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March 8, 2002

Joey Sindelar


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd like to welcome Joy Sindelar to the interview room. 9-under par through two rounds and you have not converted a bogey yet. So things are going well for you.

JOEY SINDELAR: Thank you. Good, solid start. I'm having feelings of a time warp happening here. How many decades since I've been at a Honda Classic press interview? It's been a while.

But, it was good solid golf. You know, I haven't had luck here, and I have often wondered why. Last year was good for me, I think 16th. But apart from that, no luck.

And it's just -- it's the picture book of a long hitter's golf course. It's reasonably wide. If a long hitter is in control of his game, I think it's a big advantage this week, and my driver was good to me. Just a couple of stinkers over the course of 36 holes and the rest of them were really good, so I'm happy.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we could go your remember birdies. You started on the back side and your first birdie came at No. 16.

JOEY SINDELAR: So we're talking the first nine of the second round? I've been out there a while.

Let's see, the par 5, 16 has been good to me twice today. Both times, decent drives. Both times, 3-irons. And today I was just on the front right. I was actually a little worried. They had three or four of the banks shaved this year. I don't know if you've paid attention to that, right of 16 is a disaster. Left of -- what's the par 3, 5 maybe; that one is shaved down. And of course right and short on 18 is shaved down, so a couple of places to play defense there. But yes, two putts from the front edge, about a 70-footer there, and I putted up there for a gimmee.

And I birdied 18, which was, I don't think I've experienced that here before. I hit a very, very safe drive. It wasn't much of a golf swing, but the ball got in the fairway and hit a very nice 6-iron in there to about six or seven feet away.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: No. 6, you made a birdie.

JOEY SINDELAR: Oh, yes. No. 6, another one of those -- one of the tough holes on the front nine, but today we played it downwind left-to-right both times through, and I hit a great drive, birdied it this morning with a gimmee. And this afternoon, I had just a little 8-iron into the pin and I had -- today was a day of mud balls. You've probably spoke to guys who have talked about that, and you'll hear more; that one of the things that we feel most relieved about when we play lift, clean and place is not the fact that you get this great lie. Although that's pretty nice, but it's the fact that you get to clean the golf ball off. Not just me, but everybody had lots of occasions today where there was a half-a-ball worth of mud on the ball, and you just don't know where it's going to go.

And by way of example, on No. 6 today, I'm 170 yards downwind left-to-right, which is a perfect 8-iron for me. It's blowing pretty strong, and the pin is on the right side, 20 back and I just tried to -- with this mud on the front of the ball, I just tried to take the 8-iron left of the pin four steps and let the wind drop it in there, and by the time I looked up this ball was already in the right bunker. Luckily, they kind of barrel-roll back sometimes. So it was just barely in the right trap. I splashed it out there of and it went in. That may be my first -- not only my first-made bunker shot this year, but it may be my first up-and-down bunker shot this year. You know, you get things going like that and you know it's your day.

Then the next hole, 7, a good 1-iron into a sand divot in the middle of the fairway, which you are also going to hear guys talk about. There's lots of them out here. This course makes the bulk of the field, on certain holes, play to the same spot. So by the end of the week you get a lot of divots that are filled in with sand. Luckily, when it rains, it smooths them down and they are much easier to play from. And I had a pitching wedge in there from about 15 feet and got that one in.

Then No. 9 I hit a nice drive and a 3-wood just short right of the green and got a real nice lie there on the fairway. And again, the reason I comment on that is it's still wet enough out there; that there are some dicey lies if you are on that in-between shots. That little half-wedge, if you get that certain lie -- but a caught a great lie short of the green and pitched up about two feet away and got that one.

So, lots of good stuff today.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Some more questions.

Q. Should it have been lift, clean and place?

JOEY SINDELAR: No, I don't think so. Lift, clean and place is when there's pockets of water all over the place, and the beauty of this Florida sand, is really -- the course was fabulous, really. There was a lot of mud on the ball, probably -- let's say significant amount of mud, on my shots, probably 40 percent of the time from the fairway. But that's going to be about the same for everybody.

No, I do not think it should have been lift, clean and place. I would have lived loved it, but I don't think it would have applied here at all.

