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March 6, 2009

Mark O'Meara


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Mark, you got off to a good start with 31 on the front nine and 36 on the back nine. And 4-under, 67. Good opening round.
MARK O'MEARA: Thanks, Phil. I haven't played since Boca, but I've been practicing hard. It was nice. I mean, I hit a good tee shot on 1 and hit a wedge to about five and a half feet and made birdie. Hit some decent shots on 2.
3 I hit a good drive and I hit a rescue club in the back bunker on the right. The greens are firmer this year and a little speedier. I hit a nice bunker shot out and it was rolling down there and it looked like it was going to be pretty snug. It kind of just fell in for an eagle. So that was a bonus. Certainly I would have just taken a birdie and run to the next tee.
The next one I hit kind of a weak 8-iron to the right of the green chipped it short about seven feet and missed it, so I kind of gave one back there.
On No. 8, the par-3, I had a couple birdie chances, but I didn't make them on 6 and 7.
Then 8, I hit it just off the left edge of the green with a 3-iron, and had a fairly easy chip. But still, you're just trying to chip it close and make par. I hit a great chip from probably 35, 40 feet from the pin. It went right in the middle of the hole, so that was nice. So that was two chip-ins, which I don't remember chipping in twice all of last year probably. Maybe the practicing is starting to pay off a little bit.
9, I hit a good drive and a 9-iron to about seven feet, maybe eight feet, and made that for birdie.
Then the bogey on 12 was kind of disappointing. I had a couple chances for birdie. 11 for sure.
12 I had a good 3-wood off the tee and I had a sand wedge to the green. I hit it on the green, but spun it back and had about a 35-footer. Ran it by about six and a half feet and missed that, so I three-putted. That was kind of giving one away.
I made a lucky save on 17 where I kind of hit a 6-iron like you all hit them. Kind of like a thin one, not very pretty off the tee, and plugged in the front bunker. It was pretty ugly actually.
But I had a plugged lie and didn't have a chance and didn't get it up the hill, and then I had about a 35-footer for par and made it. Kind of slam dunked it. So that was a big boost to saved a shot there.
Then I hit a good drive on 18 and a 3-wood in the left bunker and blasted out to about two and a half feet and made that for birdie.
Overall, I was pretty pleased. Certainly coming back to Southern California and with my son going to school right here at UCI. He's been playing a little better. I think he qualified this week for the tournament up in Fresno Monday and Tuesday. My daughter being up at SC and myself growing up right down the street in Mission Viejo and staying at Laguna Niguel this week. I played high school matches on this course, so it's fun to get off to a decent start today.

Q. 17 and 18, the short game, that really...
MARK O'MEARA: It really did all day. My short game kept me in the ballgame today. Had some really nice pitch shots, which you really need to do. Tomorrow I need to go out there and hit the ball just a little bit better and hole a few more putts and try to hit more greens in regulation. That's going to be very important come around the weekend.
But the guys, you know, they play good. You got Jim Colbert shooting 67. He's not exactly 51 or 52 years old. I don't care who it is, there's always 8 or 12 or 15 guys that are shooting, you know, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-under par.
So I understand the golf course isn't as long or isn't as difficult as some of regular tour events. Still, the guys on the Champions Tour can really shoot some good scores. They really do.

Q. Talk about how was it playing in high school and now, how the course has changed?
MARK O'MEARA: I think the conditioning of the golf course has certainly gotten better here in Orange County. I think this is a neat layout. It's a very good members' course, but it also is good for members to play because they can put the pins in some tricky little places. There are some trees out there, and the bunkering is nice. It's an old-style course.
You know, think it's nice. I like the fairways. I've won a lot of tournaments on poana greens, and I know they're tough sometimes. This year with not as much rain they're a little firmer so it's tougher to get the ball closer to the hole. Maybe that's why the scoring isn't as low. It was a little windy out there, too.

Q. Do you have family and friends here watching this weekend, or will?
MARK O'MEARA: I do. I mean, my father-in-law came out today. My son was out there following me today. A couple other friends that I grew up with were following me. That was nice to have the local support, which was really special.

Q. What would it mean to get No. 1 here?
MARK O'MEARA: It would mean a lot. There's still a lot of the golf to be played, and I have to play well the next two rounds to even have a chance. It would mean a tremendous amount to me to have my first win here in Orange County just from the standpoint I played okay my first year, last year I struggled, didn't play very well and had a lot stuff going on in my life.
Now I'm recommitted and focused to try to play better. The golf game is all about confidence, too. My confidence was down a little bit last year because I didn't perform that well. I've been practicing a little bit harder and trying to get that turned in the other direction.

Q. You mentioned your kids are out here going to college. Have you come out here a little bit more often than you have since you've been out to Florida, and have you been practicing out here much?
MARK O'MEARA: I have. I have a place down in the desert, down in La Quinta, so I practice a lot down in the desert. I watched my daughter cheer at a couple of the SC games because she's in cheerleading all four years there. She's getting ready to graduate this May.
And the Shaun, I've tried to watch him play in a couple of tournaments. But it's tough when your father is on the road playing every week pretty much. We're on one coast, and I'm a little bit scattered. I've lived out of a suitcase for the last three years basically. A little bit in Florida, I've been in Houston a lot lately, a little bit in Park City, and a little bit in the desert. I'm like that traveling salesmen. I'm not quite sure where home base is right now.
But I think it is special to be able to spend some time with your children, and it's nice when they come out and support their father, too.

Q. Are you surprised that you haven't had the start that a lot of people thought, and probably yourself?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, a little bit. I felt like my rookie year I played really good out here. I had four seconds and I had a lot of opportunities to win. I didn't win.
I didn't play a full schedule. Only played 16 events. Last year it was just one of those year s where a lot of stuff got piled on me. I struggled on and off the course. It was just not a lot of fun.
Now things are settling down and I'm getting my focus back. I've got some goals that I'm trying to set. I would be the first guy to say that I'm disappointed that I haven't won an event yet.
I've been so lucky I've played and competed for 30 years. It's not like I had a big break when I was 46 to 50 to kind of get myself away from the game. A lot guys that seem to do well out here are pretty hungry and pretty eager.
For me, I kind of kept playing all around the world. The only thing I was lacking was the burning fire and desire. Now, because I haven't performed as well, you play for your pride. Money is important, and I know everybody talks about money, especially in today's situation. Still, it's not about the money. It's more about me performing at the level I think I should perform at, and my pride.

End of FastScripts

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