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January 4, 2005

Joey Sindelar


TODD BUDNICK: Thank you for stopping in, Joey, after winning the 2004 Wachovia Championship, your first win since 1990. So technically you are a first-timer here at Kapalua, but not the first time here at Mercedes Championships.

JOEY SINDELAR: Another checkmark on the golf exchange since I won. You know, the Tournament of Champions isn't La Costa anymore; it's the Mercedes Championships. To start the year here, I'm a little bit mad that my vacation was shortened by a couple of weeks to have to come and do this, but I'm getting over it. It's working okay.

TODD BUDNICK: Hawaii is better than the northeast this time of year.

JOEY SINDELAR: I'm noticing that.

TODD BUDNICK: You said it's one of the differences. Talk about the changes from winning 13 years later.

JOEY SINDELAR: You know, it's everything. You know, it starts with these guys, the media coverage is unbelievable. You look back, you know, I was at the tail end of certainly not the Palmer, but the very end of Nicklaus and then the Watson. We watched Johnny Miller, Watson and then on to Norman and I kept thinking, how can this continue? My foot is still entrenched firmly in my mouth for saying we were not going to see -- because the competition level was so good from 1 to 150, we were not going to see guys have that Johnny Miller kind of a year with four or five wins or three in a row. I firmly believed that. I thought there's no way. These guys are too good. Now, nine? And nine comes from the guy that was not even ranked first until the very end. It's unbelievable.

I'd also like to say that back when I was winning tournaments, you know, golf on the Tour was kind of two days of sprint and then two days of chess match. You know, you play, the lead got up to 10-, 12-, 14-under and then it kind of stayed there. Now, if you're lucky, 63 holes, and then if you're lucky maybe nine holes of chess match, but you can't even count on that because guys are coming back and shooting 62s and 63s. You're never safe.

So the ability of the players, you used to be either a long hitter or a short-gamer and now, look how many of these guys, look how many of the longest guys are the straightest guys or the longest guys, John Daly, Vijay, Tiger, the long hitters have a fabulous punch. Except for one or two, the true superstars back in the 80s that was not the case but now there's a bunch of them, even Retief. I think looking at a guy like Retief is kind of like a stranger looking at Manhattan; you don't realize how tall the buildings are until you go there. Retief is a long hitter with a beautiful, fabulous, slow swing and nobody even talks about him. It's like -- it's amazing. It's changed a lot.

TODD BUDNICK: You finished 41st on the Money List and I know you were trying to make the Masters. And it was really a quirky thing at the end there where a bogey and a birdie kind of takes away your chances. Can you talk a little about that?

JOEY SINDELAR: Not that I was counting every last dollar, except for the entire two weeks leading up. When I missed the cut myself, I considered it done because that was my chance. Like the Buffalo Bills yesterday, I had my chance and I just didn't do it. But then when I got home and I got over the initial frustration, the guys, the first five or six right behind me were doing absolutely nothing as well. I thought, well, that's something interesting.

So I tried to let it go and on Sunday all of my stat friends are calling me up and saying, hey, this could still work. And we had it down to that if Triplett parred -- I forget the names, but you had to make enough bogeys to do poorly, but not too many bogeys to let the guy behind you make enough money. But he did his thing and he actually, even with his costume on, his Jesper costume I think it was, he made the second putt and we thought we were in. What we didn't understand was the combination of Tommy Armour'S 3-putt with Jesper's birdie for 400,000 back. I was not counting on that guy. But that's okay.

It's the Jim Colbert answer. You guys didn't report in the Jim Colbert era, but whenever guys were griping at the players meeting and stuff, well, how come I'm not in this and how come I'm not in that, and he would stand up, in the way only Jim Colbert could do it, he would say, "Play better". And that still is the answer, play better. There's still ways to get into Augusta, and if not this year, then certainly next year.

It was something I badly wanted. My boys were incredibly young when we were there last and I wanted the older one to caddie and the younger one to caddie in the par 3 and it looked like it was going to happen. I think someone from the tour actually called, I forget who it was, and they -- but they said, hey, it looks like it happened. Do you know who it was? (Laughter.)

