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March 16, 1999
LEE PATTERSON: Let us open it up for any questions you have for Mr. O'Meara this afternoon.
Q. How did you shoot today?
MARK O'MEARA: I think I shot even par in the Pro-Am today.
Q. Talk about Sunday, you were in the hunt right until the end.
MARK O'MEARA: I was, Steve, last week the wind conditions were very difficult on Sunday, pretty much like basically British Open stuff. I mean, downwind-holes even though they played short were still tough; into-the-wind-holes were brutal. The crosswind holes were pretty tough to go alongside that. Really when I made a birdie on No. 11 to pull a little closer to the lead, then when -- on 12 I had 6-footer for birdie; felt like if I made that putt on 12 I knew that I was pulling closer to the leaders and I felt like I had a very good chance of winning. I missed the putt and then I just unfortunately didn't drive the ball in the fairway coming home. Like on 14 I hit a poor drive and on the par 5s coming back in the wind, I needed to put my ball in the fairway. I didn't do it. I bogeyed 14. Then I hit a poor 3-wood on 15, made bogey. Then I parred 16, 17, 18, but I think I hit four or five fairways the last round. Granted, it was a little tough to hit them because it was so windy, but that was really the difference. If I had driven the ball in the fairway, I felt like I had a good shot. I lost by 3 strokes, so, you know, that is the way it goes.
Q. Those kind of conditions three strokes isn't as much as it would be on a normal day?
MARK O'MEARA: Exactly right. When I was standing on the fairway on 18 I saw Vijay 2-putt. I saw him make the second putt from whatever it was 5 or 6 feet, I knew he'd probably finish 11-under. I thought, well, probably be in a playoff because I didn't know what was going on behind me. I hit my second shot just short of the green on 18. I hit my pitch shot. I looked over at the leaderboard, I saw that it was over. I mean, Vijay had a two-shot lead. I was like, wow, what happened. I feel bad for Eric Booker who is a really nice guy and, you know, I mean, the guy played good all week. Just one of those things. It is a learning experience. It is unfortunate, but sometimes it is a little easier to come from behind when the conditions are real trying like that.
Q. In that situation do you think you would have been better served if you were aware of what was going on; looked at the scoreboard a little more often?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I was kind of paying attention to the scoreboard. But I knew I was always trailing, so I knew I needed to make no mistakes and the mistakes I made was the fact that, you know, I was in the rough a little bit. When you are in the rough, you are not going to be able to hit it as far when you are in the wind; that is the double whammy, so, you can understand maybe making a bogey -- if you hit a poor iron shot into the green or this or that which didn't give myself that opportunity, so, it was, you know, a little disappointing. I was a little bit upset because I felt like, you know, if I had put the ball in the fairway I had just good a chance as anybody and I was doing everything else pretty well. So I will work on that a little more this week and see what happens.
Q. When you speak about playing in your hometown to the opportunity to sleep in your own bed all week, does that get you excited?
MARK O'MEARA: It is nice. It is nice to play at Bay Hill. There has been times where I have played well here at Bay Hill. I like the golf course. It is in good shape this year. The whole course has been overseeded this year. Years past it has always been -- the tees and the green and the rough and the fairway was Bermuda; this year they have gone ahead and overseeded it, so the course will play a little bit longer, but it sure is in beautiful shape, especially the amount of rounds they have had here in January and February because the weather has been so good. It is nice to be at home. I can go home and practice at home. I can spend time with my family like last night I went to a little league game of my boy's; watched my boy play, over here at -- by Dr. Phillips, so, those are the nice things that you can do while you are at home.
Q. Does it provide any kind of advantage at all or --
MARK O'MEARA: No, I mean, I think everywhere I go now, there has been more distractions. There is more demand on my time, you know, it is more difficult, there is no question about it. I have to still practice. I still want to get better. There is still areas I need to improve on. And when everybody is, you know, needs delegating my time, it takes away from that. So if I don't play as well, I can blame it on all of you.
