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May 24, 2001

Jim Thorpe


JULIUS MASON: Jim Thorpe, ladies and gentlemen. He's atop the leaderboard in the 62nd Senior PGA Championship. Jim, if you wouldn't mind giving us some of your thoughts on your round today then we'll go to Q and A, please.

JIM THORPE: First of all, let me just say this is one hell of a golf course. I knew they played the US Open here in 1990, I believe. I watched it on television. I never seen so many overhanging trees. (Laughing.) But, you know, my round today was just a basic solid round. We looked at the golf course yesterday, we played a practice round. It's the type of golf course where you have to be very, very patient. I think once you get a little bold out there, you'll make a bunch of bogeys. Today I felt like early I missed a couple putts I felt like I should have made, but then I made a couple putts that kind of evened things out. One, I hit a nice 3-wood off the tee, hit a pitching wedge 8 feet off the hole, I thought I hit a perfect putt kind of right edge and just kind of stayed there. Birdied 2 from probably 6, 7 feet. 3-wood off the tee, laid up with a 5-wood and wedged it about probably 6 feet and made that putt for birdie. And I think my only bogey today came on No. 3, I believe. I didn't hit a real bad tee shot. Had to keep a low one in the trees from the short cut of the rough. I think I'm on the right hole. I hit a perfect 6-iron about head high, dropped it about 10 feet short of the green and it just kind of plugged on me, it didn't release. Then I hit a bad chip shot and missed the putt. I think the round started after this, I hit a good drive, a good 3-wood on 4 to par 5, chipped it in for eagle there. That kind of got things going there. Next hole I missed the green. I think it was a par 3 down the hill. I missed it about a yard to the right. Chipped about an inch. The next hole up the hill, this is a very, very short hill. A lot of guys, I guess, were hitting irons off the tee, but I choose to hit a 3-wood up short of the bunker and chipped it about, I don't know, 6, 7 feet and made the putt there. The next hole, I have a par 3 down the hill, I believe. No. 6 now? I think so, yeah, par 3 down the hill. I hit a very good shot there about 10 feet and missed the putt. 77, pretty much a routine par. 8 is a par 3. What happened on 8? Is 8 a par 3? I don't remember what I did on 8. I know I made par there. But 9 was another good turning point. Probably worse driver I hit all day, pushed it to the right on No. 9. Actually I guess I should have hit a -- no, no, I'm wrong. 9 is the long hole up the hill, is that correct?


JIM THORPE: I hit drive wood 3-iron there about 20 feet past the hole. Basically a routine par. 10 was probably a turning point. Hit a real bad drive on 10 to the right. Run it up just short of the green, choose to putt it up four or five inches from the cup. After that, the round became pretty easy. Missed a good birdie putt on 11 from about 10, 12 feet, birdied the next hole from about 10, 12 feet. Par 5, I lipped it out for birdie. 14, to me, is a strictly four hole, because the trees are so close to the green there. I hit 3-wood off the tee, I think I hit a 6-iron in the middle of the green, two-putted from 25, 30 feet. Made a good par putt on 15 to par 3, missed the green, hit a bad 7-iron shot. Actually just misread the wind, flew it over the left corner of the green. Hit a beautiful lob shot to about 10 feet and made the putt for par. Everything else is pretty much routine, routine two-putt on 16 I believe. 17 I made a 15-, 18-foot birdie putt there. 18, from about 18 feet or so I two-putted for par. But, you know, was a pretty solid round. Nothing exciting. Just kind of kept it in play. Took some chances when I felt like I should have, and backed off when I didn't like the way the golf -- the course looked, the shot looked to me. I think that's one of the things that have hurt me in my career over the past. I've always played a little bit too bold on the golf courses where you can't hustle the ball when you miss a green. Today when I missed the green, I missed it where I could hustle the ball. That's a big plus in my favor, because my caddie couldn't believe today that I backed off two or three times when I did. But, you know, it's a great golf course and I think it's going to take a lot of patience. Even though we got four, five guys on the board, I see some 3-, 4-under par. I think whoever gets to the clubhouse 9-, 10-under par, win the golf tournament. Plus, I think as the week go and the golf course firm up, we got a real break. The rain softened this golf course up. With overhanging trees and the firm fairways, it was sloping greens, if we hadn't gotten some rain, the scores would be much higher.

Q. If memory serves me right, you have had some success on Open type courses, PGA type courses, things like that. Is there a comfort zone you have on courses like this one, Ridgewood, Open type courses, PGA type courses?

