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June 14, 1996

Payne Stewart


LES UNGER: Payne, please, if you would, an overview of the day and then some of those good statistics we need.

PAYNE STEWART: It was -- I felt, you know, as I said in here yesterday, that I needed to go out and drive the ball better, put the ball in the fairways and I felt like I did that better today. I hit some nice iron shots. I putted the ball, as a whole, pretty well today. I felt comfortable doing that and then the two swings on 16 and 18 from the fairway, we are just going to forget about those because they weren't characteristic of the day. And other than that, you know, that leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but I played well. You know, it is a tough golf course, and it is demanding, and you have to do it all on every hole. And if I could put my 33 with my 31, that would have been nice, but anyway, you know, I am pleased. I am still right there with the chance to win with two rounds to play, and that is the idea. I birdied 5. I hit driver, 6-iron to about twelve feet and made it. Let us see. 7: I hit a 3-wood, 7-iron to about 20 feet and made it. 8: I drove it in the rough; chipped out; hit a wedge on about 15 feet and lipped it out; made bogey. 9: Hit a 2-iron to about three feet; made it. 10: I hit a good tee shot. It ended up in the fairway bunker; hit a bad shot from there short of the green in the rough; knocked it up about 15 feet and two putts for bogey. 11: I was in the fairway and hit a poor iron shot, ended up coming back down on the front of the green with a 7-iron and 3-putts. 12: I hit driver, 3-wood to about 20 feet and 2-putted for birdie. And then 16, I drove it perfect and hit a bad 6-iron left over in the gallery and made bogey there. And then 18, I drove it really good and hit a very bad 2-iron, pulled it left of the green and chipped it up there about 15 feet and hit a good putt and lipped out. 71.

LES UNGER: Questions.

Q. Payne, did the greens dry out enough that you are maybe rethinking that, you know, that they can't get them crusty here?

PAYNE STEWART: They are not going to get crusty Larry, but they are going to firm up and speed up as the weekend comes about, yes.

Q. Does that make the golf course more difficult to play?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, it makes -- it is a difficult golf course. With faster firmer, greens, yes, it will be harder to get the ball closer to the hole for birdies.

LES UNGER: Were you at all surprised that 2-under would appear to be the leader at this point?

PAYNE STEWART: Yes, especially when I was 5-under. (PAYNE LOOKING AT TV MONITOR) And there it is, The Terminator. Could have use that over there.

Q. What bet did you lose to do that commercial?

PAYNE STEWART: What did I lose? I didn't lose a bet.

Q. Is the firmness of the greens the only explanation for why the scores are much worse in the afternoon than in the morning, and if not, what does that mean for the weekend when the lead groups play late?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, you know, with the size of cut that we are going to have, we are going to have, you know, a large cut. But, you know, yes, the greens have a little bit more moisture in the morning. There is not as much wind drawing them out. There is not as many people that have walked over them that leave impressions, so there are a little -- they are a little tougher to putt in the afternoon than they are in the mornings.

Q. A couple of distances, please; on 16, what did you have for your second shot?

PAYNE STEWART: I had 168 yards to the hole and I tried to hit a 6-iron.

Q. 18: How far did you hit?

PAYNE STEWART: Had 215 to the front and 228 to the hole.

Q. 17?

PAYNE STEWART: The putt on 17 was about 15, 18 feet.

Q. These shots on 16 and 18, is that a recurrence of an old problem, a new problem or just a shock?

PAYNE STEWART: They are just two bad shots that won't be thought about anymore.

Q. Payne, the closing holes here, are they as difficult as closing holes anywhere, any golf course you have played? Can you think of any closing holes that might be as difficult?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, the last three at Hazeltine weren't just gravy, you know; they were pretty difficult, too. I mean, they -- they are very similar, you know. You have got a difficult par 4 over water at Hazeltine; then you have got a tough par 3. Then you have got a long, demanding par 4 uphill except it dog legs to the left instead to the right.

Q. Do you feel like you are running in front of this group, or do you feel like you are in the pack or you like being in the front?

PAYNE STEWART: You always like to be leading, yeah, sure. But running in front -- there is a lot of people that have a chance to win this golf tournament on the weekend, and I am one of them.

Q. You guys always play hard golf courses at the Open. Is there anyway of explaining why so many guys will make the cut and why the field gets so bunched here?

PAYNE STEWART: At the Opens?

