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THE SENIOR OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY ROLEX


July 24, 2013


Mark O'Meara


SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND

JONATHAN SEAL:  It is a huge pleasure to extend Honorary Membership to Mark in the way that we have our other previous Open Champions going back to Peter Thomson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson and Ian Baker-Finch
So on behalf of all the members of Royal Birkdale, welcome on board.
MARK O'MEARA:  Obviously I told Jonathan, it's an unbelievable honor to be an Honorary Member of Royal Birkdale.  I've obviously had a long career of playing all the different links golf courses and I just have such fond memories of the great moments I've had here at Royal Birkdale.  It's my favourite links golf course anywhere in the world.  It's a true test of golf.
I think The Open Championship that was played here in '98 was a dream come true for me, to hold the Claret Jug right here on the 18th green was really the icing on the cake for me with my career.  Now to be an honorary member of Royal Birkdale, it's a great privilege and thanks to Jonathan and the Membership at Royal Birkdale, thank you very much.
It was a special evening on Monday night and certainly today to have the captain, Jonathan Seal, basically present me with a tie to become an Honorary Member here at Royal Birkdale.  I have so many fond memories of things that have transpired in my life here at Royal Birkdale, it's a special place and this is obviously a special honour.

Q.  A place close to your heart with Lawrence Batley all these years ago?
MARK O'MEARA:¬† Exactly, '87 was the year I first set eyes; and in'91 coming back and playing with Ian Baker‑Finch tied for the lead, watching Ian win the championship and hoist the Claret Jug; and seven years later, I was able to come back after winning the Masters in April and I played The Open Championship in '98 and I was the fortunate one to come in the playoff and hoist the Claret Jug.¬† To be Open Champion is a special honour for sure.

Q.  I take it there's something special about the course itself, as well as the memories of the triumphs.
MARK O'MEARA:  Every time I play, it gives me a better appreciation, because obviously any type of links golf, it's all about the weather.  If the wind lies down it plays a little bit easier but Royal Birkdale is a very demanding golf course.
After coming off Muirfield last week, which was set up pretty tough I still think this golf course driving‑wise, shots into the greens is more demanding.¬† Your shots into the green are a little bit more demanding in my opinion than Muirfield but still they are both fabulous golf courses and have stood the test of time.
This week here at the Senior Open Championship, you have a lot of quality players playing, obviously Fred Couples being the defending champion; but Tom Watson and Colin Montgomerie, you can go down the list of really fine players that are here this week at Royal Birkdale competing for this championship.

Q.  Many would think this is a nice relief after Muirfield.
MARK O'MEARA:  No, it's going to be just as demanding if not even tougher to be honest with you, especially if the wind kicks up.  I've played it in really severe conditions before.  You just have to be very patient and sometimes par is a very good score.

Q.  After being so competitive last week, do you fancy your chances this week?
MARK O'MEARA:  Well, I just want to stay on point that I've had past success, that helps but that doesn't give you the right to think you're going to go out there and play well.
I have to hit good quality shots and drive the ball well this week and hole some putts.  If I can do those things then hopefully I'll be able to contend on Sunday.

Q.  This is a special place for you?
MARK O'MEARA:  Well, I have a great appreciation.  I missed the cut in championship that Pádraig Harrington went on to win but Birkdale has been very kind to me.  I appreciate and admire the golf course tremendously.  It's a very difficult, demanding course but very fair golf course.
So links golf is something that I've always had a great passion for and respect for links golf and to certainly hoist the Claret Jug here in '98 was a great moment in my life and certainly my professional career.

Q.  What makes Royal Birkdale so special in terms of the demanding aspects of the game that you need to bring?
MARK O'MEARA:¬† I think over the years, some of the bunkers and landing areas‑‑ I think it's very visual and right in front of you and Birkdale, the tee shot on 9 is the only hole where you can't see the fairway, so because of that it's straight in front of you.¬† But the approach shots into the greens are very demanding.¬† If the wind blows here, it's a very testing golf course for sure.

Q.  After playing well at Muirfield do you fancy your chances here?
MARK O'MEARA:  I do.  I haven't won that much on the Champions Tour, only a couple times, but the competition out here is tremendous.  If I play the way I know I can play, hopefully I can be in the mix come Sunday afternoon and that's all you can ask for.
As for predicting what I'm going to do or how I'm going to do it, I've never been one to do that.  I have a lot of respect for the other players know how well they play.  But if I play well I should have a good shot at it.

Q.  Seems as though it's not quite a younger man's game these days.
MARK O'MEARA:¬† We saw what Ernie did last year at Lytham and what Phil did this last Sunday, he shot a phenomenal round, his quote was it was probably one of the best rounds he's ever played in his life and imagine he's had a lot of good rounds, and for him to say that‑‑ 66 around Muirfield in those conditions was quite a amazing.
I do think that more so links golf than any other type of golf, guys can still may well into their older years, you might say, because I think experience plays a big part in playing well on links golf courses and the fact that the ball chases so much, so the ball can run a little bit.  It's not about booming the ball out there, all carry on every shot.  You can play a lot of different shots and you can, like I said, chase the ball in this and that makes it better for guys that get a little older.

Q.  So you have a bit of local knowledge now?
MARK O'MEARA:  I appreciate the club and certainly Jonathan Seal gave me this great honour and it's a proud moment to be an honorary member of Royal Birkdale.
Last week, I've seen Muirfield play like that before, that's why I was surprised by some of the comments.¬† I've played Open Championships where the conditions were brutal, Muirfield, the one year I played with Tiger, it was hail, sleeting, freezing rain, 40‑plus‑mile‑an‑hour winds and doesn't get any tougher than that, and a couple times here at Birkdale, even in '98, they had to halt play.¬† I was already finished, but the conditions were trying in '98.
Certainly in 2008 when Pádraig won here, it was really tough and it can get that way but I think this hopefully will be okay.  You know, they have got the golf course set up really nicely and it's in great shape.

Q.  You're going out in a great group in the morning.
MARK O'MEARA:  Going out in the afternoon with Fred and Colin.  We go way back.  I went to Qualifying School and got my touring card with Fred back in 1980 in the fall.  We had some cool years.  Colin I have a lot of respect for, and played a lot of golf with him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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