Transcript of PGA Championship on ESPN Media Conference Call

Golf

Transcript of PGA Championship on ESPN Media Conference Call

ESPN golf analysts Andy North and Curtis Strange and host Scott Van Pelt participated in a media conference call today to discuss next week’s 103rd PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. ESPN and ESPN+ will have live coverage of the first and second rounds from first tee to last putt on Thursday and Friday, May 20-21, as well as morning coverage on the weekend. ESPN+ will have Featured Groups and Featured Holes coverage all day for all four days of the tournament. There will be more than 229 live hours of play across ESPN and ESPN+ for the event. There also will be extensive coverage on SportsCenter, ESPN.com and other ESPN platforms.

A transcript of the conference call follows:

ANDY NORTH: I think the golf course is an amazing golf course. When it was last played, the PGA was played there in August. The wind blew a little bit, but I am expecting we’ll see more wind this year in May, and that golf course with even 12 to 15 miles an hour can be really, really brutal. So I’m really looking forward to seeing how the players try to attack this golf course.

People think, well, it’s a lot like the Open Championship. It’s a seaside, linksey kind of golf course. Well, no it’s not because you’ve got raised greens and all these runoffs, and it’s hard to bounce the ball on the green there.

I think a premier ball striker is going to have a great opportunity there.

CURTIS STRANGE: Well, I first want to say I totally agree with Andy, and no disrespect to Kiawah and Bill Goodwin and all those who talk about it being a links course. I think it’s not. Andy said it exactly right. You’ve got perched-up greens, you’ve got some runoffs, but it’s more of an inland golf course on the ocean I should say.

I think this golf course is probably possibly the toughest championship course on a day-to-day basis that these players will ever see, especially if the wind blows a little bit. I agree with Andy; this is late spring. If we have weather roll through here, wind coming off that Atlantic, it could be very, very hard. It could be really hard. We’ve seen that in the past.

Let’s not forget that most of the players in this field have not seen this golf course, so as we know, every golf course has this element of local knowledge, and there’s so many — I think prior to — we’ll talk to players like we normally do, but prior to the first tee shot, the golf course is the big subject and probably will be during the week, as well.

It’s going to be very interesting. I played it in three competitions, and it is — I will say this: If you play the proper tees, it’s not as hard as you might think it is. But it’s like any Pete Dye golf course. It’s visually intimidating, but once you learn how to play it, there’s a way to play this golf course, but I love it. I think it’s terrific, and I’m anxious to get there and see how it plays.

SCOTT VAN PELT: Big boy golf course, hard as hell, and we get to cover it start to finish. It’s our favorite thing, and any major that we’ve ever been a part of, it’s truly a labor of love. We love it when we can show up early and stay until the end, and whether it’s ESPN Plus or ESPN, wherever you’re going to find us, it’s just great fun to be with this group and sitting in the chair talking about whatever we see. We’ve got a hell of a canvas for these guys to write a story on, so all of that added up, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.

CURTIS STRANGE: When I think about this golf course, I think about the player who can hit different shots. If it’s calm all next week, it’s going to blow out every storyline I have previewed, but I think about the guy that can flight his ball, the guy that has the high ball hitter, which most of them do nowadays, he’s going to have to be extremely fortunate, lucky and very good to play in this kind of wind on this type of golf course where you’re going to have to flight your ball really low, work it against the wind, work it with the wind, judge runout. You’re going to have to use imagination. That’s the kind of guy.

ANDY NORTH: I agree. I’ve thought about who — I think you think, well, gee, it’s going to blow: A low-ball hitter. A low-ball hitter is going to have difficulty getting the ball on the greens. It’s not like St. Andrews where you can bounce the ball 40 yards short of the green and get it to get up here. You can’t do that here. It’s going to run off into the junk half the time.

I think you’ve got to have some guy that can flight it all different places. I look at a guy like Xander Schauffele, for example. He hits the ball very solidly. He can work it both ways. He’s a great pitcher and chipper of the ball, and he’s a wonderful putter.

I think this is a week that you’re going to have to make 15-footers for par saves more than a few times, so you’re going to have to — you can’t just be a good ball striker this week. You’ve got to be able to do a lot of different things in my opinion, and he’s the kind of guy that fits that.