Q. Seem to be playing fairly well this year?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, I have gotten off to a reasonable start. I have been bouncing around a little bit and doing some things, but, you know, I am not -- I am not as happy as I'd like to be with the way I am playing. I can play better than what I am playing. I can hit the ball better. I can feel better standing over the ball. So, you know, I have to work on some areas, you know, if I get those dialed in, then I will be satisfied, but I don't know many golfers that are ever satisfied.
Q. Aside from the fact you win two majors last year, your career has been remarkably steady for the last 18 --
MARK O'MEARA: Right.
Q. Expectations gone up in terms of the level of play you want to be at?
MARK O'MEARA: No. I realize still that, you know, I don't hit the golf ball like a Tiger Woods or a David Duval or some of the other young players. I know I will never hit the ball like that. So, I have to find ways to keep improving the areas of my game and maybe some of it was -- like, last week, course management, patience, understanding what I can do and what I can't do; eliminating the big score and that is what I did at the Honda Classic. I finished tied for third. Now we are at Bay Hill, so, you know, I think there is maybe some more expectations or people will want or expect a little bit more out of me, but I am 42 years old. I am not 27. I am not 29. I am 42 and I have somewhat of a game plan on how much longer I'd like to compete at the highest level and then taper off. The next couple of years try to play well try to play competitively, try to win more tournaments, set -- you know, try to play well at the U.S. Open or PGA Championship and then, you know, after that, just try to wind down a little bit. But, I am not out there thinking: Hey, look, if I don't play well, people are going to think, gosh, it's The Masters champion he should be play better than that. Look, I worked all my life to try to have an opportunity to win an event like that. I won it. So, no matter what happens in the future, I mean, I have been more than lucky and more than blessed on what I have accomplished up to this point, so, you know, I am 42, you know, I am going to travel overseas; I am going to take advantage of some of the opportunities that present themselves, because of what happened last year, and if that has a little bit of effect on how I play in the U.S. or this or that - you can sit back all day to try to figure out, well, this is why he might not have played good or this is why he might -- maybe he shouldn't have gone here; maybe he should have gone; maybe he shouldn't have done this. You can always second guess yourself, but I am not going to do that. I am going to try to enjoy the things that have happened. I am going to try capitalize on some of things that have happened and whatever happens will happen. It is not going to be end of the world.
Q. There has been a lot of players they win their first major, let alone two of them, seems like there is a natural funk they go into.
MARK O'MEARA: There is. There could be a little bit of a letdown. I don't want to let that happen. I think I have gotten off to a good start this year to make sure that doesn't happen. But I need time away from golf too. I need time to go snow skiing. I need time to do things with my family besides doing all the other responsibilities that I have to live up to too. I think that if I can do that, then I will play better on the course.
Q. Is that the advantage of age, of having -- you won your majors at 41; that you are a little more experienced and seasoned and --
MARK O'MEARA: You know, I'd like to say that, but everyday I am still figuring it out. I am still learning something new; probably that has a little something to do with it.
Q. Any fear of a let-down? You have seen so many guys go through that.
MARK O'MEARA: Well, the grass is growing out there right now, guys, I need to cut it. I mean, it might not grow forever, so I need to go out there and cut the grass while it is growing. If I was 27 or 29 and/or 30 and I had done what I did last year, then I might go a little different game plan, but I am not 27; I am not 29. I am not 30. And I am not really worried, you know, about burning myself out. Because I think I know what I can handle and what I can't handle. It is tougher for me to say no to a lot of people. But I am trying to learn that a little bit. If it all gets out of control a little bit then I can just play and Pete O'Malley (ph) at IMG, because he is my manager, it will be his fault; not mine, blame him.
