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July 30, 2008

Mark Wiebe


RAND JERRIS: It is a pleasure to welcome Mark Wiebe on the interview room. Mark is playing his first United States Senior Open Championship at the Broadmoor. You played on the PGA TOUR for a couple of years, had a couple of visits but you are enjoying one of the finest seasons of your career this year earning more.
MARK WIEBE: I am. I'm a bit tired from the trip back from Scotland, but each day it's getting better and better. I'm sleeping in a little longer each day. I started off waking up about 2 in the morning and now we're actually sleeping till 6, which is pretty good.
I feel good about my game. I'm happy to be playing this event, for sure. Thought about it a lot last week when I really wasn't in the mix for that champ ship but my focus was definitely here on the weekend and planning to get my ducks in a row.

Q. Can you talk a little bit more about that, what it's like to be playing in the first Senior Open?
MARK WIEBE: Well, it means I'm 50. (Laughs). You know, it's great. Any time you play a USGA event, it's special. It has a lot of meaning. Any time you're representing your country and playing in your country's open, it's a special event. You know, even though we're old and we're over 50, it's still the U.S. Open for us.
It's a great tournament. It's a great event. I'm tickled that it's here in Colorado. I love being close to home. Staying here at the Broadmoor is spectacular, and Russ and his staff are just on the ball and have made this a delight thus far, and I can't imagine it not being better.
I'm ready for the horn to blow or the flag to raise. I want to get this thing going. I get to go in the morning tomorrow. I'm happy with my times.

Q. Do you think drug testing is necessary on the Champions Tour?
MARK WIEBE: I guess there's a bunch of jokes off that. (Laughs). You know, I don't know. I don't think so. I don't know. I can't imagine anybody on this -- I can't imagine anybody on any tour really doing anything to enhance your play, but you don't want to have your head buried in the sand, either.
But on this tour, I guess there's a bunch of jokes I'm thinking about right now. But I can't imagine any performance-enhancing-for-golf drugs being used on this tour. If they want to drug test, that's fine. I think we're all kind of going, okay, fine. I mean, we use Celebrex. And I'm one of those.
I just can't imagine anybody doing anything other than that.

Q. Have you been tested already?
MARK WIEBE: Ours doesn't start till I think January 1, so no. I think our just got a later start than the regular tour. But you know, whatever. (Laughs).

Q. Not to go back to any of the 50-something jokes, but is there something better about being 50 than 40 or 30?
MARK WIEBE: Golf-wise or just in general?

Q. In general.
MARK WIEBE: Well, you know, I don't mind really. I really never feel old. I have three kids. I have two girls, 21 and 16. I have a boy, 19. That's when I feel old when I tell you how old my kids are. I don't think 50's old until I realize that my kids are getting older. Then I feel kind of ancient times.
But no, 50 is great. It's just another mile stone, and it beats the alternative, for sure.

Q. Mark, could you go over your physical problems, you know, in the last ten years, and which were the toughest to overcome?
MARK WIEBE: Sure. Well, I just recently this year had a torn meniscus that I had to have repaired surgically. Not that big a deal. I had elbow surgery about six years ago that was a major deal. And then I had this thing, plantar fasciitis. I don't know if anybody's ever had it. It's really a drag for sports where you have to walk, and it hurts to walk.
The injury that really set me back the most was the elbow. You and I have talked about that. That just was really a bad deal for me. It took me out of -- it just took me out of golf in general. It curtailed my career. I didn't get to finish the TOUR at all like I wanted to, and there's nothing I could really do about it.
It just got to be where I couldn't play anymore, and then having the surgery, I think my expectations were it's going to feel so much better now that it's surgically repaired. And that didn't work, and I think I had problems with the anesthesia, and I just could not find my way out of the funk forever.
But you know, coincidentally I turned 50 and somehow my game came around a couple years ago, I saw some light at the end of the tunnel. But the surgery has really worn me, and it's at the end of my career on the tour. So I think had it happened when I was maybe late 20s or somewhere in my 30s, I maybe would have responded better. I'm not sure. I just know it was pretty devastating to me golf wise to go through that. My elbow was definitely, my left elbow, and that was the worst of my injuries for sure.

