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June 18, 1998

Payne Stewart


LES UNGER: Nice to have Payne Stewart here with us again after a year or two of absence. Payne, congratulations.

PAYNE STEWART: You never invited me. I would have come.

LES UNGER: You have to do something to be invited.

PAYNE STEWART: Oh! Okay, that's a good shot. That is a good shot. I will take it. I deserve that.

LES UNGER: Three birdies in a from the rough there. Not bad. Some comments.

PAYNE STEWART: If any of you have been out there and walked part of the golf course or all of it, you know that you have got to play from the fairway. And, you have got to be very patient. I am looking down here at my statistics and noticing that the rough that I was in, 50% of the time off the tee, was only the short rough. I never really drove it off-line huge where I had to chip out except for 18. 18 was a horrible 2-iron shot down there. But I was fortunate down there on 18 to catch a lie that I could -- didn't have to chip out. I approached it thinking: All right, chip out, see if we can get it up-and-down. If not, 2-under par is going to be pretty good. But, I caught a lie, and I took advantage of some breaks out there today. When we get them, you have to take advantage of them. Especially in a United States Open because you don't get that many. If you don't take advantage of the ones you get, then it will make things a lot more difficult. I felt like I did that. I made a couple of saving par putts. One on 5 and one on 9; that really kept the round going today. And then the rest of the time, I hit the ball very -- hit a lot of greens and gave myself a lot of chances, and I was very patient. That is what you have to be at a United States Open.

LES UNGER: Can you give us how many feet the birdie putts were?

PAYNE STEWART: One, I hit driver, 3-wood to the left of the green and chipped to about 14, 15 feet, made it for birdie. 4, I hit a 1-iron off the tee, hit it in the fairway, missed the green to the right with a 4-iron, chipped to about ten feet, missed it. 5, I drove it through the fairway in the short rough, hit it to the right of the green. Short right of the green in the rough. Chipped to about twelve feet, made it for par. 7, I hit 2-iron sand wedge to 3 inches and made it for birdie. 9, I hit a 3-wood into the -- through the fairway into the short rough and hit a 7-iron in the front left bunker and hit a bunker shot out about 15 feet, made it for par. And then 2-putts all the way to 16, where I hit driver, 2-iron, 9-iron to about 8 inches, made it for birdie. 17, I hit driver, just in the short rough on the right-hand side, and I told my caddie I said: Look, let's just try to chase a 2-iron up the gap, if it gets up there, fine. If it doesn't, we will try to get it up-and-down. I said: This is a par 5 anyway. In my mind I am approaching this golf course as if it is a par 71, because I really feel that that is a par-5 hole, and when you're standing back there and you hit a great driver, as I did yesterday and in the practice round, you have got 3-wood to the green, it is par 5. So, I made eagle today. It felt really good. So, I chased this 2-iron up there to about -- it was ten feet on the green, 15 feet on the green -- what is that -- 45-foot putt, made it for, in my mind, eagle; on the score card, birdie. Then I get up there and hit the worst shot I hit all day on the 18th tee. 2-iron up, skanked it down there in the right rough, caught a lie, and 18-iron out of the rough, hit on the bank of the green, had about a 12-footer above the hole, very, very quick. And I just bled it down there, and it went right in. Voila - 66.

LES UNGER: We will entertain your questions.

Q. The last time I watched you play was at Memorial and you made a 10 on one hole.

PAYNE STEWART: I did make a 10 on that hole.

Q. You probably played about 4 holes today before you got to that. Has your game been good, bad, or indifferent?

PAYNE STEWART: My game has been pretty good. I am hitting the ball the way I want to hit the ball. And, it feels good to have it in that kind of shape coming into United States Open Championship because you know what to expect before you ever get here. You know the rough is going to be penal and you can't spend much time in it and do well. The greens are going to be hard and fast, and you need to position the ball from the fairway below the hole on the greens so you can have reasonable putts. But, you also know coming here that par is going to be a great score.

Q. Could you please comment on the pin placements today and the severity of certain greens. Which ones are the toughest?

PAYNE STEWART: They used some that I thought we would see on Sunday today, the back left on 7, right out of the box was -- what a pin that is! And, they had -- the front right on 2, is really -- they had some great pins out there today. I really didn't -- 7 was the only one that I didn't expect to see there today. I expected that one for Sunday. But, you never know, they might go back there. The 15th hole, that -- they put the pin over in the right corner, kind of between the two swells which was a pretty good pin today. But, they were kind of what I expected except for-- didn't -- I didn't expect to see that pin on 7 where it was today.