Q. How many holes for you today?

JOEY SINDELAR: We were putting on 3. So 33 and a half. It was basically U.S. Open qualifier.

Q. How much fun is it to be on the leaderboard?

JOEY SINDELAR: Very much fun. It is. And you know what's interesting, I had three months off from Friday of Williamsburg until Tuesday one full week before the Hope. So by my recollection, that's three months and a week without even touching them. So that's Bruce Lietzke territory.

And these guys that live in the south or west, they come out to those first several West Coast tournaments fired up, they have been practicing for a month, they are like a boxer. I'm out there, I'm going to the Hope -- the main reason I go to the Hope is because I'm guaranteed four rounds. And if I make the cut, I make the cut, which I did. So I played three tournaments out there. I do a warm-up week and then the Hope, and then I come home for a week and then I go Pebble, San Diego and I was home for two weeks. So that's all my prep work is the West Coast. If I get lucky, great. I made two-out-of-three cuts.

And then basically start in Florida. By this week or Bay Hill for sure, I'm kind of where I need to be. I've had time to get all of the nooks and crannies taken care of. So I don't want to say my season starts here. It certainly started a while back, but I'm capable, by the time I get to here.

Q. For casual golf fans who don't follow it closely, but were here when you won in '88, maybe saying, "Joey Sindelar, where has he been," can you fill us in on where you've been and what you've been doing?

JOEY SINDELAR: Except for last year, I've maintained my playing privileges. I had a goofy thing with an injury in the early 90s, but last year for the first time I was 126th, which broke my heart -- I'm sorry, 40 last year; so it would have been two years ago that I was 126. This year I was 80th. That was difficult. It's not pride. I don't know what the word is, but it's -- you know you didn't do it. You didn't jump high enough over the high bar. And by one guy. That was -- it was torture the whole last month.

But I would say from '88, I won two tournaments that year. I did win again in 90, but I really was going through a slump, '89 through '92 or'93. Actually my game has been very, very good from '93 on. It was the year I broke my hand that I refer to, '93 or '94, I had a great start. First time I ever played well on the West Coast. I was leak -- I made a couple hundred thousand dollars, and by eight-years-ago dollars, dollars, that was pretty good money.

I broke my hand hitting the ball out of a divot at Pleasant Valley the week before the PGA that was in Toledo that year, and never played again the rest of that year and just missed the Top 30.

It's been odd. Funny little things have happened, and confidence losses here and there. But really my game has been very dependable for five or six years. And honestly, I'm about to be 44, but I honestly feel I'm the best player I've ever been. Certainly I'm plenty long enough. I've got a great diver. I use the TaylorMade 360. I'm new to the TaylorMade staff this year, and the driver, the guys like to pick on me because "the old fart can still hit it out there."

It's fun. My swing has been much more dependable, and that's allowed me to work more on my short game. I visited with Jim MacLain last week and a couple of his guys about pitching the ball and bunker play a little bit.

It's fun now, because you want to hit it great, but if you really want to make some money, you'd better have some short game. If I could have had some of these great guys chip for me, it would have been -- well you don't want to say what it could have been. Who cares what it could have been. But I'm hoping the future brings some great results with the things I've learned.

Q. What do you recall about winning in '88? What are the things that stand out about that?

JOEY SINDELAR: At Eagle Trace, of course, Eagle Trace is a torture chamber when it's windy. There were there great, great golf holes there, and every one of them was a bogey or a double waiting to happen if you didn't watch it. There's plenty of room to miss, but if you double-crossed, get in this wind -- there's a point up to 10 or 15 miles an hour where you can work the ball into the wind and hold it straight. But it starts getting windier than 15, you can throw that out. Then you have to go with the wind.

If you have got left-to-right wind and helping it down a par 4 tee shot and I catch it on the toe and hook it, you've blown the whole thing. That was the tough part about Eagle Trace, you had to know, you had to be in control. I mean even that little 17th hole, the par 3, the water is not that close to that green, but you can dump it in that water so fast, if you catch the gust funny or you don't make the right decision.

But I was at a point -- I was at the end of a very good couple of years of playing solid golf, and all I was doing was chipping and putting and it showed. I was very dependable, making the hard putts.

