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May 29, 1996
WES SEELEY: We have Mark O'Meara with two wins this year, a win and two seconds in his last three starts. So....
MARK O'MEARA: Obviously the last -- well, pretty much the beginning of the year has been very exceptional, and I feel very excited about the way I have played this year to have seven top 10 finishes out of 13 events. The two wins were very special, obviously, but then even last week coming out; not necessarily feeling my best and kind of hanging in there and feeling like on Sunday I had a chance maybe to win again, but didn't pull it off and Steve Stricker ended up winning the golf tournament, but still, second is a second, and it -- just a lot of good things happening, with a new set of irons in the last four weeks. I have started playing with them at The Masters, a new set of Burner irons that I helped design with the people at Taylor Made, that I like very, very much. And then you put that on top of a new construction golf ball that Spalding has help produced -- I know this sounds like advertisement, I am not, I am just being honest about my equipment, but I think, has had a major impact. This new golf ball, multi-layered ball by Top-Flite is called Strata. It has been introduced to the sales force last weekend up in Chicago. I have played three weeks with it. I have got a second, a first and a second. So you know, I don't know if it's the golf ball or my irons or just the way I have played it or maybe just the combination of all three things that have had a big impact on my game. So you know, like I said, I am happy that I have done so well this year, but I am also very aware that there is a lot of golf still to be played this year and there is a lot of goals that I need to keep setting for myself. You know, the U.S. Open is coming up and obviously just this week right here in Muirfield I'd like to play very well. So you just take one thing at a time, I guess. I am realistic about the rest of the year, but also I realize that, you know, golf comes in cycles and this cycle has been obviously on an upward swing and hopefully I can just keep maintaining it.
Q. Are there any key swings, thoughts going about that -- obviously, it is more than just equipment working for you?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, I think that when I feel like I am playing well, I feel like a couple of things happen in my golf swing. When I play well, it feels like - not to get overly technical - but last week it wasn't as good because I had like too much timing going on; but when my arms and my body motion match up, I feel like I play very well. When those things get out of sync, one way or the other, either my body is moving too fast or my arms are too slow. You're all over the place when those things don't match up, then I don't seem to play quite as well. But I think because I have played for so many years and I am getting more at ease with myself, I am maybe not sometimes quite as critical, let us say. Last week, for example, I didn't stand over a lot of shots, feel like, hey, I am going to pipe this right down the middle; a little draw over there. In fact, a lot of times, I didn't know if it was going to go a little right or a little left, but I fought it off. My short game kind of held me up and I putted pretty well last week, and when you are at least -- I don't know how I stand right now -- but going into last week, I was -- I believe I was the leader in greens in regulation on the Tour and I was about 6 or 7th in putting. You put those two stats together, you know, you should be pretty high on the money list. I mean, if you hit a lot of greens and putting well on top of that, boom, I think you are going to have good results in your scoring. Once in a while I read some of the articles in the press and see different things or I do a talk radio show with somebody out of Houston, Texas, the guy says, do you realize -- this is after Greensboro -- do you realize that you have played, I don't know, 45 rounds -- I don't know how many rounds I have played this year -- and your combined score is 102 or 101 under par for the year. He says the next best guy is like, you know, 70 or 60 under par. So you know, a lot of times I don't keep track of all of that. Obviously, I keep track of trying to win a golf tournament or to keep continually moving up on the money list to do better and try to finish higher on that list and to win golf tournaments. So you know, I think just the combination of realizing that I am not going to play good all the time. I am not going to have my A game all the time, but if you can win with your B game or C game, sometimes that is more gratifying. As I was telling Robinson here last week, that is more satisfying than when you have your A game because when you have your A game, you have higher expectations.
Q. Had you made any changes in your putting to get up to the top 10?
MARK O'MEARA: Not really. I have always felt like I have been a pretty good putter. I think that for some reason if I play a little bit more relaxed, then I seem to do better. Now, granted, it is not that easy to be relaxed when you are trying to win out there. I mean, I am not going to lie and say that I am not a little bit nervous; but on the other hand, you keep reminding yourself, you know, if you have done it at La Costa, the way I did it, there is no reason why I couldn't do it coming down the stretch at Greensboro. I feel like when I look at my record, when I have played well and had the lead going the last day, a lot of times I feel like I can get it done. Granted, there is going to be times I don't, but most of the time I feel like when I have had a chance to win I have been able to do it. So that's neat; that's fun. I take a lot of pride in that.