I think our defending champion fits that pretty nicely.

CURTIS STRANGE: Absolutely.

ANDY NORTH: Good iron play. He’s not as good a putter. I think that’s the one area he struggles with a little bit at times. All these guys are good putters at this level, we all know that, but I just think it’s going to be so much fun to watch these guys try to attack it, and particularly guys who you know them in today’s world of practice rounds, a guy might only play nine holes two or three days. This is a golf course if you could play it 20 times I think it would help you versus once or twice.

You know, you think the wind can blow. I’m kind of thinking that it can blow from almost any direction, but it’s obviously from northeast all the way down to south, any of that’s open coming off the water. Can it blow from the inland? You’ve played it enough times. Could it blow that way part of the day that way and then switch like it does in Florida sometimes?

CURTIS STRANGE: You get fronts coming in from the west, anything can happen. They have to be ready for anything. That’s part of what we opened up with is that most of the players in the field, and I don’t know the exact number, have never seen this place before, so it’s going to be interesting.

You talk about a guy like that, I immediately go to some European Tour players just because they play in different type of conditions. I think Patrick Reed is one of those tough guys. Tyrrell Hatton, there’s a guy, Tommy Fleetwood, guys like that that can play in tougher conditions than chasing the sun on the PGA TOUR.

ANDY NORTH: Yeah, it’s going to be fun. I think it’s going to be as enjoyable a major as we’ve gone to for a while because anything could happen.

If you go back and look at any of the video from the Ryder Cup that was there, anything can happen on this golf course. I mean, you can be 4-under par with six holes to play and shoot 75. I mean, that can happen here.

A guy could — I think a guy could win this tournament shooting 75 or 76 one day, as crazy as that sounds in today’s world.

CURTIS STRANGE: I say this, but when I played there, it’s not that tough off the tee. There’s plenty of room off the tee so therefore other than a few holes that have some water, but if you eliminate, if you tiptoe around a couple of those places, there’s really plenty of room off the tee, so that to me is not the challenge. The challenge is creating, visualizing and then executing second shots into these greens.

ANDY NORTH: Will you hit the green in regulation or will they visit the green in regulation?

CURTIS STRANGE: You know, I didn’t find them that tough. When I played there, we played the Senior PGA there and a couple other tournaments. I just didn’t find them that tough. It depends on what direction the wind blows from, but I think we’re saying everything right now, Andy, and it’s all about the golf course right now.

ANDY NORTH: Yeah, it’s going to be fun.

Q – Scott, Curtis and Andy, if you want to chime in on this you can, if you’re on air for 10,000 consecutive hours, what’s the trick to keep going and be at your best for that length of time?

SCOTT VAN PELT: I suck so it doesn’t make any difference. If you start terrible you can just stink all day. That’s how I approach it. Just smother hook the first tee shot and just keep chucking it all day. That’s what I do. Listen to 10 hours of nonsense.

No, in all honesty they build in a little bit of a window to take a breather, at least for me. I feel for the guys that are out there with a pack on, they’re out there schlepping it and walking and then come back in. God, we ride Andy (North) into the ground. He’s out there with a group, then comes in and throws on a tie and sits down. I’m in there in the air-conditioning. I’m stealing money. They’re long days, but the stories are always changing and it’s always interesting.

Now, we’ve all got stories of getting hangry at the end of maybe a 14-hour day at the Open Championship when there’s nowhere left to get takeaway, but I think mostly there’s no place I’d rather be than with these men and women.

CURTIS STRANGE: If I could jump in, I was just going to say when you’re involved in it, you don’t get tired, but when I got home after the Masters, I slept for two days. I didn’t get out of bed. My brain works in short spans, and when I have to go long —

ANDY NORTH: I think Scott hit on it a little bit at the end, is that on a golf course like this, it’s easier to stay engaged mentally, and we really like working with each other. And I think that’s really a key. It all starts with the leadership, Mike McQuade (ESPN VP of Production) and the crew he’s put together. We enjoy doing this, and we aren’t doing it 20 weeks in a row.

