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An Interview With: Mike Weir

JULIUS MASON: Welcome ladies and gentlemen, Mike Weir at the 86th PGA Championship, making his sixth appearance in the PGA Championship. Welcome to Whistling Straits. Some comments on what you've seen out there and we'll go to Q&A.

MIKE WEIR: Yeah, the golf course I think is a pretty interesting golf course. Had a chance to play it twice now, and both with a pretty similar wind.

I think it will be challenging. As I was watching Tiger give his interview a little bit ago, I agree with him. I think if the wind is down, there will be some good scoring, and if the wind is up, it will play pretty difficult. So it will be a good challenge.

Q. Question about the Ryder Cup. You are probably closer to this year's course than anyone else on TOUR, or grew up there, anyway. Do you wish that maybe the format would change the way it did for Europe when it went from Great Britain to Europe? Would you like to see something like that for the U.S., maybe North America than just country?

MIKE WEIR: That's an interesting question. I think watching the Ryder Cup, growing up and knowing that I would never have a chance to play in it, was always a little disappointing. I thought it was a great event and is a great event and would love to be part of it.

I think the Presidents Cup now, with the last couple of years and the way that's panned out, it's starting to grow in stature and get a lot more interesting now. So I'm glad for that.

Obviously I would like to take part in the Ryder Cup, but I really think the Presidents Cup is making a move to be as good as the Ryder Cup.

Q. Are you planning to attend this year's matches?

MIKE WEIR: No. You know, I don't live in the area anymore there. I live in the Salt Lake area.

No, I'll be watching it on TV's little bit.

Q. Before the U.S. Open, you talked about how you're excited about making some major changes to your game, but you had put a hold on those for the major championships. Given that, are you happy with the way you played the U.S. Open and the British Open?

MIKE WEIR: Yeah, I am. I haven't been playing -- I don't feel I've been striking the ball as well this year as I did last year. So to play well in the U.S. Open and the British, when I feel like I haven't been playing really particularly that well, I was happy about. I'm looking forward to this off-season. I'm going to spend a couple of months in November and December probably working pretty hard with my coach to fine-tune a few things.

But my game actually feels pretty good right now. I was happy with my game at the British Open, I think I led in greens in reg there, my short game was just a little bit off at the British Open. I feel pretty good about this week.

Q. The last nine major championships, nine different winners, six of them first?time major winners, do you have any theories as to why in these tournaments the things may be getting more balanced since Tiger dominated things in '99 and 2000?

MIKE WEIR: I think it's just the way the game is. I think what Tiger was doing in the late '90s and early 2000s was incredible. It's hard to keep that pace.

I think if you look over a long career, there's all of these ebbs and flows of the game, as there is with major championships. I think even when Jack and Arnie and Gary were winning all of the majors, there were always guys sneaking in a few here and there, and we're seeing that at this time right now.

At the same time, you see some guys, some of the bigger names really playing well and contending in the tournaments, they just happen to have not pulled them out. It just shows how deep the fields are in the majors and in golf in general and that anybody who plays well can even win a major championship, let alone a regular Tour event. Their game and confidence is high enough that they can do it in a major, which is tougher than a regular event.

Q. In terms of the golf and your day-to-day life in these tournaments, how did your life change after you won a major and how did you handle all of that?

MIKE WEIR: I think after I won a major, I didn't feel like my day-to-day life changed a whole lot. You know, I had to kind of guard my practice time when I got to an event a little bit more because, you know, there was a few more requests for my time than maybe before I won the Masters. So I had to be careful of that because I still wanted to keep playing well.

But outside of that, my life has not changed a whole lot. I kept everything else pretty much the same, my schedule the same, just trying to get better, and that's been my whole goal all along.

Q. As you know, Todd Hamilton had a nice career in Japan before he came over here this year. Having played yourself in Asia for a time, I wonder if you look back on that as having been a big help to you in your career, having to persevere through that, and could you have imagined doing it as long as he did it, for ten years or more?

