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March 5, 2004

Mark O'Meara


GORDON SIMPSON: Mark, well played today, 64, low round of the tournament, lowest round today and you're back in there for the weekend.

MARK O'MEARA: Well, certainly, over the last few years, it's been a little bit of a struggle and have not played the way I would have liked to. I've started to see some signs, and last year I started hitting the ball better and I just putted so poorly and I had no confidence on the greens. Everybody throughout my career said, "Mark, you're such a good putter." But yet, I was practicing and spending a lot of time on the putting green but had a little bit of hip to my giddy yap on the ol' putting stroke.

It's hard to compete and play against young players when they are as powerful as they are. I'm 46, 47 now, and rolling the ball well. At the Skins Game last fall, I hit the ball pretty well. Had some putts that I just could see where I needed to play it, but I just couldn't get it started there because I didn't know if I was going to kind of pull it, push it, my speed was off. It's just hard to compete at this high level if you're feeling that way on your putting.

So the next way was the Father Son tournament and Hank Kuehne (inaudible) came in, told me, says, you know, I'll be honest with you, I think you need to change your grip. I'm like, wait a minute, I've putted every way. "Just put your right hand just like this, I'll show you what I want to you do. Put your right hand on top of the putter just like this."

And I said, "Well, that looks pretty bizarre.: I know Calcavecchia and I know Chris DiMarco have got the Claw. Stadler, Tim Herron kind of have the Paintbrush. I'm thinking, I don't know if I can go with it. But all of a sudden, I had no yip in my stroke at all. I went with it that week at the Father Son and I had ever never had one putt where I had any kind of yip in there.

So I thought, you know what, I'm going to go with this. On the West Coast, even though I probably made three out of five cuts, I missed the last couple cuts because my back has been bothering me, but my putting was better, my driving accuracy was better. If you feel like you can make the putts, it just frees up the rest of your game.

And so for me today, when I got out there, unfortunately my tee shot on 10, kind of jammed my back a little bit. So there we go, my back was bothering me. So now I'm kind of hitting weak shots over to the right and I am thinking, gosh, I come all the way over here, I jam my back, how am I going to get this done.

So I kind of piddle along, piddle along, piddle along, and next thing you know, I think the turnaround was really on 16. I was just short of the green and pitched it in for birdie, and that kind of got my round going a little bit. Hit a couple of great recovery shots.

First hole I was over the right in the rough and hit some 2 iron from about 210 yard and hit this beautiful cut, and fortunately I had a good lie and got up there eight to ten feet and made that for birdie. I'm very pleased. Like the putt I made on last hole, really solid putt and it went right in the middle.

GORDON SIMPSON: Must be reassuring to see your name on the leaderboard.

MARK O'MEARA: It is. And I enjoy playing with Paul. I've known Paul for a long time. Paul drove the ball extremely well. He was 1 over par. We came out this morning and started on the 12th hole. He hit a lot of great shots and he birdied four of his last five holes, I believe, this morning. He birdied five out of last six and got to 4 under par and then today he started off with great shots, 10, 11, 12, 13, he was 4 under through the first holes on the back side today. He was on a roll, and that maybe kind of springboarded me to make some birdies. And he kind of quieted down a little bit and I started make something birdies and he started making some birdies and I finished with a birdie on last hole. So.

It was a long day but it was an enjoyable day. It's always fun to play well.

Q. Could you grab a pencil or something and show us your putting grip?

MARK O'MEARA: I tell you what I put my left hand on normally and I put my three fingers on the top of my putter shaft and I'm using my pinky kind of as a guide. I put my finger right on the back end of this putter grip and I'm kind of holding it, I don't feel it all the way back. I think Marco might have the putter all the way back in his palm. Mine is kind of sitting basically kind of like that. So there's a little bit of space between my putter and the palm. And I'm just putting my three fingers on top.

What it's done is basically kind of locked my wrist in, so when your wrist is like that if you were sawing wood, you'd saw wood just like this, back and forth motion, kind of locked in. So your wrist is like this, it's got a lot of hinge in it, a lot of things it can do. You're talking about a guy who stood there on the 18th green at Augusta National four or five years ago and made the putt, but to be honest, early in the week at Augusta that year in '98, still had a little bit of yip in my stroke.

I know I made the putt on 18, but I would say I feel more confident right now with what I'm doing than and it really came to fruition at the Bob Hope, my first tournament of the year because every putt I hit, I hit solid. And the way the ball would come off the putter is so much different. I've gone back sometime I'll tap in some short putts with my old grip or a normal grip on a putter. But even on the putting green if I just there's no pressure, I just still feel when I hit my putts this way, as opposed to this way, I do so much better.

