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September 15, 2005

Mark O'Meara


DAVE SENKO: Mark, thanks for joining us. Maybe just get us started. Great start, 7 under, 65.

MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, obviously I'm very pleased with the round today, and I made a lot of putts, needless to say. I started off not necessarily that spectacularly. I had a good drive on 1, had about 110 yards to the hole and tried because it was early in the morning to chip a pitching wedge and it flamed to the right down in the bunker, the one place you can't go, made bogey. That's not a hole that you should start off with a bogey because most everybody is probably going to birdie it. So I was kind of not looking too good.

Then a good drive on 2 and I walked out there and my ball was laying in the middle of a big old divot. So that wasn't the best start.

I made a big par putt on the 3rd hole and I was off and running. Like I said, I really putted well today. It was by far the best putting round that I've had in a couple of years. My speed was good and I made a lot of 18 to 24 foot putts, and you don't expect to make those. I seem to have been running them over the edge for the last year and a half and today they all happened to go in. Even putts that rolled up and looked like they stopped short and I kind of put my head down like I didn't hit the putt so good but that was okay and then I looked up and it disappeared.

Golf is a funny game and today seemed to go my way, so it was nice to get off to a good start.

Then I had a birdie on 5, the par 5, I drove it just in the fairway bunker on the right off the tee, 4 iron down the fairway, sand wedge to probably 18 feet yeah, 16 feet probably, made that.

Next hole, driver, pitching wedge on No. 6 to about 24 feet.

DAVE SENKO: ShotLink had 26.

MARK O'MEARA: Good, you've got ShotLink right there, so you just tell me. I made that right in the middle.

7, the par 3, I hit a 5 iron to about 14 feet right behind the hole. That was a great shot for me. I mean, it was really good. Like I said, the greens are firm so it's kind of hard to get the ball close to the pin, especially when you're not hitting it 400 yards off the tee. So that was a good birdie.

Then No. 9, I hit a good drive and a 6 iron to about 24 feet.

10, I hit a driver and a 9 iron to about 30 feet, made that. That's the one that I hit a good putt and it rolled up and it was right in the middle. I swear, I just kind of looked down for a second, and I heard Justin say, "It went in," and I looked up and it was not there anymore. Those are the kind of good fortunes that happen when you have a good day.

Then the par 5, hit a pretty good drive and a 3 wood and a sand wedge to maybe nine feet, made that for birdie.

The next birdie came on 13. I drove it just in the fairway bunker on the right and I had a good lie and I hit a pitching wedge to about 11 feet, made that for birdie.

And then the par 5, No. 16, I hit a drive just in the left rough, laid up with a 9 iron, hit a sand wedge to about 12 feet, made that for birdie.

Then I hit good shots on the last two holes, two putted for pars.

You know, what can I say? I'm 7 under. If you would have told me that before I teed off, I wouldn't have said it was highly unlikely because I've been starting to see some signs of starting to hit the ball better, but certainly it's by far the best scoring round that I've had this year.

Q. On 9 did they have the tee all the way back? I think that pin was up on a shelf. Did you have a lot of break there?

MARK O'MEARA: It did have well, it was kind of the tee wasn't all the way back, it was on the it wasn't on that brand new tee way back there, thank God, because it's long enough for me as it is. But it was on the next tee up. If you hit a drive tight to the lake you can get some run on it, but I hit mine up the right center of the fairway and didn't get much run. I had a pretty lengthy second shot and I hit a 6 iron. I think I had 195 to the hole or something like that. It ended up pretty much up on top of the hump and the putt had a little bit of left to right and then it kind of straightened out at the end, but it didn't have a huge swing to it because I was up on the top, which was good.

Q. Did you find part of the problem with the fronts of the greens soft? I'm trusting that's probably what you have to do out here, hit them short and let them roll back? Did you see that at all?

MARK O'MEARA: If you land it is difficult because a lot of in front of the green there's an upslope, and it's difficult to land the ball short and expect it to chase in there, but I think any time for me especially, I needed to land my ball about 12 to 15 yards short of the pin. You can't fire right to the pin. If it was 175 to the hole, I don't think I needed to fly my ball 160 because they are firm. There wasn't that much wind, and the fairways, they're holding and they're not wide open because I don't think any golf course is wide open the way I play (laughter).