Q. Mark, we've talked about it before. When you walked in here, was there a 30-year flash back seeing some of the same faces, a little older faces, but the same faces and the same golf course and the same atmosphere?
MARK WIEBE: Yeah. Yeah. You know, I played one or two of the Broadmoor Invitationals. It was when we were amateurs. My gosh, this goes back a ways. And then of course, seeing a lot of these faces in The INTERNATIONAL for 20 years.
Great flashback. The golf course I couldn't really remember too much. My son, Gunner, and I played here over the last three months. We played five or six times. Russ sat us down, and it's kind of neat to see how the golf course kind of got whipped into shape over these last three months. It's been spectacular. But it's always nice to see these faces, too.

Q. Mark, when did you figure out your game had come back, and was there a time when you wondered if it ever would?
MARK WIEBE: Well, actually the second part of that first, there was a time that I thought, am I ever going to be decent again, let alone good. And you know, I just kept persevering. And my game, I really felt strong about my game.
I guess it was last year, early summer, Gunner came out and caddied for me, I think a tournament or two. But I had a stretch there against those young kids, I played six tournaments in a row, I think, on the Nationwide Tour. I made the cut in five of those tournaments. The one tournament I missed the cut I was even par. I was 30-under par in six tournaments. My stroke average was I think I figured out 69.4, and I made $25,000. So I thought, I can't afford to play this good. (Laughs).
I was playing some nice golf. And actually it was kind of cute. I had some kids out there that were just a little bit older than my kids, and I watched them kind of go from, what in the bleep are you doing here, to hey, nice playing, old man.
So I felt something good, and then Gunner is kind of my barometer on what he thinks about my game, and we both talked about it and thought that I was playing nice.
And then you know, I turned 50 at the right time. It was just -- it was awesome actually. I went out and I got in that tournament, and I knew I was playing well, so I had no idea I was going to win.
But I was really playing nice. I really liked my game for a change, you know. It had been a while, and I just really liked how I was swinging, liked how I was thinking. I liked the fact that I was competing with some awfully young kids that would just blow it by me every single time. But that was a big turning point for me. I kind of saw it coming before I turned 50, but I felt like I had a little bit of swagger back and I felt like I was good again and I shot a lot of rounds under par.
I had a couple nine-hole stretches where at Omaha, Gunner was caddying for me; I think I shot 30 or 31 on the last nine, and I thought, how long has it been since I've done that. I forgot that I could even do that again.
So I think at the beginning of the summer last year I felt my game was kind of back where it was before I had the stop for my elbow.
RAND JERRIS: You've mentioned Gunner's name a few times. Could you talk a little bit about your relationship with him, how his game has developed and his career has developed? Has that been inspirational to you as you've been coming back?
MARK WIEBE: Well, yeah, except he's one of those kids that blows it by me. It's kind of intimidating, too. We've worked together a lot on both of our swings. It's been a great learning experience, and right now we're in the midst of kind of working on his game.
So actually each day this week, including the tournament days, we'll be heading up to the Mountain Course to work on Gunner's game and he has U.S. Amateur qualifying next week, which I'm on the bag for. He caddied for me in the Senior British. He's caddying for me this week, and then we change roles on Tuesday.
We'll see how we handle that. I think carrying the bag part is going to be the worst part of the whole deal, since I'm a little older, but we'll make due. But he tells me when I'm on. Last week we worked on a few things and I felt like I was just a smidgen off, and I have trusting eyes with Gunner. He mentioned a few things. He knows a lot about golf. He's been around it his whole life.
So he kind of got me worked out, and had he not been there, it may have drizzled into the week and we caught it early.
I hit the ball great last week. I was tickled, and I think it was all because Gunner helped me with some line-up issues and takeaway issues, golf-wise, some technical stuff. It's really fun for us to work on each other's game; although he's not the same player I am, and I'm not the same player he is. We have good eyes, and he trusts what I say, and I definitely trust what he says.

Q. Mark, to follow up, when your game went south, was there one part of the game, one facet that you struggled with more than the other, driving, chipping, whatever?
MARK WIEBE: Well, after the surgery, I couldn't -- I couldn't do anything. It probably took my driving -- the club that dragged on and on and on was my driver. I couldn't hit it off the tee. I've always hit it left-to-right, and all I did was hook it. And it was my left elbow, so I had to put together that I kind of I guess I forgot how to do all of the supination and pronation and all the stuff, and it just took a while.
But that probably was the latest thing to come around. I could still putt and chip but I couldn't get to the green quick enough, I guess. So my scores were high. Yeah. Does that answer?

