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June 20, 1998

Nick Price


LES UNGER: We're pleased to have Nick Price with us this afternoon. And Nick, if you would give us some comments on your round today, please.

NICK PRICE: After the first three or four holes today, experience told me it was going to be a very difficult day. I didn't really look at any of the scores on the computer before I went out, and basically the way the first four holes played, I knew that par was going to be an exceptionally good score today. And, with the exception of probably three or four holes where I drove the ball in the rough, I played very solidly today. I hit a lot of good iron shots and made a lot of good par-saving putts, which is what you have to do in an open championship. Doesn't matter how well you hit the ball, you're going to get one in the fringe or running through, and you're going to chip it up to six or eight feet. And I felt today like I was in pretty good control, and I hit a lot of good iron shots. So I'm not surprised to be where I am, because I've played pretty solidly for the past three days.

LES UNGER: Was there a difference in the course today versus the last two?

NICK PRICE: I think this is the first time we've seen the sun come out for five or six hours, and the wind takes all the moisture out of the greens. And there were a couple of fairways that were faster than some of the greens we putt on Tour. So to try to keep the ball in the fairway, especially holes like four and five. Fortunately, 17, they didn't cut as closely as they have done the last few days, so the ball stayed there. But some of the holes were just very, very difficult to keep the ball in the fairway. And it doesn't matter if you've got a 1-iron or a 3-wood or a driver, it's just the same. You're threading a needle.

LES UNGER: Take us through your round.

NICK PRICE: First hole I hit a driver and 3-iron just through the back of the green, and I chipped to about three feet. Second hole, 6-iron, pitched on the green and caught the slope and came back down. I chipped up to about four feet and made that. Third hole, bogey from -- I hit my tee shot on the bunker on the right, and knocked that out to about 20 feet and 2-putted for bogey. The next hole, I hit 3-iron off the tee, and -- I hit it right down the middle of the fairway, and I was about three inches in the thick rough, knocked it up short of the green, chipped on, and 2-putted from about 20 feet. 6th hole I hit a 3-wood and an 8-iron to about 12 feet, made birdie. 7, I had a good chance from about six feet for birdie, and I missed it. No. 9, 3-wood and a 7-iron to about probably eight, ten feet. No. 11, after what felt like we had been playing with the wind hurting us a little bit on the crosswind holes on the front nine, I got to 11 and hit -- I think I hit my tee shot 298 yards there, and I figured that the wind was helping a little bit. I had 128 yards, I think, to the pin. And I hit a pitching wedge and I thought it was right, and I only had 121 yards to the front edge, and I hit pitching wedge, and it just didn't go. I just misread the wind or caught a back blast or something. I pitched it into the bunker and knocked it out about six feet and missed it. It was a bit confusing. On 13, I hit a 6-iron, and probably pitched it about two or three yards past the pin, and it released all the way back to the green, and I 3-putted. Then 14, I drove a 3-wood in the right-hand rough, and I tried to sort of run a 5-iron out of the first cut of rough, up the throat, and I pushed it a little bit and got short probably about 15 yards short of the green, I had the worst lie I've had all week, just took as hard a swing as I could with a 60 degree sand wedge, and it just came out perfect. Ran up, and I made the putt for par. So I ran with my tale between my legs to the next tee. Then pars all the way in. 16, I up-and-down par, 17 up-and-down par. So good strong finish. I think I could have bogeyed a couple coming in, which would have put me further away from Payne. But I guess he's going to finish 3-under. And five back isn't out of order the way he's playing. But on this golf course anything can happen. So it's the kind of day, tomorrow, where you can't play this golf course aggressively, you have to sort of take the opportunities when they come, and they're very few, believe me. And I just feel that everything depends on how Payne plays tomorrow. So I'll try and do my best, and -- but I can't see, unless they put a lot of water on the course and the greens tonight, someone shooting 65 or 66 tomorrow. I think it's going to be pretty much a carbon copy of today, and that means if Payne shoots anything around par, the guys behind are going to shoot a really good score to catch him.

Q. Nick, does this remind you at all of Southern Hills when you had a pretty comfortable lead?

NICK PRICE: I think Payne is probably going through the same emotions and feeling the same kind of control that I felt, the difference being I come off winning the British Open three weeks earlier. Payne hasn't won for a while, and I think that's probably the only difference. But he is obviously very comfortable and very much in control of his swing and his emotions. And if he continues to play like he's doing, we're going to have a very difficult time catching him.

Q. Nick, if you had a four-shot lead, would you be more comfortable with the conditions this tough?

NICK PRICE: Yeah, it's always great to have a four-shot start on the rest of the guys. I've always thought about whenever I had a big lead, and I looked at the guys I was playing around with, would they like to spot me four shots for 18 holes. And if you go out there and you manage your game properly and you don't take too many chances, if you're hitting the ball solidly, it's going to be difficult to catch. I think today was probably the toughest day of all for Payne. Tomorrow, unless we have a carbon copy, with the wind and the sunshine and the lack of water on the greens, then it's anybody's game, I think.

Q. Nick, on a scale of one to ten, if ten is where your game was back in '94 and 93, where is it now, and how is it different?