TODD BUDNICK: It was his doing but --

JOEY SINDELAR: I appreciate that and we were with him there. We had tears going, that's how happy we were. And then Jesper had to show up at 35. I had to slap him there. (Laughter). Tommy I knew was the tough one. I mean, that was a hard golf course. Triplett did the same thing; it's a hard 2-putt. But I didn't even make the cut, so I can't be mad at anybody else. I can't be mad, that was a great call.

TODD BUDNICK: Can you tell the difference between the Kona and the tradewinds?

JOEY SINDELAR: I can. They are opposite. (Laughter.) I didn't know how much -- you want me to explain to them? Oh, they want it know.

TODD BUDNICK: I was just curious -- after trying the course.

JOEY SINDELAR: I'm used to that because in the old days my day, in the 80s, we used play the Lincoln Mercury tournament in the fall and so I had a lot of experience over at the Bay Course. And then back in '97, '98 I was invited back, I think it was the very last, and I got to play this course, and again saw that even more than the Bay Course, this course really, it's dominated by the wind. It's the entire reason you play the golf course you way you do and you need to know what's going on. It is tough with the Kona wind, because it's opposite the grain. It's not just that the course plays different, it's the putts. Because when the wind is blowing hard one way and it's with the grain, that makes sense. But when the grain is this way and the wind is against the peak of the grass, it shorts circuits the brain a little bit. So it will be a good one.

Q. Compared to last year, Wachovia what you did -- inaudible?

JOEY SINDELAR: Yeah, the older guys -- it's been fun to include me in the group. But that group of guys, I've said this before, I know I've bored with you it before.

But that group of guys that came through college, let's say starting in the late 70s and through the mid 80s, that's that whole Sutton, Clampett, Tway, Cook, O'Meara. When I look at those All-American plaques from those years, that was an amazing group of guys. But also, to talk to the coaches from those days, what a crew that was. Look at what's happened.

So it was, and it helps to see Jay, Jay being at the beginning of that group, Jay Haas. He's just -- it wasn't just one year, he didn't see it as a swansong, he said, "I'm going to run with it."

I have to be realistic. I mean, the guys in the Top-10 or 20 or even beyond that are so driven, and it is their life. And I'm in a different place in my golf life and my life-life, that I don't know that I'm even trying to beat that. I mean, I work hard, I try to be my best, I definitely think I can win again. I know -- I definitely feel I can win again, that's how I'd like to say it.

So do I think I'll be No. 1 on the Money List? I don't think that's where I'm going. You know, winning nine tournaments, that's a nice thing, but that's probably not -- I don't want to say not, but you know, I see -- I've love to do Top-30. Top-30 would thrill me. That would be the measure of a great year. You have to play some serious golf to finish in the Top-30 these days. That would be a pretty good yardstick, and then I could go be a rookie on the Champions Tour in a few years, and then I could try for that nine tournaments thing.

You know, it was funny, I actually got carried away after I won. I was playing really well at the time. I actually played a lot of good golf. I didn't score well for a couple of months before but I got to expect too much. I've never been a very good high-expectation golfer. When I get -- when I leave home and I say I'm going to win, I stumble. I just -- I'm a much better let-it-happen kind of a person. It just matches my personality better. That's why when you asked me earlier about resolutions or goals, I've never been a big goal setter because when I have, I've concentrated so much on the goal that I couldn't let it go. I couldn't be myself. So I like to just roll into it and go from there.

Q. Coming here this week, how are you treating this week being one of last year's winners?

JOEY SINDELAR: Like frosting on the cake. My typical M.O. is after I miss the cut at Tampa. I don't touch a club until literally seven days before whatever tournament is first, and in all those years it's been Palm Desert getting ready for the Hope or Phoenix or whatever it first after these first two Hawaiian tournaments.

I'm sorry. What was the question again?

Q. This week itself, what do you think will be the best thing about it?

JOEY SINDELAR: You know, again, it would be a fluke for me to finish in the Top-5, point-blank. It's not where my game is. You know, it wouldn't be impossible, but a lot of things would have to line up just right. I'm just building up arm strength and making sure that the divot is in front of the ball and stay on the green when you putt the first putt and all that kind of stuff.

Although when it's time to tee it up Thursday, my competitive instincts will take over, and I'll want to win. But I have to step back and say, hey, you know, you hit a thousand golf balls in two months, let alone a normal tournament competing against 30 of the very best out here, that's pretty big odds.

