April 27, 2001
GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA
NELSON LUIS: Welcome, Mike, to the interview room. Obviously a great finish for the day for you. From what I believe, it is the first time you have been in the lead after two rounds in a PGA TOUR event, so congratulations on that.
MIKE SPOSA: Thank you. I am playing really well. More than that, I am making a lot of putts. That is key to any good week that you have, especially if you fall into the lead. But more encouraging for me, I really hit the ball a lot better today. Yesterday I kind of struggled but my putter kept me in the game. Today I hit the ball much better. I drove it better. The course sets up very good for me. I hit a fade and there is a lot of left-to-right holes out here. So hopefully my putter can stay hot. See what happens.
Q. Long shadow bother you on the last hole?
MIKE SPOSA: No, it was to the left of the ball. It wasn't over the line. The shadows were a problem on 17, though. But --
Q. What kind of lie did you have on 17, on the chip shot?
MIKE SPOSA: It was terrible. I got up there, it was an inch or two into the primary cut. It was just one of those lies, it wasn't sitting way down, it was kind of in the middle but into the green. That lie is not that tough if the pin is up tight to you, you can play kind of a bunker shot but when you have 40, 50 feet of green to blast it, it is pretty difficult. I tried to and it came out hot and just jumped across the green. I am not so sure if there is too many guys that know how to play that shot. I know, I don't so....
Q. Describe your feelings being in this position right now.
MIKE SPOSA: I don't really have any feelings one way or the other about leading. I am just trying to stay real calm and not get ahead of myself. This thing -- I have been out here now for three years. This thing is so far from over that for me to start talking about victory speeches would be ridiculous. I am just trying to stay patient, calm, and just play my game. Play one shot at a time.
Q. First time on 15 saw yourself on the leaderboard. Do you look at the leaderboard?
MIKE SPOSA: Not really. Sometimes to see how my friends are playing, but I look at it on Sunday, but just doesn't really do any good to look at it. Some of them were in positions where you almost can't help to glance at it walking up to the green but I don't make a habit of looking at them.
Q. No feeling way or the other seeing your name at the top?
MIKE SPOSA: No.
Q. Did you see it there at 15 your name on the board at 15?
MIKE SPOSA: No. When did I see it? I don't know when I saw-- might have seen it walking off the tee at 18, that white scoreboard is kind of to the right there. It doesn't really have any effect way or the other.
Q. How about the group in front of you -- (inaudible) --
MIKE SPOSA: Seemed like we waited nearly on every par 3 and the biggest wait was on 9. We got to the 9th tee and the group in front of us was still there and the group in front of them were not even to their tee shots yet. That was a pretty long wait. Par 5s were all pretty slow. You could reach all of them if you hit a good tee shot and it slows it down big time.
Q. How much better is your game this year do you think? You haven't missed a cut. Playing really well.
MIKE SPOSA: I think my game is better. My putting is definitely better overall for the year. This is going to sound strange but I had to make like $20,000 or something going into this year to move myself into the next category for tee times. And I did it the first tournament in Tucson. Seemed like just by getting the better pairings with the better players that it gave me a feeling of belonging and not so much like I am on the outside-visiting-kind-of feeling. And the third year plays a lot -- plays a lot on it too. This week I didn't get here 'til Wednesday afternoon. I don't have to play practice rounds at some of the courses. I have never played well here before. It wasn't going to do any good to come in on Tuesday and play a practice round. I played here the last two years and I knew what the course would be like. For some reason it allows me to be a little bit fresher on Thursday rather than getting here Sunday, you are at the golf course all day, Monday, whether you are playing or not in the Pro-Am, then Tuesday all day, again Wednesday, you are kind of hanging out, go to a movie, Thursday comes around, you are kind of tired. I am not doing that this year. It is helping me.
Q. Do you really feel on the outside, talking about the pairings, what is that feeling like?
MIKE SPOSA: When you are in that -- it is category 3, is the last category?
NELSON LUIS: Yes.
MIKE SPOSA: You are going to play with one other Tour member, but there is a lot of times where you are playing with a Monday qualifier or sponsor-exemption guy and 90% of time it's their first tournament ever and they are nervous and their whole family is out there; they make a 5-footer for par, they are going nuts. It is kind of bleeding on your game, guy's so stressful on Thursday morning. That is not happening at all with the tee times I am getting now. It helps. This week I am playing with Jim Gallagher. He went to Tennessee before me, but I am friendly with him and you know it is a calming thing and fun to play with your friends that you know.
