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July 30, 2008

Hale Irwin


RAND JERRIS: It is a pleasure to welcome Hale Irwin to the interview room this afternoon.
Hale, a five-time USGA National Champion having won the U.S. Senior Open in 1998 and 2000 as well as the U.S. Open three times. He's playing in his 13th United States Senior Open Championship this week at the Broadmoor.
Hale, you're serving as the Honorary Chairman for the 2008 U.S. Senior Open Championship. Tell us a little what that means to you.
HALE IRWIN: To me it's a very significant honor. There's not that much work outside the lines, if you wish, that I've had to do because it's been so admirably handled by the USGA and the staff at the Broadmoor, and more specifically, Russ Miller, the director of golf, they've done a fabulous job. I've just been here to help with what I could as far as promotion and player representation with the media and enjoying every bit of it this thus. I hope you don't have anything else for me to do, though.
RAND JERRIS: You're a player with a lot of experience and some success in the USGA Championships in the past. We've seen a lot of talk about the changes being made in the USGA's course set-up philosophy. I wonder if you could just talk about perspective as a player. What do you think of the changes being made, and how do you see those in the golf course here this week?
HALE IRWIN: The implementation, if we may all is that, or the change in policy, I think is welcomed, but there's a limit to how far that can be taken, simply because if you have got a fairway width of whatever it is you want to make it, it could be 25 to 35 yards wide, then you may have -- and I presume you're talking specifically to the rough cut.
HALE IRWIN: And the first cut being a little wider than what it has been in the years past, and then graduate up to higher grass.
Well, as we've seen some players in the past they drive the ball outside the ropes, well, that doesn't hurt anybody because that's where it's been trampled down, so actually the players like myself that hit the ball just off-line are more penalized than the guys that hit way off-line. So it'll never affect that. But I do think it's good.
The technology in the game now has really precipitated -- it should precipitate if it hasn't already a long, hard look at what should be allowed in the years to come and how it's going to affect our championships whether they're at the natural or state or local level. I really think that the players now are enjoying the benefits of great technology and it in my opinion is having an adverse effect on the game.
As I say that, though, I think the game is just as popular as it's ever been, simply because more people are excited about trying the new equipment.
I'm sort of at a crossroads myself as to whether I jump on the bandwagon of proponent of all the technology and all the things we're trying to do differently or if I just reel it in, ratchet it back to what it was.
And I don't want to be a stick in the mud and don't want to be looking forward, but I think forward looking we have to do that in the game now to make sure the kids playing the game now enjoy the benefits of what this game should teach in terms of some of the life skills. God, that was a long answer.
RAND JERRIS: We'll take some questions from the floor, please.

Q. Welcome back to Colorado. I am also a former University of Colorado student. Hale, having won and played as an amateur at the Broadmoor Invitational, do you have any thoughts of those years when you were younger?
HALE IRWIN: Well, back in them there days, coming down here to play was a special treat. It really, really was. And playing in the Broadmoor for me was something very special because I could not afford to play a lot of tournaments out of state. I was pretty much a whole in-state player. I worked as a laborer to make money to play golf. And then when August came around, it was time for football. So I didn't get that opportunity.
So coming down here was really special. And the year that I did win the Invitational was on the West Course. That same year was when they had the national Amateur on the West Course as well.
But I had played over on the East Course another time or two in the past. Playing the Broadmoor was -- it reminds me a little bit of that ad -- and I don't say the ad is bad about the old fellow with the young kid when he knocks it over the tree when he was little. That's what I remember is those trees were a lot smaller the last time I played here.
I don't remember a lot about the golf course. I really didn't play it as much as people might have thought because from Boulder to Broadmoor is not exactly a drive across town. And coming down here was a special treat.
So I've probably played the east course prior to this week when I was here several weeks ago I played three different times, but prior to that I probably hadn't played on the east course in 41 or 42 years. And that's guessing. Just guessing. It was the West Course in '67, so I started doing the math, and that's at least 41 years. So it would have to be more than that.
So I really don't remember much about the East Course. I'm learning just about, like all the other players, there are some holes they got out there several weeks ago and I just could not remember them. Some I did, obviously, but others I just -- and then the rotation has sort of been changed, too. What is now 18 used to be 15. So it's kind of thrown a little bit of a curve in there.
But the facility itself is great. I think the golf course is set up fairly, and I'm sure there have been other comments. Jay, I'm sure made the comment that the tournament will be won or lost on the greens. It's very much -- the tee-to-green game is pretty straightforward. It's while not overbearing, it's not easy because of the severity of the greens, because if you miss the fairway, the odds of you hitting the green or hitting in a position where you have any kind of a putt whatsoever are greatly diminished.
So it sort of backs itself up. You look at hole location where you're going to have to be on that green where you have any kind of a putt. And then it starts putting pressure on the second shot, on the drive to perform. And that's the way it should be.

