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June 19, 2003

Joey Sindelar


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd like to welcome first round leader in the clubhouse, Joey Sindelar, a New York native and resident. 66, if we could get some opening comments. Great round, considering from what we've heard, how wet it is and the conditions out there, the size of the rough.

JOEY SINDELAR: Yes, lots to talk about. And that's first round leader so far. I'm expecting that you'll see some other good scores.

Although, I would expect higher than normal, but the guys who do hit the fairway, the greens are soft enough that they will drive you crazy on the wet shots because the ball is going to spin back so quickly, but those several holes out there that demand mid-irons and long-irons for second shots are going to be accessible, which normally those are incredibly tough shots. So I'm thrilled with the round. It was a good, solid round.

It's an interesting course. I've loved this course and I don't know whether I play well because I talk myself into it here, because I love coming to this golf course. But it's not a driver golf course for me now. You're going to hear other people tell a completely different story. For instance, Calcavecchia, who may not be in here because he's even or 1-over, driver every hole. The guys I played with hit mostly drivers. This golf course allows choices the entire way. I think I only hit three drivers and they were on the par fives.

It's just when the rough is this tall, I just make a choice, I don't want anything to do with it. My 1-iron was very faithful to me today. I was in good shape off the tees. Lots of greens, but the big story for me, not to take your whole afternoon, was putting. I putted just incredibly poorly since we got to the Florida swing. Those of you who don't know me don't know that when I take my off-season, it really is an off-season. I don't touch a club from the last day of whatever the last tournament is -- Jackson, Mississippi in my case -- until five days before the Hope. So it's a full two months off. And then a warm-up. I actually had two top 20 finishes out of three on the West Coast. I thought, life is good for an old guy and things are going to be okay. Then I got to Florida and thought I was putting a round ball with a round putter; it just wasn't working. It kept getting worse and all of you who play golf know the more you miss, the smaller the cup gets and it starts jumping out of the way. So I've been doing that for two and a half months. I've been playing very, very nice tee-to-green and absolutely no success on the greens.

So finally I grabbed my dad around the neck who was my teacher all the way through and said, we've got to go putt. I got on the green and he must have thought it was pretty funny on the practice green because I'm saying I'm trying to do this, I'm trying to see -- he said, how about just putt a couple. He said my stroke looked exactly like what I was describing; I was trying to do this, trying to do that and in the end I wasn't me which is kind of a Loren Roberts kind of a putter; slow and smooth.

No matter who you are -- great lesson for me last week on television, Nick Price said for me -- he works on the pace of his putts, meaning the ball speed is so critical. We get so line-bound sometimes that you forget that the pace is so critical. So all of those things, that's where I've been. And today after my brief putting lesson with my dad it was a complete joy to be on the greens and some putts went in. I was 1-over -- we started on the back and I was 1-over through the 15th hole, all pars and then a bogey on 15, which is legitimate; that's a hard hole.

I made a great comeback putt on 16, a 6- or 7-footer. And on 14, I made a 6- or 7-footer. All of a sudden, a couple went in and I felt good. I was 1-over but all of a sudden I wasn't 3-over.

Lipped out on 17 for birdie and still 1-over. And then 18, I eagled; and 1, I birdied. So you never expecting to 3, 2, on those two holes. It's nice dream material.

But a good drive and a 1-iron on 18 to about 15 feet.

5-iron to about eight feet on No. 1.

So all of the sudden, in the red and hitting good shots and made a 20-footer there on 3.

6, the par 3, that's a nice birdie hole on a day like today. A 9-iron, you'll see a lot of 2s on that hole -- a 9-iron to about 12 feet.

Then No. 8, a 3-wood and a 4-iron that I was very happy with -- one of the ones that I referred to earlier that you can get a 4-iron close on a day like today with the greens. I got it in there about six or seven feet behind the hole and made that.

So bad drive on 9, missed the fairway. I was on defense most of the way up No. 9. It was a conservative -- not conservative -- it was a methodical, in play most of the time, on the green and son of a gun, some putts went in. That's what today was.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: What did you do on 15?

