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July 18, 2013

Mark O'Meara


LYNN WALLACE: Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome our 1998 Open champion, Mark O'Meara, who scored a 4-under par, 67 today, just one shot off the lead. You're in a fantastic position going into tomorrow. Can you tell us about your round today.
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, I mean obviously I'm very pleased. I hit the ball well today. I missed a couple of fairways, just drove it just on the edge of the right rough on 9, but was in the first cut. And then I hit two bad drives. Hung it to the right on 14 and pulled my drive to the left on 15, but other than that I hit all the fairways, I hit all the greens. My birdies on the front nine were from a short range. Certainly starting off with two birdies on the first two holes with a total of about -- I think I had about a three and a half, four-footer, on the first hole. And hit it about it three feet on the second hole. So I guess on the first tee my thought was, look, you know, I realize I'm 56, but I also realize that I've won The Open Championship. And I also know that links golf is a little bit different than playing in the Masters. It's a little bit different than playing in the U.S. Open. It's a little different than a PGA. From the standpoint that experience I think plays a big factor in how guys play. And links golf it's not just about power, where a lot of the game today is about bombs away, and hit the ball a long way and play it up in the air. Links golf is about creativity, shot process, thinking about where you need to land the ball. And today it was -- I've heard some of the comments when I was just with the other media about some of the players, but look, I don't know how many Opens I've played in, but I think this is about 27, 28, somewhere around that. I've seen the most horrendous conditions you can think about playing golf in out there. But today the wind really didn't blow that hard. I understand the course is dry. It's firm. It's fast. And the greens got pretty quick for an Open Championship. But just in my estimation, I don't know, I mean, I didn't see it being unfair, in my opinion. So I guess if I had shot 8-over I might come in and tell you guys it was unfair. But to me I just didn't see that. So I'm pleased to get off to a good start, and hopefully I can play well tomorrow morning.

Q. Representing Long Beach State?
MARK O'MEARA: Yes, sir.

Q. 15 years since you've won?

Q. Can you do it again, is this something that can go --
MARK O'MEARA: Well, it's motivating to watch what Tom Watson did at Turnberry. It's motivating to see what Greg Norman certainly did at Birkdale. Do I think I can? When I play like I did today, yeah, I think I can. I didn't feel like I was 56 years old out there; I felt like I was 32. I'm not saying that one round makes a tournament, because it doesn't. I've done this many times. I've been here. But it's nice to have played well. To me I've been playing pretty well over the last couple of years. I know I was hurt last year for about four months. But there's times the way I play and I strike the ball I feel like I actually am a better player now than I was maybe 15 years ago. I understand I'm not a spring chicken or I may not putt as good or chip as good or whatever, but the quality of shots, that I hit out there today I would say, hey, that's as good as I played when I was in my prime. So that's what I think makes links golf so much more enjoyable and so much more what the game of golf should be played like. And that's why I've always had a passion of playing in The Open Championship. Knowing that Birkdale is next week down the road in the Senior Open Championship. I know I haven't won a lot in the last 10, 11 years of my career, but I've been close a lot. And I know that sometimes if you just keep getting close, sooner or later they're going to open the door.

Q. You mentioned the greens. There's been a lot of players coming in commenting on them, as you said. So much so that The R&A have commented on it themselves. Do you think they need to do anything to manage the greens over the next 24 hours or so, given the weather is going to continue?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I don't know -- I mean, certainly you probably have to put a little bit of water on them, if there's no moisture whatsoever and it keeps getting firmer and harder and baked out. The greens in Open championships and on links golf courses tend to have a lot more undulation in them. Yeah, I imagine they've got to take a little bit of a look at it. I know I teed off at 12:06 today. I was kind of in the middle of the field. I just didn't see it to where some of the comments that I saw, and I'm not saying that they're right or I'm right and they're wrong, I'm just saying that -- trust me, I've stood on holes where it's 200 yards or 212 and hit driver, and I could barely hold onto the club and it's freezing raining and sleeting and cold and I can't put my umbrella up. To me that's way more miserable than what we had out there. I thought it was tough, it was challenging, but unfair, I say no. If they think it's that way, then they need to look at the old man and say, how did he do it that way? Seriously. You know, guys are good, they should be able to play in these conditions. I just didn't see it unfair. Honest to God I didn't.

Q. Can I ask you about the young amateur you played with today, Grant. He was very complimentary towards you about how you helped to settle him down at the start of his round. Is that something that you take upon yourself frequently when you're playing with young kids? And also what did you make of his game?
MARK O'MEARA: First of all, I thought Grant was a fine young man. Very talented. He hung in there extremely well today. He battled hard. I think he gained a lot of experience. The kids the way they play golf today is a lot different than when I was his age. I couldn't play like he could play. My philosophy when I'm playing golf is that I want to be a little bit of a mentor to the younger players. I want to set the right example. I'm not saying that I'm perfect, but I do believe that it's my responsibility as a professional golfer to hopefully conduct myself in the right manner out there on the golf course, and if I can help a young player become a better player or move him along in his career, I'm very happy to do that, very happy to do that. And I see a bright future for Grant, very much so. Very mature. He made some good birdies coming in when he needed to. And I predict that he'll play well again tomorrow.

