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Wednesday, June 11, 2008Brad And Bart Bryant

RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Brad and Bart Bryant to the interview room this morning. Brad is playing in his 7th United States Open championship this week at Torrey Pines and Bart is playing in his fifth U.S. Open Championship this week.

They're the first brothers to play in the U.S. Open since Jay and Jerry Haas in 2002. We have had a number of brothers through the years, but this is a first since 2002.

I'll throw it over to either of you just some general comments about what it means to be playing with your brother in the U.S. Open.

(Laughter.)

BRAD BRYANT: It's pretty good. I think for me, I can't speak for Bart ‑‑ of course I usually do. But that comes from my upbringing.

It means a lot to me, especially at my age. I didn't think I would ever play another U.S. Open. This is quite a sort of a gift at a late age to be playing in this event. I really, I thought that my days of playing in Major events were over with. We have, we sort of have Majors on the Champions Tour, but they're just kind of big tournaments for old people.

And so it's, to be here and then for Bart and I to be able to play in this championship together, that's a pretty special thing to me for us to be able to do that. It probably will, may very well be the last time we get to do something this special, as far as golf goes.

BART BRYANT: I hope not, but there's always that possibility it could be. But it is, any time you get to play in a U.S. Open period it's really neat. But for Brad to win the U.S., 2006 U.S. Senior Open last year and to be here this year is really cool. I actually got out there to play six holes with him late yesterday afternoon. I played in the morning, but he came in the in the afternoon so I had the opportunity to play a few holes with him.

And I tell you what, he's got plenty of game to play this golf course. I'm going to have to step it up a little bit. I'm going to spend a little extra time on the putting green today or I may get whupped out there. So, but he looks good and it is neat to have this opportunity to play. And like Brad said, this could be one of our last chances to play in the same tournament together. And I'm hoping that we both go out and have a good showing and have a great week.

RAND JERRIS: Brad, you've known obviously since last year that you would qualify to get in the championship. Bart, could you talk about your path to getting here and the moment when you sort of realized, was there a moment that you realized that the two of you would be here together?

BART BRYANT: Well, yeah, I mean Brad's been in it for a long time and when I saw that, I knew it was going to be at Torrey Pines, I've been excited about that for a long time. And then Brad getting in, so I was kind of doubly excited then. I was working really hard to get in the Top‑50 in the World Rankings and I just couldn't get there. Through Colonial I think I was 51 going into Colonial and I just couldn't pull it off. So that was extremely disappointing. But my good buddy and agent Mark Johnson talked me into going ahead and playing a 36 hole qualifier at Muirfield just after the after Muirfield up in Ohio.

And I didn't know if I could even walk 36 holes, but it ended up being a really good day, played well. So when I was done playing then I knew that Brad and I would be playing in the U.S. Open together. So it's only been a week or so that I've known that I would be playing. But it's been really exciting. I'm playing last week at Memphis, and honestly my mind was in San Diego the whole time. So I've really been looking forward to this.

Q. Brad, I remember seeing you in the airport before you even won the Senior Open and you talked about the possibility of qualifying for this U.S. Open. Do you think you would have, had you not won the Senior Open?

BRAD BRYANT: Not the way I've been playing. Hopefully I'm coming out of the worst slump I've been in since I joined the Champions Tour. And so I would not have even attempted to qualify for this event this year. So pretty neat to be here.

Q. I wonder Bart or Brad either one if you could just talk about how much you guys leaned on each other growing up age difference aside and specifically Bart if you could remember the first time you beat him.

BART BRYANT: Yeah, it was like two years ago, I think. I don't know.

(Laughter.)

We were eight years apart in age, which you know. So it wasn't a lot of sibling rivalry going on, obviously. By the time I was in 7th or 8th grade he was playing his first year on the PGA TOUR. So it's good to have a guy to pave the way and he's always been my biggest supporter and when I've been down and out he's always been there lifting me up and kicking me in the bottom and telling me have I the talent to do it. So it's pretty special to have that. But gosh, I don't know when the first time I beat him.

BRAD BRYANT: Probably when you were 12.