They are somewhat generous, but it is a long golf course. It's over 7,500 yards long.

Today, because it was warm and a little humid, the ball was probably going a little further, and I hit some good drives out there today that kind of put me in position to be able to knock them on the green, but certainly I think the whole key was making all those putts.

Q. You talked about your kind of rough start. How many holes for you does it usually take you to get a feel for what you're going to do?

MARK O'MEARA: I would have been probably pretty hot about the way I made a bogey on the 1st hole a couple weeks ago, but I've been on the road for five weeks and I'm going steelhead fishing up in Oregon next week. I was disappointed, but it wasn't going to let it eat me up.

Lately, I think a lot of times when you get to this stage of your life where I'm at, 48, be 49 in January, I've been doing this for 25 years, you know, so sometimes you can be your own worst enemy when you get really hot at yourself and hard on yourself and you beat yourself up. Like every other golfer, we expect more out of ourselves all the time.

I think you also have to realize that you're not perfect and you make mistakes and my swing is not always where I need to have it, and there's no need to beat yourself up. Today I bogeyed the 1st hole and I knew it was a stupid shot and I was trying to play it left and I hit it to the right, and you feel like an amateur, and I know I am sometimes an amateur, and I know I've got my name on the bag but I can hit those goofy shots, too. I figured, hey, I hit a terrible shot, and if I'm in position to make bogey and if I get a par, great, and if I don't, the hell with it, I'm going to go to the next tee and try and hit a good drive.

You don't play so good when you're getting hot at yourself. You can play better when you have a good attitude. It's one thing to get mad at yourself, but it's another thing to let it linger. The whole idea is you've just got to let it go.

Q. Thinking about fishing, what do you think about when you're thinking about fishing?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, what I'm thinking right now as I'm talking to you guys and gals is that I'll be back in my room after I practice and I'll be tying some of my steelhead flies on the road because I've got my fly line stuff with me on Tour. I tide some great flies last week in Vancouver, and I'm trying to figure out which one is going to hook that nice steelhead next week.

Q. Do you feel the sensation

MARK O'MEARA: No, but when the temperature cools down like in Vancouver, that steelhead feeling is in the air. That's what I live for. I certainly am a passionate fly fisherman and I trout fish all year long in Park City and rivers in the east, and I do a lot of fishing on the east coast, once in a while tarpon fishing, but that's kind of it's funny, I said to myself a couple weeks after after I missed the cut at Deutsche Bank, I flew to Park City, and I was up there, and I decided I was watching the tournament a little bit, which I usually don't watch much golf, and I said, "I'm going to go practice." So I went out to the golf course that I designed called Tuhaye up there in Park City, and there was no one on the course and there was no one on the driving range, and I was the only person. It was about 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon and I started hitting golf balls.

I thought, "This is really cool, I really am having a good time. I like being here and doing this." Sometimes in the last couple of years I haven't felt that way, and that's kind of the feeling I get when I go to the river, and that's kind of the feeling I have about can't wait to get in the water to go steelhead fishing on Monday afternoon.

Q. Do you think that that interest in fishing and other things might be an explanation for the difficulties you've had?

MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, maybe, a little bit. But I feel like, gosh, you know, it takes away sometimes the passion of golf that I might have and need to really compete at the highest level, but on the other hand, it's kind of when you're in the kind of window that I'm at in my professional career, it's not bad to have something outside of golf that you have that can take your mind away from playing when you're not playing well.

So yes, it could be a Catch 22. But like I try to tell people, you know, if you don't feel like practicing and you're not really into it, it's a cyclical thing. If you're playing well and you're doing well, such as Tiger Woods, yeah, he's got a lot of pressure and takes time off, but you know, it's a little easier to take time off when you've played well and have something to think about and you're leaving with some positives. If you've played the way I have, it's not as much fun.

The way I look at it is fishing is kind of part of what I like to do now. It's a recreational thing, and it's I feel like I've gotten probably I'm probably better at that than I am golf, probably a better fly tier than I am putter, but today I'd say I putted better than I've been tying my flies. It's something that takes my mind away from always thinking what I need to do with golf.

But I have thought about trying to get a little bit more focused this fall, about trying to get maybe more physically fit and start to prepare for a year from this next January when I turn 50.

