September 24, 2017
|Thoughts From Defending Champion Kirk Triplett|
|Kirk Triplett hugs his caddie, his son Sam, after winning the inaugural American Family Insurance Championship|
By R.J. SmileyThe Champions Tour players trek to Madison, WI for the second year in a row, and try to unseed the reigning American Family Insurance Champion Kirk Triplett. But after a successful inaugural victory Triplett isn't ready to hand over the trophy just yet.
Tee Times: Give us your pre-tournaments thoughts from last year?
Kirk Triplett: I've known Steve for a long time and I know Jerry Kelly very well. I knew they lived in Madison. I had never been to Madison. I was looking forward to it, excited about a new tournament on the Tour. We've been playing professional golf for 30 years and there's not that many new experiences left.
TT: What was the first thing that struck you about Madison?
KT: We roll into town and play the course, thought it was really nice. Went downtown for the pairings party on the roof of the Monona Terrace. This place is beautiful, capital in the background. That kind of set the tone for the week. I thought, wow, what a secret you guys have here.
You could really see the community support. Local involvement with Steve and Jerry and a great local sponsor, American Family with the nationwide reach. So you've got all of the ingredients for a long-term successful event here.
TT: When did you feel like you were going to win the tournament?
KT: I was just watching Bart (Bryant). Every time I made a birdie on Sunday, Bart made one or maybe two, so he was always kind of out ahead of the pack. Really, I hate to say it, but I thought we were kind of playing for second. Bart's very consistent, doesn't kind of lose it under the gun, so I just expected him to finish it out and win.
I three-putted No. 10 and I was talking to my son, he was caddying for me, and saying, "Well, we've just got to beat Mike, right?" I was playing with Mike Goodes. We've just got to beat Mike because this is kind of a tournament for second. He looked at me kind of funny. I said, "You just watch."
I said earlier in the week that there were a lot of birdie holes on the back nine and somebody was going to birdie three or four of them and take control of the tournament. I did that, but Bart was doing it, too. I didn't realize he was having all the trouble on 15 until we got up to the green on 16 and they posted it. I went from being two behind to two ahead. So that's really when I thought about winning the tournament. I just kind of thought, "Oh, all I have to do is par 17 and 18 and it's going to be mine."
TT: Is your son going to caddy for you this year?
KT: Well, he's going to grudgingly return. He's a collegiate golfer at another Big 10 school that I won't name. He's a wonderful player. He'll play a fair amount of tournaments kind of across the country this summer. I think he enjoys spending the time with me, I feel pretty fortunate to get him to come and work for me one week.
TT: How's your game coming into the event?
KT: It's been kind of a mixed bag the last month or so. I got off to a good start and felt pretty confident at the beginning of the year. But really the last two months it's been a little bit elusive.
TT: What are your thoughts being the defending champion?
KT: Well, I'm excited. It's always fun to come to a place that you've had some success at. I've had the good fortune to actually successfully defend one year at Pebble Beach, so I know it can be done. I've also had some tremendous flameouts.
There will be lots of responsibilities as the defending champ, interviews and handshaking. Then of course Friday morning - nobody cares. I don't get to start 17 under; I've got to start right there at even par.
TT: What have you been telling people about Madison and the tournament?
KT: I personally have been telling everyone the food is bad, the weather's bad, the people are mean, and it's really a tournament you ought to take off your schedule. (Laughs)
TT: What are your thoughts about Steve Stricker playing in the tournament?
KT: I had the good fortune to be Steve's partner many years ago in the Diner's Club matches for a couple of years. So I got to know Steve and Nicki. You really can't answer that question without bringing Nicki into it, too, right?
So here's a guy, wonderful player, really good skills, nice guy. You would never guess looking at him that he wants to rip your head off and stomp it into the ground, but then he wants to shake your hand after it's over and say "good match," right?
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