You know, the fact is that I’m looking forward to going down there and hanging out with Scott and Curtis and talking some golf, so I think that’s the best part.

Q – A couple of the favorites on the board for the PGA, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, are coming off of recent pretty notable victories and potentially turning points in their career. I’m just wondering, A, your reaction to watching their victories or your emotional reaction to watching their victories, and B, if you like their chances at Kiawah.

ANDY NORTH: First of all, the two guys, their wins were really amazing. I mean, Jordan has played very nicely the last two or three months. Rory, you knew he was going to figure it out, and he figured it out on a golf course, a hard golf course that he’s played well before. Very well. And he’s going to a golf course that he’s played well before. Conditions might be a little bit different in May than they were in August. I think they could be quite different.

But you knew Rory was going to do this eventually again. The guy is one of the two or three most talented players we’ve got in the game. When he’s at his best, you can argue that he’s as good as anybody.

I’m excited that he’s back. It’s good for our business.

CURTIS STRANGE: Yeah, I think those two guys are certainly a big part of the pre-tournament talk. Jordan Spieth, let’s not forget he’s going for the Grand Slam, which is huge, and then he’s played terrific all year long, and then culminating in that win a month or so ago.

I’ve got to tell you, a couple things about Rory. When he played so poorly at the Masters, I was concerned because — I was concerned because I care so much, and I think everybody cares so much about him. He’s pretty much the voice of the TOUR now. He’s such a good guy, honest to a fault. We were all rooting for him. You try to be unbiased but you can’t help but root for a guy that’s so talented that you want to see play well, and he played so poorly at the Masters you don’t want to see him continue to go back. At some point you’ve got to stop this, and only the individual knows how to do that or tries to do it.

I had a big smile on my face last Sunday when he won. I think it’s good for golf, as Andy said. It’s good for all of us, and it’s good for him, more importantly.

SCOTT VAN PELT: You know the thing about Rory that I find most interesting and Andy and I and Curtis at Augusta, and I don’t know if this was on air or off, some of it might have bled into the on-air coverage but it might have been just conversations we had. When he admitted to chasing swing speed because of DeChambeau, we were all looking around like, For what? You hit it a mile.

Greg Maddux was one of the greatest pitchers I ever saw. He didn’t need to try to throw 100 miles an hour because he could get you out the way he got you out. But in this analogy Rory throws a hell of a lot closer to 100 than Greg Maddux did. I didn’t understand searching for more swing speed. It made no sense. You already hit it as far as anyone needs to, and your good enough is good enough.

I think him winning at a place where he’s won before on a tough track, a major championship venue for the PGA of America a few years ago, obviously that helps, and like Andy mentions, when you’ve won as much as Rory and you get to turn up at another place where you’ve played well before, that’s the benefit because there aren’t a whole lot of guys that have played there. It’s a decade ago. I was looking at the list; Rose is on it, Adam Scott is on it. There’s a few players but not a ton.

I mean, I think his storyline is obvious. Jordan is a little bit more muddled because I guess he mentioned he caught COVID after Augusta. I had it before Christmas, and the only thing that happened to me is I couldn’t smell or taste, so I don’t know if he was ill or not. So I don’t have any idea what the lingering issues are for Spieth. But both those guy winning again, as these guys allude to, it only adds to more interesting storylines in a week that’s already going to be a bunch without them, but they just make it more interesting.

Q – Just curious about the defending champion Collin Morikawa. Where do you see his game right now, and do you think he could pull out another triumph at the PGA?

ANDY NORTH: I absolutely think he could do it again. He’s such a great iron player. He controls his irons as well as anybody. This is a completely different golf course, and to be a defending champion at a major other than the Masters, defending really doesn’t mean a whole lot. But his game fits it.

He seems to enjoy the big stage, so I wouldn’t be a bit surprised at all if he had a great week.

CURTIS STRANGE: You know what I think about him, I think about nothing but control, controlled swing, controlled ball flight, which I already talked about this week, but it helps any time you get on the golf course if you can control your ball flight and control your distance and spin.

Everything about him looks like he’s got it — nobody has this game figured out or any part of it figured out, but he looks like at such a young age, he is as mature a golf IQ as anybody that’s come along in a long time.