Q. Yeah. And then about the tournament, what do you think it's going to take to win? What's the most important part it's going to take for somebody to win? How about your game? What do you really need to focus in on this week?
MARK WIEBE: Well, you know, it's hard to really pick one thing out on this particular tournament. You really need to drive the ball in the fairway to have control, to be able to hit the greens to the positions you want to be on the greens. So if you're in the fairway, it gives you a great chance to hit the ball on the correct side of the hole. And if you're not, you're kind of at the mercy of.
But that's kind of in a lot of tournaments it's that way. So then that kind of leads back to -- you know, it sounds kind of the same thing as always, but the patience level, your mental game, how you can handle the bad holes and how to turn maybe a big hole into a bogey or maybe even a par, instead of letting it get away. I really -- everybody talks about the greens. We're all professionals. We've all played forever. We're all older. We're supposed to be wiser. So I think we're all pretty smart coming here.
You just have to take what the course gives you each day, and just really make an effort to, you know -- Gunner and I have talked about it. I hate to just put it all on the driver, but it really does -- if you can get it in the fairway, you really have a better chance to put the ball where you want it on the greens.
Doesn't mean you're going to make a lot of birdies, but it means you have a pretty good chance to have a nice, probably a more consistent, where you're making maybe some nice two-putt pars, on some of those stretches, instead of the up-and-downs. You can have some pretty funky lies in the rough. As far as what it's going to take to win score wise, really depends on the weather. The course is in excellent shape, absolutely excellent shape. Excellent shape.
You know, it's starting to get a little firm, which I think is great for this event. If the weather cooperates and we have weather like we just did, it's great but it's a long walk for us older guys, and it's hot.
So now you've got to deal with a lot of that. You've got to make sure you have your water, and maybe for some guys, take a seat every once in a while if you have a chance. The heat will play into this, absolutely.

Q. Since you have such an excellent caddy you brought along with you, which one of you is reading the greens and has there been a fight yet?
MARK WIEBE: No fights. Gunner is a great green reader, and we've been down here. Gunner hasn't just come down and watched me play. He's played it, and there's a big difference for a new caddie. If the caddie is a golfer, to have played a course gives you a different feel than just to walk and watch. He knows by feel. He doesn't just know by sight. And you know, I think Gunner's eyes are better when I say, where did that go? (Laughs) Because I can't see where it is, and he can tell me exactly where it is.
Sometimes he says it's under the lip of that bunker, and that's kind of a bummer. But no, we're good on the green reading, and you know what, we're trying to not be too precise. The biggest things for me this week, don't be too precise, and don't over train. Don't get so into this.
You know, I want to take this like it's what it is, and I'm preparing myself as good as I can. I don't want to over do this either. I want to be fresh when I'm out there. I don't want to play the course so much that it becomes stagnant or not exciting to hit a tee shot, or you know how it can get when you play a lot.
I feel like our preparation has been excellent. We'll see if it pays off.

Q. I'm just curious how you spell Gunner, just to make sure?

Q. Okay. And where did that name come from?
MARK WIEBE: I've got a buddy from Hawaii whose name was Gunner that I've known for a while and we liked it and my wife and I she said, hey, if we have a boy, how about Gunner. I wish there was a better story than that. I could have made something up. So that's it. We liked the name. And he was a basketball player and he liked to shoot, so it kind of fit for a while.

Q. Okay. We got the spelling of the name. If you got some room on a par 5 and you both got driver, how far does he typically blow it by you?
MARK WIEBE: Wow. If Gunner hits it nice, and I hit it really good (laughs), I can get within 30 yards sometimes. Now, if he hits it really good and I hit it really good, it's 50, 40 to 50 yards. Sometimes more. But on average, probably 40.

Q. How is your ego with that?
MARK WIEBE: Well, he's done it for about three years, so I'm getting better. I'm telling you there's still spots like when we came down here to play in the practice round, this is two months ago and we get on the first tee, and we're hitting from the plague and I hit a driver out there right at the bunker, and Gunner steps up and flies the bunker and I thought, oh, my God, that would be so fun to do that. He's hitting a wedge or sand wedge in, and I'm hitting in a 6-iron. And I'm thinking, wow, you can hit it higher and line up softer that way. That would be really cool, too.
Unfortunately even though we're same blood (shakes head). Like I said, it's gone on for about three years. That's just the way it is. Thanks for bringing that up, though. (Laughs).

Q. There's one guy in the audience enjoying it.
RAND JERRIS: Okay, Mark. Thanks very much for your time. We wish you luck this week.
MARK WIEBE: Thank you very much.

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