Q. You have always been a pretty decent putter. Have you always ranked that high in greens in regulation?
MARK O'MEARA: No, I think just in the last few years I have done better in my ball striking ability. I think that it has been a combination of things that have come. I have driven the ball a little bit better. When you drive the ball a little bit better, it is a little easier to control your golf ball from the fairway coming into the green. So I think the combination of those things, just a little better in the driving accuracy has created -- set up more opportunities to be a little bit more accurate coming to the green.
Q. Can you remember winning much when you didn't have your A game before this recent --
MARK O'MEARA: I think the only other time -- and I know I told Robinson this last week and I told Carol Mann this before is in Kapalua when I won there beating Corey Pavin in the playoffs -- this is ten years ago or how many years ago it was -- I didn't have my A game there. And for so many times I had this vision in my mind for me to be able to win I had to have everything going right, everything on and that's not necessarily the case. I mean, all of us play golf. We all understand it. We all have these expectations sometimes that are out of reach, I think sometimes, farfetched. As soon as you back off from that instead of thinking I have got to hit every shot just perfect, well, how many actual shots -- even the best players in the world that are here this week hit every shot perfect? You don't. So I think the guy who plays the best is the guy who can deal with his emotions the best out there and keep everything in perspective as to, okay, you know, I hit a little bit over here but that doesn't mean that I can't make birdie from over there. When you look at the great, great players that have played the game, Nicklaus, Watson, Trevino, those guys wouldn't necessarily have to have their A game every time they won tournaments. A lot of times they had their B and their C, but they were so strong mentally that they won a lot of golf tournaments because of their mental toughness, and that becomes a big issue, I think, out here on the Tour today because the competition is good; the golf courses are in great shape; the equipment is very good. Now, where is the difference going to come? You know, the difference is going to come to the guys who have got the mental toughness.
Q. Can you remember the one -- the game that you -- the tournament you won when you recently -- where you weren't playing or playing as good as you can in Greensboro?
MARK O'MEARA: Greensboro I played pretty well. I didn't play as well tee to green at Greensboro as maybe I did at LaCosta.
Q. How about last year when you --
MARK O'MEARA: Probably at Canada was a good prime example. I remember Canada, the Canadian Open, I played with Nicklaus and Azinger the first two days, and the weather conditions were tough and severe. I didn't hit the ball that great the first two days, but my short game kept me in there. And I actually won the tournament in Canada, I believe because of my short game, and that hasn't been the case in my career. So that was kind of fun, when after I won there, to able to go in the pressroom and say that, that I felt like my short game was what carried me through that, putting and chipping.
Q. At what point in the week do you discover whether your A game is there or is it B, or we down to C or --
MARK O'MEARA: I think it fluctuates from day-to-day out there I guess, I'd say.
Q. You are feeling real good coming off the practice range and you say, man, I think I got it this week?
MARK O'MEARA: That can sometimes be just as much a detriment as anything else. Sometimes, like if you're go on the range and you are just hitting it just perfect and you are working the ball in the right directions and everything and you feel so confident, then you get out there and you don't quite maybe -- you know, then your expectation level rises and when you have high expectations and you don't meet those expectations early off in the round, that in a way can be a reverse effect. So you know, I think I am playing okay. You know, I hit the ball okay in the practice round today, but I also -- after last week, I shot a 63 in the Pro-Am, and that was totally unexpected. I hadn't played much in three weeks, and then I went out in the first round and shot 67, but I hit it pretty bad to be honest with you. Got a very good score. So the game of golf is not only about your ability to hit the ball well and have good technique, do all the right fundamental things, but it is also about, I think, having the patience out there to realize that, you know, it is a four-day tournament. A lot of things can happen in four days, and golf is a fickle game. It is just hard to say that, hey, yeah, I feel really great. I am going to go out and play really good today. You just never know.
