September 29, 2008–The time is nearing for the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open, the Las Vegas PGA Tour golf tournament that the entertainment icon is hosting for the first time. The Las Vegas golf event is October 16-19, 2008, at Las Vegas golf course TPC Summerlin. And the PR machine is ratcheting up just as tournament organizers had hoped. Timberlake is on the cover of Golf Digest (he recounted how it was his call to the PGA Tour that got the ball rolling) and he also recently spent about an hour via phone with media.
In the Golf Digest article with Craig Bestrom, Timberlake says that it was a thrill to get a call back from the PGA Tour in regards to potentially creating an event with his name attached, joining the likes of Bob Hope, Sammy Davis, Jr. and several others. And Las Vegas was where he wanted it to be.
"About a year ago I said to my team, 'I can't really think of a celebrity tournament that I really like," Timberlake tells Bestram. "How can I get a celebrity tournament of my own? Call the PGA Tour and let them know that I'm interested.' The tour called back right away, and they had a few options. The first one was the Nissan Open [now Northern Trust] at Riviera, and I asked, 'What do you guys have in Vegas?' They told me that the Vegas event had lost its luster, so I told them that Vegas is a perfect place for the golf-and-entertainment marriage. Riviera was my second choice, but I felt like Riviera was already a special event for the pros, with all the history there, and I didn't want to do anything to taint that." The following is the entire transcript from his hour-long media conference call.
NELSON SILVERIO: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining us today. The Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open will be played this October 13th through the 19th at the TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nevada, over 72 holes with a celebrity ProAm on Wednesday the 15th. The Red Rock Hotel and Spa is the host hotel for the entire week, and a special concert, the Justin Timberlake and Friends Special Evening Benefitting the Shriners Hospitals For Children, will be held at the Planet Hollywood Theater For the Performing Arts on Friday, October 17th.
We're pleased to have Justin with us on today's call. As you know, Timberlake is a six‑time Grammy award winning singer, song writer, record producer and actor. He's the 14th celebrity in TOUR history to host the event. Justin, you join the likes of Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Would you care to make some opening comments as we get closer to the start of the event.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, thanks for having me on today. We're really excited about the Vegas tournament. I'm hoping I'll compare in the future more to Bing Crosby, since he was probably the best celebrity golfer to host one, as far as handicaps go (laughter).
NELSON SILVERIO: We'll open it up to questions from the media.
Q. Why did you choose now to be involved with this tournament? It's been a long‑time institution growing in Vegas for a number of years.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, forgive my ignorance. I'm unaware for how long the tournament has been in Vegas. This is just a conversation that I got into with the PGA about a year and a half ago. I was looking to find a good opportunity to, A, host a ProAm and, B, make it a charitable event. We all just got into conversations about Vegas, the Shriners Hospitals. To me, those stars kind of lined up. I thought Vegas would be a great place to host a ProAm, as well. I mean, the entertainment there is second to none. I played Summerlin a couple of times. The golf course is great. That's how we got into it, so…
Q. You obviously are one of the best‑known marquee golfers as far as a celebrity goes. Your love for golf is becoming known to the masses. How do you expect to take this event and really make it a marquee event, especially as it comes later in the year on the PGA TOUR?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: I mean, I don't want to overshoot our hopes. But, I mean, obviously if I come into this, I aim high. I would be lying if I didn't say we'd love to make it part of the points race. But also, I mean, I think this first year around, we've got some cool things planned for the ProAm and obviously for the week with the players, their families, all the celebrities that attend.
I think every year's a learning process and you go in and sort of learn from each year. But I think from the get‑go, we've made it more enjoyable for the players. I mean, A, we put the tournament on the same course, so you're going to get a lot lower scores. I think the pros are going to appreciate that. As a matter of fact, I've talked to a number of them, and they appreciate that.
Also I've eliminated too much ProAm play while the players are actually counting their scores 'cause I just believe in that. I made a comparison, I believe it was already used in the press, but I'll make it again. I sort of said Phil wasn't going to come up and try to do karaoke while I'm doing my show. So for me to chip balls out of a bunker while he's trying to win a tournament is not exactly ‑‑ you know, it's a Catch‑22. I think eliminating that will help the players out, as well. Like I said, it's Vegas, so there's a lot you can do. I want to make sure we make it a classy tournament, but also unique and youthful to the city and its environment.
