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April 16, 2010

Mark O'Meara


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Mark, even on your first nine, and then you turn it on on your second nine with 29 and 65. Right now your our leader at -6. Good playing.
MARK O'MEARA: Phil, thank you. Obviously I'm pleased with my front nine score. Any time you make six birdies in nine holes you can't be too disappointed.
On the backside I started off with a couple of birdies on, you know, certainly on 11 and 13. But I hit it in the water a couple times, too, on 12 with a 6-iron to the green and made par. And then drove it in the water off the tee on 14 to make bogey.
So, you know, on the back side it was a little bit of a struggle. Made some good par-saving putts that kept the round kind of going. Even par. The greens are new and in really good condition, but they're firmer. That makes it tougher to be overly aggressive. You've got to allow for the ball to release a little bit more.
Then the good birdies on the front side. Hitting a good shot on the last hole -- feels good to hit a good drive and a 6-iron to about two feet. That was really nice.
So just capped off a nice start of the tournament.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Let's go through the round.
MARK O'MEARA: Okay. The first birdie came at 11. Hit an 8-iron to about maybe 15, 14 feet.
Next birdie on 13 was a sand wedge to about 14 feet. A bogey. I pulled my drive in the water, so obviously had to drop up there and made bogey on the par-5.
The next hole I hit a good drive. I had 6-iron to the green and hit not a bad shot, but in the front left bunker and I had an easy bunker shot but made bogey there.
Then I made a couple good par saves on 16 and 17.
16, just, you know, a nice -- I made about a 12-footer for par. Made about a six-and-a-half-footer for par on 17.
Then just tried to regroup on the front side. Shane Joel who is my caddie who has been working with me for about four and a half five years, he said, Listen, we just gotta focus a little bit more on our target and a little less swing thought. Just try to be a little bit committed.
I had a birdie chance on 1 that I missed.
2 I hit a 6-iron to about three and a half, four feet. Made that for birdie.
3, I drove it in the left bunker; hit a 9-iron out the bunker to about 12 feet and made that for birdie.
5, I hit a 9-iron to about ten feet; made that for birdie.
The next hole, the par-3, I hit an 8-iron just on the front fringe just off the edge of the green and made that probably from about 18 feet.
Par-5, I hit a wedge to about 12 feet. Made that for birdie.
Then the last hole, like I said, was 6-iron to about two feet.
I certainly made my fair share of putts, which was nice. Nice to get off to a good start.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Questions? Wait for the mic.

Q. Everyone's been talking about the greens being redone. You said they were firmer. Talk a little bit about your putting today.
MARK O'MEARA: I think the key was -- I got a little bit of, you know, of a putting lesson from Tiger last week at Augusta, you know, trying get the putter swinging out right and release a little bit more instead of kind of coming over it.
I was kind of in and over and kind of rakey on my putts, so he wanted me to swing kind of two degrees more out to the right or something at the practice rounds.
I didn't putt that great at Augusta, but today I putted a lot better. I kept my head steady and hit a lot of solid putts, so that was nice.
The golf course is in really good shape out there. I mean, the fairways are great and the greens are in good shape. But they're firm, so the scoring is not gonna be quite as low, I think, because of that.

Q. Do you find it anymore difficult to work at it as hard these days as you did back in the day?
MARK O'MEARA: You know, I would say that this is my 30th year the playing professional golf, so it's been a long time. I would say that within the last couple years, you know, I've been more dedicated and focused.
And I've been practicing. For me, I would say I've been more enthused about my practice sessions and working on my game, and I've actually hit the ball very well when I've been practicing.
I haven't really brought it to the course yet this year, you know, because my finishes haven't been that good this year. But I will tell that you while I've practiced, I've hit ball as good or better than I have for many, many years.
So it's just a matter of getting it going on a course and believing in myself a little bit better. I'm still struggling with that, just trusting what I need to do and doing it.
Today, you know, I hit a few better shots when I needed to. I wouldn't say I was right on by any means. But yet on the front side I hit some more quality shots.
So if I can keep that up then -- you know, confidence, you just don't find it out there on the street corner. It takes a while to build it. Few bad shots and it can go bye-bye pretty quickly.
I like what I'm working on and I hopefully I can take it to the course. Because if I do, there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to play well enough and contend.

