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May 4, 2005

Joey Sindelar


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Joey, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Wachovia Championship. I know it's a really fun week for you, and I think you have been smiling since the day you left here, and you're still smiling now.

JOEY SINDELAR: Yes, there is no question. You know, this is the end of the year-long cycle; again, one more thing that I haven't done in 14 years is a defending champion press conference. I'm very excited about it.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: I don't think you had an opportunity to play yesterday. You're getting ready to go out to play today.

JOEY SINDELAR: No, we had an outing to do over at Anderson Creek in I guess I would call it central North Carolina, so I got in late last night, so I'll go see the golf course today. One of the benefits of being an old buzzard out here is when we come back to a tournament we're not necessarily looking to learn the golf course; we're reliving experiences and seeing what the texture of the -- is it hard, is it soft, has the 100-yard dash gotten 50 yards longer, which, of course, happens often out here, so we're just here to look at all the little things, so I'll do that this afternoon.

Q. Tell me what it's like returning to Quail Hollow as the defending champion.

JOEY SINDELAR: It's everything that we couldn't fit in in the next several hours. Again, just simply doing this. I just was picked up at my hotel, a wonderful hotel, the park hotel, in about a 75-foot-long Maybach car with curtains in the window, and they drop you off at the door.

You know, any victory that I would have had after that many years would have been an, in fact, major for me, and to then have the next win be this is just incredible icing on the cake.

These folks at Wachovia are dedicated -- the shocker to me was coming back for press day and listening to them having nothing to do with resting on their laurels from what they've accomplished, but we're going to do this better, we're going to do that better, and all the way around the block.

They have treated me like an absolute king. You know, look at the field that was here, the champions they'll have as we go. It'll thrill me forever to be part of that list. It's been a bizarre experience. Some of you have heard this before, but for the first -- I swear to you, my wife and I were completely unequipped, if that's a word -- can you say it that way? -- to deal with winning a tournament of this magnitude. Every day for easily four weeks, I think I was gone two of them and home two of them, and we'd say, "okay, today we're going to sneak up on this pile that's going like this (indicating growing pile)," and we couldn't do it. Every day got further behind. I can't even imagine what winning a major would be like, although on the other hand maybe it's not much different. When I've been absent for this long and the tournament is this big, maybe that's kind of what it's like.

The golf world had changed since I won a golf tournament, number one, and number two, I had never won a tournament of this stature, so it's been an incredible, fabulous journey, it absolutely completed the -- I'd have been happy to just -- I wouldn't have been happy to not win again, but I would have been okay with it, but to have that happen was huge and inspired all kinds of fun and young feelings about trying to do it some more, and it also bridged the gap for me to the Champions Tour. I'm now 47, so with a couple of years of exemption, one of my goals was to try to stay current as a golfer until I reached that age because I think the guys do much better when they flow from this Tour to that Tour.

So this solved that, and I've talked for three minutes about all the great things -- we still haven't talked about the money, which is unbelievable. It's bizarre and it's gone up. It's hard to imagine. So we're incredibly lucky.

Q. There's a couple of guys as I'm sure you know, Jay Haas and Tom Kite who are past 50 who are still playing out here. Is that something you envision yourself doing or are you pretty much going to go right to the Champions Tour full-time?

JOEY SINDELAR: That's a question I'm investigating is what to do -- for instance, Fred Funk is going to be right in that boat, being 48 and winning now THE PLAYERS Championship with a five-year exemption, so he'll have that choice. Whenever I see Jay, I'm sure he's tired of it from all the guys in our age group, but that's the question. You know, how did you decide to manage that? Do you go out there and have the pressure off? The fun thing that I just chuckle at all the time is what's it like playing without a cut. I mean, I know I got to do the World Series of Golf last year. I couldn't imagine that. I realize I'm not supposed to be focusing on that, but the reality is a guy in my predicament makes 50 or 60, or I don't know what the percentage is, of the cuts, but certainly not all of them, and that's going to be a fun thing, to know that I'm leaving on this day and I'm coming back on this day except for weather conditions.

I'm excited to find that out. I hope I play well enough to have that choice. I'm only exempt through age 48. My 49 year is still in question. I'd love to solve that and then be able to have that dilemma, but it's interesting. It depends on financially.

It's going to be a different answer for all the guys, and I don't know what the answer is for me. Are you where you want to be financially, do you want to go out there and try to make your money there with no cuts and smaller purses or out here where the play is the greatest in the world? It's an interesting set of questions.