Q. How many putts did you make today that you would consider less than 50% chance to make?

PAYNE STEWART: I am thinking about this. Five. You want to know which ones?

Q. 45-footer --

PAYNE STEWART: That was one of them, yeah. Putt on 9, 5 and 1, those are all, you know, outside the range in which you -- but there were, you know, 18 is, even though it was about twelve feet, it was one that you don't anticipate -- you just go in, you know, get close. Anyway, it went in.

Q. If par is great, what is a 66?

PAYNE STEWART: Really good, really good. Really good. It was really good. I really enjoyed it.

Q. What do you think the chances are of birdieing those three, the final three holes at this course?

PAYNE STEWART: Chances of doing it again or just doing it?

Q. Just doing it.

PAYNE STEWART: Whoever made the odds just lost because it just got done. But doing it again, there -- I can see 16 and 18. But 17 is just -- you know, you run off that hole with a 4 and just -- you can almost sore down to the 18th green -- tee. After you have made 4 on that hole, that was a brisk walk back on the 18th tee. I was ready to hit another shot.

Q. You mentioned the things that we see at every Open, the challenge of the course. Are there things that are different here than what you normally see?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, you have a lot of fairways that slope opposite the direction of which the hole goes. So you have to play a lot of shaped shots off the tee. You have to draw the ball. You have to fade the ball to keep the ball in the fairways because they are firm and they are bouncing. Really, with the amount of rain and everything that California has had this year, I expected to see the fairways a little bit softer than they are. It was actually a pleasant surprise on Monday, when I came out and played the eight holes, to see the ball bouncing in the fairway. Now you know what you have to do to -- you have to work the ball to keep the ball into the fairways. I mean, all my tee shots that went through the fairway today, that weren't in the -- at one time hit in the fairway. Now, if the fairways are soft they would have stayed in the fairway.

LES UNGER: You realize you beat your score of 11 years ago by 8 shots. 74.

PAYNE STEWART: That is good.

Q. You shoot 4-under today. Your playing partner shoots 17 over. Is that not distracting to play with people who are really struggling or, turn it around, somebody who is playing extremely well?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, you know, they -- Curtis got out, birdied the first hole, and I just wasn't paying attention to what they were doing even from the first hole. I was into doing what I have to do to play well here, and that is: Get the ball in play. And, that is all I was concentrating on. I was concentrating on myself. Sometimes you can feed off your playing partners. I mean, if they are playing good, you start seeing putts go in, you can say: Hey, I can make putts too. But, you know, when they are going in the reverse direction, you just don't pay attention.

Q. Did you find the greens to be consistent? Someone said that some were hard; the next one might be a little softer coming in; the next one hard.

PAYNE STEWART: Generally they were -- I would say probably 98, 95 percent of them were the same firmness. But, depending on the different parts of the golf course, it is going to depend on which greens retain water more or softer. The 16th green comes to mind as an extremely firm green. Other than that, the rest of them, I thought were pretty consistent.

Q. Two parts. A lot of guys seem to really get rattled by a US Open. Some players just go along their way and have success. Could you talk about the mental approach you have to take coming in here and then, secondly, with a couple of weeks off, what have you been doing leading into the tournament?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, Jeff, the mental approach is -- I think that you have to just think that -- for me, my mental approach is: Par is a good score. Always be satisfied with making par. There is nothing wrong with making par on any hole out here. Now, I would have been dissatisfied on 7 after I hit it like that (Indicating two inches) to make par. Everything is relative, but you know, like the saving putt on 5 and the saving putt on 9 - pars, you know. That is a good score. And, that has always kind of been my mental outlook, mental approach to a United States Open Championship. In answer to your second question, I was down in Aruba for about six days. I played Nick Price in one of the Shells Wonderful World of Golf events - made for television; and I am not going to tell you who won because then you guys won't watch it in October. You probably already know, though. Then I came home and this past weekend I played; worked a little bit on my game with my instructor Chuck Cook and we played a little bit in the lake and in the pool and, you know, it was awfully hot in Orlando, so you didn't workout there for long, but what we did work was quality work.