But I love that golf course. I always felt like that with just a little bit of work here and there it really could be a good golf course. And apparently they have done that. I always ask when I come here and they have done -- like that 8th green, all of a sudden after the houses came along, that 8th green was very close to that out of bounds right there, and apparently they have moved that over and they have done some very, very nice things out there. I miss playing there. It was a lot of fun.

Another memory, who could not remember the port-a-pots blowing down the fairway one day, it was blowing so hard. It was child. I think that was the Kenny Knox year, when he shot such a high year and still won?

Q. He shot 80.

JOEY SINDELAR: When that flagstick was almost touching the ground betting over.

Q. For both here and Doral, with so many New Yorkers that live down here in the wintertime, does that make coming down here more fun for you? Do you find that you have almost like a hometown gallery?

JOEY SINDELAR: Sure. And my old relationship with the Polo club in Boca. I always here the shouts from those folks and all kind of people from up home. That's what makes it fun.

Really, I'm a big baby. I like to be home and that's another reason why the West Coast is not my thing. From here, I feel like -- my family happen the to be here this week and next week, but I feel like I could be home in two hours in a plane and it just feels more like I'm in the loop here and seeing people I know. Everything fits better.

Q. Did you represent at the Polo Club?

JOEY SINDELAR: I did, for five or six years. Chris Evert was there at the time and Kathy Smith, the aerobics lady. It was fun.

Q. When would that have been?

JOEY SINDELAR: I'm thinking that would have been like '87 through '92.

Q. Would you say your West Coast is one of your better West Coasts this year?

JOEY SINDELAR: In terms of money-making, no. I made 25,000 and got way behind everybody else. But in terms of satisfaction, it was very good. Everything I wanted to accomplish, I accomplished. You know, I didn't do any silly -- didn't make all my putts one day and make a ton of money, but apart from actually finishing great, all of the physical things happened that I wanted to have happen. It was a very successful West Coast, except for dollars, yes.

Q. And preparation-wise?

JOEY SINDELAR: It was good, yes. Of course, I end it and -- also, I do like to play Tucson out there, but Tucson was last this year and I'm coming up on playing everything through the Masters starting here. So it just didn't fit in my schedule. I enjoy playing Tucson National very much.

So I had two weeks off. So you get back and you lose your feel a little bit, but Doral, of course was a very tough test last week with that wind blowing like that, but I hit a lot of good shots, so now I feel very comfortable.

And back to the answer about being on the leaderboard. For me, it's comfort zones. A lot of these guys you're seeing guys in the hunt for weeks and weeks at a time, I think that's all about comfort zones. When I start the year, that leaderboard looks like it's over in Alabama somewhere, and I couldn't find it. Then all of a sudden, you get on it and then you're on it for a few days and maybe for a couple weeks. "Hey, my name isn't on that board what's going on here."

So the attitude, and to me that's all about being comfortable in front of cameras and people and that's what the beginning of the year is all about. Probably like the first baseball games that the guys play.

Q. You talked earlier about being plenty long enough. That's quite a statement considering how long some of the kids are on TOUR?

JOEY SINDELAR: Oh, my gosh, yeah.

Q. How do you attribute still length not being a problem for you, nothing personal, but even at your age?

JOEY SINDELAR: I don't know. I've always been a long hitter all the way through. And last year I think I just dropped out of the Top-10 right at the end of the year. And this year, I nailed a couple of trees early on the West Coast; so I'm not anywhere in sight distance-wise. Had a couple of 210s in there I think.

You know, the difference in there, there was probably a pretty good separation after the first 10 or 15. There's Daly and Woods and a couple, and then you get into the Davis Love, Freddie, that kind of group. And I could hang in that group at the back end of that group. And then there used to be another separation and now the young guys, with great swings, I mean this -- who is the first-year guy out of college? Charles, he kills it. But Paul Casey, with a beautiful -- these guys are -- no offense to John Daly because he's one of my favorites, but these guys aren't even wrapping it around their neck. These guys are doing this little beautiful 7/8th swing like Tom Purtzer, except longer, and they are everywhere. And I'm really glad I'm not starting over out here because it would be real hard.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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