Q. Yeah.

PAYNE STEWART: I think it is because nobody -- it is -- very rarely does somebody run away and hide the first two days, you know. It is just -- it is just that the type of golf courses that we play in the Open Championship is not conducive to that. I mean, Gil Morgan was, I guess at Pebble, was the one that -- yeah, he got deep, what, after 36 holes. He was way under -- no? He was at one time.

Q. Mid-way through the second round he was 12-under.

PAYNE STEWART: Right. It is just -- I think it is the type of golf courses that you play, you know, the players out here are getting so good, chipping and putting, and they know that patience is a virtue at a major championship especially at a UNITED STATES OPEN, and that is -- something around par by the end of the week will probably be very good.

Q. (inaudible)

PAYNE STEWART: Will the golf course --

Q. It is almost too hard?

PAYNE STEWART: Other than the 10-shot rule, they might look at that like the British Open did. They looked -- they redid that after they had a cut of 120-something one year.

Q. Payne, was it at all unnerving when that fan got hit on the head and did he seem to be okay?

PAYNE STEWART: No, because I have hit people before and it is not, you know, it is not something that you want to have happen, but it is something that can happen. And you know, I think the fans understand that along with the players. If you hit an errant shot into the gallery, you always hope that it doesn't hit anybody and hurt anybody, but it is possible that it might.

Q. Payne, considering the tradition of the difficulty of this course, are you surprised by the number of birdies you have been able to make the first 36 holes?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, I hope to continue doing that. I am pleased with my birdie output. I'm obviously making too many bogeys in others, but if I can produce more birdies than bogeys and others, then it will be good.

Q. Payne, kind of on the same vein, are you more confident about your game when you are making lots of birdies and bogeys, or would you rather be playing steady at 2-under-par, have fewer of those and more pars?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, I would -- you know, I would prefer to be making a lot of birdies. You can eliminate the bogeys by just doing better, but, you know, if you are going along and if I had gone along and made one bogey and three birdies, and be 2 under par, that is -- to me, that is not telling me that I can produce as low a score if I am going along and I am making seven birdies yesterday and I made, I don't know, five today or something like that. I feel that I can produce a low score on this golf course if I cannot make you know, -- if I don't finish bogey, par, bogey today, I still shoot under par.

Q. You seem to have a very relaxed kind of up-beat attitude out there, even after the bad shots today, not too intense, is that a recent phenomena in major championships or --

PAYNE STEWART: Well, a recent phenomenon. I have just decided life is way too short to be miserable after a bad golf shot. Yes, this is what I do for a living and I love it, but it is not life or death. It is a game, you know, so I am trying to enjoy myself more. Yes, I am an intent player. I am very intense when I am out there, and I always here the gallery, "smile, smile." Well, there is times to smile and times of concentrating and I don't smile, but, yeah, I am enjoying what I am doing out there. I am having fun at it.

Q. Obviously when you are on the bubble you have rooted four players to encounter difficulty, is there a polite way that you can described kind of rooting one does in that situation?

PAYNE STEWART: (laughs) Well, it is not polite. It is just like, you know, "miss it." You are sitting there, "miss it. Don't birdie the last," you know, something like that (PAYNE SAYS RAISING HIS VOICE WHILE LAUGHING). Something along those lines.

Q. Were you thinking about that and all the people that you were letting back in the tournament as you played the last three holes?

PAYNE STEWART: That never entered my mind. You know, Roberts asked me that when I finished playing, that is not something I concern myself with. I mean, however many people make the cut -- yes, obviously, if I had finished at 5-under not many people made the cut, but I didn't, and I am still trying to win this golf tournament, that is what I am concerned with.

Q. Payne, are you playing as well as you did, say, five years ago?

PAYNE STEWART: I believe I am playing well, yes. I don't know that you can draw a comparison to now to then. I think that I am probably a better player now than I was then.

LES UNGER: Is that good?

Q. (inaudible)

PAYNE STEWART: I think that I am -- I work at my game with more purpose, you know, I don't spend as long practicing, but I practice things that have been troublesome in the past and I am getting better at those, so that, you know, along with the things that I have always done well, refining the things that I didn't, have made me better.

Q. Payne, can you tell me about the caddy/player relationship you have had with Scott over the years, and what he has meant to you?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, he has worked for me for -- worked off and on last year for me as he was finishing up his PGA Class A. Status. And this year he has been full-time. So -- Scotty is a great guy. He is a motivator out there. He doesn't let me get down after, you know, bad shots or anything. But -- and he understands what the game is about.

LES UNGER: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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