July 12, 1997
NORTH PLAINS, OREGON
RHONDA GLENN: Well, Nancy, it was an exciting day out there. Before you tell us about your round, please tell me how you felt about the crowd reaction? They applauded every time you walked up the fairway, every time you walked on the green. They called your name out. What was that like for you?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, it's always real exciting when the fans are pulling for you like that. And walking every shot, of course, it's just a neat feeling. And I always want to recognize them when they do that, because I think it's nice that they do that. And when they yell out my name and wish me luck, I always have to say thank you. It's a great feeling. It motivates you. It keeps you going, no matter what's going on.
RHONDA GLENN: Have you played before any larger crowds? For a women's tournament.
NANCY LOPEZ: Not a U.S. Open. This is the biggest crowd I've ever seen, for sure.
RHONDA GLENN: In the U.S. Open.
NANCY LOPEZ: In the U.S. Open.
RHONDA GLENN: Have you seen bigger crowds at other women's championships?
NANCY LOPEZ: It's going to be close. I'll say it's probably one of the biggest we've ever played in front of, for sure.
RHONDA GLENN: It was a great round. Tell me what your approach to your round was today. You certainly, with two rounds in the 60s, you had the best start that you've ever had. What were you going to try to do today?
NANCY LOPEZ: I was just going to go out there and play my best game, hopefully. I woke up, I felt really good. I worked out this morning and came to the golf course and I felt real good, felt real focused. When I started off, I struggled a little bit -- I can't say I was struggling, because I never felt like I was in trouble. Even though I was in trouble a couple of times, because I have a lot of confidence in myself right now. That really helps with the way that I feel when I'm out on the golf course. I hit a really good second shot on No. 1 today after I hit my drive in the rough. And 2-putted and felt real good about it. On No. 2, when I got up there, I was not shooting for the pin. I was shooting for the right side of the pin, the fat part. I just pulled a little bit, and I still thought it was going to get up there, but unfortunately it didn't. I was still going, though, I felt really good and I really didn't let it bother me. Of course when I made the putt on 2 to save par, that really got me going.
RHONDA GLENN: That was about a 15-footer, would you say?
NANCY LOPEZ: Yes.
RHONDA GLENN: That was a great save. Tell us about 3, 4, and 5. That's an interesting sequence.
NANCY LOPEZ: On No. 3, I hit my hundred yard wedge there. And I hit it to about eight feet and I had a downhill putt, and I made that for a birdie. On No. 4, I hit a drive and I was a little wide of the fairway to where I would like to have been. I ended up playing a cut, 3-wood, and ended up on the front fringe of the green. I made that putt for an eagle and it was about a 30-footer, I would say, for eagle there. And I was really excited because as soon as it came off my putter blade I felt like it was going to go in. I hit a really good shot on No. 5, I hit a 4-iron and hit it right where I wanted to and unfortunately I 3-putted.
RHONDA GLENN: Let me ask you about that. The hole location was way right and your 4-iron shot, you played for the center of the green, you were not going for the hole.
NANCY LOPEZ: No.
RHONDA GLENN: Your putt was about 25 feet, I would say. As you got to the back of your back stroke you seemed to sort of hesitate. What happened there?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I took the putter back and I heard a frog go, ribbit, and I kind of -- and really loud, and I kind of jumped just a little bit. I ended up not hitting the putt, but I thought the putt was going to be fast and it wasn't that fast. But I letup after I heard that frog make that noise. Unfortunately I missed my next putt, too. I still felt really good. I went onto 6. 6 was into the wind a little bit. I hit my drive right center of the fairway, which you really don't want to be there, you want to be left center, if you can be. I had a 4 in my hand and I was playing up the right side of the green. I ended up in the fringe with an 8-iron, up and over, and probably had a 20-footer and 2-putted for bogey there. Then on No. 7 I was on the green. I 2-putted for par. No. 8, I had a little pitching wedge there. About 110 downwind and I pulled it just a little bit and ended up going over the back of the green and didn't have a fun chip there. But I still didn't feel bad. I said I might be able to pull this one out and chipped up there close. But went past the hole about ten feet. And I hit a good putt, almost made it. But I 2-putted for a bogey. On No. 9, I hit on the green and 2-putted for par there. No. 10, I hit a 5-wood off the tee and was in the fringe. Chipped to about a foot and I made that for par. No. 11, I hit a wedge, my third shot, and -- to about five feet and made that for birdie. 12, I 2-putted for par.
RHONDA GLENN: How long was your first putt there?
NANCY LOPEZ: On 12? I'm going to say it was probably about 25 feet downhill. 13, I hit an 8-iron about five feet and made that for birdie. 14 and 15, I 2-putted for pars. 16, I hit a 3-iron my second shot into the bunker and I swore I wouldn't do that, and I did it anyway, because I was just going up the slot and I ended up, because the wind was in, I ended up moving into the shot a little bit and pulled it and went into the bunker and lipped out there. I thought I made the putt. I had about a 12-footer to save par and I missed it. On 17, I hit a 7-iron about ten feet, I made that for birdie. On 18, I was on the green in three, and I 2-putted for par.