SCOTT VAN PELT: He strikes me as one of those people that anytime he plays well, I think we’ll feel like, well, of course. And if he doesn’t play well for a stretch, we’ll wonder why, just because — when he plays right, everything looks easy because of how well he does things. The iron play that Andy mentioned I think is what gives him a great shot here.

But I mean, he’s certainly among the list of players, and there are a lot of them, but he’s squarely in the mix of players that if he were there on Sunday with an opportunity to win, you’d just nod and go, well, of course. That’s what he is, at a very early age.

He came out with that group of guys, and it was Hovland, who plays lots of great golf but we haven’t seen him break through in a major yet, and Wolff who was right there at Winged Foot, Morikawa in that group was the first to get there. I feel like they’ll all have their chances, but absolutely Morikawa, just speaking for me, he’s a guy that every week I just assume he’ll play well because nothing about his game seems it would lend itself to not playing well.

Q – I don’t want to dwell too much on Rory, but Andy, could you summarize how great a performance Rory had there in 2012 at Kiawah?

ANDY NORTH: Well, anytime you win majors by six, eight shots, whatever it is, it’s ridiculous. That was in a stretch where it looked like he was going to do that all the time, if we remember back. I was fortunate enough to walk with him at the Open Championship at Liverpool all four days, and the performance he put on there, again, his best is mindboggling. If you can remember the driver and 5-irons he hit to the two par-5s there at Liverpool toward the end of the round, they were ridiculous. Guys couldn’t even get there and he’s hitting 5-irons. That’s the beauty of when he’s on, he’s just so amazing.

To win any major championship, any tournament by one is some kind of feat, but when it do it by six or eight or whatever, that changes the whole dynamic of it.

Q – Curtis, DJ was on quite a heater, and he’s kind of come out of that now. He’s skipped this week. What do you think of his chances? What do you make of the way he’s playing right now?

CURTIS STRANGE: You know, I thought about him last night when I was doing some of this work. I don’t know what to think, to be quite honest with you. I don’t know why he pulled out of last week. Maybe to rest. Could very well be. If that’s what he thinks he needed, that’s the best thing he could have done.

I don’t know, I just don’t know of late, but any time Dustin Johnson steps on the golf course, he’s a threat.

You know, you don’t want to say this and put pressure on somebody or embellish too much, but DJ is one of those guys, along with Rory, that can win tournaments by many shots, and so therefore he doesn’t have to have — to be hitting on all cylinders to win.

Now, I think when you go to the Ocean Course, I think it’s best you’re hitting on all cylinders or damn close, but I think that he’s so talented and so gifted athletically, and when I say athletic, I mean being able to put the club on the back of the ball every single time and do it with ease.

I think he’s a threat any time, but right now I just don’t have really much of an opinion right now, other than historically he’s been very good.

Q – For Andy and Curtis, as former players, just speak to the dynamic of being on and getting on a roll, and Andy, if I’m not mistaken I think you won one of your U.S. Opens right after winning Westchester, for example. In relation to Rory, because I’ve always found Rory to be a guy that is really one of the great frontrunners, when he gets hot he can really get going, and I’m just curious can you speak about the dynamic of that and in reference specifically to Rory and how much of a good frontrunner you think he is?

ANDY NORTH: Yeah, I think Rory is one of the guys that COVID really hurt because he is such an electrifying type of player. He runs so much on energy. As you say, he is a really good frontrunner. I think not having people there really hurt him. He loves to show off. All these guys love to show off, but I think it really probably hurt — I think it hit Rory and Tiger probably as much as anybody.

Getting people back I think is a really big part of that for him, and I truly believe that he’ll continue to play well, and for him to win at Kiawah wouldn’t be a big surprise to me at all because when he gets rolling he seems to do that for two, three months in a row.

You remember the start of, what was it, ’19, first six or seven tournaments he was in the top 5 every week. He didn’t win any of them, but he just had one of those stretches where he was playing marvelous golf week after week after week.

