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June 1, 2004

Steve Flesch


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Steve Flesch for joining us today, coming off a week's vacation after winning the Bank of America Colonial, your second career victory. Let's talk about first what you did last week and your week off.

STEVE FLESCH: Did not play much golf, played six holes yesterday, the first golf I've played since Sunday last week, and more for the fact of the weather. We got the same weather that came through PGA, a bunch of rain, the course was under water. It was a mess and I just kind of wanted to enjoy the week, but most of the week I was getting the pool ready. I'm the pool man around the house, so I took care of that. It took me two and a half days to get that cleared out and I drove up here this morning.

TODD BUDNICK: Your second career victory at Bank the America Colonial. Talk about how exciting that was to get the second victory in the bag.

STEVE FLESCH: To me New Orleans was nice just to get the first one off my back, but more than anything, last week at Colonial I was kind of in the mix the whole week and knowing Sunday I had a chance going in, winning was more of a validation to me of winning.

New Orleans, I was so far back, the guy in the playoff won, I think I said that at the press conference last week, that it all happened so fast, and I was glad to get that monkey off my back. Last week was more of a validation for me of feeling that I was in the hunt the whole week more than anything.

Q. Where did that put you on the Ryder Cup?

STEVE FLESCH: I think I'm 9th right now.

Q. How much does that play in your head the rest of the summer?

STEVE FLESCH: A lot, away from the fact that I knew -- I got a couple of those questions last week, and I pretty much said the only chance I have of getting on it is to play better anyway. Might as well not worry about it, got to just keep playing better. Winning last week moved me up into the mix, but Captain Sutton, he left a note in my locker Sunday morning, hey, we want you on the winning underlined Ryder Cup team, so that was inspiration to me. But obviously when I'm out there I'm just trying to play well. I've been close all year.

Coming into Colonial and taking Byron Nelson off so I wasn't burned out because Colonial is one of my favorite weeks, it worked out great. I think if I can pick and choose my weeks a little better and not just play until I crash mentally I'll be all right.

Q. Is it a different incentive now that you're in there?

STEVE FLESCH: Absolutely. I can't say I'm going to change my schedule. That's something I think everybody out here on Tour dreams of, being a part of the Ryder Cup. From what I've heard from DiMarco and David Toms and a couple other guys, it's just an experience that you can't really put into words, the camaraderie, how neat it is, but it's something I'd love to be a part of. I think obviously between now and August I still need to play very well.

Q. Was it a goal starting the season?

STEVE FLESCH: Not really. My goal starting the season obviously -- everybody's goal is to win, but then you kind of see how the year progresses and kind of see where your game is. I knew I was playing well, so obviously my goal was to win. Last year I finally got my first one. My goal this year was to win obviously once, but now it's going to be twice.

My goal every year is to get in that Tour Championship. I know I don't have much control over the World Rankings, but I figure that and hopefully get in the top 30 in the World Rankings and I'm right where I want to be right now. I'm just going to continue to play well and work at it and hopefully in September I'm part of the team.

Q. How does it feel to have scared off a couple of other lefties?

STEVE FLESCH: I don't know if I'm scaring off anybody.

Q. Two of them aren't here.

STEVE FLESCH: That's more of just a scheduling thing. It's nice I've been considered as part of the strong left-handed contingent that's been out here, so I think I got to question last week, why are all the lefties all of a sudden playing well. My answer was I think we're simply just getting better. We're all becoming more familiar, Phil has made big strides in his game, Mike has always been solid, and I'm just learning as I go. If I can figure out how to keep myself under control then I'll play better. The longer I'm out here the more comfortable I am.

Q. You're lefty all the way?

STEVE FLESCH: No, I'm more right-handed.

Q. So you're like Phil was?


Q. You write right-handed?

STEVE FLESCH: I write right-handed. I'm screwed up. I throw left-handed.

