Scott Van Pelt Chats US Open, 'Regular' Tiger and Twitter
Shane Bacon: Hey Scott. Thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with us. First things first, your new radio show, The Scott Van Pelt Show, debuts on July 6. Not having Mike Tirico around will be disappointing, but is there anything cool you have planned with the new show and anything that will be different?
Scott Van Pelt: I think the thing about the show, Ryen Russillo will be my co-host and if anything, it will probably sound younger, and i don't mean by that that Mike made it older, it's just that I have more in common with Ryen because, you know, we're both single and we both waste time at two in the morning playing video games, which is pretty pathetic, but I think the way we look at the show is that whatever you and your buddies are talking about, whether it's most likely sports, but maybe it's music, maybe it's film, maybe it's a video game, we'll probably spend more time talking about things like that. I guess the cliche would be to call it "guy radio," but it isn't like we're going to be doing Maxim boob jokes, that's not our goal. But it will sound a little younger, I guess is the best way to put it.
Bacon: What does Bethpage feel like right now? I've read some things, like Ryan Moore saying he didn't think it would be playing as tough as 2002. What are you getting from the players?
SVP: I was just on the range, and the words "firm and fast" are what always seem to describe a U.S. Open, but this year, those seem not in play because it's rained so much, that the golf course is just soft and it's longer than hell. It's playing all of its (7,426) yards. It's going to play like an absolute mammoth golf course ... Because greens are soft, it takes a little bit of fire out of the golf course, so, I think you'll see more birdies, but it's so long, honestly, that you're still hitting 3-irons, 4-woods, 5-woods into greens, so I don't think people will go out and light it up.
Bacon: Will these conditions take out the short hitters or will it give them more of an advantage since they can hold the greens?
SVP: Well, if you can hold a 4-wood, god bless ya. Tiger was out (on Monday) and had a 5-wood into a par-4, and we're talking about Tiger Woods. If you're short, you're going to have to be so good with your long irons, that that's asking an awful lot. I think you have to be able to hit the ball miles long and awfully high in the air, in my opinion, to have a chance.
Bacon: What do you think is the toughest part about Bethpage Black besides the weather right now? What is the toughest part for these guys this week?
SVP: Well, I mean, there is no let-up. The thing about most golf courses, like, think of Augusta National. If you get to the eighth hole, it's not easy, but it's a par-5, (you're thinking) "Maybe we can score here." We get to 13, (and think) "I ought to be able to make a four on this hole." I don't how many holes there are you where you step up on the tee at Bethpage and think, "Oh, I'm putting a circle on the card here." There's just very few, if any, given birdies when you step up to the tee. I think that the USGA though, and I'll give them this, I think their set-up looks awfully fair and I think there are enough options with tees that if they get rain, and they're supposed to, they could give guys chances on some holes. Make a couple of par-3s short(er). Give a guy a pitching wedge or a 9-iron in their hand, and if it's soft and a pro has a 9-iron in his hand, he ought to be able to hit it inside of 10 feet.
The toughest thing in any U.S. Open is to be patient, and it's such a cliche, but I've seen it so often. Can a guy stay mentally in the present and not get ahead of himself and not try to fire at flags and not try to make birdies?
Bacon: And with Phil Mickelson, a lot of stuff coming in this tournament emotionally. How are the players reacting and what will the crowds feel like with him around?
SVP: They loved him here in 2002, I think it will be more of the same in 2009, and the one concern that I know Andy North talked about today was when you go play golf and you're trying to put your mind somewhere and not think about, you know, your wife's medical situation and every tee and every hole you go to, fans are wanting to tell you how much they're praying for you, and that's great, but it never allows your mind to get off of it.
The hardest part for him is he won't have a chance to turn his brain off, because these fans won't let him know, they'll never stop letting him know that they care about him, which is cool, but it might get to be kind of heavy.
Bacon: That's an interesting point. I actually mentioned to a friend of mine earlier that when Mickelson finished second to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst in 1999, he had his mind somewhere else with the birth of his child, and I'm not saying that will happen here because it's a different situation mentally, but maybe him not thinking about golf the whole time might be a little bit of a bonus for Phil. He's not grinding it out, and can just let his talent drive his round instead of his mind.
SVP: I think it's possible. I agree with what you're saying, and last week Phil talked about how golf is five hours of sanctuary where you get out there and focus on trying to make a shot and you grind away at your round, but because these people love the guy so much and because there are so many of them and they're so vocal, there's just bound to be someone on every hole saying, "Hey, we're praying for you, we love Amy," and that's great, but if you're trying to grind your ass off and make a four on the 15th hole and someone says that and you let your mind slip for a second, the cold, hard truth of the U.S. Open it'll eat you up, you know what I'm saying?
Bacon: Yep. There's a double-bogey just waiting there.
SVP: That's for sure.
Bacon: Okay, not to completely shift gears here, but I dinked around online and couldn't find a Twitter page of yours. Is this correct?
