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June 18, 1999

Payne Stewart


LES UNGER: Well, we're once again blessed with the visit by Payne Stewart. Payne, you had a good day out there. Tell us a little bit about it.

PAYNE STEWART: Well, the score was good. The way I got it was not what I envisioned, but it's what I came up with and that's what you have to do. When you start off the way I did, I hit a good tee shot on 1 and missed the green, had to get it up-and-down. Missed the fairway on 2, missed the green, had to get it up-and-down. 3 the same thing. I hit the fairway and spun it back off the green and it was a pretty simple up-and-down. But I was very patient with myself out there. I knew that I was coming into some holes that I felt that I could actually hit a green in regulation. And I started there on 4 and I played a nice little sand wedge in from about 85 yards to 2 feet, made it for birdie. Hit 2 good shots, another one of those sand divots on 5, and I was prepared for it mentally today, because I practiced down on the practice tee today on the sand divots. I was smart about that. So I hit a beautiful 6-iron out of the sand divot up on the green and made a nice par there. 7, 3-iron, 9-iron to about 12 feet, and made it for birdie. Drove a good driver on 8, and I just didn't trust my swing going into that pin. And the last place you want to miss that green is left. So I kind of came out of a 6-iron and missed the green to the right and didn't get that one up-and-down. I thought I made a good swing on 9. I probably might have hit the wrong club. There was quite a bit of wind in our face. I hit the 5-iron, I then I made another bogey. Played some good solid golf shots, except for the iron shot on 12. I kind of came out with a 4-iron and hit it in the right bunker and made a really nice up-and-down there. That was probably one of the good points of the round, that spurred me on a little bit. I holed about a 12-footer for par there. And then two good shots on 13, 2-putts. 14, drove it in the fairway bunker and missed the green to the right and chipped it up to six feet and made it. 15 I hit a really solid 4-iron about 18 feet and made that for birdie, 15 feet, something like that. 16, wow, that's a long hole, really long hole to do into that wind. And I drove it in the rough so I had to take my medicine and just play it like a par-5. And I laid it out with an 8-iron and sand wedged it in there about 6 feet and made the putt for par. And then good shot on 17, two putts --

Q. Distance on the sand wedge?

PAYNE STEWART: I had 102 to the hole. And 18 I drove it up the right side of the rough and hit a flying 8-iron on the green, and man, that putt was slow from where I was coming from. Kind of going back up the hill and through a little valley that holds a lot of moisture and ended up holing a nice little 8-footer, 10-footer there on 18 for a 2-putt for a par. That really meant a lot to me to shoot under par today. And I would have been disappointed if I'd been on the green on 18 at 1 under par, and walked off even par. That would have been disappointing. And I'm proud of what I've done out there. I didn't hit as many greens today as I did yesterday, but it's not as easy a golf course out there as it was yesterday. We've got a lot of wind to contend with. It's very testy. Anytime you can go around and shoot under par at a U.S. Open, I don't care where we're playing, it's a good score, so I'm proud of that.

Q. Payne, obviously there's still two rounds to go, but you've got to feel good and you've got to start getting back some of those feelings back from last year. In fact --

PAYNE STEWART: Which feelings from last year do I want to get back?

Q. Not the ones after Sunday, but maybe going into Sunday and just the way you played?

PAYNE STEWART: I do feel good about the way I'm playing. I feel like I'm playing better this year at the U.S. Open than I played last year. I feel I've got more control over my golf game, over my swing. And I do have 36 holes to play, and I know that. And I know that I've got to go out and take care of my business. I can't worry about what anybody else is doing. I have to go out and stick to my gameplan, try to hit a lot of greens, and if I don't, I get it up-and-down and take my pars and go on.

Q. Just the fact that you're back again playing well enough to put yourself into contention for another U.S. Open title?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, that means a lot to me. I could have crawled away and hid after what happened last year or I could build on what happened and the position I was in and use it to strengthen myself, and that's the Avenue I chose to take.

Q. Payne, you always seem to be in the hunt at the U.S. Open. Is there something in particular that's special about this tournament that brings out the best in your game?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, I think that one of the reasons that I do well at U.S. Opens is that I get a mindset that par is a good score. And however I go about making par, whether it's two beautiful golf shots and two putts or two ugly golf shots, a chip and a nice holed putt, whatever it is, I accept it and take it, I take my par and go. Because you're never losing to anybody. You're not losing to the field on any hole if you're making a par.

