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June 1, 2006

Steve Flesch


TODD BUDNICK: We thank the current clubhouse leader, who hasn't finished yet, of the first round of the Memorial Tournament, Steve Flesch. We have 6 under par and the 18th fairway. A great day. Talk a little bit about your round.

STEVE FLESCH: Yeah, first of all, it's nice to be back in the pressroom. I don't think I've been in one of these, other than doing golf channel stuff for my play, in a long time.

Just hitting it really good, keeping the ball in the fairway, and been pretty good with my irons today. Fortunately with the greens being soft as they are, you're able to get the ball close to the hole, which is a little out of character for this place. Usually greens are pretty firm where it's tough to get the ball close. But I've made 7 birdies, birdied all the par 5s, and hit a lot of good putts that could have gone, too. Probably the best round I've played in a year, maybe even a year and a half.

Q. And you're only experience with the bunker was watching other guys in them?

STEVE FLESCH: Yeah, it's frustrating just to watch other guys try to get out of them, to be honest with you. Because really it's we're used to playing in some pretty well conditioned bunkers, especially here at Muirfield Village. I'm not saying they're not well conditioned, they are, it's just the way that obviously it's been a big topic of conversation. The way they're groomed this week makes it tough, even if you are a good bunker player, to get it out close to the hole. It's tough. You almost have to play the bunkers as water hazards, because you know you're going to have a 25, 30 footer for par out of them. So you're steering not only clear of the water hazards out here

Q. Did you find yourself being guided by avoiding them at all?

STEVE FLESCH: I find myself, especially with some of my iron shots today, especially when I was in between clubs, picking where my line was where I was going to start my iron shot and turning it off that line, or picking a club that normally I might try and squeeze back into an area of the green, if it wasn't a perfect fit, taking one less club and keeping it short, like maybe going over into a green side bunker. They're tough. And nobody in our group got it up and down today.

I take that back, Geoff Ogilvy had the front bunker on 12, made it 30 feet by the hole and made a 30 footer. We're good bunker players. That's the only thing I don't agree with. There's some pretty talented guys that have learned how to play out of the bunkers, and I think that's pretty much been taken away from us.

Q. Two schools of thought, one is a bunker, you're not supposed to be in a bunker, but Nick Price said back in the day when the bunkers were shoddy or bad, the greens were stimping at 6 or 8, whereas they're stimping at 11 or 12 out here.

STEVE FLESCH: That was back in the days, as far as I'm concerned, we've come a long way. My feeling is that I don't have a problem with it, but let us showcase our talents, more than anything. A good bunker player is still going to be a better bunker player than a bad bunker player out of bunkers like this. A good bunker player is still going to outperform a poor bunker player, no matter what the conditions of the bunker are.

If you're playing greens that are running 12 on the stimpmeter and they slope away and the faces are 8 feet deep, you've got to give us a little bit of a chance. I'm not saying they have to be perfect, where the ball is just sitting there and you can clip it. But I think we've jumped from if everything was perfect at one, I think we've jumped to the extreme of ten, making them kind of tough. I think somewhere in the middle might be kind of a better test than going this extreme.

Q. Assuming that this, A, was probably not the best place to do this at considering how tough this golf course is, and B, the fact that you haven't had an experience of this type before, do you think if you had the opportunity to practice these type of shots, these type of bunkers, and it was maybe a little more benign set up than what you have this week, a lot of place that you play on Tour, do you think at that point would be a fairer situation?

STEVE FLESCH: Absolutely. But I think your first statement, there, this might not be the place to test it, might be a pretty fair assessment, because it's this place with perfect bunkers, I mean just perfect, the ball sitting in there you can get the club on it, no problem, they're not easy up and downs here. I think a little bit of what maybe the Tour was trying to assume was that it's an automatic up and down out of a bunker. And I don't know how much Mr. Nicklaus I'm sure he had a lot of input into it, too, but it's not an automatic up and down. The Tour average, not to talk about stats, is only like 50 percent. If bunkers are like this week in and week out for us on Tour, the average is going to be down to 20 percent. That doesn't say much about the talent of the guys on Tour.

