June 19, 1998
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
LES UNGER: We might as well start out with the good side. When you start off birdie, birdie, birdie, did you have visions of something special.
PAYNE STEWART: I was trying to birdie the 4th hole. Can't birdie them all unless you birdie the first three. Anyway, no, I was just doing what I can do out there, and I started off -- I hit the fairway on one, not a good -- really good 3-iron. I could have got on the green in two; left it at the right; played the smart shot up; gave me a safe 15-footer, made it. 2, hit two goods shots, 3-wood, 7-iron in there and another 15-footer and made it. And then hit a 5-iron on 3, on the green, made it. 25-footer. And that goes back to what I was saying yesterday, that you have got to be on the fairways and on the greens. I just -- I guess I hit the wrong club on 4. I hit a 1-iron, and I hit it the way I wanted to, and it went through the fairway. Now, I can't get enough club on it to get it on the green. I played a good shot up there about, oh, 20 yards short of the green, and didn't hit that good of a wedge-shot in there, gave myself about, oh, I don't know, 18-footer and 2-putt for bogey. But then you know, I kept doing what I could do and, I missed too many fairways today. Actually, I hit more fairways yesterday, which blows me away, than I hit today. I hit more today than I hit yesterday. But, the ones -- like I said yesterday -- the ones I had missed, were in the first cut and I could get the ball on the greens from there. Today, we were just past that first cut into the longer stuff, and it is not real possible. I mean, it is possible, but it is not very probable that if you spend a lot of time there, you are going to hit a lot of greens, and that is what you need to do out here.
LES UNGER: If you had anticipated prior to yesterday a 66, 71 start, I assume you would have been quite pleased.
PAYNE STEWART: Well, you'd be more pleased if it was 71, 66 because then you wouldn't have that ill-taste in your mouth from the 18th hole. You would already slept on that one night, and it would have gone away. But, anyway.
LES UNGER: Do we need more on hole-by-hole, Wes?
WES SEELEY: We would love the 6th hole.
PAYNE STEWART: Thanks, Wes. Bringing up the 6th hole. I hit a 3-wood that I thought the wind would push it back, ended up in the right rough, short of the green in two. It just -- just in the short rough. Wedge to about 15 feet, missed it, two putts, bogey. 7, 2-iron, sand wedge to eight feet, made it for birdie. 14, I drove it through the fairway in the rough. Hit a 7-iron out, short and right of the green in the rough. Hit pretty good wedge shot there to about twelve feet and hit it -- hit a putt right where I wanted to hit it and it didn't break, made bogey there. Then 17, I made par, you know, it's got a big square box around No. 5, but it is a par. And, 18, I am sure they have television in here. You saw that.
WES SEELEY: Did you hit in?
PAYNE STEWART: I hit a 2-iron pitching wedge.
Q. About eight feet?
PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, it was eight, ten feet, probably ten feet.
WES SEELEY: The next one.
PAYNE STEWART: Next putt was about 20, 25 feet. You know, and Curtis hit a putt up there today, and his -- he and Hale were both putting up the hill, and his putted up there, and it -- once it stopped, it rolled back about six, eight inches. That is a little bit suspect in my opinion.
LES UNGER: Okay, we will ask for questions, please.
Q. On TV you said the pin placement was "Bordering on the ridiculous." Could you expand on that a little bit?
PAYNE STEWART: Whenever you start seeing balls roll up to the hole and then roll-back away from the hole, I think that is bordering on ridiculous. I think that that becomes almost, I don't -- I don't know if the USGA would use the term "an illegal pin," but, you know, that -- I don't think I was the only one that spoke to their USGA walking marshal or official about that pin today either.
Q. If you make a putt there, do you get a free round?
PAYNE STEWART: You know, I was watching the putt-putt championships this morning on ESPN before I came out, and it resemble that hole a lot. (laughter).
Q. Talk a little bit about -- I guess Lee is making a run now. You are pretty good buddies with him. How does it feel getting pushed by him and possibly playing with him tomorrow?
PAYNE STEWART: I have got to play with somebody might as well be somebody you know pretty well.
Q. I know you obviously don't want to talk about that too much -- take you back to Baltusrol at all -- the fact that you two guys are going to be playing tomorrow in an Open?
PAYNE STEWART: Your assuming that I am going to play with him. Jeff Maggert got in before he did at 2-under par. Unless Lee finishes at 3-under par, I will be playing with Jeff or Bob Tway. So, you know, obviously, there are going to be good scores shot. There is not a number of good scores shot. But Lee is having a good round today.
Q. Was there one of the holes where you hit it into the grandstand?
PAYNE STEWART: I hit it over the back of the green on 11, and it bounced up against the grandstand, and I had to take a relief there.
Q. Did the ball -- your next shot hit the pin then?
PAYNE STEWART: Yes, it did.
Q. A couple of breaks there, kind of -- (inaudible)
PAYNE STEWART: I don't know. I hit the wrong club out of the fairway. I hit an 8-iron. I had 150 to the pin. I should have hit a 9-iron. There is my mistake. But then I played a pretty good wedge shot that happened to have great direction, and it just as easily could have hit the center of the pin and gone right in. I don't think that it -- I think I got a bad break that it didn't go in.
Q. Talk about your golf game what you have done with it in any way to make it better? You struggled with it a little bit in the past? What changes have you made?
