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July 31, 1998

Neal Lancaster


DAVE SENKO: Neal, 65 to go with your 67 yesterday. Currently tied for the lead 10-under. Maybe just a recap of your day, just some general thoughts.

NEAL LANCASTER: Started pretty poorly on the 10th hole, Nearly went into the pond on 11. Made a 5; just played for 5 and fell back to 3-under and then 11 was a crucial hole. I guess I hit it in there about, I guess, about twelve feet, made it for birdie. Then on the 12th hole, hit it in there probably about 15 feet. I missed it. Then 13, I hit probably the worse shot I hit all day, bunker shot three feet past the hole, didn't give the hole up; ball broke a little bit, I missed it, so, another bogey in there; I am thinking: "oh, well, et cetera," just relaxed a little bit, what happens, happens; just play some golf. Parred 14. Playing long, it was 2-iron. Then 15, I hit it in there about eight feet just left of the hole, hit my putt right where I wanted to and misread it, so made par there. And then on 16, I hit driver and had 257 to the hole and hit a 3-wood about twelve feet just left of the hole. Hit it right where I wanted. Another bad read. Made birdie. 17, I hit it in there about 15 feet, right of the hole, hit it right where I wanted, another bad read. Then 18 was playing long, hit a 4-iron in there, on the right side of the green, probably about, oh, I'd say 35 feet, I made it. Probably longest putt I made this year. So 1-under on the back 9; felt like I didn't play real well, but I left two or three out there. I go to the front 9 and go to 1, it is playing straight down. I have trouble with the first driving hole for some reason on this golf course. And, I just stayed up there and trusted it. Had hit a good drive, 9-iron, oh, about 15 feet made it. Next hole, wind was kind of swirling a little bit on the front 9; should have been downwind, but we hit our drive off the tee. I elected to hit a 3-wood there; left myself 146 yards and wind started blowing into us. I had a 7-iron in there. Hit about 25 feet, 2-putted. Then a big key was on 3 and 4, I guess on the third hole, new tee on that hole, so we are not going for that hole -- anyway, most of us aren't, so, I hit a drive and laid up with a 4-iron, had 84 yards and tried to hit a little low skip-shot in there just, I guess, lift, clean, and place; got too good a lie and pulled it too far. Hit it back probably 30 feet past the hole coming over a big hump, I was lagging and it went in. It was unbelievable. I could have stood there, 25 balls couldn't have ever made it in - no way. Then 4th hole was playing, I think, 194 yards, par 3 and, oh, left-to-right into the wind and I just tried to hit a smooth 4-iron, luckily hit it in there probably three feet, probably best shot I hit all day, and made it. Then kind of off to the races and then when things are going good, things are good, because the next hole, I tried to hit my drive too hard. It was downwind, and it actually took a bad kick and rolled one inch in the rough where I had to lay up. Laid up bad. Then hit lob wedge 15 feet, made it. It was a kind of a butcher-birdie, I guess. Things were just going good. Next hole dead in the wind playing long, hit driver, 5-iron, about 30 feet, 2-putted. I thought that was a gimme at the time, that 30-footer, I mean, everything was going in. Then I get up on 7 and tee was up there a little bit. I hit probably the best drive - one of best drives I hit all day. Was on 7 and I hit two great drives. But, on 7, I hit a really good drive, had 160 just hit -- didn't think-- didn't really know if I could get a 7-iron there. I just hit it as good as I could, and I hit it about twelve feet right behind the hole and I missed it. And left it short right in the hole. Then 8, I just bumped a little 8-iron playing straight downwind 160 yards and bumped it in there about twelve feet left of the hole, and misread it again. 9th hole you are just thinking: Oh, we can't reach the corner - the tee is back. The wind is dead in your face. I absolutely killed one and barely, barely got to the corner where I could see the pin. If the pin hadn't been left today, you probably couldn't have played the hole. Hit a 5-iron there 184 just probably, you know, really good iron shot in there probably about, oh, probably 15, 18 feet in that much, and just played it straight and it went right in the middle. 65. I didn't even know I made 8 birdies until I finished.