Q. There's been a lot of speculation with the Wednesday ProAm maybe being the biggest day of this tournament because of your star power. Can you talk about the type of A‑list celebrities you hope to attract to this event.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, I don't know exactly who's confirmed yet. Obviously I have a lot going on to get ready for the tournament and other things on my plate. But I hope to have the type of suspects who appreciate the game, who can actually play to a certain handicap, and who have a good time out there. I just want to make Wednesday an entertaining day for the fans who come out and really love the game and love the celebrities that are going to attend. Maybe we'll all learn something and we'll have fun in the process.
Q. Where did your love for golf come from and how early did you start playing?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, my dad tried to get me into the game when I was younger, but I was pretty a die‑hard basketball player in school. That required a lot of time and dedication, in my mind. So I remember that my dad tried to get me into golf when I was 10 or 11. I played it a little bit, but I wasn't as serious about it. I didn't really fall in love with the game until I was about 21 or 22. I was on tour. Just kind of got cabin fever from playing indoor arenas three or four days in a row. My crew, my stage manager, took me out. I went out with them for a round of golf. I sort of remembered everything that my dad taught me when I was 10 or 11, it kind of came back to me. I started hitting balls at the range. I went around and hit balls with them when they played a round. I immediately fell in love with the game.
Q. Is there kind of a tranquility you can't get anywhere else, the ability to just relax and enjoy the outdoors and everything that comes with it?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Absolutely. I grew up in Tennessee. I love doing anything outdoors. So there's that. But also I have a million things always going on. When I'm on the golf course, it seems to be the only place where I can shut it all off, just go out there and hit a little ball at a hole 450 yards away. You know, I get lost in the beauty of the courses I play. I get lost in the game. That's when it really hits you that it really is the greatest game ever played.
Q. You sound like you're a bit of a golf historian with what you said about Bing Crosby. Have you brushed up on the talents of a lot of well‑known players? I know the Rat Pack had a lot to do with golf in the heyday of Vegas. Are you a big historian.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Obviously I'm a huge fan of the Rat Pack. I'm sure that became very apparent probably in the attire I've started wearing in the last couple of years. I do know that Bing, from what I was told, was a really good golfer and actually respected and loved the game. So, yeah, I'm kind of intrigued by the fact that maybe we can bring that type of synergy and that type of style, that type of legend about the game in modern day. I just have to find three or four other guys who can really get out there and play and who love it, who can play the part and dress the part.
Q. Would Bill Murray be one of them?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Absolutely. Bill's a great golfer.
Q. Could I get a Ryder Cup pick from you and the reason for your pick?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, I got to go with the underdogs. I got to go with the Americans. I'm hoping that Lefty can play well in his match‑plays. He seems to usually kind of step up a little bit more when he's one‑on‑one.
It's tough, man. The Europeans, their team play is pretty amazing. I mean, they have one of the hottest golfers in the world right now with Harrington. So we'll have to see. I mean, sentimentally I'm going to obviously go with the Americans.
Q. What is your golf handicap?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, that depends on who I'm playing with (laughter).
No, I'm a single digit. I range, depending on the time I get to play, I go anywhere from an 8 to a 4, somewhere in that range.
Q. What do you like to do when you are in Las Vegas besides golf?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: I like to go and ‑‑ every once in a while I like to go and see the shows. There's great restaurants in Vegas. I definitely like to eat. But, you know, usually when I get to Vegas I usually block out a couple of days to play golf, relax by the pool. I'm not a huge gambler. I enjoy the entertainment in Vegas. But I will say, I mean, it's fair to say that 80% of my time if not thinking about it will definitely be on a golf course in Vegas.
Q. Do you have a good luck charm that you wear or carry when you golf?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: I don't. You know, it's funny, I don't ‑‑ I have all kinds of different irons that I use. I don't really have a lucky anything. I will say that I sort of keep going back to the same putter, but I don't know if that's a luck thing. I think any golfer would tell you that. But, yeah, no, I don't know. I never really gained any type of superstition about golf or using a certain golf ball or certain ball marker. I hear that a lot of pros and a lot of players do that.
