Nick Price has won 18 times on the PGA Tour, including 16 tournaments in the '90s. He is a two-time PGA Championship winner, the 1994 British Open winner and has 28 other international wins. He even holds the course record at Augusta National (along with Greg Norman) with a third-round 63 in the 1986 Masters. But that resume didn't matter when Price joined the Champions Tour in 2007. Rookies tend to do very well on the senior circuit, but Price floundered. His best finish in 15 tournaments was third place. When Price didn't win again in 2008, people were starting to wonder if he would ever win. The doubters went away when Price, born in South Africa but a citizen of Zimbabwe, won last year's Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am at TPC Tampa Bay in Lutz. It was his first official win since 2002 and a huge relief. Price, 53, was back at TPC Tampa Bay on Tuesday to promote this year's tournament, which is April 16-18. He talked about winning again, being in a slump and Tiger Woods.
Were you getting tired of people asking you when you were going to win on the Champions Tour?
My answer was simple: "When I start playing well." My game wasn't good enough to win. Now I've actually contemplated playing some on the regular tour just to play in a couple of events. If I play on the right kind of golf course, I might have a chance to win. But I'm going to stay out here and let the confidence build up again. My goal is to walk off with multiple wins this year. Maybe two or three. I feel like I'm playing well enough to do that.
Is winning the only thing that matters out here?
Winning is everything for us. When you've had a career like mine, or (Mark) O'Meara's, or any of those guys, it's not about finishing second or third or fourth. In fact, it's really hard. Now, when you can't win, like what happened to me on Sunday (in the Dominican Republic), you kind of lose your focus. I used to be more professional than that. But now, second or third, that really doesn't make it for us. Nobody's going to care how many top-fives I've had on the Champions Tour. Nor will I.
When it was going badly, did you think about putting the clubs away and not playing?
No. You're hoping when you're playing poorly that that's the bottom, but you never know. The thing that made it harder is that there was a lot of excitement about me coming out on the Champions Tour. Then I played so poorly. I knew in my heart that I had to get my game going. I wasn't just going to come out here and win tournaments because I was playing so poorly. People were saying that once I get out here I'll be fine, but the guys out here can play. But you never really know when you hit the bottom. For me it was '06, '07.
Were you at all surprised by the talent on this tour?
No. These are guys that I played with. Guys I respect and admire. I knew how (Hale) Irwin was playing. I knew about Jay Haas, so it wasn't a surprise at all.
How difficult do you think it will be for Tiger (Woods) to start his season at a major like the Masters?
It's a whole new ball game for him. In times gone by, there were never any question marks behind him. Whatever he did, there was a reason. This is the first time where he feels nervous. He admitted that. I don't think he knows what the comments will be. He doesn't know what questions he's going to be asked by the media. To be honest, I think he'll shake it off pretty quickly because he's too good of a player and too focused. Time is a healer. Hopefully he's learned from all of his mistakes and he'll get back to playing golf, which is what we all like to watch him play. That's all we really wanted to know the last two months. Not all that other stuff. When is he coming back to play? I'm happy that he's returning.
Would you be surprised if he missed the cut, or finished in the top 10?
I think anything can happen. If he misses the cut, you'd be surprised. If he finishes in the top 10 or wins, we'll be surprised. Anything is expected.
Is the Masters the best place to come back?
He loves that place. His first major win was there. But I don't think he's had a break and had to come back in a situation like this. How much has this affected his confidence? That's the big question mark. Is this guy going to be able to put all this behind him and play golf or is it going to affect him? That's the $64,000 question.
Did you ever have a long break like that in your career?
I broke my thumb and had to take 14 weeks off. What I did was put on weight because I drank too much beer and ate too much. But after that I started working out, and it took me a long time to get back to where I could play. Once I started playing, it took another five or six weeks to feel comfortable. But (Tiger's) been hitting balls. He isn't coming back from an injury. Maybe a psychological injury.