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May 25, 2001

Jim Thorpe


JULIUS MASON: Jim Thorpe, ladies and gentlemen, 8-under for the event as we stand in the 62nd Senior PGA Championship. Jim, let's talk about your round today then we'll go to Q and A.

JIM THORPE: Well, let me just say the golf course played a lot different today than yesterday. This morning at 8:30 it played very, very long. As a matter of fact, on the front nine when I pinned a couple of driver 3-woods on a couple of par 4s, on driver 3-wood to 9, driver 3-wood, I think, to 3. The course just played different today I think. I don't know if we got rain overnight, but the weather was much cooler today so the ball didn't travel. My round was pretty solid. Start on No. 1 this morning, I kind of had to pull a little 9-iron from probably 125, 30 yards left of the green, missed the green probably a foot and chipped it a couple of inches and tapped in. 2, I hit a very good shot to make bogey there. Hit a nice 3-wood off the tee, nice 3-wood to about 90 yards, and hit -- I thought I hit a pretty good third shot, I couldn't tell up there. But it spun all the way back off the green probably 40 feet, and I 3-putted from just off the fringe. 5, I missed a -- 3, I missed the fairway a little bit to the right there, and I tried to run a hard 3-wood and there again I made bogey. Starting at No. 4, kind of turned it around a little bit. Hit a nice drive, nice 3-wood, nice little chip about 6 feet and made it for birdie. Routine -- actually, I hit a really good birdie putt on the next hole, the par 3 down the hill there. Let me just find the holes here. Par 3, No. 5, I hit a beautiful birdie putt there. We couldn't believe it missed the hole. But anyway, birdied 7, birdied 7 from probably 6, 8 feet, basically the same shot I hit yesterday. I made No. 6, hit a beautiful drive in 7-iron to about 4, 5 feet on 7, made that for birdie. 8, I missed the green to the right couple of feet, chipped it probably 4 feet, and made it for birdie. 9, I hit a big drive and a big 3-wood probably 2 or 3 yards over the green, chipped it probably, I don't know, 6, 7 feet, missed that putt. So I turned in 36, which wasn't bad after, you know, making bogeys on the front. 10, I hit a very, very nice tee shot. Hit it probably 10 feet right on the cup, but the putt was breaking probably 2 feet. So just one of them putts if you make it, you make it, but lag is good. 11, I hit a very nice drive and pitching wedge about 10 feet and missed another very nice putt there. And 12, pretty much a routine 2-putt there, they got the pin tucked back right there. So if you make birdie there today, you just push your tee shot, unless you make a long putt. I don't think it's a flag that you shoot at. 13, the par 5, I hit a very nice tee ball, had 260 yards, I think, to the flag. I chose to hit 3-wood there today, put it in the bunker, I holed it for eagle. 14 probably played as tough as any hole on the golf course today. I hit a beautiful drive and just hit a 5-iron kind of under the edge of the tree there to probably 10, 12 feet and - probably 15 feet. I left the putt a couple inches short dead center. 15, the par 3, I hit a nice 7-iron to about a foot, 15 inches there, and made that for birdie. 16, another good drive. 7-iron -- I mean, 6-iron from 170 yards to about 6 feet, made that for birdie. 17, missed the fairway to the right, hit a pretty decent 4-iron from over there, but it stayed in the rough. I hit a 5-wood for my third shot, probably 3, 4 paces short of the green there. I choose to putt it versus chip it, just kind of hit it too firm and made bogey there. And 18, a good drive. Good 4-iron, left the putt probably end short dead center. All in all, it wasn't a bad day based on the weather conditions out there. And, you know, 69, I felt like it could have been better because I felt like I played better than that. But, you know, I'm happy with it.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks, Jim. Questions, folks.

Q. Could you talk about your different approach to putting these days.

JIM THORPE: Yeah, you know, if you watch it on camera, you notice a lot of putts, I hit them looking at the hole. Once I get my line, I try to find a spot between the ball and the hole and that's pretty much what I look at. Basically, what it did for me, it kind of frees my stroke up. I've always had a very quick, jerky stroke, and, you know, I made a few putts but I missed a lot of putts. Now by looking at the hole, finding a spot between my ball and the hole, I seem to take the putter back and release it very nicely down the line. Today I hit a lot of good putts that could have went. So at this point, I'm gonna stick with it until it goes back.

