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March 17, 2004

Mark O'Meara


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Mark, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on your win over at the Dubai Desert Classic. Maybe you could start with some opening comments about getting in the winner's circle once again.

MARK O'MEARA: It was certainly a great victory. I felt very fortunate. I've been over to Dubai, this was my sixth year in a row that I've played in the Dubai Desert Classic. The people over there have been tremendously nice to me and very warm. I went last year two or three weeks before the golf course started up again. I feel very safe there. The golf course is nice.

I've had limited success playing there, but this year, I've had renewed interest in the game from the standpoint, yeah, I am getting older, but the last few years have been kind of down years. A change in MY putter grip a little bit at the Father/Son here in Orlando, all of a sudden I started rolling the ball better. Felt like all of a sudden I was alive again. I felt like could make I a putt.

And to compete at such a high level anywhere in the world, not just on the U.S. PGA TOUR, but also on the European Tour or in Asia or anywhere, you have to putt well. Granted, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els and all of the fine young players hit the ball very nice, but half of the game is on the greens; and if you're not putting well, you're just putting so so, you can't compete at a high level.

So for me that, was kind of holding me back and it had an effect on the rest of my game. All of a sudden my putting got better and I'm starting to hit the ball a little bit better. I'm not hitting it great by any means or form, but I'm hitting the ball a lot better. My stats show that. I'm driving the ball a lot straighter; driving straighter, you can hit more greens; and you hit more greens and you're putting better, you have a better chance of winning. That's what happened at Dubai. It was fun. It had been a while certainly winning.

I played with Paul McGinley all four days and he was leading after two rounds we were tied after three rounds? I think we were but maybe he was one ahead of me. I was near the lead; I knew that. That's all I wanted to be. Sure enough, on Sunday, I got off to a quick start and was able to hold on and win the tournament.

I felt fairly calm when I was playing. I was nervous a little bit, but I wasn't it was a good kind of nervous. It was like what I said to some people, it was like riding a bike. When you ride a bike, when you first learn, it takes a while of getting the feeling of getting your balance and going down the dirt or grass so you don't wipe out, and winning golf tournaments is the same way. I've won tournaments around the world, I've won obviously 16 on the PGA TOUR, including the Masters and the British Open. Winning definitely breeds winning. But it had been a long time and all of a sudden I got in a position to win and I felt like, hey, I've done this before and there's no reason why I can't just remain composed and control my emotions that I can't do it again.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Being an Orlando resident, you've supported this tournament over the years and had six Top 10s here. Talk about playing in Mr. Palmer's tournament.

MARK O'MEARA: Well, this is a very special tournament. I think certainly living here in Orlando the last 12 years, when I came on the PGA TOUR if fall of 1980 and '81 was my rookie year, I grew up in a different era. I grew up certainly watching Jack Nicklaus, unbelievable record. I knew Mr. Palmer's record but I was too young a little bit.

But as I came and played the PGA TOUR in my early years, I got to play more rounds with Mr. Palmer. I have gotten to know Arnold very well over the last 20 some odd years and have grown to realize exactly what he's all about as a player and as a person and what he has done to mold the game today the way it is.

I mean, he is I tell every young player, if you want to emulate someone, you should emulate Arnold Palmer. The way he is with the fans, the way he is with the media, the way he is with people, the guy is classy, he is incredible. Certainly it's a dream come true to come here and play well the last few years. I haven't played that well, but you look at Tiger Woods, winning four Bay Hill Classics in a row, trying to go for his fifth, it would mean everything to win a tournament that's got Arnold Palmer's name on it.

Q. What other remedies have you tried for your putting and what is it about the Saw?

MARK O'MEARA: I'm going to come out with a video pretty soon. There will be an informercial. Everybody will have to cash in on the Saw.

What was I trying a little bit of, I went belly putter last year a little bit; still had a little of yip in there. Unless you came and talked to me, I probably wouldn't bring it up. I knew inside how I felt. So I tried at Pennsylvania last year I hit the ball really well. I drove it in almost every fairway. I was hitting the green. I was watching my putter blade going back and through, trying to take the yip out. I was closing my eyes. If you'd told me to go around in the corner and stand on your head for five minutes and then come over and putt, I would have tried it.

