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January 6, 1999
LEE PATTERSON: Couple of impressions about this year as we begin.
MARK O'MEARA: It's nice to obviously get started in '99 after what happened in '98. I guess '98, what kind of happened in my life, career has definitely changed from the standpoint of things I've worked on to try to accomplish in my career. To have a dream year like that, win two major championships, win the Skins Game, win the World Match Play, Player of the Year, incredible honors. As a young player starting on THE TOUR in the early '80s, I guess once you get to be 40, 41, you wouldn't dream that would happen. It was a lot of fun. Now I know that '99 has come around. There wasn't a whole lot of time off in the off-season. I don't feel very tired, to be honest with you. Even at the end of the year when I traveled all around the world, I was still pretty mentally fresh. Hopefully I'll continue playing well. I'll try to do the best I can. We'll see what '99 holds.
Q. Probably a good sign that there was no off-season because technically '98 is still going?
MARK O'MEARA: That's kind of the way it feels like almost. It feels that way. From playing in Africa, Australia, I snow skied for a couple weeks with my family, then I was home practicing all last week. A lot of times guys in the early of the year, they were a little rusty at the beginning of the year, used the first two tournaments to dust off some of the rust. Because the game has changed so much, it's global, there's a lot of things happening in the game of golf. Players are -- really it's more of a 12-month-a-year sport now. You might take little breaks in between in the middle of the year, spring or fall, but there's a lot of golf to be played.
Q. We have a tendency to ask, what are you going to do for an encore? Is it easier at your age?
MARK O'MEARA: Probably is. Let's face it. I'm not 28 years old, 32 years old. I mean, I'm 41. I'll be 42 next week. The way I look at it, what happened to me last year was a big bonus. There's no reason why I shouldn't try to enjoy it, dwell on it the next couple years.Hey, if I don't play well, I'll be the first one to be disappointed. You don't get to this level without having expectations, not only you guys that the media puts on a player, but myself. I expect to play well. When I don't, I'm not a happy camper. On the other hand, I have to take a little step back and say, "Look, a lot of things have happened. A lot of positive things have happened. So don't let something that might be negative, like not playing well for a month or two, maybe not have the best year in '99 or 2000, whatever." I'm not a young stud gunner out there like a Tiger Woods, some of these other players. I'm kind of winding down my career a little bit.
Q. Yet you're coming to Pebble Beach where you always play well.
MARK O'MEARA: I'm coming to Pebble. I'm looking forward to that. I'm going to try to play a little bit on the west coast. I'm going to travel a little bit. I'm going to go internationally and play, which I did last year anyway. I'm going to try to spend some time with my family, try to go skiing, do things like that that I've been doing. Just try to enjoy it all a little bit. Never really took enough time at the end of the year to let all of this sink in, what happened in '98. Sure, it was nice, because I've been home, the very few times I have been home, to showcase and show people, let them hold the player jug, let them hold The Masters trophy. Now I have the Player of the Year trophy at home, too. I need to get my trophy cabinet made. Actually, we had to add on to the trophy cabinet. It was getting a little crowded in the other one, now we have to get it reorganized. Those are nice problems to have. The notoriety of traveling, people recognizing me now more when I'm in airports, yes, that's definitely changed. Whether that takes a toll or not, I don't really mind people, as long as they're a little patient with me. I have no problem with that if it comes along with playing well.
Q. Are you playing in fewer official events or will you continue to play throughout the same amount?
MARK O'MEARA: I think throughout my career, I've averaged between -- I would say I've averaged between 27 to 31, 28 to 31 tournaments worldwide every single year for 18 years. I mean, I've never had a big break. I've never had a two-month layoff in my 18 years. I'm starting my 19th year on THE TOUR. I foresee in the next two years I'm going to continue on that track. Last year I probably played the fewest amount of official tournaments in the United States, but still I had a pretty full schedule. This year I imagine I'll still play probably -- it's hard to say, but I think I'll probably play between 19 and 22 tournaments or 23 tournaments in the United States. Then I'll play in the World Championship events. I'll play Japan. I'll play in Europe. Hey, is it's a global game. I'm a global kind of guy.
