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September 3, 2004

Mark O'Meara


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Mark O'Meara for dropping by after a 5-under 66 in the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship.

You got off to a great start with four birdies in your first five holes.

MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, I felt very -- obviously when you're 4-under after five, you start to feel a little bit better. I made some putts, certainly. Today I managed myself well around there.

First hole, I hit a good 3-wood and a wedge to 12 feet and made that for birdie.

The third hole, I hit a 5-iron to maybe about 18 feet and made that for birdie.

4, I hit a 9-iron to about six feet and made that for birdie.

5, I hit a 5-iron to 25, 30ed feet and made that for birdie.

I birdied 10. I hit a 9-iron to about 12 feet and made that for birdie.

The bogey on 11, was short of the green to the right. Pitched to about 12 feet and missed it.

Then made a couple good par saves, like on number -- let's see, oh, No. 13 and No. 17. I probably had to make maybe 8- to 10-footers for par. So that's always important if you can keep the round going.

Then the birdie on 18, I hit a drive and 3-wood just off the back edge and pitched to about five feet and squeaked that one in there for birdie.

TODD BUDNICK: Talk about your season. Just the one Top-10, but you are inside the Top-125 right now.

MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, listen, 47, I mean, I've only played 16 events on the U.S. tour. I have not played as much as I probably could.

But the win in Dubai was very special, especially with the quality of the field they had there. I feel I've driven the ball better this year than I have in my career. I'm starting to putt better because of my change in my putter grip, going from conventional, maybe, style of grip to my Saw grip that I have defined it as. And my putting, certainly that helps if you can roll the ball with the way the players play out here.

I had the good finish at Buick. Missed the cut at PGA. I'm working on it. I'd like to play well.

Golf is a fickle game and it's been a battle the last two or three years. We've certainly seen some of the older players play pretty well, so hopefully I can keep it up this week.

Q. You said a few years ago that you weren't planning to keep on playing after 50; I wonder if you've changed your mind at all?

MARK O'MEARA: Look, I love to fly-fish, there's no denying that, everybody knows that. I love to spend time in the river. But if I went fly-fishing every day, I'd probably get sick of that. So I believe that I'll probably continue to play as long as I feel competitive, my body let's me play and my wife will come out with me on the Senior Tour some, I'll play.

But I don't really want to go out and sit in a hotel room by myself on the Senior Tour. Once my kids, which will probably happen in the next three years -- I mean, my son is a sophomore, my daughter is a senior, so she's off to college next year. And a couple more years and my son is going to be gone. If my wife comes with me more I'll play some. I imagine I'll play, if the guy upstairs let's me, I'll play not a super full schedule on the Senior Tour, but a limited schedule and I'll base it around the fishing schedule, whenever the fishing is good, I won't be playing golf. When the fishing isn't good, I'll be playing golf

Q. How much does your wife travel with you?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, when they are in high school, it's very difficult. So really the last 15 -- well, let's see, probably the last 10 to 12 years, she doesn't travel at all hardly with me because she needs to be there with the kids.

We are a big family believing that the kids need to lead a normal lifestyle, live at home, stable situation. They traveled a lot when they were young, so they have seen the world, which is a great -- I think traveling is very educational.

But there does come a point in time when they start school they need to have some stability there. I hope she comes out, but I guess I've got to beg her. She says, I'll come out one week, you go out one week. She's kind of formed her life of playing tennis with the girls and stability there. So I don't think she really wants to come out here and sit in a hotel room and walk around and watch me play golf. She's done that for 20 years or 15 years whatever it was.

Q. Inaudible?

MARK O'MEARA: Probably. She's got to go play tennis with some of the girls. It's funny how we think. I remember distinctly after my big year in '98, when I turned 41, I sat down with my little group of people, my manager, my financial people, my wife, and I said okay, here is the deal. I'll go really hard for three more years, two to three years, and then by the time I'm 44, 45, I would really like to just taper off and not push it.

And here I am, grinding away, last year, 26 or 27 tournaments globally that I played. I've never really had any major injuries. I was looking at the PGA TOUR manual, and I believe I've played like 605 tournaments, PGA TOUR events on the PGA TOUR. Certainly, that does not count all of the global events, and throughout my career I've played a lot globally outside of the United States. I don't imagine, probably 660-some odd tournaments, that's a lot of golf.

Q. Inaudible?

MARK O'MEARA: It is frustrating, like when you get out there on 18 and you're hitting it as hard as you can and you're firing a 3-wood in there and the other guys are hitting driver across the bunker 40 yards by; and you, you're hitting 7-iron.

The thing is, is the golf ball, like Jay Haas has said, and I've always said, it's true it doesn't know how old you are. But the reality is the game has changed. Power is a huge asset. It was always an asset but even more so now because the golf courses are a lot longer. This course is 7,415. It was playing quick, which if it was no roll out there at all, then it would be very difficult for me because, you know, I mean, I don't hit it as far as those guys obviously.

But you do have more experience, and if you putt well, and that's a big neutralizer. But those guys, if you look at the top four or five players in the world, you're looking at Tiger, you're looking at Vijay, you're looking at Ernie Els, they are all over 6'2; they are all big guys, they drive it in the rough, they are driving it in the rough way down there, they can still get it on the green. I drive it in the rough, I'm way back there. I can't get to the green.