BART BRYANT: No, I think we played 12 times together that year, my rookie year, and he killed me every time. So it hasn't been very often. I'm hoping, what are you, 53? I'm thinking when he hits about 57, 58 I'm going to start taking him pretty regularly, but I got aways to go yet.

Q. Bart, or Brad, early on in the run‑up we have been hearing a lot about the fact that people saying because of the length of the golf course here that only the so called bombers would have a chance to win here. I'm wondering if you think that somebody, is there enough fire in the fairways, is the ball running out enough that a guy who really keeps it in the fairway consistently and has really high numbers on the fairways that isn't a bomber, the way Justin Leonard does when he's playing well or you or Furyk or anybody would actually have a chance to win here.

BRAD BRYANT: I played all 18 holes yesterday. Which is I think the first time I've actually walked 18 holes since the Senior Open last year. In fact, when I got here I asked them where my cart was and they laughed. So I think that if the golf course stays like it was yesterday, I don't know that someone that hits the ball necessarily very far is going to have much of an advantage here.

If they put the flags where I think the flags are going to go, if you're shooting out of the rough you're going to be aiming at the same place a guy hitting out of the fairway with a 7, 6, or 5‑iron. There are very few back flags that you're going to be able to get aggressive with because the greens are so firm at the moment that if your ball lands in the middle of the green it goes to the back of the green. So even if you have 9‑iron or 8‑iron to some of those back pins, you're not going to be aiming there anyway.

So it's going to be ‑‑ to me ‑‑ now I haven't been on the PGA TOUR, I haven't watched these guys play in a long time, but I think that this is, this tournament is going to be an awful lot about being able to 2‑putt from 40 feet at the moment from what I see.

Because if you hit the ball in the fairway, you can maneuver the ball into the middle of the greens fairly easily. It's not ‑‑ it's not like some of the U.S. Opens that I've played in, but you cannot challenge some of the flags. There are a couple of flags that, the back left flag on the fourth hole, if you challenge that flag, I don't care where you are, if you got a wedge in your hand, and you hit the ball eight feet left, it's going in the hazard.

So you're just going to have to, guys are going to have to be extra careful about where they're putting the balls on the greens. So I think that it lends itself much more to a guy who drives the ball straight and is very patient than anything else.

For instance, number 18, they shaved the grass all the way around the pond. So if you don't fly the ball on the 18th hole, there's a better than average chance the ball ends up in the water. So the guys that are hitting that green in two, if you're not going in there with a 5‑ or a 6‑iron you're not going to be able to stop the ball on the green.

So I'm looking forward this week I think that the guys that are sort of the middle a guy like Bart, a guy like Justin, Jim Furyk, I think that type of ball‑striker this week is going to actually have an advantage over some of the big hitters. I may be wrong and of course the big hitters ‑‑ being a big hitter on our TOUR is kind of like being the tallest guy in a midget basketball game. So I'm not really familiar with big hitting either, so.

BART BRYANT: I agree with that for the most part. I don't know that middle of the road hitters have an advantage, but I don't think the long hitters are going to have a huge advantage like we thought when we originally heard we were playing at Torrey Pines. I think everybody thought it was just going to be a long hitter's venue.

Having played the course now I don't feel that way. I feel a lot more comfortable as a, barring any rain, which it doesn't look like we're going to get, I think the fairways are going to be firm enough that a guy who hits the ball straight, keeps it down, gets it running is going to be able to play this course well.

In fact, it sounds really strange, but it almost reminds me a little bit of a British Open in the fact that you can get the ball and keep it rolling and they have really, they're going to shave the front of these greens and there are some places where you can run the ball on the green.

So I think a guy who keeps it down, gets the ball rolling up the middle of the greens, and like Brad said, could make a lot of great 2‑putts is going to be able to compete really well here. Now there may be a day where one of the big hitters gets out early in the morning when it's maybe the greens are just a little bit softer they might be able to take it 4‑ or 5‑under. That wouldn't shock me.

That's not going to happen four days in a row. And as the course gets firmer over the four days and the weekend it's going to be a lot about more, more about patience than it is anything. So I think it's a real good venue, they have the course set up perfectly, I think a lot of guys are going to be in the mix. I don't think it's just going to be the big hitters.

