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An Interview with: BEN CURTIS

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KELLY ELBIN: One of six newcomers to the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Ben Curtis joining us at the 37th Ryder Cup. Ben tied for second at the PGA Championship last month.

Just thoughts about your game coming in and starting off on what the Ryder Cup experience has been like so far.

BEN CURTIS: Well, obviously playing pretty well, just playing pretty solid, hitting the ball pretty good, making quite a few putts.

You know, I just feel pretty confident about my game, and it seems to be in the right form coming into this week. Obviously this week has been a lot of fun so far, a lot of neat experiences. You know, it's getting to know the guys a little bit better, and it's a lot of fun to hang out with them and up in the team room every night. Yeah, it's just -- so far there's no complaints, that's for sure.

KELLY ELBIN: Has Captain Azinger talked at all about potential pairings, any strategies, et cetera, with you guys.

BEN CURTIS: Well, he has, but it's -- it could change, obviously. But nothing set in stone or anything like that.

It's just going to be kind of a wait-and-see Thursday night and Friday night and see what's going to happen.

Yeah, just looking forward to whoever I play with, just go out there and have a lot of laughs and try and enjoy the whole thing.

Q. In your practice round yesterday, I wondered if you got a chance to get in any alternate-shot practice with anybody or if you've -- you said you've never played it before, so how is that going?

BEN CURTIS: Well, we did. We played nine holes on the front nine. Steve and I just played against Chad and Stewart just to get used to it, kind of get the feel for it. We all hit a drive on each hole, but we kind of designated odds and evens before we started just to kind of get experience for it, just to see what it's like.

Yeah, it's very unique. It's still not what it's going to be like on Friday because we didn't do a true alternate -- we all hit tee balls, but I knew which hole was mine and which hole was his, so it was very unique.

Q. I just wondered if you've had any conversations with anybody about the idiosyncrasies of the format. Chad was just in here, and he said the first time he played it in '06 at The K Club, it's like, you know, you may not putt until the 13th hole and then all of a sudden you've got a seven-foot downhill breaker that you're supposed to make.

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think it's hard to get into a rhythm. I could see where that could be an issue, just because you hit one drive and then you may not hit until the second shot on the next hole.

So I mean, it could be -- you could go a half hour without swinging a golf club. It's hard to keep that rhythm when you're not -- you're used to hitting a shot on every hole, so it's going to be different.

And like putting-wise, it's like, yeah, you could go ten holes without having a meaningful putt really, and then all of a sudden you've got a 15-footer to win or tie a hole.

Yeah, you're going to -- I'm sure there's going to be some thoughts in your head, like, okay, I haven't had a putt in ten holes, I wonder what it green is going to be like, or if they got faster from the morning from being soft to drying out a little bit. Yeah, it's something everybody has to deal with, not just us, but Europeans do, as well.

Yeah, I think the more experience you have in it, you can relate back to those times when you did play in this format. Chad and Stewart have played -- yesterday when we played, we talked about it a little bit, and they've had experience in it, so they know what it was like.

Q. Considering the speed of the greens and the lack of a lot of contours on the greens, do you anticipate this possibly being kind of a birdie-fest and a lot of excitement during the weekend?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think there's a lot of small breaks in these greens. I mean, that could be hard to see. I don't know where the pins are going to be, but I imagine they're going to be in some pretty difficult situations.

Yeah, it's going to be -- I think you're going to see a lot of birdies, but you're also -- it's a tough course from tee to green, especially in alternate-shot, I think you're going to see a lot more par putts than you would in the afternoon rounds for birdies.

I think the guys, it's going to take a while to adjust to the course and these greens, because some of them are -- like some of the greens that are out in the Open have a lot of grass on them, and some of them are a little bit bare that are back in the trees.

Q. Maybe you could share with us your earliest memories of watching the Ryder Cup or paying attention to matches, how far back and what you remember?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I vaguely remember '87, just because it was at Muirfield Village. I think the earliest memories is '91 watching the singles matches with Corey Pavin and Bernhard Langer and all those guys coming down at the end down there at Kiawah. And then just remembering the late '90s more than anything. I think '99 sticks out for obvious reasons.