Q. Do you think you've got a chance of winning? Do you think anybody else will think you've got a chance of winning? And if not, does that inspire you even more?
MARK O'MEARA: I hope my wife thinks I've got a chance of winning, because I'm building a new house (laughter). I take this with a grain of salt. And I also am realistic. There will be a little bit more pressure tomorrow, obviously. But once again, I know my name's -- when I left the house the other day, it's funny, because I have the Claret Jug at home and I have a Masters trophy at home. When I travel and I'm going to be gone for multiple weeks, there's actually three trophies that mean a lot to me. But those two trophies, I have to take them out of my trophy case and hide them somewhere in my house, because I don't want anybody to steal the Claret Jug, and I don't want anybody to take the Masters trophy. So when I picked up the Claret Jug the other day to put it somewhere special in my house, I realized that, you know, no what matter what happens for the rest of my life, my name is on that trophy at least one time. Now, whether it will happen again or not, that would be a dream come true. But knowing that at least I've won one Open Championship, I take tremendous pride in that, because to me this is the championship.

Q. What's the trophy you don't care about?
MARK O'MEARA: I care about them all, but those are a little bit different. I have the U.S. Amateur trophy, too, but I didn't put that away. It's too big. If someone wants to steal the U.S. Amateur trophy, they can have it. I just don't want them to take my Masters trophy or the Claret Jug.

Q. Do you hide them in different places on different trips?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, I move them around a little bit. I don't want to tell you, because you guys might come in there and take them. But I just have a great appreciation and a great passion for this championship, whether I play good or bad. I have tremendous respect for it. This is the way golf, to me, was designed to be played. It's the oldest championship. You look at the names -- I've told this story before, after I won in '98, and I flew home with Tiger on the way back, I remember Tiger on the plane home across the Atlantic was like, "Let me see the trophy." "Okay, I'll show it to you." I take it out of the case and he's looking at it. And I remember telling Tiger, I said, "I've got to tell me something. I know you came up one shot shy of being in the playoff, but I will tell you, your name will be on that trophy more than one time." And here we are, whatever, 15 years later and his name is on there three times. Who knows what he's going to do this week. But it's still a lot of golf to be played, a long way to go, and hopefully I can keep playing well and hit shots like I hit today.

Q. Based on some of the comments we've heard today, do you think younger players do have a tendency to moan more than maybe in your prime, and does that disappoint you, if that is the case?
MARK O'MEARA: Everybody's personality is different out there. And I'm not saying that I haven't complained or gotten upset on the golf course, but I'm not a big fan of guys that get out there and whine a lot. I mean, I just don't see any reason for it, especially today's generation. They're so talented, the players today. And they're playing for so much money. My feeling is, you look at the volunteers, you look at the media, look at everything. I mean to show a little bit of sign of appreciation, to be at the top level of whatever sport you're in, that requires some responsibility. And that aspect of it I think players should be more aware of and players need to hopefully conduct themselves in the right manner on the golf course, for sure. And when they don't, it does bother me, to be honest with you.

Q. First of all, thank you for striking a blow for us older gentlemen out there today.
MARK O'MEARA: One for the old farts.

Q. What's the difference physically and mentally and competitively between you in 1988 and the Mark O'Meara who played out there today? And do you have the burning ambition and hunger to win this tournament?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I have the burning desire to play well. And wherever that puts me in the event, so be it. But I think in '98 I was 41. I wasn't hitting the ball well. A lot of my friends and fellow media people that are here know that. And my expectations were low. So sometimes when your expectations are a little lower, it's a little easier to perform because most people didn't expect Mark O'Meara to win the Masters necessarily at 41, including myself. A lot of people might not have expected me to win The Open Championship, but I look at it, I had the chances in The Open Championship before. I certainly had a chance in '91, playing with Ian Baker-Finch tied for the lead after three rounds at Birkdale. And the fact that throughout my career I tended to be a low-ball hitter and having success in windy and tougher conditions. So I always felt if I was going to play well, it would certainly be in The Open Championship. I know that today is a good start, and hopefully tomorrow morning I can get out there and just kind of keep playing and plugging along, and make some more birdies and see where we go.

Q. You said you didn't feel 56 today; you felt 32. Was there one hole or one shot where the years fell away?
MARK O'MEARA: No. Certainly like I said earlier, when I first came in, getting off to a good start is vital pretty much in any tournament. But you can never get ahead of yourself and you can never get too far behind. You're going to have to say, kind of like players say, kind of in the present or in the moment. But certainly hitting the good shots on 1 and 2 to where I had very short, makeable birdie putts, and those holes can be, especially No. 1, can be quite demanding. And even though I made a couple of bogeys out there today, it was kind of silly, to be honest with you, on 10, because I did what you need to do on 10 to make a good score -- I hit a perfect drive. And I felt good about that. And then missed the green with a 7-iron from the middle of the fairway, and where I missed it was pretty bad. It wasn't a very good shot at all. But I came back and hit some decent shots on 11, 12 and 13. And then 14 driving into the bunker, I can tell I needed maybe a little something to eat out there, to be honest with you. I didn't have anything to eat. And I was running out of a little bit of energy, but fortunately when I hit a good drive on 17 that kind of gave me the confidence that, hey, I'm in a good position. I can make birdie, that will get me back to 3-under. 3-under is a good score today out here. And it came out different than that. I made the putt for eagle. And certainly hit a good putt on 18 that could have easily gone in. It's just like I said, it's a nice start, but I've been doing this a long time and I realize that there's three other rounds I have to play, and I need to play well those three rounds to hopefully have a chance on Sunday. Tomorrow is a new day, and try to get out there and get started and play well.

