home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


June 15, 1999

Payne Stewart


LES UNGER: Mr. Stewart, we're back at the U.S. Open, an event that you have played extremely well a long time; a couple of shots here or there. Do you think about those shots very much.

PAYNE STEWART: I really don't. I look back on last year and say: Well, I was in position; I didn't play my best on Sunday. I did what I could do on Sunday, and I got beat by a great round of golf. If you dwell on what you didn't do out here, life would be really tough; so I tend not to dwell on those things.

LES UNGER: All of us should have a little bit of that philosophy. I think it would help us. Your impressions of the golf course?

PAYNE STEWART: I think it's wonderful. I know that they're hoping we don't get a lot of this rain that's being predicted, because it will change the complexity of the golf course. I think that what's going to happen is the fans that are here, the fans that are watching on television; you, the media that are going to watch us perform this week, are going to get to see us in a totally different light than you're used to seeing us in the U.S. Open. You're going to see us play a number of different type of golf shots. It's not a golf course where if you drive it out of the fairway, you just immediately grab your wedge or sand wedge and chip it back out to the fairway and proceed from there. You can get playable lies out of the rough, but that's kind of what the golf course wants you to think: Oh, boy, I've got to lie and get this one on; I'm going to whip it right on the green. And that's when all the excitement begins. You're really going to have to -- this is a golf course you have to think and think about where you want the shot to finish, think about where you don't want to be, and if it gets hard, firm and fast, wow, it will be exciting. It really will, it will be a lot of fun. You're going to see all sorts of different shots played from around the greens. You'll see lob wedges. You'll see putters. You'll see all sorts of different golf clubs being played. And I think that's going to be what's going to make this week so special is you're going to have -- how I envision seeing a shot go up there versus how somebody else envisions seeing the shot go up there. As I was talking to Les a minute ago, if we had the rough that we had last year at the Olympic Club, which was one cut off the edge of the green, which was six inches deep, it would actually make this golf course play easier, because the ball wouldn't get away from the greens the way it's going to this week. And nobody is going to go around here and hit 72 greens in regulation. And I'll give you any kind of odds you want on that. It's just not going to happen. So you're going to have to chip and putt your ball extremely well this week to do well.

Q. I'd like to ask about Jack Nicklaus. He's missed the last few majors. Is it strange not having him around, and will it be strange some day when he doesn't play an Open here?

PAYNE STEWART: Having him return last -- couple of weeks ago at Memorial, it wouldn't have felt like a Memorial Tournament if Jack hadn't played. Just like playing Bay Hill, it wouldn't feel like Bay Hill if Arnold wasn't teeing it up. So the day will come that Jack will remove himself from playing the United States Open Championship. And the only reason I think that he will do that is because he doesn't feel like he has a chance to win. And he's not going to come out and play if he feels he doesn't have a chance to win. And the little bit I got to speak to him at the Memorial, he says his hips feel great. And he was pretty excited about how he was playing. It was better than he anticipated. He knows how to play this golf course, and he knows what it takes at a U.S. Open. And I'd never rule Jack Nicklaus out of winning any golf tournament.

Q. What did Tom Meeks say to you after the last year's Open?

PAYNE STEWART: Nothing. Not right after the tournament.

Q. When did he finally say something, and what did he say? Did it make you feel any better?

PAYNE STEWART: We got together at -- in Orlando this year. They were holding a Rules seminar. And he was out with somebody that was a member out at Iowa where I was a member, and I saw him at the Men's Grill. He said: I'd like to get together with you. And I said: I'd like to get together with you, too. So we worked it out where we had lunch and went out and played nine holes later in the week. And we aired our differences. I talked to him about a couple of things. He talked to me about a couple of things. He admitted he made a mistake on the pin setting on Friday on the 18th green. He said: It's the first time I've ever gone against my better judgment, and I hope I learned my lesson from that. And that's all I needed to hear, that he admitted that that pin was not right, and he could have done that Friday night after what happened. But that's all right. Tom Meeks and I are on the same page right now. And we've gotten together; we still don't see eye-to-eye on some things, but that's why there's chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

Q. What time of year did this happen?

PAYNE STEWART: It was in March.

