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August 12, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce Joey Sindelar, who through 36 holes has rounds of 69 and 66, for a two-day total of 5 under par, 135.
You're not here as a Buckeye alum, but you're here as currently the leader of the U.S. Senior Open Championship, and you were here on Wednesday with John Cook, Rod Spittle, and Brian Mogg, and you said, I hope to see you again, and here we are.
How has that come to be through 36 holes?
JOEY SINDELAR: Well, I've never been unconvinced that that many people in your corner, as the four of us have witnessed this week, cannot somehow kind of talk you into what might happen.
You know, several guys -- Mark O'Meara comes to mind, John, many others out here have played lots of great golf at their hometown events, and others don't. There's so much to do when you're around so many friends that care for you. There's tickets, there's stuff. It gets busy. Some guys don't do well.
It's been a good thing for me through the years, having won the former BC Open a couple of times, and a fund week this week so far. So I'm not opposed if anybody would say that I might have been convinced of this by all the fans out there.
THE MODERATOR: Let's go through the round a little bit today. Eight fairways, 11 greens. It seemed like you had the putter going, only 25 putts.
Let's start with the birdies. Started off at 10th hole and got off to a great start with a birdie.
JOEY SINDELAR: The fairways thing is interesting. I've become a really much, much better, and I think a good driver of the ball in the last bunch of years. Equipment of today seems to fit me.
But this particular U.S. Open course -- and often, you know, on a hole like 10 right out of the box -- sorry to take so long for this answer, but it's interesting. When you choose driver on No. 10, you're choosing to reduce the odds of hitting that favor down to about 10 percent because what you're saying to yourself on 10 is I'd rather be just in the right rough hitting a sand wedge or a wedge than I would at the top of the fairway with the 8 iron.
The top of the fairway with the 8 iron isn't the problem. The problem is if you play to the top of the hill and then you miss the fairway and then there's water in front of the green, then you've got a problem.
So you've got to do the math, and it's not the same answer for everybody. Which clubs are you hitting well? Which clubs are you good at? I'm not a great 3 wood player. My 3 wood hasn't come out of the head cover yet this week. It's been either the 2/1 iron or the driver for me. So right out of the box I did hit a good drive just in the right rough, one of the missed fairways but, in my mind, perfect. A little sand wedge just for a two-putter, so a birdie there.
THE MODERATOR: Then a string of pars and then you make another birdie on 17.
JOEY SINDELAR: Yes, and let's not pooh-pooh those pars. There's always a little action going on in there. There were a couple of sand up and downs in there that could have gone either way. It went in my favor. So, yes, it was a clean card but not clean golf through 17.
And 17, you know, from that -- I can't do the math on 17 from those back tees. It's just such a small target, but we were on the front of the three tees today to the back center pin, and it's very manageable from there. Still, you've got to hit a golf shot. I played left of the pin, pulled it, had about a 40-footer and knocked it in.
So back to your earlier comment, I'm seeing the line very well, and I seem to be able to hit the ball where I'm looking, and so far it's been a fun week with the putter. So about a 40-footer there on 17.
THE MODERATOR: And you make the turn and make another birdie there at hole No. 2.
JOEY SINDELAR: Yeah, 2's all about the drive. You can't lay up on 2. For the second day, I hit a real good drive. Had a pitching wedge, hit in a full pitching wedge and got in there under the hole, maybe 10 or 12 feet. And it was John Cook -- you know, the best days are not only when you're hitting them fairly close but when the people you're playing with have stumbled onto your path and they're putting first. So whenever you can see other people hit putts, that solves a lot of the riddle. So I was able to see John's putt go up through there and that made mine a lot easier.
Q. So you birdied 5 and come back with birdies on 6 and 7?
JOEY SINDELAR: Yes, I made a mistake off the tee on 5. I felt it was so hot that my driver was go to go through the fairway no matter what. I thought I could get to the 5 with a 2 iron off the tee. Again, I'm not a 3 wood guy. I didn't. I hit a 4 iron and I didn't hit it very good, short of the green, bogeyed.
But 6, I had to do it the old-fashioned way on 6. I missed the fairway to the right, laid up to 80 yards -- 85, 90 yards and hit it in there close, just a foot away for that one.
Let's see. What was next? Oh, 7, again, just trying to hit the fairway. Hit a beautiful 2 iron, caught the fairway kind of in between clubs to a tucked pin.
This is, again, what the Open is about, if you're between -- if you have a great fit, if you have the number you want and everything looks good, there were a few pins today you were on full offense. But for me, I was hitting my 130 club about 115. I've got about a 15-yard gap in there. And the way the wind was, I had to do it. So I played it a little safe, and it squealed out to the right and I had a 30-footer, but it went in. Very happy with it.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously a great start. You've put yourself in position here through 36 holes. What do you have to do to try to bring it home this weekend?