You still have to have good technique, and get in and hit the shot and then you still have to be able to make the putt. And relying on them making a 20, 30 footer out of a bunker is pretty extreme.

It's changing the way that you're forced to play the holes, no doubt, but nobody wants to be in a bunker that has a ten foot wall on it anyway, much less if you go in it and you've got no chance getting the ball inside there from 30 feet, as well. Same for everybody, all those cliches.

I think we're a pretty good representative sample of some talented guys out of bunkers out here, and I think it's guys like Paul Azinger and Mark Brooks, and some of the best bunker players in the world, I mean, they feel pretty strongly about what's going on this week.

There's something to be said about using your skill to save par, even if you're in a bunker. I'm not saying it's got to be automatic, but at least give us a little bit of a I don't know, maybe a little back off from where they are, is all.

Q. Talk about your putting a little bit. Seemed like every time I looked up today, you were running something in?

STEVE FLESCH: I played the last three or four weeks in a row, and I've putted well at Colonial, and putted pretty well at Memphis last week. Not to quote stats a lot, but I think I'm 70th or 80th in putting. And I think I'm a better putter than that. I've been putting well coming in. There was a little bit of grain on the greens last week at Memphis, but I was putting well. These greens are perfect. There's really no excuse. If you get the speed right here and you've somewhat figured out the line, it's going to go in. These greens are good. A lot of the putts I made today were inside 12 feet. So you kind of expect to make them if you're stroking them well here.

Q. You're kind of a "feel" player?

STEVE FLESCH: Very much so.

Q. How do you handle it when things aren't going well? Do you have the mindset, "It's going to come when I feel it again"? How do you deal with the frustration if it's not there? Do you just know it's going to come back?

STEVE FLESCH: Yeah, pretty much. I've never struggled that much trying to get it back, or feel like if I hit a couple of bad shots, just hang in there. But being a "feel" player, I never want to get too position oriented with my golf swing, and knock on wood, that hasn't really been a problem for me. My problem has been putting. What's gone on in the past, out of my mind. I've talked about that a lot. But 39 years old, I mean, at some point you've got to just move on. I've been pretty good about it the last couple of years. If it's not if it hasn't been one thing, like my irons are a little shaky or my putting was a little shaky, I've had I've been fiddling around with golf balls trying to find one that fits my game. If I just settle in on something, I'm usually okay. So maybe the last few weeks have been kind of a lead up to a good week.

Q. Excuse me if you've already answered this, but I didn't get it. Did you say whether you have been in a bunker yourself today?

STEVE FLESCH: I haven't. I've been avoiding them like a water hazard.

Q. You haven't been in one?

STEVE FLESCH: I haven't been in one. But I've just seen so many bad shots from the guys who are in them. The guys that I'm playing with, you can't get it inside 30 feet. That's crazy. The guys that I'm playing with honestly have not some of the bunker shots they have, haven't been that difficult, but the ball just comes out and just releases and runs 25 feet by, I just can't get it.

Q. Can you describe how you avoided them?

STEVE FLESCH: Well, I've just decided to hit different clubs. If it's if I'm in between an 8 and 9 iron and the 8 iron pushes it back into the green, where, yeah, I probably would have a shorter birdie putt, but if I hit it perfectly, I'm in a green side bunker, so I hit a 9. I don't like playing like that. I don't think anybody likes playing like that. It's certainly not an exciting brand of golf to play. But that's kind of how I've been doing it. And even off the tees, if it isn't too long a hole where I don't have to hit a driver, and I can get away with it, and 3 wood short of the bunker, and having a 7, 9 iron in, I've been doing that, too.

It's something that I think kind of shocked us this week. Some of the players are like wait, wait. We're used to hopping in there with a perfect lie and knocking it on the green. I'm not saying it should be like that. But it's definitely been pretty extreme.

Q. Might not this, though, play to your strength a little bit, because you've got good iron play and you're avoiding the bunkers and leading the tournament. That's not all bad.