CURTIS STRANGE: And to continue that one thought, it was a couple years ago when you thought he was going to win every week. He’s the guy that can really get on a roll because he’s such a feel player. When Rory first came out and could have won at St. Andrews back when he was 13 years old or whatever he was, he looked like he was going to be the type of player, not Tiger-esque, he was going to be very good at what he was doing and get on a stretch and go through and ride that stretch and then be off for a little while. He was going to miss a few cuts. But when he’s good, he’s going to be exceptional.

And then I don’t know what changed, but he is the guy that can get on a roll because he’s such a feel player and full-throttle type of player.

I completely agree with Andy, and he has said it, that COVID really hurt him. He plays off the energy of the fans, and then of course the fans play off his energy, as well.

This could be the start, who knows. But this could be the start of one of those. We don’t know exactly. He won last week. His game is in really, really fine shape. But let’s just kind of see how it goes this week and next week and the week after before we really judge on this stretch of golf right now.

Q – I wanted to ask Scott about TV coverage, and Andy and Curtis if you want to chime in. I have a series of questions. What is the innovation in TV coverage of golf in the last 15 or 20 years that you enjoy the most?

SCOTT VAN PELT: I think the Flight Track is like the 1st down line in football where when it’s not there, you look for it. I think that’s been something that has just become sort of this ubiquitous thing that feels like, all right, why didn’t we have that before. Well, we didn’t have the technology. I think that’s kind of a cool thing from just the visual.

But I just think that look at the way the world works now and how we provide content to people. I don’t care what business you’re in. If it’s print media, if it’s the televised media, whatever, you’re trying to give people the content in a way and in a place where they want it, how they want it.

And I think the ability — and we see it at the Masters with what like IBM did with the app. That’s what you want. You want to be able to follow the specific people.

Well, the groupings that you’re able to come up with on ESPN+, that’s what people want. The one thing you know from being on television and from our fans out there is the minute you come on, they just want to see golf shots. They don’t want to see my ugly face, they don’t want us yapping about nothing. Show me golf shots.

And I think what we’ve done now technologically is provided people just that. So if you’re asking from like the visual, I think the Shot Tracer is for sure the one thing, but just now the ability to have access to the golf as it’s happening, the people you want, the holes you want, like we’re buffeting it however you want it, nd that’s what we’re all trying to do is figure out how to give our consumers what they want, where they want it.

Q – What’s the potential for some crazy Shot Tracers at the Ocean Course?

SCOTT VAN PELT: Down there? With that wind? I think it could look like Charles Barkley before Utley fixed him. You could think that the ball got grabbed by a drone or something, I don’t know. You know, I haven’t been there in a million years, but if the wind howls, sure.

CURTIS STRANGE: It’ll look like a boomerang up in the air.

Q – How do you think the Ocean Course will rate with other great courses you’ve been to as far as the beauty shots and the setting and that kind of thing?

CURTIS STRANGE: Spectacular. Absolutely spectacular. We don’t see this type of scenery — 50 yards from the 18th green or 80 yards is the wave breaking. Way up in the northeast, way up there maybe, but this is — you still see this on the East Coast. Environmentally you don’t see it because of that. You don’t see it because of land. You don’t get a piece of land like this very often. Pete was — there’s a lot of stories. I’d like to get to the truth one day. A lot of stories on how this transpired. But whatever he did, he and the original owner did a hell of a job.

ANDY NORTH: I think it’s going to be interesting if they keep drones in the air there because the drone shots next week will be unbelievable. To be able to take it down the dunes and raise it up and give you

some shots that you’ve never seen before, I think the coverage from the drones will be amazing.

Q – I’m wondering from last year’s broadcast to this year’s broadcast, what are you guys looking to improve on?

SCOTT VAN PELT: It’s the rarest of rare things: Golf Twitter hates everything, and for some reason they were happy with what we did, so we’re just going to try to run it back. We’re going to try to give people a ton of golf shots. You know, people were — you know what it was like? It was like ravenous hunger, and we just gave you a meal, and people were so excited to see a big-time event.

I think, look, a West Coast major, I think we all understand you’ve got prime time, and it was a cool golf course. This is a cool golf course. I could just speak for myself. We’re going to try to bring the same level of enthusiasm to be there, to cover a great championship on a great venue, be together. Andy talked about it. It’s genuine. We truly don’t get to be around each other a lot, so I think we’re going to enjoy each other’s company, enjoy the stage we’ve got and try to bring as many golf shots as we can to the viewer.