Q. Were your feelings ever hurt when no one ever gave you a cool nickname?

BART BRYANT: I don't know. You got one in mind?

Q. Maybe by the end of the week, maybe.

BART BRYANT: Yeah, I don't know. I guess I haven't arrived yet. So I got to do something crazy or stupid. Or look like a guy in a grease commercial. I don't know.

Q. You've talked so much about how people mix your names up all the time. Is that acceptable this week?

BART BRYANT: Yeah, I guess we can deal with it for one week. In fact, I went in when I registered we got our little badges, of course mine said Brad Bryant, you know. And I didn't notice it for an hour. And I took it back in and I said, it doesn't bother me, but when Brad gets here he'll probably want his own. So why don't we go ahead and switch them out now.

Q. You talked a minute ago about having someone in the family to kind of pave the way. When you were in some of the downer times with the injuries and just trying to get by, where was he helpful?

BART BRYANT: Honestly, like I said before, just the fact that he said, "Bart, you have the talent, you're good enough to play on the PGA TOUR, I really believe that and if you'll just stick with it and ride out these tough times you're going to end up doing well." And that may not sound like a lot to you guys, but for me that was everything. Because I really doubted at times that I had the ability to compete with these guys out here.

So to hear it from somebody that I admire, that I respect their opinion, about the guy's ability that plays on the PGA TOUR to say that meant something to me.

Q. Brad, just to follow‑up on your answer a second ago about the lag putters. Either you guys, who in your opinion are the really good lag putters? Guys who get the speed and can be counted on from to 2‑putt at worst from those kinds of distances?

BRAD BRYANT: I'll put Jay Haas up against anybody. Of course I haven't watched the guys out here very much. I think it's a shame that Jay is not here this week. Jay would, the way he's playing right now I was really hoping that he would qualify because I think more than anybody on the Senior Tour at the moment or on the Champions Tour, he's really playing at a level where he could do very well.

On this TOUR I really don't know. It's going to be ‑‑ no matter what you do, you're going to have to make a lot of four and five footers, I think. And so I really, like I say, I haven't been out here that much. So I don't know who is that good and who is not.

Plus, I'm old enough that even if I had at one at one point in time I've probably forgotten, so.

(Laughter.)

BART BRYANT: Well, I mean I think we all know that there is at least one guy here that is better at making four and five footers than anybody else in the world. And so when you talk about 2‑putting from 40 and 50 feet consistently, there's someone that seems to do it pretty regularly.

Having said that, I think that for a lot of guys it's, you kind of go through these phases of you don't 3‑putt for awhile, you're just for some reason you have that knack for really lagging the ball close and you go through these phases where it's just tough. And everybody on the PGA TOUR putts well. Some guys putt a little bit better, but everybody's a great putter.

So I think it's just one of those things where through the first couple rounds you're going to figure it out. You're going to see guys who really just have the touch this week.

Obviously Justin's playing well. Last week at Memphis, that's one thing you had to do. The wind was so high the greens were so firm that you had to be able to 2‑putt from 40 or 50 feet a lot. Obviously he's doing that well. Sergio did that well.

So I think it's just, after a day or two, we're going to kind of see those guys come to the top, the guys who really have their touch this week. So I don't think it's something you can really right now say this guy's going to have great touch or this guy, there are guys that seem to have a knack for doing it more often, but it could be ‑‑ who knows who it could be ‑‑ but they could just have a hot putter for the week and be able to lag the ball close for four days in a row and next week they may be terrible. So sometimes it's just hard to really put a finger on who that's going to be.

Q. Bart, going back to previous question, have there been any times when you have given a pep talk to older brother, picked him up in some of the times during his game and for you Brad as well?

BART BRYANT: Yeah, honestly, I can't remember what year it was, he was struggling, he ended up finishing second at Westchester. Do you remember that?

BRAD BRYANT: Um‑hum.

