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March 5, 1997

Paul Stankowski


LEE PATTERSON: Are there any questions you may have for Paul today?

Q. Paul, by the middle of last year, I guess, a lot of the conversation was on all the young players winning for the first time, which included you. And I'm wondering how you view Tiger kind of pushing guys like you and Justin Leonard into the background with what he's done, just since last fall?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: I think it's great. I'd rather be in the background than in the limelight anyway. Tiger has done wonders for the game of golf. Shoot, let him have all the press. That's fine by me.

Q. A couple of guys I talked to say they don't mind having the pressure of being the representatives of the young guard lifted off them and put on Tiger?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: It's one thing, with success comes the media attention and so forth. But I'm not -- if that happens to me, fine, but I'm not wishing it on myself. I don't want to be the story. I'd rather be the guy in the background, the underdog, the Cinderella story, I'd rather be down there as opposed to being elevated up top. I'm not in that situation right now. Some day I might. But, it's not a goal of mine. I'm glad Tiger has it, he seems to be handling it quite well.

Q. Is there any one thing or series of things that you can point to that sort of clicked in for you now that has you playing as well as you've been playing?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: Well, the big thing is putting. I've said it now a hundred times. You can't win on TOUR unless you're a good putter. I believe I was a good putter before, but I was wearing glasses. And, I had some problems there wearing glasses and trying to see a 10-foot putt. When I switched to contacts, I went from 170 in putting to 73rd. I'm going to say I didn't become a better putter overnight. It was the fact I was wearing contacts. I'm able to see the line better. Now I'm able to see a putt like I did before I wore glasses. My ball-striking -- it was actually worse last year than it was the year before, but I had a couple of good weeks putting and one being in Atlanta and Kapalua and Casio and Hawaii, and actually, Tucson, I didn't putt very well there and had a chance to win. But, the big thing was putting. And out here, if you look at all the guys on the top-10 on the money list, they're all the top-10, 20 in putting. That was the biggest thing and maybe the only thing. And since winning, I've been more comfortable out here. When I get under the situation of winning again, getting in position there then I've played well. So it all started with putting and then confidence built and that stuff happens.

Q. Are you nearsighted?


Q. At what point in the year did you switch?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: I went to contacts right after the '95 season, right before the finals in Q-School, and about a month before. I went out there and putted great at the finals. The hole looked this big. It was awesome. And just kind of -- I just fed from there. It's amazing. You have to look right through the middle of your glasses to see properly. If you look out the side, it's distorted. When you talk about putt, you've got to be able to see great. There's not many guys out here that wears glasses. Tom Kite might be one of the guys that does. And there's not many. It's tough. So I'm thankful they made contacts, either that or get RK done or laser surgery to my eyes, but that might be next.

Q. Did you notice anywhere else, a depth perception?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: That's it, really. It was amazing. I had gone through about three glasses, prescription changes from my senior year in college through '95. And each time when I'd get a new prescription, it would go from this way to that way. I remember I hit a bucket of balls - hit every one of them dead fat, when I got my second prescription change, because everything looked like this, and I was kind of swinging this way, just dead chunks. And I said this is ridiculous. So through time it got better. But, when I went to contacts immediately everything was flat. It was clear. I could see blades of grass as opposed to just seeing grass. It was pretty amazing. But that's the big difference there. You ought to try them.

Q. What prompted you to play in the Nike tournaments last year?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: The week of Doral I played in the Nike Inlet Empire Open, because I didn't get in Doral. And that was actually the first cut of the year I made. I finished I think 17th or 20th there, and birdied my last three holes. So it was kind of a little bit of momentum started carrying over there, because I finally shot under par for a tournament, which I hadn't done on the west coast. I hit the ball so badly on the west coast and putted well and didn't make the cut. But, at that tournament there, I said "Let's go back to basics." And, I did, and made the cut and took a week off -- came over the next week to Honda and played horribly at Honda again and took a week off and, boom. The Lafayette tournament I didn't get in either. Those are the two tournaments I played in. I knew good things were going to happen, because I felt encouraged. Everything I played, there was something else to be encouraged about. I knew I was putting well and if I started hitting it better, I'd start scoring better. And, eventually my driving came around, and my iron play increased a little bit. And I got a little bit better, and, boom, at Lafayette, everything I hit was right at the pin, and hit the fairways, and then it just carried over to Atlanta. And stopped when I got to Augusta.

