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May 24, 2001

Hale Irwin


JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, folks. Hale Irwin is in at 3-under in the first round of the 62nd PGA Senior Championship. While we wait for just a few more bodies to pop on in, we appreciate your patience. Hale, terrific job. Some thoughts on your round, and then let's do some Q and A.

HALE IRWIN: Well, I think what I wanted to accomplish today was a little -- maybe a little better start in terms of ball or shot execution. I'm not at all unhappy with the score, but it could have been considerably better with a little better putting, I had the morning round early in the morning, very scoring-like conditions, and, you know, all in all in one hand I'm quite happy to have what I have. In the other hand, I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get a little more out of it with a little better execution only of a few shots out there, but some putting. I had 15 pars, 3 birdies. I did seem to give myself a number of opportunities, and I did not take advantage of those that I did have. Only one of those three birdies, one was a very, very short putt, almost a tap-in. Then the other two were only maybe 7 feet and 15 feet, and I missed probably a half a dozen putts within that area. I'm in with 69. It's posted. I can't do anything about it. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. So where's the weatherman?

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks.

Q. How did the weather change the course, and how difficult was the course overall?

HALE IRWIN: Well, because we don't -- we didn't have any rain this morning, you weren't really literally hitting shots through water. So the course played a little shorter than it has the last several days, but then again the practice round tees were all well in the back and some of these tees were a little bit more forward, not a lot, but some. So I think all-in-all the lighter air tees moved forward anywhere from two to five, seven yards on some holes, made for a little better scoring opportunity. If we could have this kind of weather the rest of the week and going into the weekend, let the course dry out a little bit, I think you would see this course play a little shorter but then it would run. And the greens would not be as soft and receptive to any shot right now. Even the indifferent shot coming into these greens seems to hold and stay on the greens. It's easier to hit with a club rather than an umbrella today.

Q. How big was that par save at 11, through the trees?

HALE IRWIN: I look at that as a birdie missed. I was on the green. That was pretty poor drive, wasn't it? Just coming off of birdies at 9 and 10, 11's not a particularly long hole, certainly a good hole, but you put it in the fairway and you have a medium to short iron, I was thinking of that more of a birdie hole. Fortunately, I did have a shot. It wasn't an easy shot, but it was a shot. And, you know, I hit a very, very nice recovery shot and put it on the green from there. I suppose it kept -- it helped keep that round together, but I don't look at it as necessarily a turning point in the round. But I was happy to have four when I walked off of there; let's put it that way, after that drive.

Q. Was there a turning point?

HALE IRWIN: Not really. I think today was a round that I had a number of opportunities out there. Even if you want to say going back to 3, where I didn't hit a particularly good drive either, and had a great recovery shot and made par there, was probably, I think, better than the save at 11. I sort of walked the tight rope today. You know, I could have fallen off that tight rope, 11's one, 3's one, a couple other places that weren't particularly brilliant, but I had enough good shots that I overcame some of those.

Q. Could you comment on Arnold's performance today, his 71?

HALE IRWIN: Arnold, oh, Palmer. Oh, it was fantastic. I was so delighted to see it. (Smiling.) 71 years old, shot 71 in this Championship on a pretty good golf course, I don't think there's anyone out there that was happier to see it than I, certainly Arnie maybe. But it's just delightful to see Arnold Palmer doing what he's doing, or what he did, what he's still capable of doing. I know he's not particularly happy with the way he hit some shots, but my goodness, he made par just about every time he missed a green. The difference I see, when I last played with Arnold in the skins game, is in the putting style. He's changed his putting style over it. He looks much better over it. He made some nice putts today and he actually hit some really good shots. I was very, very impressed. Sort of visions of the Palmer of old. It was great. I was front-row seat; I was enjoying every minute of it.

Q. Just a follow-up on that, then I wanted to ask you something else. Did you see, as the round went along, that he started to get a little more, as far as confidence and maybe body language, that he was getting so called, "Palmer of old"?

HALE IRWIN: No, I think my -- I told my caddie going off the first tee, I said if -- we've seen Jack Nicklaus make all these putts on the last hole. But if I could pick one guy in the world to play the first hole for me, it would be Arnold Palmer. Sure enough, birdie. Right out of the box. Took a driver right down there, hit a short iron right next to the hole about 6 feet, made it for birdie. Right out of the box. But then he kind of slapped it around on the next hole. But he did show a number of times out there where there was that encouraged swing, if I can put it that way, where I think he was encouraged and the swing showed some aggression and showed some of that flare that we have learned to know of Arnold Palmer. What I wanted to go over and do is pull out his shirt tail and he might have had it. I think there were enough of the indifferent shots that kept him from really getting on top of the game. I think he's probably very happy with 1-under par, because he did save a lot of par putts. But it was great to see. I loved it. Any time a guy 71 can shoot his age or better, I think that is fantastic.

