|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
June 15, 1994
LES UNGER: Just having retired from the course for the third
time this week, we are interested to hear what Tom Kite's thoughts
are on Oakmont, and the heat, and anything else you've got in
TOM KITE: I am sure all this is going to be redundant from what
everybody else has said. The greens are just incredible. We have
played some fast greens so far this year. Augusta National's were
as fast as I have ever seen those down there, but, you know, these
are different than Augusta National's in that Augusta's have slopes,
but then they have plateaus. Kind of come off a slope; then you
will catch it level; then come down off a slope; then you will
have another level, and that level gives that ball a chance to
bottom down and slow down a little bit. Number of these greens
don't have that. Number of these greens just have straight slopes
and once that ball gets going, there's not a whole heck of a lot
to make that ball want to stop and in a lot of cases, it doesn't,
and it is -- well, I mean, we know before you come to Oakmont
that it is going to be the toughest golf course that is in the
Open (rotation) and this year they have got it set up as difficult
has it has ever been. Really going to be a fun week!
LES UNGER: Any comparisons between '83 and now?
TOM KITE: Well, I think, you know, your memory plays tricks on
you a lot. I know that the greens were very fast then and I know
-- the '69 amateur that I played here was the fastest greens that
I had ever seen, but of course that was in '69, and I didn't have
a whole lot to compare it to as much as I do now. But those seemed
really fast and every year you come here it is just like "God,
look at that, how can they be this much faster?" But I don't
ever recall the situation. Obviously, I have read some of it and
so I know everybody has talked about number 12. I don't ever recall
number 12 being so severe that it was really difficult to keep
the ball on the green. And now that is the case. So, I think that
certainly the technology has become so sophisticated in the agronomy
area, that the equipment is better; they are able to do more things
with the grass; that you have to think that this is as severe
as the golf course has ever been set up.
LES UNGER: Questions.
Q. Tom, what do you think about your game that you think would
give you an advantage here over a lot of people?
TOM KITE: Well, I am playing pretty well right now, Mark. I really
am. I am having some good tournaments. I haven't been able to
pop to get the win yet this year, but I have had a number of top
10s and a number of good runs. I am very pleased with my game.
I like hard golf courses, generally speaking, and this is the
hardest. I don't think there is any question about that. And whoever
wins or whoever plays well this week is going to have to have
their game hitting on all cylinders. They are going to have to
be putting incredibly well and going to have more patience than
Q. You have already made it clear that you thought that the
course is the toughest conditions that you have seen. Do you think
it is a fair test of your abilities?
TOM KITE: Yeah. No question about it. As we talked about it at
other tournaments, there is a real fine line between setting the
golf course up unfair and testing the limits of today's players.
You have to push a golf course very hard to really make it difficult
enough for today's players if you want par to be the standard.
And obviously, the USGA would like to have par or close to par
to win the golf tournament. So you are faced with a situation
where you have to push the golf course as much to the limit as
you can, and they have done so here.
Q. How much of a factor is the experience playing coming to
a course like Oakmont; local knowledge, things like that?
TOM KITE: Well, being as old as I am, I hope that experience plays
a big factor in this tournament. I hope that it really pays dividends.
Yeah, you'd have to think that it is going to have some effect,
but again, the golf course is so difficult that you can have all
the experience in the world, but you are still going to have to
play very, very well. It is very demanding. Yeah, I'd like to
think that at least I know what to expect with the tournament;
with the Open. And certainly, I think that there are going to
be a lot of disasters happening out there. There are going to
be disasters happening to everybody. And to expect that and know
that it is going to happen to everybody and then go on and be
able to play, is what it is going to take, and that is tough to
come by without some experience.
Q. Does the heat here compare to Austin, Texas and how will
it affect your game this week?
TOM KITE: Oh, gosh. Yeah, we are hotter than this. We may not
be quite this humid. This is more like Houston or New Orleans
right now, but Mark, you just left there, it is no cooler in Austin
right now than it is here, I can promise you.
Q. 95, 96?
TOM KITE: It is smoking.
Q. Tom, some of the players -- international players have said
that because of the bump-and-run situations here where you can
do that, that maybe, finally, they might be able to break through
and win another Open?
TOM KITE: Well, I think it is only a question of time before one
of them does. I don't know whether it will be this Open or next
Open, or four, five years from now. But at some point in time,
there are going to be some European players that are going to
pop through -- some international players that are going to pop
through and win this major championship because they are quality
players, and that is going to happen. You know, we talked about
how they have dominated Augusta for the last few years. I have
no explanation for it. I don't think there is a real, real solid
definite reason why they have done so well in the Masters and
we have done so well in the U.S. Open, other than that it is just,
maybe a cyclical thing that follows a pattern and I think we will
start seeing some Americans win the Masters. I think we will start
seeing foreigners win the U.S. Open.