Q. The guys that won the last year, the new guys, you were the only one to win after that. Was it important to you to say, "Hey, that wasn't a fluke, I can win out there again?"

PAUL STANKOWSKI: Yeah, the win in Hawaii was huge. Kapalua, at the end of the year, was a nice feeling, but was only a 56 player field, and wasn't huge. I knew that. It was nice to beat some of the guys playing down the stretch and to win a tournament. But, I was -- I was happy, but I wasn't when I won Atlanta. And, Casio, I started getting confidence. But, it was the Japanese Tour as opposed to the PGA TOUR. The goal I set this year was to win twice or to win again and win twice. To do it that early was great. And to do it in a playoff again, that was nice. I'm getting some confidence in playoffs now. But that was probably the biggest win so far of my life just because it was the second win. And, I have a lot of confidence now that if I do get in position to win, I know I can win. But there's a lot of great players out here, and I can get in position. Look at Slu, you know, he was in position a bundle of times, 241 tournaments. He was probably in position to win a lot of those and he finished 2nd 7 or 8 times. So you never know when the next win is going to come. And to come too early is great. And, I'm looking forward to doing it again.

Q. Now that you've got kind of "the tourist feeling" out of your Masters, do you feel you'll be more solid now?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: Yeah, I can look forward to it. I had nothing to look forward to. I win, I figure how the heck did I get there; I had no clue what was going on. I hurt my neck Monday morning. So I was injured all week. I spent more time getting my neck worked on than playing the golf course. So it just -- I blinked and it was over. And I said that wasn't any fun. So, this year, I wanted to win early so I'd have some time to look forward to going. And for the last week and a half, I've been thinking about the golf course and trying to see what I did wrong last year. And, the big thing was, I didn't putt well last year. So, I'm looking forward to getting there Monday this year and trying to learn the greens and know where to hit them. But, it's nice to have time to think about it and to prepare than just to get there in the blink of an eye.

Q. Last year when you left Augusta, I think you went out to the bunker and took some sand home as a souvenir; your comment was "I don't know if I'll ever get back." Obviously, you are. How has your thinking changed since then?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: Well, it really hasn't changed at all. I didn't know if I was ever going to get back. And that's the thing about life, we don't know if we're going to have tomorrow. So I was just preparing for the worst and I knew that I could get back, but you never know. So, now, I'm going back, and I won't have to get sand out of the bunker. Maybe this year I'll be taking the flag off the 18th green.

Q. Security will have something to say about that.

PAUL STANKOWSKI: That's all right.