RHONDA GLENN: On your shot to the green on 18 it was sort of an awkward shot, wasn't it, the chip?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, my ball didn't really -- it was not a bad lie, it was just I walked up there and there was no room left. I just wanted to stay on the top. Because of that big swale on the left. Because of that big swale down there. I was happy with that. I was hoping I could get closer, hoping to make a birdie there. But I did my best.
RHONDA GLENN: Before we start the questions, how do you feel about your position going into tomorrow?
NANCY LOPEZ: I'm thrilled to be in the position I'm in going into tomorrow. I haven't been this close in a long time to win the U.S. Open. I think just being where I am and playing in the last group, I feel pretty pumped up right now. I'm going to go back to my room and relax and pack up my stuff and just get ready for tomorrow. But I won't probably think about tomorrow until tomorrow. I'm just going to relax and hopefully come out tomorrow with the same feeling that I've had the past three days. And just enjoy it and have a good time.
Q. Nancy, go back to Thursday morning, and you think three rounds in the 60s, can you possibly imagine not being in the lead in this tournament?
NANCY LOPEZ: You never know. But, yeah, I would have liked to say I had three rounds in the 60s and be leading the tournament. I probably could have said that, yes.
Q. Nancy, outside of finishing today in the lead, did you tell yourself I don't want to be X number of strokes back of the leader going into tomorrow? And have you ever played with Alison? And what do you know of her?
NANCY LOPEZ: No. I really don't think about how many shots I'm behind. I just kept trying to play and bring myself back into it a little bit more. I started off really hot and got a little cool there. I just wanted to try to make some more birdies coming in. Alison is a great little player. She hits the ball a long way for as small as she is. She's a great competitor. I look forward to playing with her tomorrow. And you just don't know, anything can happen out there. I just have to plan my own game and hope it's going to be good enough to win.
Q. Nancy, can you refresh some of us who don't know the history, have you been at the last group in the Open before and what were your experiences then?
NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah. The last group was with Hollis. I'm not sure if I was in the last group. The other two times I was second. One was in Atlantic City, and I think I was in the second to the last group then. At Hazeltine, that was the final round, 77.
RHONDA GLENN: The zipper open.
NANCY LOPEZ: That was when my zipper busted. You know all about that. I remember. I guess when I played in the last group in that Open I didn't feel very much pressure, because I wasn't a professional yet. I was just a little amateur or what do you call it --
RHONDA GLENN: You were a professional but --
NANCY LOPEZ: I wasn't a declared professional. I was going to try to get my card the next week in Toledo. So when I was playing against Hollis, I was really very excited. I don't think I was really nervous, because I didn't have much to lose. I just had a lot to gain if I won the U.S. Open. So I didn't feel a lot of pressure, that I remember, at that time. I'm sure Hollis felt more than I did at that time. I just knew Hazeltine was a really great golf course, and I knew I had to play it well. And I was just looking forward to being table to win it, of course. And I think I kind of threw myself in there a lot faster than I thought I would finish in that tournament.
Q. Nancy, not to bring up the 40 subject, but do you feel any more pressure now, playing tomorrow, knowing that you've had so many opportunities left and this is a really, really good one?
NANCY LOPEZ: I don't really feel any pressure right now. I really am enjoying the way I've played the last few days. And I look forward to playing tomorrow. I don't dread it, I don't fear it. I can't wait to get back out here tomorrow and just play the best that I can, and have a good time doing it.
Q. Is that how it's been for the last couple of months? You didn't play very well maybe last year, and you've sort of done a lot of things. Were you embarrassed with the way you played last year?
NANCY LOPEZ: Not really embarrassed, kind of humiliated by my golf game. And the thing is, when you don't play a lot, it's hard to really play the type golf you want to. So I really had to kind of talk to myself. And if I could work on my game a little bit more and work on my physical fitness, that was going to help me, and it really has. I know when I'm not practicing what I have to practice on, so that's what I do. If I have to practice on anything it's my putting, usually. That's what I miss out on most when I come back out; if I haven't played for a while. I just work on whatever I need to.
Q. Nancy, do you have some sense for why the crowd has responded to you so warmly in this tournament?
NANCY LOPEZ: Because I've won in Portland three times. I've played a lot of golf here in Portland and have won a few times. I'm sure some of those people have been out there. But maybe it's the 40-and-over group that wants me to win.
Q. Nancy, it sounds as though you wish the fourth round were ready to start any minute. When was the last time you looked forward to a round of golf as you do tomorrow?
NANCY LOPEZ: Probably not for a long time. But I know this year has been better. I've really felt good on the golf course and I've really been excited about being out there on the golf course playing and competing. And I just have felt really good about it. I haven't dreaded any days so far this year.
Q. You said you were embarrassed and humiliated. Did the thought of retirement, just staying with your family, ever pop into your mind any of those times?
