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May 30, 1996

Payne Stewart


WES SEELEY: Payne Stewart, 36, 32, 68, 4 under par, shares the lead. Tell us how it went.

PAYNE STEWART: It was, you know, just a nice solid round of golf on a beautiful day here. Columbus. I mean, it was a perfect day to be out here playing golf. The light winds, not hot temperatures, the golf course very receptive, and I hit the ball well. I hit -- I think I drove it in every fairway, and oh, how many greens did I hit? I don't know, about -- hit 14 greens, so that was good. It was solid. I had a couple of putts on the front 9 that I didn't make that I could have and, you know -- but I never was really in any danger of looking like I made bogey except on 16. I hit a four and three through the green got this grass here that is gnarly. The ball sat down and I don't know that I chipped it with the right club, but ended up leaving it about 15 feet, short and missing it. That was my only bogey of the day. It was solid. I get here; I like to play this golf course. I play this golf course well. It is fun to come here and, you know, feel that you are going to play well and hopefully have a chance to win the golf tournament. That is how I feel when I get here.

Q. Why do you suppose you play so well? You have had a lot of close chances of winning here.

PAYNE STEWART: I am very comfortable here, Steve. The fairways are, I feel, are pretty generous off the tee, but it helps to be on the proper side of the fairway to shoot at the pins which -- and I have always considered myself a pretty good iron player. And along with having some imagination around the greens when you do miss the greens, so I think all of that attributes to my success here, along with, you know, if you don't like playing golf, this -- and practicing, you don't come here because the practice facility is fabulous and the way we are treated is the best on Tour, so it is just -- it all culminates into a good week.

Q. Remember the time when you didn't get to play the final round? I guess that was '90 or something. Any particular year that stands out as a year where you look back and say I should have won it?

PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, one in particular. (LAUGHTER) Some guy made a bunker shot on 18, and you know, not making, you know, making bogey on the last hole there was -- if I hit my shot out of the divot on 18 and knocked it on the green --

Q. You drove into a divot.

PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, it might have been -- you never know if he holes the shot or not. But that is all hindsight. That is all behind us, and yes, I am looking forward to going out and trying to do the same thing tomorrow as I did today; hit a lot of fairways; try to get it on the greens. I have got -- I read the greens here well, and I seem to putt them well. So I am ecstatic about shooting 4 under today.

WES SEELEY: Can we go through the 5 birdies?

PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, 10, I hit driver 6-iron to about 15 feet, made it. 11, I hit 3-wood, 4-iron, sand wedge to about ten feet, made it. 14, I hit 2-iron pitching wedge to about twelve feet and made it. 15, I hit driver, 3-wood, just to the right of the green, chipped it to a foot and made it. 16, I hit 4-iron through the green; chipped it 15 feet, 2 putts for bogey. 17, driver, 6-iron about 15 feet and made it.

Q. What did you chip with at 16?

PAYNE STEWART: I chipped with a sand wedge and --

Q. You were just off, weren't you?

PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, but it was sitting down. It was not -- it was not all that nice a lie. You could have chosen a number of golf clubs to play that one with, and I obviously didn't choose the right one.

Q. Come close on anything at all on the front?

PAYNE STEWART: I had about -- well, I had about a 12-footer on 5. I had about a 6-footer on 7. The rest of them were all 20 -- in that 20, 25 foot range. Well, yeah, I had about a 15-footer on 3, too, so.....

Q. Feel like it might have been just a slight advantage playing late today, the course dried out a little bit, it seemed like?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, it might have been. I like the early/late, that is kind of fun. Except, you know, the guys that play the morning didn't take five hours to play like we did. Now that is a long round of golf out there in my opinion.

Q. What caused it?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, I don't know. It wasn't like we were out of position. We waited on coming in on -- we waited for them to clear the green on 16; waited for them to clear the green on 17. And then we had a problem on 17. Curtis - you can't believe this lie that he got in the bunker on 17 - I mean, he called official over to show them that they have got a problem in that bunker on the right side of the 17th hole. I mean, he buried it in mud this deep in the bunker (indicating about 8 inches). It is like quicksand. Got it up-and-down for bogey. It was unbelievable. He called the official over to show them that they have a problem in that bunker.

Q. The shape was a problem?

PAYNE STEWART: Not the shape of it. Just the way it is right now. I mean, he was this far in mud (indicating about 6 inches). There was no way he was getting it out. It was unbelievable.

Q. Is there a rule change or something this year, I heard something there was mention of that there might be a rule change that is why he felt that --

PAYNE STEWART: Well, what we were asking -- what he was asking was, he walked in there to survey his lie, right, and so he was asking if he could rake the area where he was standing because that is where he was going to have to drop it. If he could rake the bunker, before he dropped the ball, and that is the rule change that has occurred that allowed him to go ahead and rake the bunker.

Q. Aside from quicksand in the bunkers, you played here a lot. How hard is the golf course comparatively speaking?

PAYNE STEWART: It seems to be playing longer. I mean, I hit a lot longer into the par fours than I remember hitting in the past. A lot of 4 irons, and 5-irons and it played long. You are not getting much roll off the drive. It was -- the wind was out there. It wasn't that much of a factor. It was light. It wasn't as strong as it was yesterday. And you know, it is helping to dry the golf course all the time. As the week progresses - provided there is no more rain - the golf course will continually dry up. It is not going to be dry, but it would help if they got no more rain.