Q. I'm curious about these expectation levels. Have they worked against you in Majors?
MARK O'MEARA: I think they have. My record, you know, obviously not winning a professional Major championship yet and the U.S. Open, didn't play last year, didn't qualify. Prior to that, I missed the last five cuts. I know how I have done. I mean, I think that I would like to do better, but I have had opportunities at times. I mean, at Brookline I had a chance coming down the stretch. When you finish second, third, fourth, people don't remember that, but I remember how I felt coming down the stretch, and I honestly felt like I had a chance at Brookline. I definitely had a chance at the British Open in '91 when Baker-Finch won because he and I were tied after three rounds. I have had a chance, somewhat of a reasonable chance, at Augusta. I mean finishing third, fourth -- I mean, it is not like it was automatic. Not to say that I had the lead with two holes to play and didn't win. And then at the PGA last year, pretty good after three rounds, kind of in that position and necessarily didn't get the job on Sunday, but there are things that go into winning besides all the things we talked about. I mean, timing, a little bit lucky. Every tournament that I have won, hey, I have had things go my way, no question about it, and timing has a lot to do with it. But I think in the past as a younger player, yes, I probably have put too much pressure on myself in Major championships thinking, you know, hey, this is a Major championship, I have got to go with the approach that, hey, look, I can't say it is just another tournament, because it is not just another tournament; but on the other hand, for me to do well, I have got to pretty much pace myself and program myself and just hopefully have my game all working together at the right time. But there is no question throughout my career it has usually been Mark O'Meara has played well at the beginning of the year, and I tend to play well at the end of the year. And in the middle of the year, at times, I haven't played as well. Why that is? I really can't answer that question.
Q. Are you trying to find some kind of formula for Oakland Hills?
MARK O'MEARA: Yeah, I am going to play this week and then I am off next week, and when I am off next week, I am going to spend a lot of time practicing driving the ball. And I think my short game has improved because I think to win a Major championship, not only do you have to have a lot of composure and be a good player, but you have to have an overall short game, and I would classify my short game as good, maybe average to above average to the rest of the Tour players, but it definitely needs room to improve, so that is an area that I have to keep working on.
Q. Mark, I just wondered in the couple of years -- a few years ago when you were in your slump in muck and mire, all of that, I wondered if there was any point where you got really angry and if there was any point on top of that where you just said if I can get this back, I just don't want it to ever go away again?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I think, as you well know, being a very fine player in your career, I think that everybody knows that they are going to go through cycles and I think I realized when I was struggling a little bit in '93, '94, it wasn't a lot of fun and there was times I was angry, but I also in a way, at times enjoyed the challenge, enjoyed the fact to know that I was pretty down mentally, confidencewise level, maybe technique was a little bit off, but probably confidence more than anything else. And I kept telling myself, look, this is a perfect opportunity, okay? Now you're struggling. It's not the end of the world. You have got a decision to make. In life there is only two things that you are going to be doing, you're either going forward or you're going backwards. Either that or you are under the ground. I mean, those are the three options you got. Either you're getting better, or you're getting worse. I was worse, so I made a commitment in my own mind to try and get better. I kept telling myself that. To me, I actually enjoyed that challenge a lot more than anything else. Sure, you know, you come up and you come in the media room and you win a tournament. You thank everybody. You say, yeah, well blah, blah, blah you're at the top your game. Your fellow pros are congratulating you. Your friends are happy; you're happy. That is the easy part. The uneasy part is when someone is not quite on their game and they're struggling and their confidence is very low to be able to accept the fact that okay, here is where I am at and your pride, pride is a major factor when it comes to playing golf especially if you are a professional. In whatever you do, pride is a major motivating factor. And to me, if you've got self-pride and you have got determination and desire and drive, you make up the mind -- your own mind -- that that's what you want to do to turn around, that's what I did and not knowing whether it would happen or not, but I kept telling myself, hey, it is going to get better. It is going to get better. And my friends told me that too. So when it did get better, that is great, and obviously I am very pleased with what has happened the last year and a half, but I have also realized that you don't played good forever. So there will be times when I will struggle again. That's okay. Then we'll deal with that when that comes along.
Q. On the equipment angle, how much design element did you have as far as improving your own game with the new Burner irons?