But I was very desperate. The Skins Game, I was in most of holes in the Skins game last fall with Annika and Fred and Phil Mickelson. But a 5 footer I can see I need to play left edge, and I read it whatever way I wanted to, but I knew in my heart when I was standing over it that, you know, to make it would have been lucky. I would just had to time the hit just right. And the more you try to take the hit out, the more it stays in there and gets worse. You say, well, I'll try to use my shoulders take my hands out or whatever.

And it wasn't until when Hank came in and we were on the putting green over at the Father/Son down at Champion's Gate, he said, I want you to put your right wrist right on the putter like that.

"I can't do that."

"No, no. Do it."

I said, "I can't, that looks so bad." I'm such a conventional guy, I just cannot do that.

He says, "Listen, can I ask you a question?" I said sure. "How are you putting right now?" I said terrible. He said, "Well why don't you just try this, maybe it will help."

So, all right, I tried it, and even though it looked goofy and I was a little conscious about it, all of a sudden, no yip in my stroke. Played in the Pro Am with Tommy Roy of NBC, I was rolling them 20 feet. I'm like, you've got to be kidding me, where is this coming from?

Everybody says when you have a little bit of the hit in your stroke, it's mental. I don't understand if it's so mental, why all of a sudden I just put my grip like that, all of a sudden it's like gone. I tried to say to Hank, "It is mental, right?"

He says, "No, it's not mental. It's physical. You have to get your stroke right or do something and then the mental aspect will get better."

I said, "Well, doesn't your mind control your physical things?" My mind tells me to putt my hand like that, I understand all that, but it's something that people have talked about. It's like people who play the piano and overdo it too much, all of a sudden they freeze up, they can't you know, it's writing, it's all of these things. It happens in golf. It happens imagine every one of you out here in the audience, none of have you any yip at all in your stroke, right? All pure strokes as Ben Crenshaw.

People don't want to admit it. It's like, oh, my God, if I say I have the yips, I have it for rest of my life.

Q. The Mayo Clinic has about to put out a study on it.

MARK O'MEARA: I've heard that. And Hank kind of learned a lot from these people in Germany.

Q. It's overuse of the muscles.

MARK O'MEARA: Exactly and that's the problem. The last eight months, last summer, last fall, I was on the putting green for hours, three, four, five six hours putting, rolling them in, rolling them in, rolling them in on the board, you name it. It was boom, boom, boom, I get on the course it, and it would be like there was times I didn't even want my putter. I'd walk on the green and all of a sudden Pennsylvania, I wasn't hyperventilating, but I definitely was not feeling real good coming to the green because I didn't want to I didn't want to have to putt. It was like the fear factor. It wasn't good. It wasn't a pretty situation.

Now, look, I'm not overconfident by any means. I know I might sound it when I'm up here talking, but I have way too much respect for the game, way too much understanding how humbling this game can be to be overconfident. You've got to be a guy who knows it. I have my peaks and valleys and it's going to happen in life.

Q. Just curious about your frustration level, how bad did it get? Did you think that you might not be able to compete again?

MARK O'MEARA: Absolutely. You know, when you have those type of feelings, it's very difficult to think that you could stand there on the 16th or 18th green and make a putt to win a golf tournament because if you can't do it, you're out there just playing Thursday and Friday. So come Saturday and Sunday, the pressure mounts even more, it's going to be quite difficult.

And so to have early success like at the Bob Hope this year where I putted so well and I hit all of my putts good, and just to see the signs going in the right direction kind of makes it a little easier on rest of the game because putting is about half of the game.

And then the win in Dubai, certainly, put a little stamp on it saying, hey, you know, you're not back, but you're going the right direction. As soon as I started rolling the ball at the Bob Hope, I felt like if I could stay the course and keep working in that direction, that I would have a good chance of winning again on the PGA TOUR this year.

Q. It seems like it's seasons ago that golf was preparing for the invasion of the 20 something young guns, and then last year we have the large number of 40 year olds that won, and this year nobody under 30 except Tiger has won. Are you a little surprised that the young players are not succeeding?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, there's certainly a lot of pressure and high expectations placed on a lot of the young players that are coming out that have pretty good resumes out of college or amateur golf today, where, you know certainly when I came out, it wasn't. It was, but not to the same extent that it is today. And maybe they are just finding their way.

You know, it's so competitive now. There's so many good players regardless of the age group. When you have an event like last week, you see this young kid he's not young, Todd Hamilton, experienced player. That course last week I thought was great. It was a course that needed a player with some maturity and it was pretty severe. You could hit pretty good shots and not get great results and I think that takes some maturity to be able to understand that that's part of the game and not let that affect you.

