March 26, 2003
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Mike, thanks for joining us. You're second on the money list and you've won two PGA TOUR events so far this year. Can you start us with a couple of comments about your season thus far.
MIKE WEIR: It's been a great start to the year. You know, I'm very excited to win twice, but it is still the start of the year, and my goals are to keep it going, to keep the momentum I've had early in the season. I've had some good starts before, kind of stalled and then played well at the end of the year, so I'm looking to keep it going all year.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: As far as playing in the 30th anniversary of THE PLAYERS Championship you had your first top 25 here last year. You're trying to improve that, obviously. Talk about the course.
MIKE WEIR: The golf course each and every year is more difficult than what I remember. The rough is pretty thick this year again, obviously with a lot of rain. The greens with the wind today are going to be firm and fast. It's a great championship because it tests all aspects of your game, and I think that's what the commissioner wanted. I think that's what the players want is a golf course that's going to test all aspects. You have to drive it well, you have to hit solid iron shots and hit them in the right spots in the greens and it's a difficult playing course, as well. When you miss the greens it's difficult with some rough and difficult bunkers around. It just tests all aspects, so if you win this week you've had everything going.
Q. Mike, have you reassessed your goals and what you want to accomplish this year? You said at Nissan that two wins came so quickly; that you really hadn't had a chance to think about down the road, but you've had some time now. Have you reassessed the goals at all, what you might want to try to accomplish?
MIKE WEIR: I guess no, not really. I mean, my goals normally aren't performance goals of how many top tens or wins or things like that. My goals are always about what I'm trying to accomplish with my golf swing, the frame of mind I'm trying to get into each and every week. As I stated earlier that's what I'm going to try to accomplish this year is to try to be there more often and not have a period of tournaments where I'm really not in contention, so I think those are the goals I'm trying to achieve this year.
Q. Do you find as you're back among the hot players now, do you find you're getting better tee times, better times?
MIKE WEIR: No, I think my tee times the last few years have always been pretty good. Once you move up into the first category you're going to get good tee times if you've won in the last -- I'm not sure exactly how it works, but if you've won in the last couple of years you get those premium tee times. I've been at both ends of the spectrum coming out of Q-School and you kind of have to work your way up to that.
Q. Mike, when you wept to Augusta did you hit it in the bunker on 5 just to see if you could get out?
MIKE WEIR: I didn't, but there's a little bit of rough -- quite a bit of rough there, Doug, because of all the rain they've had. They weren't able to get the mowers out. One shot on the left I got caught on the left and didn't even make it to the bunker. It's about 290 to the bunker, about 315-carry or something.
Q. Did you look inside the bunker?
MIKE WEIR: Yeah, I walked down in there and it's ugly. You can't get out. You can get out, but I don't think you can get to the green unless you get unbelievably lucky and get right in the middle because the front of the bunker feeds it right down to the lip and then it comes straight back up.
Q. How high is it? O'Meara said all you can see is sky?
MIKE WEIR: Yeah. I was right at the front of the bunker looking up and I couldn't see anything, so from down in the bunker you can't see anything. I guess it's seven, eight feet.
Q. If you were in that bunker, how far to the green, 140, 150?
MIKE WEIR: To the front it's probably 150 to the front of the green, so maybe 170 to the middle of the green.
Q. Mike, I know that you're part of the generation of players that came into this game at the PGA TOUR level when the money got real good. Still, what kind of perspective do you have on a $6.5 million purse and a first place check of more than $1,100,000?
MIKE WEIR: Yeah, for me it's playing some of the smaller Tours before I got here for six years, we had our meeting in here last night they showed a graphic of my first year on the Tour in 1998. I think the average purse was about $1.6 or $1.7 million. I thought that was unbelievable money because I was playing for $100,000 Canadian total purse coming out, which I thought was great, too. I was just happy to be playing and I won a couple tournaments that were $22,000. So to answer your question, yeah, it's unbelievable that we're playing for this amount of money. I guess if you can compare it to the other sports, it's still not quite there if you look at, overall, what guys make out here compared to other sports. I'm not complaining but it's not quite there with the other sports, and we're growing and we're getting there.
Q. Mike, you said about the fact that you're not really goal-oriented as much in the results as you are about your swing and your mental aspects of the game. How prepared are you this year coming into this stretch of PLAYERS and Augusta versus other years? Do you feel you're in the best shape you're you can be in at this point?
MIKE WEIR: No question. This is, I think, the most confident I've felt. I felt like I've done all the work I need to do to be really ready for these three weeks coming up, I'm playing Atlanta in between the two and I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to the challenge of the golf course, the competition, and hopefully things pan out and I'm right there for them.
Q. Along those lines about your goals being learning about yourself and what you can do and whatnot, what did you learn in the final round at Medinah?
