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March 7, 2004

Mark O'Meara

Emirates Golf Course,Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Emirates Golf Course
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

March 07, 2004
Final Round

An interview with:


GORDON SIMPSON: Congratulations, Mark, winner of the Dubai Desert Classic this year. Must be very satisfying.

MARK O'MEARA: It's very gratifying any time you win a golf tournament, especially one of this stature. This tournament I think people recognize around the world as one of the classic events. You look at the players that play here this week and past champions that have won this championship, you've got a lot of great players, and for me to put my name alongside them is a dream come true. You always wonder sometimes when you're battling, you haven't won and your confidence is low, if you just keep practicing and keep plugging away, maybe you'll have that chance again, and this week fortunately I had the chance.

There's always a little bit of doubt in anybody's mind, but I felt like on the back side, I was in control of my emotions and I hit I think every green in regulation. So, that was really a victory for myself personally, too, besides winning the championship.

You know, I was delighted to be able to play alongside Paul McGinley the last four days. He's a friend, he's a great competitor and he's swinging the club very, very well. It helps when you're playing with a guy that is a good, fair competitor and a good sport, kind of knows what the game is all about. Paul certainly knows that. I look for him to have a very big year this year in Europe and golf in general. He looks pretty focused.

As for myself, this is just a big day for me. To go 5 1/2, almost 6 years without a victory, hey, what can you say? It's a special moment for me. So I'm very thankful, I feel very privileged. And to have Tiger Woods standing there on the 18th green giving me a big bear hug, it shows the kind of heart this guy has, besides the fact that he's No. 1. He genuinely cares about me as a friend and a person, and that meant a lot to know that he was there for me, too, when I finished up on 18th. He knows it's been a long time coming for me. He's always pushing me and telling me that I can still do it.

The putting grip that we spoke about earlier in the week has certainly positively rejuvenated my career. I hit some wonderful putts, I had great speed on my putts, and if you do that, you have a lot better chance of winning.

Q. Paul a few moments ago said that for a guy who had not won for six years, you looked like a guy who had been winning every week, you looked so natural.

MARK O'MEARA: Well, that's nice of Paul to say that. There are times when I'm out there thinking, it's not like I haven't won before. I've won in Europe, I've won around the world and I've won in the U.S., I've won major championships.

But you know, I felt pretty calm the last few holes. I just had to play smart. Paul got in trouble off the 16th tee and that gave me a two shot spread, and I figured, you know, he was going to have to birdie last two holes. So I felt like I could birdie one of last two holes, too. He did hit a great shot at 18. When I hit my wedge shot up there, I figured I could get the job done and he missed his eagle putt.

I feel fortunate, to play alongside Paul McGinley, because he's a class guy.

Q. You've been a very good friend of Dubai's over the last few years and you've been a very good ambassador for Dubai across the world; it must give you a great feeling that you've got something back now from all of that.

MARK O'MEARA: Well, it does. Certainly, this tournament has been very gracious to invite me and send me an invitation to come and play. I know it's a long way to come but every time I've come, the hospitality that the people in Dubai have shown me here has just been tremendous. I think the rest of the world is going to start to see what Dubai is all about and what they are doing here, His Highness, hut putting all of this time and effort and trying to develop this into a world class country and city, it's just unbelievable.

I look forward to coming back and defending my title next year and for many more years to come because I feel blessed to have so many wonderful friends around the world. These people treated me like I'm their friend.

Q. Tiger he seemed almost as pleased as you to win the event, what did he say?

MARK O'MEARA: He just gave me a big bear hug. He was just so thrilled for me and he said that. He said, "Mark, I'm so happy, I'm as happy as you are right now for you." He's got a big heart. Sometimes that's a side of Tiger Woods that you don't see but it's a side of Tiger Woods that I know. And I tell you, that is the ultimate competitor, but he is also the ultimate champion because of the humility that he shows towards the game, especially with the success and the notoriety that he has.

Q. You mentioned the doubt over last six years, how big do those doubts get?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, throughout my career I've had my up and downs a little bit and certainly there's times where I think after '98, I knew I would push for a couple of years and I thought when I got to be 44, 45, I would slow down and I think I've done more than I would ever have dreamed of in competitive golf. But unfortunately the competitive nature one has inside themselves to get to that level, it's hard to just all of a sudden walk away. I felt like could I still play. I still believe, like this week, I wouldn't say that I hit the ball absolutely superbly, but I managed myself well and I know I could actually strike the ball better than I did out there today. But I kept good check of my emotions and the putting and certainly those are the things that you have to do to win tournaments.