Q. Are you the type that would go to Shinnecock ahead of time or do you prefer just to wait until --

STEVE FLESCH: I would prefer to wait. One of my goals this year, and I think I said it at the end of last year, was to play better in the majors, because my major record is just plain pathetic. I played all right at The Masters, finished 17th, so I've never had too much luck at the Opens, but I think a lot of times historically it's because I've gotten there so early that by the time Thursday comes I'm a little worn out. So I'm going to get there Monday afternoon, Monday evening, play a couple practice rounds and go.

I'm still deciding whether I'm going to play Westchester or not. I'm going to see how this week goes, because I'm afraid if I go home and don't play Westchester I won't play much golf next week. It's more dictated because it's so wet at home that I don't know how well the conditions would prepare me.

Obviously you can't prepare that much for a U.S. Open, but I like to play to get my game in shape. I don't enjoy hitting balls enough to just stay on the range all day and hit balls. Chipping and putting on the greens that are running 9 and soft because of all the rain isn't going to prepare me very well, so I'm thinking Westchester is going to prepare me better than being at home.

There again, my biggest concern is if I go home, I won't play enough or practice enough. I'm probably going to end up playing, but I definitely won't get there until Monday maybe. I wear myself out a lot playing golf, the way I am, just how I play golf wears me out. If I get there too early, I'll be flatlining by Thursday.

Q. What's the problem with majors do you think?

STEVE FLESCH: Lack of patience, plain and simple. Week in, week out Tour events, you make a mistake and you get it back. More often than not you can make birdie on most of the holes we play on in regular events. There's some holes where you just play for par, but in majors, and I know U.S. Opens, I make a bogey and I'm like, hey, I've got to get it back, so I get aggressive right away where you've just got to plod along. The lack of patience in majors has been my -- I've always played well in PGAs, but that's because I think they're set up more like our weekly events, softer conditions.

Especially Opens, that's been my tag. I just haven't been patient enough to play. I played well at Bethpage. I think I finished 18th or something. That's good for me in a U.S. Open. If I play much better than that -- I need to just mature a little bit more. I know I'm 37, but my game needs to mature a little bit for me to play better in an Open. I just lose it too quick, plain and simple.

Q. Someone over at the Volvo PGA, when you were home playing in the pool last week, was given a two-stroke slow play penalty. On the LPGA two weeks ago, I think three players got whacked two strokes. Do you think that day is coming out here?

STEVE FLESCH: I read that in a golf magazine yesterday that my neighbor had. We were over there eating dinner and I just was leafing through, and I read where LPGA is really giving out a lot of strokes, two-shot penalties.

Q. It was one stroke in Europe, I'm sorry.

STEVE FLESCH: One stroke in Europe. I honestly wish our Tour would do that because our slow play, even though they might say the numbers are faster, it's not getting any better. Guys are not speeding up. I think the final group was a hole and a half behind when I was watching the final telecast. I can't imagine being there in the gallery watching it. At least on TV they're flipping to commercials. And guys would be lining up a putt and they still hadn't hit it. I think it's a big problem on our Tour. Our fine structure is, you've got to be in a bad timing ten times before you get --

Q. Is it a $10,000, $20,000 fine?

STEVE FLESCH: I don't know what it is. I'm not patient enough to take 45 seconds over a shot. It needs to be addressed. I'm not saying that a two-shot penalty is the answer, but I think if you're in a bad situation or you have a bad time, the next time you have a bad time it's a shot penalty. We play for enough money where a $2,500 fine or whatever they're giving out, top players, they're like, that's not even a shot. That isn't even as much as a shot is worth out here. I don't think money is going to be an issue unless you start fining a shot. One shot at the end of a tournament means a lot. The LPGA got a two-shot penalty and it was a $17,000 fine. That's a big deal.