Q. What happened to you at age 41; did that change your long-range picture?
MARK O'MEARA: What it does is No. 1, like any player would think about, I am exempt for five years, used to be ten years but I was on the policy board; I approved it back to five years. (laughs). I also went back to the commissioner and said: Look, if you win one tournament on the PGA TOUR your two-year exemption if you win two tournaments one year you get three years so I said only seems fair if you win one major, you get five years; if you win two majors one year, you should get ten years. Again, if you win three you get 15 and if you win all four, the Grand Slam, you should play whenever you want to play for the rest of your life. He says: Well, we will have to take a look at that, but I don't think we are going to do that. So, at least I know that I have got a place to play for the next five years. But deep down inside I think that realistically in my own mind, it is -- 1999 I will play quite a bit throughout the world; 2000 and then in 2001, kind of evaluate what happened the last two years, and then maybe start backing off and spend a month maybe in the summertime with my family up in the mountains or do some more things with my children before they go off to college.
Q. A year ago, would you have been looking at 2001?
MARK O'MEARA: I was still thinking about backing off when I got to be 44. Because if you look at most guys that have been successful on the SENIOR TOUR, they still compete. It is not like I am never going to compete again, but a very limited schedule; just enough to stay in touch with the game, look at some other opportunities that might present themselves, for example, after the press conference I am -- the fact that I have started up a design team, maybe look into that; I am dabbling into that in the golf course architecture, you know, maybe TV work, you know, there is just a lot of different avenues to take a look at.
Q. Where are you going to go overseas this year?
MARK O'MEARA: I have played in Dubai already, earlier this year. I am scheduled to play in Japan opposite the Houston Open. Scheduled to go to Germany opposite the Colonial tournament, a week after Dallas, I am definitely playing in the Open Championship defending and then the rest of the year is kind of up in the air. I will probably go back and defend the World Match Play at Wentworth and there is some other possibilities that are out there, so, it will be pretty busy. I imagine I will still probably play, you know, 20 tournaments minimum in the United States so it will be a pretty full year again.
Q. Along those lines, the way the Tour evolved now with the majors, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup, TPC, the new $5 million events, is there developing a-have-and-have-not-Tour; now some of the other events just don't get the big stuff?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, it is just -- you always -- whereever we go, whatever tournament we play in, I don't care whenever I tee it up, when I get there, I would dearly love to win that event I am playing in. Granted some fields might tend to have a little better field than others, but overall, the total quality of the Tour is pretty incredible. But players are still going to play pretty much courses that they tend to do well on. Players are going to tend to stick to schedules that they feel comfortable with; that is going to give them their best performance. If a guy needs to play quite a bit at the end of the year to get in the top 125 or get in the top-30, you know, those guys are going to play. Myself included. So I still think at the end of the year, the fields are going to be good. But you know, young players, sure, they are playing -- I don't know -- Tiger maybe 18, 19, 20, I think Tiger will probably play more tournaments this year than he did last year. You can ask him, but I would probably have reason to bet that he will. Because I think the money list is going to be coming down to the wire; these guys that are young, are top players are going to be competing for that honor. I think that they might play more at the end of the year actually as opposed to not playing more.
Q. You have acquired a reputation image like a father figure with Tiger and Duval. Are you comfortable with that?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah. No problem. I like those guys, they are my buddies. They are younger than I am, but they are good guys. I enjoy going out there when we are at home and competing against Tiger over there at our little club and a lot of times he waxes me but there is quite a few times I wax him so it kind of fun. Because I don't have the game Tiger Woods has got or David Duval. I know that. We all know that. But there is lots of ways to get the job done and so it is kind of fun and maybe you know, from the standpoint that Tiger and I have a very close relationship, you know I have learned from him maybe to be more aggressive or to go ahead and go for it a little bit, whatever it might be, but I think he has picked my brain a lot. That is why he might be around me - why are you so consistent, or why do you do this or that, and maybe he -- and if I can help Tiger Woods or I can help David Duval, I am more than happy to do that.