You can always be better but I don’t think any of us left there thinking, man, we shanked the coverage. I think largely people enjoyed it, so that’s our hope, that they’ll enjoy it again.

CURTIS STRANGE: Can I say something on that? I’m a hole announcer this week, which I thoroughly enjoy, but from that standpoint or from any standpoint, Andy on the ground, this golf course is so spectacular but so different in that if the wind does blow you can see shots normally you might not see, but it keeps us on our toes. It keeps us excited about the next shot.

If the play is good and it’s a major championship, we get just as fired up as anybody else out there watching, and as we talked at the top of the show it keeps our energy up for those long hours. But it’s fun for me because there’s something new on every type of shot, to describe a certain shot. Off the 3rd green it’s perched up like a little volcano, or anything out there, it’s to describe and get to the viewer to where he can understand what it really, truly feels like and looks like for the player.

Q – Curtis, Xander Schauffele has had top-3 finishes in three of the four majors, had a top 10 at the PGA. What’s in his toolbox that most likely will allow him to break through?

CURTIS STRANGE: Yeah, Andy mentioned it earlier because he’s so high on Xander this week. He’s a good ball striker. He’s a wonderful iron player, as we talked about. Controlling trajectory this week will be important, and they all can do that. I say all of them. A lot of them are just high launch, hit it hard and go chase it, and that’s the nature of the game now. But the guys like Morikawa and I think Hovland has some of that and Xander and Patrick Reed and Tyrrell Hatton. Those guys who don’t bomb it, what are their strengths? Their strengths are consistency, accuracy and getting the most out of their game.

You know, there’s no substitute for a bomber who can hit it straight, but the bomber doesn’t hit it as straight as some of these other guys. This is the type of golf course you’ve got to keep it in play and set up second shots. I just think he’s got a level head on his shoulders. I’m waiting like everybody else for him to break through, but we do put a lot of importance on four weeks a year, and he’s played well in these big tournaments. Xander plays well every week.

But I sometimes — as big as these four weeks are, maybe he goes at it too hard. Maybe he puts too much pressure, but it’s another round of golf, it’s another four rounds of golf. Just play the way you know how to play, and that’s what I would say. It’s a big tournament. It’s a hard golf course. But do your job on the golf course and everything else will fall as it may on the weekend if you do that the first couple two or three days.

SCOTT VAN PELT: You know you didn’t ask me but I’m curious if these guys would agree that he’s played so well so often in majors that it’s not a curse by any stretch of the imagination, but you start saying, well, when are you going to win one. Well, it’s hard to win one as Andy and Curtis know better than anybody. They won a couple of the hardest ones you can win. You can be right there in the mix and then think of how the guys won who won.

Again, I don’t mean to try to jump in on this question, I just think he’s played so well so often that as we’ve seen, showing up is half the battle and being there with a chance is half the battle, and he’s too good not to have the door either open or him kick a door down, and it’s just a matter of what week is that week.

CURTIS STRANGE: Yeah, he’s the guy that is so-called the best player without a major now. I hate that, but that’s the way of the world.

Q – Now that the PGA is moved up on the calendar, it leads directly to the U.S. Open. There’s a little more rhythm or synergy there, whatever you want to call it. Can you compare and contrast the personalities of those two events in particular?

ANDY NORTH: I think, first of all, I really do like the schedule. You’ve got a great — a huge event in each of the months, March, April, May, June, July. I think that’s fantastic.

The players I think are still trying to figure out how to get in a rhythm of playing those weeks. How you play in between the majors has I think really frustrated some guys their very first year. I think they’re starting to figure it out.

I think the beauty of the majors is that they’re all different in some way. Augusta is always going to be Augusta. You’re playing the same golf course. It’s a golf course that’s a second-shot golf course that you have to be really good with your irons and you’ve got to putt the ball well.

And now that the PGA has moved into the next slot, you’re seeing — you’re going to see some different golf courses. For years we saw the August golf courses that were soft and very scorable. In May you’re going to see some different conditions. I think that’s really good.

