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June 15, 1999

Curtis Strange


LES UNGER: My understanding is that you had spent an awful lot of time playing here some years ago, and have some great expertise about this golf course.

CURTIS STRANGE: Hit it on the fairway; hit it on the green, and make putts. I'm like a lot of guys, Jay Haas and Davis, and I'm trying to think who else went to school in the area: Hoch, Mattiace. Anyway, it's just -- we did play here in North and South Amateurs, and Pinehurst Intercollegiate was here, and then we qualified here in the qualifying school in June of '77; so we had played a lot here in tournaments. It's just -- it's one of my favorite courses. I love it. I love everything about it. The golf course is perfect, as far as I'm concerned. I hope you've heard that from everybody. It's absolutely perfect. It's going to be fun. It's U.S. Open from tee-to-green, until you get to the green. And obviously. There's no rough around the greens. It's just going to be fun for the players to hit different shots. It's going to be fun for you to watch, the viewers to watch on television, because there's going to be a lot of different shots hit and a lot of imagination used, and it's going to be really interesting to just watch and see what the guys do, instead of taking out a sand wedge out of the rough, which I agree with on Open setups, as well. But this is going to be fun, this is really going to be different. I don't know how it's going to play. I don't know how the scores are going to be, because we're playing a little bit in the unknown, because we haven't had a setup like this in my time in the U.S. Open, anyway. But I think it's going to be a ball.

LES UNGER: From the times you were playing here in the past, are there any major changes that you can name?

CURTIS STRANGE: No. Other than there are some tee extensions, some added length. But other than that -- I haven't played here since '81. I was here about seven weeks ago, and the greens they say have been enlarged ever so slightly. And it looks like to me, maybe a little bit like that, I'm sure it is, and some of the rolls around may be slightly increased. But everything else is the same. There are some new tees, but that really doesn't affect it. It's the same golf course.

Q. As a past champion, talk to me about two things: The pressure during an Open. How does it differ from other events? And the competitiveness; are you grinding your teeth a little harder this week than you would a normal week?

CURTIS STRANGE: To answer your question, first -- your second question first, I think I played decent golf the last two weeks, because I wanted to -- I'm preparing for this week. I've been looking forward to this week, personally, ever since they announced it, what, three years ago. This is, again, a favorite place of mine, and it's the U.S. Open; so, yeah, I've been working a little bit. Not hard up until three weeks ago, but since about three weeks ago, I worked pretty hard. Played decent the last couple of years. The pressure, it's our National Championship. It's the biggest tournament that we, Americans, can play in it; so, yes, there's more at stake, there's more pressure. It's a huge event. Just the atmosphere, it's great. That's why I was in a hurry to get here. I wanted everybody here yesterday, because you get used to the atmosphere. I don't know if the guys wanted to play yesterday or not, but I wanted to be here. There's more at stake, yeah.

Q. Curtis, obviously you know your way around this course, back-to-back, North/South Amateurs, played it a lot, played it successfully in college and as an amateur. Will this course give Lee Janzen a chance to repeat, and how hard is it really to repeat?

CURTIS STRANGE: I think Lee Janzen is a contender in any U.S. Open, because he has the game. I just read in the paper, I don't know where he is in accuracy, but he's not the straightest of hitters, he's not the greatest of ball-strikers, but he does everything well. And he's tough. He's tough down the stretch. He's shown that. He's always a contender in the Open. He has the confidence that he can play well in the Open, and that has a lot to do with it. And in this course, again, we don't know, because it's a little different setup. We don't know who's going to do well here. Obviously, you're going to see the typical -- but the rough is penalizing, but it's not chip-out stuff. Tom Meeks said he didn't want it like that. He wants the ball running around these greens to run off and down, and I'd agree with him a hundred percent on that. If the rough isn't that tough, I think back and look -- I've said all along to you guys and on TV that Tiger Woods will win a U.S. Open, I think. But I think you'll learn how to do that. You learn how to manage your game better, especially when you're as long as he is, and Duval. But I think they have a hell of a chance this week, I really do. I think the long hitters have a better chance this week than maybe last year in such tough rough. You couldn't move it out of that stuff at Olympic. Ernie Els, whoever is playing well. Janzen obviously is playing well, guys like that. I'm really going out on a limb, aren't I?

Q. Can you go to the second part of my question, please? To what does it take mentally when you know you've got a chance for that second consecutive win?

CURTIS STRANGE: You just have to keep working and stay focused, and you know what it takes to do it. Obviously, it takes a good golf game. There's no getting around that. Put that aside, everything being equal, you just have to -- with him you have to stay focused and just kind of -- he just wants a chance on Sunday. Just stay around and have an opportunity, and then things could go his way. They did go my way. I didn't so much win the second U.S. Open; I hung and I survived while everybody else kind of went south. And that's what happens.

Q. This is the last year for your exemption. Have you thought about this might be your last Open, or do you hope there will be more?