Q. I know the conditions -- Pebble Beach on Sunday, weather
conditions were drastically different than this. Potentially,
if it doesn't rain, could this course play hard all four days
as Pebble Beach was on Sunday?
TOM KITE: I don't think there is any question there. You go back
and look at all the pre-tournament press clippings, and reports,
and quotes from all the top players at Pebble Beach, and of course,
I have got a scrapbook from Pebble Beach; read a lot of those
things over the years, and everybody in the tournament, even those
players that later on were some of the most critical of the USGA
and the way the golf course was set up the last day, they were
raving about the condition of Pebble Beach. `this is the fairest.
This is the best. The golf course is set up perfect. And of course,
that is probably when you don't hear a whole lot of griping and
complaining from the guys; you-- probably makes you think that
it may be a little too easy. And we saw that the first couple
of days at Pebble Beach, and a lot of low scores and of course,
Gil Morgan shot 12 under par, -- Gil Morgan 12 under par at one
time, and it looked like that was going to be really, really low
scores and then Saturday, scores got a little bit more difficult.
Sunday, as we know it, became very much so, but here, you know,
you are not having a lot of people saying, "Gosh, this is
the most perfect set up Open." You are having people saying,
"Gosh, this is the hardest golf course I have ever seen in
my life." So the pre-tournament comments from all the players
is entirely different than what we had at Pebble Beach and more
closely, Ken, to what you were reading Sunday afternoon or Monday
Q. Which players in the field do you expect to push you closest
TOM KITE: Well, talking about experience, as we did just a minute
ago, I think you have got to go with the top players. This is
going to be, you know, a tournament that is going to push everybody
to the limit. I think that you just start at the top and you take
the top 15 or 18 players and you can probably pick the winner
out of those. Might not even take that long a list. Might be your
top 8 or 10.
Q. Some of the people have said 4, 5 holes will hit the driver.
How about you?
TOM KITE: Not many drivers. I haven't really counted them up.
I will probably hit it on number 4. I will probably hit it on
9. Maybe 7. 9, for sure. 12, 15 and 18. Not many at all, five
or six. This is-- the golf course is playing, you know, as firm
as and as fast as the greens are. The fairways are in similar
condition - so dry that the ball is bouncing. Fairways are in
perfect condition, but you are getting some distance out of the
ball. So there is really not a great thing to hit a driver on
a lot of the holes.
Q. You struggled the last round at the Buick and you said Saturday
that now you are really playing well.
TOM KITE: I got off to a kind of a shaky start. I missed the green
at number one and failed to get that up and down and missed a
fairly close birdie putt at number 2 and then 3-putted number
3. And from that point on, I think I was trying to press a little
bit and trying to catch up. I knew I needed a good hot round and
wasn't able to get it. I think I started pressing a little bit.
But I am still very optimistic, the Saturday's round at Buick
was again one of the finest rounds that I have played in a long
time. Really hit the ball well; putted well and I prefer to emphasize
that round as opposed to Sunday's round.
Q. Tom, in about every publication you see out here you see
pictures of the Church Pew bunkers on number 4. Do you have any
memories or anything about that bunker getting out of it?
TOM KITE: I hate to say that I have never been in them because
as soon as I say that, I will putt the damn ball in it tomorrow
morning, but so far, I have been able to dodge the Church Pews.
I have been in that bunker to the right on the fairway on 3 and
I have been in the bunkers to the right on 4, but I have never
actually been in the Church Pews, and hoping to dodge those. That
picture of Arnold in there on the program is priceless. When you
are looking at him playing out of the thing, you can barely see
half of his body. It is a great photo. You know where you are
when you see that.
LES UNGER: Anymore?
Q. Is it true your primary goal for the next few years is to
prepare yourself for the Senior Tour?
TOM KITE: Wouldn't you know, Larry Dennis would ask that question?
No. No, my goal for the next couple of years is try to get through
this week. No, I am not even thinking about the Senior Tour right
now. I think you are seeing a lot of the 40 year olds really starting
to play well or continue to play well-- not starting to play well,
but continue to play well on our Tour and I think to a lot of
them, there is not the tremendous excitement about the Senior
Tour. We know it is there. We know it is going to be fun when
that time arises, but I think you saw a situation with Raymond
(Floyd) where the Senior Tour was nice and now he is committed
to playing strictly on that Senior Tour, but it took him awhile
to get his decision made up as to which way he wanted to go. I
think Hale (Irwin) is playing so well on our tour right now I
think you are going to see a number of players. There is a lot
of guys. Watson is playing well right now, and you know, realistically,
there is one major league tour in the world that everybody wants
to win on. The European players, while they have a great tour,
love coming over here and winning on our tour, where the same
cannot be said as much for the American players going over to
Europe. This is the big leagues right here. This -- the Tour that
we have US PGA Tour is the major leagues and everything else,
including the Senior Tour is a step down, in my opinion, and I
think that it is not a big step, but it is certainly-- the European
Tour, Asian Tour, Japanese Tour, those are not big steps down
from our tour, but it is down some.