So my feeling would be, you know, to make it competitive for all walks of players, you should never penalize power. That should be an advantage. But I don't think you should reward power by having the widest part of the fairways where the biggest guys hit it. There are some holes out here. They have fixed the course a little bit, but if you walk out there, you will see 18 the widest part of the fairway is 290. If you look out some of the other holes, the widest part of the fairway is 290. That's not real good for Mark O'Meara.

But 4-under after five is always nice. Gives you a little cushion. You make a few putts. Listen, I would dearly love to play well. Do I think I can win again on the PGA TOUR? You know, why not? Absolutely. I won in Dubai against Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, a very star-studded field. So I would not say that I couldn't win. If I felt like -- I don't come to the tournament, thinking, hey, I'm the favorite. Obviously I'm not. I realize that now.

When you take a hard look at my career, I believe if I sat at home and just practiced and hung out, I'm kind of been well known to be kind of a fanatic about having my stuff right, kind of a clean freak. So when I play and I practice, I want to play well, not just for the dollars or the tournament win, but for your own pride. I mean, for my pride, thinking that, hey, I can still do this. Why not go out there and play against the best players and see how we do.

Q. Did you have any damage from the last hurricane?

MARK O'MEARA: We did. The house wasn't really damage, but there was a lot of trees that went down. Luckily no tree hit our house, so it was good.

Doesn't look so good, but I guess it's slowing down a little bit. I can only tell that you our development there at Isleworth, they lost about 250 to 300 trees. They are good-sized trees. The course is still closed till September 15. It has not opened. Just everything, a lot of damage, and just give them some time to do some touch up work on the course. I guess they lost 40 percent of their trees. Over Lake Nona it was 105-mile-an-hour winds. I wasn't home, but the power was out for about 36 hours. Our house got hit by electricity; hurricane is coming.

You know my wife and kids are at home and the house is very safe, and there's some areas that they can go to down in my golf room. There's concrete walls, slabs like this all over. It's like a bomb shelter down in the basement, so they will be okay if they want to go down there.

Q. Inaudible?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, that's true, that's true, but, you know it's been a long time since I've seen one of those trophies. The Dubai trophy, I see it -- my wife is like, go out there, you can still do it. She's like my motivator. I said, honey, I'm almost 48, my body hurts, just trying to bust it, I'm hitting out there like 260, they are hitting 40 yards by me, they are young, they are aggressive, they are daring, and that's good.

The game is -- I think the game is very healthy and certainly, the way a lot of the players have played, Vijay, Ernie and Phil have had a tremendous year. I know Tiger has not played the way he can play this year, but I'd like to be in his slump. I don't know any other player on the PGA TOUR that could be in such a slump as Tiger Woods and play the way he has.

I think he's going to turn it around. Do I think his best golf could be ahead of him? Sure, why not? I played with him at Whistling Straits in a practice round on a Wednesday it was by far the best I've ever seen him hit the golf ball, and I've played with him a lot. I've played with him before he won at Pebble for three days, when he beat the field by 15 or whatever.

I think what's happened is that he's waking up to what the rest of us see in golf. For a long time he didn't have any clue that, hey, this is a hard game. I think he's realized, hey, this is not that easy of a game.

Confidence is a huge thing. Your confidence is off a little bit, even if you're swinging pretty well, you know, you can get in trouble, drive it a little bit strange. But he's -- I hate to see him when he turns this thing around and start getting his confidence back.

Q. Inaudible?

MARK O'MEARA: When they look up in the newspaper and they don't see Tiger Woods winning a tournament, they realize Tiger is not in his form.

But I think the media is really treating Tiger unfairly in the aspect that he is in a different realm than every other player, and he should be, because he is an exception.

But on the other hand, like I said in Dallas, I said, listen, not enough has been written about the fact that even though his driving accuracy no good, he is not hitting the ball very well, he's yet to miss a cut. He still finishes in the top 5. He's still almost Wachovia, lost by a shot; he almost won Dallas. I would write an article, isn't it amazing that a guy can be so far off, but yet still have the heart and determination to grind through and almost win these tournaments. Because I don't believe that if Vijay or Phil or Ernie or any of the other players had the same thing going on; they miss the cut. They are down the road. This kid comes, he brings it all. Plus nobody in the history of the game has ever played under this scrutiny. The pressure that that guy, that Tiger Woods plays under, not Nicklaus, not Palmer, none of them.

So from that aspect, I would say to myself, okay, yeah, maybe, he's not playing the way he should play but it is pretty impressive that he can still keep delivering like he is.

Q. Inaudible?

MARK O'MEARA: Not motivation, but a little more comfort for sure. The golf course is playing faster than it did last year, but it's really in a lot better condition. It's a lot more mature, the fairways are better, the greens are better. Some of the greens that have been redesigned are much better. They are a little bit more receptive and I am hitting longer irons into them than most of the guys.

Short game has to be good. When you miss a green try not to short-side yourself and you have to hole some par putts. The rough is deep, and if you do drive it in the rough, it's going to be hard to stop the ball on the green.

End of FastScripts.

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