MARK O'MEARA: Basically the irons I was playing were ICW5's. They were good clubs and clubs and I won tournaments with them. But they could be better. They could be better. Their sweet spot was pretty small in the long irons and basically the market is more oversize; a little bit forgiving, and the new Burner iron is similar almost in sizewise to the Burner iron what is on the market right now; the only difference really is that there is not much offset in my irons as what is on the market right now. So we are going to have basically have two sets; one that has a little more offset in it. The one that Lee Janzen is playing; Brad Bryant is playing; a couple of our staff players and there is going to be the one that Steve Mata and George Willitt and the engineers and myself designed that tend to look with a little less offset; more for a higher caliber, you know, better player of the game, maybe a 10 game handicap or 12 handicap or lower. And depending on whether you can like off-set or don't, most major manufacturers offer those options; not much offset; a little more progressive offset and even a little more offset. So we are just trying to basically please all of the different players out there and the bubble shaft has been a tremendous hit for the Taylor Made Company and also had has been a tremendous hit for me because I had never won a tournament on the Tour with graphite in my metal wood driver until we came with the bubble shaft. And I am a big believer. I think you hit them a little bit straighter and I feel I hit a little bit further and I think people that have hit it feel the same way. For me, my equipment has improved a little bit, and with the new ball, that combination, I think the best time to try changing equipment is when you are playing well. And people say well, why would you do that? Why would you want to change when you are playing well? Well, the reason being is to me, you are a better judge of the equipment when you are playing well than if you try to change when you are playing bad. Because if you are not playing very good and you try to judge equipment, I don't think you are a fair judge. So, for me, it just worked hand in hand. I just first putt the irons into play in Augusta; then I went with the ball the next week at Hilton Head because I felt like the same week doing two different variances wasn't the right, fair thing to do.
Q. Steel shaft in your irons?
MARK O'MEARA: Right now, yes. But hopefully, I'd say, in next three months I will have it dialed in for bubble shafts in my irons. I will give them a fair try because I have seen the results in my woods and I don't see any reason why I can't hit them well in my irons too. I have played with my father, who is 67, he has had all different types of clubs and, you know, you would think since I represent Taylor Made my father would play Taylor Made since I get them for free. No, he has got Cobras or Titleist; he has got this, so finally I got him a set of Burner double irons with our shaft in them. I have been playing some golf with him lately and I have never seen him hit his irons as well as he is. He actually hits 4 and 3-irons which he wouldn't -- he would stay away from those two clubs. He doesn't have the zero iron in his bag yet. I don't know if my dad is good enough to play good enough with the zero iron that John Daly has got. I think that they have been a big success and I am happy for the company because we have got a good group of people.
Q. What about the ball, different flight pattern for you?
MARK O'MEARA: No, the ball has got -- it is a big change going from a wound ball to a solid construction ball. This new ball is pretty revolutionary. In U.S.A. TODAY, they had a piece about it. It is a multi-layer ball, so it's got more than one cover on it. Basically, what we try to do is create a ball that would be a solid ball that the backdrop to the solid ball has always been that it is too hard, so what we have tried to create is a softer feeling ball, when you are putting and chipping the ball, which a Strata is that way because the cover is very soft, but it has a hard mantle underneath it before the core, so when you are hitting a longer shot like a driver or longer iron, it gets a little bit harder, but it also holds its line better in the wind; doesn't waiver very much, unless I hit a little snap hook or something. You can't expect any ball to go good when you hit a terrible shot, but yet then around the greens, you have the performance of a softer, maybe a wound ball even though it is not wound because of the design.
Q. This is Jack's tournament. What would it means to win the tournament, Mark? When you were growing up was Jack one player that you tried to emulate in some ways?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, there is no doubt in my mind, I am a firm believer and I know Jack very well. I have played a lot of golf with him; played with him last day of Augusta this year. He is the best player of all time. There is no kidding, these guys in the locker room, we know and truly believe that Jack Nicklaus is the greatest player of all time. We feel that way of this era and I totally idolized him as a young man growing up. I played here in 1979 the first time when I qualified for U.S. Amateur Championship and I went on to win the U.S. Amateur that year in the summer beating John Cook in the finals at Canterbury up in Cleveland, but I remember coming here and playing the first time and I was in total awe of Muirfield - coming from Southern California; seeing the natural topography here; the natural beauty of the course; the condition of the course. It was immaculate. These fairways, I was like, are better than the greens that I putt on back home in San Diego or Orange County back home. So to me, it would be a tremendous honor to win this golf tournament. When you look at the past champions that they had here, pretty impressive, very impressive.