JOEY SINDELAR: I tried to chop down that tree again on the right side with a 3-wood, rattled around in the rough. Standard bogey, right rough, short of the green, chipped it past and just missed the putt.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Overall, nice to be in the clubhouse with the lead and being able to rest a little bit?

JOEY SINDELAR: Yeah. I forgot where the on-button was to one of these microphones; been so long since I've been around a press room. It's nice just to get ahead of the curve, just to get a little breathing room.

When you're not take making putts, I remember Tom Kite saying years and years ago, right on the money, he said at the Tour level a great ball-striking round can take you to 72, 17, 70, but you are not going to shoot 65 unless you make putts. You make a putt whether it's a 12-footer for par or an eagle putt, it's always meaningful and gets you set up for what's next and you start believing in yourself. Versus all of these rounds I've played, I've been between 70 and 72 and 73 for three months. You're on the cut line all the time, you can't get out of your own way, everything is too important, all of that kind of stuff. It's fun to have some breathing room. Sleeping will be nice tonight.

And I don't expect to be -- I'm expecting you'll see some good scores.

Q. You said something about you know you're supposed to have fun on the golf course. Can you talk about when you're not playing well, how frustrating that can be?

JOEY SINDELAR: Well, you know, all you have to do is watch because, you know, the competition has changed -- this is 20 years for me. I can still remember at Pleasant Valley, if I remember correctly, it was the first cut I had seen where the cut was under par, except for the Hope, and nobody could believe that. Generally back in the mid 80s, the guys in the bottom third of the field or even the second half of the field, even if some of those guys were leading, you'd know -- now it's 150 guys that can play golf, and so Tiger came along after Daly, after whoever, and the bar has been raised. Everybody is thinking differently.

You know, it used to be two days of sprints and then two days of chess and now it's four days of sprints, except for the excessively hard course we see once in awhile.

Where was I going with that question?

Q. How stressful it was?

JOEY SINDELAR: We're at the point on this tour now, if you make a double, if you're not making birdies and you make a double and a bogey, you're in trouble, because the cuts are always under par and there's not a lot of room. The course is -- the 100-yard dash is getting longer every year for us, from the mid 80s. There's always a new tee. You hear the Senior Tour guys talk about they are relaxed and they have a great time and no cut. I'm not saying the regular tour was like that in the late 80s, but you could -- you didn't have to be hitting on all cylinders, but now you've got to be hitting on all cylinders or making a heck of a lot of putts and so that's where the stress comes in and it drives you batty.

When you're not putting well, when you're in the scoring, you play four great holes and then you bogey a par 5, go for it in two and hit it in the bunker or the water. It's like, "Wait a minute, I just made six great swings and I'm 1-over and I'm not making putts, what's going on?" We all go through it out here, except for Tiger and a couple of those other guys don't seem to go through it. It can be incredibly stressful.

A better question for the wives, I think, because they see us when we go home.

Q. Could you talk about conditions and the fact that it's probably going to get worse as the day goes on; so you are sitting in here with the lead and everybody else has to play this afternoon, so that in itself has to be a big advantage?

JOEY SINDELAR: It appears it's going to be. Still right now it's not that bad and I would be lying if I didn't say the three of us didn't discuss the weather as we were walking off the last. It was starting to rain and the breeze was kicking up because that would be a big advantage. We had no win. If you were hitting the ball, if you had control of your swing, could you get it in the fairway and once you did that, pretty playable.

So it could get miserable and it could be a big advantage. Don't know yet or it could be the same. If it does get a little breezy and a little rainy, the frustration level will increase dramatically.

Q. When Tiger was in yesterday, he talked about how this course gives you the opportunity or if you have the ability, you have to create shots in different areas. Do you find yourself doing that pretty much or are you pretty much just a straight ahead?

JOEY SINDELAR: For me personally, no. I'm exactly what Tiger talked about. You kind of think from the pin, when you're standing on the tee you don't just stand on the tee and think what's next. You look at the pin sheet and of course having been here 20 years or 18 or whatever, you play the hole backwards. The pin is there so I'm going to try to be here so I'm going to do this. It's a great golf course for that, because it takes it away a little bit as soft as it is right now but when this course is playing hard and fast, you can run shots in to some of these back little tiers. And if you hit them too hard, you've got absolutely nothing, and that to me is what makes this golf course so great. There's four or five holes that are just the best there can be.