Q. Still two rounds left. How is your confidence level?
MIKE SPOSA: I am very confident right now. I am playing good. Putting good, I am more comfortable on these greens this year than I have ever have been. I seem to be reading them correctly. And I am just going to try to keep it going and hopefully be there on Sunday.
Q. You had been very consistent this year as far as your finishes go. I noticed you had a few weekends though when you kind of blew it up a little bit. Has that been nerves or what has happened there for you?
MIKE SPOSA: It's really been the last two weekends. I have had a lot of good Sunday rounds up until Harbour Town. And it is funny Harbour Town, the golf course is very demanding got, hit it straight or you are dead. I really hit it poorly all week. If I missed the fairway, ball would spit out of the trees, comes back in play. And it seemed like that luck kind of ran out on the back nine. I made a bad swing on the 10th hole on Sunday at Harbour Town and I got it back a little bit, got a bad break few holes later hitting the railroad ties on the par 3. It just kind of snowballs. But I think more than, you know, choking or being in a position to win the golf tournament was that I just wasn't playing good that week, and I was kind of getting lucky. Whereas last week at Shell you know, I played pretty good all week. I shot 3-over the first day, but really didn't play that bad; then got myself back in it. Started horrendously on Sunday; got back to even par which was pretty good Sunday. Scores were really high. Last two holes there are brutal for anybody. You just got to suck it up and hit a good shot. Even if you do hit a good shot, if you get the wrong gust, it is double like that (snaps fingers) nothing you can do. That is what happened. I am going to use those, you know, to help me, but it is a little bit different because I am hitting the ball much better right now and I don't have a lot of stress on my game and I am not feeling like I got to force things and like it is a time bomb wait to go off like it has been a little bit lately, so....
Q. How fortunate was that last birdie, do you think ---
MIKE SPOSA: I don't know. They are all important.
Q. -- confidence-wise?
MIKE SPOSA: They are all important. It is good for my confidence that I can bounce back like that. But I think more importantly, the bogey at 17 it didn't really kill my momentum because it wasn't really that bad of a bogey. Whereas, sometimes if you make a silly bogey or miss a short putt or something, it tends to kill your momentum. That one didn't, it actually kept it going.
Q. A lot has been said about the rough or the lack of the rough. What are your thoughts about the rough?
MIKE SPOSA: Well, the last two years if you hit it in the rough and you were further than 150 yards from the green, you chipped it out and this year if you drive it in the rough you are dealing with flier lies unless you get really a bad lie, so in some aspects it is easier; some aspects it is harder. There is really not a whole lot of thought when you got to wedge it out of the rough into the fairway. But then again sometimes if you are caught with some kind of an in-between flier lie and it does or doesn't fly, you know, you could just hammer yourself coming up short in a bad place or air-mail it on the green. A little bit of both. It still is a tight golf course. You are not going to shoot low out here missing the fairways, that is just the bottomline, so...
Q. Do you feel like you are ready to win out here? Is it more mental or physical do you think?
MIKE SPOSA: I think up until this year it's probably been physical. I hadn't played all that great the last two years. This year I am playing better and certainly had some opportunities so far and I think that it is probably a combination of a little bit of luck and good fortune, but I am certainly, in my mind, I am ready to win out here. That is why I play out here. I don't play, you know, to keep my card or whatever. I want to win. And I want people to know who I am. So I am not going to be intimidated by a chance to win because I am certainly ready for that chance.
Q. Do you consider this your biggest opportunity as a professional?
MIKE SPOSA: Through two rounds there is no doubt but it's still way too early to tell. I have had two or three good chances in the last little while going into the back nine on Sunday. I mean, this is a long way from the back nine on Sunday, so you know, if I can keep playing the way I am playing then I will definitely have a chance going with nine holes to go.
Q. You say you want people to know who you are...
MIKE SPOSA: Sure. I play this game to you know, it's probably the fastest growing sport in the world and you know, thanks to a couple of people - one person (laughs) you know, it's a great opportunity for 156 guys every week to step up and if you don't want that challenge to win out here then, I don't know. You might be out here for the wrong reasons.
Q. Do you call it challenge or pressure?
MIKE SPOSA: I don't know. There is pressure in everything you do. I don't really look at golf as being pressure. It's a pretty big honor to be able to play for a living. So I don't look at things like, boy, I hope I don't choke this away. I look at it like it's a great opportunity to make something great happen and it is more of a challenge, not kind of a situation where, boy, I hope I don't screw it up.
Q. Have you ever played with Scott Simpson before?
MIKE SPOSA: Yes. I played with him last year on Sunday -- Saturday or Sunday in Memphis. So that helps that I have played with him before and he is a good guy so we will have fun.
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