Q. Tom, you mentioned to play here you need the patience of
Job. You won the Open two years ago. Talk about the kind of patience
that one is going to need to win out here this week?
TOM KITE: Well, the week that I had at Pebble Beach was-- I have
had other weeks since that time where I was as "with it"
as you needed to be and it doesn't always come across with a win.
I was that way this year at Augusta. I was totally in control
of my emotions and my mental thoughts and my game was good, so
everything was there for a good week and it just so happened,
it didn't come across with a win. But a good top finish. So you
know, you have got to know that being that patient is not going
to guarantee a win, but you also know that the guy who wins the
tournament will show that patience throughout the entire week.
It is just going to be a tremendous battle out there and there
is only going to be a couple of players that are going to be able
to win that battle and certainly the winner will come from that
list, that short list.
Q. Tom, what about starting at number 1, a lot of people call
it the toughest hole in golf by a lot of people. What are your
thoughts about playing that?
TOM KITE: I don't know about the toughest hole. Certainly one
of the toughest starting holes.
Q. Starting holes.
TOM KITE: Yeah, any time you take a par 5; turn it into a par
4 and, you know, have a green that is made for a par 5, it is
going to be a difficult hole. And that is certainly 1. When you
have a downhill second shot to the green that slopes away from
you, I really think that is probably one of the unique things
of Oakmont is that a number of these greens, the first hole included,
actually slope away from you. You don't see that at many golf
courses. We were looking at the 12th hole today and the first
hole would be another example of that of holes that if they were
exactly turned around 180 degrees and they were pitched into you,
they would still be severe greens. They still have enough slope
that they would be brutally difficult. Then you take it and you
turn it where it is running away from you and, you know, thank
goodness they don't build highways like that. There would be a
pile up of cars on the side of the road where everybody skids
off. You don't see many golf courses where they have so many greens
that run away from you as much as this does.
Q. 40-something players continue to excel here; seeing more
and more people in your age group that are playing good golf instead
of seeing their career on the PGA Tour kind of slack off?
TOM KITE: Well, I think the Senior Tour has had some effect on
that. Certainly, the players want to be ready to go on the Senior
Tour and they want to remain competitive through their 40's. I
can remember when I was-- I think Jim Colbert is like 8, 9 years
ahead of me now. When I was in my 30s he started talking to me
about, oh, we got to have a 40-to-50 Tour. It is so important
for us to get an over 40-Tour started. I am thinking, "Jim,
that doesn't make any sense." And I was 33 or 34 at the time
and he was into his 40's. He said, well, you just wait when you
get to be in your 40's, you will see; you just can't compete with
those young kids anymore. Of course Jim Colbert is now 53, I guess.
He is playing the best golf that he ever played in his life. If
he had played at 43 the way he is playing at 53, he would have
been competitive on the US PGA Tour. And so I think it is a lot
of attitude. It is just making up your mind that age is nothing
more than a number, and if you really want it bad enough, you
can play well. Just a question of maintaining the desire to be
able to spend the time out there on that driving range and spend
the time on the putting green that it takes to be competitive
in your 25th or 30th year on the tour.
Q. Tom, you have always been known as a great driver of the
golf ball. Here, with so few players opting to use the driver,
is that somehow a weakness in the set up of the course in that
it doesn't demand that skill.
TOM KITE: I don't know that -- I think they call it a weakness
in the golf course, but it is one of the things that seems to
be happening when you go to a U.S. Open; more and more they try
to narrow up the fairways. The players are long enough now that
they find that they rather be in the fairway even if they are
back three or four clubs further away from the green and have
a chance to play and so, there is -- you know, you start getting
the fairways -- especially at this golf course where they are
wide in certain area; then they narrow down, the players are going
to go for the widest part of the fairway and they are going to
back down. If that means hitting a 5-iron into the green as oppose
today an 8-iron, so be it. At least you have got a chance because
the rough is so severe that even if you are an 8-iron distance
from the green; if you are in the rough you are not going to get
to the green.
LES UNGER: Tom, thank you very much.
TOM KITE: Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts....