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May 31, 2003

Jose Maria Olazabal


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Tell us how it feels playing the other Muirfield today.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: We had great weather the last two days, obviously, today it's a different ball game. It plays much tougher, as you can see by there course.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: 66 out here is a great round out here any day. You shot 61 at the World Series of Golf down in Akron when you won on the PGA TOUR, compare those two rounds.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I think they are very close. These rounds are close to being as good as that 61 I had there. That day it was wonderful. There was not a bit of breeze. The weather conditions that day were fantastic. Obviously, today, here it's a different story, and to shoot 66, you know, I think it's really close to that 61.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Your game seems to be rounding to form. You finished top-10 at The Masters, top-10 going into tomorrow's final round. Maybe talk real quick about the state of your game now.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I have been struggling all year long except for The Masters or week after when I played the Spanish Open. I didn't hit the ball well the first day here. I had a good finish on the back nine and managed to shoot 1-over par. But today and yesterday, it is a different story. I have been able to drive the ball straight off the tee and that is something that you really need around this golf course because, as you know, you miss those fairways, you're not going to have any chance at all to go for the flags. There has been nothing crucial in the last 2 days. Today I managed to make a few putts. Overall I'm trying to regain confidence. Right now I'm at a stage where I need to put a few good scores together to start believing that my game is back to it used to be. I haven't been in this situation for quite a while and I think that will make things more difficult tomorrow for me.

Q. Did you find something in your swing Thursday night to be hitting so many fairways?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Not really. I have been working on pretty much the same things with my swing. But for whatever reason, I felt the difference on Friday. I have been able to do what I have been working at the last couple of days. I find my rhythm the last few days, and, you know, that's what happens sometimes playing this game. You really work hard and you don't get any results, and all of a sudden you start feeling something and there is no reason for it but it happens.

Q. Jose, given this weather, you have played in a lot of British Opens, can you compare your play today with this weather with bad weather in the British Open?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: The golf courses at the British Open are open. You don't have trees like you have here. Usually the wind at the British Open is steady. It comes from one direction and it stays like that pretty much all through the day. Here, it's kind of more difficult to guess what the wind is doing. It swirls around and it's very difficult, to guess how the ball is going to be affected by the wind. I have played in British Opens, but when you get really bad weather at a British Open, that is really nasty weather.

Q. Jose, it's a high-ball course, where you are supposed to bring ball in high and land it softly on the greens, do you have to play low in a wind like this and what's the challenge of playing this course with a low ball?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Sometimes you are forced to hit low shots. But some others, when the wind is helping, you are not going to be able to do that. Actually you have to hit it as high as possible and try to stop it as quick as possible, but it is something that you have to do during the round. You will have holes where you really have to hit low shots because the wind is coming from one side or the other and some other holes when the wind is down, for instance, on 16 and 17, if that wind is helping, you will not hit a low shot onto those greens. You are going to try to hit a high-ball and guess the distance the best you can. It was playing into the wind today you are not going to hit a high shot to that green. You are going to have to face both situations in a day like today.

Q. You are talking about the lie you had on 18?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I pushed my tee shot a little right and actually the ball was not in the bunker, it was in the face of the bunker by the grass, and it was an awful lie I have to say. But I thought to myself, okay, I don't have many chances here. Either I try to chip it out with a sand wedge or go for the green. I was having a good day and I took a chance. I hit a 6-iron. I had like 159 to the hole. The key was to get good contact on the ball and that's what I did. I hit the ball fast and obviously the ball came straight up in the air, and, you know, it could have ended up in the back bunker. It could have been short of the green. But luckily for me it just ended up pin-high. It was one of those shots that you hit a shot and you hope for the best.

Q. You were thinking birdie from the bunker there?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I was looking at a 5 big time.

Q. Any club selection problems, can you get fooled at all?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Yes. There was a few holes where we really struggled. Twelve was one of them. Jeff hit an 8-iron and got the ball past the hole and the wind was gusting at that time and I had an eight, and I didn't know what to do. Finally I hit a 7-iron and ended up pretty much pin-high but it's been like that. You could make a decision, you can choose a club before hitting a club and take your stance and at that right moment, you can feel the wind changing, so you had to back up. It's been like that all day long.