MIKE WEIR: What did I learn? That I probably just needed to play my own game. I think I got caught up in how big the whole event was and just basically I think I had been in contention maybe one other tournament. I hadn't been in that situation, let alone a major. I was a little green to all that stuff, and I think obviously I'm much more prepared for that now. Back then I just learned that I just need to play my own game. I think I was trying to hit some shots that maybe I hadn't practiced enough, trying to force the ball into the hole, trying to get a little too close, all those things. I learned a lot from that and I won my first tournament two weeks later. Looking back, hopefully it'll pay dividends down the end. You can learn more from a loss like that than sometimes a win.
Q. That was a tough crowd that day, wasn't it?
MIKE WEIR: It was a little bit of a difficult crowd that day. Everybody was pretty excited playing with Tiger and Tiger was playing well. Yeah, it was a tough day, but I am ready for that stuff now.
Q. Is that any indication of what we might see this summer at the U.S. open back in Chicago?
MIKE WEIR: I'm not sure. I think the fans are great fans there in Chicago. They're great sports fans altogether, but yeah, I don't know.
Q. Does it matter to you who you're paired with? Obviously Tiger there, does it put extra pressure on you to do things that you don't necessarily like to do when you're paired with somebody?
MIKE WEIR: I don't think so. I think maybe back then maybe a little bit more, but I'm at the point now that I'm able to focus on my own game and block out distractions a lot better. Whoever I'm playing with and what the circumstances are, I think I can handle those very well now, so it doesn't really matter.
Q. Just to follow up, so if you were in the final group on Sunday at Augusta with Tiger versus another player, do you think that your approach would still be the same?
MIKE WEIR: Absolutely, yes.
Q. Mike, what have you been doing so well this year that's allowed you to win twice?
MIKE WEIR: Well, I think I'm driving it really well. I put a new driver in the bag midway through last year, this new 5A tailor-made driver and I'm driving longer, straighter, and that sets up the rest of the golf course if you're hitting out of the fairway. I think I've eliminated a hook for the most part. That's kind of been my troubleshot. I struggled a little bit at Doral, I wasn't on balance ball-striking there, but for the most part the right side of the golf course has been eliminated it a little bit and much more consistent ball-striking, iron play has been good, short game has been very good and I'm thinking well out there.
Q. It all starts off the tee, though?
MIKE WEIR: It does all start off the tee, yeah.
Q. Mike, at Nissan there was a lot of talk about perhaps the gap closing with Tiger a little bit, and then we all see what he's done since Nissan. Did the gap close at all? Has it expanded again? What's your take on that?
MIKE WEIR: I don't know. You know, Tiger is obviously playing very well right now. There's been -- I guess Ernie and myself are the other multiple winners this year, but there's a lot of great players out here. I don't know if that gap has been shortened, I guess. That's up to you guys to decide that.
Q. Is it at all alarming, though, given what he did in 2000, the history of that, to see him win the three tournaments the way he's done them, fairly easily?
MIKE WEIR: He's very motivated each and every tournament he plays and he's not allowed to lay the hammer down when he gets ahead, and that's something we all can learn if we do get ahead a little bit. You know, from my own perspective, it's not alarming, Doug, it's a great challenge. I look at it as a great challenge. I look forward to that type of challenge.
Q. You've never had to lay the hammer down, have you?
MIKE WEIR: I haven't. I've come from behind and I learned that stuff.
Q. Mike, what's your favorite thing about having your own website?
MIKE WEIR: Favorite thing? I think I get to respond to the emails that I do get. It's a little bit more personal sometimes. You know, we get to interact with the fans. I think that's special about golf. You do get to interact with the fans and sign autographs, but there's not a whole lot of time to communicate with them, so when they do write in emails and things, you're able to respond to them and correspond a little bit with people.
Q. Mike, you clearly said that the next step for you is to really contend and win major tournaments. Do you have any kind of different approach to those, counting this one for the sake of my question?
MIKE WEIR: Not really. I mean, I think that's been a little bit what's caused me some problems maybe in the past is maybe working a lit bit too hard, maybe overworking and trying to be too perfect. You have to pay attention to certain things in a major, but you still have to go out there and look at it as a golf course and you have to hit it to a spot and hit it to a spot on the green. It sounds kind of boring, but that's really what it boils down to, and guys who really have success in those type of tournaments simplify things, I think.
Q. Mike, last year we had the 18 first-time winners and this year so far none. Was that an aberration last year? Did the veterans get angry and are putting the newcomers back in their place so far this year?
MIKE WEIR: I think it's maybe a little too early to say that, but I think last year showed just the depth of our Tour and how competitive it is and how difficult it is to win out here because it is so competitive, but I think 18 first-time winners is a lot. I don't know if we'll see that a lot, but obviously there will be some this year.