Q. Payne, one of the things that was different about yesterday's leaderboard was with the exception of you and Tiger there weren't many major championships up there. Is there anything unique about the setup that may have contributed to that and does the severity of the conditions coming to fore now suggest that maybe some of those names will come back into play?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, I think that the people that have performed well at U.S. Opens, that have performed well in Majors can deal with the pressure, can deal with everything that goes along with it and understand their golf game and try not to manipulate much out there, are going to be the ones that you'll see up on that leaderboard. And I think you've got those kind of names up there.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the pin positions today? I few people said they thought they were questionable.

PAYNE STEWART: I don't think they're questionable. I think they're tough. The way that the USGA, from what I understand, set the pin placements, they have six what they consider easy pins, six medium pins and six difficult pins. Now, if you pick a difficult pin and put it on a hole such as the 8th hole or the 5th hole, yeah, then it makes it very hard. But I don't know what we expected, because we did get rain. We had soft conditions yesterday. They're not going to put the pins in the middle of the greens, I know that. The people that are complaining about the pins, then, they haven't played enough U.S. Opens.

Q. How about your putting today?

PAYNE STEWART: It was pretty decent. It was what contributed to six-foot saving par-putt on 2, 12 was about a 12-footer. 14, a 6-footer. 15 I make an 8-footer. 16 a six-footer. 18 an eight to ten. You have to do that in the U.S. Open. You have to putt well. You have to make the 6 and 8 and 10-footers to save par. And I did that well today.

Q. Payne, two part question. At Memorial a couple of weeks ago you were spending a lot of time late working on your short game. Is there anything specific that you were working on in preparation for the chipping and putting element and also having a caddy that's from this region of the country, was there anything you talked about together to get yourself ready for this event?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, he was telling me how hot it was going to be. "Man, it's hot over there in North Carolina. It's 100 degrees." But I don't know where there is a place that you can create the chipping that you have to do around here. I think what I was doing was working on my feel, especially with my distance wedges, because I knew that's going to come into play here. You're not going to hit every fairway, at least I'm not, on every green, so you have to be able to have your -- you better have your feel ready this week, and I feel like I do.

Q. Payne, a lot of people have talked about the fact that you've been a contender so many times in this event and about what it takes to be a champion and how tough it is, this event, in terms of mental toughness. You've been through some very difficult times personally as well as on the golf course, and some great times, the highs and lows. I was looking at the band on your arm, the WWJD?

PAYNE STEWART: That helps.

Q. Can you tell me how your relationship with God has helped you and helps you during these difficult times, and especially in an event like this where you have the highs and lows that are so tremendous?

PAYNE STEWART: I think that just having the faith that I have, and my faith has become stronger in the last three or four or 5 years, a lot has had to do with the fact where our kids go to school. There's some wonderful people there at school associated with the First Baptist Church in Orlando. And I've always considered myself a Christian, but we're all sinners here that are sitting in this room, and if you don't have your peace with God, then you better make it. And I've made my peace, and so what goes on the next two days I still have my peace with God. I have a beautiful family. My is going to go on, and that gives me an inner sobriety, I guess. I go out there and I'm not worried about what's going to happen. I'm going to be taken care of.

Q. Payne, how long did it take you to get over last year, and also do you consider it some unfinished business here?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, how long did that take to get over it? I kind of felt that I got over it in a relatively quick manner. I didn't want to dwell on it. I've never watched the tape, and it's kind of, why bother? Why bother seeing it? I know what I did. I don't need to see what anybody else did. And unfinished business, yeah, I got in position last year and I didn't play well enough to win the golf tournament. And I'm going to try to get myself back in position. I'm doing a pretty decent job of it right this second, but I still have 36 holes to play. As long as I can get myself in position and deal with it better than I did last year, I know my golf game is better than it was last year, so, yeah, there is some unfinished business.

Q. Payne, on Sunday two of the four finishing holes will be par-3s. Do you like that? Do you dislike it? It's unusual to have that situation.

PAYNE STEWART: It is different. Then you've got a par-5 -- I mean par-4 that you play in between those two par-3s (laughter.) That was my mistake. Sorry (laughter.) So it kind of gives you a little relief. But you stand there and you think I've got a par-3; it's going to be easy. You've still got to hit the shot.

Q. Payne, when Tiger was in here earlier, he was talking about what you were, seeing some of the same guys in the position with the Majors, because of their ability to handle emotions. He also said at Pinehurst you're also seeing guys that have imagination, the ability to create the shots, would you put yourself in that category?

PAYNE STEWART: I would definitely put myself in that category. I've always had a lot of imagination. It started probably when I was a kid, my father and I, we'd go out and we'd put -- he'd put me in different situations and I'd try to get out of them the best that I could. And I always found a lot of fun in that.

LES UNGER: Good luck. Thank you.

End of FastScripts…

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