Q. You didn't miss a fairway, but is the rough here a big factor?

PAYNE STEWART: It is vicious this year. It is as tough as I have ever seen it here in the years that I have been coming here.

Q. Like an Open rough?

PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, it is.

Q. Or maybe even tougher?

PAYNE STEWART: It is tough. It is a good 4, 6 inch rough that you don't want to spend any time in.

Q. You don't want to go there?


Q. Payne, last couple of tournaments you played well after having a few shaky tournaments before that. Has something happened in this stretch of good play?

PAYNE STEWART: I got to Texas and I feel very comfortable playing in Texas. I have been working extremely hard at my golf game. And I think that that culmination of enjoying where you are playing and being comfortable where you play and some of the hard work that I have been putting in is -- all that is culminating with the play that I have been producing.

Q. You were contending here for several years right in a row. The last two years here we really haven't gotten a chance to talk to you, can you, I guess --

PAYNE STEWART: Explain why?

Q. Painlessly summarize where your game has been the last couple of years and what you have done to come out of it.

PAYNE STEWART: I think it has been kind of documented on. 1994 was just one of those years you care to forget about and last year, actually, I don't know why I didn't play well here. I just -- I had some good tournaments last year. I won in Houston. You know, just one of those weeks, but overall, I have really enjoy coming here because I just feel that I am going to play well.

Q. Seems like you have got half a dozen courses or so where you seem to play well as this one. What are some of the other courses where you always feel you are going to play well at?

PAYNE STEWART: I like The Woodlands in Houston. I enjoy Dallas and Fort Worth. I didn't play well this year in Dallas but Fort Worth I played well. Here is one of them. Hilton Head is one of them. THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP in Jacksonville, I play that golf course well and then on the west coast, I like playing the AT&T and San Diego, those golf courses for some reason I play well. Why? I don't know.

Q. No connecting pattern in there anywhere?

PAYNE STEWART: Not really. I mean, they are -- they all seem to be a lot different golf courses. You got Hilton Head; that is a very tight driving golf course and then you have got here, that is -- you got a lot of space. But I think that all of them probably have some form of, you know, you have to be on with your irons - your iron game has to be very sharp.

Q. Do you build your schedule around those 6 or 7 courses?

PAYNE STEWART: Well, yes, I definitely know that there is going to be some golf courses that I am going to play each year or some that I might play and there are some that I am not going to play. So yes, I do build around the golf courses that I enjoy playing.

Q. The players we talked to before the tournament started kind of felt like a winning score this year might be what it has been the last couple of years, but after seeing the way the course played today, you think it might be a little higher?

PAYNE STEWART: I read that in the paper today myself and I did not agree with them. The golf course is playing longer and there is more rough than we have ever had here and the little fringe rough around the greens is tougher than it has ever been, so, no, I did not agree with what they said, but that is why you got apples and oranges, right?

Q. Do you feel like you are playing well enough or your game is in good enough shape now to contend in the Open in a couple of weeks?

PAYNE STEWART: Yeah, I do. I am going to worry about that in two weeks, I have got three more days; then I am going to be in the Keyes scuba diving and snorkeling with my family for a few days and then Friday, Byron and Peggy Nelson are coming into Orlando spending the weekend with my family and we will play a little golf and we will have a little fun and then I will come up to the Open and prepare myself for that golf tournament. But my concern right now is the next three days here. And preparation here will bleed over into the Open in two weeks. If I continue to play well and who knows what happens, maybe win this golf tournament, sure, that is -- that is going to be nothing but positive feed to go -- to take to the U.S. Open.

Q. Is that a departure for you? How do you normally approach the Open? I am sure you have tried variations. There have been years that you played your way in.

PAYNE STEWART: Yes, I have played my way in, in the past. This is the fifth week I have been on Tour. This is my fifth tournament in a row. I have played my way in the Open and, you know, the way the schedule got set up with the Texas swing all being together, it just was the way I just decided I needed to take a week off before. And Westchester, just doesn't do much for me. I mean, it is a good tough old golf course, and I really have never played well there; haven't had much success; always just made the cut and just, you know, picked up your $3,000 every week, and just doesn't do that much for me, so it worked out well. Plus my family and I, we are trying to take some more family vacations than we have in the past and we have already had a nice ski trip and after living thirteen years in the Keyes or in Florida, I am finally going to get to see the Florida Keyes.

Q. First trip to the Keyes?

PAYNE STEWART: First trip to the Keyes, can you believe that? That is kind of -- I find that kind of strange myself. But it is. And we are really looking forward to it.

Q. On the matter of the rough being longer, is it your impression that it has been allowed to grow longer --

PAYNE STEWART: Well, I think just with how wet the spring is, maybe it is up because they haven't been able to cultivate it and mow it consistently throughout the spring. There had to be days where I am sure they couldn't get the mowers in the rough. It is just gnarly. It is nasty stuff. It is awful.

WES SEELEY: Anything else?

PAYNE STEWART: Great, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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