NANCY LOPEZ: There's lots of time I feel that way. I know when I'm packing my suitcase the day before I'm leaving I say, "Why am I doing this?" Because I really enjoy being home with my family. I just feel like God gave me the opportunity to take advantage of the talent he's given me, and I feel like I still need to do that. And I think I feel it more so when people come up to me and express gratefulness because they get to watch me play golf. And I know a lot of people sit there and say why did God put me on this earth? And I know just from some of the comments that people have made to me, I realize I'm out there playing, I'm entertaining people, and they enjoy watching that. That's a good feeling when people come up and say the things they do to you.
Q. Well, do you know how many victories you've had when you've gone in two strokes behind or not leading on Sunday?
NANCY LOPEZ: Most of my victories were from behind. There are only a few that I led from the beginning to the end that I won. And most of them I was behind.
Q. Are there any patterns as far as mistakes that set off alarms for you early in the round and tell you that nerves or pressure is getting to you a little bit?
NANCY LOPEZ: I think when I step out on the practice area I would know before I even start playing, if it's going to be a good day or not. I know there's been days I've been on the putting green and I wasn't really putting well, so it gives you a little negative feeling out there, even when you're hitting, hit practice balls sometimes you start hitting and you might be a little quicker and you don't feel as comfortable. But I haven't felt that for a little while. I felt comfortable with my game for a little while and I felt comfortable with my putting. And you just have to go out there with that game and conquer the golf course. It's the type golf course where you have to hit good shots. And you want to hit it close, even if you're putting well it's hard. If you've got a 30, 40-footer on these greens, you have to get it really close. So you want to be able to hit your irons well and get it close to the pin so you don't have such a long putt.
Q. You obviously have a pretty good handle on this golf course. Can you give us an idea in tomorrow's round are there places where you're looking to attack a little more or be conservative, or just the keys to what you're going to do on the course tomorrow?
NANCY LOPEZ: It depends on where the USGA puts the pins. You just have to be smart and shoot for the fat part of the green sometime and go for it when you can. And you have to take advantage of that when you can.
Q. Your age has been brought up, Nancy. But can you talk about how your experience would be a positive factor in a situation like tomorrow well the enormous crowds and the pressure of an Open?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I think that the experience just of playing well has given me a little bit more experience, if that makes sense. I feel real positive out there, so I feel like I know what it takes to win a golf tournament. I know what it takes to stay pumped up, the way I have felt the last few days. And hopefully all that will come to tomorrow. I look forward to playing tomorrow, like I said. I feel good about my golf game. I'm going to go out and work a little bit more and just satisfy myself a little bit more today and then go home.
Q. How many shots a round do you think the crowd is worth to you?
NANCY LOPEZ: Oh, seven under (laughter). The crowds are -- it's great that they root for you. I sometimes get a little embarrassed when they're rooting for me, because I feel bad, maybe, for the other person sometime, even though there's a few people yelling for the other person. I get a little embarrassed by it. It excites me, too. It's hard to take sometimes.
Q. Nancy, how does it feel to be surrounded by Brits going into the final round?
NANCY LOPEZ: Those Brits. I think that the girls that are playing from the European countries, and all over, have been a great addition to our Tour. They're very competitive, and I think they've really made the Americans work harder to be able to go out there and try and beat them. The Solheim Cup has been a big thing for us. And I enjoy that competition very much. I know when I played on the Solheim team, playing against them, I sure wanted to beat them. And I know they sure want to beat us. I have to go out there tomorrow feeling like I'm representing the United States because it's just basically like that. It ends up being like that. But I really like the players very much from Europe and they've been super, and I think they've added a lot to our Tour. So I'd like to go out there and play my best golf and hopefully be able to win.
RHONDA GLENN: Have you ever played against Alison in a Solheim Cup?
NANCY LOPEZ: Yes, we did. I think Pat Bradley and I played against her and Laura.
RHONDA GLENN: How did it come out?
NANCY LOPEZ: We lost, I think, didn't we? Pat was really playing bad (laughter.)
Q. Nancy, these are rather low numbers for an Open, did you get to 8-under and start to think 10-under as being some sort of a threshold number?
NANCY LOPEZ: I was thinking 8-under to win the Open this week. When I got to 8? No, I wasn't thinking of 10, no.
Q. The 6th hole has caused the whole field fits. You made a bogey there, and I think you held your ground with the whole field. Can you talk a little bit about what makes that hole so difficult?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, today it was into the wind, and I left my drive wide a little bit and I hit it high. So to go to that pin if I wanted to go to that pin, you've got a little downhill lie, too, into that green, I would have had to hit a high 3-iron, and I don't have that shot in my bag on a downhill slope. I was trying to get on the green and trying to get your 2-putt and you never know, might go in on your first putt, because I hit a 4-iron up the right side. I just left it right a little bit, wind was still in my face, and ended up having a fun little chip shot. But you just -- I'd like to make a par there tomorrow, for sure. The first two days the pin was right so it was a little easier, but when the wind is in your face it's a long hole.
Q. What's your favorite hole, if you have one?
NANCY LOPEZ: My favorite hole? I'm going to have to say 17, because I've birdied it two days out of three. So I like 17.
RHONDA GLENN: Nancy, thank you so much. Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.
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