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June 15, 1994

Jose Maria Olazabal


LES UNGER: Good morning, everybody. I think I'd like to ask Jose Maria since I have the right to ask the first question, how his life has changed, if it has at all, since Augusta.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, it hasn't changed much in the sense of my private life, obviously. But around the tournaments it has changed a bit. There is more people watching me; asking for more autographs and interviews, but I think that is something natural.

LES UNGER: You have had a couple of chances to go through Oakmont here. How about your thoughts about the course?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, the course is in very good shape. The greens are very fast. I think that is going to be the toughest part on the whole golf course. The golf course is not very long. You can use a lot of irons off the tee, but there are also a lot of traps waiting for you off the tee, and you need to be accurate through the whole golf course. So it is going to be a tough test this week.

LES UNGER: Questions.

Q. Is your game ready to meet this challenge?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, I don't know if it is ready, but it is not as sharp as it was when I won the Masters, but it is coming along even though I struggled last week I feel better than last week and I will have to see. I mean, I am happy with the way I am picking the irons. I have been always struggling with my driver, but I don't have to use it too often on this golf course. It is going to be very tough. There are a lot of places -- you need to be close to the hole and well, we will have to wait and see.

Q. How do these greens compare to Augusta's greens and also, what greens here do you think are the toughest?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, speedwise, they are very similar to Augusta, but because of all the undulations you have on these greens, I think most of them, the undulations, are more severe than at Augusta. And after playing a few years at Augusta, you know, more or less the place, so that is an advantage. This is the first time I am playing here and I really don't know the place, plus the fact that there are so many, that is going to be very difficult to know them. So I reckon that for us, it is tougher to putt on these greens than at Augusta because we are playing here for the first time since-- whatever the years are -- and because of the severe undulations on the greens.

Q. Jose, does this course offer the foreign players a little better chance to break through at the U.S. Open than some of the past ones have?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, I don't think that should suit better the Europeans than the rest of the golf course. We play at the U.S. Open before. The only difference this year is that we do have more European players playing this tournament than ever before. So that is more important factor than the golf course itself.

Q. Jose, can you play this course without a driver, and which holes do you think that if a driver is used, is you know -- when you will use them?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, you can play any golf course in the world without a driver. The other part is, if you should do it! Obviously, there is a few holes where you have to hit a driver, but as I said, it is a golf course that -- well, obviously, you can use the driver, but there are so many traps and so many problems waiting for you that you better use one more irons off the tee. I think that you can play a driver on this golf course in four, five holes and that is going to be it.

Q. Are you happy with the idea of playing few drivers?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Obviously, I will have a better chance because I have been struggling with my driver except for two months this season and obviously that is a better advantage, a little bigger advantage for me. But it is still a tough golf course; still have to be accurate off the tee, as I said. And it is not just the driving that is going to count on this golf course. It is going to be the putting, and stroke, and chipping. As I said earlier, that is going to be, I think, more important than just hitting irons off the tee or drivers off the tee. I think that you are going to see a lot of 3-putts this week and that is going to be the key point, I think.

LES UNGER: If I am counting correctly, you have three victories and two second places so far this year here and in Europe. Have you ever started as well or have such a good year?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: No, no. This has been my best start in my whole career. Obviously, winning the Masters, it was very, very important, but also winning the Volvo PGA was very important and I never had such a great start in my career, so I am very pleased.

Q. A lot of people said you won the Masters because of your approach. You also said that it is very important on this course. How do you feel after you practiced one or two rounds on the approach?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, the situation is different when you are playing the U.S. Open and when you are playing The Masters. You can get a clean contact on the ball at The Masters and it is completely the opposite here. And the greens, you have a high grass and thick grass; you really have to flop it up, so it is a different game, different shot you have to use on the greens here. That is not the one what you are used to in Europe. We are more used to the chip-and-run shot, and I think that is going to be a factor; it always has been, playing the U.S. Open or the PGA, so it is going to be tough for us guys that are not used to use that sort of game what we play in Europe.