Q. Even if it spills over into a personal level, you know, you have been around before, how do I handle this, how do you handle that, do you find that --
MARK O'MEARA: I don't try to dabble in their personal life. I mean, if they ask me a question, I never-like Tiger's issue with what he has done with Fluff and stuff, I never once talked to Tiger about that. That is none of my business.
Q. When you look back to last year, could you pinpoint any one thing that you might have triggered, if it happened at all?
MARK O'MEARA: Probably the fact that the wind blew the first two days at Augusta National and made the golf course play pretty difficult and I think that just working on a couple of things on my putting there was probably the key and I think coming down the stretch with a chance to win my first major championship, and being needless to say, a little bit nervous, but not out of control and keep telling myself look I have done this before in a lot of other tournaments; I have been able to handle the heat. To finally break through, I think was a big relief for me and it obviously spilled over because at the Open Championship at Birkdale, you know, granted, I -- once again I wouldn't have walked around and say, boy, I hit the ball better than anybody else in the field this week because I knew deep down inside I didn't. But I might have done everything else just a little bit better than a lot of the other guys, and when it came time to play well, with the most amount of pressure placed on me, I played well. So that is probably just experience and so many times of being in those positions and maybe not always pulling it out, but using past positive memory to come forward and finally win some of the big tournaments.
Q. Obviously when you win majors the world thinks of you differently. Do you feel that you think of yourself differently?
MARK O'MEARA: I don't think of myself differently. I know when I am travelling or I am out in the public eye that the recognizable things that come about being recognized more has definitely changed. But that is flattering; that is nice, most people that play the game 99.9% are all good people, they mean good gestures when they are they come up, hey, you make all the 40 year olds proud and thanks for all the middle age guys, all the old guys, all that stuff. That is nice. I am still pretty much the same guy. I mean, we all change as we get older, let us face it, but I had great times when I was picking up the driving change at the country club as a kid; I still have a tremendous amount of enjoyment when I come home from the Honda Classic, I get out there first thing Monday morning and I wash my car, you know, that is just me. That is not going to change. So, granted, I still want to play well and I play for my personal pride, I mean, it's about money an making money, but I also play for my pride. When I don't play well, you know, suffer like for anybody. But you know, golf is a fickle game and having confidence in golf, you know, you might feel very confident over a couple shots and hit a couple squirly ones and that confidence is gone.
Q. Winning these two majors last year does that make you want to win any differently that you this year more or less?
MARK O'MEARA: Probably more from the standpoint that I'd like to play well when I am defending those two titles needless to say. And more from the standpoint that it would be neat to go to the U.S. Open and play well there with the possibility of winning or motivated me like at the PGA Championship last year, you know, I had a chance to do something that hadn't been done since Ben Hogan accomplished it, so, it kind of motivated me, it fired me up, the fans were behind me, and I didn't do it, but I was there. I had a chance. That is all you could ask for. So, yes, I would say that it has been a motivating factor to try to play well in those other two major championships this year with a possibility to win.
Q. How good of a skier are you?
MARK O'MEARA: Relative to golf, I ski -- I think I was figuring out, I skied either 25 or 26 days this ski season which was from December 15th after The Presidents Cup until this time right now. You know, hey, I am not much on bragging or anything, I am not that good. I try to stand upright, my game plan is when I go skiing is not to go down, but I'd say I am probably relative to golf I am probably a good solid 4 handicap, honest 4, I am not one of those fours that plays like 8. I mean, I am a 4. About a three or four handicap.
Q. What happened with Phil a few years ago, does that --
MARK O'MEARA: I can see what happened to Phil why it happened because I went skiing with him about a week and a half ago. He came up. Phil is an excellent skier, but Phil is an aggressive individual, I mean, he skies like he hits his flop-shots off a tight lie, so, he kind of lives on the edge. He took a little bit of a spill so he backed off little bit. No, I enjoy it, it is a great family thing. I don't enjoy, to be honest with you, going in the restaurants and somebody recognizes and says hey, you know, what are you doing up here, you know, don't hurt yourself, no kidding. You know, that will be like me with you guys coming into this room, and say, hey, look, be careful with that pen, that might be a little sharp, don't poke yourself so you can't write. I mean, you know, it is an out. It is a nice out for my family, my wife and my two children enjoy it. We can all four go up a lift together. You can't hit too many golf balls when it is snowing and it is 35 degrees outside so it is a great release for me away from golf.