Q. You mentioned that you left some birdies out there today. Was it that you were not putting well?

HALE IRWIN: No, I really -- well, the greens, as nice as they are, they are the poa annua greens, so you're not always going to get the true roll every time. The ball does bounce a bit. Because they're soft and they will take footprints and not necessarily rebound real quickly, you're going to get a little wobbly. And I kind of hit them wobbly, felt like I was putting with a noodle instead of a putter. So I have a little work to do this afternoon. I want to get a little less confused with my stroke. I want to get a little less confused with my swing. Simplify it. Just had too many random thoughts going out there today. And you get in days like that, where some days you just walk out of bed and it's right on. Other days you walk out of bed and you turn and bump into the wall.

Q. What was your first reaction when you saw your pairing with Arnold and John Jacobs?

HALE IRWIN: You mean did I go -- did my palms get sweaty and all that stuff?

Q. No. Was it a favorable one for you?

HALE IRWIN: I've always enjoyed playing with Arnold. John is in that league; he hits it so far. I'm thinking of playing with him, so I say, "Okay, John is longer than I. I can't club from him. I know that I'm going to stay upwind, away from the cigar smoke." (Laughter.) Arnold, I've played with Arnold a lot through the years. I think because we've known each other for so many years, you just, to me, you kick in and it's like, "Okay, the cigar, if you don't smoke cigars, you might not like them so you better stay upwind." Little things that help you get through a round. It doesn't take much to make a day. I thought playing with Arnold, I'm always delighted. That's a treat. That's just an honor to play with Arnold Palmer.

Q. I don't know what the weather forecast looks like, it doesn't look all that promising in the next three days. If we should get a lot of rain, how is that going to change the course? What do you foresee as a winning score basically?

HALE IRWIN: Well, today might be the best of the days at least in forecast. If we get the rain tomorrow, it looks like we might, whether we get any showers over the weekend, I don't know. But the course is playing nicely now. It's very soft. You're not getting a lot of run up there. The greens are very receptive. If you land the ball in the fairway, you tend to stay in the fairway rather than running off. It does make it play longer. But the flip side is once you get in the rough and it's wet, it's a little more difficult to get it up on the green. I just -- I think 3-under is going to be a nice score today, for any stretch of the imagination, I think somebody will come in at 6-under, maybe 7, certainly 4 and 5. I can see that very easily. But if the weather changes, if we have any wind, it's the wind that's going to make the big difference. If the rain comes in with some wind, then you've got very difficult conditions. I would think something in the double figures is going to look pretty darn good. Not deep in the double figures, but simply because the course is soft and it's -- they're holding.

Q. Just real quick, could you take us through that second shot on 11 from the woods there.

HALE IRWIN: Second shot on 11. The one deep in the woods where I had to kick the bear out? Well, I was 155 yards. Well, if I was in the fairway, I would have hit just a little 6-iron because the air's a little bit heavy. What I did have, I probably had, oh, I don't know, probably a 3- or 4-yard gap between trees. My aiming point between those trees was at the left edge of the green, the things going for me were at least I had a lie because nearby was a rock and a root. So, you know, at least I had the lie that I could play a shot. Then the objective, certainly, was two things: To keep it down so it wouldn't jump up into the tree in front of me, then negotiate the two trunks of the trees. Had I hit one of those, I could still be looking for it or could have impaled myself with the ball I guess. And from there, I felt like if -- I had to fade it, but the first objective was to maneuver between the goal posts and keep it below the trees. And, you know, I hit it very well, like I hit a 5-iron. Sort of a punch to keep it down, that was about the right distance, still put a little curve on it. So a shot you don't practice a lot until you hit it up into the trees, then you have to use a little imagination.

Q. Obviously when you come out here at 50, that's the time to make hay on this Tour. You've been a dominant figure on this Tour for years now. It should get tougher as you get older by age. Has this Tour gotten tougher for you because the competition, your physical condition, how does all that play and how do you feel now as opposed to 50, 51?

HALE IRWIN: Well, physically I feel very good. I don't suffer, I don't think, from any physical anxieties. I may not be quite as strong as I was when I came out here, but that's a matter of getting back into the gym and continuing that workout regimen that I was on so diligently in years past. I think my game is not as sharp as I'd like it to be, but I've been playing well this year. I don't feel that I've lost anything off my game. I think more than anything else, and this gentleman here, he'll tell you as much as anything else, it's your focus, it's your priorities that can interfere with the success or failure. I think once you get yourself in a frame of mind to do -- just play golf today, it's a lot easier to go out and play than if you're muddling around with some other things. And that's the hardest part. But physically I feel very good, and I think the competition is getting keener, you know, we've just gotten more. Every guy that comes out elevates the game a little bit, and it's not because I'm getting any older, it's because these guys are getting younger.

JULIUS MASON: Hale Irwin, folks. One more question?

Q. Are you playing in the Senior British Open?


Q. There's been some talk about that being a Major. Do you think it should be considered as a Major?

HALE IRWIN: I'd like to see it be considered, absolutely.

Q. Why?

HALE IRWIN: It just fits into the normal scheme of what we thought for years and years. If the British Open is a Major, why couldn't the Senior British Open be a Major? I'd love to see it. My wife and I have considered going over, but the timetable is just too hectic right now. But if it were a Major, I'd be there.

End of FastScripts....

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