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Q&A with Jon Gruden

Q&A with Jon Gruden

"I'm going to try and get to the British Open. If I can carry a cord, shag balls, wipe clubs; I want to be an assistant at one of these events. Tour players are my idols."

February 1, 2010

Jon Gruden, 46, just finished his first season as a "Monday Night Football" analyst. Gruden says he's coming back to coaching this spring, he wants to win a Masters and he's willing to work a British Open. He talks about Jeff Fisher's snoring, Donald Trump's gold clubs and the ramifications of carrying John Daly's bag.

What's your first memory of golf?
My dad is a very good player. When he wasn't coaching, he was playing golf. In the off-season I grew up being his caddie, going to the golf course with him. When he was coaching at Notre Dame we lived on the 7th hole of Knollwood Country Club. I learned how to swing a club at a young age and I entered a few junior tournaments. I had a pretty good swing for a while, but ever since I got into coaching, you can see what has happened to my handicap.

What is your handicap?
I carry a 15, but I try not to make that public knowledge. I'm still negotiating strokes from my friends.

What's your low round?
I've broken 80 twice in my life; once at the Cascades in Bloomington, Indiana, and once I did it at Canton, Ohio when I was a freshman in high school. I was a pretty good player back in the 8th and 9th grade, but ever since I started playing football and coaching the game, my skills have diminished.

Where do you live and are you a member of the club?
I live in Tampa and I live on the 11th hole at Avila Country Club. It's a heck of a course. I live on a par five and I call it "The Gruden Hole."

On a par five, are you more inclined to go for it in two or do you like to lay up?
I usually go for it because I'm better when I take a full swing. When I get 80-yards shots around the green, that's when I get frustrated. I look at a par five as an opportunity to make a birdie. I can hit it off the tee pretty good and my 3-wood is the best club in the bag.

What are you working on now?
My short game. Fortunately at Avila we have a great practice facility. They have chipping ranges. Those are the challenging shots for me because every course you play you get a different lie. The better golfers you play with, the less lenient they are with you rolling the ball over, you know what I'm saying?

Do you have a hole in one?
I do not. I've done my best, but I'm still in search for one.

What's in your bag? Are you an equipment junkie?
I really like equipment. I play TaylorMade Burners. During a pre-season game in New Jersey, we played at Trump National with Donald Trump and he was my partner. We played good as a team. He carried me. He was hitting the dog out of the ball and I asked, "What are those things?" He had TaylorMade Burner irons, and of course he had gold plates on those things. About a week later he sent me a set of those irons, so that's what I'm using.

Did they come with gold plates?
No, he didn't put the gold plates on there.

Being from Ohio, are you a Jack fan? Yeah. I can't help that. When my Dad played in the Cleveland Amateur, and some other major amateur tournaments in Ohio, Jack played in some of the same tournaments. I'll never forget my Dad said, when he watched Jack play a few holes, that's when he realized he was never going to make it on tour. Jack is legendary worldwide, but in the state of Ohio, there's not many people bigger than Jack Nicklaus.

At one point I saw you had Tiger on the sideline of a Bucs game, are you Tiger over Phil?
I'm a big fan of these guys. When I was a head coach of the Bucs, I got a call: Tiger wanted to come by and meet me and have dinner with me. I thought it was a prank call. Sure enough he called that night again and we had a chance to sit down and have dinner and he gave me a chance to ask him questions about his mentality, not just about golf and tips. We became friends and he came to several Bucs games. He would call me and leave messages when we lost, he'd be getting on my case. But I'm a huge Tiger Woods fan because he's the ice man, he's the ultimate clutch competitor and performer that I've seen in my lifetime.

Were you able to extract some of his mental aspects of the game and use them in your coaching style?
Absolutely. I asked him if I could ask him questions and he said, "Sure. Go ahead." So I reached into my desk and pulled out my yellow pad, and I pulled out a list of about 25 questions. I only got to five of them. I asked about his preparation. Do you know how many sand shots this guy hits to get good at hitting sand shots? Do you know how many hours he works on five-foot putts from a downhill lie? His preparation is incredible. And more than that, when he enters a tournament, he's not there for the pre-game function or the post-game function. He's there to win it. He's there to dominate it. And he saves the best for last. So, finishing, preparing and performing when it's time to perform, those really resonated with me. And he was good enough to go into the linebacker room, the secondary room, the defensive line room, the quarterback room, and we were all star struck. He has quite a presence as you know.

If I offered you an all-expenses paid trip to Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes or Pinehurst, which one would you choose?
I'd be thanking you from the bottom of my heart for any of those, but I'd probably pick Pebble Beach. I got a chance to play that in 1990 and then I went across the street to play Spyglass Hill. I didn't even want to play golf. I wanted to sit there and take pictures of the course. You can't comprehend Pebble Beach until you see it. The first few holes, I was like, "This is Pebble Beach?" Then, all of a sudden, every hole is like a painting. We videotaped our round. We had a graduate assistant come and film our shots. We interviewed each other on the tees. It was great. I've never had more fun in my life.

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