I foresee the game, the young players, I just played a practice round with Hunter Mayhan, this kid is a good player. This kid was a good college player, College Player of the Year. Granted he has not maybe blossomed the way we think he should have done by now because everybody thinks they should have instant success. But I think it's better to slowly build your way up, a couple of top 10 finishes, play in the last group Saturday or Sunday, get the feeling of what it's all about and all of the sudden you start winning.

I think you'll see more and more young players win because they are powerful players and they have got the ability to win, and I think they will win, but I don't think it's out of the question that guys in their 40s can still win, as you pointed out last year on the PGA TOUR. It's neat to be able to see a wide range of age players still be able to compete. Granted those guys all hit it way by me, but once again, if you putt good, you can neutralize a guy because he's got to putt well, too, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els all of them.

Q. A few years ago, you had a little bit of a drought and you went down and won in Argentina, and I recall you said that kind of

MARK O'MEARA: It's funny you brought that up because that is true. My father, before I went to Dubai left me a message on my cell phone. He said, "Remember Argentina." I didn't know what he was talking about because it was so long ago. I think it was in '94, the wintertime of '94 when I won in Argentina. I won the Argentine Open. I came out and won a couple of tournaments in '95 and started me back in the right direction.

Q. Point of my question is, does winning, wherever it is, is it that big of a deal, do you feel now that you're better able to compete because you've just won again?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, yeah, I think any time you win, certainly, especially like in Dubai because Tiger Woods was there, Ernie Els was there, Darren Clarke was there, Lee Westwood was there, Padraig Harrington was there, there was a lot of good players there, and I was fortunate to come out on top.

That just maybe gives you a little piece of mind saying that, I may not do it every week, I'm not to be in contention every week but when I am in contention, I feel like I can get the job done. I'm not saying I can do that every time but my track record has shown that over 23, 24 years of playing professional golf. Maybe that's a good stepping stone, you might say, to the rest of this year. I hope it will be. And if it's not, you know, once again, my fly casting technique is very good and my timing has gotten better. You've got to have your priorities.

Golf is important and it's what I do for a living but yet I have my family and fly fishing are very important, too. I'm in that river, it definitely makes it a lot easier to know I've won a tournament this year, and I haven't won in six years, so it was good.

Q. You used tear up Pebble a good bit and Tiger's got the four in a row here, we were talking yesterday about the horses for courses theory, do you subscribe to that, is that as much a mental comfort level as it is something visual?

MARK O'MEARA: Oh, it is.

Q. What goes into that in terms of what you see?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, it's definitely a confidence and a mental thing. I can't put myself in Tiger Woods' mind, but certainly I'm around Tiger a lot and I think I have somewhat of an understanding of how he thinks and how he deals with this.

When he comes and knows that he's won, this kid loves challenges. You've seen it, we've all seen it. He loves challenges. Don't think for one instant he doesn't know what's going on this week. The kid has won four times, going for a fifth, it's never happened before. He thrives on that. He loves that. He may not win this week, but I know deep down inside he is probably thinking if he gets to swinging well come Sunday, he can get the job done. He's done it time in and time out, whether it was getting a lucky bounce here or there or 18 or pulling offer the miracle shot. This kid is unreal.

So he would definitely I would think he would feel as he's coming down the stretch on Sunday, he doesn't have any disrespect to his fellow players, but I feel like he might have in his mind a little bit of an advantage because he has won 40 PGA TOUR tournaments. In other words, I don't know who else is playing the game that's won 40 PGA TOUR tournaments at 28 years of age and four Bay Hill Invitationals.

So, he's probably telling himself: I've done this before and maybe the guys I'm playing with haven't done it. They haven't won the Bay Hill tournament yet. And only time will tell. It's good drama and it's good for golf. It's good things to talk about. But certainly his ability to win on this course, being a powerful player helps you a little bit on this golf course, to dominate the par 5s, it's been his trademark. He's always done well, as most of you have written about on par 72 golf courses, four par 5s, that's kind of what Tiger Woods is all about.

I'm saying we should play a par 3 course. Why not? Why should we always have to play these courses that are 7,600 yards long. Let's all go play the par 3 holes at Augusta and see who wins, how about that? (Laughter).