LES UNGER: Did he take any money from you?

PAYNE STEWART: If I paid him, then he would be considered a professional. And if he paid me, well, I guess I could have taken his money. But he still says that I owe him another -- the back 9. He's going to double up on the back 9.

Q. There's two things I'd like to hear you talk about: The pressure of a U.S. Open when you're in the hunt, you would know that, having won the championship. And the competitiveness of a U.S. Open as it compares to the other majors. Is it more pressure? Is it more competitive? Is there a difference between this one and some of the others?

PAYNE STEWART: I think that in answer to your first question, the pressure is something that you have to learn to deal with. And I think that that comes just over time spent out here putting yourself in that situation. I think you learn how to deal with it. I can't sit here and tell you that I can go out, and if I happen to be leading the golf tournament on Sunday, that I won't feel any pressure. Sure, I'll feel pressure. I'm human. I think that learning how to deal with it over -- through my past experiences, I think I'm better with dealing with it than I was years ago, say, at Shinnecock when Raymond won. I didn't understand. I wasn't prepared for it. I think I'm prepared for that now, being able to handle the situation when it presents itself.

Q. Is there a greater amount of it, though, in an Open?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, at any major, there's more pressure than at the rest of the golf tournaments we play throughout the year. And I think that is because of -- there's only four so-called majors a year. They're generally the most prestigious tournaments to win. And the United States Open, it's our Open Championship. Just as you hear the Europeans talk about the British Open; that's their Open Championship. Well, this is ours. And I'm an American, and it's a proud -- it was a very proud moment for me in '91, when I got to hoist that trophy. It was very special. And the feeling you get, you can't really describe it, unless you understand the competition we go through.

Q. As a competitor, are you more competitive in a U.S. Open?

PAYNE STEWART: I'm definitely more focused when I get to major golf tournaments than when I play, say, the FedEx last week. I flew in Tuesday morning and played the Shootout and the Pro-Am, and, boom; this week there's a lot more focus. There's a lot more intensity on the practice rounds, on how I want to play the golf course. There's no strategy developed in how I'm going to play the golf course. And I'm trying to figure out what I think is the best way to play it and stick to it, much like I did last year at Olympic Club. I figured out what was best for Payne Stewart, how he could play The Olympic Club the best, and tried to stay to that gameplan. You still have to execute the shots. And I didn't execute the shots that well on Sunday last year as I had earlier in the week. So hopefully -- I'd love to have that same situation again this year.

Q. Obviously, everybody is extra up this week because it's a major, but I sense some real excitement in your voice when you talk about the creativity that's going to be out there, chipping and putting and so on?

PAYNE STEWART: It's going to be real interesting to see how we choose to play different golf shots. I think that's what is really going to make the Open here at Pinehurst very special. It's just not -- there's not just one way to play a golf shot out there. There's a number of different ways, and it's however you feel works best for yourself. At the Opens in the past, you've got such high rough, there's really only one shot that you're going to play, and it's a chop-out wedge shot; lob it as best as you can. Here, the lob shot probably might not be the best shot to play all the time.

Q. Is it fair for me to infer from what you're saying from the excitement that you really like your game and your chances when you get in a situation where there's not just one chance to be played?

PAYNE STEWART: I enjoy creating different shots. Yes, I do enjoy that. And I hope the USGA -- if the golf course gets soft, it's very possible that a red number is going to win this tournament. If the golf course is hard, I don't think a red number is going to win. But with the rain we're going to get, it's very possible that we're going to have red numbers win this golf tournament. But I don't want that to distract the USGA from realizing how special this golf course is. And I bet if you surveyed all the players, I don't know that anybody is going to come in here and say: Oh, this is horrible, I can't believe we're here; this is awful. This is a gem, and it is -- it's a pleasure to play. And when you're excited about going out and playing, you tend to play a little better, rather than being miserable.

Q. A lot of players list you among the best chippers in the field.

PAYNE STEWART: That's nice of them.