Q. As you are trying to win your first Major, are there things about Nicklaus's record or the way he played in the Majors that you have looked at at all?
MARK O'MEARA: There is no question -- that question posed to maybe Phil Mickelson who is 26 as opposed to Mark O'Meara who is 39 -- not to say that I wouldn't very dearly love to win one of the major championships, one of the professional major championships, but on the other hand, this question has been brought up a lot and it will always be brought up-- that Davis Love or Mark O'Meara or whomever, is the next best player that has not won a major championship. Let's say, I never win a professional major championship and my career comes to an end one day, maybe next year, two, five years, I don't know, if maybe I will go to the Senior Tour. Honest to God, I would not trade in everything that I was able to accomplish or play in or people I have met for a major championship - I am sorry. I feel like my career -- it is not going to be tarnished if I don't have a professional major because I have to live with my own feelings; not what necessarily everybody reads or writes or whatever. I got to live with Mark O'Meara; nobody else, just my wife and my family, and you know, I would be a little bit disappointed if I had that void but once again, I have been very blessed and very fortunate to have a career and have the consistency that I have had on the PGA TOUR and worldwide golf winning golf tournaments outside of my own country. For me, I wouldn't trade all those things in for one or two major championships.
Q. Are Majors becoming now, let us say, more than two years ago more of a focal point for you because you have accomplished --
MARK O'MEARA: I think so, Steve. I think so. But I think that once again, I don't want to get tied in to, okay, I have got win a major, then people would feel better about me or maybe will write nicer things or maybe it will take me to the next plateau. If I win a major championship or if I am fortunate enough to contest for a major championship, the last three this year, great, you know, I welcome the challenge and hopefully I can do it. But if it doesn't happen this year, maybe it will happen next year or the following year, I mean Tom Kite had to wait until he was what? 41? 42.
MARK O'MEARA: There is a guy that was the all-time leading money winner. I am not the all-time leading money winner. So yes, there is no question I am a little bit more focused when it comes to that, but yet I also realize there is a lot of elements that it takes to win and if I can remain patient and trust my ability, then I will have a better chance of playing well in the major championships.
Q. I am from Detroit and it is a little offbeat here, but we have got a tournament coming up in two weeks in Detroit. Can you give me just a small impression or memory of Oakland Hills; how it has impressed you?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, I made the cut last time I was at Oakland Hills, so obviously, I like that fact. Oakland Hills is a tough, demanding golf course. I think it is a golf course that is going to require a player to have every element of his game ready. There is no question. Let us not fool -- you know you have to drive the ball well in a major championships; especially U.S. Open, and especially at Oakland Hills because they have a lot of well placed fairway bunkers with faces on them that require that you either avoid those things on both sides of the fairway. The greens are fairly well undulated at Oakland Hills. They are going to be probably fast depending on the weather if we get no rain --
Q. Do you have a personal recollection for me, though, something that you remember?
MARK O'MEARA: T.C. Chen, I remember.
Q. Were you playing with him?
MARK O'MEARA: No, I was on the golf course on about 14 when I --
Q. How did you find out --
MARK O'MEARA: I could hear the roar coming over the golf course very quickly of what happened when he double hit his pitch shot.
Q. Took an 8 --
MARK O'MEARA: Right.
Q. And then 3 bogeys?
MARK O'MEARA: Right and then Andy North pulled it out. So that sticks out in my mind a little bit, on the other hand, it was 11 years ago so.....
Q. I want to clarify one thing that you said when you were asked a question about Muirfield. Did you say you played here in a U.S. amateur qualifier?
MARK O'MEARA: That is correct. In 1979 I qualified for the amateur playing here on the Scarlet course.
Q. Then did you play here the following year as amateur champion?
MARK O'MEARA: I did not. I couldn't, I was still in school but Jack- - I was invited to play.
