June 19, 1999
PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA
LES UNGER: We have a guy sitting here who's 2 over par and actually climbed the ladder today, didn't you.
PAYNE STEWART: I don't know. I was on top of the ladder to start, wasn't I?
LES UNGER: I can't remember. It's a long time ago.
PAYNE STEWART: It was a track meet out there today.
LES UNGER: You had a good start, a little Fluff in the middle.
PAYNE STEWART: I got on the train that we don't like to be on. But anyway, that happens at this tournament.
LES UNGER: Feeling good about things now.
PAYNE STEWART: I'm feeling good. I'm pleased with the way I dealt with everything today. Like I said, I got on the bogey train on 8, 9 and 10 and I got off. I think that probably I've spoken to the other media outside, and the putt I made on 11 was a major, major factor in my round of golf today. I made that one and then I kind of righted the ship a little bit and birdied there on 18, which leaves a very pleasant taste in my mouth.
LES UNGER: Take us through the holes that are not routine pars, please.
PAYNE STEWART: Routine par on this golf course, I don't think so. Let's see, 2 I drove it just in the collar of the rough, in the first cut, and I was 6 inches from the fairway. I played a pretty good shot, a 5-iron, and it hit on the green and came back on the fringe. I hit a good chip up there about 4 and a half feet and missed the putt. I came right back at 3 with a 3-iron, 9-iron and to two feet and made that for birdie. Then on 8 I drove it in the fairway with a driver and hit a poor 4-iron from the fairway into the bunker and hit the bunker shot out and left myself a 15-footer, and hit a good putt there, actually, and didn't make it. And then I pulled a 6-iron on 9 left of the green, chipped it down there to 4 and a half feet and missed it. 10 I drove it in the fairway and pulled a 3-iron into that bunker, that wasn't a very smart play. You either take that bunker out of play or you don't get to that bunker. And I'm going to learn from that hopefully tomorrow. I proceeded to knock a sand wedge over the green, hit a really good chip down to about 8 feet and missed that putt. And then 11 hit driver, 8-iron in the back bunker, right over the pin, that was two good swings. I hit it out to about ten feet out of the bunker, and a nice saving par-putt. And then hit every green coming in, except for 15. And I hit it on the left collar and putted it up to 4 feet and made it for par. And then driver, 7-iron on 18 to 15 feet and made it.
Q. Payne, it doesn't seem like length it much of a factor out here. Does that mean that tomorrow is whoever wins the chipping and putting contest wins the 1999 U.S. Open?
PAYNE STEWART: The person that does well chipping and putting, because I don't think many people go around and hit 18 greens in regulation tomorrow. So the person that deals with the chipping and the putting, yes, they'll probably be your champion.
Q. Payne, many times at U.S. Opens I've heard you talk about being able to take your medicine. How tough is that medicine to swallow with 3 bogeys in the middle of the round?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, it wasn't a very pleasant pill at all. But it's going to happen. I made a bad swing out of the fairway on 8. And I made another bad swing on 9. I made 3 bad swings and 3 holes that cost me bogeys on every hole. I could have righted myself a little bit on 9. I hit a nice chip from the left of the green down to a very makable distance to miss the putt. I should have made that putt. Just like I hit a good chip on 2 and didn't make it, either. But it was at least one bad play on 10, the pulled 3-iron into the bunker, that was a bad shot. And then I didn't anticipate the sand wedge being able to hit it that far out of that bunker. And I caught it nice and clean and I made a mistake there. You hit it somewhere where you don't want to be, is over that green. And, boom, there's another bogey. And I played a good shot in there, and I gave myself a chance to make a par putt. And you have to give yourself those chances to make those par putts, and you're going to have to make them tomorrow, because tomorrow is the last day, you don't have another chance.
Q. Payne, you're quite a good golfer, but you're not Fred Astaire, maybe somewhat close to Denny Terio, but that was a nice dance step you did, apparently. Why are you so good in U.S. Opens, what makes you so effective?
PAYNE STEWART: I don't know. I love it. I love this golf tournament. I enjoy playing where par, par gets its rewards, no matter how you make them, they get their rewards, and I think that's just the mindset that I get when I get to this tournament. And my adrenaline gets flowing more, my concentration is better, and all of those things added together put me in the position where I'm at, I guess.
Q. Payne, you played today in the final pairing, and you will play in the final pairing tomorrow. Was that a priority for you when you started the day, and if it was, do you like being in that final pairing? Not only on any Sunday, but particularly in the final Sunday of a U.S. Open.
PAYNE STEWART: Well, what that does for me is it tells me that I'm playing some pretty decent golf. And I use that to motivate myself saying, hey, you've got yourself back in the final group. You've got another chance to win. So go out and do your best.
Q. Payne, are you glad Lee Janzen is not anywhere near you on the leaderboard?
PAYNE STEWART: That's a great question. Yeah, that's all right, you know. What did he shoot today, anyway? It's tough being the defending champion. And I wouldn't doubt that Lee Janzen is not going to have another chance to win another U.S. Open before he's done playing.