NICK PRICE: Tee-to-green, '93,'94, my game was probably -- when I played really well was at an eight. And my putting was around an eight as well. Nowadays, I think my tee-to-green game was better, but my putting is hovering around a five and a half to six. And I think in order to play well, and to really win out on the Tour, you have to run at a 7 and a half or 8 with both parts of your game. So I haven't been putting badly, but I haven't been making the 15- to 25-footers that I did during that period, which helped me win so many tournaments. If you have a look at how many top-10's, and top-5's I've had in the last two years, it's indicative that I just can't make the putts. I haven't been making the putts like I did. So it's frustrating, because I really feel that I've got a lot of game left in me. Anyone got the secret of putting? It's the hardest thing. I go out there and I practice, and I feel like I'm doing all the same things that I did in '93 and '94, and I've got the same feelings, and the ball is just not going in the hole. So it's very frustrating.

Q. Nick, on the subject of your putting, you said you made a lot of good par putts today. Yesterday you said you were putting like a dog. I wondered if anything changed?

NICK PRICE: Well, like I said, from like 6, 7, 8 feet I've been putting solidly, that distance in, I've been putting solidly for the last two years. But that 15- to 25-foot range, which is when we hit a green in regulation, I would say 60 percent of those putts are that length. And I haven't made any. I haven't made enough. And it just depends -- I go out there and if I putt well, I have 28 putts and I shoot 68, if I putt poorly, I have 38 putts and shoot 71. That's where my scoring has been for the last five months or so. And out on Tour, it wins you a bit of money, but it doesn't do too much else.

Q. Nick, do you remember where you were after three rounds in your three majors?

NICK PRICE: Uh-huh. The first one, Jeff Maggert, I think, was leading at Bellerive, I think I was three back. At the British Open, I was two back, and the other PGA, I was leading by five, I believe.

Q. Do you remember who was leading in those first two majors?

NICK PRICE: In the first -- I think Jeff Maggert was leading in Bellerive, and Fuzzy -- Fuzzy was leading the British and somebody else, with Faxon, yeah.

Q. Nick, of the players chasing Stewart, how much of an advantage does Tom Lehman have playing right with him in the last group?

NICK PRICE: Tom's going to be tough tomorrow, because he's determined to win this thing. Obviously, there's some problems he's had in the past. I don't even want to know if you want to call them problems, because the guy has played so well in this championship in the last three years, so I wouldn't say playing as well as he did, he had any problems, but it wasn't -- it was in the lap of the gods, and it just didn't go his way, that he didn't win one of the last three U.S. Opens. But he's showing the courage and the fortitude that I think makes him such a great player, in that he's bounced back again this year into contention. But he's going to be keeping a very Keene eye on Payne tomorrow. And if he can go out and play the way he did today, Payne's going to have -- Payne's got a lot of pressure on him tomorrow, there's no doubt about it.

Q. On the subject of 15- to 25-foot putts, how do you hang onto your patience and not just break everything down and start over? What keeps you from trying something different, trying to do something to fix it, anything?

NICK PRICE: Because I feel like I'm hitting good putts, they're just not going in the hole. I've looked at my stroke on video. I've looked at it, analyzed it. There comes a time mentally where you're just trying too hard to make it. And I'm trying to relax and just go ahead, pick the line and stroke it. And it compounds itself, because the longer you go not making them, the harder you try. And I think one of the reasons why I've played well this week is I've took two weeks off, because I played in Germany after Colonial, and Colonial, both those last two events, I played in, I hit the ball about as well as I could, to be honest with you. If I had putted with the effectiveness that I had in '93 and '94, I probably would have won both those tournaments. But I end up back in 20th and 19th position, which is very irritating when you putt like that. But I keep telling myself I'm not putting that badly, it's just not going for the hole. One of these days it's going to be like '91 or '92. I'm going to let burst the flood gates, and it's all going to come back. If I didn't believe this, I would hang up my clubs right now. Look at Tom Watson, there's a guy who for four years, we all turned away when he had one of these (indicating). And now he's putting great again. So you've just got to persevere.

Q. How do you guys have to change your approach when you come to a course like this as opposed to any other course on the Tour?

NICK PRICE: You're on the defensive here. The USGA is notorious for setting up their golf courses where you have to hit a 9-iron or even a sand wedge 40 feet away from a pin sometimes and be happy with that. I think on the Tour, and a lot of other tournaments we play, outside the major championships, you just aim at the flag, once you get a short iron in your hand. And here you've just got to play away. There are certain areas that you just do not want to hit the ball in. And you want to leave yourself a 30-foot or 40-foot putt up the hill, that's a lot better than an 8-footer coming straight down the hill. So it's positive-negative golf.

Q. If you were on the tournament policy board, would you try to have input setting up golf courses on the Tour more difficult to test accuracy and precision more?

NICK PRICE: I think definitely. One of the problems we've had, and it's been discussed a lot recently, is that the rough on Tour is not as thick as it used to be, whether that is the weather conditions or whatever it might be. But we've got more fans on the course, and they flatten the rough. You sort of have that five-, ten-yard to seven-yard border of deep rough. So when you miss the fairway by five to seven yards or ten yards, you're actually lucky. But the rough has not been as thick as it should be on Tour. And I think it gets to a stage where if you've got 150 guys playing on Thursday and Friday, if you don't water the greens correctly, you can lose the greens. And it's going to take this course probably two months to recover from this. And the last thing you want is to go and play on a club's golf course and they've got to wait for three months for their greens, and course to get back in condition. They'll never want us back again. So I feel that we just need to toughen our courses up a little.

End of FastScripts....

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