Q. Can you tell us who you think the favorite are going to be this week?
MARK O'MEARA: Boy, well, I think you -- you want to look at past champions because past champions have good memories of the golf course that have played well here. I think that you can never count out Tiger. You got to look at -- Payne Stewart has been playing well of late. I haven't looked at the whole list of all the guys playing, but you know, hopefully myself.
Q. How do you fit if, I was going to say?
MARK O'MEARA: Once again, if I drive the ball okay, I will play well. That will be the secret for me this week. If I don't, I live right around the corner over here so it is not to bad, I don't have too far to go.
Q. A year ago when Ernie won we started talking about a possible rivalry with Ernie and Tiger. That was before David really took off late and early this year. To think that a rivalry of those three, maybe even a fourth in there could happen over the next five years, there is just so many players can that possibly happen --
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I think what you are going to see is more of a condensement of the top young players all playing well, you know, you are going to have stages where Tiger and Ernie might be going or Tiger and David or Phil and David, or you know, Justin can be thrown in there too. So you have got a nice core of some very fine young talented players that aren't going anywhere, but towards the top. So I won't single it out just two or three guys. I'd have to put five or six guys in that possibility.
Q. We will never see another Watson/Nicklaus?
MARK O'MEARA: You know, I am -- you know, I know about as much as you guys know. I just think that it is tough because if you look at lead boards of late that you see new names that you have never seen before on the board and I am just telling you, I play with a lot of these different guys and play with a lot of these young new players and they are just -- they are talented players, these kids are all good now. There is no backing off of them . To single out two or three guys and just be concerned with those two or three guys, I think might be a little bit of a mistake. I know everybody would love to see that some rivalry between two guys, but, yes, I mean the rankings are going to be the way they are and that is always going to have an impact in the game of golf and money list is going to have impact on the game of golf.
Q. That said, when Tiger comes out here, there was some small talk about maybe Tiger/Phil rivalry; then it was Tiger/Ernie, it is always Tiger.
MARK O'MEARA: Right, well I think Tiger -- I mean, I have played with all the guys, and I am not here to tell you because he is my friend or I need to stroke his ego any, but --
Q. It is obvious though, every time you mention a rivalry you get his name.
MARK O'MEARA: Well, because he is probably one -- I mean, I have got to believe he is probably, if he is not the most talented player out here, he is right there. I mean, he is probably the most talented player on the PGA TOUR and not to take anything away from David Duval because David is a super golfer; he is a great player. But Tiger Woods is -- he has got all -- he has got it all. I mean, he does. The more he can control himself and, manages himself better and learns more about himself, he is 23 years old, this kid has got an incredible next 12 to 15 years ahead of him. I just -- he can do things with the golf ball that a lot of -- majority of these guys out here can't do. That is why the comparisons go towards him.
LEE PATTERSON: Anything else? Mark has got announcement --
Q. How did your son do last night?
MARK O'MEARA: My son played good. He was catching the whole game and they unfortunately got beat 6 to 5. They played the Pittsburgh Pirates and my boy plays on the St. Louis Cardinals. Their team was a good hitting team actually and they had the lead most of the game and it is funny because it is top of the fifth inning, they were still leading 5 to 3 and my wife says with two outs, they are looking good. I said, don't ever say that. No, there are two outs. No one on base. I said, that is the kiss of death. Sure enough, they score three runs with two outs. They ended up losing 6 to 5. They had a good time. Kids compete well, and it is neat to see what they do here with all the little league teams.
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