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August 17, 2001

Mark O'Meara


JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon again, ladies and gentlemen. As you file in, we will remind you or let you know that Mark O'Meara's 63 in the second rounds of the 83rd PGA Championship matched the lowest 18-hole round in PGA Championship history and was the 20th overall 63 recorded in a major championship. At this particular stage, Mr. O'Meara, I think we need to find out how you did that today.

MARK O'MEARA: Thanks, Julius. Needless to say, it is a thrill to come in and shoot a score like that today. Yesterday, I played 72 score and I actually hit the ball pretty well, so I was very disappointed with the number I got yesterday, and I just had to keep believing that I'm hitting the ball better and get out there today, knowing that I was going to have to shoot a fairly decent round just to make the cut and play on the weekend. So that was my game plan getting started. Started off with a good drive on the first hole and made birdie. Then it seemed like I started making some decent swings, not great swings, but decent swings. Really, only had one poor shot where I drove it way right on No. 9 but made a great save, recovery shot and put it on the green and 2-putted from a long distance. Certainly, I'm back in the championship a little bit. I'm still, whatever, three, four, five behind, but it's still nice to have an opportunity to come on the weekend. First hole was a driver and a pitching wedge to about maybe ten feet. Made birdie. The next birdie came on No. 6, where I hit a good drive and a 9-iron to about maybe 10, 12 feet and made that for a birdie. No. 7, the par 3, 5-iron to maybe 18 feet. Made that for birdie. Then parred, obviously, around until No. 11. 3-wood off the tee. 8-iron to about maybe 25 feet. Made that for birdie. No. 12, par 5, good drive, laid up with an 8-iron. Hit a sand wedge to about, oh, ten feet. Made that for birdie. Parred around until No. 15, the par 3. Hit a 3-iron about pin-high. Probably about 30, 35 feet from the hole. Just trying to cozy it down there and made that for birdie. 17, I hit a 4-iron and got it to about maybe eight feet and made that for birdie.

Q. Was today's round -- like, just kept developing because of your great iron play? And I know you've got to be happy with the round, but could feel the enthusiasm building out there from all of the fans as the round developed?

MARK O'MEARA: Certainly, from the standpoint that, you know, I haven't played that well in the last year and a half, and the game has been a little bit of a battle. I think mentally, as well as physically. To go out there today and shoot a score like that, most of the people out there watching are my age, you know. Everybody kept saying, "Hey, do it for the old guys." I'm like, "Hey, wait a minute, I am getting up there but I still have five or six years before I get a cart, so I'm a ways off." It was nice. The fans are tremendous at this event. Needless to say, to come to the Atlanta Athletic Club, I was here 20 years ago when we played the PGA Championship, and to see how the golf course has been setup and the maturity that the golf course has developed over the years, I think the PGA of America should be very commended because I think it is a wonderful setup. It's still very, very challenging. I know there's some good scores up there, but there's nothing wrong with that. I played a very solid, consistent round of golf today, and if a guy goes out there and makes some putts and shoots 63, then you've got to tip your hat to that. But it's not easy, trust me. I think the key really was really driving the ball on the fairway.

Q. What about the iron play?

MARK O'MEARA: The iron play was good, but you have to set up the iron play by driving it well. If you don't drive it well, you are not going to play well in a major championship. This event is going to come down, in my opinion, come Sunday afternoon, to who puts the ball in the fairway, and who makes the putts. That's just kind of what it takes, you know. You're going to have to stand up there and play some shots because there are some holes that can jump up and bite you. No hole out there is a pushover hole at all.

Q. All week, we've heard about how long and hard the golf course is, particularly the back nine.

MARK O'MEARA: But I'm getting long though. I'm getting long.

Q. Is that right?

MARK O'MEARA: Oh, yeah, yeah. (Laughs) you've got to get the right driver. You've got to get the right golf ball.

Q. As the new course record holder, is it as hard as everybody made out?

MARK O'MEARA: I think the golf course is long. But I also believe because of the temperature and the humidity that the ball is definitely going. I mean, you know, I'm hitting a couple good drives out there. One time I drove it by Sergio on one hole. Couple times, I'm just right behind him. So certainly I don't have the power of a David Duval or Phil Mickelson or Tiger or Sergio, but, I watched Jim Furyk play out there today in his group, and Jim maneuvers his ball around the golf course. That's what you have to do; that's what he did. And he putts and chips well. You know, there's lots of facets to the game besides just the power. But there's no lying that the golf course does favor somebody who can get it out there. Because if I'm out there hitting 4-iron and my competitor is hitting 6-iron and we're both in the fairway, certainly after a period of time, the guy who is hitting 6-iron or 7-iron is going to have the advantage. But today, it was just nice to go out there and get back into things.