Q. Do you regard yourself -- do you regard that as really one of your strong suits, and how does that affect your expectations this week?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, when I look at my statistics and I see that I'm about 123rd in greens in regulation, and I'm about 137th in driving accuracy, I've got to know how to do something right. And I guess it's the chip-and-putt.

Q. I read some place where you use nine different clubs to try those greens out?

PAYNE STEWART: Sunday I did. I used nine different clubs from around the green, different shots. Some shots, it is a little lob wedge. Some shots I'm using a 3-iron to make sure it runs up the slopes. It's going to be great out there. It's going to be special.

Q. Name the nine clubs.

PAYNE STEWART: 2-, 3-iron, 4-iron, 5-iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge, putter, 7-iron, 8-iron.

Q. No wood?

PAYNE STEWART: No. I'm not a 3-wood player. I haven't worked that one into my game yet.

Q. With the rough being less lethal than in the past U.S. Opens, do you think that lets in more players to have a chance to win this tournament?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, I think it will let people believe they can get in the rough and hit the greens, yeah. And that's when all the fun is going to begin. But I think that the thing that I like so much about it is it's going to test your ability to understand what your lie is in the rough. Do I have a flier, or is it going to jump a lot? Is it going to jump a little? Is it not going to jump, and how am I going to proceed from here? Instead of it being in the past, where it's like a lateral hazard every time you drive it into the rough. Definitely, yes, there should be a premium for hitting the fairway. But even if you don't hit the fairway, you should still be able to play. I mean, you should be penalized to some extent. You shouldn't be able to do what the guys can out of the fairway with the ball, but I've never liked it where you just had to chip it back out. I don't think that really tests our ability at all.

Q. What do you think of No. 16?

PAYNE STEWART: It's a nice, long par-4. It used to be a par-5.

Q. Would you rather see it still --

PAYNE STEWART: I asked Tom Meeks about it the other day. I said, "Tom, I've got a problem with 16." He said, "What's wrong with it?" And I said, "Well, why didn't he just move the tee back and make it a par-5? " And he said, "Let me put it this way to you," he said, "if I did that and you hit a big drive down there, are you going to lay up or are you going to go for the green?" I said, "I'm going to go for the green." He said, "You just answered my question." He said, "If you can get everybody to sign a petition in the field that says if we move it back and play it as a par-5, and nobody will go for the green in 2, then we'll play it as a par-5." But of course nobody is going to do that. He said, "It's just a long par-4." He says, "It sure helps your mental outlook when you have a chance of making birdie instead of par." So it's going to be a difficult hole. Today it was playing into the wind and into the rain. I hit driver, 3-wood and didn't get there. But the bottom line is it's still total strokes. And if you approach it in that manner, then it will be all right.

Q. Along the same lines, as a player, where do you draw the lines in terms of fairness, convert par-4s into par-5s?

PAYNE STEWART: 16, that's the one great thing about this golf course is there always seems to be an avenue to run your ball up there. Now, sometimes the green doesn't sit just straight on to you. The 2nd hole is a perfect example. You look at the size of the green, and then you look at the real size of the green, and they're two different things. You've got a rectangle of about -- it's probably 12 X 20 in size, maybe 25, 12 X 25. If you look at a diagram of the green, it's the only place you can keep the ball on the green. 16 is relatively subdued for the type of shot that we're going to have to be playing in there. What will happen, if you get a lot of the rain, is when you're planning on that ball bouncing up, it's going to be soft there, and it's not going to bounce up like you'll want it to.

Q. Is there kind of a similarity 16 this year and 17 last year at the Olympic Club?

PAYNE STEWART: Not a bit. 17 last year, the slope of the fairway was so great where we were diving the ball that you couldn't keep the ball in the fairway. It was very difficult to keep the ball in the fairway. The fairways got so hard and fast, you could drop a ball on the left edge; it's going to run all the way to the right. That I don't consider fair. But this 16 this year is -- it's fair. You've got a big fairway out there. It's a long hole, and you've got an avenue to get the ball -- to skate the ball up on the green. It's much fairer than the 17th last year.

End of FastScripts....

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297