Q. How long have you been putting like that? Just for this tournament, or...

JIM THORPE: No, I've been practicing that way pretty much for the last 6, 8 golf tournaments because I haven't been putting very well. I shot some decent rounds, but I've been practicing that way on the putting green and, you know, I walk on the putting green, I drop three balls, I make two out of three from 20 feet or three out of three from 10 feet by looking at the hole or looking at a spot. And my caddie gives me a lot of confidence too, because he says, "This stroke is not jerking." He can see it a lot better than I can. I'm getting the putter back, and I'm basically just judging on how hard I have to hit it. And like I said, yesterday and today, it's some beautiful putts, man. And plus I think it helped -- I think it helps me up in this area, because I played a lot of golf around Buffalo, New York, and they have the same type of greens around Buffalo, poa annua greens. So I think, you know, putting on these type of greens has helped me because you don't have to slug the putts. You know, versus a lot -- like the course we played last week in Kansas City. You almost need a sledgehammer to get the putts to the hole, because it was so wet and the greens probably, on the roll, about an 8 on the stimp meter. But I've always putted pretty decent when the greens get faster because I never had a big, long stroke. It was basically more of a pop of the ball versus stroking it.

Q. Can you talk about the fact you played a great round yesterday, very good round today under the conditions. You're 8-under. Do you feel like you carried some of that momentum and now as you go into the third round you're where you want to be?

JIM THORPE: Oh, yeah. I mean, you always want to be, you know, 4, 5, 6 shots up. And, you know, I really had a chance to do that today, making four bogeys. I didn't have the ball in bad position out there. But, you know, basically, I'm going to approach tomorrow just like I did today, go out there and play and whatever happens is gonna happen. You know, I'm gonna try not to make mistakes, but if I do, I'm not gonna let it get me down. You know, I'm just gonna go play golf and then, you know, finish on Sunday, you know. If I'm lucky enough to have the lead, then, you know, hats off to me. But if not, then, you know, I pack my bags and get ready to play next week.

Q. Jim, which holes on this course can you really go at and attack?

JIM THORPE: I tell you what, you know what, the pin placement today kind of backed us off the golf course. No. 1, I thought, had a pretty easy pin and was sitting back left. But then again, you're hitting your second shot, you know, of the round. The par 5s for me, if I don't get the ball close where I can chip something and kind of run it a little bit, then I'm hitting my wedges and I spin the ball quite a bit so it's very difficult keeping the ball close. But I actually -- I think basically, if I can continue to putt like I'm putting, then I just pretty much attack every hole. I mean, I think a hole like 18, you know, yesterday I hit driver 6-iron pretty easy. Today I got driver 4-iron, I'm killing both shots. So today I don't think I could have -- trying to turn it in from the left but I got that big tree hanging there so I can't really turn the ball in from the left. So, you know, you just take your 20-, 25-foot, 30-foot birdie putt and hopefully you can make it or get it close and that's basically the way I played it today. The golf course gives me enough short irons, you know, a hole like 15, the par 3, today played 154 yards. You teeing the ball up on the tee so you can take that aim there. Even the next hole, 16, after a good tee shot, I got 170. Even if I missed the green there right on left, I got an easy up-and-down. So holes like that you can take dead aim. A hole like No. 9, I think 9 is just a hard hole. Actually, I think the hole is playing a little bit too long. Today I hit a big tee ball, I drove every ball in my group today there probably 10, 12 yards, and I had 218 uphill against the wind. That is a long hole. So now, I mean, you just want to get it some place on the green, around the green where you can hustle the ball. I mean, it takes a birdie out of play. Graham Marsh did make birdie today, but he hit a solid driver and 3-wood to probably, I don't know, 15 feet and made the putt. And then the next hole is a very, very short hole, No. 10. But where they had the pin today, I hit a very good shot there today. But I had to putt, I had to hit defensive. Because the higher I play it, the firmer I hit it and if I miss it, the putt just gonna keep rolling on me, so... I said to Tony, I said, "It's a putt, I think we can make it if we get lucky. But I think at this point, we just take the 4 and go to the next hole." So as long as I can keep that attitude and don't just get absolutely crazy out there on the golf course, I think I will do all right.

Q. Two things, Jim. Rumor has it that you spent a quiet night at home last night.

JIM THORPE: (Laughing.)

Q. True?

JIM THORPE: You don't believe rumors, do you? (Laughing.) No, actually what happened last night, when I left here I decided -- I went out and hit more golf balls than I thought I was going to hit. Knowing I was playing early today, I figured today would be a nice day to take a ride. So versus practicing today -- actually, the weather's turning cold, so I won't practice at all today. I'll just go in, take a shower, change clothes and head down to Foxwood, talk to some of the guys, you know, roll a few craps and have a nice dinner and get back here probably 10:30, 11 o'clock.

