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March 5, 1997

Mark O'Meara

Miami, FL

LEE PATTERSON: Any questions you may have for Mr. O'Meara today? You've got some comments?

MARK O'MEARA: I'll tell you what, that golf course is pretty tough out there. I mean, I personally always thought the golf course was pretty difficult anyway. I realize that at times some guys shot some pretty low scores, but I think it had to do with the fact they went on an overseas program, the Bermuda rough off the greens and on the fairway wasn't quite the same texture for the few years. And the wind was a little bit of factor, but not really, and guys were shooting some pretty low scores. But, now, I've played 9 holes yesterday and 18 holes today. The golf course is very demanding off the tee. Driving the ball is going to be an extreme factor. It seems now if you miss the fairway off the tee more than likely you're going to be in the bunker. The guy who is a good bunker player -- I would imagine, you're going to have players hitting quite a few fairway bunker shots, just because of the size of the bunkers and the location of the bunkers. And, then you add the effect of having the grass cut down around the greens on holes like No. 3, 4, 8, 18, you know, you're not -- I hit a good drive on 18 today, hit a 4-iron. It hit the bank and rolled all the way down the bunker. Years ago, it was like that on 18, but not necessarily on No. 8 or No. 3 or 4. So, I mean, as you know, when the wind is blowing, you're trying to hit shots, create shots, keep the ball low, and if the wind gets away, hits on the edge of the green, it can run in the edge of the water. I definitely think the scores are going to be quite a bit higher this year than they've been the last few years.

Q. Was the wind into you at 18?

MARK O'MEARA: It was. I thought it was in kind of off of the left, coming off the left. So I tried to hit kind of a straight ball and I pulled it just a little bit. But, it was in, kind of coming this direction. It was kind of swirling just a little bit. It's at a nice clip, it's about a club to club and a half wind.

Q. And 4-iron --

MARK O'MEARA: I hit a pretty good drive. That was earlier this morning. Now, it's probably driver -- I think it's too hard. It's too hard for me. I don't know how the rest of the players feel about it. I think it's pretty severe.

Q. Can you get from the green from the bunkers on the right?

MARK O'MEARA: Yeah. You're going to have to hit a heck of a golf shot. They're playable out of them. The problem is when you have new bunkers, new sand, the sand is softer. The balls aren't plugging, but in fairway bunkers in Florida they're pretty firm, semi waste bunkers. It's a little easier. You're going to have to be careful with your footing and your balance that you don't miss-hit it just a little bit because it's going to be easy to hit a few bunker shots fat out of there.

Q. The lips aren't too bad?

MARK O'MEARA: Not too bad. The bunker behind the green on 18 is pretty deep, and it really slopes away. It's got a lot of pitch toward the water. Maybe that was the way it was supposed to be built - I don't know - but I would definitely take -- I'd take two pars and two 5s there and run to the next tee. A bogey is going to be a good score on that hole. I know that sounds crazy, but 4 is going to be a tremendous score.

Q. When you talk about cutting away, down around the greens, and can land in the water with a shot that is minimal off line, do you think that taking up these things is far too much and going away from the tradition of the game?

MARK O'MEARA: I personally think that like on 8 if you hit a knock-down shot on there and the ball hits on the green, five feet on the green, it's got the possibility juicing back off the green down to the water. I understand that at Augusta. But, this is not Augusta. And, it's windy out here. It's not quite this windy at Augusta. The same thing is -- it's the same for everybody. And, they wanted it to make it tough. And, they've made it tough. They've accomplished their mission.

Q. That's a diplomatic answer.


Q. Do you personally think that they're moving away from the --

MARK O'MEARA: I think, personally, in my opinion, if I was asked, I would say that sometimes I'm not necessarily always in agreement with shaving down some of the faces; especially like what I would have done if you're going to put the bunkers on the right side of No. 18, then I probably wouldn't have it quite so shaved on the left side. But I thought that that was a good hole without the bunkers on the right, with the rough over there. And, it just looks like the landing areas are almost nonexistent out there. But their whole object was to make the golf course very, very difficult, and they have. It's not really unfair, because if you hit a good shot, more than likely, you'll be rewarded. It's going to put a premium on a guy playing good, solid golf. And, that's what they want. If you get a good break here and there - unfortunately, this game, it's not always fair. We all play golf. We know that we sometimes hit good shots and they turn out bad. Unfortunately, that's the game of golf. And, I think, here, it's just going to be a guy who is going to have to be a good methodical player, a thinker, you usually get the best players to rise to that occasion.