DAVE SENKO: Pretty good start then after, you know, you bogeyed two of the first four holes.

NEAL LANCASTER: Yeah, I bogeyed two of the first four and, you know, it was 1-over and thinking the scores were going to be high, so, a lot of wind out there today; which, you know, I thought was great because it was -- beats being 98 degrees and no wind. I rather the wind blow than it play hard, just so it be comfortable. Got off to a slow start, just was kind of too anxious to go, too anxious to go. After playing at 7:20 yesterday and then at 12:20 today, I was ready at 12:10 to go. Just ready do go. The 10th hole was kind of a weird hole anyway. You want to kind of hit it through the trees to hit it in the fairway. So hadn't kind of figured that one out yet. But, yeah, missed a short putt over on 13, I was like: Oh, no, here we go. You know, I knew if I got by the back 9 I would be all right because the back was playing pretty tough. Luckily 17 was downwind, I have always had driving troubles on that. I probably hit the fairway there for the third time today in nine years. But it was pretty windy out there. Kind of swirling on the front, but the greens were just -- they are beautiful to me right now.

DAVE SENKO: Questions.

Q. How come you haven't been in contention more this year? You have --

NEAL LANCASTER: Actually I was telling the TV networks this year I made 250,000 and somewhere around there, and I probably spent 300,000 on the greens this year. I have been striking the ball as good as I have in my life. And, I just putted so poorly. I had a 63 at Hartford; could have been about a 56, just I putted bad and shot 63, if you can imagine, and just I fought the putter all year. I think a lot of that is because I have been hitting it so good, we expect to make them all which ain't going to happen. Just you can't ever tell about me. I am kind of a loose swing and I have tried to tighten up my swing. Took a lesson out there in L.A. earlier this year. It really helped me out a lot. Been trying to do what he told me. Right now I am a little bit too for from the inside. I actually was fighting it out there and shot 65, but I made some putts. If you don't make any putts, doesn't matter how you hit it. This weekend when Sunday -- when the tournament is over, somebody is going to make a putt or miss a putt to win or lose this tournament. That is just the way it is every week. We all go out and hit 10 to 14 greens everybody in the field. But, it is who can make it when they get on the green. That is why you hear players go: Oh, that guy, he can't play a lick, but that guy can sure putt. Don't matter if you can't play, as long as you can putt. That is the name of the game - putting.

Q. What were you talking about when you came in something about your caddie didn't get here this morning or was there some sort of problem there?

NEAL LANCASTER: Oh, no. He was here on time, but I think he had to come through the prison way and he is staying over somewhere. He made it, though. But, yeah -- he just got here. I don't know how he got here. But, he made it.

Q. You talked about misreading the greens a lot, seemed like almost all your misses were misreads. Is that the thing you have been fighting? It is more mechanical? Is it more what you are seeing? Is there one general problem?

NEAL LANCASTER: This year, I have had a lot of mechanical problems and I basically I think I figured something out. I don't know if it will work, but a lot of this game is so much a routine and my routine for two days on the greens was really good. I did the same thing; took the same number of looks, but I had some mechanical problems where my ball was too far up in my stance and it causes my left shoulder to get high and open. So this week I said: I will just move my ball back and I addressed -- I started everything cross-handed now, or "left-hand-load", whatever they call it. It has always been "cross-handed" to me. I moved my ball back and I just started -- cross-handed it which squared up my shoulders, leveled them out.

