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October 10, 2010

Mark O'Meara


THE MODERATOR: Mark, congratulations. I know it probably feels good to win your first individual win. I know you and Nick won earlier, but maybe share your thoughts on getting this first win in a major championship.
MARK O'MEARA: You know, it's a thrill. It's been certainly a long time coming. Last time I won individually was in '06, I believe, in Dubai.
But it was a great victory when I won there. But to come here on this great golf course, very tough, demanding.
I just feel very fortunate, because a week and a half ago I was as far as you could come from thinking you're going to win a tournament. I knew I'd been hitting the ball well and practicing at home, but mentally I was not right.
So I walked away for four or five days and got on the river and spent some time with my wife and just kind of recommitted, refocused. And it was a battle out there, needless to say.
And I gotta give a special extra thanks to Shane Joel, the caddie, because he's been on my back for five and a half years now, and he knows me as well as anybody. He's been through the thick and thin with me, emotionally, in my personal issues off the course and on the course, kind of hanging in there. So it's a special victory, certainly, for not only me but for him.
THE MODERATOR: Were you aware of everything, I know when you were coming down the stretch there, of what Michael was doing and were you able to see --
MARK O'MEARA: I was. Fortunately, I think there was decisions that I need to make out there, and I wouldn't say I was overly confident striking the ball all day long, but I kind of kept it in play. Until I hit a poor tee shot off 16.
Other than that, I knew Michael was birdieing coming in, and he's a good, solid player. When you're behind, it's kind of easier to know: I've got to push forward, I've got to be aggressive.
But when you're ahead, you're trying to play somewhat smart. And fortunately I escaped with a bogey there on 16.
I wasn't aggressive on 14, the par 4. I could have knocked it on the green. But saying that I had a three-shot lead at the time, and I wasn't overly confident, necessarily, striking a 3-wood right up there.
I felt like I'm not going to throw the tournament away with a three-shot lead and I can still make birdie, hit 5-iron off the tee and a wedge in there, and I had a chance for birdie, didn't make it. But certainly my hat's off to Michael birdieing three of the last four holes or three of the last five, something like that.
He played well today. And having the lead on a golf course like this and going out and shooting 68, you gotta just take your chances. And, fortunately, I hit a good drive in the playoff and was able to get the job done in the playoff.
THE MODERATOR: Birdies start at No. 1, shot sequence.
MARK O'MEARA: 1, I hit my drive in the right rough. Hit a good 7-iron. I got fortunate, had a good lie, hit 7-iron on the green to about, what, maybe 18 feet. 18 feet and made that for birdie, kind of a big sweeper, good speed on it.
Bogey on 3, I hit a 3-iron, punted to the right, caught the bank and went to the bunker, blasted it out to about eight feet, 10 feet, missed that. Probably eight feet.
4, okay drive in the fairway. 6-iron to about 14 feet, 12 feet, somewhere around that range. Hit a good putt and made it.
Then I just kind of made certainly good, solid pars all the way until 13 where I hit a rescue club off the tee and a little 9-iron to about 15 feet, 16 feet, made that. And that was a big putt because everybody else seemed to be birdieing a lot of holes coming in.
And then on 15 I hit a good drive and an 8-iron to keep it below the hole, and had a long putt, probably 35 feet, 34 feet, somewhere around there, and hit a super solid putt. Right when I hit it, I knew I hit a good putt and poured it right in the middle.
So that was certainly a big putt. Then as I spoke about the bogey on 16 where I pole sniped (phonetic) my tee shot left over in the high grass. Fortunate to have a wedge shot out.
Then I hit a 7-iron, hung it to right in the bunker. Kind of butchering that hole a little bit, hit a wonderful bunker shot, not an easy bunker shot, to three feet, made it for bogey.
Clutch save for a 5. Otherwise I would have gone 1 behind. I knew Michael just birdied 17 to pull him to get to 7-under. On 18, I hit a good putt from probably 34, 35 feet. Came up a turn and a half short from going in and winning outright.
So overall the playoff, as you guys saw, maybe girls, guys, you saw I putted it to the right and hit the drive, probably one of my better ones of the day.
When he came up short left, I played a little more conservative on my second shot, I knew he was going to have a tough pitch to get it up and down; and, of course, I left my putt short and he didn't make it. I had to make about three-and-a-half footer to win.
So I'm just thankful that ball went in and disappeared.
THE MODERATOR: What was your distance on your second shot in the playoff?
MARK O'MEARA: 161. I had 169 the first time around, hit a smooth 6, with 7-iron. Just short of pin high. About 24, 25 feet. Left it about three feet short. Three and a half feet and made that one.