There are times in the last three years or four years that I have not been doing that and it's been frustrating. But I have spent a lot of time on the practice tee. I felt like toward the end of last year, I reached not the low, but it's time to turn this thing around and really get a passion for playing the game of golf again, and I feel a lot more relaxed on the golf course. I know I'm not perfect, I didn't hit every shot perfect.

So if I just give myself a chance and don't get too upset with the bad ones, then the good ones start to come out a little bit more frequently. 14 shots maybe a couple years ago, I'm thinking this last time I hit it left on 4, left on 3, what am I doing on my swing? I just went down there hoping I would have a good lie and fortunately, I was on the sand and had a good lie, better than had I been in the rough or even the fairway, and I had a good angle shooting against the wind. I had a 7 iron from 156. I hit a superb shot, what can I say. It came off at the right time.

To get off to a good start is always important when you have the lead and then you try to maintain it. I knew I could not play conservatively, but I saw Tiger making a move and I knew Ernie was playing well. I was just trying to get my ball in the fairway, trying to get it on the green and give myself a chance for birdie. A 7 iron on 5 was big and the 7 iron on 11 was big.

Q. What were you like to be around when things were not going well, and was the time you spent with Tiger vital in coming through that?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, I wouldn't say I don't think I've ever been I'm probably my own worst enemy at times. People around me and my close friends tell me that I'm too hard on myself but I don't see that. I guess I'm a guy who is thankful for what I have, very thankful for the success that I've achieved and the tournaments that I have won and every one is special. This one I have to put right at the top in my career. Certainly, winning the Masters and the Open Championship were a dream come true in '98. Player of the Year, that's a dream come true. But to be honest with you, to win the Dubai Desert Classic 2004 is kind of a dream come true.

My expectations were moderate what I came here to the tournament. I always want to make the cut when I come overseas and play and play well and give myself a chance. But to play like I did, to win the championship, is even more of a boost for me.

Q. And how does it affect your plans for the rest of the season?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, I'll probably jump from 200th on the World Rankings to at least maybe back towards 100 or something. I'm moving the right direction, anyway.

I'm going to play next week at the Honda Classic. I'm going to go back tonight and I'll play the Honda Classic next week, and I'll play Bay Hill the following week. I'm not in the PLAYERS Championship. Then I'll probably play Augusta and Hilton Head. This will just like I said earlier, I was telling Gordon, I'm not overconfident in any or means or form. I've been playing the game way too long to realize how difficult it is. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Q. How excited should we all be looking ahead to the majors? You know the British Open obviously, you know the Masters, and how much notice would you hope Hal Sutton is paying?

MARK O'MEARA: Maybe he would pick me as an assistant captain possibly, but I'm not too worried about that. What we've seen so far in the world of golf this year, not just the European Tour, not just the PGA TOUR, there's still a lot of excitement and still a lot of players who have raised the bar. Tiger is definitely the world's No. 1, there's no denying that, but yet a lot of players are make something big strides toward Tiger.

I think the Masters is certainly going to be the first highlight major championship. THE PLAYERS Championship will be a preview to what could happen at Augusta. THE PLAYERS Championship is a very demanding course, you all know that, at TPC.

Even though Tiger might be struggling a little right now with his confidence or swing or whatever, the guy, he lives and breathes golf. But Ernie is going to be there, Phil is playing better this year, Vijay is playing well. There's so many good players. John Daly, look what he's done.

So it's good for golf when there's a lot of different winners, I think and it's also good for golf when Tiger Woods wins. And it's also not bad for golf when Mark O'Meara wins, too. (Laughter.)

Q. You said earlier in the week when you talked about the Saw putting stroke you said, "Well, I didn't have the yips today." Is what you achieved today the ultimate test for the stroke?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, I was definitely a little nervous on the last green, no denying it. I'm glad I had an 8 footer. I'm glad it wasn't 20 feet.

Even out there on 14, 15, 16, 13, I hit great putts under the pressure. And that just solidifies the fact that what I'm working on and my technique, the Saw putting grip, I'm taking dibs on that. We're going to have to get copyrights on that possibly.

It simplifies it. So any of you guys or gals that have a little yip in the stroke and may not want to admit this, it that's cool, I'm down with that, but you might want to try this. Trust me, it works.

Thanks everybody, appreciate it very much.

End of FastScripts.

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