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A Quick 9: Brad Faxon

Brad Faxon has been playing Titleist golf balls and clubs since he joined the PGA TOUR in 1983. Last September he earned his eighth career PGA TOUR title at the Buick Championship, shooting a career best 9-under par 61 on the final day to erase a seven stroke deficit. He defeated Tjaart van der Walt in a sudden-death playoff after sticking a 7-iron from a fairway bunker to three feet on the first playoff hole. He defends the title this week as the event moves to its new date in June.

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Brad Faxon, Defending Champion, Buick Championship

1. Being from nearby Rhode Island, how big was your win last year in Connecticut at the Buick Championship?  
BF: It was a dream come true.  There were so many things that went right for me that week, especially shooting 61 on Sunday.  Being seven shots back, I started out the day not even thinking about winning.  I got off to a quick start - birdied the second and fourth holes - and then went on a tear on the back nine with birdies on 9, 10, 11, and 12.  Everything just kind of clicked.

The toughest part was waiting around for an hour after I finished to see if there would be a playoff.  I just wanted to keep playing because I was in such a groove.  My stomach was in a knot the whole time, so to go back out and win it with a great shot out of a bunker was extremely gratifying.  You want to do well anywhere you play, but especially at home.

2. Athletes talk about being "in the zone."  It sounds like you were "in the zone" during the final round last year.  Can you describe what that was like and how do you get to that place?
BF:
I've definitely been in that place and if I knew how to get there every time, I'd be there more often.  But that's one thing I love, is getting up and trying to get to that place everyday.

I remember a couple of things from Riviera in '95 on that final day (note: Faxon shot 63 in the final round of the 1995 PGA Championship to finish 5th and secure a position on the Ryder Cup team) and having so much feel and awareness of what was going on. When I would hit a shot, I could tell right away whether it was exactly the right distance or whether I needed it to go one more yard.  

My caddie says he always likes when I talk to the ball in the air because he knows it's going to be close.  Last year on Sunday when I shot 61, I was talking a lot that day.  I remember on the 16th hole, I hit a 7-iron and it was one of those you don't have to watch because you know it's good.  You just pick up the tee.  That 7-iron actually led to five birdies during the final round, two from fairway bunkers.

3. Competing on Tour for so many years, how do you stay motivated about what you do every day?
BF:
I honestly feel like I can still get better and if I ever get to the point that I don't feel I can get better, I'm done.  I've played out here for a long time, and I still feel like there's something I can do to hit it straighter, hit it further, hit it more solid, and shoot a lower score.

4. Do you think it's important to work out and exercise to stay competitive on the PGA TOUR?
BF:
Yes, I definitely believe that.  I think it's more important now than it's ever been.  If you look at the top players in the world – Tiger, Ernie, Vijay, Phil ... they're all big guys.  Everyone's getting stronger and stronger and there's no reason to believe that's going to change.  It's a power game now.  Fitness is a huge part of golf and it's becoming more so.  Gary Player pioneered fitness in the '50's and '60's and look how small he was.  Guys are in even better shape, bigger, stronger and faster.
       
I've always liked to be fit.  Working out, playing other sports, etc.   Although I've never been able to equate being fit with necessarily shooting a lower score.  I've played poorly when I've felt great, and played great when I've felt poorly.  On TOUR, we're looking for any possible way to improve, and fitness is just another piece of the puzzle.  As long as we can play for 30-40 years, it pays to be in good shape.  There's no excuse not to be fit.

5. What's the number one swing fault you see in the amateurs you play with?
BF:
They all come over the top of the ball for whatever reason.  A lot have reverse weight shifts.  But most people don't spend enough time practicing.  If you want to be a better golfer, you have to spend time doing it.  There's not one magic key.  I would tell guys, get some lessons, and practice so you can build some consistency.  

6. What tip would you give junior golfers?
BF:
The one thing I would tell a junior golfer is to learn to hit it far first, and then learn to hit it straight.  Build some power early.  They also need to just play a lot.  Get out there and just learn to swing hard, with good fundamentals obviously, and focus on shifting your weight towards the target to stick the finish.

7. You're known as one of the best putters on TOUR. What about a quick putting tip?  
BF:
First of all, I think you can become a better putter with age.  It's not something you're born with, or lucky you have it.  You have to practice, but you have to practice the right way.  You have to be athletic and make it like another sport, like shooting a basketball or throwing a ball.  Too many people try to make it a science and make it too perfect.  You have to trust your first instinct and trust your ability.  There really isn't just one thing.

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Faxon has used the same Scotty Cameron putter for 14 years

8. How long have you had your current Scotty Cameron putter?  Do you have any interesting stories about Scotty Cameron that stand out in your mind?
BF:
  Scotty coined my putter the Fax Day.  I don't know that I call it that, but that's what it's known as.  I've been using it for about 14 years now.  Once we made this current putter I just stuck with it.  One of the first times Scotty helped me was at the British Open in the early '90's.  I was using a competitor's putter at the time and it just didn't feel right.  Scotty came up, checked lie and loft, saw how far off they were and bent the putter to correct it.  I had an unbelievable finish that week, putted superbly (note: 1997, finished 7th).  I thought, here's a guy who's so into helping the athlete, he didn't care that it wasn't his putter.

9. When you won your first tournament, did you splurge on anything?
BF:
No, but my dad called and said he had a great oil and gas deal for me to invest in.  He said 'send me ten grand, I've got the best deal I've ever seen.'  So I sent the ten grand.  I was so happy, I would have sent him anything at that point.  

I got a note from him two weeks later saying: "Dear Brad. No gas. No oil. Good luck. Play good. Love, Dad."

NOW A QUICKER NINE...
1. Favorite TOUR stop: I love playing at Pebble Beach, it's my favorite place in the world.
2. Favorite city: I'm a big Boston guy
3. Favorite band: I can listen to anything, but I probably have more Springsteen and Dave Matthews than anything else. I can go alternative, I can go classic rock.
4. Favorite book: I love some of the Nelson DeMille I've read lately. I'm a big Robert Ludlum fan, too. But as a kid, I was a big Tolkein fan. Lord of the Rings was awesome.
5. Favorite restaurant (where is it?): Oooooh, I can't do that. I don't want to offend anyone. I'm a food snob. I like anything that's good, except Mexican.
6. Favorite movie: I love The Fugitive. That'll keep you on the edge of your seat.

7. Of all the Titleist clubs in your bag, what's your favorite?
BF:
It's hard to pick one because I obviously love all the clubs I have or I'd switch them. But the 7-iron's hot right now and the putter probably makes sense, too, since it's been there the longest.

8. One moment on the golf course that stands out more than any other:  When I'm on the practice green and my caddy gives me my tees and pivot tool without me asking… Because it's never happened!

All wins feel like the best, and you usually say the most recent win was the best. I love winning at home. Winning the New England Classic in '92 was great, your first win always means an awful lot, and then I won the Australian Open which was my first win overseas. When I look at that trophy it probably has the most impressive list of past winners than any other trophy I've won.

9. What was your first car and what do you drive now?
My first car I got when I was 17 years old, my father gave it to me, was a 1975 Pontiac Grandville convertible. It was nicknamed the "Bradleymobile" and we could fit about 40 people in it with the top down. It was a big V8 and got about 6mpg. That was the first car I was given. The first car I bought when I got on TOUR was a 1985 Thunderbird, light blue, 5-speed.

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