Q. Seems like a lot of your 2nd place finishes out here on the Champions Tour was a situation where a guy got really hot and was able to overtake you. Did you kind of think, oh, here we go again?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah. You know, I think winning any tournament, no matter whether you're on this tour or any other tour, it's always a challenge and a little bit of a battle. It's a battle of emotions. It's about keeping your composure. And certainly, as we all know, you can't control the other player.
But there does come an element of luck. Whatever it may be, whether it's good luck, not so good luck, and sometimes you can play well and just somebody else does something more spectacular. It seemed that way.
I never really gave away a tournament when I had a chance to win. It's just somebody else did something better. So I'm proud of that fact. And then maybe that gave me enough determination to kind of fight through the not feeling so super confident over every shot out there because there's trouble out there on this golf course. It's demanding and tough.
You're going to play a little bit safe away from some of that trouble when you're leading the tournament. But yet I was able to hit some good shots when I needed to.

Q. You've had so much success before. But I'm curious, did nerves play a factor at all maybe on the back nine?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I was nervous. No question about it. I know if you look at, if I look back at myself, I don't look so nervous, but inside I'm churning. I'm churning, not like shaky, but just certainly I know what's going on. And I know that I'm trying to win and I'm trying to stay focused on what I need to do on the next shot.
Not try to get too far ahead or too far behind. I felt like this week I kept my composure well emotionally out there, because coming off the way I played a week and a half ago, the second round, where I had to withdraw, I would just say I did a 180.
Maybe by getting away for four or five days and going steelhead fishing, which I have a super passion for, I get excited. There's no pressure on the river. Even if I don't catch a fish, I might be out there for three days and not catch one, and I'm still having a blast. So I had the ultimate patience when it comes to that.
I try to use that, those fond thoughts on the golf course. And certainly being remarried last year, and marriage being in my life now, I know how much it means to her that I've won again. And I know that we spoke about this on the green about my father's passing in July.
You know, I was as close as any son could be to his father. And I love my dad. So I miss him; but yet, on the other hand, you know I've got something green out there. I owe so much to my dad, and certainly to my mother, too, but both of them being gone now, it's tough because I know this would have been a special treat for my dad, too.

Q. When you withdrew, was that out of disgust or were you injured?
MARK O'MEARA: I wish I could say I was injured. I was mentally injured. (Laughter) I had some stuff going on at home.
And I just -- I left on a bad note. And just my heart wasn't in it. I thought it wasn't right. And I don't like to do that because I don't think, maybe it was one or two or three times in my career that I've done that, but I just knew that I was fighting something I wasn't going to win. So I just walked away.
I didn't feel good about walking away, because that's not the kind of person I am. But, yet, I didn't want to waste my time and take any more beating than I was.
I felt if I could go and clear my head, and not even go home and practice, because I knew I was swinging all right. But I still should say I could get better. I believe that. That's what I'm going to strive to do. I'm going to work at it.
Did I hit the ball good this week? You know, I did at times. And my misses were playable, you'd say most of the time. But it's always -- I wish I could tell you I was going to pipe every shot. I'm a human being. I see the trouble, too, out there.
So it's kind of just about methodically plodding your way around the golf course. And certainly I was able to do that.