Q. I assume the Hank you're talking about is Hank Kuehne?


Q. How does the Saw differ from the Claw?

MARK O'MEARA: Last night I was on the Golf Channel, and they ask you how did you come up with this name. DiMarco holds it with his right arm. The putter is all the way back into his palm area and looks a little bit like a Claw the way he holds with his right hand.

Calcavecchia and Herron and Stadler, they put their left two fingers down the right side of shaft so it looks like a pencil or paintbrush, when you're painting, you have your fingers like that.

And I, I don't know why, I just put my fingers diagonal like three fingers across the top of the shaft and my pinky at the back end it just to remind me. I'll hold onto it fairly tightly but my wrist is real straight.

I was in the putting green out in front of my house at Isleworth with my son, this was about a month and a half or two months ago before the TOUR even started. In the off season I was getting ready and he was like," what are you doing? What kind of grip do you got? If that's the pencil, that's the Claw, what do you call that thing?" My son asked me, Sean.

I said, "I don't know, why don't we think of a name." He said okay, well what about kind of like if you have a hand saw, it's kind of like a sawing motion, you kind of, it would be like sawing wood. "Maybe we should just call it the Saw, what do you think?"

He said, "Yeah, let's call it the Saw." All right. I'm going to call it the Saw, so somebody asks me what my grip is, I call it the Saw. So I saw Peter Mallick trying to go get a couple deals with Loews and get a deal with Black & Decker, Steel, I'm going to get one of those big chain saw things here. (Laughing).

Q. There's a lot of satisfaction with winning, there's a lot more satisfaction when Tiger is in the field and you win, what will the satisfaction level be like if someone other than Tiger wins this week knowing that you ended a streak, his shot at the record?

MARK O'MEARA: I think every player that's here in the Bay Hill tournament this week would love to be able to put their name on that trophy. You look at the players that have won. I don't think the guy come Sunday, if it's not Tiger Woods is going to say, hey, I beat Tiger Woods. He's going to think, hey, I won the tournament. They are not they are always concerned at beating the best players in the world, but you just can't worry about what Tiger is doing. Players don't really worry as much as maybe they once did. They respect and they understand the kind of player that Tiger Woods; but they are trying to control their own destiny and their own game and trying to win this tournament. It would be a great accomplishment for any player to win this week.

Q. You talked earlier about your respect for Arnold Palmer. He was saying one of the thing he enjoyed most about going back to the Masters every year was going to the dinner seeing all of the champions, being able to share stories with them and their day in the spotlight. Is it like that for you with him especially when you go there?

MARK O'MEARA: Listen, it's a dream come true. When I get to go to the Masters dinner as a former Masters champion and get to see Palmer, Nicklaus all of the greats, Byron Nelson, in the year that I won in '98 and '99, all the past champions were there at the dinner that year, everybody who was alive was there at the dinner. It was unbelievable. It's just, I would never have dreamed that could have happened to me.

So I feel very fortunate and honored to have that opportunity. But also, listen, I've gotten to know Arnold very well over the last 20 years as I spoke about earlier, and to be able to represent Arnold as the captain when I played in the Presidents Cup team, Arnold has been the captain of the UBS team the last two years or three years that I've played on the team there. A couple years ago, I told him I wanted to play with him. He said, "Well, I've already got the pairings I've got myself playing with another senior player."

I said, "Arnold, I want to play with you."

He said no, I'm not playing and this and that.

I said, "Listen, I'm not playing any good either. I'm not playing any good either. The two of us can play not any good together."

I love playing with the man. I know I'm playing with him this week here the first two rounds. It's just so cool to be able to see his passion that he has for the game because I love the game, but I don't know if I love the game the way Arnold Palmer loves the game. This man plays golf every single day. It's unbelievable what he's done. Certainly the game has been very good to him and I don't think he's really lost sight of that and that's what makes him so classy.

Q. Did you have any memories of him at the Masters before you won or got to know him on that level?

MARK O'MEARA: I just remember the one year playing a couple of times where they had all three of them paired together, Jack, Gary, Arnold and they were playing in the group behind me. So every time I was on the green, you know they were just applauding and roaring all the day down the fairway. So we couldn't really putt. Go on the tee and they would roar going up to the green and we couldn't hit our tee shots. But it was respect, let's face it, Arnold Palmer Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, those guys are the ones that really molded the Masters to make it what it is today.