Q. After playing the course, what expectations do you have for the tournament for yourself, and is there a number on the score that would win this tournament the way the course is playing now?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Obviously, my expectations are a little better than last time I played the U.S. Open at Baltusrol. According to the second part of the question, there is obviously a certain number of players that count in the tournament, because of the way the golf course is playing but also because of the quality of the players that they are. I mean, you cannot forget players like Greg Norman, Fred Couples, Larry Mize; Nick Faldo should do well here and a lot of names that you see week in and week out playing the tournaments that are out there; they should do well here.

Q. How, if at all, does having The Masters win behind you help you for the mental challenge of playing this course in this tournament?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Obviously, I am more relaxed after winning the U.S. Masters. There is no doubt about it. That helped my approach to not just the U.S. Open but to the rest of the tournaments I played so far. I mean, I took a lot of pleasure out of me and that is going to help me anyway in the mental attitude towards the tournament.

Q. What score do you think will be a good score to have at the end of the week?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Here we go guessing again. I don't know. I really don't know. I don't think that you will see many under par anyway. I would put it around like maybe four, six under par, something like that. That is a guess, so...

LES UNGER: Yesterday we had Jack Nicholas and Arnold Palmer here together. I am curious, have you and Seve (Ballesteros) -- you still have a good relationship; have you ever sat together and dealt with the press at the same time?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Yeah, we did that a couple of times, but never at the U.S. Open.

LES UNGER: Also any other questions?

Q. Volvo PGA was very important and very different from The Masters. Was there something special that you learned from Wentworth maybe from the mental side point of view that could help you with this win?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I think obviously it gives you confidence winning the PGA, but towards the mental attitude approach, this tournament held much more the way winning the U.S. Masters. I think that is the tournament that really did change my attitude, my approach to the rest of the tournaments. Obviously winning the Volvo PGA is very important because it is one of the most important tournaments we do have in Europe, but I think the big change made was made by winning the U.S. Masters more than the PGA.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the greens and how you have played here the last couple of days; how have you adjusted to the putting?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, when I play, I have to be honest, I putted off the green quite a few times, so I have been struggling on the breaks because of the speed on some parts of the green; have to put more break than what you really see. I have struggled with that part and with the pace. I have defended myself pretty well the last few days but it was more difficult for me to really get the right amount of break on the greens, so there are times -- well, I am happy I know I can do better than what I have done the last two days, but well, I do have one more round and let us see how I play because it is very important also where you put the ball on the green. If you are on the wrong side of the flat, you are going to struggle no matter how good you are, you are going to struggle to make two putts. That is going to be a big factor when putting too.

Q. Will the heat be a the factor in your game; something that bothers you this week?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: I don't know. I mean, the thing is I have been working on my game this season trying to do a better shoulder turn instead of tilting. I am still working on it, so it is very important for this golf course to have good shots onto the flat. I mean, that is going to be very important. As I said, you can have-- you can kill a great shot and finish 15 feet from the hole on the wrong side and you are just working for two putts. On the other hand, you hit a good shot and you are 15 feet on the right side of the hole, and you are looking for a better chance. That is going to be a very big factor. I think that is going to be the key this week to put the ball in a position where you can really attack the better chance. To do so, you need to be very accurate with your second shots onto the green; have the right distances and I think that is going to be the key, not just for me, but for everybody playing this week.

Q. You mentioned The Masters created a change in attitude, approach and can you talk about that a little bit more, and specifically, how it pertains to a major?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: Well, basically just-- you are more relaxed when you start a tournament and, well, when you achieve one of your goals, I mean, you don't have much to prove to anybody, so that is another factor. And it changes your attitude in the sense, okay, I won a major event and, well, whatever happens from now on, I have done something great, so that is it. I mean, I will take whatever comes and that makes you feel better and more relaxed and that is basically what has changed winning a major event.

LESS UNGER: Thank you very much for coming. We will see you again during the week.


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