Q. Do you think the new events could hurt some of the fields?
MARK O'MEARA: That's the big discussion going on. Let's look at this. For one thing, golf has definitely changed. There's no question about it. Golf has grown tremendously since I've been on THE TOUR, and very quickly in the last three to four years with what's happened, the exposure with the game. Obviously, Greg Norman a few years back, when he talked about the fact this is going to become more of a global game, he was right on. I think THE TOUR has tried to get together and tried to do the right thing. Are we going to maybe have a few growing pains? Probably. That comes along. I think when you look at what's happened, the purses and stuff going up, you can sit there and say, "That's good, that's bad, that's this or that." I think it's wonderful. I think it's right. I think it's good. The players, majority of the players that play this game conduct themselves pretty much in a professional manner. The sponsors obviously see that. Television networks see that. Hopefully players on the PGA TOUR can be good role models for people coming up. If it creates more interest and atmosphere, good. To look at it in a negative light, in my opinion, is really not the correct way to do it. Let's play this first year, let's see how it goes. I understand that THE TOUR Championship -- I was asked this at THE TOUR Championship -- about THE TOUR Championship and Valderrama, obviously that is a bit confusing for most people, but I say let's play it for a year and then I can give you a better opinion. I can't give you a total, honest, fair evaluation until we get through the year.
Q. We're all guessing.
MARK O'MEARA: Right, we are guessing. I think it's a nice thing to have. It's a nice problem to have these $3 million or $5 million events for players to go out and compete at a very high level. If they play well, they're rewarded. In that aspect, I don't see the players going on strike sometime soon. I think they're going to be playing more.
MARK O'MEARA: If you want to look at it that way, you can. For 18 years, I come into the press room. Every time I come in the press room, somebody is always complaining about strength of field in every tournament. If you don't have Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, a big marquis name, you say you have a weak field. There are some fields that are weaker than other fields. But in total light, there are more good players playing the game today than at any time in the point of the history of the game. All the fields, in my estimation, are pretty darn good. I would be more than happy to win any tournament. Would there be more specific tournaments I'd love to win? Absolutely. So, yes, from the standpoint that maybe players might reevaluate their schedule, but I think most guys are going to tend to play tournaments that they like, that they've played well at in the past. They're going to tend to keep going back to those golf courses. Tournaments where they haven't had much success, I mean, they're not going to go to. Certain guys' games fit certain courses. Why not go play the courses that you tend to play well on, and if you don't play as well, you know, you probably bypass them.
Q. Like you and Augusta?
MARK O'MEARA: That's right. I made the cut there, but I never did any good there (laughter). Now that I won, I get to go back every year now.
Q. Until you're 90?
MARK O'MEARA: I'll be out there. The only problem is, listen, I'm a member there now. Unfortunately, none of you can come and play with me, because I can only play by myself when I go there (laughter). If I was a real member, I could invite you to play there.
Q. What are you going to do for the dinner?
MARK O'MEARA: I haven't really announced it yet. I'm leaning towards chicken and steak fajitas. That's what I'm kind of leaning towards. That's one of my favorite meals. I don't think that's ever been on the menu before. Maybe a little step above last year's menu (laughter). I'm going to have to send some ingredients up to the chef up there, work on the salsa, make sure the salsa is nice, maybe a Caesar salad before that. We have to get some good refried beans there, tortillas. That's what I like. I think most of the guys that are past champions would go for that. Maybe not.
Q. Pretty popular choice?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah. My wife said I should go lasagna. That's too bland. I want to do something a little different.
Q. What about sushi?
MARK O'MEARA: That could be a starter. Very strong possibility. A little tuna sushimi starter. I could see the guys would really be going for that, Sam and Bob, some of the other guys. "Man, I ain't eating that thing."
MARK O'MEARA: Hamburger, right. Should be having steak. You make all this money, "Tiger, we should have steak for dinner." Hamburger is ground-up steak. It's a little easier to eat. That's what he likes. I haven't finalized it for sure. If it was my choice, which I guess it is, I'm going in that direction.
Q. You haven't been out there, have you, to play?
MARK O'MEARA: I have not. I have not.
MARK O'MEARA: Probably not. I'll get there Tuesday.
