June 17, 1999
PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA
LES UNGER: How was it out there.
PAYNE STEWART: It was good. It was a really nice day to play golf out there today. After the rains the golf course was a little softer. I think that we took advantage of that today. I just think that the golf course is going to continue as the days progress to get harder and firmer and play more like Pinehurst is supposed to play or would have played last week before the rain. So to get off to a start like this, it's very satisfying.
LES UNGER: Would you just take us through your rounds.
PAYNE STEWART: 3, I hit 3-iron, pitching wedge out of one of those sand divots. I was in two of those, by the way today, to about 15 feet and made it for birdie. 10 I hit driver, 3-iron, pitching wedge to 2 feet, made it for birdie. 15 I hit 5-iron to 20, 25 feet and made it for birdie. 13 I drove it in another one of those sand divots, made it out of that. I need to go to the practice range. I'm going to get a big bucket of sand and throw it down there. And I wedged it up there and had a nice 15-footer on 13 for saving par. And then 18 I drove it in the left rough and hit a really, really good 6-iron out of there and it ran up on the front and it came back off the green like it's supposed to do. And then I just didn't hit my first putt hard enough from the collar. On the greens that I did miss, I putted the ball and left myself -- I had really good judgment of speed and I might have peek-a-booed a little bit on 18 and just didn't hit it hard enough and left myself about an 8-, 10-footer, and missed it. And for my only bogey of the day. I was very, very pleased with how I controlled myself and how I felt out there today and I'm very satisfied with my score.
LES UNGER: I bet you're never going to have another sand divot this week.
PAYNE STEWART: I hope so. I hope I don't have any more. I've had enough already. But the areas -- when I was walking around on Saturday, there wasn't a divot on the golf course. But the areas we're playing from, everybody seems to play from the same areas, so that's going to happen and you've got to deal with it. And I dealt with the one on 3 well. I didn't deal with the one on 13 very well. So I have to deal with those.
Q. There were a lot of red numbers today. Nobody ran away with it with a really, really low score. Did the course hold up fairly well considering how soft it was?
PAYNE STEWART: I think that's praise to the golf course. There have been great scores shot here, and you could do that out here, but it's not going to happen very often.
Q. Did do you look at the leaderboard when you're going around the course at all?
PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, I did. I looked at the leaderboard today. It was just kind of interesting to see the names and what the scores were that the names were doing.
Q. It was a great tee shot on 17.
PAYNE STEWART: It was a good cut.
Q. Somebody sounded like they sneezed, did you hear it?
PAYNE STEWART: No, I never heard it. I hit it right where I wanted to. I played just inside the right edge, and that's right where it stayed and it just kind of came back at me.
Q. What did you have there?
PAYNE STEWART: I had a 6-iron.
Q. How long was the putt?
PAYNE STEWART: Four and a half, five feet, six feet, something like that.
Q. Given the conditions today, are you surprised that somebody didn't really go low?
PAYNE STEWART: If there was a day to shoot a really low score, it would have been today, I think, because of the softness and the speed of the greens, were very puttable, and this would be the day to take advantage of the golf course. But it is a U.S. Open.
Q. Payne, you obviously have a game built for Opens. What about a game built for Pinehurst? Is there anything in particular that serves you well at this course in your game?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, I think that I came in here and designed a gameplan of how I wanted to play the golf course, and it starts with getting the ball in the fairway off the tee. But other than that, there's pins that you can shoot at and then there's pins you better not shoot at out there, and you need to know where those are. And I feel comfortable and I feel like I know that and I feel like I did a very good job of that today.
PAYNE STEWART: I feel like I thought very well out there and did what I wanted to do. Sure, you'd like to make the putt on 17 and not made a bogey all day long, but it's a very good solid opening round and I'm very pleased with it.
Q. Payne, what factors primarily do you think will separate the leaders from the rest of the field come Saturday?
PAYNE STEWART: I don't really necessarily think that there's going to be -- I think that on Sunday that you're liable to have quite a few people that are close enough to winning the golf tournament. I really don't see one person separating themselves from the field such as I did last year. But it's possible, if they're on. Yes, the golf course, if you're perfect, you could shoot a really good round out here and run away with it, but I just don't see that happening this week.
Q. Payne, a couple of the players seemed a little surprised at how tough some of the pins are out there today. Do you agree with that? Do you feel they had to do that because the greens were slowed up from the rain?
PAYNE STEWART: You play your practice rounds and see the pins right in the middle of the greens. If they came in and didn't think those pins weren't going to be tucked, they haven't been at many U.S. Opens.
Q. Payne, you said you looked at the leaderboard and some of the names on the leaderboard. What were some of your impressions of some of the names?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, I saw David's name up there, and kind of be expected it to be there. And then Phil Mickelson, I think that he's got the best of both worlds. He's getting ready to be a father and his focus is there, and it allows him to come in here and just focus on his golf, and then his focus when he gets away from the golf course, is back on his wife and his soon-to-be child. And that takes a lot of the pressure off of him.
Q. How about John Daly? John Daly is at 3-under.
PAYNE STEWART: You know, I think John is really starting to manage his game well. I think that he's learning how to play different golf courses, and it isn't just ripping it all the time. I think he understands that. And I think it's great to see his name up on the leaderboard.
Q. Everybody talks about the pressures of the Open. Could you talk about once you leave the course today what you do to unwind or to I guess kind of focus for Friday's round?
PAYNE STEWART: I'm going to figure out what I have for dinner. If my wife and I aren't having refrigerator clean-out that means I have to stop at the grocery store on the way home and go home and cook it. That's kind of a release for me. I enjoy cooking. And so that's what I'm worried about right now. Is there a hockey game on tonight? We've got hockey tonight and basketball again tomorrow night. Hey, it's perfect.
Q. Payne, have you seen the USGA's new pace of play policy?
PAYNE STEWART: I read it, yes.
Q. What are your thoughts on that in light of last year's Open?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, when I saw it I spoke to Tom Meeks and I said, well, this golf course gets hard and dry and fast. I don't see the first groups playing in the amount of time that you've allotted for them to play. I think the first group is supposed to play in four hours and 13 minutes or 23 minutes, something like that. We played in five hours. We got to the fifth tee and there were two groups on the tee, one on the fairway, one on the green. There's four groups on one hole. So this is not going to be a golf course that we're going to be able to play at the pace that's been set for us.
Q. Do you fear they're going to institute it?
PAYNE STEWART: I don't know how they're going to institute it. If everybody is playing Annie Over on these greens like we could do, it could take a while out there.
Q. Are you cooking this week?
PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, I made some really good spaghetti last night.
Q. What's the fare and are you a good cook? Do you do this at home?
PAYNE STEWART: I eat everything I cook. I wouldn't say I'm a gourmet chef, but I do enjoy cooking, I like it, it's a nice release for me.
Q. Payne, now that the weather we hope will stabilize a little bit, do you have any feel for what the number will be now, after 72 holes?
PAYNE STEWART: I think it will be in the red. I don't know how far in the red, but I think it will be in the red.
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