Q. When you left and withdrew and went fishing, about how long were you away from the clubs, would you say, didn't pick them up or anything?
MARK O'MEARA: I would say after I withdrew on that Saturday, I hit a few balls on a Wednesday last week, before I left to go on my fishing trip.
And then I was in the river Thursday night, all day Friday, most of the day Saturday.
But you gotta understand, I got on the plane in Houston, flew to Portland, flew back to Houston Sunday morning early. Then I got on a plane Sunday night and flew to Boston. I got there about midnight. Then I did something up at TPC in Boston on Monday this week. Then I got down here about 11:30 on Monday night to play my practice round on Tuesday afternoon.
So I've been going. And I have to drive to Philly tonight because I've got to do another outing tomorrow.

Q. So Wednesday to Tuesday, maybe --
MARK O'MEARA: Pretty much.

Q. Maybe didn't pick up the clubs?
MARK O'MEARA: Pretty much. I played a little on Monday, TPC Boston. So about four or five days.

Q. Just enough to get away?
MARK O'MEARA: It was enough to say, you know what, I did something that I was passionate about at the right time. Shared that with my wife, and we had a blast. So it was good for me to -- it cleared kind of where I needed to be. And then I came back. And sometimes when you least expect it, these are the things that happen.

Q. Was it just you and her on the river?
MARK O'MEARA: Yes, it was great. It was awesome.

Q. What state was that in?
MARK O'MEARA: That was in Oregon. The Deschutes River. We play up there.

Q. Guys' reputations are largely fixed, I don't know if they're fixed in stone, but they're fixed when they turn 50. Your record is your record. How important, though, was it to you to win out here and keep playing well?
MARK O'MEARA: You know, it's very important. Another disappointment -- you know, I know Hall of Fame always comes up. I know I'm always talked about.
I'll be honest, I'm disappointed I didn't get in this year. I'm 53. I'll be 54 next year. Borderline, I think there's guys that had maybe semi careers, they're all in. I'm thinking: When am I going to get the call? That would be a great honor for me. Especially for what I accomplished on the regular TOUR, my worldwide wins. I was disappointed. That kind of hurt a little bit.
Now we'll see. You've just got to wonder if it's a popularity contest or what. I think my record hopefully is good enough by what I've accomplished. And now certainly winning this, you know, it's just a feather in the cap, because anytime you win, no matter what it is, it's always a thrill.
I won the Par 3 Contest at Augusta. I was jacked up about that. But earlier in the year, winning with Nick, sure that was a win, but it was a team win. Not to take anything from that. Soon you have to win individually. I've come so close so many times in the last three years.
Going through my divorce, getting remarried, having all the personal stuff going on off the course, I was the guy that was there, down, up, all over the place. And it's just finally great to have one come my way and come out on top.

Q. You talked a little bit about reaching kind of that low point for one or two, three times in your career, you can't beat that mental anguish. What does this win do to the exact opposite of that, what did that do for your competitive drive to finish out the year?
MARK O'MEARA: Two things. Well, certainly, it's turned things completely around, 180. All the way around. Also I take priority, because this is a very demanding golf course.
It was a class field they had here. It's a Senior major championship. So I feel like I hit the jackpot this week coming here and winning and most people might have questioned it. Sometimes I question my own playability out there at times.
But to hang in there and battle through the last few holes and winning the playoff, fantastic. I'm really elated, to be honest with you.

Q. You say at least the entries you're playing, there's always that one last shot that keeps you coming back. Is that one of these things that will keep you coming back, reinforcement?
MARK O'MEARA: I've been doing this for 30 years. Sometimes I wonder why don't I just go check out and stay on the river. But I'm a driven guy.
I love to compete. I want to get better. I'll stand out there and practice as hard as the next guy. Just one more ball. Maybe that will be the one. Just like this, one more tournament. Just keep plugging along. Sooner or later you just hang in there long enough, maybe that door will open up and you can walk through it and come out on top.

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