Q. I think it was between 2nd and 3rd. No, I'm just kidding.

STEVE FLESCH: It was between 8th and 9th or something or 11th and 12th. It definitely takes a long time for everybody on our Tour to play. Not everybody, I can't group everybody, but there are -- our rules officials, when the pairings come out, they look at it and they go, well, that's going to be a problem, that group is going to be a problem. They know where the slow guys are and whether it's going to be a problem. I think that should be somehow addressed right off the bat. Don't make it too obvious but put an official right with your group, follow them for a couple holes just so they know the guy is there, because once guys go on the clock, they speed up, get back in position, then go back to the same old deal. I think timing is too lenient. The Tour officials go through and say, okay, the first group should play in four hours and 15 minutes. I think that's too lenient. Get the first groups going automatically and say, you know, you guys can have four hours and 20 minutes to play. If you're past that --

Q. You're out of the tournament?

STEVE FLESCH: No, but I just think we're too lenient. We have a great bunch of rules officials, and some of the problem -- I don't think the problem -- they're all such nice guys, they're all kind of friends with the players so I don't think they want to get on a player. Everybody likes to get along out here and you see them week in, week out, you don't want to have a feud going on, but at the same time I think they need to say, hey, you've got to move.

Q. If you know your group is on the clock, though, does that bother you, annoy you a little bit?

STEVE FLESCH: It really bothers me because what happens, I'm telling you, nine out of ten times the guys that cause you to be on the clock when they speed up they make a birdie. They just kind of go ahead and play and make an easy par or birdie, and it's like why don't you play like that all the time. Guys study their shots so much they get confused about what they're thinking about and then they start over again. Most guys out here are ready to play when it's their turn but then it takes them forever to hit.

I don't know, I think I have a little bit of that Lanny Wadkins. When we're slow I start finding myself speeding up because I'm over there hemming and hawing around, and right when they hit I'm standing over it like John Huston or somebody.

Q. Is that apt to throw you off, though?

STEVE FLESCH: Well, it does, because with me, with patience always being an issue, you kind of feel like, okay, let's go already. I think our Tour is making some strides, but I think -- it's not just simply the Tour. They have policy decisions and members of the Tour that make those. I think we just need to go back to one-shot penalties, and if you get -- the second bad time it's a shot penalty, if you get another bad time, it's another penalty. It's the same guys week in and week out that are the trouble.

Q. How do you react when you get paired with those guys? You know who they are, we sort of knew who they are. Do you look at the pairings and say, oh, my God, now I've got to deal with this again, especially when you said you're not patient to start with?

STEVE FLESCH: It's as much of a challenge for me to deal with their slowness, because I feel like I have to change how I play. I'm not going to say I'm upset about it, but you just know that it's going to be a long day, and honestly, I will play their game a little bit so we get on the clock. The officials do not want to hear that. I'll probably get a little rap for that, but I'll play their game, I'll hem and haw around and take my time so we get behind and get on the clock.

Once you're on the clock, I think the officials pay more attention to you all day long, whereas if you're kind of lagging the whole day and you're just barely meeting your time there, they leave you alone. Last thing they want you to do is play slower to get another guy on the clock, but I'll be the first to admit I've done it before.

Q. Did it ever work where you played with somebody like that and played a little more deliberate, and then they sped up?

STEVE FLESCH: Well, they always sped up because they're conscious of -- I call it the shot clock, conscious of those guys over there ready to go. It's never worked out where I've gotten bad time doing that. You do that, you get your group on the clock, and then all of a sudden you get a difficult shot and it takes you a minute to hit it, it can backfire on you, but fortunately, it never has.

Q. Sometimes in amateur golf, sometimes peer pressure can win out in that situation, where if players start getting penalties that the peers push a player to change his routine. Have you ever seen an example of a player out here that went from slow to fast or faster and became a better player because of it? Maybe ten years he was very slow and he learned to change his routine and became a more efficient player?

STEVE FLESCH: I can't think of anybody offhand. I know that some of the slow guys I've seen out here that have sped up and they haven't played better, they go right back to their old habits because they're so conscious of trying to speed everything up that in effect when they go back to their old habits they're even slower. I guess it's 40 or 45 seconds we have now. The problem with it is it's so subjective of when that 40 seconds starts. That's the hardest thing.

