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May 31, 2002

Willie Wood


JOE CHEMYCZ: Willie Wood with us, 3-under par, 68 today. 8-under par for the tournament after 36 holes. Just talk a little bit about your round, if you would, and how you played, obviously pretty well.

WILLIE WOOD: I played pretty well. I'm happy with the score. I hit the ball in the rough a few too many times today, but I scrambled well. I had four bogeys -- excuse me -- four birdies and a bogey. I bogeyed 16 coming in.

The birdies were starting on No. 5. I hit it about a foot from the hole with a sand wedge from 1 -- excuse me -- from 97 yards.

And then the next hole I made a birdie also from about a foot. I hit a sand wedge from about 98 yards.

And then I birdied the next hole, No. 7 with a 3-iron and it was about a 30-footer.

And then just parred along and had a little easy up-and-down on the next par-5, 13. It was about a 4-footer.

And made a good save on 15, from about 12 feet, but then a bogeyed 16. Both drives were in the left rough.

So pretty much the way the driver goes in the fairway, I do pretty good. And I'm hoping I can put it in the fairway this weekend. The rough is pretty deep out there, so it's kind of potluck if you get it on the green.

Q. Are you exempt through past champion status?

WILLIE WOOD: I'm not exempt. I'm a life member of the Tour through past Champions. I got in 16 tournaments last year, including this one, and I'll probably get in about the same this year. One was -- the U.S. Open was one of them last year, and that's a qualifier field. Tampa, I was in Tampa, but it got canceled. It would have been 17.

Q. Is it hard to stay competitively sharp because you have a limited number of events?

WILLIE WOOD: When I see that I'm going to have a long layoff, I'll play a BUY.COM event to try to stay competitively sharp. But I'm 41 years old, and if I were exempt, I'd probably play about 22 or 23. So I don't get to pick and choose. I don't get it make my hotel reservations early or my plane flights early, but it's a great plus to be a life member.

Q. How do you go about becoming a life member?

WILLIE WOOD: You either win a tournament or make 150 career cuts; one of the two. I made a 150th in about '93, maybe, and -- but then I won in '96.

Q. What's your life like now, Willie? Obviously when you came out on Tour, this wasn't exactly what you were anticipating.


Q. Tell us about your thoughts about that. And is it important for you to go ahead and qualify, to get exempt again, or are you really comfortable with the way you've been going along now?

WILLIE WOOD: Well, no, I'm not comfortable with being an alternate, which is where I was here. I was fourth alternate Friday, first by Tuesday morning, and then I got in. And I assumed that I would get here. I planned on coming here. I'd much rather be exempt. I'd much rather be able to play in the Players Championship. That's a $6 million tournament and play at other golf courses that I love, like Riviera. But that is one of my goals: to get back exempt again. And in only playing in 15 tournaments, I've got take play any ass off. I really do. If you're a pretty good player, honestly, like myself, and you play 30 tournaments, you can do it. But if you're only getting 15, you've got to play twice as good. And I'm excited when I come to tournaments now, because I've got the opportunity, whereas sometimes, oh, I've got next week. You miss the cut. Okay, I've got next week. My next week may be a month from now unless I qualify for the U.S. Open.

And the other part of your question was about this is not the way I envisioned it? No. I thought I would have won quite a few more times by the time I was 40 years old. Because when you come out of college and you've done well and you're pretty much -- you feel like you're invincible and you can win. And I had opportunities early and didn't. I've had four runners up and one win, and that's a pretty good career, but it's not really what I'd hoped for. I still have -- I think I've still got some time left. And I've got time left on the Senior Tour, so maybe I'm a late-bloomer.

Q. Willie, does that put for you now, going into the weekend, probably, does that put more pressure on you than you normally would like to have put on you, other than the back 9 on Sunday?

WILLIE WOOD: In a way, yes, because there's a little bit more at stake for me than maybe other guys. If I do finish top 10, I can get in Westchester next week. If I don't -- I'm actually scheduled to go play BUY.COM in Toronto next week. I don't particularly want to go there. I mean, honestly I'd rather be playing on this Tour. And a top 10 would get me in Westchester. So I'm hoping that -- to really play great. When I won in '96, I wasn't exempt on Tour then, either. I had played the Nike Tour all year long, except for one event early in the year, and I had made a commitment like many guys do, to just play the Nike Tour and get my card that way. And I went to Jackson just for the heck of it, because I've got good friends down there, and I like the golf course and I won. And my whole schedule changed. So maybe something like that can happen again.

Q. Just as a follow-up, Norman was in here yesterday and the day before talking about sort of guys in their 40s, pushing up into the 45 to 50 range, which you're a little bit away from, obviously, but the Tour has sort of forgotten them. And particularly sorts of let them go, and let them sort of drift into senior golf when a lot of guys really aren't that competitive between 45 and 50. He was sort of discounting himself in that group, of course. But I wonder if you had any thoughts on that?

WILLIE WOOD: As far as I'm concerned, the Tour hasn't really forgotten about me. As I life member, I feel that I'm still being taken care of pretty well. A lot of the tournament directors have left that I became friends with at tournament sites, and the younger kids are getting sponsor exemptions. And when I came out it wasn't that way. But they have great interest in -- there's great interest in young kids now coming out with all the media attention from The Golf Channel and exposure that way. We had tough times getting sponsorships, bag deals and stuff when we were coming out, and now these deals are just tremendous. It's great for them. But I don't feel like I've been forgotten, at all. You still have to -- if you play good, you'll suddenly be remembered. It's as simple as that. And I'm definitely not going to feel sorry for Greg (laughter.)

End of FastScripts....

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