Q. The way the PGA TOUR is set up with long courses and so forth, that's obviously an advantage for a player such as you and Tiger Woods. Do you feel that the PGA TOUR should maybe alternate and try to go with a long course, small course, so forth, to kind of give some kind of parity and maybe help out some of the smaller players?
MIKE WEIR: Well, for myself, obviously, I don't hit it as far as the long bombers out here, but there's certain golf courses obviously where I'll have a little more advantage than golf courses that are wide open. I think the Tour does a pretty good job of setting up golf courses really long some weeks, and even the really long courses some day they move some tees up and mix it up a little bit. There's been a lot of discussion I won't get into about golf course setup. There's been some good dialogue on it in the last few weeks, and it's an issue that I'm sure the Tour is really going to address because we don't want to eliminate the real short hitter out here because there's a lot of great players out here that are short hitters and some golf courses they really don't have a chance on, so it would be good if there was a variety.
Q. Mike, what are your thoughts on potential for a circus-like atmosphere once we get to Augusta that might affect play?
MIKE WEIR: I think the golf course is so well surrounded by ropes and fences and the protests will be outside the ropes and the gates and I don't think it will affect the tournament at all. Hopefully it's done peacefully. In the United States you have the right to disagree with something if you don't feel it's right. I don't think that they'll have a problem with the golf tournament, though. I don't have any concerns about it.
Q. You have those rules in Canada, too, don't you?
MIKE WEIR: (LAUGHTER).
Q. Mike, this is like 7,100 I think. Would you classify this as a shot-maker's course or a power course?
MIKE WEIR: I think it's a little bit of both. It's going to be long off the tee but still it's better to be accurate, I think. You have to hit it in the fairway here first and foremost as I said, and then the approach shots are very difficult here with the wind swirls around on the golf course, so it is a shot-maker's course. You have to flight the ball under the wind on a few shots, downwind you may have to hit it up in the air to be able to hold some of these greens. A lot of dog-legs, 18 where you have to shape it around the water, and then there's the par 5, 16 where you have to fade it a little bit. Length is not everything out here. You have to work the ball a little bit.
Q. Has equipment gotten out of hand?
MIKE WEIR: No, I don't think it's gotten out of hand. I think they're having good dialogue with all the manufacturers right now, the Tour, and trying to get a handle on what's going on. I think there's three things obviously, the equipment, the ball, and better athletes on the Tour. It's hard to pinpoint what's been the major factor, but obviously equipment and the ball is a little bit of a factor why we're shooting lower scores -- actually the scores aren't lower but why we're hitting it a little bit further. I don't think it's out of hand.
Q. Did it get brought up in the meeting last night?
MIKE WEIR: I don't know if it was or not. I left a little early.
Q. Do you like the idea of separate rules for amateurs and professionals?
MIKE WEIR: I don't, no.
Q. What do you think would be the downside of that?
MIKE WEIR: I think the average player wants to relate with the Tour player and use the same equipment. It gives a barometer there that if an amateur hits a drive out there 300 yards, he wants to feel he's using the same equipment as a pro and say I can hit it 20 yards past Weirsy.
Q. Mike, with Phil being out people are looking at you as the top lefty. Does it bother you being a lefty golfer and does this course present any challenges to coming off left?
MIKE WEIR: You know, to answer the first part, it don't bother me being known as a lefty because there's only a few of us. I think this course favors anybody that can work the ball and shape the ball. I don't think right-handed or left-handed has anything to do with it. To answer part of Dave's question about shot-making, I think a person who's really able to work the ball here, not just hit a straight shot, will have a good advantage here.
Q. With your performance recently do you think you've gone beyond people saying he's one of the best lefty golfers to now; he's just one of the best golfers? Do you feel like you have?
MIKE WEIR: Well, yeah, I do, yeah.
Q. I was going to ask you, since the two victories early in the season, have you noticed your profile being higher in airports or restaurants or anything like that where you might be in a public forum any more or do you have any stories along those lines?
MIKE WEIR: I don't really have any stories, but I've noticed a little bit maybe more recognition traveling and through airports, signing maybe a few more autographs through airports and things like that, but nothing big-time, no big stories to tell you.
Q. Mike, at what stage last year did you realize lack of wins and high finishes that something had gone wrong and you needed to make some changes?
MIKE WEIR: I would say probably after the U.S. open last year. I missed the cut there and that was very disappointing, and I think at that point I went to work, kind of put the waggle back in play. I did strike the ball much better and I was working so hard on that that I kind of neglected my short game. My short game really happened me back the second part of the year. That's when I realized -- I did this experiment without the waggle trying to lengthen out my swing a little bit more was maybe not the right thing to do. I guess that's when I kind of noticed it.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thanks, Mike.
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