But, I don't know, I just kind of ‑‑ I will say that I played golf this year, and maybe I should try this a little bit more, although I don't think they would let me, I played golf in Mexico and played barefoot. I probably played better than normal. So I don't know. I don't think they'll let me do that in the tournament, though.
Q. With your handicap and golf knowledge, when do you have time to sing and play?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: That's the great thing about being self‑employed, you can just sort of make time to play. I play whenever I can. Even if I can't play, I mean, if I can just go and hit balls at the range, I'm a happy guy, so…
Q. Who would be in your dream foursome if you could only pick out of the current PGA TOUR golfers?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, let's see, the current PGA TOUR golfers. I mean, I think anyone would put Tiger in there. I guess I'd put Tiger, you know, Phil and probably Adam in the same group. I thought that that was pretty cool the first couple rounds at the U.S. Open that all three of those guys played together, being they were the top three in the world.
Q. If you could pick from celebrity golfers, athletes or actors, your dream foursome?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, I do enjoy playing with Sam Jackson. We always have a good time. I'd put Sam in there. Let's see. I also enjoy playing with Andy Garcia. He's a good friend. I'd put him in there. And then maybe somebody like Will Smith. I think we'd all have fun together.
Q. Are you committed to this event for a certain number of years or are you taking it one year at a time?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: We have a commitment with the Shriners. I don't want to spit out false information, but I believe it's for the next three to five. But beyond that, I mean, I'm committed to the tournament. We want to make it a marquee stop on the TOUR, a fun occasion for the players and the families and the celebrities who all attend.
Q. You talk about a concert. Have you talked about who is going to be with you with the Justin Timberlake and Friends?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: I'm going to host the show, possibly get in the mix. Obviously I have a big week that week hosting the tournament and the things that that entails. But I forget. I believe we have a commitment ‑‑ I don't have the list in front of me, but I believe we have a commitment from I think Rihanna and 50 Cent and Rascal Flats. I believe also the Jonas Brothers. It's going to be a great concert for the families and the players and all the people who sort of are able to get a ticket.
Q. You mentioned earlier your golf attire. You're certainly well‑fashioned. Most of it looks like it's JL. What is your relationship with J. Lindberg fashion for golf?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, most of the time I do have an endless supply of J. Lindberg stuff. Johan and Marcella, husband and wife, the Lindbergs, actually design for my clothing brand named William Rast. We're good friends. They actually design for another line of mine. So that's the bonus, as well. When you get on the golf course, you have an endless supply of JL clothing.
Q. Do you have a partnership? Is there a partnership with that?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: With Johan Lindberg?
Q. With you and your William Rast line.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Yes, yes. He designs for my fashion line.
Q. Didn't you recently launch a new line? How did that go?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: That was William Rast. We showed at New York Fashion Week. The in e has been launched, but it was our first time to have a show at New York Fashion Week. It went very well.
Q. Is it mainly contemporary casual type of clothing? How would you describe your line?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: I would describe it as casual, chic, probably more southern heritage.
Q. I know when you played the Torrey Pines course at the U.S. Open, it was set up exactly how the pros had it set up. How difficult was that course? Was it difficult playing in front of cameras?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Actually, that's a lie. Seriously, the pros got to play 200 yards shorter than we did every round. We played every back tee. So we actually played 200 yards longer than the pros played. It was tough playing in a foursome. That was the other thing, is the pros all played in a threesome, so they got to play a lot faster. It took a long time. I think that obviously shot everyone's handicap up by probably 6 to 8 strokes. For instance, in the practice round I played by myself. I shot like an 83. Then I barely broke a hundred.
Q. It was still fun to watch.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: It was a lot of fun to do. I got to tell you. I think it's a cool thing that the USGA has done. They made it feel as official as possible. It was impressive. I was really impressed with how they conducted it.
Q. I know Butch Harmon was on your bag for that tournament. Is he also a swing coach of yours? What is your relationship?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Butch is a good friend of mine. I met him through obviously all this process. He has a close affiliation with the Las Vegas tournament. Yes, I've taken two or three lessons with Butch. I guess it's fair to say that he has finagled my swing a lot and probably brought my handicap down by probably 4 strokes, 5 strokes.