The U.S. Open has for years been deep rough, firm greens, a different style of golf, and then the Open Championship, so much of it’s links. So you’re being tested on different surfaces. It’s much like tennis from grass to clay to hard surfaces. It tests your game.

I think that’s why when you see guys win multiple major championships, it really shows what a wonderful player and what great talent they have to be able to win on all different types of surfaces.

Q – Curtis and Andy, Bob McIntyre finished 12th in his Masters debut. How impressive was that, and having made the cut in his debut in all four majors, can you see him kicking on from here?

ANDY NORTH: He sure got a nice start. That’s the best part. He’s proven to himself, and that’s probably the most important thing, that he can get himself near the lead and can play well.

When you start figuring that part out as a player, you’ve got a chance to really go forward from there. So many guys, that takes years to do. He’s done it pretty quickly.

So I think he’s got a very bright future because of that.

CURTIS STRANGE: Absolutely. You know, you come out, big step from amateur golf to pro golf. You just improve, you keep working, keep grinding, keep getting better. Some do, some don’t. He looks like somebody that’s going to do that.

Q – Curtis and Andy, when you make the turn at No. 5, you play 6 through 13 in one direction and then you loop and come back the 14th through the end right along the shoreline. Depending on the wind, which wind makes those holes play tougher coming in?

CURTIS STRANGE: Well, I can speak to it because I’ve played, as I said, three tournaments here. When you make the turn, the first three are not bad with the wind coming off the ocean, which is going to be probably prevailing. I don’t know that for a fact until I get there.

But once you turn back at 5, you’re right, the par-3 — 5 is the par-3, correct?

Q – Yes, correct.

CURTIS STRANGE: And then you’ve got left-to-right, left-to-right, left-to-right until you make the turn back at 14 as you said. That’s the hardest wind for a right-handed player. It’s hard to aim left and trust it to come back. It’s hard to hit draws — it was always hard for me to hit draws into the wind. You just play it. You learn how to deal with it. But you’re right, sometimes when you get into the routine of playing five or six holes in the same wind and then you have to turn back around, now you have to adjust quickly.

But in that way, it’s much like a links course, but they just have to adjust. It’s what practice rounds are for.

But you know what, we’ll know more when we get there and see what the weather forecast is, where it’s coming from, how consistent it’s going to be.

ANDY NORTH: If I could jump in, I think Curtis made a really nice point there that left-to-right wind, you do that four, five, six holes in a row and your golf swing can get really messed up, in particular if it’s blowing 15, 20 miles an hour. It’s hard to execute shots. It’s hard to keep your balance. And I think that’s why that is such a difficult stretch of holes.

Phil Mickelson or some of the lefties, that’s a big advantage playing that stretch of holes.

CURTIS STRANGE: Yeah, but then they’ve got to turn around like we do.

ANDY NORTH: Exactly.

Q – We’ve talked for almost an hour and nobody has mentioned Bryson. Does it seem like this course might not fit his game, or what do you guys think?

CURTIS STRANGE: He’s got to drive it straighter. His rank on Tour in driving accuracy is 136. He’s got to do a little better than that here.

ANDY NORTH: I think that, one, that’s one of the things that I always want to watch and see what the heck — how he’s going to try to play the golf course. You know, he’s tried to overpower some and he’s tried to lay up and do some other things at some other places. Obviously he’s an amazing talent, but when you’re launching it up there and it stays in the air for eight, nine seconds, the wind is going to affect it at some point in time. Judging that is going to be difficult.

I think chipping and pitching around these greens — he’s shown a lot of improvement in that area, but boy, there’s so many difficult shots around the green, it’s tough for everybody. So it’ll be fun to see how he attacks the golf course.

(Image courtesy of PGA of America)

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Media Contact: Andy Hall, [email protected]

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Andy Hall

I’m part of a team that handles PR/Communications for SportsCenter, including the SC Featured brand, and ESPN’s news platforms. In addition, I’m the PR contact for ESPN’s coverage of golf, motorsports (Formula 1), and the sports betting program Daily Wager. I’m based in Daytona Beach, Fla., and have been with ESPN since 2006.
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