SVP: No, that's funny, I did a thing with the guys in LA and explained to them that, for a while, I tried to dismiss it as folly, but it's clear to me that this is becoming a way in which people communicate and I don't know if I can ignore it anymore. Let me ask you, what is your assessment, should I tweet? Does anyone give a rat's ass what I think? I would say no.
Bacon: Well, I obviously have never hung out with you or anything, but I've seen you on TV and it seems you have a good attitude for Twitter. You seem to joke with yourself and poke fun at yourself and I think that's what it takes. It isn't like you're going to tweet, "Hey, I just went and got Subway," it's going to be funny little tidbits. Bill Simmons does really well on Twitter, because it isn't like he's talking about his daily life.
SVP: That would make sense to me. Bill would translate well. I heard Ian Poulter got a page and apparently his is hysterically funny, which totally makes sense, I could see that. My whole bit about being self-deprecating, I'm not doing that for performance art, I just can't imagine anyone would give a s**t what I think about anything. You know, it's humbling, you walk around here and there's a lot of people that want to say hey. I think you're right, I'm more than happy, and I've shown that in a lot of different ways, to make fun of myself. What does one do to (get set up with a Twitter page)?
Bacon: You just sign up. It takes a couple minutes. Maybe we could get an intern walk you through it or something.
SVP: (laughing) I'm not full idiot here, I could probably make it happen.
Bacon: With the recent push for LPGA players to Twitter during their rounds, could you see the PGA Tour ever going to something like that?
SVP: I know Stewart Cink is pretty into it, it's like anything else, certain guys, like Rocco Mediate, he could have tweeted throughout the whole round last year (at Torrey Pines) and I don't think he would have played any different, because his mind is off in a million places anyway, but Tiger would no sooner tweet during a PGA Tour round than he would play in hot pants, the guy is never doing that.
Bacon: Well, I have to say, I really enjoyed the commercials that hit the Internet this week for Tiger Woods 2010. Was that a lot more work than you thought it would be, being the voice for an EA Sports game?
SVP: The commercial stuff wasn't because they just cut him out at a golf course carrying around a cardboard cut-out and we just did a bunch of dumb voice-overs and they made them fit, but as for being in the game, it was absurd. I knew (Kirk) Herbstreit had done it for college football and he was like, "Bro, you can't imagine how long it takes," and I'm thinking sure it can, because every possibility you can encounter in a game you have to voice. It took two days worth of voicing stuff to actually get to a point where they thought we covered every eventuality that there could be in the game.
Bacon: Were you impressed at how well Ben Roethlisberger played at the U.S. Open Challenge?
SVP: I was stunned! When I got here that was one of the first things I asked was what did Roethlisberger shoot, and they told me he shot 81, which blew my mind. I thought anything in the 90s would be decent and I think they all broke 90, which from the back, it just speaks to how soft it is, but that means they had to hit it pretty long.
You know, world class athletes, Roethlisberger, what he can do, what Jordan could do when he played ball, there is something innate in understanding how to perform when people are paying attention.
Bacon: You have a relationship with Tiger that's been documented. Do you have anything you can share with us about the man that won't get you deleted from his iPhone?
SVP: Honestly, he's really a pretty regular dude. He likes the stuff that guys like. He's a big sports fan, he's been at a blackjack table in his life, he's got an unbelievable golf swing that affords him the right to do what the rest of us only dream of.
He enjoys a good off-color joke, he and his caddie are legendary on the tee for trying to see who can blast the biggest fart of the day, and it's all sophomoric stuff, but I think it's nice to know that this guy who is like from outer space, who, at his core, is kind of a guy's guy and that sense. All the dumb stuff that we don't admit to thinking is funny to him, and I've been impressed that I've known him since he was a freshman at Stanford and everything about the guy's life has changed in terms of being a true icon, maybe the most recognizable person in sports, but, you know, I've always been able to be honest with him, I've always been able to bust his chops, and our relationship is really no different than when I first got to know him when I worked at The Golf Channel. He hasn't changed, he hasn't become insufferable, he doesn't call himself third person names, he's really a fairly, boring, regular guy.
Bacon: Alright, last question, you have to give us a pick, and you can go with Tiger if you want.
SVP: Well, I won't pick him because it's so boring to, but I'll say this by default -- if he drives it like Memorial, and this isn't an original thought, but if he hits it like that, than honestly, who's beating him?
But, outside of that, I really like Geoff Ogilvy. I like what he does. He's got an effortless golf swing. He gets really streaky hot with his putter and he's won one of these before. Even though he didn't do it out of the last group, he knows what it's like to make shots under pressure. What he did late at Winged Foot was sick, and if I'm not going to pick Tiger, and I'm not just to be original, I'll take Ogilvy.
Bacon: Nice. I think he's quickly becoming the second favorite among people at Bethpage. Scott, we appreciate the time and hope you have some fun out there this week.
The Scott Van Pelt Show debuts on ESPN Radio on July 6, with the final hour simulcast on ESPN2 weekday afternoons.