Q. Well, how would you rate 18 now as a finishing hole?

MARK O'MEARA: Probably the hardest hole I've ever seen, with the wind blowing into you. I can't think of any other golf hole like that, in my opinion, of any golf course, that we play on TOUR. How do you guys think you could play that 18th hole out there? How many balls do you think you'd lose? The good thing for you guys with the handicap deal, the worst score you could make is a double. You can't go for those triples and 8's. I've seen your moves. You chop it over in the bunker. And, we'd have to tie a rope on you. Then you'd come over and jerk it in the left bunker and fat it in the lake, and drop it and it plugs. I think he got his mission accomplished. He wanted to make it hard, and I promise you, it's hard out there. It's going to be tough. It's tough for me. I think what makes Doral so interesting is there's quite a few dog legs out there, and where the hole dog legs, is where your driving area is; where your ball needs to land. And he's narrowed them by the bunker positioning; it's made those areas a little narrower in the driving area. When you're playing, let's say, for example, the 7th hole or the 6th hole or whatever, it's 430 yards or whatever. And, the fairway kind of goes out and it dog legs, but you're teeing off here. So, where it's 20 yards, you're coming at an angle where it's narrower than that. Plus, the wind is blowing. So, you've really got to be right on with your shape of your golf shots or how you're going to play it; stand on the tee and be committed. "Am I going to aim it down the right side and hold it against the wind or aim to the left and ride the wind?" That's half the battle, trying to guess what shot you want to play and hopefully pull it off. I don't think the rough in years past, it was always that you'd miss the fairway and you'd be in the rough. And, it was hard to pick a club because you'd catch a fly or something like that. I didn't see a lot of rough today. I was either in the fairway or the bunkers, because the bunkers are so big.

Q. What do you think a good score would be?

MARK O'MEARA: I would take 10-under right now and just sit here and let them go. I would think anything double digits. I think it would be close to what happened last week, 6 to 8-under, 10-under, somewhere around there. If it really got to blowing, I would think maybe even less than that. I think even par by the end of the week would be a very good finish. It may for the win. It may win if it howls. I think you've got an opportunity to win. I don't think it's going to be too low.

Q. Speaking of unfair golf, is this perhaps one of the $700,000 built up in two months, with the attention given Tiger and things like that?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, my banker has been pretty happy with it. My wife has been very happy. I've always been known -- most of you guys know me out there, this is my 17th year on TOUR. I've never been one to search that out, the publicity or all that stuff that comes along with that. In a way, it's been a great benefit for me. I've been out here for that many years. I think I'm a pretty good player. I've won 14 events. 4th on the all-time money list. And, yet people don't always recognize me. I get my privacy and that's huge, I think. And it's nice to be able to have that. It's nice that maybe not all the attention is focused towards me. A lot of the attention is focused towards Tiger, where four years or five years ago, it was focused to John Daly, or Greg Norman, the great player he is, or Nick Faldo. I don't have any hard feelings about that. Sometimes Mark McCumber, I'm up skiing, they look at me, I told these people out in LA last week, I was skiing. A guy said, "You're a golf pro." And I said, "yeah. You have to realize I won two weeks ago, back-to-back." And, he said you're, "Mark." I said, "let's see if you get it right - Mark." And I'm like (indicating), "it starts with an M." "That's right," he says, "McCumber, right?" And, I said, "No, it's not McCumber, he's my bud, but it's O'Meara." He said "that's right, that's right, I'm sorry." So, they confuse us a lot. And I know Mark has said the same thing, saying, "great playing at Pebble Beach, do you own that place?" I've always said, "Hey, if I owned that place, I wouldn't be playing that as a pro." But it's been a lot of fun. I'm glad to get off to a good start. I wish I could come up here and say I'm playing great, and I'm hitting it super. I can't say that. I don't feel -- I feel like I've played well. I feel like I've managed my game well. But, I don't really feel like I've played great by no means.

Q. Don't you think that your finish at Pebble Beach was a great finish?

MARK O'MEARA: That was a great finish. That was a great finish. It was great for me. It was a perfect sense of timing. I couldn't ask for a better scenario. Playing a young, competitive kid that drilled pretty much everybody coming down the stretch like he had. I think the key to what happened at Pebble Beach was that I expected him to do the things that he did. I expect Tiger to make birdies. I expect him to put the big charge on. So, when he was doing that, that didn't really phase me that much. I would expect my opponent, or whoever I'm playing, or the course, or this and that, to always do well, because that means I have to do that much better to win. And, that was my philosophy coming down the stretch, and the notoriety that he's gotten in the media and the attention he's gotten has been massive, and probably rightly so. Maybe a little bit overkill, but -- and to beat him and hold him off, that was very good for me. And for the whole tournament and the atmosphere of the tournament. And it was good for golf. I think people enjoyed watching that neck-and-neck, watching the old veteran - not that old, 40 years old - playing against the 21 year old stud.