Q. Just as a follow-up, is it safe to say that maybe before this win last year, the thought process was a little different, that 50 was going to be the time for you to go right to the Champions Tour?

JOEY SINDELAR: Oh, of course, yeah. Especially on the financial side of the coin -- well, the whole way around. I mean, you know, it used to be, "Boy, let's just try to play well enough, improve well enough to be out here." Now all of a sudden I am out here. A little bit different side to the story is the decision making on the golf course has been different because with a free year, which I haven't experienced in a long, long, time, John and I will stand there, my caddie, and say, "Hey, it doesn't matter. Do you want to go for this par 5 in two? A 1-iron is going to do this, a Rescue is going to do this, a 3-wood is going to do this," and he'll look at me and say, "Does it matter? Do you want to do what you want to do? You can now." We've enjoyed that freedom very, very much. But that's part of this whole experience is just -- you know, there's not that elephant sitting on my shoulders anymore at the end of the year. It's awesome.

Q. Did your expectations go up last year after you won over the last five months of the season?

JOEY SINDELAR: Yes, I got caught up in that. All of a sudden I won and I was going to go right out there and be Vijay Singh. I was going to stick about nine more in my pocket in the next two months. I think I found -- which was good and bad for me. It was good because I recognized that, hey, I can do it and why not do it again, but it was bad because I expected it right now and every week, and I think I might have frustrated myself a little bit. So yes, very good question, and I got caught up in that a little bit. I'm over that now (laughter).

Q. Tiger was reworking his swing last year while you were winning this tournament. The way he's playing now, do you --

JOEY SINDELAR: Is that the excuse he used (laughter)?

Q. I'm not trying to diminish what you did at all, but obviously is there a different feel coming in with the way he's playing?


Q. For everybody.

JOEY SINDELAR: You know, I'll be honest with you; he's a great ball striker. He's done more for this Tour than anybody could have ever imagined. But I think that as players, we're not wowed by his shot-making ability. I mean, he's hit fabulous golf shots that drop our mouths open. We marvel at his short game, and I lecture to the young kids all the time, of course Tiger has got a great golf swing, but what is the perfect golf swing, that's an entirely different lecture.

His short game, I think if you asked -- what are we, 156 this week, player? If you asked 156 guys this week to name their Top 5 short gamers, he'd be on everybody's list. He may not be first on everybody's list because how do you match Tiger with Phil and Ernie and any of the remarkable short games, but he'd be on everybody's Top 5 without question.

So I think that he doesn't even -- look what he did at Augusta. He doesn't even need to hit it down the beaten path to kick our rear ends all over the place. So no, in our world, I think whenever he enters, he's capable of winning. He's proven it. It's no secret, and we don't care whether he's hitting it good or hitting it bad, he's going to be -- his will power and his scoring ability are going to make something happen during that week.

Q. Is the game healthy right now or is the power ruining it? Sorry to make you think this early.

JOEY SINDELAR: Yeah, this is tough. I don't think it's destructive yet. I think the timing is right for the lid to somehow be put on. Of course, you can't put a lid on the athletic side of it.

I had a laugh, the debate has always been is golf a sport and all that kind of stuff. When I heard at the LA Open one of the reasons they couldn't play is because there were worms on the green, I thought, "It's probably not a sport if worms are stopping you from playing golf."

But the guys are getting so much better. The equipment debate is interesting because there's still no one longest driver, there's still no one longest ball. It's our ability to put this golf swing with this golf ball with that shaft with that club head and marry it all together and get incredible efficiency. When I grew up in the '70s, when I tried to grow up through the '70s, we matched our swings to the equipment, and now it's the other way around; we match the equipment to our swings, and we're gaining -- I'm not saying the equipment is not better. The equipment is incredibly better. The discussion we had about the hybrids versus the long irons and all that stuff, that's all changed. I think it's several pieces of the pie why golfers are hitting the ball farther, and it's not just equipment.

I think if they cap the equipment, that certainly is a plug there, but, you know, the golf model is no longer Jack Nicklaus at 5'10" and gravity-prone like me. I'm not putting him in my category, but we're getting real athletes playing this semi-athletic sport. Look at the guys, they're bigger and there are far fewer Sindelar, Bob Murphy, Jim Furyk unusual golf swings. These kids have learned to do very efficient things from day one. It's no more one-of-a-kind stuff.

So there's a lot of reasons for the ball going farther. I think it's time. It would be a shame to rule out all the great Marions of the world and not be able to go back there, but then again, we play Harbour Town with no rough and this course. I don't know what makes it work.