PAYNE STEWART: I have just continued to work hard at it. I felt like I have got my swing back. I have been working pretty hard on my swing all year. And, you know, I have seen good results periodically throughout the year at different golf tournaments. I have seen good putting rounds. Why shouldn't it come together this week is my opinion. There is no reason why it shouldn't. I have been working hard enough for it to. So this is a great week for it to come all together.
Q. Do you feel like the course made you pay for your good fortune yesterday?
PAYNE STEWART: Made me pay for it? Well, I didn't have to get any money out of my pocket. Well, the difficulty of this golf course is you understand it when you start, and whenever you can, you -- you take your birdies whenever you can get them because you are not -- you are going to go around, and you are going to make a mistake. You are going to make a bad swing here and bad swing there and you are going to make some bogeys. You just try to keep those to a minimum and make as many birdies whenever you have the opportunity.
Q. It is not the type of tournament that lends itself to somebody running say away from the field, but standing on the 4th tee did you have any visions of that?
PAYNE STEWART: Jeff, not really. I understand how difficult this golf course is. I am trying to -- I was trying to do the best I could. I stood up on the 4th tee and hit what I thought was a perfect tee shot. It was just the wrong club.
Q. Hale said that your putter has really carried you through the first two days. How many strokes do you think you have saved with the putter over the first two days?
PAYNE STEWART: Oh, I -- who knows? It is not something that I would research, but when he won his Open Championships I am sure he putted pretty well too. You know, you have to putt well to do well in this golf tournament because you are not going to hit all the greens. And when you miss the greens, your chip shots, because the rough is so difficult, you know, if you get them eight, ten, twelve feet, that is not a bad shot. And, then you are going to have to make a lot of those to have a chance to win the golf tournament and I am doing that.
Q. I think it was earlier this year, maybe even late last year, where you said you were starting to play better by feel; which is the way you preferred anyway. Is that continuing?
PAYNE STEWART: Yes, it is. And with that, I have got some Forged irons in my bag. I started the year with them. And I have really felt that being able to shape the shots and feel the shots that I want to hit a lot better.
Q. There are lot of talented younger players here. How much of an advantage does experience in U.S. Opens provide?
PAYNE STEWART: Well, you know that -- you know, all the veterans when they saw me at 6- or 7-under par they knew -- you know, they knew that it is going to -- it comes back, you know, everything comes back and this Championship, you know, something right around par is going to be a hell of a golf score.
Q. This kind of goes back to yesterday. Anyway to explain why you have had so many good starts in the Open in the past nine years?
PAYNE STEWART: I think maybe I just, you know, this kind of golf really motivates me. It gets -- it really makes me focus. And, I would say probably one of my biggest problems is I probably lose focus in some of our PGA TOUR events that just kind of -- they all kind of blend together. But when you are at a major, when you are at the U.S. Open, my focus is pretty sharp.
Q. In your previous U.S. Opens, have you ever had a putt that bordered on the ridiculous as much as what happened to you on 18?
PAYNE STEWART: I am trying to think of some of the tournaments. Nothing that really comes to mind right this second. I thought the golf course at Pebble was bordering - the whole golf course was bordering on ridiculous that last day there. That was probably the most difficult conditions for a golf course to be in, to try to play and that is why Kite's round there could be one of the all-time greatest rounds of golf ever played because that was the hardest condition to play in on that golf course I have ever tried to play in.
Q. Were you chomping at the bit a little bit coming in here because you couldn't play The Masters?
PAYNE STEWART: I haven't done what, you know, what it takes to get in that golf tournament the last couple of years. Yes, I would like to play in The Masters. Mark O'Meara has given me some new hope for The Masters. But, you know, somebody was asking me about -- yesterday about the exemption status of should there be lifetime exemption, all that. I would think that the Majors all would have the same exempt status, being that those are the four premier golf tournaments in the world. And, they don't. You all go to Augusta and there is probably a different set of rules that you have to abide by there than you do at this golf tournament. So, you know, hopefully I will play well enough this year to get back in that golf tournament.
PAYNE STEWART: I am not playing the U.S. Open this week to get in Augusta. I am playing the U.S. Open to win this tournament and then you take all the benefits from that to Augusta.
Q. Your putt on 18, other than making the putt, having the hole stop it, was there anyway you could have played that putt to keep it from being 30 feet below the hole?
PAYNE STEWART: That is a good question, Larry. I guess I probably needed to play a big, you know, rainbow maybe two-foot of break up there and just let it die down there. And, I played about -- I probably played eight inches break from twelve feet. And it went kind of --
Q. Not but -- just get it going faster downhill --
PAYNE STEWART: It could.
Q. Other people were up there today and nobody could stop it, it just --
PAYNE STEWART: It is bordering on ridiculous.
Q. Payne, you talked about a lack of focus at the regular Tour stops. How does that play into just your -- the whole approach to tournaments and does that lend itself to maybe complacency at all?
PAYNE STEWART: Complacency, maybe. It might. There is -- I have got a beautiful wife and two lovely kids that I am really enjoying spending time at home with. I am a taxi service when I am at home and I love it. And as I am getting older, it is getting harder and harder to go out and do the grind out on the PGA TOUR than it takes. Because the guys are getting so good out there that if you are not on top of your game, you are not going to just show up and, you know, and win golf tournaments. So I do do work before I get out to a golf tournament on Tour. And then I work while I am there, but I am not -- my schedule -- I am reducing my schedule and, you know, there is more to life than playing professional golf.
LES UNGER: Is that it? Thanks. Appreciate it.
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