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August 11, 2011

Shaun Micheel


KELLY ELBIN: 2003 PGA champion Shaun Micheel, joining us at the 93rd PGA Championship. Shaun is in with a bogey-free 4-under par 66, three strokes back of first-round leader Steve Stricker. Shaun, well played. Comments on the round and maybe a quick review of the birdies and shots hit in and distances of putts.
SHAUN MICHEEL: Sure, yeah. You know, the golf course, first of all, is incredible. It's in incredible shape. It's probably one of the most difficult, one of the most penal golf courses that I've played, that we've probably played. I mean, last year at Whistling Straits kind of had its own kind of uniqueness to it, but not only do you have a long golf course but you have penal rough, the bunkers are difficult, and then you have 12 or 13 water hazards that come into play. And that's something unusual that I really haven't ever experienced in a while.
But it was a great day. You know, I saw that the morning guys had some good scores out there. You know, Steve obviously is playing great this year, and I saw Jerry Kelly up there, the two Wisconsin boys up there fighting it out. I saw that there were some birdies to be had. But I think they really did a good job setting the course up. Tees were up a little bit on some of the holes, really kind of tempted you a little bit to maybe get -- maybe play a little bit more aggressively than you normally would have. But I think in the practice round we played basically one step off the back the entire practice round.
It was just a great day, it really is. I guess it was unexpected. But got off to a great start, birdied every other hole, and really kind of boring, really, to get started, just fairways and greens and obviously had one-putts on those three first birdies. I actually made an incredible putt on 9 that just lipped out but made the turn in 3-under. Knew that really 10, 11, 12 and 13, if you played well, if I continued to hit the fairways I'd have good chances, just couldn't get anything going.
And then finally on 14, you know, very difficult hole up the hill. Y.E. and I both hit it in the bunker and I watched him splash it out and it just kind of released and I couldn't have had a better situation, kind of an uphill lie and I splashed it out and it rolled right in the hole. It's important I think when you play this golf course to get ahead of it because you have so much trouble coming in the last four or five holes, really there's really a big number waiting on each of those last four holes if you're not careful.
You know, I played well. I played smart, and I converted -- made a couple good up-and-downs, and I think that's always the key to playing a good, solid round in major championship.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record Shaun had just 26 putts on his round today.

Q. What is it about the PGA Championship that seems to motivate you and bring out the best in your game, and also can you compare and contrast Atlanta Athletic Club this week to Oak Hill when you won the championship in 2003? Are there really any similarities or are they completely different?
SHAUN MICHEEL: You know, I think they're completely different to answer the second part first. I felt like Medinah was more like Oak Hill, and I played pretty well that year. I think I finished second. I know Tiger went on and won by five shots, and after reviewing some of his putts that he made, I was pretty impressed.
But you know, this course -- Oak Hill is -- it's more tree-lined, I think. There are trees out there, but it just doesn't really remind me too much of that. You know, it's an incredibly difficult golf course. Oak Hill kind of has its own special qualities, I guess. But here, it's just so difficult because the par-3s are such a challenge, and it's been a long time that I remember having to really stand over a ball on each of the par-3s and just really give it a lot of thought.
But to answer your first question, I just -- I don't know, I think I take a lot of pride, I suppose, in having my name on the trophy and being announced. I mean, it's -- I've always enjoyed very difficult golf courses. You're only a step away really from making a big number and kind of really blowing the tournament. I suppose I kind of did that last year in the second round of the U.S. Open on the back nine. But I just really -- something about major championships, just with the feel of the tournament, just with the media leading up to it, the fans, the support, and again, just the pride of representing all the men and women of the PGA of America, I guess.
I said -- this is probably the third time I've said this today, that I just really just take a lot of pride in being the PGA champion, and no matter really what the state of my game is coming into a major, particularly the PGA, I find a way to kind of dig deep and maybe get a few good scores. You know, I didn't do anything special today. I mean, I made a couple good up-and-downs which is what you always have to do anyway, but I feel comfortable on the golf course. I'm driving the ball straight, and I really enjoyed playing with Martin and Y.E. It's the first time that I've been paired with those guys.
You know, when I got my pairing, I was kind of surprised that they paired me with those two guys considering the way I've been playing this year. But I was excited nonetheless and just really had a good time with those guys.