Q. Caddie told me it was 329 (inaudible).
MARK O'MEARA: I talked to Sergio Garcia the other day. I played golf with Sergio last Sunday. We played golf together. He said he had played Augusta about a month and a half to go. He never played there before. He's a young player, but very talented player. He said for someone like me on No. 2, the conditions have to be ideal for me to knock it in on 2, wind the right way. I'll probably just hit it at the bunker and play it down there and hopefully pitch up and make the putt. He said 17 was a pretty big change. 17, you got to hit a pretty good drive. I'm not short, but I have to hit a pretty high, pretty solid drive to get it over that tree. Now you move it back 30, 40 yards, I have to really wax one.
Q. They moved it to the left, too.
MARK O'MEARA: A little to the left?
MARK O'MEARA: I'll hit a low one underneath it, up the hill.
Q. You can do what we do and skip it.
MARK O'MEARA: Are you playing from the back tees when you're out there?
Q. Every week (laughter).
MARK O'MEARA: Greens are fast (laughter). My whole game plan this year is to set my sight for the US Open and the PGA. I figure if I win those two, I'll just hang it up. That's it. If I could win a US Open and the PGA, four or five guys have won those major championships. If I could do that in the next two years, that would be pretty cool.
Q. We could even use "great" before your name.
MARK O'MEARA: If I could do that, I'll put myself in that category, not until (laughter).
Q. What was Sergio doing?
MARK O'MEARA: Playing down in Miami, has a buddy that plays there. I played with him in a practice round. He said he might be around Christmas, New Year's. If I wanted to play, call me. After I won the World Match Play, he faxed me a congratulatory note and said that he's probably going to be in South Florida then. He played in that Orange Bowl thing down there. He called me and said he was going to fly up. I said I'd pick him up from the airport. Came out and played.
MARK O'MEARA: He'd probably beat me. I don't know. What do I care? Who cares? Let them all win when you're at home. When you come out here on Sunday, when it really matters (laughter).
Q. Are you now The TOUR mentor?
MARK O'MEARA: I'm the Pied Piper, the old man. I tell you what, he's a fine young guy. He's got a great personality. He's obviously loving life. Talent-wise, when I played with Tiger when he was 17, compared to Sergio who is 18, he'll be 19 next month, there's just not many Tiger Woods that come along. Sergio Garcia is a fine player, but I don't think he's necessarily at this stage. Will he do what Tiger did? I kind of doubt it. I think he'll be a fine player. Will he be a world beater? Only time will tell.
Q. They're asking now, "Will Tiger do what Tiger did?" He set the par.
MARK O'MEARA: That's true. It's difficult. He's under an incredible amount of expectations, which is fine. The guy is an incredible player. But I would tend not to defend him because he's my friend. I think the guy is a better player now than he was when he first came on The TOUR. If you look at what the future holds for Tiger Woods, I think it's going to be pretty bright. I think he's going to win a lot of major championships, I really do. I know you guys and gals think the same way. That's good for the game. He's lightened up a little bit. He still has a lot of heat on him, but he's doing better.
Q. How long is Sergio?
MARK O'MEARA: Not as long as what Tiger was. If Sergio hits a good drive and I hit a good drive, if he really waxes one, he's 10 to 15 yards by me. When I played with Tiger when he was 17, just turned 17, he was hitting it 20 by me then, 15 to 20. Tiger's definitely longer than Sergio. But Sergio has kind of got a lot of Seve, a lot of Jose. He's got a lot of charisma, a lot of instincts to play the game. He already knows how to play the game at 19 years old or 18 years old. He's played in a lot of pro tournaments. He's getting a lot of exposure and understanding.
Q. His record at this age --
MARK O'MEARA: -- is phenomenal. I mean, I think he's going to do well. Let's face it, will he do as well as Seve did or Jose? I don't know that answer. I think he'll be right close to them.
Q. What do you have as far as contracts now?
MARK O'MEARA: No changes. A new driver, come out with some new clubs to be introduced at the show. I'm using a new driver, new irons that I used at the Skins Game. I had a lot to do in the design work.
Q. The irons are what?
MARK O'MEARA: Steel shaft. They're a little larger iron, just slightly larger than the old one last year.
Q. A bit like the bubble?
MARK O'MEARA: Yes. Not quite as much as offset.