He's exactly right. The tee shots, although the fairways are fairly generous, you'd better be in them because there's a lot of work to be done on the second shots. And then, of course, once you get to the green, the work is not done yet.

The condition of the golf course is outstanding. I mean, it's saturated, we know that, but over the last -- my recollection, over the past eight or ten years, every year we see it getting better and better and they are doing nice things. It's magnificent. It really is.

Q. You're from New York, does that mean you're from around here and is this a home tournament for you?

JOEY SINDELAR: Well, I'm from the Corning area which is a little over four hours drive, New York State. When I was growing up, this was the Westchester Classic. This was big stuff. I don't know how many years for the tournament, but in my childhood it was, "Oh, the Westchester Classic." So it was always big in my mind as a youngster coming through.

I would think as a home event -- it feels like home, the turf is like home, the poa annua greens are like home. I think so. And after being here 20 years, I know all the nooks and crannies.

Q. This is your 20th?

JOEY SINDELAR: I had a broken hand one year that I might have missed so I'm in the 18, 19 club, I could say for sure.

Q. You said you take a couple months off every year; first of all, why do you do that and how does it impact your game when you come back?

JOEY SINDELAR: I do that, earlier in my career when players used to get -- well, some of the guys still get big guarantee money to go around. But that was the money-making season in the off-season, you'd go to Japan or wherever and do some great trips and I did all that stuff. But all of a sudden you're going year round, but then you get married and have kids and you'd like to remember their names when you come home. (Laughter.)

So for me, I just made the choice. It's not worth it. I couldn't do it without seeing the kids for that long. And I love fishing and I'm a Syracuse football/basketball junky so, all of those things together, that's a great time for me to be home.

As far as what it does to my game, I'm absolutely worthless when I start. My first two tournaments I just consider sacrifices, because not only did I not want to play golf, but then when I decide it's time that I have to, what do I do? It's frozen. So I hit balls inside. I've gotten down to where, for me, it's 1,000 balls over five days, not 500 a day, because you ruin your hands. So it's a couple hundred balls for four or five days and the first 1,000 balls get me 90 percent of the way there. The next 1,000 get most of the rest of the ten percent. And the short game takes a month. Short game is just a tough one.

And I have -- very lucky, my former sponsor Jim Greggs (ph), who -- Davis Love, Mike Hulbert and I, we just stay as his places when we travel, just a fabulous guy, he has a place at the Tradition now at the Palm Springs, so I'm not exactly slumming it. So I call him up for a week's worth of warm-up out there. And I just hope not to hurt people those first couple of weeks.

Q. As someone whose dad was and his coach, what were your thoughts about seeing the interaction between Furyk and his dad on Sunday?

JOEY SINDELAR: You know, I only say the presentation because I was so distressed and disoriented -- when I miss a cut, normally I'm watching, I like so to see what the guys do, are they getting away with stuff, are they making putts, are they hitting it great. I usually like to watch this stuff. I couldn't do it. Except at the presentation when I saw his dad standing behind him and I said to myself, what a cool thing that must be, because the journey starts -- where did he grow up, do you know?

Q. Pittsburgh.

JOEY SINDELAR: And so like me, you know, he wasn't -- although within his own family he was born and bred to be a golfer, it wasn't like he grew up at the David Leadbetter academy. He can't have that stuff. So I'm sure their journey must have felt a lot like my journey felt, so you have to be happy for something like that. And especially in his case, because he's got the swing that everybody -- how tired do you think he gets of talking about his swing? Whoopty-doo, I can hit it straight and I can putt.

So I'm really, really happy when that kind of thing happens. It's got to be great.

Q. With all of your putting woes, did you ever change putters?

JOEY SINDELAR: I'm stubborn, incredibly stubborn. I've seen, I would gather that some of my stubbornness has probably cost me through the years. But I've seen so many shipwrecks of guys just trying, trying, trying. Through the 20 years, guys that should be here, I think you get good awesome equipment -- I'm a TaylorMade guy and I love their stuff. I have a Scotty Cameron putter. I'm not a club changer; I never have been because I think you can lose touch where home base is.