Q. What was the biggest thing he was working with you on?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, Butch is a one swing playing coach. That's what I sort of needed. I sort of had a lot of extra movement in my swing, and he sort of took that out in the first couple lessons, kind of got me able to kind of slingshot that ball rather than swing across it, which gets you that weak fade. Doesn't always come out like that 'cause I'm not as good as the pros. But I will say that it's helped tremendously just hearing what Butch says about the golf swing, seeing yourself on videotape. This year was the first time I saw myself on videotape really swinging. It's a huge eye opener.
Q. I heard you mention the fun of being in Las Vegas. Must be exciting to not only do what you love, but be in the entertainment capital of the universe.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Yeah, you said it better than I could. We're excited about the opportunity that Vegas has to offer. I'm actually really excited about being at the host hotel, the Red Rocks Hotel, which is very close to Summerlin. We went and scoped it out. It's a really cool, fun, kind of young vibe to the resort, the hotel.
Being involved with the Planet Hollywood venue, I scoped that out, it's a very classy venue. I think we're going to be able to do a very special evening. Like I said, Vegas, there's something around every corner in Vegas to do. I think we're going to have a lot of fun. The course is great. I love the TPC Summerlin. It's a great course. I think we're going to be able to host a great tournament. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Q. Is it nice you'll be able to bring your music ability to the concert, combine the golf aspect of it, put it in one nice package.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: It is nice. When we started looking at places, Vegas was a no‑brainer just because of all those opportunities, to be able to host an evening, invite friends out to play. It's not far from Los Angeles where a lot of obviously actors and musicians live. Everything about it, I mean, just became a no‑brainer.
Q. Is it nice knowing your celebrity status, hosting this event, all these people will come out, it's got your name on it.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: It's exciting. It's exciting. I don't think it's really hit me yet. I sort of had a glimpse of it when I saw the first logo on one of the flags. I saw one of the flags they were making. It had the logo. I was kind of like, Wow, this is really happening. It's kind of been a small dream of mine to host an event. The first time I ever played a ProAm in golf was at the Bob Hope in the desert. I had a great time. I thought to myself, it would be amazing if one day I could be able to, A, host an amazing event and, B, raise some money for charity. The Shriners Hospital, obviously we're going to do some great things for them in raising money with this week coming up in October. So I'm excited. I'm really, really excited about it.
Q. What is your favorite show in town? Looking forward to see any particular show coming out?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: It's tough to say. I haven't seen a show in a while. Any new ones I should check out?
Q. Criss Angel, Cirque/Magic.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: I'll go check that out.
Q. You mentioned TPC Summerlin. What makes it special to you? Do you have any specific features or holes that stand out for you when you play there?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Well, forgive me, because I'd have to go back and look at the layout to tell you my favorite holes.
The thing I liked about it the most is for the pros, I think there's a drivable par 4 for a couple of the long guys. So that's great. There's risk/reward opportunities on that course.
I think you're gonna see that the winner is going to go for four rounds, I mean, somewhere 25‑under or up. I would expect that from the pros, especially the fact that they get to play at the same course for four rounds. I know in the past it's been four different courses. That just becomes a little bit tougher. But I think it's a shorter course for the pros and I think that it presents a lot of birdie/eagle opportunities.
Q. How often do you get to play? How often would you get to play if you could? When was the last time you took a Mulligan?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Let's see. Well, I think it's pretty obvious I work a lot, so I don't get to play a lot. The last time I took a Mulligan was probably about a month ago. The last time I played, I was just in Arizona and played, I was only able to play nine holes a day because I was busy doing something. I just played last weekend and shot pretty well. I think the last time I probably took a Mulligan was probably about a month ago.
Q. Katie Walker, the tournament ambassador, she said she got a chance to meet you. Who won when you played against her? What was she like?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Katie is a sweetheart. I love having her as an ambassador for the tournament. She's a great representative. She's an obvious case of not letting anything get you down. It's actually amazing to see how well she hits the ball. She obviously has a prosthesis for a leg. She's a sweet girl and an inspiration to me. So I love having her as a representative. She's an amazing representative for our tournament.
NELSON SILVERIO: Justin, thanks again for your time today. Members of the media, thank you also for your time. We look forward to hosting you out at the TPC Summerlin October 13th through the 19th for the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.