Q. I think you may have answered part of my question on that last one, but did you have any idea in the weeks, months, that this round was brewing, or was it just that fact, that you dig down deep and take a lot of pride when you come to a PGA Championship?
SHAUN MICHEEL: I think both, really. I've had quite a few health issues this year, really, and spent more time in the doctor's office than I really care to. But about three weeks ago, I made -- I went up to Kentucky to see my teacher Matt Killen and Matt works with Kenny and J.B. Holmes and Josh Teater and Blake Adams who have been playing great recently, and I spent seven hours up there just on a Wednesday and made a few little changes. I think still some of the bad habits that I got into from my shoulder surgery from a couple years ago that I just have not been able to get out of. And to be honest with you, I haven't taken the time really to try to get out of them, because I like to play 29, 30 weeks. I'm not the No. 1 player in the world where I can just play 15 events and if I don't play well, it doesn't matter. I kind of need to be playing.
It's a difficult sport anyway to work on your game while you're trying to compete, and Matt and I -- well, Matt was a little concerned about that this week. But fortunately what I am doing is -- it was just a small step, but I'm definitely heading in the right direction. And today I felt good. It felt really good.
But again, I didn't do anything special. I just drove the ball around the fairway and hit a lot of great iron shots, and I've always been a pretty good iron player. But just some of the mechanical things that I really needed to change were kind of -- you know, I'd go two or three holes, then hit a great shot, then all of a sudden hit a really bad one. So today, I can't really think of one bad iron shot and that feels great.

Q. Jerry Kelly mentioned in his post-round interview that he and Steve Stricker had played a practice round together and they got through the golf course and they realized that if they just kept the ball in play they didn't have to be the longest guys in order to do well. Did you see anything in the practice round, because you look, it's Stricker, Kelly, it's you, Verplank.
SHAUN MICHEEL: Yeah, I suppose. Look, I suppose that people really take a lot of stock into guys like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson and guys that really hit it a long way. But the way the golf course is shaped, you know, it takes driver out of their hands. It's a lot of angles to the fairways. You start driving them through the fairways, I almost think that it's better almost to be a shorter player because you're not really having to worry about a lot of the trouble up in front. I think if you just keep the ball between you and the hole, I think you're going to have a great week, no matter if you're a long hitter or a short hitter. I don't think there are any short hitters. There are guys that average shorter than others, but look up there, Steve has had a great career, is having a great year. Scott Verplank, incredible year, great putter, great iron player, great driver of the ball. Jerry Kelly, the same way.
And so, you know, I just think that playing smart and hitting the greens -- look at the guys up there, they're smart players, they're not bombers and gaugers. You're not going to survive doing that. And they're patient players. I think they're very patient players. I mean, Steve knows how to go low, and Jerry has won a few times, and Scott has obviously had a great career and won numerous times, too. I just think it's the experience factor. I think that always plays into it.
I think the PGA Championship really has really kind of come into its own. I don't know when that started or why it started. I just know that the PGA used to always be known as kind of, well, it's just the last major, let's just hurry up so we can get to the next year and get to Augusta. When you look this year, there's probably about 100 of the top 102 guys in the world. I mean, that's the best field in golf. The Masters has, what, 90 players, the World Golf Championships has 75 guys playing with no cut so they can fire at every pin. The PGA Championship is the best field in golf. It's not open. You can't just go qualify for it. You've got great guys, the 20 guys that qualify each year from the PGA sections, and they're great players, too.
You know, I know that there's a lot of them that are just excited to get a chance to play in their championship and everything else, but you know, it's just a great event. It's the best field in golf, and it really is. I'm proud to be the champion, and without really getting too long-winded, I just think experience carries -- just really matters, it really does.
KELLY ELBIN: When you shoot a 66 on an afternoon knowing that you've got a morning round tomorrow, is it a positive thing you're going to be able to get right back out on the golf course.
SHAUN MICHEEL: Yeah, I think so, I do. It's a quick turnaround, but there's a lot of great shots that are fresh in my mind. You know, again, I don't -- when I go to sleep tonight, I won't have to lay there and think, man, I am lucky I hit that tree and it bounced out in the fairway or it went in the bunker and it came out and I had a shot. I basically hit every shot the way I wanted to hit it. I understand that might not happen tomorrow or the next day, but I feel like I'm doing the other things very well. I'm putting well, I'm chipping well, I'm thinking well. You're not going to go out there and hit every fairway. I mean, everybody is going to have some issue, and if I can continue to just do some of the -- take advantage of some of the par-5s, of course there's two of them and both birdie holes, and just play smart, I think -- really that's all I can ask for.