One of the things I always talk about at clinics is never try a golf club, especially, you asked, I'm playing poorly, did I try. That's the worst time in my opinion to try a club. You should try a club when you're playing well, because that's where you want to be when you use it. So many times you try clubs when you're playing poorly and it seems to fit and then you go -- you get your swing better and oh, this doesn't seem right.

So, no, I'm very, very slow to change. And I actually -- I laughed because I brought a new driver and a new putter here this week. I don't change two clubs in five years. The driver didn't make the cut and the putter has a good chance but, look, we teed it up and I had my same 14 clubs. So I talk a big game but I never got there.

Q. Could you compare the rough this week to last week? Does this course seem more like the Open than the Open did last week?

JOEY SINDELAR: If you will be kind enough to say that I don't mean anything derogatory about Chicago, I happen to be in love with this golf course. When I point to my four or five during the year, this was always one of them. And if this was hard and fast this would have been more like what we would expect. This has always been a fabulous tune-up, never in my mind would Westchester be a tune-up for anything.

But as a preview to a major, when Westchester before the Open, there could not be anything better when it's hard and fast. It's the same requirements. It's probably a little shorter, we've got those three or four holes, but this -- yes, the rough is definitely tougher. Yes.

Q. This is the kind of rough you were expecting to see last week?

JOEY SINDELAR: It is. We were all surprised last week. And I shot 15-over, so I didn't exactly muscle that course last week. But you could play out the rough.

Last week's setup I thought more resembled the PGA. The PGA guys don't generally go quite so far to the edge of the world as the USGA guys do. I think it more resembled a PGA setup than a U.S. Open last week and I think this more resembled -- probably more closely resembles an Open.

Q. Are you giving them signals for Oak Hill?

JOEY SINDELAR: Well, you know, Oak Hill, that's a wild place. They almost have to widen Oak Hills fairway for the PGA because they keep them narrow. I was up there a few weeks ago, and of course the 100-yard dash got longer. There was a new tee on 17 and that was already one of the hardest and I think 18 has a new tee. It's going to be a tough test.

Q. You're 136 outside of the Money List, if you finish outside of the 125, what is your status -- exempt?

JOEY SINDELAR: Because of past champion, yes. I'm not high enough on career Money List to be -- to have that free -- if you're in the Top-50 or Top-125 -- not that I've thought about it. (Laughter.) Never entered my mind.

The things we do to ourselves out here. It's a different interview all together.

Q. As a throwback to the '80s, are your goals different? What are your goals? What do you want to achieve in a year? Have you changed that because of the family over the years?

JOEY SINDELAR: You know, I've never -- I've never lived and breathed it. I love it. I'm passionate about it when I'm doing it but I can set it down. I can't be like Vijay or Tiger and I probably -- you know, who knows. I'm betting that I would not have been as good as I'm -- but I would not have lasted 20 years. I've tried that Hogan mentality and I'll say, okay, today I'm not focusing on anything else except every single shot. I'm more the 3-minute round of golf guy; it's a minute before, 30 seconds after and whatever you do in between you relax. For me I like to be less important.

For goals I think I'm still good enough to win again, I still honestly believe that. But, you know, the competition is not the same as it was, it's just not. The guys are -- especially, you know there's always been great players but the middle -- the balance of the first third is so much better than it used to be. Let's say 10th to 30th guys, they are so good. But the 30 to 100 guys are awesome. And then that next group, they just -- it doesn't let up like it used to. There used to be a leader, there used to be guys you'd see them on the leaderboard, not going to be there, not going to be there, and it was true. And now, these guys keep winning and I don't even know who they are. (Laughter.) I used to think it was bad enough when I didn't recognize them, but some of them I don't even know their names when they win. And they are that good. They are. And I watch them play and they are not scuffing it around; they are going.

Really, it's incredible. It's been amazing to see.

Q. Do you think there's some 24-year-old on the field seeing Sindelar going, "Not going to be there"?

JOEY SINDELAR: I'm sure. "Isn't he kind of old?" It's amazing. Their swings are so much better, the equipment, they are stronger, everything about it; it's amazing. Senior Tour is going to feel good in a few years.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you very much. Good luck the rest of the week.

End of FastScripts....

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