BART BRYANT: And we were playing in a practice round like on Monday. And he just, he was having a terrible year. And I think that ‑‑ I can't remember who else we were playing with, maybe Ronnie Black or somebody, but I looked at Brad after playing a practice round and I said, "Brad, you're playing unbelievably well." I said, "I can't figure out how you could possibly not be making any money this year." And I said, "You know, man, you just got to go out this week and believe you got it, because you do. You're hitting it incredibly well, your putter is good, just go out there and let it happen."

So that may have been the one time that I was able to return the favor. But I don't know where ‑‑ he finished second place to Billy Andrade, I think.

BRAD BRYANT: Yeah.

BART BRYANT: I don't know, the times I helped him ‑‑ he doesn't need much hem help, so I just kind of leave him alone.

BRAD BRYANT: Well, I can tell you right now that if it hadn't have been for Bart I don't know what I would have done on the Champions Tour. Bart is the guy that really got me using the claw grip. And my putting has been, if I had putted on the PGA TOUR the way that I putt now on the Champions Tour, I would have probably won seven or eight golf tournaments.

And Bart's really the guy that got me doing that. He started doing it and I don't remember where we were, but I remember on the putting green one day he says, you know, you ought to give this a try. And he worked with me for just 10 or 12 minutes and it was amazing. I mean it totally transformed the way that I putt. And I have, for the last two and a half years, I have putted phenomenally better. My stats on putting have gone where I was really a pretty bad putter when I was on the PGA TOUR to where I've actually become a really good putter over the last couple of years. So if you want to look to anything, you can say, yeah, he's, Bart was really the catalyst for that.

And so between Bart helping me with my putting and David Leadbetter helping me with my golf swing I've actually had a fairly good mulligan in life here on the Champions Tour. It's been pretty good.

But we have helped each other a lot through the years. We have been very close. Especially as adults. I mean, we were far apart in age as kids, but there's always been a bond in our family that's been very close. And so it's pretty nice knowing that you have people that really love you. And I mean really care about you. And I think that it works both ways, not only for Bart and I and our sister, but all of our wives, kids, there's nothing I wouldn't do for Bart's kids or my sister's kids. And so and I think they all feel the same way. So it's nice having that family bond.

Q. Brad, I was wondering, this tournament always ends on Father's Day, always a big day, a big thing for this tournament. A lot of stories about it. What role did your father play in getting you going and getting it, if not, who is, who was a big mentor to you when you were growing up?

BRAD BRYANT: Brother Doug's not here this week. I think my mom and dad may have kind much reached the age where we're not going to be able to take them to golf tournaments all that much any more. They love it. But my dad is ‑‑ I say my dad, our dad, is doing the, he's pastoring a church in Kissimmee, Florida right now and working with them. So this was a church that was kind of since he retired six years or five years ago, whatever it was, however long it was. When he retired basically he came to Florida and he's been with about five or six different churches now that have really had difficult times. And for whatever reason God has just chosen to use him to help heal these churches. And so he's kind of right in the middle of that right now. And so he's doing that. But mom and dad will be really rooting for us at home. No doubt.

When I was in middle school, junior high, middle school, that age, my dad, the dead time for him during the day was in the afternoons. He would be really busy in the morning and then at night he would have lots of things to do with the church. But he could come and play golf with us after school.

And we kind of got playing golf a guy named H.B. Halbert who is the town doctor in a little town in Texas where we lived, he's the guy that kind of got us started playing golf. And then when we moved to New Mexico we just kept playing and by the time I was 15 or 16, I had decided that I wanted to play golf for a living. And Bart started, Bart picked up a club when he was about 8 and just immediately, he took to it just like a fish takes to water. It was incredible. He was really a good junior player.

So our dad really kind of helped us during that time, plus we had unbelievable access to the golf course where we lived.

We could play golf all we wanted any time we wanted, which was really amazing. We just had a little old nine hole golf course out in the desert. But having that access was pretty neat. A lot of kids don't have access like we had. It was not uncommon to play 36 holes on a Saturday as kids. And most kids now days on a Saturday, if they can tee off by 1 o'clock they're, if they're at their local club they're fortunate.

We even had our own driving range as a high school team, which was really nothing more than a patch of grass out in the middle of the desert where they cleared off the tumble weeds and we would hit our golf balls and chase them down and pick them up and we just spent so much time doing that that we ended up having a pretty good team.