I think that's why our officials have a tough time really getting guys moving, because who's to say when this guy has hit a shot, his ball is in the air, does it start when his ball has hit the ground or when the guy has put his club back in the bag? Nobody on our Tour really knows when it starts, when it's really your turn exactly. There can be a five or ten-second gap in there, it's hard to determine.

I can't say I know of any guys that are really slow that have become fast. Your pace of play is really along with your personality. An analytical, methodical guy is never going to be quick, but if you're a feel player like a Lanny Wadkins or a John Huston -- John Huston, if you're in his way he's going to hit between your legs, he's not going to wait. They just want to get on with playing golf, which is enjoyable.

Q. Have you talked about the belly putter at all?

STEVE FLESCH: No, I was curious whether that would come up.

Q. What are your thoughts on the whole issue?

STEVE FLESCH: I'm glad I won last week with a conventional putter, honestly, because I said in my press conference at Colonial that every time I look at that picture of New Orleans I go like this, and I've got that belly putter up in the air. Something about the tradition of the game, it's like, man, I hope I win again when I've got a conventional putter in my hand. I do not agree that you should have a putter hinged on your body anywhere. If you're holding it against your arm that's one thing, but I don't think you should be able to hinge it against your torso, but it's legal. I won like that. I'm not going to complain. I think you shouldn't be able to do it, though. It's not up to me to say whether it's right or wrong, even though I won with it and made a lot of money and been successful with it, I still don't think you should be able to do it.

Q. Why did you go back, just to prove you could?

STEVE FLESCH: No, just feel. I felt like I made a lot more putts from the 10 to 25-foot range conventional because my feel was much better. And actually, I went back at Augusta this year, is the week that I ditched the belly putter, because I went over there to play a practice round and some of those six and eight-foot rounds that you've got to play a foot and a half, two feet of break straight downhill, I didn't feel I had the feel I needed -- even a two-putt with a belly putter, I would blast it and the thing would run five, six, eight feet by, so I went back because I felt like I had more imagination and my feel was a lot better with a conventional putter.

Sometimes you get over the ball and you think, oh, I need a little more break so you can kind of hold it off with your hands and add the break that way. With the belly putter, once you get over it you can't change your mind because that thing is only going to go one way, which is great for short putts, but at the same time -- I'm not saying it looks bad, I just don't think you should be able to have the putter hinged to your body.

Q. Have you always been this opinionated or does this just come with victory (laughter)?

STEVE FLESCH: No, I'm not afraid to share my opinion. I don't think I'm saying anything too controversial. The pace of play stuff, everybody on our Tour knows there's slow players but I don't think our Tour is doing anything that's really getting guys moving. One of the biggest problems with our pace of play is our field sizes. We play 120 players like we did at Colonial last week or -- what was it, 114, something like that? Pace of play was wonderful. But you put 156 guys on the golf course and there's nowhere for anybody to go. That's the biggest problem.

I do think our time problem needs to be addressed more than anything. Just like some people walk faster than other people, so obviously people are going to play golf faster. I think if our Tour says, you know, the first group out, it's their responsibility to set a good pace, I think that's where our problem lies. I think our allowed time of play isn't fast enough. I play with people at home, and they're like, how does it take you guys six hours to play a round of golf, and I'm like, hey, I play Wednesday Pro-Ams with four other amateurs faster than I play with three professionals on Thursday. Explain that.

Q. No, you explain it (laughter).

STEVE FLESCH: I'm of the opinion that if three professionals are supposed to shoot par or better and take four hours of golf, and you can go home and play in four hours with your buddies who can't break 80 --

Q. Some of that is green speed, though, isn't it?

STEVE FLESCH: A lot of it is green speed, but we do this every day. I'm going to get lambasted for this.

Q. Maybe the gimme rule needs to get going out here. I was actually curious if you had a swing idol growing up, someone you modeled your swing or your tempo after, and if this event or any other Ohio events were on your radar as a spectator.