Q. Are the players, in general, curious to see what Casey Martin will do today or are you, in particular, interested in that or over it?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, I have been -- I am a supporter of Casey Martin and I always have been. I felt that our Tour that I play on was -- could have done -- could have kept this from going to the courts, could have stopped the whole process. Because the game is bigger than that. This gentleman is handicapped, but he has got the ability to play the game of golf. Let him play. If he has to be transported around in a cart, let it be. That is not a big deal to me. And I understand their viewpoint on what is fair for one is fair for the other. Well, not really. It is really not fair. So, I don't think he has an advantage over me. I think I have an advantage over him. Some of the places they make him park that cart and walk from, it will be easier coming up the fairway. I had breakfast with Casey the other morning with he and Tiger and I told him, I said: Casey, I have always been supportive of you and I hope that you know that you have a lot of success because I think it is pretty neat what he is doing out here with the handicap that he has. And I think the Tour should have stood up and said: Okay, this is a special circumstance. We are going to create a special rule. That is fine. It is so hard to get out on our Tour that very few people; especially a handicapped person or a disabled person, they have got a strike against them before they ever start. So let them try. I think the USGA did a good thing in not letting him riding in that one cart he had, he was going to kill himself in. I saw a guy today, a handicapped person going across the second fairway going up the hill, it tipped over. You just -- your heart goes out for these people. We, that are healthy, take our health for granted and when you don't have that, then you kind of look at it in a different manner. I think Casey Martin should be allowed to play whereever he wants to play.

Q. You are wearing spikes today.

PAYNE STEWART: I always wear spikes.

Q. You haven't gone to soft spikes at all?

PAYNE STEWART: I wear them in the practice rounds, but I don't -- I wear spikes in competition. But these are very short spikes. But they are spikes. They are metal.

Q. I'd like to know who your pre-tournament favorites were are to win this tournament and --

PAYNE STEWART: (pointing at himself)

Q. -- what you need to do to be sitting in that chair smiling on Sunday?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, you know, obviously you probably got to pick everybody that everybody else is picking, the people that have been playing well, Freddie, Tiger, Lehman, Justin. I feel Tom Watson would have been a good run here. He has played the golf course a lot. He is playing well. And then you have got to bring the European influence, the people that I don't see very often. You have got to bring Montgomerie in and some of the young players over there. I think that the list is kind of the same whereever you go when you start picking players. But, I haven't been concerned with them. I can't concern myself with them because I can't play defense on them. I can play some good defense out on the basketball court, but since we can't out there on the golf course, I don't concern myself with other players.

Q. In what ways are you a better player than you were in 1991 and what would winning another Open mean to you?

PAYNE STEWART: I feel that I am probably a more mature player than I was in 1991. I feel that I probably am a more complete player; that I stick to my game plan a little better than I probably did back in 1991. Things went real good in 1991, so you can't complain about that. But, I just think I am, you know, older and wiser, the same thing, you focus on what you are doing well and work on it.

Q. Payne, you make a very logical case for Casey. Why is it that that seems to not be the predominant feeling in the locker room? Is it something about the mental -- I mean, the approach to getting on the Tour? Is it something within the whole --

PAYNE STEWART: I wish I had an answer for you. I have got no idea why the guys don't -- are so insistent upon, you know, keeping Casey Martin off the Tour. I don't think it is necessarily trying to keep Casey Martin off the Tour, but keeping carts off the Tour. But, you know, our motto on the PGA Tour is: Anything is possible. So, hey, let the guy play in the cart. He made it through the Qualifying School. He is on the Nike Tour. Let him play. What is wrong with that? It does nothing but bring more people to the game of golf. We don't want to exclude all these people from the game. Just because they are handicapped, you know, every course you go play, you hop right on a cart and ride. Some places they probably make you take a cart. Except over here at the San Francisco Golf Club, I understand you can't get a cart over there, so -- but I don't know why the players are so against that. You'd have to ask everybody else. But I have always stood up and said: Hey, let him play.

Q. First, your personal opinion on exemptions for Majors and then, specifically, Jack Nicklaus and his exemption, do you think that some players should have a lifetime exemption?

PAYNE STEWART: Lifetime is a long time, isn't it? How do you get one of those? Well, I think that you have to -- I think that all the Majors - and I don't think this is going to happen, and I am probably going to get in a lot of trouble if I keep going on this path that I am on right now, but since I have got the soap box I am going to go - I think that all the Majors should -- it should be the same exempt status, the same criteria. If you win the U.S. Open, you are exempt for ten years. If you win the British Open, you are exempt for 10 years. If you win the PGA, you are exempt for 10 years. The Masters, five years. They make their own rules? - obviously. So I think they should all fall in line. They should all be the same, whether it is five years or ten years. And in the circumstance of Jack Nicklaus, I think he should be invited every year. Does that answer your question?

LES UNGER: Thank you, sir. Continued good luck.

End of FastScripts....

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