Q. You say you expected him to do that, yet he's playing in his 12th, 13th tournament of his career, and already he has everybody -- if you were playing somebody else that day, whoever finished third, Jeff Sluman or something, would you expect the same thing, the guy is going to birdie the last hole?

MARK O'MEARA: No, no. But Tiger, because of his power and technique, and when you put your hand on the ball, that was a big advantage, there, that week. That was really why I was able to win the tournament: To be able to put my hand on the ball on 16 to give myself a good lie, to chip a 7-iron as opposed to using a sand wedge. But, he's definitely a kid that wants to win. He has an incredible burning desire to win already at 21. Now, ten years from now, I don't know if that will be the same or not. Time will tell. But, right now, Tiger wants to win. He's told me that. We played against each other at home. "I can't wait for this, I can't wait for that, I can't wait for the Ryder Cup, I want to win." But he's 21 years old. He doesn't have necessarily a wife. He doesn't have kids running around at home. He's just moving into his first place he ever owned. He just bought his first car six months ago. When we were that age and you were starting as media guys, you were, "I can't wait to get in the media room. I can't wait to write some stories." And, now, it's, "I've got to go in there, I don't want to do that. I've got to talk to that guy, give me a break, I've done that before. He's going to say the same old stuff." So, I think that, no, it doesn't phase me. And for him to be that far advanced, that does phase me. To be as mature and as far along as Tiger is at this early stage in his life is pretty impressive. But he's been impressive at every level so far. He was impressive as a little kid. He was impressive at the junior golf level. He was impressive at the college level. He was impressive in the amateur ranks. When he got on TOUR, we thought he's going to win, he may not win right away, but he's going to win, because he's a good player. To get into the championship and win two tournaments like that, he's for real.

Q. He's painted that scenario that played out in Pebble Beach?

MARK O'MEARA: We talked about that. What happens is when we play we have kind of a friendly game. And sometimes it's not a lot of money, but when you start down one down, pressing every hole, I win the first hole, he doubles back, first thing -- next thing, it's not the money. It's more the pride factor that's involved. He keeps telling me that he's going to drill me, he's going to do this. So, I told him, you know what, you hit it way out there, you're straight, you're long, I may slap it over here, and slap it over there, but some way, somehow, I said I'm going to clip you or I'm going to beat you, just so you know that. And I think that that helped me at the end, at the 18th tee. He kind of knew that. He's beaten me, but I've beaten him, too. So he knows that I'm not going to back down, even though I might screw up, there's going to be times that I'm not going to back down.

Q. He doesn't pay you for your Magic tickets, does he pay the golf bets?

MARK O'MEARA: Sometime the people with the money, they don't come with it very quickly. That's why they have all the money. No, he's fine. I'm just hoping that he'll get better seats and invite me to come and sit in his seats sometime.

Q. Do you feel like you can sustain what you've started this year? You're off to a great start?

MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, thank first of all I like to play a lot. And I'm on a pretty long stretch this next 9 weeks, I'm playing 8 out of 9 weeks. That's a lot of golf. People say why are you doing that? This is what I've always done. Last week in LA my play was pretty scrappy. I shot even par in the Pro Am today and I hit some decent shots, but I could hope that I could maintain that. But, I've played long enough and realized long enough that this game fluctuates frequently. But I've had four top-10s out of five events and 7 hundred and almost 50 thousand dollars. Maybe I'll take the rest of the year off, maybe just hang it up. I'd like to take it deep and go for the two million dollar mark. I'd like to play well here, and obviously the major championships are important to me. That's the one thing lacking in my career. So I would like to very much win one of those or at least play well on them to give myself that opportunity this year.

Q. Is the fact that you didn't -- that you don't think you're at your best give you a feeling that there is a lot of chance for more this year?

MARK O'MEARA: Well, yeah, I think that as you get older I think you realize that the game of golf is about -- not always about perfection. If you look at what Greg said last year, here, I was reading the golf magazine that when he won here last year he had 101 putts over the week. There are a lot of aspects in going into playing good golf. And, if course management and how you handle yourself mentally and how well you putt or chip or how you manage yourself around the golf course, that in itself can be a huge aspect of the game of playing well. And for me, as I've gotten older I think I've gotten better at doing that, managing myself a little better. But, ball-striking wise, I've hit it better than I hit it. When I won at San Diego or played earlier this year, hit it better, and made a lot less money. It's a crazy game.

Q. Does that make those victories more pleasing?

MARK O'MEARA: It did. And that's being as honest as I can be. I'm a pretty honest type of guy. So like I said, I didn't hit the ball very good yesterday in the practice round. I hit it a little bit better today. But it's just -- it's such a fine line. This game is a fine line. And sometimes you get it going for a while and then you're off a little bit, then you work back, and you're on board and then you're off a little bit, it comes and goes.

LEE PATTERSON: Appreciate your time.

End of FastScripts....

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