Q. What makes these greens so difficult compared to the other ones on Tour?
HALE IRWIN: Well, first you have the influence of the mountains, the Cheyenne Mountains so close by.
And that always was intriguing when we did play down here years ago how the Texas and Florida guys would come up and they'd have no clue how to putt these greens. Well, I welcome myself to that club now because it's been a long time since we've played a course that has greens, A, this size; B, with this much contour in them; and C, with such an overpowering influence off the mountain.
Yes, we play large greens and courses that have some contour, and yes, there are large influences but not to the degree these are. The combination of all of those and maybe you have a 40 with the altitude and hitting the clubs into those. Still it's kind of guesswork still.
So all of those things come to the bottom line is that the greens, while not necessarily we've never seen these kinds of things, the combination is something different and then how fast they want to get them is again anybody's guess.
What we've seen with the practice rounds are the hole locations they will not use because of how much break there is. So we're trying to putt to where we anticipate other holes to be, but you never know. That's the mystery of the USGA.

Q. Hale, given all your connections here, you haven't gotten to play in Colorado very much at all, and certainly in the last decade and a half or whatever, what does it mean to you to finally be back?
HALE IRWIN: I'm just happy as I can be to be here. The last time I got to play here was The INTERNATIONAL, and I would really love to see Champions Tour event come here. That's why I think having this event here is so special because The Broadmoor is a special place. This is a special championship, and I think there's a lot of things about this week that are going to be special. All the players are -- you don't hear any grumbling, which is unheard of. So that means that somebody must be doing a pretty good job. Families have come out that might not ordinarily come out because of Colorado and more specifically The Broadmoor. I think it's just going to be a great week for golf in the State of Colorado, and I think for the USGA and the U.S. Senior Open championship it's going to be a great week.
I really think down deep inside my bones I think we're going to have a great championship. I think it's shaping up the way things are going, it's very exciting. I would be surprised if it's a runaway by anyone. I think we're all going to have lots of challenges and I think the people are going to see some great golf.

Q. Hale, we used to see some pretty crazy colorful golf outfits that aren't there quite as much anymore. Do sponsors dictate a lot of what you guys can wear? I mean would you bust out something that was a little more flamboyant?
HALE IRWIN: Don't I look like Ian Poulter to you? You haven't seen my hair, have you? (Laughs).
Well, no, not necessarily. Certainly the manufacturers have -- their clothing lines have specific colors in them, for instance, but I think the players are pretty free to wear what they want within those lines.
At this age and stage, who wants to go out there looking like Ian Poulter? I'm not saying he looks bad, but I don't think -- most of us have kind of been there, done that, or maybe have thought about it and rejected it for the most part, thank goodness.
Can you see some of us out there in outfits like that? Come on. I mean, I've been ribbed so many times about the SI cover in '74, the white belt. Now you don't see those guys with dark belts. They're all white belts. So give me a break.
We were just trend-setters back in those days, you know. We were setting the stage for these kids?

Q. Brad Bryant told us recently he thought the East Course was set up was tailor-made for your game. Could you comment on that?
HALE IRWIN: I most owe Brad something. He's always setting me up. Why would he say that? He probably can't figure out anything else to say.
Well, I would not -- I would not disagree, but let me add this, is that anybody that can hit the ball as far as Brad. And we put in that category the Tom Purtzers, the Gil Morgans, the guys that can really hit it a long way, R. W. Eaks, have a huge advantage here, simply because they can power that ball so far out there in this altitude, compared to me. I can't get as much out of it it as they, so even though they may be 30 yards ahead of me ordinarily, now would be 40.
So I don't buy into Brad's deal. I think if any of those guys that are long have a good week around the greens, they are the ones to watch.

Q. First of all, Hale, you were the Ian Poulter of your day. So we should get that straight. When you talk about the mountains, are you talking about perspective?
HALE IRWIN: I'm just talking about the influence, the mountain, the break coming off the west-to-east slope, particularly from the shrine coming down.

Q. The other thing I wanted to ask you is how the passing of your mom has Impacted your career, at this point in your career, and how that translates maybe to this Championship. You've won three U.S. Opens. You've won two Senior Opens. I just wonder if you could comment about that.
HALE IRWIN: Well, you know, I don't want to say there hasn't been some issues, but the whole year has been a little left-footed, and Mom's dying -- nothing against left-footed people. I don't mean that. But it's been odd, and Mom's passage certainly didn't help any of that.
I think with her death brought probably back the memories of my father more than anything else, the two of them. And I hadn't even spoken to my brother about it, and he mentioned a couple weeks ago that's the same thought he had. So I think it's affected me maybe more than I had anticipated.
But you know, those things happen. Unfortunately they happen. Good and bad things happen in your life, certainly more good than bad. If you want to find the bad things and blame it on that, there's plenty there. But I'm not going to say that's what's held my game back this year. It's just been a combination here, an influence there, and generally speaking it's just been bad play.
Now, is there any more or less incentive this week than before, no. You know, my brother is coming down with some of his family. My son's coming down with his wife. There will be a few more faces in the crowd that I know this week than I did in Minnesota two weeks ago.
But having said all that, I've looked right at my wife in the gallery and not seen her. So it depends on how focused you can get, who you see and what attracts your attention.
And today, I really -- I played quite well today. I played terribly yesterday because all of the stuff that was going on with the clinic and there was so much stuff. Today I tried to keep it really simple, and the only thing I want to do yet today is take a tenth tee shuttle, see how long it takes to get up there and back. I play at the really, really early hour tomorrow of 2 p.m. So I've got to get a headstart on this.
But all in all, I think certainly it's had its negative influence, but that's passed, hopefully.