Q. There are some guys in your age bracket who, in the past couple of years, have made more cuts and won more money and they're higher up in the stats and everything. Can you explain how you seem to be able to, when you do get in contention, being able to close that out? Does your concentration shoot up on Saturday or Sunday?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: I think just my attitude. I'm kind of a low-key person. I don't get too riled up. And, I guess, so far, I haven't let the situation get the best of me. Places that I've won were beautiful places, so I've had a lot to look at, Kapalua, Hawaii, last week, Japan, just a lot of -- when there's scenery, the more under the gun I get, the more I intend to take my mind away from what I'm doing, which is something I believe -- I know is beneficial to any golfer. Because there's no way we need to be focusing out here five hours a day, grinding, and more under the gun, the more we grind. The more I'm under the gun, the more I need to get away. We have 30 seconds to hit a golf shot out here before we get fined a grand. On that 30 seconds, I focus on what I'm doing, what the yardage is, and I think the few -- the few times in the past that I did get too wrapped up in it, five 3-putts on the final round at Tucson, and I was tied for the lead, I got so wrapped up that I forget to do what I was doing. I've gotten to where I can let my mind drift and go elsewhere, whether I look at the water and try to find fish, look at the ocean or what's on the mountains or go into prayer. Those are some of the things I do to help me handle the pressure of the crunch time of the last few holes of the tournament. And, so far, it worked. Last week, or, in Tucson, I didn't accomplish that at all. I got too caught up in the back-to-back thing. I had won four previous tournaments. I had won each of them back-to-back. And then winning Hawaii right after, I switched clubs, which I had done the last two times. Everything was kind of looking like it was going to be back-to-back again. I was in contention. And, I wanted to do that so badly that I got so wrapped up and I got so anxious on the golf course that it was ridiculous. I couldn't play. I was hitting shots and immediately walking. Mentally, I wasn't there, because I was thinking so much about what was going on around me. I had so many distractions in my own head that I wasn't able to just play golf, which is one of the -- my shirt says "Relax." That's the kind of thing I want to do, relax and play golf and not worry about winning; not worry about who the heck is up ahead making birdies; not worry what's going on around me. Just play golf until the time I have to play golf and let my minding elsewhere. It proved last week if I get too focused on outcome, on results, I go to pot. Oral Herscheiser gave me a good quote, at the finals of Q-School, "You cannot fail if you think execution and not results." I've been thinking execution - if I can execute my golf shot based on the yardage I have at hand. I can't control the result or the wind or if the ball is going to spin off the green into the water. I can control any thought process and my execution, and that's it. That's something I'm going to take to my grave and hopefully use it every time I'm in contention, and every time I'm not in contention. The results being good results and bad results. Bad shots, I can't control. I can't control if I'm going to win a golf tournament. I can't control if I'm going to finish dead last and miss a cut. But, I can control my thoughts and my attitude. And that is important to me; not just winning golf tournaments, but having a winning attitude.

Q. You're going to defend in Atlanta on a different course. Your comfort zone might change a little bit there?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: To be honest with you, Atlanta Country Club, I was more afraid to play that golf course than anything. I've played there three times. I finished 13th. I've missed the cut and I've won. But, it doesn't set up good for my game. I let the ball right-to-left, in Lafayette last year, I kept telling the caddie: "What am I going to do on 9 and 18 next week?" In Lafayette, I was worrying about the next tournament, they're both dog legs left, and I haven't played those well because I can't turn the ball over. I'm sorry to see it leave, Atlanta Country Club, because now it has a special place in my heart. But, things change, and I like TPC courses, so, hopefully, Norman did a good job, and it will be a fun track. I heard it was good, so I'm looking forward to playing. It would be neat to defend on a different golf course. I tend to put a twist on everything, so why not that week.

Q. Have you played here before?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: I played here in '95, yeah.

Q. What do you think of the renovation?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: I got in last night, so I haven't seen it. I've talked to my caddie and he said -- he'd never seen it before. He said there are so many bunkers. Every hole, there's either water right and bunkers left or bunkers on both sides of the fairway. So, it seems like, from what I've seen in the yardage book, and the way people talked, it will be tough this week. Especially with the wind blowing and they shaved it around the greens to allow it to run into the water.

Q. During last year's U.S. Open Steve Jones and Tom Lehman were paired together. There was a good deal written about how Lehman offered inspirational verse when they were out paired together. Have you ever found a situation where you were paired with another player who has active faith and you shared verse like that?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: Yeah, actually it was funny, Steve Jones at Kapalua, we were playing together on Sunday, and walking off the 17th tee, he said the same verse to me that Tom told him at the U.S. Open, Joshua 1:9, "be strong and courageous; do not be discouraged or afraid for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." That was cool. I looked back and I said, "Wow, that's neat." That's a neat deal that someone under the gun, trying to win a golf tournament, trying to beat my brains in, is trying to offer me courage. That's the neat thing about Christianity is that the guys out here that are Christian are very encouraging to each other, even if they're trying to beat everybody else and beat you, they can still be encouraging. Because if you think about it, it's process. He has no control over what I'm going to do and I have no control over what he's going to do. But, I can root for him and vice-versa and still play my game. This year at Tucson, we shared in verse on Saturday, because we played together so that was kind of cool. To me, life is not golf. This is way down on my list of priorities and obviously my relationship with God is what I try and make my priority. And, then family. And, then friends and then golf. If I can keep that proper perspective, things that happened like on Sunday at Tucson, like I say, I got so wrapped up on what I was doing that I forget. That tournament and priority got too far up on my priority list and I fell on my face. So, it's nice when that happens, and it's nice that I have guys out here that are friends and you can tell true friends when they do something like that. They're not here just kind of as an acquaintance to say, hey, cool, how are you doing today and then slam you. They're true friends. They're friends from the heart. So, that's important.