It was funny because two weeks or three weeks ago, I was at San Diego and I went in to see Scotty Cameron. Tiger and I went to see Scotty, and I didn't even want to get on the machine and take a look at my stroke. Because I was confident, starting to hit my putts solid, I didn't want to see that it might be not correct. And he was like, no, get on here let's see what it looks like.

So I got on his machine and I made about 3 putts with my so called "Saw Grip" on my putter. And we looked back and he's said it's the best he's seen me stroke the ball in five or six years. So I feel very fortunate, and hopefully I can keep it up.

Q. Did you try different lengths of putter?

MARK O'MEARA: I did. I tried the belly putter at Quad Cities. I tried it a couple of weeks. It was okay but even with the belly putter I felt I could get a little bit of just a little you guys wouldn't have noticed it, but everybody is always so afraid or so like, oh, my gosh, he's got the yips. You know, listen, there's not one player at one time that hasn't had a little bit of yip in his stroke. I don't have a problem talking about it because I feel like through my career, I've been one of the better putters you might think. I wouldn't classify myself as the absolute greatest ball striker but I've made some key putts at key moments, and to do that you have to have a good stroke.

But there comes a time when you were fighting yourself and I was fighting myself. I spent six months last year towards the end of the year, hours on top of hours on top of hours on the putting green, putting with a board, putting with a track, putting great on the putting green like we all can do. And you get on the course and it's like, you know, you just something would come over you.

At Pennsylvania I hit the ball probably the best for two days I've hit it at any time in my career and I shot 4 under and I missed the cut. I putted as bad as a human being could putt with no confidence. I was watching I was trying everything. I was closing my eyes. I was watching my putter go back, just trying to take your mind and the hit out of the stroke. When you're doing all of those things, you're fighting a losing battle.

So this, for some reason, I don't know why, but it just kind of locked my stroke in there and all of a sudden, I might not make a putt tomorrow but (Laughter.) But at least I'm not going to have any yip in my stroke and that's something you've got to be able to just roll the ball.

Granted, I'm more confident now, certainly, because I'm starting to see some results. Confidence comes from results. You can't just all of the sudden, hey, I'm confident. It's like, you've got to write the stories. Sometimes you feel more positive that you've written a better story than other times. Being a golfer, it's the same thing. It's a tough game out there. Sometimes your mind can do a lot of tricky things.

People go to see sports psychologists you know what, I've seen sports psychologists. They can tell you, take a couple of deep breaths do, this. These guys people have yips in their putting chipping, full swing. Get up on the tee and it's like, one shot is way left, one shot is way right, that could be right at impact. I think you've just got to go back to simplifying it and just trying to get something that will work for you, and certainly that's worked for me.

And I've played a lot of the Pro Ams, my amateur partners ask me about it and next thing I look over they are doing it, they are trying it all of a sudden they are rolling it better. I told my father, he's got the yips so bad, it's unbelievable. He's got the belly putter. I just told him, "Dad, just go with it."

GORDON SIMPSON: Who invented it?

MARK O'MEARA: If I told you, Gordon, I'd have to shoot you. (Laughter.) I can't pass that on. But I might be coming out with maybe a video.

It's worth a try. It really makes you just accelerate towards the target. That's what you have to do in putting to be a good putter.

Q. When was the last time you played as well as you did and still had to inaudible for your playing partner and what did Paul comment on your putting stroke?

MARK O'MEARA: You know what, he didn't, because I saw him at Pebble Beach three weeks ago at the AT&T. So he already saw my grip and knew what I was working on and I explained to him why I was doing it. He was great.

Paul, for the last two days, hit the ball extremely well. He drove it good, hit a lot of great iron shots. It's no surprise to see him up there on the top of the leaderboard. I was just hoping to play well and obviously play through the weekend.

You come this far, you want to play well. Because I'm not Tiger Woods, I'm not all of these other fine young players. I'm a guy that's been struggling a little bit and just want to have a couple good tournaments. I really believe that some of the things I've been working on and my attitude have all taken a good turn in the right direction to where I feel like there's a possibility that there's no reason why I couldn't win a tournament this year. I feel that strongly about it, if I just keep going this direction may not be this week at Dubai, maybe not next week at Honda, but I think this year, as opposed to maybe the last two and a half, three years on the PGA TOUR, there's no reason why if I get going that I couldn't win again.