The young players, whether it's Tiger Woods or young players when they come on the Tour after Tiger Woods, all of the stuff that's happened with the PGA TOUR has been all setup by Arnold Palmer. They brought TV, network TV to golf, they did exhibitions and just the growth of the game has been unreal. And to have Tiger Woods come along, whatever, 40 years later to have the No. 1 athlete and the most recognized athlete playing golf is just been another springboard for us. So it's been good, really good.

I know Tiger takes that into account when he knows that he's won Arnold's tournament four times in a row. I think he does. He really putts that high on his list.

Q. You were very complimentary of Arnold for obvious reasons. Have you heard about Ken Venturi's book and do you have any reaction to that?

MARK O'MEARA: Listen, I know Ken Venturi. Ken Venturi a friend of mine. Stuff that happened 30 years ago, listen, who knows. Jarmo Sandelin might come out with his book about my incident at Lancome in '97 when I mismarked my ball by a quarter of an inch closer to the hole when I' playing alongside Greg Norman. It became an incident because I had won the Masters in '98. Is Mark O'Meara a cheat? Please. I don't think Arnold Palmer is a cheater. No disrespect to anyone. He might have I wasn't there and I've read a little bit about the incident, but (waves hand ) forget it. You guys have nothing better to write about, forget it.

Q. Having won just now at Dubai and Top 10 last year at Augusta, even with the troubles

MARK O'MEARA: I'm on a roll, aren't I?

Q. Do you feel it's out of the do you feel it's out of the question you could break Jack's record?

MARK O'MEARA: When I went to Augusta in '98, I wasn't thinking about winning the Masters trust me. I wasn't hitting very good. I wasn't in a very good mood, my confidence was low and I won.

So, do I think it's out of the question? Oh, I mean, the odds are stacked against me. There's no denying it. But if the course plays firm and fast, I have a better chance. If it's playing long and soft, I think if I drive the ball well and I start to shape the ball with a draw, I think I can compete at Augusta, I really do.

Do I think I could win? I think Sunday afternoon if I was there, I would definitely use my experience from '98 and other times to try to hopefully pull me through. So I wouldn't say it out of the question.

But if you only have like $5 to bet, I'm not so sure you want to bet on me. Unless you get really good odds. If you get the big odds and maybe take a little flyer, you never know. Probably a better chance than trying to win the lottery. You might have a better chance of me winning the Masters than you winning the lottery. So take your five bucks and bent on me.

Q. You were at Honda last week and a lot of players were complaining about the golf course.

MARK O'MEARA: Those guys all missed the cut probably.

Q. You heard a lot of guys complain about the greens on the West Coast and they are playing for $5 million purses.

MARK O'MEARA: Exactly. I don't get it.

Q. Is it time that enough is enough?

MARK O'MEARA: I don't get it. I tried to explain to the young players, it wasn't that long ago I was playing the Tour, we were paying for our range balls there, was no good thing about when they had paying the players pay for the range balls, the range wasn't stacked up all day long because guys can only afford they wouldn't go stand out there all day long because they couldn't really afford to spend all of their money on range balls. No courtesy cars. I think once in a while players need to take a little gut check on what's going on. They should be pretty thankful for what we've got.

Hey. If you play well, that solves everything. If you're not playing well, then you've got to figure out a way to turn your game around and play a little bit better.

I'm not a big fan of big sloping greens, I'm in the architect design business myself. The three or four courses that I've done, I like subtle greens.

I heard before I got to Mirasol, oh, my gosh, the greens are just out of control. I played in the Pro Am on Wednesday. I got done, I was like, hey, I like the course I think it's pretty cool. I told Tom Fazio when I saw him on Saturday when I got done playing, I told him, "I've got to be honest with you, I think some players have been critical, but overall it's pretty good."

Day in, day out it seems like we are playing the same courses day in and day out and all of a sudden to play a course like Mirasol with the wind a little bit makes you think, you can play a lot more different shot, a lots more creativity. I think gets for golf, good for the players. Creates a lot more character. For players to really complain, if you've got nothing good to say, then don't say it at all. Just zip it up.

Granted, I wasn't playing. I'm not complaining about anything. Pretty nice that you guys just invite me to come be here.

Q. There's been so much speculation about Tiger maintaining his desire when he gets married; in the time you've known him, what are your observations?

MARK O'MEARA: My response would be: Do you think Jack Nicklaus was able to maintain his focus and his desire when he met Barbara and they decided to start a family and have children?