Q. Along with the 61, is this one of the best rounds of your life?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Yes, I would say so.

Q. Can you think of any others comparable?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, I had a 62 playing the Scottish Open. But you know, I think this 66 is, you know, close to that 61 that I had in Akron. I would think this is my second or third best round of my career.

Q. Where was that 62?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: That was Green Eagles.

Q. The 61 at Firestone, what was the most thing you remember most about that, and would the shot on 18 be the thing that would be the best to date?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: At Firestone, I always remember the start that I had. I played 4 holes and I was 5-under-par after 4 holes. And that set things up pretty much. Then I remember that day I missed a three-footer on 15 for birdie and then missing a birdie chance on 16 and 17 from nine feet. That I remember really well. But I think the start was the key. And then today I hit a lot of good shots but I think that that second shot on 18 was the icing on the cake.

Q. You said you have been looking for confidence. I was wondering if today was the day that gives you confidence?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Yes, it gives you confidence, sure. A round like today, a round like yesterday, even though it was nothing extraordinary, I didn't make any putts at all on the front 9. I still managed to shoot 3-under-par. The way I stroked the ball yesterday, you know, gave me confidence for today. A round like today, obviously, should increase that confidence. As I said, what I need is just to play solid golf and strike the ball like I have the last few days and I will be in the right track.

Q. Concentration is always tough on a day like this. Do you have any little techniques that you do to enable yourself to concentrate?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Not really. I just try to concentrate the same every day. Obviously, sometimes they are harder like a day like today, but you just try to, you know, concentrate and stay focused as much as you can.

Q. Jose, you said earlier in the press conference that you were not necessarily concerned but haven't been in this position for a while. I remember at San Diego, I think it was last year, you just made the cut even though you were beyond that, and you put some rounds together on the tournament. Talk about how you did that and what's going in for this weekend?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, when I played the north course, I putted awful that tournament. I had like 36 or 37 putts for 1-under par. I was striking the ball well. I just made the cut. I was really pleased making the cut and when I played on Saturday, I had no pressure at all and I went out there and played the best I could. I was a very relaxed and I had a great round and things changed for Sunday. All of a sudden, I was a little behind but I felt like if I could put a good round, I might have a chance of maybe not winning or maybe winning but at least finishing in the top 3 to 4, and that's what happened.

Here, I think it's going to be different. I have been through a tough spell lately. Actually since pretty much the second half of the year last year and the whole season so far here and that has allowed me confidence, and that's why I emphasize a lot on that issue. I'm really pleased I had to put myself in the situation like this. That's the reason why I am really pleased this week. I will see what happens tomorrow. I will try to pretty much play as well as I have the last two days, but it's going to be, for me, just to play solid tomorrow and that will be a big plus.

Q. When did you realize this was a special round?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Not until the very end. I had a solid start. I was 2-under after 4 holes -- sorry, after 5 holes. And, you know, I knew that that was good but there was a lot of work to be done.

But at the very end when I birdied 15, then I realized, you know, 4-under is a wonderful score. Well, I finished with 2 more birdies, but at that time on 15 I thought it was a very good round.

Q. Despite how well you played, how does this day rank; is this one of your worst days you've played?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: No, not really. I played in awful weather conditions. If you play Europe, sooner or later you are going to have much worse conditions than this one.

Q. Has that helped, all of that experience?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Oh, sure. It's not just me. All of the players that have played in Europe. I'm talking about Nick Price and Greg Norman and all of those guys that have spent some time playing over there and then came here and played over here. It has been a good learning experience to play Europe, and I think it's going to be like that for many years.

Q. With the U.S. Open coming up in two weeks, is that a tournament that you look forward to?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I like the challenge of the U.S. Open. For me, it's a serious challenge in the sense that I have never been a good driver of the ball. It puts all my skills into a challenge. I am playing against the odds when I play that tournament. I like the challenge. I think it's a tournament that I really have a tough time scoring well because of not being a good driver of the ball. But I like the challenge and I always look forward to it.