STEVE FLESCH: I came to this event with my dad growing up because it's close to home. It's about two and a half hours from where I lived in Kentucky. Growing up, I didn't really emulate anybody in particular. I always watched Watson play and Nicklaus. I mean, those were the two. I tried to emulate how Watson putted and how Nicklaus hit it. I had my right heel off the ground at the top of my back swing like Nicklaus does, and I try and keep that nice crisp finish like Watson always had. His forearms were always close together. But other than emulating little things like that, I never really was stuck on one guy. Kind of like I still do, I always look at bits and pieces of what guys do in their swings and try and incorporate them into my own game.

Q. Do you have any one format of U.S. Open memory growing up, whether you watched it as a kid or a teenager? Does one U.S. Open you watched stuck in your mind at all?

STEVE FLESCH: It would have to be Watson's chip-in on 17 at Pebble Beach. Even the way it looked on TV at the time, it looked kind of gray and cloudy and the grass was brown somehow and it was long but just -- it looked like a U.S. Open, just kind of rugged conditions and everyone wearing sweaters. That reminds me of U.S. Open, just everything about it was going to be difficult, and then he made that shot. That shot when I think of U.S. Opens stands out the most.

Q. How do you feel about your game with the U.S. Open just a couple of weeks away?

STEVE FLESCH: Obviously I'm feeling confident after winning Colonial, but since I started working with Butch Harmon two years ago, we've gotten my swing to where it really feels good day in and day out, and I think that's a lot of why I don't play much golf when I go home, because when I do play, I find it's more tempo if I'm a little off than it is swing mechanics. I feel good about it, looking forward to play this week. I always look forward to playing Memorial, it's one of my favorite spots to go to all year, and putting is always the thing. If you're putting well, I think it frees everything else up in your game, so hopefully I continue to putt well.

Q. How about the course at Shinnecock Hills?

STEVE FLESCH: I've never been there. I don't have any idea what it's like, but I heard it's not really a place where you have to bomb the ball. I guess there's a lot of 3-woods and 2-irons off tees, so I'm looking forward to it. I played well at Bethpage in Long Island. I'm more looking forward to being around those New York fans again. I thought they were pretty good at Bethpage.

Q. On a lighter note, some of the players on the range were joking about the Cicadas. I'm wondering if you think those are going to be any problem this week.

STEVE FLESCH: We have them at home in Cincinnati. I don't know, unless they just decide to attack everybody out here, I don't think they're going to be a big -- it's just that sound, I think. As you know, outside it just drowns out, but as long as they don't get too aggressive, I think we'll be all right.

Q. What years would you have been coming to the tournament with your dad, would you guess?

STEVE FLESCH: I guess anywhere from 78 to 82 or 83, something like that.

Q. So you were pretty young?

STEVE FLESCH: Yeah, I was 10 to 15, in there.

Q. Did your dad have a favorite player or anyone he steered you towards watching or were you freelancing out on your own?

STEVE FLESCH: No, I emulated my dad growing up. He's the one that got me started in every sport I played, basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer, everything. No, we would just watch golf on Sunday afternoons pretty much. We'd always play together, but no, he didn't really steer me toward anybody.

Q. Why did you come to think Bethpage fans were cool?

STEVE FLESCH: I guess, not to say that it's a football crowd so much at a golf tournament, but sometimes our golf tournaments, it adds excitement when the fans are -- not so much the hecklers that were picking on certain guys, but just how interested they were, how encouraging they were. Granted there's hecklers no matter where you go, but I just thought the energy that they brought to the golf tournament was pretty neat, just from day one, Monday afternoon all the way up through Sunday, the fans were just -- it was a different type of crowd, but it was a fun crowd.

Q. The theory is you might get a little more refined person at this place, but it's still going to be New York.

STEVE FLESCH: It's still going to be New York. I just think it's a neat place to play, and Shinnecock has got all the history, so I'm looking forward to going there.

End of FastScripts.

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