Q. Switch --

NEAL LANCASTER: Then I switched my hands. I just moved my hands and nothing moved and I still putted with my normal grip, but I started cross-handed, and I changed my putting routine a little bit and I am not reading the ball. I have been reading the coin instead of the ball, trying to get a smaller focus on it. Right now it has been working. Today a little bit out there, I think I tried to get too fine to make putts, and started aiming at things. Usually when you are making putts, the putts are just - you know, you are seeing them and rolling them. You are not aiming a certain spot. I got too involved in the aim. But, yeah, I have miss -- misreads. Did a study with a guy in L.A. which was the worse thing I had ever done. I won't call any names, but he told me I was aiming to the right, my putter was shut when I putted. Well, I -- since Colonial, that is all I have been thinking about. I mean, so I have been thinking negatively, and you know, hell, if sometimes they go, sometimes they don't, just get comfortable and hope they can go in. If you can hit them where you want and miss them, you can only blame it on your read. Today I said I had hit five putts -- first eight holes I hit five putts and hit them where I wanted to and missed them all. I said: I hope I don't read them all wrong... But... Crazy game.

Q. How far have you come in your career based on what your expectations of yourself were? Where are you right now?

NEAL LANCASTER: Ooh, well, when I got out here - this is nine years for me and a goal of mine when I got here was just to get here and -- you know, I am not much of a goal-setter. I kind of see myself now where I should be at the top more than I am. I mean, I know I can play with these guys, but I fight it so much mentally. We all do. And I don't know, I kind of wanted to just be out here ten years; make a good living and kind of quit, if you really want to know the truth. My goal was to be on the Tour ten years, that is a pretty good career, if you don't lose your card; which I lost mine my first year and had to go back. But, you know, as far as goals settin, they talk about majors and people setting their eyes and sights on majors, hell, all 40 tournaments out here are majors to me. $300,000 a week is a major to me. If you win a tournament, I mean, guys have been out here 20 years never won a tournament. The goal's to win; it doesn't matter if it's a major a Mini-Tour event, just to be in position to win. I'd love -- like I told them this year at Greensboro when I finished 4th, I was like third place after two days; I told them: Hell, the way I have been playing for three years, I'd like to lose a tournament. Sure enough, I lost it. I gave it away. But... (Laughter)... It was worth 105,000 to give it away. You know what I am saying? It is pretty enjoyable if you can fail on 17 and 18 and finish third. I'd like to do that a lot. And then eventually maybe learn how to win some.

Q. You are going to play one more year and quit?

NEAL LANCASTER: No, I am not going to quit. I mean I'd like to, but you never know when you are going to peak. Maybe this will be the week. Maybe I can do this every week. You just don't know. The main thing is just to play solid; make cuts; retirement program out here is great. I am fully vested in my retirement. PGA TOUR gave me life once I got on it, I earned every bit of it, financially set for life. If you play well, you are rewarded. You don't have to be in the top 40 -- 30 on this money list to be retired and set if you have been out here for a while. If you look after your money, I mean, there is plenty of money for the guys that are 70th and 80th on the money list.

Q. So you are one of those guys that they say is content to be out here and earn a decent paycheck where a lot of other guys are saying: I am out here to win every time I play; I am out here to win; you are out here to make a solid career and get by?

NEAL LANCASTER: Well, I have to say that because if you look at my past record, I haven't been in contention a lot. I mean, like you said, why haven't I been there. Hell, if I knew, I'd be there more. But, you know, it is a good living. It is a really good living, but I'd like to go out and win tournaments. Bottomline is I don't even care if I win as long as I play to my expectations. If you shoot 3-under everyday and you don't win, the way I look at it if you are breaking par, you can't complain. Because if you really look at every year, every tournament out here if you shoot 1-under everyday, add up what you will make at the end of the year, do your research and check that out. Every tournament, if you shoot 1-under, everyday, what will you make? I think two years ago it was over 400,000. That was when the purses were lower, so now it's probably got to be 7, 800,000. So, you know, hopefully -- I am 35 now. Hopefully, I am peaking. A lot of players peak when they are -- you don't see anybody -- not many guys come out here right off the bat and tear it up. You have guys been out here -- Fred Couples played out here four, five, six, seven years before he ever became the superstar that he is. You just don't come out here and do it. Tiger Woods is an exception to the story, some people you know, that happens to them.

End of FastScripts....

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