Q. What was your back condition that you had before you this long trip?

MARK O'MEARA: It was L.A. two weeks ago. It was a battle. I missed the cut by a couple shots in L.A. i was hurt. I couldn't turn through the ball. I've got a lot of I think probably got a little too much weight on to be honest with you. After 47 years of playing golf 33 years of playing, 24 years as a pro, I don't know, just my lower back for some reason, it's just been bothering me. I went to Vegas, I saw Keith who is my physical therapist and he worked on it for a little bit. I've been trying to do strengthening with my core muscles and stomach muscles. I think certainly if I lost 10 or 15 pounds, that would help.

This morning when I went out and played, it was fine. I had about a 25 minute layover between the morning round and the afternoon round and I got to the 10th tee and just jammed. I was just hoping to get finished and fortunately I started hitting better shots and the heat I think, helps, too.

Q. So when did you think you were okay to make the trip?

MARK O'MEARA: I was in trouble on 11 and 12, I could tell I wasn't doing too well, but there's no shooting pain, there's no bringing to my knees. It's just I can't turn through the ball. If you can't turn through the ball, it's very difficult to play. But I think the drive off of 13 was good and the drive off of 14 was good to where I timed it better.

I still hit some wayward shots, but overall, I kind of battled around out there. I hit probably more good shots than bad shots obviously to shoot 64. But 23 putts that helps.

Q. Were you worried last week you would not make the trip?

MARK O'MEARA: I was. I didn't hit any balls for practice until Thursday or Friday of last week. I knew it was a long trip sitting on the airplane. I love Dubai. The hospitality the people have showed me over the last four or five years has been tremendous. I enjoy the tournament. It's a premiere event in my opinion. Certainly having Tiger here this year and Ernie and all of the top players, it's a world class event. So why not try to make the effort to come.

I was starting to feel a little bit better, been doing some stretching and things like that at night and in the morning. Some of the guys and the therapists here have helped me. Hopefully I can go back and rest a little bit and do some more stretching and I'll be all right tomorrow.

On Wednesday probably should have Tiger and I flew out here and on his plane and we had a military, some kind of I don't know the name of the aircraft, but a twin turboprop, pretty wild deal. Few off the U.S.S. George Washington. Landed on the aircraft carrier and it was kind of a controlled crash, basically, when you land on one of those things. We couldn't see out of the windows and we landed, Tiger we were sitting backwards in the aircraft. So you hit it and pretty good force stops it, fortunately we stopped. Then we went upstairs and we met the admiral and the captain of the ship and we sat up at the top and they launched about six aircraft for us, a couple F 18s.

It was amazing. I've been on aircraft carrier two years ago when the U.S.S. Harry Truman was in port; I visited the troops. We kept it very quiet. We just wanted to go tell the troops thanks for what they are doing and trying to protect all of us, really. The aircraft air carrier is about 100 feet long and about as tall as the Empire State building. It's got 5,000 crewmen on board, probably 15 or 20 percent or ten percent are women, average age, 19, 20. When you watch those F 18s, that was pretty cool. There's a lot going on on the deck and we were sitting up at the top on the bridge up there and they are pumping up the engines. You can see the guy, they have the big steel girder blocking the fumes and the tower is immense, goes zero to 180 miles an hour on a catapult in two seconds. When it swings off the aircraft carrier, you can feel it through the whole carrier. The whole carrier just gives you a little not just a little bit, just a faint and it sling shots off. They took off and a couple other different aircraft took off. A couple plains were returning from Iraq that are flying missions just protecting the troops and stuff over there.

When they come in this is easy what we are doing. These guys come in trying to hit that little red spot. They have four different cables and they usually hit second, most of all the third cable, but one guy hit the fourth cable the last one. It's quite an amazing thing to see. I was honored to be there.

We hit a couple shots, Tiger and I, for the troops. Probably a couple of thousand troops were in the cargo bay, we were hitting driver out off the deck into the ocean and they got a big charge out of that. It was a special thing to do.

GORDON SIMPSON: Just as well your pilot distance control was okay.

MARK O'MEARA: I don't know how they do it. When we took off, granted we were not in an F 18, but that turboprop they put us on, the catapult system, and you don't know because there's no windows and you're sitting backwards and they told us, you know, we're going in 30 seconds. So you're kind of strapped in pretty good, you have a helmet and life jacket, you have your feet 2 1/2 Gs, it's a pretty good force. As soon as we swung off the aircraft carrier, Tiger looked over like, "Yeah, let's do that again." (Laughter.)

We had a great time. It's great to be here and hopefully I can play well on the weekend. Just nice to be near the lead.

GORDON SIMPSON: Thanks very much and good luck over the weekend.

End of FastScripts.

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