played in 10 years at Aronimink last year. Had a couple things unfortunate on Saturday, but played really solid. And I hadn't done that for almost 8, 9 months. As I say, I've said it a million times, I don't know why the difference, why it happened, what the difference was, why I went from horrendous to pretty darn good. I don't know, I don't care. It didn't go the other way and I don't have to analyze it and try to figure out why, it went the right way. And I'm more than happy with it and so be it. So really I didn't answer your question much, but to put it in a quick synopsis, I really wasn't concerned with Champions Tour until about probably midway through the last spring, last year and then all of a sudden I kind of looked forward to it as a change. A change that I kind of needed at the time due to my golf game.
Q. You had, say, I guess, that those years, I guess those late 40 years can be tough for a lot of guys. Can you go through some of your thoughts as maybe as you're not as competitive as you want to be, but you're not quite at the Senior TOUR level yet. Just what those years are like.
CRAIG STADLER: Well, I think that in my mind I thought I was still competitive. I seemed to have a lot more mishaps or brain farts, if you want to put it that way, on the golf course. For totally unknown reasons, totally times that made no sense. After I make an eagle, after I make a birdie, after I make a double bogey, it didn't matter. Or after five straight pars. And I was having one or two of those a round. And I would just — lack of concentration or what, I don't know. But after awhile it gets kind of discouraging. You think you play a pretty good round and then out of the blue you make a 6 or 7 and kind of ruin your round. I don't know what the rest of the guys have said that have played straight through, and there haven't been a whole lot of us, but I'll be the first to admit, the last 10 months I've really enjoyed playing golf. The four years prior to that, I really didn't enjoy playing golf. I don't know if you get used to having good finishes, used to winning, whatever, and when that kind of dies down it gets old, just going out and beating your head against the wall every week. I don't know. But it wasn't real enjoyable. I could think back from 47, 48, 49, playing 20 rounds or 20 tournaments, 21 tournaments each year and go back in December and think back of the year and I could probably think of five or six that I really wanted to play in and 15 that I did. On top of that. So everybody's different. I think Jay's enjoying playing a lot this year. And last year. He's playing well, he's having a good time, got a lot of press on him, which is great. And that stuff pumps you up. Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously you go out and you feel like you belong out there. As I said, everybody's different, everybody has different idea of what they expect out of themselves, how they enjoy a round of golf and how they don't. I mean that part is definitely different for everybody. But it just wasn't much fun for awhile.
Q. Can you just talk about your chances this week and how you feel you'll do?
CRAIG STADLER: To tell you truthfully I have no idea. I took — I was fairly brain dead the last couple weeks that I played. I think I played nine out of 11 weeks or something. And one of them was Augusta, one of them Jacksonville, which both those weeks are pretty tiring mentally, actually. But I don't know. I took two weeks off, I haven't taken two weeks straight off in, gee, since probably February. And I went out last Friday for about a half hour and hit balls and then the next time was yesterday. So today's the third day I've hit balls in two and a half weeks and it's a lot better than I expected. I can pretty much find it. So we'll see, hopefully we won't get too much rain and be able to practice tomorrow. But, yeah, I played pretty well today. I was happy with the way I was hitting it. Irons are good, the putting's, that seems to be pretty good. I'm read the greens fairly well, which was my problem the last few weeks in Austin and Birmingham, I just, everything I looked at I always looked at it cross-eyed. I looked left edge from six feet and it should have been right edge. But you have weeks like that where you just kind of don't get along with the golf courses real well. But I like this course. I played twice in the past here, I know it. I pretty much — all it takes is going around once and remembering where those little bowls are that you need to avoid on some of the greens that Jack had a couple beers before he went out on them, I think.
But, no, I'm looking forward to having a good week. Not to say I'm going to play bad this week, I don't think. So I'm hitting it fairly well and I think after a layoff usually it improves every day.
Q. Do you think walking this course will be difficult for some of the players?
CRAIG STADLER: I think some of the guys on the Champions Tour, yeah. Obviously you got Purtzer who couldn't do it. He pulled out. I know Arnold is going to have a tough time, Jack will probably have a tough time. Rodger Davis, he's got health problems, issues, Tom Jenkins has bad ankles, so, you know, there's some guys that have taken carts every week that I think are playing here. Fiori, he hasn't walked since he turned 50, I don't think.
We won't go into that. But it will be interesting to see how they play and see how they survive around it. Because it's a good hike out here. It's kind of sneaky hilly in spots.
JULIUS MASON: Questions? Thanks for coming down and joining us, Craig. Good luck this week.
CRAIG STADLER: Okay. Thank you.
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