Q. That was my next question. Can you devote yourself to senior golf?

MARK O'MEARA: I'm going to try to. I'm going to really try. I think that it's it's just a very it's crazy. You play in the Pro Ams and my amateur partners are always asking me, "You're getting close, aren't you?" Yeah, I turn 50 in a year and a half, a little over a year. They say, "Are you looking forward to it?" Well, that's a tough question. It's not like I haven't played well on the regular Tour and it's not like I haven't made money in my career. I still like golf, don't get me wrong. But when you've competed hard for long periods of time like I have, it would be like asking all of you when you turn 50, do you get jacked about going to go write? I mean, I've done it for a long time so I wouldn't say I'm as fired up as maybe when I started on the PGA TOUR, but it is going to be a new beginning when I turn 50 and competing against players that are more my age, which they're still very, very good out there on the Champions Tour, I don't underestimate their ability to play the game, but it is better than playing against a 28 year old.

Q. You won a year and a half ago approximately in Dubai. What happened there?

MARK O'MEARA: I don't know. What happened at Augusta in 1998? I didn't go into Augusta feeling like I was going to win the tournament or wasn't playing necessarily that well. Sometimes I do better when my expectations are lower.

Q. Well, you made a play there in 98.

MARK O'MEARA: I did make a putt, but leading in the tournament, in the practice rounds I wasn't hitting it that good, wasn't feeling good about my game, I wasn't overly confident and my goal was just to make the cut, and then I was in contention. I feel like if I can get into contention then I can do all right.

Although last week, I know this sounds crazy to all of you, but I was 5 over with three holes to play at Shaughnessy, and I knew the cut was probably going to be 4 over, and then I bogeyed the 15th hole with a sand wedge in my hand on a par 5 and then I went to 6 over and I was hot, and I was determined, I'm going to grind this out, try to do this. I parred 16 and I birdied 17, I hit a great drive on 18 and a 6 iron four feet behind the hole and made birdie to shoot 4 over.

Granted, I only beat two guys in the tournament because I shot 79 on Saturday. I got a pension point, and the way the Tour tells you, you're going to be worth $80 million if you make a lot of cuts. I don't know where they come up with that number, because I looked at my stats and I think I've made 465 cuts or something like that, and I don't see any $80 million near my name.

Q. You ought to try 30 years as a sportswriter.

MARK O'MEARA: It's tough, listen, but you have to find different things. So for me, the fishing has been kind of I don't think it's sidetracked me, but I think I feel like a long time of playing, once in a while players feel guilty when they're not out there playing. I told myself about a year and a half ago, look, I'm not going to do that to myself. I had a wonderful career, better than I would have dreamed of when I started out here. So be it. If I haven't played that well, sure, my pride is taking a little bit of a hit, but on the other hand, when I look at what I have accomplished in the game, you know, it's by far been a dream ride for me, big time.

Q. Is it possible you wouldn't be as good as you are right now if you didn't take up fishing?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, I think it I think Jerry has got a good point. Maybe I would have played better the last two years or two and a half years if I didn't fish as much, but I might not be as sane as I am. You know, sometimes Hank Haney has told me like the last year and a half, Tiger and Hank were out watching me practice, and they say when you spay cast you like make a D cast and stuff like that. I don't want to explain it all to you, but there's different types of flyrods and when I fish for steelhead and Atlantic salmon, I fish a different rod, anywhere from 12 to 15 feet, two handed rod, and they make all these different kinds of casts.

They say, "I hate to tell you but your spay casting is in your golf swing." They say, "well, you kind of have a little loopity loop going. You used to be a little upright and flatten it out. Now it's like you've got the casts going. I said, "Well, I'll tell you what, we've got a real problem then." Then Tiger says, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, I'm not giving up fly fishing, so either I've got to fix my swing or I'll be the kind of player I am right now."

I think I'm doing better. I saw my swing on video and it's not perfect, but it's looking better, and I hit some good shots out there today. If I keep putting like that, I'll be fine.

Q. When you do go out on the Champions Tour will you be a full time guy?

MARK O'MEARA: That's what I'm planning. Listen, I know my limitations. I think Jay Haas has done great, all credit to him, but I know a lot of the reasons he's played both Tours is because of his son. Plus Jay has played well. Plus your time is limited.

