June 20, 1998
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
LES UNGER: Your predecessors today have said that if you go out and shoot par tomorrow, this thing is over.
PAYNE STEWART: Well, that might be true, that might be true. That won't be my approach. I'm going to continue to try to do the things that I've been doing, and that's take advantage of my good shots, and deal with my bad ones, and not make too many mistakes. I got off to a good start today with an eagle, and then I had to take a little medicine on the third hole. I hit it in the right bunker up against the back lip, and I got it out and tried to make a 20-footer for par. You've just got to take what the golf course gives you. And whenever I have a chance to take advantage, I'm going to do that.
LES UNGER: Just continue and run through the round before we go to questions.
PAYNE STEWART: The first hole, driver, 5-iron to, I guess, 18, 20 feet and made it for eagle. 6-iron in the bunker on 3, out to 20 feet and 2-putt for bogey. 7-iron to a foot and a half on 8, made it for birdie. 9, missed the green short, chipped to about ten feet and missed it, made bogey. 15, was just a pitiful 7-iron shot, absolutely pathetic. That was the worst swing I put on it all day long. I hit it in the bunker, got it out to about ten feet to give myself a chance to make putt, and didn't hole it. But played the last three holes good and solid, and even par, that's not a bad round of golf today.
LES UNGER: What would your advice be to the greens group of the USGA for tomorrow.
PAYNE STEWART: My advice to the greens -- he won't do it anyway, so it doesn't matter.
LES UNGER: Well, try.
PAYNE STEWART: Well, the way the golf course is, suits me fine.
LES UNGER: Very tactful answer. Questions?
Q. Payne, Lee said if he were you, what he'd do tomorrow is go out and think about that 31 you had on the last nine, I guess, at the PGA to win. What would you do to keep a positive thought or keep the gremlins away, mentally?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, if I think that I've played this first three rounds using smoke and mirrors, I'm confusing myself. There's no reason to not think I'm going to come out and play good golf tomorrow. If I come out and let the situation intimidate me, then that's my own fault. But there's no reason why in my mind I won't come out and believe that I can come out and win the golf tournament, because I've put myself in the position to do that.
Q. Can you refresh our memories where you were after three rounds in '91 and also when you finished second a couple of years later?
PAYNE STEWART: I was leading the golf tournament in '91. And when Lee won at Baltusrol, I don't remember where I was. I was in the last group, so he might have been leading by a shot. So --
Q. Was that'91 experience, then, very positive?
PAYNE STEWART: I would definitely draw on that'91 experience tomorrow. If I get in the situation where I'm being mentally tested, I'm a big advocate of self-motivating myself, and I've been here before; I've done this; you're a champion; there's no reason why you can't stand up there and be a champion tomorrow.
Q. Do you remember what the Saturday night before the finals were when you were in contention the last times?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, we played 90 holes at Hazeltine where you won, and so it would have been -- Sunday night would have been the last night. Not really, no, I don't remember what I did.
Q. Payne, on today's course set up, 11 of 18 of the hole locations were in the front third of the green. Did that influence anything about your style of shots to those hole locations or were you even trying?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, it made it -- when the pin is on the front of the green, it makes it very difficult to keep the ball under the hole. But the way the golf course is set up, I keep going back to this, but par is a hell of a score. Anytime you make par on a hole and walk off to the next tee, you shouldn't be disappointed.
Q. How much has the first hole meant to you in terms of just getting the proper frame of mind for the round, and what did the eagle mean to you today after what happened on 18 yesterday?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, it's wonderful to get off to a nice start, like I did on Friday, like I did today, like I did on Thursday. It gets you in a good frame of mind. But even if I go out, and I don't make birdie on the first hole tomorrow, I'm not going to be disappointed. I've got 17 more holes to play. I can't let what I do on the first hole affect the way I'm going to play the rest of the golf course.
Q. Would winning this tournament on this course, would that add any extra satisfaction, and why or why not?
PAYNE STEWART: It would definitely add a lot of satisfaction. It would prove a point back to myself that I still have the ability to compete in major championships. And there's no reason why I shouldn't believe that.
Q. Payne, on Sunday at Hazeltine, you were two-down on the back nine, and at Kemper even more to than that to Mike Reid. Can you talk about the mindset pursuing in that situation, the people chasing you?
PAYNE STEWART: You want me to tell them what to think? (Laughter.)
Q. They're not here now.
PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, but they can read the papers. Everybody has to deal with that themselves.
Q. Is this the toughest driving Open course, and is it any fun out there to play?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, it's a difficult driving golf course. At a couple of the other places, at Hazeltine we had rain and it softened the fairways up. And at Baltusrol, we had rain and softened the fairways up. When you get the fairways as firm as they are here, with the contour that they have in them, it's very difficult to keep the ball in the fairway. It is a very difficult driving golf course, yes.
Q. Payne, given your position, are you glad this is a course that doesn't lend itself to a lot of birdies?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, yes, sure I am. But I can't go out and make a bunch of bogeys tomorrow and win this golf tournament.
Q. Payne, you seem very confident. Are you at all nervous? You seem very --
PAYNE STEWART: I'm not going to tell you. If I wasn't nervous, then something would be wrong with me. But I've spoken about the fact that I'm very happy with what's going on in my life. I've got a beautiful family, got my mother here with me. I'm playing good golf, and there's no reason why I shouldn't come out tomorrow and be positive and confident about my position in the golf tournament.