Q. Scores aren't ridiculously lower.

JOEY SINDELAR: Are not, no. There's a lot more guys shooting those. It's interesting, I played with Frank Lickliter last week, and he drives the ball so well. My take was that guys are driving the ball so much better than they did back in the mid-80s when I came out, and he said to me walking off one of the tees, "Well, the new drivers have made the guys be able to drive the ball so much better." I'm thinking that the guys themselves got better and he's saying that the equipment has made the guys better. I suppose the answer is a blend of both.

But there are guys that just stand there and hit it. A 30-yard fairway at 250 is a lot different than a 30-yard fairway at 310 just on the angles, and they can still do it. The balls curve a little less, the equipment matches the people, the whole thing. It's about time is the short answer.

Q. Could it ruin the game if it doesn't?

JOEY SINDELAR: Well, I don't know about ruin the game. We're talking at the pro level. I don't know what the amateurs are -- I don't think this is as big a deal for them because I know how hard it is for me to square up the club face at impact most days of the week, and for the amateurs, I always laugh about them wanting the ball to spin more to stop on the green because that same spin is going to take the ball wherever it's going to go. I'm not worried about the game in general, but at the pro level I think it's a good time to think it through, I really do.

Q. How important is the chemistry with your caddie, and can you kind of explain that relationship and how important that is?

JOEY SINDELAR: Sure, but I have to start by saying that it's probably unexplainable because it's so different to everybody. Some guys, for instance, Curtis back in his heyday, and I'm blanking on some of the others, were very comfortable with rotating caddies, two or three weeks, two or three weeks. Mark Calcavecchia has been famous for that through the years.

For me it's been far more important to have John Buchna. John has been with me for 22 years, and that dependability has been huge for me. We're opposites. I'm late for everything, not a morning person. He couldn't sleep past 6:00 if you paid him. He's here early every -- I mean, it's been like -- I've beat him to the golf course twice in 22 years, and once was because the cab didn't show up and he was across town. The other was for different reasons (laughter), which we also don't share.

See, to me it's important -- the information is important. You know, getting the sprinklers right, reading occasional putts, some guys have their caddies read all the putts, but for me it's almost more about the in-between time. You don't want some guy in your ear. We're doing nothing out there a lot of the time, and you don't want some guy just talking obsessively in your ear or not talking. It's got to be right. This is worse than being married I like to say. It's tough stuff.

John is a perfect blend. He knows when to kick me in the rear end and say, "Let's go" or when to say, "You know, we've been hitting our head against the rock all weekend and it's not going to happen and the rock is not going to break." We never give up, but you've got to get to the point where you say let's ratchet it back a little bit and see what happens. To me that relationship is probably the biggest piece of that puzzle.

Q. Why do you think it's lasted so long when some golfers change every few years?

JOEY SINDELAR: Well, again, it's all personalities. You know, John is an incredibly honest, dependable guy, number one, so I don't think I could do a whale of a lot better anyway. He apparently is a very slow learner by not firing me several times through the years.

It's just been a good -- listen, that doesn't mean we haven't had vein popping screaming matches right out -- there was an instance at the Western Open several years ago on hole 16 that we laugh at every year that there were enough words said that couldn't be said in this room, and I mean, he was ready to knock me in the swamp and I was ready to knock him. We call that "being under the influence of golf" (laughter). Golf is a very unbelievable thing. It's passionate, difficult, and it's a game about mistakes, and sometimes the mistakes own you, and when you get under the influence of golf, the rules go out the window. We chuckle about that. We'll see some guy just melt and we'll say, "He's under the influence of golf."

It's not been blissful the whole time, but you deal with it, you recognize it and you step back and you apologize and you go forward. I think that's the best you can do.

Q. The Open is coming up down here pretty soon. I'm just curious, over the course of your career how have you seen the sort of tug-of-war between the USGA and the players with the way the courses set up and develop and change and has Shinnecock changed that dynamic in your mind after what happened out there?

JOEY SINDELAR: Boy, oh, boy. Yes (laughter). Look, it's interesting to watch -- for me to experience the evolution of my thinking about what they do, which in the beginning I thought, "How stupid could you be to do this to a golf course." Then you could get to a point where you go, "Wait a minute, Dummy, the mental test is a huge part of what they're testing; can you deal with what we're throwing at you." My answer is if I had a chance to run the greatest championship in the world, would it look like that? Probably not.