So I'm here completely as a reward from last year. You know, maybe in a different place in my life, with four kids, I would expect three weeks warming up for this event, but that's not where I am right now. So I'm really happy to be here and I'll try my hardest, and, you know middle of the pack would be very acceptable and front third of the pack would be really cool and that's just kind of how I'm looking at it.

Q. Did you touch a club after Tampa?

JOEY SINDELAR: No. I tried right around Christmas, I hit three buckets of balls. It was 20 degrees and no wind. But I was doing it mostly to prevent injury, you know, just to kind of keep the motion. We didn't have any indoor places where I live to go and do that. So then we flew to Palm Springs on Tuesday to start on Wednesday. So that was like, what was it, five or six days ago and then it rained and it was cold there.

Q. As long as you've been on TOUR, playing golf, can you talk about how years shaping up versus other years, having done what he's done and Tiger appears --

JOEY SINDELAR: It's unbelievable. It's just remarkable. You know, I don't know, I'm probably way off base, but I want to say it would kind of be like having, you know, the best of the 70s, 80s and 90s all happening at one time. We didn't have that many dominator during those years. There were one or two, and you're seeing five or six and there's more, and that's when I kind of give them picking somebody else for being No. 1. There's five or six that could be No. 1. Phil -- I don't mean justifiably, I mean at some point in their career. You know, Phil clearly has the goods; Ernie; Retief is awesome; and of course Tiger and Vijay. Who am I missing? I mean, if I had a list -- Sergio is making a stab at it. I haven't played enough golf with him to have inspected his game.

You know, it's funny as I've played through the years, you play with some guys and you go, "How is he there"? And you play with other guys -- I'm not going to mention the ones on those negative. Like when I played with Colin Montgomerie the first time five or six years ago it was clear to me why he was as good as he is. He drove the ball just fabulously. You know, he was there to win and he had all of the pieces. "Yeah, I get it." There's others where I say, I don't see it.

But those are sometimes the guys who, you know can put it in the hole from anywhere. As a tee-to-green guy myself, like the power bashers. So Sergio, I haven't had that experience to watch, he must be that good because people keep mentioning, and I get to see him Thursday, so I'll know.

But you're right, this is amazing, the talent group is -- and plus, finish the back end of the New York City thing. When you look at them all together, it's like looking at a bunch of 7-footers standing together; you don't notice anybody tall. These guys, they are hitting it so hard and so straight at the same time, if any one of these guys would have done this back in the 80s they would have won 12. Watch, that's probably going to happen this year. Somebody is probably going to win 12. I'm with you. I think it's remarkable.

Q. Did your family come this week?


Q. And if so, are they doing any fun stuff?

JOEY SINDELAR: Yes, again, under the heading of we're here because of last year and it's a nice start for the year, we have two boys 14 and 11. The 11 is with mom doing the down-at-the-beach stuff. The 14 was up with at the range with me this morning with his mouth just open watching balls. We got a camera and he was just having the greatest time ever.

Q. And are they away from school?

JOEY SINDELAR: Yes. The older one being a 9th grader, we are seeing that as not the last, last, but like Augusta, the kids are getting hauled out no matter what year it is. But they are starting today, they are missing this week and Monday following to get back. We just thought that, you know, this is too many good reasons to be here. And they are both two things: Quite healthy, not many sick days and they are both pretty darned good students, so we feel good about that.

Q. You said you won the Lincoln Mercury to get here?

JOEY SINDELAR: Yes, it was, I'm guessing '97 or '98. That was -- you know there was a limit, how many pros were here? 16 or 18? The paycheck was really good, the experience was fabulous, and the boys, we all came together that year as well.

Q. Did that experience mean --

JOEY SINDELAR: Yeah, everything because this is one of those courses that this is not -- this is not Muirfield Village or some of the traditional courses. We've got a lot going on out here. You have a big, big golf course with all kind of elevation and wind. You need to know that you're not always aiming where you want it to finish. You've got to play it and shape it. Plus, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of aggressiveness.