Q. Was that the best nine holes you've had in a while? Was it just a matter of forgetting about the other nine and regrouping?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, just a little bit of regrouping, and certainly I hit some better drives and I kept the ball in play on that nine and made a lot of nice putts. You really got to -- no matter who you are, whether you're on the regular tour or this tour you got to putt well. I did today, which was good.

Q. You talked about great practices and hitting the ball well and maybe not translating the results. Does there come a point where you really need to see some results?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, because it gets frustrating. Because, you know, like even after Augusta. I hit it good at Augusta in the practice rounds, and then I didn't hit that good Thursday and Friday and missed the cut by two shots.
Look, I mean, I don't necessarily expect to win, but I know I should be able to play better than did played. And that's frustrating. So I went home to Houston and I practiced. Of course I hit some shots like on Monday as good as I can hit 'em.
So, I mean, you know, why I don't do that out there? That's the frustrating part. So a little of it is getting a little bit more into maybe the shot and believing I can do it. I know that it's in there.
Whenever there's a little bit of doubt, these guys all experience it, myself included, makes the game a lot harder.
So I think just trying to have a little better mindset and free myself up a little bit will help a lot.

Q. A little of topic here. Do you know when the first time was you played St. Andrews?
MARK O'MEARA: Wow, maybe in the early '80s.

Q. Would you have played the '84 British?
MARK O'MEARA: I think I did play in the '84 British.

Q. Had you ever been there before that like as an amateur?
MARK O'MEARA: No. I played a lot of Dunhill Cups there too back in the old days when it was like a three -- man team format.

Q. Right. Curious what you thought of it at first, and if it took a while it grow on you?
MARK O'MEARA: It did. I mean, the first time you play it you don't really know where you're going out there. You can't really see where you're going out here. You probably get done and think, what was that all about?
But now that I've played there close to 150 or 200 rounds that I've played at St. Andrews, I would tell you that it's one of the finest courses you can play, only because every day it plays different depending on the wind.
You know, bunkers you look at and you're like, What's that over there for? All of a sudden the next day the wind is blowing 30 or 40 miles and your ball is plugged up against the face. Oh, now I know why it's there.
And I've seen it in all conditions. One year in the Dunhill Cup I was 9-under through 12 holes and I had a chance, but I shot 8-under with a double on 17.
But I would say that I've also seen it where I did driver, 3-iron on No. 1. I've seen all the different conditions that can happen there. That's what makes the golf course so special.

Q. Do you think what you just described makes it hard for the average guy to appreciate it?
MARK O'MEARA: Absolutely.

Q. They hear all that great stuff and show up and maybe play once or twice.
MARK O'MEARA: Right. If you only play it once it's hard to appreciate what St. Andrews is all about. But because I have such a great appreciation and admiration for links golf -- I mean, I played a lot in Europe and certainly played a lot of the Open Championships and I have a great passion for that type of golf because I think creativity comes into play a lot more.
You're not required to play like one type of shot. You can hit a 6-iron from 85, 90 yards, and you could hit a 9-iron from 160, 70 yards.
So there's such a wide array of shots that you can play. To me, that's what makes it special.

Q. Would you say Birkdale is your favorite because you won there?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, I would say Birkdale is my favorite because I won in '98. I had a chance to win in '91. I won a European Tour event at Birkdale. So because I had so much success at Birkdale, I would probably put it at the top of the list.
And because it's pretty visual. I mean, there's not a lot of blind shots at Birkdale. It's pretty straightforward. But in saying that, to me it doesn't matter. Any links course I love.

Q. Just real quick, the putting lesson you got from Tiger, when was that?
MARK O'MEARA: It was like when we were playing a practice round on Tuesday. He had his camera out there or his phone, and they made a big deal about that.
Anyway, yeah, he just told me to swing a little bit more kind of down the line or a little bit more off to the right and feel the toe release instead of kind of coming over it.

Q. And were the putts falling at the Masters?
MARK O'MEARA: Not really.

Q. Was there ever a thought of, Ah, I'm going back to...
MARK O'MEARA: No, no. I agree with what he told me. That's what I do. He just kind of reminded me more than anything else.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Mark, thank you very much.
MARK O'MEARA: Thanks everybody.

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