Q. My question is similar to the last question you answered. I listen to you and I listened to Jim Furyk talk about the golf course. We all thought this was a very difficult golf course, yet people are shooting what I thought were extremely low scores. And I guess I'm still confused about how these scores can be shot?

MARK O'MEARA: I think there's a couple reasons why. The rain earlier in the week, it does make the course a little bit longer, but it also makes the golf course softer. And when you have a softer golf course where the greens can't get firm enough to speed up to a really quick pace, the players can tend to be more aggressive. And what you are seeing out there is that the golf course is starting to dry out a little bit in the fairway. So you are getting a little bit of run. But the greens are still holding, and when the greens hold, the players are going to be more aggressive and the greens are not quite as fast as they could be. Because of those things I think that's why you are seeing the scores. Like I said when I first sat down, I played really well yesterday and shot 2-over par. So it is not like it is just a pushover. You still have to stand out there and hit some good, long irons into the par 3s. There's water out there that can be trouble. There is still length on some of the holes. But there's no lying that when you have temperatures like this and guys know that you have to swing at it, if you put the ball in the fairway -- I think the longest iron I hit into any par 4 today was a 4-iron.

Q. With a chance for a 62, how did you play 18 and what was your thought process?

MARK O'MEARA: I kind of hung my drive up the right side but I hit it solid and got a good kick off the right side of mounding and I was in the fairway and I believe I had like 193 to the front and I had like 214 or 216 to the hole. I hit a 4-iron because I knew that I -- if I hit it solid I could not hit it past the pin. And I hit it to about, I don't know, maybe 18 feet, and I unfortunately left my putt short about three feet so I didn't hit a very good first putt.

Q. 18 feet where?

MARK O'MEARA: Just short left of the hole. I had a pretty good putt at it, actually, up the hill and left-to-right. Jim Nantz said, "If you had made that, you would have broken the record." I said, "Well, I wasn't concerned about that at the time." Certainly, I was trying to get it up there close and if it went in fine. I hit a poor putt and left it short and then hit a good second putt.

Q. Were you aware no one has ever shot a 62 in a major?

MARK O'MEARA: I wasn't aware of that. I really wasn't. Thank God. I probably would have missed the second one, you know.

Q. Who is the big star now at Isleworth after today?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, you know, certainly Tiger is my friend and I spend a lot more time with him than probably anybody else spends with him, and I mean he's the most recognized sports figure pretty much in the world right now. It's just nice that he plays golf, so I would still have to put him at the main star. I would never claim to be a star by any means. But, I will stay this: I was the first guy to move into Isleworth and people say, "Hey, there's Mark O'Meara. He lives in Tiger's development." No, that's not the way it is. Tiger lives in my development. I lived there first. That's the way I look at it. We have a nice setup there. We have a lot of good friends there. The membership is very, very nice. I can't tell you how impressed I am with what Tiger has achieved in the game of golf. I know that yesterday was not a good day for him and he's been struggling a little bit of late. Don't we all wish we would have his problems of struggling. He's never too far off, and I would not be surprised if he goes out and plays well today. I hope he does. I would like to see him play well today.

Q. Right along that line, you've spent all this time with Tiger. He's obviously not as hot as he's been. Has he talked to you about this? Have you talked about his game not quite being up to what he's used to?

MARK O'MEARA: Oh, yeah. We had dinner last night together. We're obviously staying together, so we played a practice round together. I kind of sensed it in the practice rounds, that he wasn't firing on all cylinders. But, I never underestimate what Tiger Woods can do and what he can accomplish and what he has accomplished and what will he will accomplish in the future. But I think you have to understand the game is very humbling and he knows that, too. He knows in the back of his mind that there are going to be times when he is going to struggle a little bit and it's not the end of the world. It's not like -- I don't think there's ever been a player that has not gone through cycles of being a little bit off on their game and even when he is a little bit off on his game, he is still very, very good and he knows he has to play well today. If he doesn't play well today, then he might miss the cut. I said, even if that does happen, it's not the end of the world. The sun is going to come up tomorrow and hopefully everything will be all right. He still won the Masters this year. He still won five tournaments around the world. I don't think you really need to worry too much about Tiger Woods.