Yeah, I think he will, but I think there's been hardly very few athletes that have played this game, I can't think of one, that's gotten nearly the amount of scrutiny that Tiger Woods lives under with all of you and everybody else out here in the world, wanting to figure out what's wrong with Tiger, what's right with Tiger, why is Tiger this, why is Tiger that, when is he getting married, why is he getting married.

If he gets married and he has children, is that going to change listen, you know, there's more to life than playing golf. And for Tiger Woods, even though he wants to be the absolute greatest possible, I don't know what his future plans are, but my opinion, he's the greatest player, he doesn't have the greatest record, but he is probably the greatest raw player that's ever played the game. To live under all this hype and still perform at the level he's performed at is just unprecedented.

Certainly when Jack and Arnold dominated it wasn't near the same hype and expectations that have been placed on Tiger. I think he's going to remain focused. I think his fiancee, Elin, is a nice gal. I know them both very, very well obviously and they have a good relationship. I think Tiger would like to be a father. I think he'd like to have children. And if he has children, I don't think all of you need to ask him, do you think your daughter or son is going to be a great golfer. Is it in the genes? Who knows? Who cares? Maybe his daughter or son may not even play golf. He's just going to try to be a good parent and raise his children the right way. But I think he will maintain his focus. I think it will help him.

Q. Is there any an anecdote you can point to in the time you've known him that's made you turn to your wife and say, "This kid is growing up," this is a mature thing or decision?

MARK O'MEARA: I think a lot of the decisions you've seen Tiger make over the last three or four years are decisions of a mature individual, a guy who knows where he's going, knows what he wants in life. Because we all know, hey, look, he's won 40 tournament, eight majors or whatever, I don't know how many majors he's won, eight, nine, eight, whatever, I know he has not won last six oh, my gosh, the world is coming to an end. (Laughter.)

Look, he knows where he wants to go and he's going the right direction and he's got a plan. He's going to stick to it I think. I don't talk to him every single day. I'm probably not around him as much as I used to be. I understand, you know, the teaching situation and everybody thinks when they come and see me, oh, are you teaching Tiger Woods. If he's not playing good, okay, everybody thinks I'm teaching him. (Laughter.) Well, there's not real nice because he's never given me a check for teaching him. He's never come out and said that I teach him. I watch him hit balls. Yes, I would tell him if he asks me what I think. Yeah, I'll tell him and sometimes he listens and sometimes he doesn't.

But he's a smart young man. The kid went to Stanford. He's a lot brighter than I think you all realize how bright he is, but he's a smart kid. He'll fend for himself and I think he's grown up a lot and I'm proud of him for that. I think he's a very humble champion. He sets a good example for the other players and he has been good for the PGA TOUR and golf in general.

Q. You said you have a renewed in interest golf, is that because of the putting or was that already before the Saw?

MARK O'MEARA: My wife told my I'd better get renewed interest in golf.

Putting better has helped me, it really has. It has freedom up a lot of things. It takes a lot of pressure off rest of the game. If you're standing in the fairway thinking, "I'm not putting very good and I have a hard time making it from four or five feet when you're standing out in the fairway," that's not good because if you miss the green, you're figuring, probably going to make bogey. Chip up there, I'd better chip it like this, otherwise it's going to be a long day. That puts so much tension in every aspect of the game if you're rolling the ball decent and you have a good feeling on the greens, it just makes a lot of pressure off the rest of your game.

Q. In the final round of Masters, didn't you have 20 putts?

MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, but I didn't feel good over it at all. I told people the way I feel like I've hit my putts in the last two months is as good as I can recall any time in my career. Certainly I putted good when I was an amateur, when I won the U.S. Amateur and I putted certainly well last year at Augusta because I had the fewest putts or 19 that one round. But I didn't I didn't feel comfortable to be honest with you.

Even in '98, I've got to tell you, there was a little hit in the stroke early on Thursday in some of the rounds. So to battle through like I did in '98 to be able to win and make that putt on the 18th hole that was huge. I think the Saw, it takes a lot of the hit out. So hopefully I can continue going the right way and if not, then I may have to come up with some other new measure.

Q. Out here is it more taxing on a guy when he is struggles with his long game or putting, which can you turn around quicker?

MARK O'MEARA: I think putting. You can have a huge struggle with your long game a little bit, not winning, but if you can't putt well or at least to a high degree, you're going to have a very difficult time winning any golf tournament. You've got to putt well. Not enough of us talk about Ernie the way he rolls, the way he putts, his short game.