JIM THORPE: Oh, yeah, I like golf courses where you can hit the ball everywhere and get beat. If you miss fairways here or you miss fairways at a PGA course, an Open course, then the golf course gonna punish you. I think that's what you'll see here. I wasn't one of the best ball strikers out here, but I'm not that bad. I move the ball around the golf course a little right, a little left when I have to, and I think that separates the guys that kind of spray the ball. Today on a couple par 5s, I hit 3-wood off the tee. I knew I wasn't going for the green with my second shot. You know, the other two players kind of looked at one another, but, you know, I made birdie on a couple of them. So, you know, was the right play. I just think golf should be played this way, where you miss a fairway. I mean if you miss it three, four yards, I think you should be able to play it. When you miss it 20 yards, you should get penalized. This golf course will penalize you if you miss a lot of fairways.

Q. Talk about just having the lead, if not having it, certainly be tied at best after one round. Just that feeling of the way you played and being in that position after one round?

JIM THORPE: Well, it doesn't bother me that much, I'm going to Foxwood's tonight. I'm one of those guys that have a little fun as I play. If it was Sunday, it would be different. Sunday night, I would think about it. But, you know, there's a lot of golf left yet. Anything can happen out there. There's a guy named Nicklaus I think is playing pretty good out there. He's been there many, many times before, he knows how to do it. It's too early to worry. I'm going to basically do the things I normally do, and come Sunday -- come Saturday hopefully I have a one-shot lead and it rain like hell on Sunday. Tonight I'll probably go in, have a shower. Probably ride down to Foxwood, only a couple hour drive. I don't play until 8:30 tomorrow morning. I don't change my schedule that much. I could only do good or bad. You know, after playing the regular Tour for -- the regular PGA Tour for 20-some, 21 or 22 years and playing out here, life is great, man. I can't stop and worry about what's gonna happen. So...

Q. I thought you gave up gambling, you told me. But besides that, how much smarter a player are you today than you might have been five or ten years ago?

JIM THORPE: Oh, thank God -- you know what, not only am I a smarter player, I have a great caddie. You know, sometimes I think he talks too much. Sometimes I think he don't talk enough. Whatever he do, it's never gonna be right for a golfer. Yes, I'm a smarter player. I don't take the chances. I don't care about hitting the ball long ways anymore. I think that's one of the things that hurt me earlier in my career. I wanted to hit the ball hard. I never would place the ball or put it in play. My caddie told me on one hole that today I think he backed me -- the first par 5 on the back nine, got to be around No. 12 I believe -- no, 13, got to hit a monster tee ball off the tee. I got 262 to the flag. And so I just reach in the bag and grab my 3-wood. I'm wiping the grips down, getting this thing -- I'm gonna turn it loose. He says, "This OB down the left side is only ten yards off the fairway." So my 3-wood went from a 3-wood shot to a 4-iron. Normally, I say I don't care. 260, I feel if I can catch it, I pretty much can get it there. But I backed off and laid it back about 80 yards. 8, 9 feet, I had a good putt. But he was right there because the OB do come into play. Basically that's what these guys get paid for, go out, scout the golf course, see where we should and should not take chances.

Q. You mentioned that Jack was right behind you. How do you feel about the fact that he and Arnie and Gary Player are all in the red numbers today? It's almost a throwback maybe a little bit.

JIM THORPE: You know, I think it's absolutely wonderful that these guys are still playing, still competing. I kind of wish that these guys were still in their early 50s and mid 50s. There's no telling where the Senior Tour would go. We have a lot of great players out here. We don't have a lot of charisma. We don't have a lot of Trevinos, Chi Chis, Arnies and Jacks. We have a bunch of great players, Gil Morgan, Bruce Fleisher, Larry Nelson. They're wonderful guys, but they're just not Nicklaus, Palmer, Trevino, Chi Chi. They just don't have that same something that brings the people out, you know. For guys like, you know, Dana Quigley, you know, Ed Dougherty, myself, we are the type of guys that, you know, I never made a lot of money playing the regular Tour. I played for 20 years, I think I made a couple million dollars. I think I'd take the game a bit more serious. I want to smile, sometimes you don't have that smile. I'm a little more serious than Lee Trevino that got $40 million stashed away in a bank somewhere. He can tell a joke or two. In my case, I need to be a little bit more serious. I try to have fun out there. Try to talk to the spectators and that sort of stuff. You know, when it comes down to hit the golf shot, I'm pretty -- I'm kind of serious about that stuff. But, yeah, I would love to see these guys. I love to see -- I'm hoping that Arnie plays very, very well, survives the cut where he could play the weekend. We will have quite a few people here on the weekend if he can survive the cut.