JOEY SINDELAR: You know, I don't know. A lot's going to depend -- I know that I'm going to have to continue driving the ball well. You know, as you all know, this is not a water hazard, out-of-bounds golf course. There's like one of each, and that's if you include right on 12. You know, there's room, but if you get off the fairway -- so there's room. You're going to find your golf ball most of the time. But if you start getting out of the fairway, the angles get funny in a hurry.
It's really just about management. You've got to hit -- you'd better be playing at least three-quarters of the holes very solidly because you can scramble, you can get away with a little bit of murder, but it will catch you sooner or later.
I'd like to continue doing more of the same. I'm hitting my driver, I think, very well. The stat doesn't say so, but the misses were very close. Iron play has been good, and putter has been exceptional. If I could have that formula, I'd be thrilled.
Q. I was just looking at your record, and you haven't had two rounds in the 60s since late May, I think, since the Senior PGA. Did you have any indication that you were on to something coming into this week? Anything different?
JOEY SINDELAR: The answer to that is absolutely yes and absolutely no. I had to rebuild my golf swing after surgery at the end of 2012. As I continue to get stronger and learn how to produce power with this new swing, it's kind of like squeezing a water balloon. I get more speed, and then the timing changes a little bit.
So I keep getting happier, but then I've got to grab it and figure out what to do with it. So I've seen these little bit of spurts of it's dialed in, but then I get a little stronger, and I've got to figure out some timing and a little different way to do stuff.
So I've been pleased. I got out of sync for a couple of weeks, didn't putt good for a couple weeks, so I've never been at a place where I thought I stink. But yet, since Birmingham really, which was a while ago, I haven't shot any scores.
So I don't know what the answer to the question is. I'm happy with what I'm doing. It doesn't feel that different. The pieces have always been there. I just haven't done them all, or 3 of the 4 enough times yet. So the good stuff has been good. I'm very happy to just be doing a lot more of it this week.
Q. I think there was a lot of stories written about the death of the 2 iron years ago, and I think you were one of the last guys on the PGA Tour using it at one point. Talk about that club and how long it's been back in your bag or if you ever took it out.
JOEY SINDELAR: Did you say 2 iron?
Q. You said, yeah, like you have a 1/2 iron. That's unusual anymore.
JOEY SINDELAR: So when I, again, had my surgery and lost a bunch of weight and got older, it takes a little bit of speed to hit a 1 iron. For at least one or two of those three reasons, that 1 iron wasn't going up in the air like I hoped, especially dewy mornings.
That 1 iron, it was okay in the par 5 club on the regular Tour. But really, it was about the shorter par 4s or the medium par 4s, when the rough is four inches deep and you've got to hit the fairway. We don't do that on the Champions Tour often, except for maybe here in the PGA.
So I tried to do the hybrid thing, but I just can't hit them online yet. I'm going to keep trying. The ball goes up in the air -- when you're 225 to 230 over water on a par 5, which we seem to have every week, those hybrids look really beautiful, but I've got a left-right problem with the hybrids, and I can't solved it yet.
So I have one of those fancy-schmancy Titleist 2 iron clubs right now that launches higher. My old 1 iron was a Tommy Armour 845, which I think is a magnificent club. But these are higher, and that's kind of what I need to get right now.
I'm getting more speed than I've had the last couple of years. It's been a great club this week for me, because we do need to hit the fairways. I've used it four or five times a day.
Q. It's a 1 iron or a 2 iron?
JOEY SINDELAR: It's a 2. So when you see the guys on the Tour are using 1s, the problem is the manufacturers, most of them are not making a 1. But I think a lot of the guys are taking a 2 and bending it to 1, which is exactly what mine is. It's 16 degrees, which is the old 1 iron standard, but it says 2 on the bottom. So I don't quite know how to refer to it. I'll refer to it as my friend this week.
Q. Joey, can you explain a little bit, you retooled your swing. That's a major thing in a player's career. Without getting into too much detail maybe, what did you do? What did you switch to? How has it worked?
JOEY SINDELAR: Well, thank you for asking. So my original swing, for those of you that can't remember, it was very quite unorthodox. It was functional but quirky. I had a lot of tilt back on the way down, and I had a lot of arms that made all that work. So I had a lot of errors and not a lot of corrections to try to neutralize the whole thing.
I think ball striking was my thing. I figured out a way to get it done. But with that tilting, when I got my stenosis, that's what made my back bad. Even with the surgery, when they cleaned it out, that amount of tilt was just prohibitive.
So thank goodness for my pal, Mike Bennett, stack and tilt. Mike is from central New York and just a magnificent, wonderful guy, and he went to work on me. He said, I think, oddly, if we can get the former quirks out, if we swing more classically, I think you'll hurt less.
