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May 28, 1998

Payne Stewart


WES SEELEY: 34, 33, 67 for Payne Stewart 5-under par, one behind the leaders. Three birdies and an eagle.

PAYNE STEWART: Stadler screwed this chair up.

WES SEELEY: Some general thoughts on your round and the chair.

PAYNE STEWART: Well, it was solid. It was solid. I gave myself a lot of opportunities. I left some out there, but every golfer will tell you they've left something out there. Nothing really extravagant, except on 15, I hit three good golf shots. I hit a driver, a 1-iron about 20 feet and holed for eagle. Other than that, everything was, you know, I did what the golf course let me do. It's playing differently than it's played for years, and so you have to -- you have to just be more aware of that. There's pins out there that you can't go shooting at because the greens are firm. Unless you have a short iron in your hand, and you just have to understand how to play the golf course. I feel like I know how to play this golf course.

WES SEELEY: You've told us about the eagle. Tell us about the three birdies.

PAYNE STEWART: Fifth hole I hit driver, 3-wood up in the bunker and hit it out about 4 feet, maybe, for birdie. Next hole, I hit driver, 7-iron to about 15 feet, made it for birdie. 11, I drove it, I hit a 1-iron in the bunker, 6 in and out, 9-iron to 2 feet, made it for birdie. And then driver, 1-iron, 1 putt from 20 feet on 15.

WES SEELEY: In danger of a bogey?

PAYNE STEWART: The third hole. I pulled it off, hit the tree, dropped it in the fairway, and had to chip it down the fairway and take my medicine. I hit a wedge shot out of the fairway to a foot and a half, and made it for par, so that was really the only endangerment of a bogey.

WES SEELEY: Questions for Payne.

Q. Would you talk a little bit more about the conditions that you were experiencing here with the golf course, and how you play it now as opposed to last year or a rainy year.

PAYNE STEWART: Well, I think that the conditions, they're firm, and I think that that is really how Jack intended this golf course to play. You have to work the ball into the fairways off the tees. You can't really be working the ball with the slope of the fairway, because you'll run it right through the fairways into the rough. And as firm as the greens are, you don't -- it's very difficult to get the ball on the greens from the rough. So, you know, there's a lot of holes out there that aren't driver holes. I hit -- let's see, how many drivers did I hit today? I hit five drivers today, you know, and I was in the fairway quite a bit. I think -- no, I didn't miss a fairway. Yeah, I did. I missed the seventh fairway. But, you know, it's just a golf course. It's out there and you have to be smart about how you play it. I mean, they've got some pins out there today that they're difficult to get to if you have mid to long irons in your hands. You just have to understand that. And I think I learned that from Jack years ago, the last year that -- maybe the year Andy Bean won. Didn't he beat Jack in a playoff one year here?

Q. Jack beat him in the playoff.

PAYNE STEWART: But the greens were so hard that year. I cornered Jack one day in the locker room and said, "How are you supposed to get it close to the pins being the upstart snot-nosed kid at that time, as opposed to now, exactly?" He said, "Who said you had to shoot at the pins?" And I kind of thought about that and went, that makes a lot of sense. Maybe that's why I've been going over the green into the bunkers and he's making those 20-, 25-footers. So maybe that's carried over.

Q. Do you mean that you have the -- you know how to play this course when it's like this, not when it's -- you're talking about as opposed to when it's wet and --

PAYNE STEWART: I feel I know how to play the golf course when it's wet, too. But when it's wet, anybody can figure it out. You know, anybody can hit a -- throw a dart. And, you know, some of these years they even let us put it on a tee on the fairway, so it was definitely throwing darts. But when you have to think about running through fairways and, you know, where you want your ball to hit on the green to release to the hole because you won't see very many balls hit on these greens and suck back unless they hit on the false fronts of the greens, so you just have to be smart out there and I feel that I played a very smart round of golf today.