Q. When you get to a course like this, does it help you harness your aggressiveness? If you go too bold here, you really do get in trouble. Does it kind of force you to play a certain way?

JIM THORPE: Yes, I think it forces you to back off the golf course a little bit. You know, I haven't played the golf course enough to know where you should back off. A hole like No. 1 for an example, I'm gonna hit my driver. I can turn the ball left around in that corner. But Tony says it's a 5-wood shot, you gonna hit a 5-wood pitching wedge. Once you say 5-wood pitching wedge, then you back off. I think tomorrow, because basically watching the guys that, you know, Jim Colbert and all these guys that are playing very, very well, Ed Dougherty, you got Bob Gilder, Nelson always plays tough, Irwin and Fleisher tomorrow we might just press a little bit harder, we might shoot at a few more flags. Today I felt like they had some very difficult pin placements. Tomorrow I think I might, yeah, I might just change the game plan a little bit. I'm not changing nothing to the fact that hopefully I drive the ball off the fairways or something. I think I'll be a little bit more aggressive with my iron play because my iron play is pretty solid right now.

Q. Obviously your putting was very solid today. You've been able to improve your putting at a time in your career when a lot of guys have trouble with that aspect of your game. What's been your secret?

JIM THORPE: I have tried everything with putting. I tried looking at the hole, I tried closing my eyes and putting, I tried fat grips and I tried small grips. I just reached a point where I don't care. I mean, I feel like I got a chance. You know, I'm making more money than I ever dreamed I'd be making. I feel like God gave me a second career, a second chance. I'm not gonna worry about it. If I miss it, I miss it. You know what, there was times I would go to the putting green, (inaudible), because I couldn't make a putt. Now I kind of look at it and hit it, if it goes, it goes, if not, I go the next hole. I think that's the way I have to approach it. Kind of the way I play craps, just kind of let it roll. I enjoy doing it that way. Today I'm gonna go hit probably 15 or 20 long iron shots and probably spend 30 minutes on the putting green. Basically what I do is I just try to get the ball rolling on line and if they fall in, they fall in, but I played with so many good players that don't seem to worry about missing putts. Where, you know, probably in my earlier career I was looking for ways to miss putts. You get it four feet, you're looking for a break. Why not just hit it straight in? You walk on the putting green, drop three balls, make two out of three, probably nine times out of ten. The first hole you look at it from east, west, south and north and you still miss it. Why not just walk up, set it down and hit it? That's basically the way I'm gonna do it. Win, lose or draw, golf has been great to me. So, you know, now it's time to kind of just enjoy it now. I felt like I hustled at it for a long time. Let it happen. If it happens, it happens. If not, there's always next week.

Q. You mentioned a few questions ago you're talking about the fans and the kind of support you guys get on the Tour. We were talking to fans about how it's maybe the only sport where you can watch players in their prime and then after their "so-called prime" continue to watch them for another 20 years. The golf is still good. Even if you shoot 15-over, the fans want to still see you play. Can you address the fan response the Senior Tour continues to get all over the country?

JIM THORPE: I think actually what happened, we have a lot of golf fans that realize that the guys playing the Senior Tour, today the guys somewhere around 60, these are the guys that really made the PGA Tour years ago. Unfortunately, corporate America had to put the money into the game as they did today, you know, with Tiger Woods and that sort of stuff. But I think the type of guys that we have out here, maybe you could name one or two that won't talk to the fans or won't sign autographs and that sort of stuff. As a whole, guys like Chi Chi, Trevino, Fuzzy come in, Arnold, Jack, Tom Watson, these guys, you know, they enjoy the fans, they enjoy signing autographs and having fun out there. I played with Trevino last week, and I'll tell you what, man, he was a riot on the golf course. He messed with everybody. I tell you, it was a true story, man. There was a guy sitting there on the, I don't know, 16th, 17th tee or something, I mean he was blind. And his friend says to Lee, he says -- Dick, you was there -- he says, "Would you sign your autograph for my friend?" Blah, blah, blah. The last thing he says is, "My friend is blind." Lee said, "Hell, just give it to him. He don't know if I signed it or not." So, I mean, these are the type of responses that you get from Trevino and Chi Chi. (Inaudible). Most of the guys won't do that. And with these guys, I think finance has something to do with it. These guys probably have enough money to take them out of their golf career, take them out of their life. There are some guys a bit more serious about it. I get along. I have a lot of fun on the golf course with guys like Hale Irwin. He doesn't play to the gallery like Trevino or Chi Chi or Arnie. I think Gil Morgan is one of the best players out there, he is dead serious out there. Every now and then, when Gil smiles, it kind of hurts him, you know what I mean? Some guys can do it, some guys can't. The Senior Tour is wonderful, man. I think the fans, you know, we played a golf tournament, US Open, in Des Moines, Iowa, two, three years ago, last year, whenever it was, my first year on the Senior Tour a couple years ago. Monday we had 40,000 people. Monday. But it's something that the senior guys -- I mean, look at this week. I walked in the locker room, I seen Doug Sanders, these red shoes and these red pants and this red sweater. You know, Doug has got to be pretty close to 100 now. But here he is.