Q. Where is your influence on that?
MARK O'MEARA: Testing, talking with the research and development people. They start to design a club from the get-go. I look at the design. They'll build a 9-iron or 7-iron or 5-iron, they'll mold it up, show it to me. They'll bring it out in physical form and I'll actually hit it, say, "Here is where we're at on this." They'll go back and modify.
MARK O'MEARA: Just kind of weight distribution, the bottom of the club, thickness of the top line, scoring lines. Cosmetically more than anything else.
Q. Did you hit the Taylor Made ball at all?
MARK O'MEARA: I was asked that question. Obviously, my representation is with Strata. There's a lot going on in the industry. I've played with Lee Janzen. He's playing the ball now. I have hit it. In my opinion, I prefer what I play, obviously, otherwise. The golf ball market has become very competitive. A lot of the companies obviously want to get into that. I'm obviously very pleased with what's happened to me. Before I played the Strata ball, I was 44th in the world in rankings. The last three years, I've played a multi--layer ball, and I'm second in the world rankings. I could drop pretty quickly, but that's not bad.
MARK O'MEARA: I'll tell you, what I think a solid construction golf ball in my opinion rolls better on the green. I'm not an engineer. I'm not trying to advertise for everybody. I'm just saying that I think I play a very fine golf ball. If you guys haven't played it, I'm more than happy to get you a few. We can talk to Joe. He'll supply you a few. It's fun because I was the first player to ever play the bubble shaft ever in competition. I was the first player to ever play this multi--layer Strata. You look at how many players have played well with it, what's transpired in the game. I'm a trend-setter.
Q. Maybe the best advertisement for a ball, certainly in modern times.
MARK O'MEARA: My former company thought I was over-the-hill, gone. Solid gray hair, a little bit balding. "This guy, he's gone. 39, 40, these guys can't play anymore." Tom Watson is 49; he can still play. What happened is the spectrum of players, for long-time players, started early, they weren't quite ready to win. They had to learn how to win. Then all of a sudden they get to that 29 to 35 years or so, that was kind of the area. Now it's changed. The young players come out. They're very confident. They have a tremendous amount of ability, start winning at an early age. Now, because guys take a little better care of themselves, it's pushed that age limit out a little bit more. Now players in their 40s who were good players in their 30s are still playing well. Nick Price, Faldo will be back, I think.
Q. Who else besides Janzen uses that ball out here?
MARK O'MEARA: I think John Cook is using that ball. You can call Debbie Hall at Taylor Made. They'll probably tell you. I don't know who they've signed up. All I know is that I'm happy with the company I'm with, to be honest with you.
Q. Because of the attention you got with Strata, I would suppose Taylor Made is passing?
MARK O'MEARA: I think Taylor Made was curious as to how long my deal was. I told them, "I'm not going anywhere for a while." My relationship with Strata started three years ago. At that time, we hadn't even really gotten into the ball development. They started to think they were going to get into it. Now Nike has come up with a ball. Everybody's got a ball. You guys have a media golf ball (laughter). I'm serious.
MARK O'MEARA: Listen, all I can tell you is the game of golf is doing fine. I know there's going to be a controversy about all these championships and stuff. Let's give it a year and see what happens. It's a nice problem to talk about. It's a nice problem to have from the standpoint -- it's better than coming in here and saying, "We have no money to play for."
MARK O'MEARA: So you guys always want to have a little negative.
Q. I don't think we're pointing out as many negatives as possibly what could happen to some pockets of the game.
MARK O'MEARA: There can always be something detrimental happen. I think of that when I'm standing on the tee, "Don't go left; don't go right." We all think that way.
Q. A lot of guys say, "I never saw that water."
MARK O'MEARA: That's BS. It happens a lot. I understand what you're saying.
Listen, at times it could be a little bit -- I know I talked to David upstairs. He felt maybe like Valderrama should be in front of THE TOUR Championship. Maybe that might be something we might look at. It's also like The Presidents Cup, maybe it needs to be played in September at the same time a The Ryder Cup is played, as opposed to being the last tournament in December. When I got there, I wanted to do my best, but that was not going to break or make my year, what happened at The Presidents Cup. I don't like to lose, don't get me wrong. The American team, I didn't get to watch all of my fellow players play, but I thought our team played reasonably well. We got slaughtered, but that happens. If we would have won, it would have been no big deal. If we lose, it's a big deal. It's almost like you can't win one way or the other.