So we went to work on my mantra -- and I have to even actually overdo it a little bit because any time I migrate to the right, that's when I start hurting. So I have to get left, stay left, and rotate. So it's like get left, stay left, and then put on the left-hand blinker and then go left. And that's all I think about these days.
I had to learn to -- I was generating my old power with my arms, and now I'm doing it with rotation more correctly, but it took a long time. It took me four months of 9 irons -- I was still hurting at the time, but it took me four months of 9 irons just to get half of the dip out of my knee, dipping through impact out of my knees. Those old habits are so hard to break, but it was so worth it. So I'm incredibly thankful to Mike for what he taught me and his patience with me.
I mean, I haven't won anything. I'm getting better. I'm thrilled. He made me able to play, and I'm now hitting good golf shots, and I'm talking to you after two days at the U.S. Open. So that's all thrilling stuff for me.
Q. Follow up on you're pretty close to your caddie. Is he normally who's with you, and how does that bring calm and kind of comfort to you?
JOEY SINDELAR: Well, it's an interesting -- the caddie story is interesting. John Buchna caddied for me for 27 years maybe, and we knew each other inside out, and we were dead opposites. He's an early bird, and I'm late for everything. But he just, for me, he knew when to tell me to get after me to grind it out or when to say, look, you're doing your best. You know, it's not working.
You know, we always played hard to the clubhouse. Don't get me wrong there. But, you know, we see so many patterns in our game, and he was just the perfect fit for me. John's run into some health troubles. He's had a couple of stents they had to put into his heart, and we're all out here cheering for him. So he's good. He's just not good enough to be back here yet.
So for the last year and a half, I've had a handful of caddies do great work for me. And this one here I'm particularly fond of, my son Jamie, who's a spectacular golfer. His brother Ryan caddied for me a few times, who is a recreational golfer but one of the funnest people on the planet.
So that was a different way of putting myself at ease. But Jamie has done plenty of Tour schools and is gifted at short game and is a really good ball striker.
So the food he feeds me -- you know, we talk over every yardage. He's got his eyes on every putt. Chipping is a bit of a -- you know, I feel like I'm up against Mike Tyson when I take the chipper out sometimes, and Jamie is a gifted chipper. So we'll talk through procedures.
It's just so great. And for a father to have his son out there, as John did Jason, and Brian Mogg did his son, it's so cool.
Q. Can you talk about the heat and how you have -- what you have to do to battle through that on a day like this?
JOEY SINDELAR: Sure. Well, my beauty -- I promise, not an excuse. I'd be the first one to tell you if I made a smelly swing. All my swings were smelly because I'm smelly. But on 15 yesterday back in that corner, there was no wind blowing, and at the top of my backswing, I lost my grip and sniped it. I think I took out the cash register at the merchandise tent over there to the left.
So rule number one is you've got to keep your hands dry. You just have to, which is manageable except for those couple of little pockets.
You know, interestingly, by definition, as Champions Tour players, some of us have aged way different than others. I'm extremely arthritic so the heat is good for me. It keeps me loose so I'm kind of enjoying it. But, boy, at night we're cramping no matter how much you drink.
I swear to you, the chatter was way less on the range this morning than yesterday. Everybody got beat down a little yesterday, and it's going to happen again today. It's just tough physically to go through that out there. Plus it's the U.S. Open on top of that. So there's that entire set of headaches.
I mean, five or seven degrees cooler wouldn't hurt anybody's feelings, but, boy, we feel like kids again when that ball goes those extra few yards. It makes us feel young.
Q. Joey, can you talk a little bit about the 17th hole was playing considerably shorter today, and you drained a long putt there. But just talk a little bit about the difference between the hole yesterday and the hole today.
JOEY SINDELAR: Yes. I didn't know there were going to be three tees. Today we played the tee I didn't know we were going to use. I'm sure it was available for me to know that, but I was very thankful when I walked up and looked to the left and there were no markers back there. It was up to the right.
So from the second and the third tee, it's a really hard equation because the standard wind is going to be left, right, and in. The green is very skinny. The water, of course, you need to find your golf ball so you can't be in the water on the left. Then you hit it over to the right, and it's very hard to make par.
From that tee we played today, it's a good hole, but the tees are not as bad. It's very playable. It was a firm 7 iron for me today. I think it was -- including the downhill, I think we were thinking it was like 162, playing about 170, that kind of thing. So with any kind of reasonable shot, you're going to find your golf ball and make less than a 5.
But, boy, you start playing that second and third tee, and you've really got to watch what you're doing. But that creek is there before you hit it. So you'd just better be able to avoid it somehow. You've got to do some good work on 17.
THE MODERATOR: Joey Sindelar, 5 under par. Right now the leader at the U.S. Senior Open.
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