Q. A couple of questions. First of all, being by far the oldest member of the guys who are in serious contention to win, does that give you any edge, all the Opens you've been through?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, I'd like to think that my knowledge and my maturity and my understanding will all benefit myself tomorrow. Like I told myself today, I said you've won the championship before, you deserve to be out there performing the way you are. And the other people that are not with me, that haven't won the United States Open, there's a different pressure on them. There's going to be pressure on me tomorrow. And if I get up to the first tee and I'm not nervous, then something is really wrong with me, I'll be sick, because I was nervous today. But it's a nervous excitement. It's a lot of adrenaline. And in that situation you've got to be able to control all your emotions, and that's what the USGA does, tests everything. They test your mental, your physical, they test it all. And the person that deals with all that the best is probably going to be the champion.
Q. The other thing is just do you want this tournament more at your age?
PAYNE STEWART: Do I want this tournament than --
Q. You are in your 40s now?
PAYNE STEWART: I'd dearly love to have that trophy right there tomorrow I really would.
Q. I'm a little confused. We have a golf course where the players cannot have a reasonable chance at aiming at the flag sticks, half the field can't hit the greens. One player broke par, yet this is a classic Open setup, and Olympic was unfair. Why that discrepancy?
PAYNE STEWART: I'm thinking about the right thing to say, probably. Why the discrepancy? Because I think that the conditions here lend itself to playability. I think the conditions at Olympic Club, with the severity of the sloping fairways with the firmness of how firm the fairways got. What would happen at Olympic Club if they shaved all the collars? All of a sudden that ball is going to be 30, 40 yards away from the green. That might be a lot more difficult than having that 8-inch rough that they claim to be four right there on the edge of the green. You don't know. But I just think that the severity of the slope of the fairways at Olympic Club, and as firm as they got, it was just extremely difficult to put the ball in the fairway, which is -- I don't know. It was tough. This golf course is tough, but fair. I'd question the fairness of Olympic Club.
Q. Earlier this year you talked about the Ryder Cup, that you had a burning, burning desire to make the team this year. Could you describe the pressure right now that you're feeling going into being the U.S. Open champion and being a member of the Ryder Cup team, which everyone says is just a gut-wrenching experience?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, it is. For me the Ryder Cup -- there's a very wonderful spot in my heart for the Ryder Cup. It's more intense. Tomorrow is going to be intense, I'm not kidding you, tomorrow will be intense. But the Ryder Cup seems to be more intense because -- the only person that I can let down tomorrow is myself, right? Now, if I go out and make the Ryder Cup team and don't perform well, and we don't win, then I'm going to feel that I let down my other 11 teammates, the captain and my country. And tomorrow the only person that I could let down is myself.
Q. Could you talk about what winning your first Open championship meant to your life and career, and what would a second one mean?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, the first one, it changed my perspective on my golf career, I guess. I felt that -- I always felt that I was good enough to win one, and then to do it, I don't know that I realized that I was at the top of my game at that stage, and so I tried to become better, because I was United States Open champion. I felt that there was a pressure that I put on myself, because every time you were introduced whenever you played, the 1991 U.S. Open champion, Payne Stewart, I put this added pressure on myself that I had to perform differently and better than I performed at the U.S. Open, and I didn't realize that I was already there. I think that if God intends for me to win tomorrow and I'm blessed and fortunate enough to win, I will cherish it more and appreciate it more and enjoy it a lot more than I did in '91.
Q. Payne, recent history of this tournament has not been kind to second and third round leaders. You have lost to the leader --
PAYNE STEWART: Oh, really?
Q. Is this different than any other tournament?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, yeah, I'm not going to sit here and say it's not. That's just the fun of it. It's having to deal with the restless night's sleep that I'm probably going to have tonight. You've just got to deal with it. If I didn't enjoy this, I wouldn't ever have entered the golf tournament.
Q. How surprised were you that David fell back like he did, and how much of a threat do you still feel he is at 3 back?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, there's a lot of guys that are capable of winning the golf tournament tomorrow, and it's a matter of not worrying about them. Since I can't play defense on them -- and I was pretty good at defense in basketball -- since I can't do that, I can't worry about David or Tiger or anybody else in the field, Phil. It's irrelevant what they're doing. I mean, it's not irrelevant, but I've got to take care of Payne Stewart. If I don't do that, then I'm not going to win.
Q. Payne, as you were getting ready to go out, the guys were coming in off the course with some pretty bad horror stories of conditions this morning, apparently were the toughest. Did you have to do anything to kind of block that out and keep an upbeat attitude going out?
PAYNE STEWART: Larry, I knew that it was going to be difficult out there today. And I feel like I have a very good sense for how I need to play the golf course. And I felt that I did that today. The 10th hole, was in my opinion the only real mistake that I made that lended to my making a bogey. So, yeah, I knew it was going to be tough out there today and I knew that I had to have a lot of patience.
Q. Did you hear those guys talking?
PAYNE STEWART: I didn't hear them. I'm sure my caddy did.
LES UNGER: Good luck.
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