Q. How do you feel about the TPA?
MARK O'MEARA: I talked to Mark on his little program that was there on the Golf Channel, during the Grand Slam I talked to him about this. I'm just stepping down from the board after three years. I think there's always going to be issues of communication problems. When you have a wide spectrum of guys' income level that are making different incomes, the issue of, "Do I think THE TOUR is doing a good job?" Yes, I think THE TOUR is doing a good job. "Do I think all the people working for the PGA TOUR are legit?" Yes, I think they're legit. I sit on those board meetings. I see the independent audit, all the stuff that goes on. I don't always agree with everything that happens at THE TOUR office. But if you look at the overall organization, I think they're doing a fine job. I think Danny and Larry and some of the other guys, they have the right to voice their opinion. My concern would always be to Tim, "Look, with the qualifying school, guys should get out of here and play, if he gets through the Q school, plays on THE TOUR, should there be a stipend on the guy missing the cut?" I don't think a guy should come out and play if he qualifies for THE TOUR, if he walks away, walk away a $100,000 loser. He can walk away, lose his card, be off THE TOUR. But if he plays and competes, it's part of this whole puzzle. I'm not saying to give him something, but the guy has kind of earned an incredible right. There's other areas. THE TOUR has grown; it's a big umbrella now. I think that's where the different players want to make sure they get good communication, good feedback, that their voice is heard. I think that's going to happen. Do I think the TPA is going to grow, make bigger -- I don't think so.
MARK O'MEARA: I've always said that, and I've been criticized for this. My feeling is before I came on the board, I told Tim Finchem, I went up to Jacksonville, sat down, he said, "What do you think about THE TOUR?" I said, "To be honest with you, I think if a guy goes to an event, he's committed to playing in the event. He plays in the ProAm if he's required, if he plays Thursday and Friday. If he posts his score card, doesn't withdraw, I don't see any problem paying the guy $1500 or $2000 unofficial money." I don't know why the media seems to think so bad about that. A lot of people are very critical.
MARK O'MEARA: Then they should be opposed to the fact that they pay at the US Open, they pay at The Masters, they pay at the British Open, they pay at the PGA if you miss the cut. What's the problem? I think they're worried they're going to take it off the top. In my opinion, we're playing for plenty of money at the top.
Q. It's harder to get into the majors, first of all. A guy at the Greater Hartford Open (inaudible).
MARK O'MEARA: That's a very good point.
Q. They like the idea this is the last bastion of players.
MARK O'MEARA: I'm all for that, if the masses feel comfortable with that. You have to understand, that's not going to affect me. I'm going to be fine financially, hopefully, unless my wife does something crazy (laughter). You guys should come and work for the week, you guys write. If you don't do the best article, we'll send out reviews on your article. If you don't do a good job, you don't get paid. If you do a great article, we'll send a big, big check to you. Great articles don't always sell.
Q. Finchem says the business community likes the fact that you guys are capitalists, businessmen that you play with (inaudible).
MARK O'MEARA: I know Tim has always used that. That's fine. I do an enormous amount of corporate work. I know a lot of CEOs and business people. I was concerned with that. I asked them, "Would you have an issue with this? If THE TOUR paid a stipend or unofficial amount of money to a player if he lived up to his commitment, would you think that would demean THE TOUR?" I haven't had one business person tell me that they'd have a problem with that. I mean, they have salespeople that go out there and are paid a commission on making a sale, but they also are paid their travel expenses. They don't walk home a loser if they don't get the sale. They might get fired sooner or later. See what I'm saying? I do appreciate and understand the concern about what you pointed out earlier about getting on. A lot of these manufacturers are cutting back on a lot of those programs, too. They're not so willing to just duel it out anymore.
MARK O'MEARA: I mean, I don't know, because I don't know exactly what everybody spends. I know that the companies are probably becoming a lot more wiser. The golf business has been a little soft in the last year and a half. We all know that. That's knowledge that I think everybody knows. I think companies are much wiser on what they're going to do. Players, you've seen a lot of jumbling around. Every new year there's somebody signing with a new company. I think you're seeing players a little bit more diversified. Instead of being with just one company, they might be with two or three different companies. Like my situation has always been that way. I might represent four or five different companies as opposed to being deadlocked on one. That way, if that one doesn't do any good, I'm out the door. I have to go searching.