Q. So are his shoes.

JIM THORPE: His shoes, pants. But people still love him. They want to come out and see the way he dresses and the way he carries on and that sort of stuff. I tell you what, I think it's wonderful, man. The Senior Tour, I can't speak for the rest of them -- I think I can speak for the rest of the players. This is a second chance for us. Hell, I don't know what I'd be doing if I wasn't playing the Senior Tour. You know, I definitely, after playing the other Tour for 21 or 22 years and taking care of my wife and family, I guess I'd be sending home -- letting my wife work and take care of me for a while if I wasn't playing out here. Man, I have nothing bad to say about it, yeah, I think it's wonderful.

Q. Jim, do you think your attitude about your putting and about life out here is due to the fact that you won last year, and if you hadn't, it may be different?

JIM THORPE: Well, you know what, let me just put it this way, Dick. I think we all want to win. I think that's why we out here, you know. Matter of fact I just told someone, my thing is to make money. You know, I think winning is something that will happen, winning is something that will come. When I left regular Tour, my mom and dad died four, five years ago and they died very, very close apart. I watched them struggle their whole life, worked hard and that sort of stuff. Wonderful parents. They lived to be in their mid 80s and lived a wonderful life. I lost my brother last year. Christian guy, went to church every Sunday two or three times on Sunday, helped his neighbors, just did all the right things. I don't want to go that way. I kind of want to do these things, but I kind of want to enjoy myself, too. You know? And I would tell him, he was an excellent golfer, I'd say, "Man, why don't you come out and play some golf with me?" "Oh, I need to do this, I need to do that." I changed my whole lookout about -- I tell my wife, I says, "Honey, we just gonna enjoy life. We not gonna talk about what we gonna do, let's just go do it. You're here today and gone tomorrow." The last thing my brother said to me on his dying bed, he said -- he says, "Live each day like it's your last." So that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to forget about the missed putts and think about the ones I make. Take the trips, have fun. We can't change nothing that's already been done. I'm just gonna go out and have some fun. If I go out tomorrow and shoot 85, you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna go play next week in Nashville, Tennessee. I'm not gonna worry about it anymore. I go out there this evening, I work for 35, 40 minutes, jump in the car, take off to Foxwood's. If I make some money, I do. If not, I give them some more. I'm not gonna worry about it no more, buddy.

Q. Some of the guys near the top of the leaderboard weren't happy with their putting or it took them a while to get their drivers going. Was there anything you struggled with or would have liked to have seen yourself do better with?

JIM THORPE: The toughest time I had this morning, I was worrying about waking up. I knew if I was gonna wake up this morning, I was gonna be okay. We're human and we can't do that. If I could go back, I would take the putt on No. 1 and take the chip shot on No. 5. I would take all these shots, but that's not the way the game is played. It makes no difference whether we shoot 65 or 75, there's always a putt we miss. You know, always a chip shot we didn't hit right. I missed today, I hit two 8-iron shots and missed the green with both of them. Normally my iron play is very, very strong. Unfortunately, the two shots I hit, I pulled them. I think that happens because we're human and we know we're not going to hit every shot the way we want to hit it. No complaints. I missed some and I made some. One offset the other one I'm very, very happy with it.

Q. I remember you telling me that when you were on the regular Tour you had gotten friendly with Vijay Singh, you used to hang with him. You thought some of his work ethic to some extent rubbed off on you?