But that was my first, like, real look at it, and I was like, wow, this is big-time. Other than a major, this is the most pressure you're ever going to feel. And I think just watching those events, you just realize what a big deal this event is.

Q. Steve was in here earlier, Stricker, and said this was at the top of his list of things that he had accomplished. I'm wondering, you have won the British Open. Just making this Ryder Cup, just wondering how special it is for you?

BEN CURTIS: Well, it's No. 2 on the list. Obviously winning the Open is No. 1. That will never change. This is obviously No. 2 by far.

I mean, this is -- you don't get to play for your country very often, and I got the chance back in the World Am in 2000 and felt the pressure there, but that was five people watching compared to 50,000 (laughing). It's going to be a lot different than what I experienced back then, but just the pride that you felt putting the American flag on your shirt, it's pretty cool.

Q. Would you just talk a little bit about Boo Weekley? I guess it's safe to say he's not your typical golfer, especially from a soundbyte point of view, but just the character that he brings to this team?

BEN CURTIS: My wife, it was funny, Candace was saying yesterday, we were about 30 feet behind him, and he's up there chatting away with a beer in his hand walking down the hallway towards the team room, and she goes, "How could you not laugh around him 24/7?"

And I said, "Well, you do." He's a lot of fun to be around, and you never know what he's going to say next. It's always something funny. He's just a lot of fun to be around with. He's just a guy that you want to hang around with. He'll keep you loose and keep you having a good time, no matter the situation.

Q. What kind of an entourage do you have this week, a lot of friends, relatives, coaches come down? How big is the party?

BEN CURTIS: Well, it's just Candace and I. That's all I'm focused on. The whole family is here. My parents are here. Her parents are here watching the kids. And my brother is coming and his wife and Candace's brother and his wife. I think my grandmother is coming today to watch.

But everything is a back burner. It's just kind of -- there's so much going on that Candace and I, all we're focused on is what we can do to help the team and not really worry about that, just enjoy the whole experience and let them have a good time and go out and watch some golf and enjoy the experience, because who knows, I may never be back.

Q. Curious, how old is your grandmother and how often does she watch you play?

BEN CURTIS: It's been a while since she's watched, but she's, I think, 85. She gets around pretty good. You know, I imagine this course is pretty hilly, so she's probably just going to stick around the clubhouse area. Yeah, it's been a while since she's really watched. I would say it's been ten years since she could walk 18 holes.

Q. Will this be the first time she watches you play as a professional?

BEN CURTIS: No. She's -- well, I mean, I guess she's watched a few holes here and there at Muirfield and places around home. But she's never -- I don't think she's walked a full 18 since, no.

Q. I was just curious, what's the most nerves you've ever felt on a golf course?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I think U.S. Amateur in '99, playing in the semis, and that was because my brother had no nails that week. He chewed them all off before we got to the first tee on that semifinal -- it was at Pebble, and you know, the range is miles away.

No one is out there watching, and we get over to the -- it was 7:30 in the morning, we get over to make that corner, they drop you off around the corner and the first tee is right there, and my brother stopped in his tracks and said -- he was already -- his nails were already gone for the week anywhere, and he's sitting there going like this (biting nails), and I don't know if he may have been more nervous but it's ten deep on the first holes. There's only two matches obviously, and we were the first match out there. That was a lot of pressure.

And then I would have to say the PGA this year was not easy. You know, it was a good thing not really having the overnight lead. It was kind of 36 holes on Sunday, no time to really think about it, didn't have to sleep on it. And then obviously in '03 at the British Open.

Q. What's it going to be like for whatever plays alternate-shot with Holmes, different yardages obviously? What's that sensation going to be like do you think for whoever that is?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I think if it was me, I think I'd love it, enjoy it, hitting wedges and 9-irons into these greens would be a lot of fun. You'd have green light all the time instead of hitting 5- or 6-irons into some of these greens.

I think whoever it may be, it's going to feel like you just laid up on a par-5 and you're going to have the green light the whole time. I think you're going to be even more aggressive than what you normally would be.

And I think obviously him being from here, the crowds are going to be even more electric, and I think he's probably going to hit it 20 yards further because of that. I've heard he hit a few bombs yesterday, and it's only going to get firmer and faster out there, so he's going to hit it even further.

KELLY ELBIN: Ben Curtis, thanks very much.

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