Q. It would appear there's a lot of smart guys out there today, then, because a lot of guys are between --

PAYNE STEWART: Maybe there's a bunch of educated golfers now. Well, you know you have par 5s out there.

Q. It's not separating you guys out there today by very much?

PAYNE STEWART: No, no. I mean, it's not howling, tough conditions. I mean, it's a beautiful day to be out there playing golf, and what a beautiful golf course to be playing on today. So you've got, you know, the fifth hole you can get on in two. 11, if you choose to hit driver, you can get on in two. 15, you have to hit a good drive and you can get on in two. So you have three par 5s that are accessible today. And, you know, with it playing fast, you hit shorter irons into the greens than we have in the past. And, you know, we start shooting with 9-irons and 8-irons versus the 5s and 6s, we're going to do a lot better.

Q. Talk about your year this year. You've been -- this series is kind of a rebound?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, it's been decent. I'm giving myself a couple of opportunities, not as many as I would have liked, but -- I've gone back to a forged set of Top-Flite irons that I had for -- I got them about three years ago, and I feel that that is one of the major differences in my golf game this year is because I can -- you know, I've always felt that I was a person that worked the ball with the clubs, you know. I worked the ball from the fairway or whatever. And I feel like I can do that and instantaneous feedback with the forged blade for me is what I have right now, and with that, I can tell, you know, if I've hit the shot solid or not. And I don't know -- there's no guessing if the ball comes up in the bunker, I know whether I mis-hit the shot or not. With the cast clubs, I didn't have that response for me. It didn't work like that for me. So I feel that I'm working the ball better from right-to-left and left-to-right, along with I think my swing is back to what it was years ago, just from practice and confidence and believing that the forged blade is making that much difference. My mental approach has been very positive this year. I feel like I'm stronger than I have been. I've been working out. I've been lifting quite a bit of weights, and I think all of that combines to producing some pretty decent scores. Nothing super low. I guess the 7-under at Jacksonville was a good score. I thought I was doing real good at Hilton Head until I looked up at the board and I'm 12-under and Davis is 18. And I went, you know. Because it wasn't an easy day there on Sunday. And he -- I look up on the leaderboard after I've holed it out of the bunker on 11, and, wow, I'm 12-under. What's Davis? 18. C'mon. So I've been producing some good golf this year, and I'm pleased with that.

Q. The forged clubs, are you better with yardages than the other ones?

PAYNE STEWART: Oh, yes, definitely better with the yardages.

Q. What's your schedule going to the Open?

PAYNE STEWART: I'm not -- this is my last tournament before the Open. I'm playing Nick Price the Tuesday of Westchester down at Aruba in one of the Shell matches, and I'm going to take my family down there next Thursday and come back on the following Wednesday, and then get ready for the Open. Go out there probably Monday morning.

Q. How do you feel about your condition of your game?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, like I just got done saying, I feel that my game is pretty decent. You know, I -- if today is an indication of more to come, then it's going to be very good. Because I did a lot of -- I shaped the ball beautifully out there today. I hit some great golf shots, and I stood up there and played.

Q. That's what you need at the Open?

PAYNE STEWART: I believe that's what I'm being -- I've read in some of the magazines. I don't -- I remember -- the only hole I really remember out there is the 17th hole, and I thought it was extremely unfair. I was playing with 70 the first two rounds of the last Open where Simpson won, and he hit the two most beautiful drawing drivers, hit in the center of the fairway, ran up the left side, stopped and rolled all the way down into the right rough, and I thought this is ridiculous. Now, I think the USGA has since -- since then, I think they've been setting up their golf courses better. But you're still going to have to drive the ball in the fairway. That's a given at a U.S. Open. And then you have to hit very accurate iron shots. So, you know, and a U.S. Open is supposed to be demanding, and the fairways aren't going to be this wide out there.

WES SEELEY: Will that do it? Okay.

End of FastScripts....

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