Q. The original question was on the TPA. You discussed the one issue.
MARK O'MEARA: I don't even know how many members they have.
Q. Do you think the system works now? If they have an issue and take it to the board (inaudible).
MARK O'MEARA: No, they can take it to the board. The board can vote on it. The board will generally go in the directions that the majority of the players feel they should go in. What I told Tim is, some of the players that have serious issues with either Tim Finchem or THE TOUR, maybe we need to let them come and sit in a board meeting, witness what goes on. That way they understand it's pretty much all in a positive direction. It's different, because it is such a big business. Everybody thinks they have the right answer. "You should go this way, do this, do that." You have to do what's right for the overall mass, the whole PGA TOUR. So far, we haven't really found a better way to do it than what's going on right now.
Q. Did you feel that the flow of decision-making went this way to the players to headquarters or from headquarters to players?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, the three years that I was out there, I didn't have a lot of players - knock on wood - come to me all the time with serious issues, mad at me. Might have went to Davis, might have went to Tom or Jay. For some reason, everybody kind of avoided coming at me, which was great, to be honest with you. I didn't have to deal that much with it. I think a lot of the flat-out decision making is done at the corporate level, at our headquarters. They try to do it, which I think is the roundabout best way. They send to the board members a lot of the materials and directions that we're going. They get a lot of feedback from either Davis Love, myself, Jay Haas or Tom Lehman. We discuss it not only once, but two or three different times before it's ever voted on. I think the majority of the time, like when Tom Lehman and I were in there, when I'm sitting in the board meeting, I'm not sitting there thinking, "This is best for the best players, this is what's best for Mark O'Meara." I'm almost thinking the other way. I want to make sure that everybody is looked after. It may not be the greatest thing for me, but it's the best thing for the overall Tour. That's the way I've got to vote on it. It's time-consuming. I felt it was a great learning experience for me. Do I think I made a huge difference? I think I made a little bit of a difference.
Q. What do you feel about the audit?
MARK O'MEARA: I met with the independent audit people. They come in and talk to us without the PGA people there. They came and met with the board. I was pretty confident they were doing a very good job. On the other hand, I'm not a financial expert that I can base my opinion on. I can only base my opinion on listening to them and the recommendations they made to us as a board member that THE TOUR is very legit. At times I talked to Danny, at times I talked to Larry. I understand some of their concerns. Hey, what we need to do is if everybody feels that way on some of these issues, then they just need to press the board members, then the board members should pass it that way. If real change is going to happen, you have to get the consensus of the majority of the players to put enough pressure on the policy board members to say, "This is the way we want to go, this is the way the majority of the players want to go, we want to go this direction." It can be done.
Q. You need an organization to do it?
MARK O'MEARA: Not an organization. I think they need to get together. A lot of times you come to a meeting, this is how many people come to a players meeting. I listened on the phone for three and a half hours in Canada to what was going on. There's plenty of times, if they had complaints, they should start talking about them then. I don't see why THE TOUR in any way would try to do anything to hurt its players. I don't see that happening, in my opinion.
Q. Are you going to play anything differently this year because of the World Championships?
MARK O'MEARA: I'm probably not coming to San Diego. Sorry to tell you that. I'm going to go to Dubai. I've just never been to Dubai. I thought I'd go over. Although with the war, you don't know what's going on over there. My schedule will pretty much be the same as it was last year.
Q. Did you ever count up how many miles you flew since Atlanta?
MARK O'MEARA: We talked at the Skins Game, I flew 60,000 in about a five-week period there.
Q. Add going home, Europe.
MARK O'MEARA: That's a good question. 300,000, something like that. I went back and forth to Europe five times. I went to Australia earlier. Starting last year, I went to Australia twice, I went to Europe five times, I went to Africa, and I went to Japan. Maybe it's time to get my own plane, but I can't afford it, so I can't do that. I have TWA, Tiger Woods Airways (laughter). I'm no dummy. I don't get any points, but that's okay. I have to tell you, the service is pretty good, door-to-door.
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