Q. Do you like the way it's set up?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: You do have 4 majors in a year, between all four majors, they challenge of all parts of the game. The Masters, even though they are changing a lot of things at The Masters, there is still the short game and the imagination is there.

For the U.S. Open is a courtesy of the tee. It favors the guy that hits the ball straight. You don't have to do nothing spectacular, hit fairways, hit greens, and that will pay off at the end of the week the British Open. The challenge is -- the imagination and at the same time the striking of the ball. You have to be able to work the ball both ways, hit the ball high, low. All of those things.

And then the PGA, pretty much it varies from year-to-year but it's somewhere in there. Some years it's a tournament where the short game is very important. Some of us challenge off the tee, so there you go.

Q. Did you discover anything to straighten out your driving? You're driving much better now. How many fairways did you hit today?


Q. What was your secret?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I don't know either. It's what I said. I have been working, trying to do the right things, but somehow it showed yesterday and today and hopefully to tomorrow, too.

Q. Jose, with the Volvo finishing on Sunday this year, did that make the difference in you coming here?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I always talked to Jack about this and I've always tried to play this tournament, but it was a very hard for me to -- not to play the Volvo PGA, which is our most important tournament in Europe apart from the British Open. And we've always mentioned that possibility to Ken Scofield and the directors of the PGA tours to have a chance to finish the tournament on Sunday and at the same time if it would be possible not to match those two tournaments. Because most of the years, it was played the same week. This year was the first year in a while that that didn't happen and obviously, I took the chances straightaway.

Q. Isn't there a plan to keep finishing on Sunday in the future?


Q. When you have been struggling with your game for a while, does that change your preparation for the majors? Do you even have the luxury of trying to get your game open if you are trying to get your game in shape?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: My change is the objectives. Because you know that you have to be playing really well to have a chance to win or to do well at those events. If you are not hitting the ball well, if you are not playing well, your main concern is trying to get your game in the best shape possible for that tournament. But when you feel confidence with your game and you know you are striking the ball well and playing well, you approach the tournament in a different frame of mind, that's for sure.

Q. Were your objectives different going into The Masters?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: It was different. I wasn't playing really well and I was just trying to do the best I could. But pretty much knowing that I didn't have my A game to have a chance to win the tournament.

Q. I was curious what you thought being somewhat the odd man out in 2001 for the Ryder Cup, what you thought about the changes to go 5 off (Inaudible)

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: We have always had that with all of the players that come and play more often here in the States. They should have changed the point system and the selection system and that's what they have done and I think it's more fair now than it was before.

Q. Do you think that, it would hurt the European TOUR if more guys came over here but also do you think they might do more scheduling changes that would allow -- so that the big events in Europe don't butt up against?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I don't know if they are going to do that. But obviously we all know that this is a very special event and they have tried to somehow accommodate the dates so we would play this tournament, to.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Can we go over your birdies, 6 of them today, one or 2 quick questions. Birdie on No. 2 right out of the gate.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I hit a lovely drive, 7-iron 15 feet and made that putt.

And then on 5 I hit a driver, 4-iron, sand wedge and hold a big putt there from 18 feet.


JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I hit a 9-iron, I holed it from 12 feet.


JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I hit a driver, 1-iron, left bunker, sand wedge from there and holed the par from eight feet.

And then on 16, a 6-iron, I holed it from 33, 35 feet more or less.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: 6-iron on 18.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I hit a 6-iron on 18 and I holed it from 12 feet.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Anything you put different in your bag today?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: No, nothing at all, the same old clubs.

Q. Someone said this could have been lower, did you have some makeable putts that you missed?


Q. Did you have any saves?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I made a save on the first. I hit it over the green and chipped in about four feet, made the putt. And then on 10 hit in the right bunker and made a five-footer for par. I had a birdie chance maybe on 13, yes. But I don't think I would have scored any lower today.

Q. Do you hope it's like this tomorrow, weather-wise?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I'm not hoping that because I know it's not going to be like this. The weather forecast is much better for tomorrow.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Jose, thank you. Good luck tomorrow.

End of FastScripts....

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