Q. Paul, what sand trap was it you took the sand out of in Augusta National?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: That was on the practice bunker, right off the left of Magnolia Drive. I bought the commemorative Masters Cup. It's clear glass with the Masters' symbol on the front and all the past winners on the back. And it was in green, I figured white sand would show up really well. I filled it up with sand. I stuck it in a little trophy case at home and stuck the golf ball from the very last hole and my little pin and a tee on top of the sand. And, it's just sitting in there on my trophy case. So, it's something I can always remember the tournament by. I made an eagle on 2, so I got some crystal for that, too. But that Cup, that glass, I'll keep it forever, and it's something I'll remember my first Masters by.

Q. You mentioned the word brutal as far as the greens at Augusta, and it's a pretty -- well, the word that's used, even Nicklaus said that it's got beyond a joke. Do you think that the greens at Augusta actually spoil the tournament for the players, because of the fact they're so tricked up?

PAUL STANKOWSKI: I can't speak for all of the players, but I can speak for myself in that I didn't enjoy the experience as much as I thought I could have, because I was so baffled on the greens. It got to the point -- Atlanta the week before, the greens in Atlanta were really fast and crusty and a lot of slope to those. And, I putted really well. And I putted well. I said, shoot, if I putted this well in Atlanta, I know Augusta is harder than the greens at Atlanta Country Club, but I figured I'd be okay. And I think all the -- I guess the years of watching the tournament here and how tough the greens are and where you've got to put the ball and all this stuff. I was overloaded and I got out there and I was lagging from five feet. I had a 5-footer uphill on the second hole and I was thinking, okay, don't hit it by, don't power lip. I was so defensive it was scary. And, so, yeah, for me that's the whole golf course. Off a tee, it's wide open, there's no rough. You can hit anywhere and have a shot, but you might not have the best shot to get to a pin. It's not long. You're hitting a driver in the middle of the fairway, and a 9-iron, 8-iron in your hand, but you've got to hit it in the spot or you'll be dead. I had no idea where to hit it on those greens to give myself the best putt. That is what I'm going to do is hire a local out there the first three days, Monday through Wednesday, and kind of see where he tells me to put it. And, hopefully, my caddie will be paying attention, and we'll go out and at least know to where to hit it. My caddie told me that Scott McCarron, last year, he played with Faldo Saturday, I think it was, and he said Faldo never once hit it at a flag. He'd play a slope here, and he'd play a slope there. And he knew where to hit it to get the best putt. I'd fire at the pin. If I wasn't, I'd fire at the green. And, if I got up there, I had an impossible 2-putt. Watson has played the course better than anybody on the face of the earth. He's missed two cuts there, I guess, in 24 events, and got the lowest scoring average. He knows where to hit it. I have no clue. What that means there, the greens are brutal. If you don't know where to hit it on the green, if you can't hit it anywhere and have a 2-putt, it's tough. I don't know if they're ridiculous, because I didn't get a chance to see them all that much, and when I was, I was trying to get off them as soon as possible. It's golf, you've got to be able to putt. If you can putt well, you can win. If you putt well at Augusta and play the par 5s well, you may have a chance.

LEE PATTERSON: Anything else? Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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