We as players, at least the ones I know who are trying to play golf to pay for their kids' college education, we want to know what's going to happen to that golf ball when it does things; some of that stuff doesn't make sense. What happened to Payne at Olympic when he putted the putt up and it came back, and we saw at Shinnecock and we've seen it several places, at Olympic Club there were fairways you simply couldn't hit, dogleg right par 4s with the fairway sloping left. I'll never forget, I think the 9th hole, Maltbie -- this is how long I've been out here, Maltbie hits this beautiful cut 3-wood on I think it's No. 9, it took two bounces into the short -- I guess we call it the first cut now, I'm calling it the short rough. Just kisses into that, turns around, trickles out, gets the fairway, runs all the way across the fairway, 25 yards in their case, into this pit of divots where every single ball has gone in the divot factory over there.

I don't deal well with that, but then again, now I recognize that that's part of the journey. It's part of what they're asking for, I guess, to deal with that. Shinnecock was frustrating, a great golf course, but it's what they do. They seem to get pretty fabulous champions, so how do you argue with the formula.

Q. Is it different at a course like Pinehurst where so much of the difficulty is in the greens where there's only so much that the USGA can do to --

JOEY SINDELAR: Right, well, and of course Pinehurst, I've only been there for a couple practice rounds and on Thursday and a half of Friday. I pulled out with a muscle deal on Friday. Probably more my feelings were hurt than my muscle. Pinehurst requires -- it doesn't allow them to do the traditional northeast thing where you grow the hay up, and they recognize that, and from what I remember, they did it well.

There have been some that were different, but for the most part, it's a torture chamber; we know that going in and you just try to deal with it.

Q. What's your club of choice around the greens there, and how many different clubs do you use around the greens when the ball is off the green?

JOEY SINDELAR: You're talking to the wrong guy. You'll get some fabulous short gamers in here. I'm learning short game. I've bored enough of you with those stories over the past couple of years. I would rely on my putter first, but I've learned since Pinehurst -- how long was that?

Q. '99.

JOEY SINDELAR: I can at least attempt to do things entirely different than I did back then, so I'm not the right guy to ask. I think all clubs should be part of the mix because sometimes you want to putt it, sometimes you want to just get it -- say you're looking at hitting it up to that TV over there, which some of those hills look like, sometimes you putt it, sometimes you want to bump it at the bottom and run it up, sometimes you want to take a 9-iron and hit it three quarters of the way up. Other times if you've got the right lie you might flip it all the way up there. I think you have to go in open-minded and I think you have to know your own skills.

Everybody has their own thing that they do exceptionally well, at least better than other things.

Q. How much of that is a mental grind of really having to pay attention on every single shot there around the greens, where normally you take a club almost every time, but there it could be one of five or six clubs?

JOEY SINDELAR: Yeah, that's the dilemma. The good news is we're not in the hay, the bad news is what do we do now because you're no longer close. We're not two steps off the green in the hay, we're 15 steps off the green with a mountain to climb, and that's part of the taxing nature of The Open and all the courses.

We saw that last week. The slopes were nowhere near that severe, but there were a lot of runoffs. We're starting to see a little more of that so we're a little more used to it than we used to be. But it grates on you for sure. It's part of what makes the week long.

Q. Looking back a year now, you said it was great, I know winning a lot of money was great, how looking back now was it to win against a field with Tiger in it, Mickelson in it, at 47?

JOEY SINDELAR: We had a really good time steadily for the first month, going, "We took Vijay down, we took Tiger down, Mickelson was nothing" (laughter). That was our breakfast conversation most mornings. Yeah, somebody would call -- we got a big hoot out of kidding around about that.

But on a very serious note, I'll always remember -- the guys have been entirely kind in saying this was not just some tournament. Look at the field. You know, I didn't even have time to look at the video until it was last fall until I finally looked at it. I didn't realize Jeff Maggert had the tournament won effectively with three or four holes to go. Not won, but at least he was in a position to do it. There were other guys in the mix.

So forever and ever, beating that field -- again, any victory, the BC Open for me for the third time, my hometown tournament, would have been huge. But when you look at the fact that it was this tournament, this purse, that field, you know, that's why that trophy has not gone back with the other trophies in the house. It's right out there where we look at it every day.

Q. Are you looking forward to getting out on the course today in the Pro-Am and being paired with Ken Thompson?

JOEY SINDELAR: Well, of course. I have a large number of thank-yous to personally deliver. I have not been able to interact with him much. I know him, we've talked, but it'll be fun to just be with him.

What I always love -- I talk as though I play in these defending champ Pro-Ams all the time, but it's always fun when you play with the creative -- the people who created the event. I like to know what it's like from their perspective; how has your experience been with the Tour, how has it been with the players, what did you learn, where are you going? That's always fun for me, so we'll have a great time.

