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July 21, 2017

Mark O'Meara

Southport, England

MARK O'MEARA: You know, listen, my thoughts are, as you guys have been around me for a long time, this is the greatest championship. I don't know what else to say. I know there are three other majors, but I truly believe that The Open Championship is the top of the list in my book. And the reason why it is is because of what you witnessed today, the conditions last two days are changing, they're ever-changing around here. And, you know, I felt the warmth of the crowd, obviously coming up the 18th hole. I'm not Tom Watson, I'm not Jack Nicklaus, I'm not Arnold Palmer, I'm just a guy who in '98 was lucky to win the championship and hoist the Claret Jug, and be proclaimed Champion Golfer of the Year. And my son, being nine, and my daughter, being 11 and Michelle, for them to be alongside me this week was special.

Like I said earlier, it was disappointing to start like I did yesterday. But I felt good about hanging in there and shooting a pretty quality score today. So there's a little bit of life in the old dog.

But I'll miss it. I'll miss this championship. But I'll always watch it and I'll always be interested and intrigued on what the young players do around links golf. We're going to see some interesting play over the next two days.

Q. (Inaudible.)
MARK O'MEARA: I think just -- I knew the conditions were going to be tough out there today. I just wanted to play respectively. I didn't really have a set score. Obviously I knew that after four or five holes yesterday that the cut was going to be kind of out of the equation. But today to hang in there and battle in there and make some good pars and then a few birdies, you know, I just -- I hit some better shots today, I really did. So did I hit it great? No. But if I had hit it really good I would be playing on the weekend.

Q. (Inaudible.)
MARK O'MEARA: A little bit. Look, I'm always a little bit nervous when I hit it off the first tee. You just are a little bit. But I was surprised I wasn't more nervous yesterday. But the conditions and it was pretty tough. I guess I could have hit like a rescue down there and then a 3-wood in there. I've been driving the ball good all year long, even though I haven't played that well this year, probably the best thing I've been doing is driving it fairly straight. I'll just hit driver, aim it at the bunker and the wind will push it to the right.

In fairness, it was a little wet and my right hand did slip a little bit, and hit it off the tee a little bit and got riding the wind and it was gone. That was the one place you couldn't hit it. You could hit it anywhere on the left, even in the rough and make a 5. And unfortunately I made an 8.

Q. (Inaudible.)
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, I did. I mean, I think my first Open was in '81. And I remember playing at Royal St. Georges, it was the year that Bill Rogers won. But Tuesday I played a practise round with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros, so here's this young whippersnapper or whatever, I'm playing with these three legends, it's a little intimidating, let's face it. It would be intimidating for whoever, I don't know, when you play with those great players.

So ever since that day I like the fact that you might have to hit a 6-iron from 90 yards. I love that. And I'm disappointed -- I had 175 to the front on 18, 184 to the hole. And the wind kind of swung around. But I hit a 7-iron and I hit it pretty nice. It was one of my better shots, to be honest with you. But I never thought about hitting an 8-iron. And obviously I hit it over the back edge of the green. That's the way -- it literally can switch in five minutes out here on a links golf course.

The fact is to win an Open Championship you have to have so many things in your bag. You have to have the creativity value of shot-making, which links golf provides. Where obviously in America it's kind of in the air and you've got to carry it so far and then it's green and lush. I like it when it's chasing and all those things that can happen to you out there on a links golf course.

Q. (Inaudible.)
MARK O'MEARA: No, they were good. I mean, listen, those guys are class acts. And I just remember on the first tee that we were going to play for, I don't remember, 20 bucks or $25 /TPHAS awe or whatever. I don't have any money, and I remember both Gary and Seve giving Jack the needle, "Listen, Jack, we're going to pay today. Because whenever you lose we don't see you. No matter what happens today somebody is going to get paid." And I was like, I hope I don't lose too much. I don't have that much money. But I think Jack and I actually won that day.

Q. (Inaudible.)
MARK O'MEARA: Chris Wood is a class act. I played with him last year at Troon. He had to pull out because of his neck during the second round. He's a fine player. He hits a lot of quality iron shots. He hung in there today. He battled hard. And then he hit a pure shot in the last hole and it went in. He went from 5-over to 3-over; that's a big jump. And I told him yesterday, I said after our round, I said, "Look, I've been around this championship, I've played here at Birkdale a lot, and it comes down to being around even par. I know there's somebody 4- or 5-under par, I get that, but if the weather stays the way it can stay, and it's windy, somewhere around even par is going to be a quality score at the end of the weekend."

Q. (Inaudible.)
MARK O'MEARA: I think I take into account all the kind of the blessings and all the great things that have happened to me. Whether it's making the cut last year at Troon and at St. Andrews, making the cut when I was inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame. And then the times that I remember competing against players coming down the stretch. And certainly in the playoff here in '98 I remember distinctly what I felt like in '91 when I played with Ian Baker-Finch in the final group coming up the last hole and watching him win the championship. And then being happy for my friend because he's a great guy.

And then seven years later when I won, after I did all the media stuff and I was in the clubhouse, there was a guy that came up and put his hands on my shoulder and it was Ian Baker-Finch, and he kind of had a tear in his eye because I had won The Open Championship seven years later after he had won. So that shows how hard all of us fight and compete against each other and try to beat each others' brains in. Push comes to shove, there's only one person that's going to be The Open Championship winner at the end of the year.

Q. (Inaudible.)
MARK O'MEARA: You know, all my friends are wishing me luck. It's funny, they wished me well. And after you shoot 81, you don't hear from too many people because I think they feel like, what do I say? And they didn't. But I appreciate what the media has meant to me in my life and I have a lot of good friends in the media. And I'll miss it. I can tell you that much, I'll miss it.

Q. (Inaudible.)
MARK O'MEARA: Haven't talked to Tiger this week.

Q. (Inaudible.)
MARK O'MEARA: No, it was challenging. The wind came in a completely different direction. This is not the normal wind when we were playing out there today that's coming up -- not the typical direction the wind will blow at Birkdale. It can move all around, as you guys all know. But that was an unusual wind. Because holes like 9 and 8 -- 1 was easy, so I hit driver and a sand wedge on 1 today. I hit a drive and a rescue club to 9, where I hit a rescue club and 8-iron yesterday.

Those are the things that are different. 13 was a driver and a 3-wood, you couldn't get to the green. Ryan Moore hit two good ones and he had 40 yards. This direction of the wind and all of a sudden when we were on the 18th hole, kind of the swirling front that's going around here, all of a sudden the temperature dropped probably 10 or 12 degrees minimum and then the wind kind of switched. It was unreal. It went from kind of into the wind off to the right on 18 to all of a sudden downwind, kind of straight downwind on your second shot. So that's a big change in ten minutes, but that's what can happen around here. It played tough today.

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