When you turn 50, like I said, there has been some guys that have stayed competitive up to 50 and then they've done well out there. I feel like I've played I don't know if this is my 17th or 18th tournament on the PGA TOUR, plus the tournament in Dubai, and I'm going to play Greensboro and Disney and then Tampa, and I know I've only made 180 grand or something, it's not good when you've probably spent about 2 million (laughter), thank God for my sponsors and everything.

But I'm going to try to get geared up this fall and really be prepared to play next year because I can use my All Time Money List if I need to, the Top 50, to be exempt next year. It wouldn't be bad to come here and play well the rest of the week and move up the Money List and play the last three tournaments and hopefully get in the Top 125.

Q. Do you think something like fishing, which is something that's a big hobby of yours, does that sort of bring you back to tournament play more refreshed and almost more focused because you haven't spent a considerable amount of time

MARK O'MEARA: I think it does. I don't think it would do me any good if I took a week off and go home and practice all week long. I think that would start defeating the purpose. You never do anything well if you really don't feel like doing it, and it's not like I don't like practicing because I've practiced a lot throughout my career, and I've always liked hitting a lot of golf balls.

But of late, when I broke my hand last year, and I just when I broke my hand and I couldn't play for almost two and a half months or whatever it is, you know, I thought, okay, the beginning of the year, I can't wait to get out there. And I got out there, my my wife and kids are at home, my daughter is getting ready to go away to school, you're in the hotel room by yourself. I know there's a lot of prize money and I'm not bad mouthing that, but there's a lot of positives when you play well, but if you're not playing well and you're on the road by yourself, it's not a lot of fun. It's not like I'm out drinking and partying every night; I'm usually sitting in that room, and the family is at home. It's a Catch 22. It's kind of a love hate relationship.

Q. Bruce Lietzke says, "There's no golf in heaven." He says, "It's all bass lakes." What's your idea of a day in heaven?

MARK O'MEARA: You know, a player of Bruce Lietzke's caliber and what he did in professional golf, you can't help but admire it. The guy had his priorities right. Could he have been a better player? Maybe he would have been. Maybe if he would have come out and grinded, he would have been worse. I think it's a mix.

My feeling is that the Tour has grown immensely in the 25 years I've played out here, and my passion for fishing has gone from bass fishing like Bruce Lietzke did I remember when I first got on the Tour, I thought, if I make any money on the Tour I'd love to buy a bass boat. I remember my first year on the Tour I made a little money and the second year I bought Andy Bean's bass boat and I bought it in Florida and I towed it all the way back to California. My dad told me, "You don't want to buy a boat; you're not home that much, just rent one. Why would you buy one?" I said, "Well, I love to fish." It's a great hobby.

So I bought Andy Bean's bass boat and I drove it home and then the engine blew up and I called Andy and I had to buy a new engine.

I've always enjoyed it. I get out there, and when I'm fishing, whether I'm fly fishing now that I have that going on, I think of nothing else. My mind is totally at ease, totally free.

If you didn't have something, I mean, I think every player out here, most every player has an out like that. Tiger now is an expert diver and a big spear fisherman when he's on his yacht, and when he's down under water the fish don't know who he is. They're not asking for his autograph. They're not yelling, "Ti ger, looook oooverrr heeeeere." Those fish don't know who Tiger Woods is, nor do they care.

I think it's just something that if you have something outside of golf, it's good, besides the fact that you try to be a good father and a good parent.

Q. How many rods do you have?

MARK O'MEARA: I probably have over 100 fly rods. I have a problem. I'm confessing right now (laughter). You know how people have problem drinking and people have a problem with smoking or drugs, I have a problem with fly fishing rods.

Q. How about golf clubs?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, I have a lot of golf clubs, but I don't care about that. I care about what could be the newest fly rod out there or new reel. I probably have over 40 spay rods and then probably 60 reels or something. Listen, I have a whole pro shop at home of fly gear. If any of you are ever in Park City, you don't need to go to the trout store first. You come to my little place and I'll have you totally outfitted and we'll go fly fishing and have a ball.

DAVE SENKO: Thanks, Mark.

End of FastScripts.

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