Q. How do you like your chances this week, and is there any pressure at all?

JOEY SINDELAR: There's far more pressure than I prefer. You know, I'm a sneak-in-the-back-door, play-my-golf, sneak-out-the-back-door kind of a guy. This is a little more than -- I'm not uncomfortable with it, but it's not my MO. I like the anonymous kind of a thing. This is a lot going on for me, but it sure is fun, and I could see doing it eight or nine times a year (laughter), like Vijay and the guys.

My chances, you know, it's been -- I'll bore you one more time with a story. It's been an odd year for me. You know, the Tournament of Champions virtually ruined my vacation. You've got to start out so early. I'm not going to do that again. So after the -- I'm joking.

I played three or four on the West Coast, then I had three weeks off and then missed a couple of cuts, so I kind of had to start up again in Orlando at Bay Hill, played a few weeks and then missed Augusta by one person on the Money List last year, so I had Augusta off, missed the cut at Harbour Town, then another week off, so there was another step because the weather hadn't broken at home in New York state so I couldn't hit any balls. So this is like my third startup of the year. So last week I felt like all sore and everything.

So this is my third and final startup of the year. I'm happy. Who knows what winning is all about? At least I don't know what winning is all about. I'm happy with my game, happy with the pieces. Whether they glue together or not this week remains to be seen.

Q. You've won North Carolina's Tour events. Is that a coincidence or is there something more to it? Is it something about the state or the golf courses?

JOEY SINDELAR: I don't recognize what it is but it's obviously something. We also had an NCAA Championship in '79 at Bermuda Run at "The" Ohio State University. We didn't call it that. We didn't know about the "The" part. So three very important things -- possibly the three biggest things of my golf life, the NCAA Championship as a college player, my first win at Greensboro, and my biggest win by miles here. Big stuff for me in this state.

Q. Talk about the honeymoon. You mentioned it lasted about a month. Do you have any superstitions or rituals that you have when you play?

JOEY SINDELAR: No, nothing like that. I would say the biggest after-effect is what I already talked about, the on-course stuff, to be able to say, "Hey, you want to do it, do it. This is what we've been waiting for. Play it like it doesn't matter." I have that freedom now to not have to stare at the Money List, the Top 125. We've enjoyed that enormously, just to be able to go play.

Q. I guess more generally speaking, do you have any type of ritual or superstitions that you have when you play?

JOEY SINDELAR: No. I've never been a -- no, I'd have to say nothing in that category.

Q. What are your qualifying plans?

JOEY SINDELAR: For the Open?

Q. Yeah.

JOEY SINDELAR: I go to Woodmont in Washington, second stage. I've made it there probably 75 percent of the time. It's a good, fair test. You can either do it in Columbus right after The Memorial or before the Booz Allen, and in my very realistic world, if I ever missed the cut at Muirfield and had to stay in town two more days to qualify, I'd kill somebody (laughter). So I always schedule those things at the week prior so I don't have to worry.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: You talked about last year when you were in here that you were excited to get home to see if your kids thought you were cool again. How did that work out and are you still cool?

JOEY SINDELAR: The cool thing was interesting. It lasted for a couple of days, and then we're right back to it. My older boy Jamie has fallen in love with golf, and he's got a wonderful swing. We'll talk about stuff, and I'll try to teach him, and we'll get into that snarling dad-trying-to-teach-son kind of thing, and Sue will look at him at dinner and go, "Jamie, your dad is one of the top 100 players in the world, he loves you, he only wants you to do well. Could you listen to him just a little bit?" "Awwrrr, awwrrr, awwrrr." The younger guy still loves it and we love talking about it, but it wore off quickly as you might expect.

Q. So your advice to parents that have kids that love to play the game is what?

JOEY SINDELAR: Is what, exactly (laughter). Teaching your own is -- my dad did it with me, and we did it. It's adversarial, it's tough. I was a pretty low-key guy and it still had all the tough stuff. Seeing now my dad with his grandson is an entirely different look at it. I've spoken with lots and lots of parents, and I know the passion is there to want to help those kids and you want to do as much as you can, but they've got to want it from you, otherwise it's going to hurt. So if you can outsource that and be the helper -- here I am, even in my case, a Tour winner who wants nothing but the best for my kids, and it's still hard to do. It's still better to do it third party.

Sometimes there's magic, but most of the time that's a pretty tough journey.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you for joining us.

JOEY SINDELAR: My pleasure. Thanks, everybody.

End of FastScripts.

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