Q. I've got to ask, you you've spoken about your pride in winning this title. Does it ever come with a down side where people say, okay, he won this title in 2003 but he has struggled to win again after that? Does that affect you at all?
SHAUN MICHEEL: Oh, yeah, I suppose so. I would never have thought that I could have gone eight years or whatever it is without winning again. Yeah, look, it's shoulder surgery and I basically was out from really good golf for a couple years. Then I battled with my mom's cancer last year, and that really took a lot out of me when she passed away. I just lost my friend and I lost my desire to really play for anyone. I spent a lot of energy last year playing for her, and I started this year, I really wasn't that excited. I thought, who was I going to play for?
It's not fun anymore just to go out and play for me. I've got two great kids back at home. I've got a seven-year old boy and a four-year old daughter that I just think the world of. But I still love golf, too. I hate the travel. I hate being away from them, but look, as long as I'm going to play, I need to try to play well, and you've got to have thick skin, I think, when you play this game. Believe me, it's not for a lack of effort. It's difficult to win, it really is. David Toms, how long did he go? I'm not trying to compare my game to David Toms because you don't have to win every week to have a great career, but a lot of it, I think, is just attitude.
You know, you have to be all in in this game. Look, I think there's enough guys that play that are pros at clubs that are even playing this week that probably have the game. Look, Mike Small is an example that probably has a good game that can play consistently year after year. Why doesn't he? I think he just found -- and he played for a number of years. I think he just found that he didn't want to do it anymore. I maybe kind of did a lot of soul searching when my mom past, that I'm like you know, I need to figure out do I want to do this or do I not want to do this. Up to this point, I haven't really wanted to be out there.
Again, we all kind of go through health issues. I know Thomas Björn's father passed away not too long ago. It happens to all of us, so you have to find a way to just go and push through those things. But again, you have to be all in, you really do. This game will beat you up. It's beaten me up. I don't really take issue with anything that's written about me. As long as I can maintain -- I'm not out there and I'm not embarrassing myself by either playing poorly or just having a poor attitude, then I'm okay with that. You know, everybody's career comes to an end at some point, and not that I feel like mine is, but I thought about that early in the year. I just thought, I don't know if I want to continue on with this anymore. Just the grind and missing my two kids. I just wasn't sure I wanted to do it.
But it sure is exciting to get back here and play and play well. I guess it's always fun when you play well. It is definitely no fun when you're missing cuts and you're just away from your family.
I spent a lot of time answering the questions. My son asked me when I'm going to win him another trophy, so I have the pressure there. I'm getting it from three sides. I'm my own worst enemy. You have to go at this with everything or there's no reason to be out there, you're just wasting your time, because these guys are just too good.
KELLY ELBIN: Shaun Micheel in with 66 at the PGA Championship. Thank you very much.

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