JIM THORPE: Yeah, my later years on the regular Tour when Vijay came over, I was hanging with Vijay a lot he hits a lot of balls. I started hitting a lot of balls. When I was getting ready to come on the Senior Tour, I probably did more practicing in that two and a half year span than I did in ten years of my regular Tour career. Funny thing about working, I heard Gary Player say one time, quote that the harder he works, the luckier he gets on the golf course. I think that's a very, very true thing. Like today I had a couple of chips, I told my caddie, Jesus Christ, matter of fact, I chipped it in for eagle on par 5, 4, I said to him today, I said, You know what, we probably hit this chip shot 500 times in the last couple days. Why can't we make it? Guess what, we chipped it. Some days you chip that shot. Some days you skull it. But it's just the idea that, I mean everything was right. There are days you stand there and you just can't get it up-and-down to save your life. Today you're chipping it for three. So basically, I'm not surprised because I do work harder than I did before. It's just like Lee teased me every week, he sees me at the golf course probably an hour and a half before tee time. He says, "Hell, man, did you sleep here last night." Normally I showed up, hit about 10, 15 balls, go to the first tee. Now I'm trying to do it, I'm trying to do the right thing, just very, very difficult to do. You know, I feel like we've practiced so much over our career and hit so many golf balls you just should be able to, you know, punch yourself in the chest and it comes automatic, you know. But working is good.

Q. You've mentioned your caddie a bunch of times. Is this your regular guy or somebody different?

JIM THORPE: No, you know what, my brother -- first year on the Senior Tour, I used probably half a dozen different guys. Then, you know, I kind of got tired of using half a dozen different guys because I didn't feel like I used them long enough to get to know me, get to know what makes you tick, what you don't like and what you do like. I had my brother. My brother took early retirement. I hired him. He reached a point where, hell, he was lazier than me. It was okay for me to show up by tee time, but he showed up after I did. So I had a long conversation with him. I said I tell you what, I'm gonna try this guy Christopher Shepard, Tony Shepard, you take a couple weeks off because you want to play golf right now. I said I'm gonna try Tony for a couple of weeks. I won two tournaments with him, I won the Gold Rush out in Nappa, California, and also Sacramento. About two weeks back-to-back. I called my brother and said, "Unfortunately you lost your job." But Tony was -- Tony wanted to work with me a long time because I'm easy to work for. I don't care nothing about what's over there and what's over there, just kind of get me from here to there and kind of let me go. A lot of guys, what clubs you chip, which way the wind coming, doesn't make that big a difference to me, just give me the yardage and I can do everything else. Tony was very, very positive. The first couple weeks he worked for me, we shot 41-under par, 39-under par for the two weeks, shot 18 in one place and 21 in another. God, he could read the greens. I'd say, Tony, kind of like this putt straight in. He'd say something like, well, I think it's gonna break a little left. But if you want to miss it, hit it straight in. Then he would say things that you just don't believe a caddie would say. You know, we kind of started hanging out together a little bit, kind of eating a little bit, hanging out in the casino a little bit together. If I stay out here till dark, hit balls, Tony would be right there. Tomorrow morning we got an 8:30 tee time. Somewhere around 7, 7 o'clock, 7:05, my telephone is gonna ring. "Are you up, are you ready to go, let's go do it." I think that's what you need. Plus, he doesn't take his job for granted. I think what happens to a lot of -- actually, what happened to my brother, he just got too comfortable. He was just satisfied. Tony doesn't care about -- I mean he knows the money gonna be there, but he cares about winning. He wants to win. I think him and David Graham won the tournament out in Sacramento a year before last, Tony and I won it last year. Now he's talking about winning that tournament a three-peat. This thing is three months down the road, he's talking about winning already. It just goes to show you he wants to win versus just collect a check. Basically with me, that says a lot to me.

Q. You're sitting on top of the leaderboard. What are the thoughts heading into tomorrow?

JIM THORPE: I don't have any. I'm just gonna wake up and do the same thing tomorrow as I did today. Just go out and play the golf course. I think I told you guys a little bit earlier, if it was Saturday I'd probably have something to think about or Sunday you would definitely be happy. We have too much golf left yet. We have too much golf. Plus, we got our fill of golf this year. I don't think the golf course played today as tough as it could play. If the wind blow a little bit and dry this golf course out, we gonna be in for a different golf course come this weekend. Guys like Irwin, Nelson, Nicklaus, guys that have won tournaments before, these are guys you have to beat. Basically I just go out there, if I can go out and beat the golf course every day, come Sunday I'll have a good chance. If I don't win, I know I'm gonna take home some good money. That's all I'm looking forward to.

End of FastScripts....

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