I actually, my junior year of high school we had three scratch handicappers on my high school golf team. And then as Bart came along. So it's sort of unusual to have a little town with only a nine hole golf course where you have two guys come out that have place that end up playing the TOUR, let alone winning TOUR events.

So our dad really spent a lot of time doing that. And then as I got a little bit older, it really transferred from, because I was gone and out of the house by the time I was about 18 or 19. And then where my dad just played with Bart, just like he had played with me as a kid. And our sister didn't like it very much, but we sure enjoyed it.

Q. What was the name of the course?

BART BRYANT: Nine hole golf course. It was the Alamogordo Country Club. It was ‑‑ well sort of a country club.

(Laughter.)

As kids we slept out by the pool a lot of nights in the summertime to move sprinklers around. This was before they had automatic sprinkling systems, so we were the, we did a lot of that. We moved sprinklers in the middle of the night and mowed the greens and helped mow the fairways and it was a pretty cool time.

Q. When is the last time that your father was able to watch you play in a tournament?

BART BRYANT: He was at the TPC this year. Actually my mom and dad were there for one day and unfortunately my mom passed out there. So like Brad said, it's getting a little bit tougher for them to come out and follow, but you know how hot it was at TPC, she made it about 14 holes and fell over and went to the hospital, so. They didn't make it for the weekend. But it's always great to have them out.

They have always been our biggest supporters and they gave up a lot for us to be able to play and compete in golf. And so it's pretty cool. Any time we can have them with us it's pretty neat. So we might try and work a little harder to get them out here this week. We would have had to put it together pretty quick. But when they saw that I was going to play I'm sure they were excited to come out, but that was sort of a joke but it didn't go over real well.

BRAD BRYANT: They don't have ‑‑ they came to watch part of the TPC, I think they came and actually watched me play once last year. You know, that favorite son and all. How many tournaments they been to for you this year? Four or five?

BART BRYANT: We play in Florida so much.

BRAD BRYANT: When they come out with Bart he pays all the expenses, so that's different, so.

(Laughter.)

BRAD BRYANT: They actually have been to ‑‑ they tried ‑‑ our parents would come to all of our golf tournaments I think that we play in if they could. They're amazing. And like Bart said, our mom worked every day that we were kids so that we could play golf. It was a pretty special thing. We're really, we are really fortunate to have the parents that we do.

Q. They would probably watch Tiger and Phil this week anyway.

(Laughter.)

BART BRYANT: Yeah, I suppose. That's going to be a tough group to follow, so. We might at least sneak them in for nine holes. They would have got tired after nine holes of trying to see over the crowds, so.

BRAD BRYANT: I'm sort of thinking about going and watching Phil and Tiger this week. I think that will be pretty good. I just don't understand why they didn't pair Bart and me. I thought you got Tiger and Phil in the same group, Bart and Brad in the same group. We would have at least brought 15 or 20 extra people out.

(Laughter.)

BRAD BRYANT: Before we leave, I would like to say one thing real quick, because I don't know if y'all know as the press know this or not, but there has been a big change in the USGA about how they view their golf courses. And I want to congratulate them.

This has been phenomenal. The graduated rough and the idea that I think we're going to see some exciting U.S. Opens over the next few years. I think you're going to see some excitement that we haven't seen in several years, out of some of the guys, because this graduated rough idea, firming up the greens, doing some things a little differently, is just wonderful.

We are playing a U.S. Open golf course this week where there's going to be several times where guys are going to roll the ball on to the green. That is unheard of in a U.S. Open. And I think I just want to congratulate you guys, all the guys at the U.S. Open, I think it's just great to be able to do that. It's about time that we brought that back as part of the game. And I'm really excited about it.

We played ‑‑ the Senior Open is going to be played at the Broadmoor this year, I played there a couple of weeks ago, and they have already started graduating the rough there and I'm telling you what, it is, it's just magnificent. It's like playing golf the way golf was supposed to be played. The farther you hit it off line, the worse off you are. And you guys are to be congratulated for that. It's really a great change in the game. Thanks a lot.

RAND JERRIS: Thank you.

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