Q. Second thing, you talked yesterday about playing a little more aggressively today. Second shot on 13, that wood on 17 out of the rough, I mean, are those two indications of that?

JIM THORPE: Yeah. Of course it is. You know, yesterday on 13, Tony kind of pointed out the OB was on the left about 10 yards off the fairway. Today after I hit a big drive, when I got to the ball, he didn't say a word, he just pulled the cup off the 3-wood because he knew I was going today. At this point, I kind of needed to make a birdie. I didn't know what the weather conditions would be this evening. I think if I can get the ball in, shoot another 4-, 5-under par, get it to 9- or 10-under, you might tee off tomorrow with a 6-, 7-shot lead. I might be able to hold on with that. 17, I didn't have -- 17 I actually just really needed to hit an iron, but, you know, when the ball is sitting down on the grass and it's heavy like that, I figured the 5-wood would come out and run for me. I hit a perfect shot, I really thought it was good when it left. But unfortunately it was so wet there and everything was uphill, it just kind of hit and killed itself. Still I think in order to win golf tournaments, you have to get those shots up-and-down. Being honest, between my round yesterday where I had one bogey, and my round today, I had four bogeys, I shouldn't have had a bogey today. If I should have had a bogey today, it should have been on 3 I believe. 3 is just a tough hole. I don't know the yardage offhand on No. 3.


JIM THORPE: Yeah, 458. It's a very, very tough driving hole. Even if you do put it on the fairway, you have a downhill -- you have a second shot where the ball is downhill on you. And to me, I think 3 is much tougher than 4 to par 5.

Q. Could you talk about what the Senior Tour has meant to you in terms of your quality of life, economics and what you want to accomplish with life.

JIM THORPE: Well, you know, I've always lived ... let's just say a good life from playing the PGA Tour. But I was lucky enough to marry a young lady that had a dollar or two. So, you know, my, you know, I'm probably one of the only guys out there other than John Jacobs and a couple other guys that really have a lot of fun out here. You see I believe in going to the racetrack, betting horses, stopping at a casino, buying a new pair of slacks or a new shirt, that sort of stuff. I don't think about it. The Senior Tour definitely gave me -- you know, my first career was okay. I got lucky enough to win golf tournaments on the regular Tour. Unfortunately, the money wasn't like it is today. I remember 1985, I had a couple of second places and three first places, I didn't make $400,000. In that same type of year, you know, today, you know, I make four or five million. So, but then again, I don't think things were quite as expensive back in 1985 as they are today. So I mean if you say to me, "Jim, did you save any money," I would say, "No, my wife did." I don't believe in saving it. You don't make it to save. Just like I tell my daughters, when dad dies, you guys split the house up. I'm not gonna leave nothing else. That's kind of the way I look at my life now, man. You know, if somebody cut in front of me on the highway, I don't blow the horn, I just take my time and let them go. So, you know, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, no, I would have been cursing somebody out and blowing the horn and trying to bump them and all that sort of stuff. But now, it just doesn't make that big of a difference anymore. Because after it happens, you can't change anything anymore. So, you know, probably one of the things that really helped me a lot is the attitude of my caddie. He's got a wonderful attitude, you know, and, you know, I said to him today, I says, "Jesus Christ, I made a lot of bogeys for you today." He said, "Hell, you weren't trying to." Then after I made the eagle, you know, we got a thing out there, we give the fist. You know, you have to be careful because that shit do hurt, you know what I mean? (Laughter.) Nine times out of ten, when I go to give him the fist, I'm kind of backing up when he's coming forward. I says, "Man, come on, smile. We gonna make some more birdies here." He's really helped me a lot. Now he's starting to understand how I approach the golf course, and, you know, today -- yesterday I got to the practice tee a few minutes earlier than I wanted to. Today I got there about 20 minutes before tee time. See, that's perfect for me because I don't like to stand around. And also he knew I was playing with two slow players, Leonard Thompson and Graham Marsh, two very, very nice guys and they're my friends, but they're very slow on the golf course. So, you know, he kept his voice in my ear because he knew I get impatient out there and I kind of want to go. He said, "Just relax, walk over there, throw up some grass, do anything. Walk up there, spit, light a cigar. Just don't stand here and get impatient because, you know, you're gonna rush the shot." So I made a good choice when I hired him.