Q. As you have been coming here through the years, are there changes that you have seen in the golf course besides the rain that have brought the scores down to the level they are at now compared to when you first started playing here?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, the changes really have been that the fact that this tournament, as we all know, hasn't necessarily been blessed with the best weather. Springtime, Midwest, you are going to look at possible cold weather, possible rain. I think the reason why the scoring has been so good in the past years is the golf course has been pretty soft. When you have soft conditions out there, these players are very, very good and when you have soft conditions you know, your ball is going to stay in the fairway a lot easier. It is going to hold the green a lot easier. If you miss the green, it is a lot easier to pitch your ball up-and-down because the greens are softer and they can't get them up to speed on the greens quite as fast. So really, is Muirfield Village, as far as I know, in watching the Ryder Cup, this course plays tough and testy, when it is fast, when it is hard and fast; fairways are running; trouble comes into play more; you might hit shorter clubs. It might play shorter, but on the other hand, you have room for your ball to get in trouble; greens harder and faster. That is basically how you get the scoring higher, or if the wind blows. Right now, the golf course is soft; it is playing very, very long. But it is a little breezy out there. Kind of depends on wind -- wind has such a huge factor. If you get 30 to 25 mile an hour winds, they are not going to shoot 20 under par. That is not to take away from the course. See what Tom Lehman did. I think he shot what, 5 under, 20 under?
WES SEELEY: 20 under.
MARK O'MEARA: That is just phenomenal golf.
Q. That was a dry year too?
MARK O'MEARA: There wasn't that much wind and he played some phenomenal golf.
Q. With the break we had in the weather today can this course recover from this dousing that it has taken?
MARK O'MEARA: It is pretty wet out there. It will be interesting to see who they play in place tomorrow. I would imagine they would have to do it -- I don't know. I am not the rules official, but I would suspect that there will be some good scoring this week.
Q. Did you need that down period '93, '94? In a way, did you actually need that to get where you are now how big of a factor --
MARK O'MEARA: I think that that was a big factor. I think it kind of gave me a break in the fact I was building a new house; a lot of different things going on in my life. My caddy was diagnosed with M.S. who was a close friend and I at the time refused to think or put the blame or responsibility on any of those issues. I knew I wasn't playing very well. Well you have got a lot of that, people said. No, no, I am just not playing good. But in a way that could have been a big turning point; and said well, I have had a good career and I have played 14, 15 years and maybe it is time just to -- it is not Mark O'Meara. That is like me trying to wash my car, and doing it all, but yet you know that left rim even though -- nah, I will get that later. No, we are going to do it right or don't do it at all. That is my philosophy. Either I am going to get better or continually try and get better or I might as well see you later. So for me it was a big motivating factor.
Q. You have been successful as long as you have been (inaudible) as you mentioned another challenge to kind of get your interest back into it?
MARK O'MEARA: I think so. The challenging of struggling and, I will never forget standing on the 15th tee at Canadian Open about three years ago, two or three years ago, and you know, I have a 7-iron and not really knowing if I can hit the green; didn't know if it was going to flame it over in the right hill in the gallery or jerk it left to the left side of the rough with a 7-iron from 155. That will wake you up pretty quickly. I think everybody experiences, at times in their career, I mean, it is just a matter of controlling your emotions and mental thought process. Sometimes that is one of the most important challenges of all.
Q. What did you do on the 15th?
MARK O'MEARA: I think I skanked it over to the right side chipped on and probably two-putted for my bogey. I remember that feeling. I didn't like that feeling. I told my wife, I called her, I said, you know, Alicia, I said, I was playing today and she said, what did you shoot. I said, 57. I said, that is not really the issue the issue. I was standing on this one tee; I had a 7-iron shot and I had no idea -- I didn't feel like I could hit the green, basically I probably had a better chance if I'd had thrown it on the green from there than I did standing there making a golf swing, so there is times when you -- in your career when you get to a point that is kind of a low; then you say, okay, I will experience this and I don't like this, so now it is time to kind of maybe turn it around and rededicate yourself a little bit. It wasn't necessarily standing out in the range and pounding balls 'til dark and getting your hands bleeding. It was a combination of things, maybe take a little time off, readjusting my feelings about what I want to do or what I want to try to accomplish maybe some of my goals, this and that, and fortunately, knock on wood, it has turned around. So you know, I enjoy playing. I enjoy travelling. I enjoy competing. I enjoy trying to win a golf tournament very much. Thanks. Appreciate it.
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