STEVE FLESCH: No, that's not all bad. But I think one of the nice things about Muirfield Village is it's an exciting place to watch golf, especially when it plays fast. It's not real fast right now, but it's exciting, because there are deep bunkers. The greens are fast. There's a lot of undulation in them. And I think what's happened is guys are kind of stepping back and playing very conservative golf. You can still reach the par 5s, but I think you're playing a more conservative game. The scores are a lot lower than I thought they'd be, to be honest with you. But I think that's because the greens are soft. The greens are very soft, softest I've ever seen them, here. But it's changed the way guys are playing the golf course.

Q. At the point at the end of the tournament today where they called it, are you praying you can get through? You had great holes and saved on 17. Are you saying, "Let me please get through this and maybe pick up a shot on 18"?

STEVE FLESCH: You know what, it really doesn't bother me now, now that I got the tee shot on 18 out of the way. I'm glad I hit that tee shot and got it in the fairway, I think I've only got an 8 iron in. I wouldn't want to come out cold in the morning and hit that tee shot. You've got the creek to the left, but the bunkers on the right are just as bad. It doesn't bother me, because I've got to be out here early in the morning, I play at 9:30. As far as I'm concerned I like just playing late, early. If I have momentum in the afternoon and I finish late, I eat dinner, I get up and play the next morning, I think it's easier to keep your momentum. Rather than if you play morning on Thursday, then you have to wait until Friday afternoon to play.

Q. 8 iron from about what?

STEVE FLESCH: I think I have maybe 162 or something in.

Q. Are you right in the middle?

STEVE FLESCH: I'm right center. Anywhere in the short grass is fine with me, I'm not greedy.

Q. Did you drive up for this week? And how long of a drive is that for you?

STEVE FLESCH: It's two hours. I left home Tuesday at noon, drove up, got here in the afternoon and played nine holes Tuesday evening.

Q. Is your family coming on this trip? Or are they still in school?

STEVE FLESCH: Oh, yeah, they're all here. Not just my family, but half of Northern Kentucky is here.

Q. What's the big family highlight of the week, did they go to the zoo?

STEVE FLESCH: They were going to go to the zoo, but Tuesday afternoon we had the delay on the golf course and they were still on their way. I told them, "Don't go to the zoo if it's going to rain." It closes at 6, they weren't going to be here. No, the family highlight is golf, so I've got a lot of pressure on me.

Q. I was going to ask in relation to that, if this is the closest TOUR event for you in relation to home, and do you consider it your home, then?

STEVE FLESCH: It is. And it's the first event I ever attended when I was a young guy and my dad brought me up here. And actually, they were nice enough to give me a sponsor exemption this year, because I wasn't in otherwise. And that was included in my letter, begging for a spot and all that stuff. They were nice enough to let me in, and I don't want to be too harsh about the bunkers or say anything bad, because they were nice enough to let me play. I hadn't earned my way in, they gave me a spot, so I'm appreciative of that.

TODD BUDNICK: Go through your birdies.

STEVE FLESCH: Birdie on 1 was a nice 3 wood and a 7 iron in there about ten feet. Made the putt.

Birdie on 5, I drove it down the right side, laid it up into the left fairway with a 7 iron and sand wedge to about three feet.

Birdie on 7, driver and 3 wood on the green about 35 feet, 2 putt birdie.

Bogey on 10, drove it in the rough, hacked it out, about a hundred yards short of the hole, didn't get up and down, made bogey.

Birdie on 11, hit 3 wood off the tee, laid it up to about 75 yards and hit a sand wedge about 12 feet.

Birdie on 13, I hit a driver then an 8 iron about four feet.

Birdie on 15, driver and 5 wood about 25 feet for eagle, 2 putted, made birdie.

16, I hit a 5 iron about 7 feet behind the hole.

And I'm on 18 fairway.

Q. How old were you when you came here?

STEVE FLESCH: You know what, I was probably 12, 13.

Q. Your dad's name?

STEVE FLESCH: Jerry, J e r r y.

17, I hit a good drive out short of the fairway bunker and the wind was just kind of swirling. And I kind of was in between 5 and 6 iron. I didn't want to hit it over in the bunker, so I hit a 6 iron on the left side of the green and thinned it a little bit short and chipped it to about four feet and made the putt.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Steve.

End of FastScripts.

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