Q. Did you learn anything at all from Saucon Valley last year that you're going to play over the weekend?

JIM THORPE: You know what, the scores that Hale Irwin shot last year at Saucon Valley, hell, that made no difference. I mean, he just shot the lights out of the golf course. I could have played my absolute best golf and couldn't have beat him. Actually, I don't think nobody could have beat him. From the regular Tour, I played in seven major tournaments, US Open, where I had a chance and just didn't perform well or somebody played a little bit better. And I mean, the same thing here, you know, he's on the golf course, and I mean this golf tournament is far from being over. I think the weather conditions will play a major role. For me, I'd like to see the weather get nice and hot because I seem to play better when the weather's that way. But, you know, you got Tom Watson, Nicklaus has been there, has won many, many times and, Irwin. I just say go out and play the golf course and whatever will be will be. You know, but if I go out and play the way I played the last couple of days, no, they won't beat me. I won't think about the pressure, I'm just gonna, you know, get my yardage and try to hit the shot. If it turns out right, it turns out. If not, you know... As long as I give it all that I have, I can't do no more than that. I just watched Nicklaus from the TV tower hit a tee shot on 18. He hits it dead right, up in the big trees, hit a tree, came back and sat on the fairway. These are the breaks that you need to win. You got to have something to happen on the golf course for you when you win. Chip it in someplace, you know. I chipped it in yesterday for eagle, I holed up one out of the sand today for eagle. So I'm getting some things that kind of happen my way. If this continue to happen, the way I play, you know, I drive the ball pretty much off every tee driver 3-wood, and I won't attack a flag like 18, but I be kind of, you know, similar. I try to get it within 18 to 20 feet of the hole. If the weather conditions permit, and I can go out there and shoot a couple rounds in the 60s, then I think I can win this PGA Championship. You never know, guys like Hale Irwin can get hot out there, there's nothing -- he can shoot 65, 65. I played enough golf with him to know that. We just got to go out there and play and if, you know, if he do shoot 65 tomorrow, just call a couple of my buddies and break him up overnight where he can't play on Sunday. (Laughing.)

Q. After you eagled and you opened up like a 3- or 4-shot lead, are you looking back at any of the other scores?

JIM THORPE: No, not really. They got the score board probably on every hole out there. We don't watch the score board that much. I think it's something that you know. I know as long as I'm making birdies, I know I'm still ahead or right there with the pack, you know? Years ago I think the score board probably hurt me more than it helped me. But now, I kind of look at the golf course and play it the way we map it out during the practice round, and that's the good thing about Tony. Tony doesn't let you change anything. You know, Tony, I mean, some of the things Tony say on the golf course are very, very funny. And I mean, Tony will say something like -- you know, today on number -- the par 3 down the hill in the front, I think it's number... No. 8, I like a 4-iron. Tony like a 3-iron. He said, "Well, I'm gonna let you hit 4-iron because you write the checks." We seem to be on the same page, which is good. He said to me a minute ago, "We gonna hit balls or we gonna putt?" I said, "I'll let you know when I get there." He says, "Well, I need to know whether to go to the practice tee, meet you at the clubhouse, meet you at the car." I said, "I'll let you know when I get there." He said, "You just can't tell me what you gonna do?" I said, "I don't know what I'm gonna do." I can't tell you, I might go in and decide to have lunch. At this point I don't know yet. If the weather permit, I would love to go hit some chip shots, you know, play some bump-and-run shots. I think in order to win this Championship, you gonna have to get some balls up-and-down. I don't know if the greens are going to get firm, but I would have loved to have seen the golf course play dry versus wet and I think it would have been a hell of a test to golf.

Q. Knowing how much you like to gamble off the course, gambling on the course this weekend, you gonna play it a little more safe or you like gambling?

JIM THORPE: No, I like gambling, man. I'm one of those guys, I bet the basketball game last night and lost, man. So I like gambling. I'm gonna take some chances. You know what, Tony and I talked it about earlier this week after we seen the golf course on Wednesday I believe. He said if we can get the ball 10-, 12-under par, 10-, 12-under par, we might not win the golf tournament but I'll take home -- you know, the wife will be happy. So that's my goal. If I can get it to 10-, 12-under par, I don't care what the rest of the field does. If I got a chance to win, you know, the last nine holes or the last couple holes, yeah, then I'll be very, very aggressive, trying to win. But if I'm trailing someone by -- trailing the leader by two shots and the third place man, I'm leading him by two shots, then I'm gonna play to beat the third place man. That's the way I look at it.