Tiger Woods, the guy, when he 8 footer to keep the round going, the kid makes it every time. We saw it at The Match Play championship against Davis. Davis probably played better than Tiger but Tiger won. Make the putts. Got to make the putts.

Q. Is golf approaching other sports in terms of being able to help people peak towards playing majors four times a year or is it too much that's mysterious out there?

MARK O'MEARA: Certainly guys playing Tiger or playing that are at this time of their career focus on major championships, they gear themselves up whether it's competitively wise, physically wise, practice session wise, thinking about it mentally a week or two weeks prior to a major championship.

But really I think the biggest changes have been from more so what I've seen the last five years is the everybody talks about the equipment. Yes, the equipment has had an impact but more so, I would say the physical conditioning of the players. The physical attributes of the players, the players are bigger, stronger, they are watching their diets. I know I'm not, but I'm just saying that they are. (Laughter.) I think that's been the biggest key.

Q. So can you condition yourself to give yourself the best chance if you had to peak at Augusta?

MARK O'MEARA: I think that's what a lot of the top players think about, I really do.

Q. Could I get your opinion on the emphasis and importance being placed on majors, is it too much, just right not enough? Can you still be a great player if you never got around to winning one?

MARK O'MEARA: I think you can be a good player. Listen, it's nice when people want to say that I'm a great player. I consider myself I look at my career, I would tell you I've done better than I would have ever dreamed of, but the word "great" gets thrown around pretty loosely. To win one or two major championships, that's very, very nice. That's a wonderful career. But so is that great and then the guy who wins 15 isn't great? You can't really compare the two. But I don't think there's too much emphasis placed on a major championship. I think there's a lot of hype, there always was, kind of gels the players up, it's good for golf, Augusta is coming up, springtime gets everybody in the mood for a golf tournament. That's good for the game. That's good for the game.

You know, that certainly is icing on the cake for a player to have won a major championship. But let's say the guy wins 20 tournaments on the PGA TOUR but doesn't win a major, but is he not wouldn't you classify him as having a wonderful career? That's pretty impressive. I know you would like to win a major championship but 20 tournaments is pretty damn good.

Q. The two names are obviously Monty and then Phil, would there be an emptiness in their career?

MARK O'MEARA: I think there will be because they have had phenomenal careers. Monty has had a phenomenal career in Europe and I feel kind of badly for Colin because the guy, he's a great player, very good player, I shouldn't say great player, he's a good player and he's proven that. Yet he has not won in America and to me that's a shame. Golf is a global game. You want to try to win everywhere. Where Tiger wins everywhere. I try to win everywhere and I think that's very, very important.

I foresee Phil Mickelson, I think he's going to win a major championship and I think it's going to happen soon. He's just been there way too many times. Sooner or later the door is going to open. You can't just keep knocking on the door and it's always going to shut be shut sooner or later he is going to get in.

Q. You talked about the scrutiny that Tiger goes through, as much as you've been around him, if anything more surprises but his popularity or if you've seen it all at this point?

MARK O'MEARA: Pretty much seen it all with Tiger, I really have. I'll be coming out with my book some day. I'm just waiting. He's going to have to pay me off big time. I've got all the dirt. Trust me. (Laughter.) No, I wouldn't do that, he's good a friend. Even if he tells me to take a hike tomorrow or not, I don't care. It's been a joy for me to be able to be around him, maybe as a big brother, big brother little brother relationship, to help nurture him along.

But the thing is, every so often in life and we've talked this and seen this before, somebody comes along in a sport and transcends it, takes it to the next level, brings it out to the forefront and as a golfer, when I played high school golf was like, you didn't play golf when you were in high school, are you kidding me? That was the sissy sport. You wouldn't do it. Now that's not the case. Everybody wants to play golf. Young girls, young boys, girls teams, Michelle Wie, kids that are just unreal. A lot of that has been because of Tiger Woods. There's no denying it. He handled it, like I said earlier, unbelievably well. He doesn't like he's a fair guy when it comes to criticism. If you want to take a shot at him and he's deserving of a shot, I think he's fine with it. But when you start taking shots at him for no reason no player like that is. That's not right. If you can't write anything, you figure you've got to go negative with it, I understand people like to read negative press but I don't think any human being in their right mind but to be the No. 1 player, you've got to be a little thick skinned and Tiger is thick skinned. He can handle it, trust me.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Mark O'Meara, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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