Q. Do you look at it like your window of opportunity for maybe balancing out your U.S. Open record?
HALE IRWIN: Oh, yeah. We've got to get a third one, you bet. That shelf at home has three on one side and two on the other. It's a little cockeyed. So we're trying to even it up.
It would be a really neat thing if I could be in contention going into the last day, the last nine holes. I've said it many, many times. Just give me a chance to go into the last nine holes. That's all you could ever expect or hope for, and then see what happens. And on this back nine, there will be some things happening, absolutely.

Q. Back to the greens again, I don't want to beat it to death, but Dan referred to three U.S. Opens and three Senior Opens. Can you compare these greens -- you won on very difficult courses. Can you compare these greens to the ones that you won the Opens on, in difficulty?
HALE IRWIN: Well, Winged Foot's greens in '74 were probably ahead of their time really in terms of speed. They were probably the fastest greens that the USGA had prepared that went dead. I harken back to Shinnecock a couple years ago, I think to take a golf course to the limit sometimes goes beyond, because let's face it people watching on television, I was one of those. I don't want to see a dead golf course. I don't want to see dead grass. I don't want to see blue. I want to see green.
So I think there's a point to how far you can take it before it becomes something that's debatable, but Winged Foot's greens, without weather being an issue, we saw how difficult the golf course was, and those greens were very fast, very fast.
And I don't know if they had Stimpmeters then. It didn't meter. If there was a Stimpmeter, it would have been 20 because Nicklaus, arguably the best player that ever played this game, putted it right off the first green. So that will give you an idea of how fast those greens were.
I know I was using a very light putter and I was choking down on it. I was choking to start with, but I blamed it on choking down. I just tried to get that putter as light as I could and hit it as easy as I possibly could, and much like this week, I just tried to hit the ball under the hole. It didn't matter how far I was, but I wanted to be putting uphill as often as I could.
Now, Winged Foot's greens didn't have the contour, and they have some of the large greens, and they do have some contour but not one after another after another. Plus it doesn't have this big influence off the mountain. So you have more factors in the equation this week.
Some of the putts here will be faster in mid-roll than they are when you first hit it, so that becomes almost something that gets out of your control; hence, putting towards the mountain is going to be what we all try to do. Just sit out there on the fairway and say okay, hit it here and here and you get up there and say, whoops, shouldn't have hit it here because there's a roll or a bump or something that's going to give everybody fits.
And depending how firm the greens get, and they're firming up, because now if you have a good hole location you can't keep it there. They will be putting back. So you have to remember where that shrine is and how best you can contend with that.

Q. What type of influence did Mr. Fowler, your University of Colorado golf course hold on you, when you were a student at Boulder?
HALE IRWIN: There were two guys that really probably in my early years at Colorado had great positive influence. One was Les Fowler, who lived in Boulder, was in the insurance business and become a state senator. Just a great, great guy, gave me tremendous encouragement when I was a young kid.
Then the other was Ron Moore, who lived in Denver, and Ron was in the bond business, and then became a banker. And in my later years, I competed against Ron. In fact, the last time I played in the Broadmoor Invitational on the East Course, he beat me 1-up in the semifinals. But Ron was a great guy, and both of them had great success in golf in the State of Colorado.
So they were hugely important to me in my early years, but Les, specifically, donated his time as the University of Colorado golf coach. Although he really wasn't there as a golf coach would be. He was certainly there as an administrator, and someone that was accountable to.
I remember one specific time less was we were at Boulder Country Club, and I was for whatever reason lazy or forgotten to qualify to the club champion. And Les called me out there and he said: Get down here we're going to qualify you for the club championship, which I did. He and I ran out there and played 18 quick holes, and I shot the lowest round of golf I've ever shot. Then I shot 62 at Boulder Country Club, all thanks to Les for encouraging me to get out there and being a huge proponent of mine.
So I think in my very early years, he was just as important as anybody I could point my finger toward and say thank you.
RAND JERRIS: Hale, thank you for your time, we wish you good luck this week.
HALE IRWIN: Thank you.

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