Q. This new laid back attitude you have that's not bothered by traffic, does it ever concern you that you're playing outstanding golf out there, leading the tournament and there's not a whole lot of people out there watching you play?

JIM THORPE: Well, you know what, that doesn't bother me. We have guys that are -- a very, very good friend of mine, Bruce Fleisher, I think has played the best golf in the last couple of years on the Senior Tour. And we got some places we might have had ten people walking in the gallery. But, you know, Bruce is pretty much a laid back guy. He doesn't talk around the golf course. He just kind of goes about his business. And there are players that play out here, they get lots of gallery. There are players that play here and get no gallery. Not to say that they're bad players, they just don't have that -- I think I talked about that yesterday, they just don't have that charisma that a lot of your older players have. It doesn't bother me. No one in the gallery's going to write my check to pay my bills and that sort of stuff. So what they think and whether they watch or not is strictly up to them. You know what I mean? As long as I just go out and play the golf course and do the best I can, then I'm very happy. Tell you what, if I keep making birdies, they'll show up. (Laughing.)

Q. If you were to win a Major, do you think that might change the way people perceive you as a player? Does that matter to you at all?

JIM THORPE: No, I just want to win, man. You know what, actually I just want to make money. Winning Majors and that sort of stuff, you know what, I think it happens. Guys like Tiger Woods can go win a Major. Tiger's got that something that I don't know what it is. He's just got that something where he can go win. I think Nicklaus has it. I think Palmer had it. Gary Player had it. I think Trevino was more laid back. Trevino knew if he played well, then he would win. I think that's kind of my approach. If I play well, I think it will definitely happen. Being honest, I think I could have had a better career if I had taken the game a lot more serious in my younger days than I did. But, you know, I was a football player, I was a body builder and all that sort of stuff. My swing was very awkward. I never would take lessons. I probably could have been a much better golfer. But I wouldn't trade my life for all the tea in China. My life has been absolutely fantastic as far as my careers. There's a lot of great players that played on the Tour a lot longer than I played and never won a tournament. I've been lucky enough to go out there and win three times, won some tournaments over in Europe and that sort of stuff, won a couple tournaments in South Africa, so I'm very, very happy, man. There's some things I probably could have done that would have made me a better player, but I don't think I would have had quite the fun that I would have had. 1985, this is a true story, when I won the Milwaukee Open, I shoot 73, 69. I didn't even know I made the cut. I went to Chicago to the racetrack, I got back to my hotel in Milwaukee about four o'clock the next morning, my caddie called and said we had a 7:30 tee time. I go out there. I never went to the practice tee. I shoot 62. Around noonish, one o'clock, I get back in my car, went to Chicago, stopped at Sportsman Park, and I bet horses till that ended, then I left, then I went to the harness track and I bet horses there until that ended, got back to the hotel probably, I don't know, 3:30, quarter to 4 in the morning, I look at the pairing, I'm playing with Jack Nicklaus on Sunday. I never went to the practice tee, and I teed off and birdied the first four or five holes. So you know what, to me, it doesn't matter whether you do the right thing or the wrong thing, when it's your time, I just think it happens. Especially with guys like me. I think guys like Tiger, guys like Jack Nicklaus, these guys are born champions. Something they did in their early childhood or somewhere along the line, they were just champions. Like the guys born to be President, there's some guys that shouldn't even be in politics. So it just -- hell, I can't explain it. So, you know, versus turning my hair gray, just go do it. You know? Just go out there and enjoy. I have a 12-year-old daughter at home. Right? I call yesterday, I says, "Hey, honey, dad's leading the golf tournament. I shot a 67." She's like, "Come on, dad, you can do better." (Laughter.) But, okay, but see I need something like that. You know what I mean? You know, because I know she's going to school, plus she plays golf at the club with all the other kids. So, you know, she kind of sticks her chest out a little bit, you know what I mean? "My daddy's leading the 62nd PGA Championship," blah, blah, blah. Especially if you win it, you know. Stuff like that makes -- that's the type of stuff that pumps me up, you know what I mean, when I know that, you know, tomorrow she'll be glued to the TV. And, you know, she'll probably be so nervous she can't stand to swallow. But that's the type of stuff that fires me up, man, knowing that she's there and pulling for me, you know. Might not make pars or birdies, she knows I'm trying my best and that's basically what's gonna happen.

JULIUS MASON: Jim Thorpe, folks. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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