CURTIS STRANGE: I haven't heard it put quite like that (Laughter. ) You don't want to bet your house against mine that this is going to be my last U.S. Open, do you? I'm exempt -- this is like I just qualified this year. I'm in the same boat as -- how many guys qualified in this field? I'm not exempt for next year. How many get in next year from this tournament? 16. It's not that big a deal. Some people treat it like it's the end of the world, but it's been great. I haven't had to qualify for ten years. I qualified well before that, and I will qualify next year, if I'm not otherwise exempt. I said to some guys yesterday that it's not a disgrace to have to qualify. It's a disgrace not to try. And that's terrible. I will be the first one in next year, if I'm not otherwise exempt.

Q. You talked about three years being excited for this. As the course is set up and the way you're playing now, tell us about your game and this course through the weekend?

CURTIS STRANGE: I'm playing okay. I don't know. It's a day-to-day thing with me. But the course, I like a lot, obviously. I think what I'm missing more than anything else is the ability to really score with the short game and stuff like that. And that's going to be a huge part this week,; so I have to hopefully do a little better than I've been doing. To answer your question, that's all I can say. Each week -- the more I play the better I get, because I haven't played a whole lot. And so much is between the ears, as well. So hopefully I can find something a little bit this week, and like I said, hang around.

Q. Curtis, you mentioned the '89 victory being sort of survival. When you think back on '88 and '89, is there a defining moment from each tournament you remember more than others, whether it be a shot, a walk, anything in particular that comes to mind?

CURTIS STRANGE: Yeah, I remember -- obviously the bunker shot in '88. I guess you expected that one. I should have said something else. It was the 7-iron on the 7th hole, the Friday after -- no. The bunker shot, because it got me into the playoff. And then '89 was so different, but I just remember the buzz when I was on the 8th tee. The buzz was that Tom had a triple-bogey next hole, and I didn't believe it until I had it confirmed walking down the fairway from an official. I think I was either tied for the lead or one back when he made triple.

Q. I've asked a few golfers about this. Jack Nicklaus, playing his 43rd Open in a row. He's missed a few of the majors. Was it strange not to have him around then, and do you think it will be strange one day when he doesn't play an Open anymore?

CURTIS STRANGE: What's he missed, The Masters and the PGA? I haven't been around those, either; so I could really care less (Laughter.) If you print that -- no, everything happens. It happened to Arnold, it's happened to Trevino, and all the great ones, it eventually happens. Forget about that. I think it's fantastic that he's back from the surgery. He looked great. He felt great at Memorial, and he made the cut there. I know he feels better than he has in years, and I say that without really asking him saying it, but I feel like he probably feels better that he can swing at the golf ball more freely, without pain for the first time in years. So that is enough incentive to do well and have fun. I'm paired with him the first two days. I can't wait. It's going to be fun. It's great having him around, though. How old is he now? 59? He still can play. 59, my gosh. He still can play.

Q. Curtis, Payne Stewart was in here earlier and theorized that the lower rough was better; do you agree with that?

CURTIS STRANGE: Yeah, I do. I like that, and I understand that was Tom Meeks' whole idea coming in here. What I've talked to him, that if the guys chip out, just make them go back to the fairway, they have a pretty good opportunity to make par every time. But if you make them go out to the green with hot flyers, running shots and with no rough to save those hot ones running around the green, now you can get in some really funky places, and you can't save par. And I agree with him. And you can only do that at certain venues, and this is one of them. We're hitting hot flyers out there, and it's enticing to go at greens, and you're getting places -- I played one ball, and there's some places out there you don't want to be.

Q. You mentioned you had played at the North and South, won it twice and played here a lot. How does the course play now in comparison to then, aside from the length? Is it the way it's set up and the injection of shots that you mentioned, and does coming back here give you something positive because of your experiences here?

CURTIS STRANGE: Well, it's nice to come back. It has no bearing -- I think the guys that have played a lot have that much of an edge, but I don't know if it affects the outcome of the golf tournament. To see the place you like and have had successes is fun. The North/South is so different, you can't compare that: It was early springtime, not a whole lot of rough, the Bermuda was just popping. It was such a totally different golf course. We can relate it very much to the World Open. The World Open is set up very similar to the way it is now, just as tough. I asked Jay, either last or second last World Open, he said 8-under par he shot, and that's not really low. So there's a lot of rough in the World Open, and the greens were pretty firm. I don't know what the weather is supposed to be like, but I can see 8-under par here. I'm guessing. I'm pulling one out. I'm the worst in the world at predicting scores. But I think it will be lower. It will be well under par, yeah. And there's nothing -- I think that's great. 20-under is one thing. But 6-, 7-, 8-under par is something else. That's a lot of struggling, a lot of good play, a few birdies here and there. I lost my train of thought on your first question. But the North/South was so much fun. Totally different atmosphere, not as much at stake. But it was a huge thing, then, and when you had a chance to win at the time it was the biggest thing in the world. George Burns, we love him to death, but I birdied the 15th hole and put a stake in his heart to go 1-up. I finally beat him at 2-up. And we're always shaking hands with people with the dead fish. This was the all-time sweaty, cold, didn't say congratulations, didn't say anything. I can't repeat what I said to him (Laughter.) That's where match play is so much fun. He was mad at me and myself and everybody else for beating him. That was fun. If we played match play more on Tour, we wouldn't be out to dinner with each other so often. If you beat me all the time, all the time, for some reason, I'm just not going to like you. (Laughter.)

End of FastScripts....

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