Q. Inaudible?

JOEY SINDELAR: It was -- I had a stress fracture in my foot that missed the end of '98, and I had not played any golf and I got a call -- I got a call from Steve Lyons and said, gosh, I've love to play but I can't, I'll just coming out of my cast from my broken foot. He said it's carts. I said, "Well, I can do that." Again I had not touched clubs in a long, long time. I can remember standing on the first hole over at the Bay Course with that road over there knowing full well that that road was nowhere near far enough to the right. (Laughter.) You know, I just knew the ball was either going to go way over there or way over there, but I hit enough good shots and did dumb things and all of a sudden, I remember asking Mark there, were no leaderboards, and it was the end of the second day, 36 holes in. We were going up 16 and I said, well, how are we? "You have a two-shot lead."

So I parred 16 and I parred 17. It's really when you not played guff that, gully gets bigger, but I got a little gully into, on 17 and so I'm thinking, it's over. You know, 18 is pretty wide and I'm going to hit my 1-iron. We were playing the front tee before from about 35 or 40 yards out and the tradewinds are blowing, and all I wanted to do was aim at the right center at the clubhouse and I did. At that point I was now nervous, not only unskilled, but unskilled and nervous. And I hit it and I felt it hit the club. So I thought it wasn't a whiff or a shank, and it was going and I was just happier than a son of a gun because somebody had to eagle to tie me, and I'm likely to get a birdie downwind from the front tee.

We got out there and we could not find the golf ball. Right down the right third fairway which is exactly where you want it. No rough, the rough not a single place, left, no rough even half as high as a golf ball. Where could this ball be? We looked, bus comes down, I'm thinking, I've lost this ball and now I've lost two shots so I have to go back to the tee. They said, well, it's got to be here somewhere. Well, luckily one of my partners had gone way down to the point on the left. I mean, from the back tee that would be, what, 500 yards to where you really make the corner. And he had gone up there. Well, the ball, it must have just gotten going over those ridges and it was down there, 500 -- well, 450, 425 from the tee. I hit from a place we never could -- and I thought I had lost the tournament and it was in bermudarough about that deep, so it was as tall as the ball and it didn't stand up and I was really getting ready to go back. I was ready to go. I mean we had spectators coming out going, where is this ball. We thought it had hit the corner because they have the metal sprinkler heads here, and I thought it hit the corn over and scoot the right out-of-bounds or dead left. I hit a 9-iron to the green. At that point I was shaking so bad I didn't know what to do and I made par and won by a couple.

Back to your question, it's a huge experience just to know, because the ball doesn't end up where you see it. I haven't been out there this year, but even 10 is an odd shot. You can't see it when it's firm and flat, it slopes and comes down over here you have to know that. That's why the newcomers who saw the course yesterday and today don't have any feel really for what it could be when they see it on Tuesday.

Q. You said earlier that you are in a different place in your life. Do you approach your profession differently now than you might have in the 80s or 90s?

JOEY SINDELAR: For sure. Golf, you know, just like I suppose in any sport or any business, you live it, and you give up a lot and you go a lot and you know it gets in your system and drives you nuts and makes you happy and all that stuff all at once. But you've got to -- I'm still at it 100%. I'm still playing 30 events, but it isn't troubling to me today to come to the Mercedes Championships semi-prepared. That's okay. It wasn't worth me giving up Christmas and the kids' Christmas vacation to be away from them to do this. And I don't mean any slight to this. This is fabulous. This is heaven. But it's just not where I am right now, and I suppose that in four weeks, I'll be back at it and when we get, you know through the West Coast, I'll be back up to speed. And by the second half of West Coast, I'll be pretty much there. And by the time we get to Florida, I'll be a golfer. And I'm willing. Not only do I know that from my track record, I'm mentally okay with that.

The good news is I'm going to have at least one cut under my belt -- (Laughter) -- you know. I've gone through Florida without making a cut before and that begins to grow on your mind. You know, my win, you know everybody's wins are important. But my win in my world was unbelievable, and it didn't have anything to do with the money. It had to do with eligibility, bridging the eligibility for two years, No. 1. And the fact that those two years get me to the doorstep of the Champions Tour -- somebody asked me, does that have any effect on the way you plan your year? And I said, yes, I can plan my year. I have not been able to do that. I can take four weeks off, have a two-week vacation and miss the next four cuts and I still have a job next year. I haven't done that in 14 -- well, 13 years. I won 14 ago; you get a two-year exemption. So it's changed everything, which is probably another reason why I can come to this tournament purely for enjoyment.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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