Q. Apart from the score, what gave you the most pleasure today?
MARK O'MEARA: There was probably a couple of elements from the standpoint a lot of the birdies on the front nine. Out of the five birdies, the longest putt I made was the one on No. 6, where I had about an 11-footer, all the other birdie putts were pretty much (indicating), to where you guys could make them and girls, probably. Unless you move your head, you're going to make them (laughter). But I'd say the other kind of cool thing was when I was on the tee on 10, Tiger was walking across to go to the putting green, and I hadn't seen him. I really haven't seen him since the Masters, to be honest with you, or haven't spent any time with him. But he kind of gave me a wink, and I got up and piped my drive on 10. So when I can pipe my drive on 10 in front of him, that's a good feeling. He's probably thinking, man, the old man is like 5-under after 9. How the hell is doing that? I think i hit squirrelly one here and I piped it. So I was pretty pleased with that.

Q. And whereabouts on the round did the 32-year-old Mark O'Meara join the 56-year-old?
MARK O'MEARA: I would say just the quality of the iron strikes that I had today, hitting them the correct distance and hitting the ball pretty solid. I guess maybe I just didn't feel that old out there today. And I don't know why. I just didn't. You guys have days like that, don't you? Don't you feel like you're 32 once in a while? No, I didn't think so. It's okay, there's still hope (laughter).

Q. I'm curious, you talk about how much you love this tournament, how much fun is it to -- especially through the back nine -- to be able to look at the leaderboard?
MARK O'MEARA: It's a blast. It's a blast. Like I said, it's not only just the fact that it's The Open Championship, The Open Championship of the world, it's also the fact that links golf, but what really makes it special is really, when we come over here and play the spectators. You know, the people that come out and watch an Open Championship are second to none. They have a great, great, great knowledge and appreciation for the game. And for the players, they get to play in front of those people, the fans, it just makes it that much more enjoyable. So from that aspect, they know who their Open champions are, even if it might have been 15, 20, 12, 10, 8 years ago, they know. And I think they appreciate the fact that we still come back and try to compete.

Q. I was going to say, what was going through your mind when that last putt circled?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I realized Zach was 5-under, but I also realized that it was a tough putt. And I was just trying to two-putt, to be honest. When I hit it, I knew I had hit it a nice speed. And as it was tracking up there, it looked to me like it was going to maybe miss left just on the edge or maybe lip out, but it hung in there for the last three feet. I said, wait a minute, this looks pretty good. As it started to lip, I thought it was going to lip out, but I didn't realized it lipped out and came back at me like that. I'm pleased to get away with a par. A birdie would have been a bonus. But the eagle on 17 was really kind of the highlight because I needed a little shot in the arm, and that came through for me.

Q. What will you do from the time you walk out of here until you tee off tomorrow?
MARK O'MEARA: We'll go back to the house. Peter is here and my caddie is already back at the house. And we had made lasagna for tonight. She made it last night. I'm not much to go to the range and actually hit balls off the firm turf out there. So I'll go back, eat dinner, you know, go to bed, come out here tomorrow morning and hopefully hit the fairway on No. 1 and go from there and start all over again. But no matter what happens, listen, it was a joy out there today. It was fun to play with -- I think Grant might be 19? How old is Grant? About 19. It's nice to play with the Scottish amateur champ. And Marcus Fraser, they were very great to play with, and hopefully we can all have a good day tomorrow.

Q. Not to overegg this pin placement thing, but the two holes mentioned by some of the players were 8 and 18. From your point of view, can you describe them as you saw them.
MARK O'MEARA: No problem. I hit a nice 3-iron off 8. I hit a 9-iron pin-high to right of the hole about 12 feet. It had about two and a half, three cups of break to it, and I just missed it on the little side. So I didn't think it was that hard. Maybe if I was long and left, it would have been a little more difficult. Because it was kind of sitting on the side of the slope on the front right over there on No. 8. But in fairness, a lot of times the greens in Open championships, they're aware and cognizant that the wind can get up. So they never get the greens that fast Stimp-wise. But today, because the last few days and last week it's been dry, it's been pretty mild, the greens have gotten a lot firmer and definitely gotten faster. So, yes, I mean it does get to a point where you're in the wrong position on the green, you better be very careful on your putts. You're putting defensively, for sure. There's nothing wrong with that, though, it's a Major championship.
LYNN WALLACE: Thanks very much, Mark. Good luck the rest of the week.
MARK O'MEARA: Thank you.

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