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July 25, 1998

Hale Irwin


LES UNGER: We have listened to some of your interviews so far so we have the advantage of not asking you the same questions I hope. The first nine was a downer and the second nine was pretty good, I guess.

HALE IRWIN: Well, pretty much the same storyline as far as my game goes as was yesterday. I am not really that confident with my game. The struggle continues in trying to hit a little more precise shot than what I am hitting to accommodate some of the hole locations and the difficulty of the golf course. I am very much enjoying the golf course because it is playing, I think, up to the standards that we, in our minds, want Riviera to be remembered in. And I am enjoying the golf course. I can't say that my play is as sterling as it needs to be to accommodate what Riviera is asking of the players, but at the same time, you keep battling, you keep trying to -- just put that ball in the fairway and on the greens and hopefully make a few putts. It is really quite a struggle for me right now because I am not -- I am just sort of on the long side of looking forward to Monday and taking a bit of a break. But that pitch-in at the last hole certainly picked up the round; gave me, hopefully, a bit of a sling-shot into tomorrow. Sometimes one shot can really turn things around. And, if I look back at the day, standing on the 6th tee, 3-over par having bogeyed 2, 4 and 5, if I had to find the shot somewhere in the holes that followed that kind of helped me get it together, was maybe my second shot at 11 after driving it in the right rough. I had sort of a risky little shot back over the barranca to get over the other side that I hit with a 5-iron that I hit extremely well and just carried the barranca. Had I not hit that ball well, I'd been back down in that stuff and who knows where I might be score-wise if I went on to birdie that hole. If there was a place that kind of maybe picked me up and kept me going, it was -- if you wish almost a trouble-shot that helped me make a birdie there, my first birdie of the day, then I played relatively well coming in.

LES UNGER: Give us the details on the other birds, please.

HALE IRWIN: Well, the birdie at 11 was -- I hit an 8-iron, third shot to within twelve feet of the hole, made that. Then 16, I hit a little 5-iron to within 15 feet of the hole. I did make that. And then 18, I hit a very nice drive and hit a 6-iron which apparently wasn't enough club. I hit the 5-iron yesterday about the same distance and it landed on the green, went clear to the back edge. So I thought the 6-iron would be the appropriate club. It came up short about 35 feet, and I took a sand wedge and pitched it in from there. I was probably three yards short of the green.

LES UNGER: We will open it up for questions.

Q. Despite not having a "Sterling" round, as you described it yourself, you are going to be no worse than third once this whole thing is over. You may be tied for second. What about that?

HALE IRWIN: That would be terrible, wouldn't it? - (laughs).

Q. Not playing as well as you did, and you are still very much in contention. How do you feel about the final round?

HALE IRWIN: Well, I feel that this was -- after yesterday's round, I felt like today would be difficult to come back because yesterday's score was quite a good score. Could you match that on successive days? That is kind of hard to do. I won't say it wasn't a goal, but that is sometimes very hard to attain. So I don't want to say that today was a down day. But emotionally, you want to keep it up. You want to keep the momentum going and that back 9 today certainly picked me up considerably; not only just on the scoreboard, but I think emotionally you get a slingshot, you get a shot of adrenaline, you get the excitement that can get you going and propel you hopefully into a better day tomorrow. I don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. I am going to go through my procedure of trying to -- my checklist of things and, you know, I think the movie that I missed last night -- took an hour to find our restaurant, so we missed our movie. So maybe it is a movie this afternoon. I just need to kind of break it and have -- become a bit of a tourist and have some fun, maybe go to the beach and hang out.

Q. Which movie?

HALE IRWIN: I don't know. My family is waiting for me downstairs. My family travels with me. I don't get much to say about things. They tell me where we are going to eat and where we are going -- okay, which is fine.

Q. You have done well in U.S. Opens before. Is it something about your game that is suited for these kind of courses they have for Opens or is it something you fire up for?

HALE IRWIN: Well, I don't know -- hopefully my game is suited because you really have to keep the ball in play. You can't be venturing off into the roughs. You can't be missing greens. You have to really contain yourself. There is going to be some particularly difficult shots. There is going to be some difficult situations. You have to be ready for that. I think some of the players come here expecting it to be another walk-in-the-park, if not this venue, let's just say, in general, major championships, and they are not. That is why I think they are held in such high esteem because they are a cut or two above the ordinary. That is why they are special. That is why we -- that is why the courses are prepared special, so you have to play special to get to that top rung. That is what I enjoy about golf. I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy going out and having to be where the golf course -- where par is good. I am sitting here and I feel just as good as with par today as I did with 68 yesterday. I think that is fine. I don't begrudge the kikuyu rough. I don't find -- it is a problem. Absolutely, it is difficult. It is extremely difficult, but the fairways are just fine. So I think you have to have your game in hand. You have to have your mental thoughts in hand and if you are expecting it to be something that it is not, then you don't have to play. There is no one in the tournament that says you have to play and if you don't enjoy it, by all means do something else that you do enjoy.

Q. Can you contrast maybe your mindset from, what, Thursday afternoon, I guess it was, 77, after -- for one round and the way it is right now after a little success out here?

HALE IRWIN: Well, I just -- I just had to get rid of the negative part that had come into my game and the negative part is easily flushed out. I just took a few moments to try to gather myself and there wasn't much about that round that was worthy of thinking about. There wasn't much that really conjured up any positive thoughts so I quickly forgot about it. But I felt like if I could go out and play two or three very solid rounds, I could get back in the tournament because the course is playing difficult. Thus far, that has happened. I think I am going to have to play very, very well tomorrow. But I have a chance and that is all I have ever asked is just a chance and when -- I didn't take myself out of it necessarily with that first round, but I sure put a big obstacle in my way. And I didn't spend a whole lot of time with that, the shoes came off, I went -- got with my family and we went and did our business and it was forgotten. I think I just kind of been around too long. I have seen too many things to let that destroy what is still a very good week. I am enjoying the heck out of this week, I really am. Everything being said, I have really enjoyed it.

Q. Having had that relatively poor round on Thursday, are you surprised to be in contention as in contention as you are at this point?

HALE IRWIN: Well, I don't like to say "surprised" because I think I can play golf. I think I have the ability to come back. I think I have the capacity to deal with that kind of a score that is quite a setback. But not so far was it a setback that I can't come forward again. If you have to shoot 77, somebody says you have to shoot it, well, then shoot it in the first round. Because that -- then at least you have successive rounds in which to try and make that up: The later in the week that you shoot a round like that, the more devastating it can be. So I won't say I am surprised. I am very happy to have fought back to a position where I am going to be in contention, where I do have the leaders in site and that is a more a warm and fuzzy feeling than it was Thursday afternoon.

Q. In your history, have you made a comeback like this to win a tournament, four, five shots back, particularly in a major tournament?

HALE IRWIN: The Open win in Inverness in 79 I opened with 74, 75, I believe -- I guess you are supposed to know these things but it was -- it wasn't a very good score. But, again, it was the first round and I came back, I believe, with successive 68s, 67, which got me in a good position. In fact, I think that I had a 5-shot lead going into the last day; that is how good 68, 67 was on those middle rounds, but I did open up, I believe, it was 74. I was probably at least 6 or 7 back, I think after that round.

Q. Are you familiar with Roy Vucinich at all?

HALE IRWIN: No, I don't know him at all. I applaud what he is doing. I think it is great. I don't know where he is from. I have never heard of him. I have of all the admiration in the world for him hanging in like this. It just shows that there are a lot of players out there that are still quite capable of playing in the senior game even though we have never heard of them. That is an added dimension to the event which I think is really nice.

End of FastScripts....

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