Q. The driving statistics for the first couple of days, yours were very short. Is that a fluke of the holes that were selected that you were around 237 yards or are you taking a lot less club than other guys?
PAYNE STEWART: I don't even know what holes they are using the driving statistics on. But I hit two drivers out there today. I hit a driver on one, I wished they'd measured one, that was way down there. And I used driver on 17. So whenever they're using -- the driving statistics don't mean diddly to me. The distance. I'd like to be in more fairways, but that's all.
Q. Payne, Lee Janzen said, and he's a former champion like yourself, said that the rest of the field will sleep better than you tonight, do you think so?
PAYNE STEWART: How does he know how I'm going to sleep? As long as my mother doesn't snore, I'll be all right (laughter.)
Q. Payne, you had a couple of good lies on tough shots, one in the right rough on -- I'm trying to think what hole it was --
PAYNE STEWART: 16.
Q. The ground was pretty flat?
PAYNE STEWART: The secret is when you miss the fairway, miss it wide enough where you're in the gallery where they walk, because it's smooth over there.
Q. Does that come into play, having that component of maybe having a little bit of luck?
PAYNE STEWART: Oh, definitely. You have to get some good breaks to win golf tournaments, whether it's the Open or any other golf tournament. And take advantage of your good breaks, and that's what I'm doing.
Q. Payne, a couple of questions. First of all, this would be win No. 10 on Tour, and the third major. Do either of those numbers resonate particularly with you, are they milestones for you at all? And secondly, are you at a point in your career now where you really gauge a successful year on your performance in majors or is that not fair?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, in answer to your second question, yeah, the Majors are important to me. The stage I am in my career, yeah. I don't go out and worry about where I finish on the money list. Nothing would make my year more complete than to win a major, and if it happens tomorrow, then it's going to be a great year, whether I do anything else the rest of the year or not. But the milestone of the ten and three, those are numbers. Yes, it would be special to have a third major, sure would.
Q. Payne, what is the story about your mom being here? Is the rest of your family here, if you win, will you have to bring her back next year?
PAYNE STEWART: You bet I'll bring her back next year. My kids are getting ready to go to camp in a week. They're going to meet me in Chicago, Monday night. And my wife is home getting them ready for camp. And it just would have been way -- we didn't have enough time to get them ready for camp and then be out here, also. And my kids are at an age right now that they kind of like going to golf tournaments and they kind of don't. It's, oh, dad, by the way, how did you play? So it's better that they're not here, then whatever comes out tomorrow, we'll deal with that then.
LES UNGER: You think they'll be watching tomorrow?
PAYNE STEWART: My mom hasn't been out to any golf tournaments this year, and she lives in Missouri, and I live in Florida, and whenever we get a chance to spend some time together, it's kind of neat. She's out here with me this week, without my wife and kids, we're having a great time.
Q. Payne, do you usually watch leaderboards, and will you be watching them tomorrow?
PAYNE STEWART: I look at them periodically. Will I look tomorrow? Yes, human nature is to look up at that leaderboard and find out what's going on. But, as I said in the past, I can't do anything about what anybody else is doing on the golf course, I've got to take care of Payne Stewart. And if I come out tomorrow and play the way Payne Stewart can play, I'll win the golf tournament. If I don't, I'll deal with that then. But there's no reason why in my mind I don't believe that I'm not capable of winning tomorrow.
Q. What kind of advice would your dad have for you, what would he say to you tonight?
PAYNE STEWART: He'd say, Bus, just go out and keep doing what you're doing, keep putting it on the greens, and keep your head still when you putt.
Q. That was my question, but just to follow up, you said you didn't know what he shot until today?
PAYNE STEWART: I asked my mother, I said what did he shoot when you guys came out here? And I said I don't remember. I had the USGA look it up and he shot 83, 88.
Q. But you knew he had played here, though?
PAYNE STEWART: Oh, yeah.
Q. What else do you know about that, if anything?
PAYNE STEWART: My mother said that the rough was like knee high. So maybe they're taking it easy on us this week.
Q. Payne, what's your mom's name, first off, and then I have a second question?
PAYNE STEWART: Bee.
Q. Watching television coverage the subject came up, why has Payne Stewart won but once, I guess in the last seven years. And some of the conjecture is that Payne has other things going on in his life, family has become very important, and maybe he doesn't have the drive that he used to, would you buy into that?
PAYNE STEWART: That would be pretty accurate. It's hard -- I said this yesterday, it's hard to motivate yourself to come out here year in and year out and work at it and bust it -- I don't want to blink and see my kids are in college because I know once they go to college, they'll probably never live under our roof again. So if I have the opportunity to spend time with them, by reducing my schedule, that's what I'm going to do.
Q. Payne, I don't know if you're aware that this will be the fourth year in a row that Tom Lehman will be in the final group at the U.S. Open. You've got a lot of people that you'd be watching, but what's your reaction to Lehman being there, once again?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, obviously Tom is a great player. He knows how to play major championships. He knows how to get himself in position. He handles himself very, very well, and does a lot of things very well to get himself in this position. It's a credit to he and his golf game to be in that position again this year.
Q. Any chance it will turn into match play?
PAYNE STEWART: I'm not going out there and trying to play against Tom Lehman tomorrow. I'm going to go out there and try and play against the golf course.
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