Q. Do you think seeing you on the leaderboard --

MARK O'MEARA: I hope it will motivate him. I think when he sees me on the board and saw that I shot -- "Man, I can beat that O'Meara guy with my eyes closed." I think it will fire him up a little bit. Last night at dinner, we talked about what we needed to do. Try to shoot 3-under on the front and 3-under on the back. I shot 3-under on the front, and I was thinking about him, and then I shot 4-under on the back. So hopefully today he will go out there and play well. He needs to. He wants to. You know, we'll just have to wait and see.

Q. Give us a sense of how difficult this golf course would be for the ordinary golfer -- if your father were in the group today playing -- inaudible?

MARK O'MEARA: I think my dad is a 16-handicap. You know, he would shoot 100. Probably 100. The only reason why is, you know, he's 72 years old. But here, the difference is that the players -- I know the equipment, everybody keeps talking about the equipment and it has gotten better. I'm not denying it. I don't deny that the golf ball goes further now than when I first came on the Tour, but it's going five yards further, six yards further; it's not going 30 yards further. But the players are so much better technique-wise coming out at a younger age and they come out a lot harder. If the average age person went out and played golf in this setup, if the person was not driving it straight they would be in for a very long day. If you are driving it in the rough, you are going to have a long day out there. Like I said earlier, the golf course is a little soft so if you do hit a drive in the fairway, more than likely it will stay in the fairway. If it firms up on the weekend and we don't get any rain it will get more difficult and the pins will get tougher and the pressure will mount. But if it stays the way it is, you will see some good scoring.

Q. Looking forward a little bit, would you talk about how your experiences in 1998 are going to help you tomorrow and Sunday?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, certainly '98 was a very memorable year, and to go to Sahalee with the opportunity to try to win three of the four major championships and to play well there, obviously Vijay won, but at one time on Sunday, I was right there with him. I'm just happy, to be honest, just to be kind of hitting some better shots. Really, I am. I'm not greedy. I just want to hit a few good shots and if I play well tomorrow and get myself an opportunity, then hopefully I can remember the past things that have helped me win two of the other four major championships, the Open Championship and the Masters. It's a long ways off, though. Right now, my thought process is get back to my house, take a shower, put my feet up, and relax.

Q. Not to retrace your entire history from Birkdale and Wentworth and that great '98 season, but you had a lot of opportunities and you took them and you did a lot of traveling. I wonder if there was a point where you finally reached and you were fed up with the way you were playing and if anything turned it around?

MARK O'MEARA: Certainly, there's been many times where I've been very fed up and frustrated throughout my career. '98, to have a year like that at 41 years of age and take full advantage of what I did do, I don't see anything wrong with that. I don't think I was burned out or tired. I was just playing poorly and my confidence level dropped. The game of golf is about technique and practice and working at it, but it's also about confidence, and confidence comes with seeing good shots. The last couple months, I've been seeing some better shots so it's easier to be a little more confident. I would not say I am overconfident by any means, but there was times of thinking about should I stop playing, should I maybe do TV work, should I just curtail my schedule back. There was so many different things going on and I had to make up my mind what I actually wanted to do. I did make up my mind from the standpoint I wanted to play on the PGA TOUR, I wanted to play a limited schedule on the PGA TOUR. I wanted to spend time fly fishing. I wanted to spend time with my family. I feel like I've been in the rink a long time and I've been pushing hard, so there's some reason why I shouldn't enjoy the fruits of the labor and if I play well, great; and if I don't play well, it's not the end of the world and that's the way I try it look at it. I think sometimes for me when I get out of my own way, and I don't put a lot of pressure on myself, I tend to do better.

Q. Did you come here this week thinking you could win?

MARK O'MEARA: No. I came thinking that I knew I was playing well. And that if I do play well, there's no reason why I couldn't. But I didn't think, you know -- yeah, certainly I'm not coming into this tournament with the same confidence or the level of play as a Phil or a David or Tiger. Those guys have played tremendous golf over the last few years and certainly, that one Top-10 this year, I think I won last year. I've been battling. It's been a struggle. But I see some signs. I'm not striping it but I see some signs that I'm moving it in the right direction .

Q. Once a person shoots a score like this, what mindset does he bring to the course the next day?

MARK O'MEARA: A mindset would be that, hey, you were able to pull off a round like that, it says that you are playing better. But, to think that you are going to go out there and shoot 62 or 61 or 63 again tomorrow, I think just puts more pressure on yourself, so my expectations will be similar to what I felt like on the first tee today. Just try to play one shot at a time, do the best I can. Hopefully, make a few putts and hopefully see where the chips fall.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you.

End of FastScripts...

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