MIKE WEIR: Yeah, to answer the first part of your question, definitely I think it helped my game. When I was first out of college, I wasn't ready to -- I may have somehow gotten through the Q-School and fluked it out on TOUR, but my game wasn't ready to compete week?in and week-out on TOUR when I got out of college. The six or seven years that it took me to get out of here made me want it more. It makes you tougher when you play in these smaller events and grinding it out for $1,000 or $500 and to make enough money to keep going and get by.

You know, what Todd has done is fantastic. It shows you with perseverance what can happen. Todd has been playing in Japan where he can make a nice living, or the Canadian Tour, maybe Asian Tour where I was playing. It's tougher to make significant progress as far as going ahead financially. You're kind of just getting by, and that's what I was doing for six or seven years. At the same time it made me hungry to do that.

So I don't know, a little bit different situation, he and I coming from the Japanese Tour is a little bit -- there's a little bit more to play for than maybe some of the other tours.

Q. As we watch you all of the week of major championships, it's kind of an interesting dynamic when you come in earlier in the week and everybody is kind of loose and you're getting together and playing practice rounds and we watch you progressively tighten up. We have one more day to go to get ready. Can you talk about what you do in terms of practice on Tuesday, mentally, physically, sort of what you're focusing on to get ready when you still have another day to go in a big event coming up?

MIKE WEIR: Yeah, I've learned in the last few years, I used to come in early and almost overwork myself before the event started. Now it's Tuesday, I've played 18 holes already early this morning. After I'm done here I'll do a little bit of practicing, not too much, and I'll probably play nine holes tomorrow and just fine?tune what I feel I need for the golf course, a lot of short shots and lag putting, mainly short game, but not overwork it.

I felt when I first got on TOUR, I felt like I had to do something different getting ready for a major than a regular event. You kind of get too high on your practice and your intensity in your practice Monday through Wednesday, and when the event starts you're a little bit tired. So I try to keep the intensity a little bit lower Monday through Wednesday to me and step it up on Thursday, and that seems to work okay.

Q. For the state of your game in the three majors this year, was it always one particular area or was it a combination of things? You mentioned short game at the British Open. Was it a case of something different each time cropping up?

MIKE WEIR: Yeah, a little bit. At Augusta my short game felt very good. I was just hitting very poorly. I wasn't able to control my distances and short-sided myself a number of times. Just didn't play very well at all there, especially Thursday, but Friday I didn't play too bad.

The last couple of majors, the U.S. Open and the British Open, I was right there. I played well at the U.S. Open, had a good chance going there into Sunday, as well as the British Open, felt like I had a good chance. It just didn't pan out. I was maybe just a couple shoots too far back to really contend.

You know, at the British Open, it was my short game that really held me back from being in a better position on Sunday. I didn't convert many opportunities and I had quite a few of them; and thus, I was five or six back starting the day instead of maybe right there.

Q. You've always shown a lot of creativity in your shot?making, the way you play the game and the golf courses, like Troon and Shinnecock required that, does your game lend itself to that, the golf course?

MIKE WEIR: You definitely have to shape the ball off the tee. I played with some buddies of mine today, Steve Schneiter and Kevin Sutherland, we were talking about that the golf course sets up like a links golf course, the look of it and everything, but it's not quite. 20 yards in front of the green, it's a different kind of grass, where it looks like the ball will run up, but it's very soft. The fairway stops about 20 yards short of the green and then we have almost like a fringe all the way up to the green and that fringe is very soft. It won't chase onto the green, even though from back in the fairway it looks like it will, it looks like it will play like links golf where you can bounce it 20 or 30 yards short and bounce it up there, even visually.

MIKE WEIR: It's links golf, but it's a lot of target golf. To get back to your question, you have to shape the ball and keep it on the correct side of the hole with as many slopes as there are on the green. You have to be pretty creative with your short game around the green.

Q. It's well documented that you've revamped your swing over the years. Would you call this a rebuilding of your swing, or specifically, what are you tweaking?

MIKE WEIR: Well, it's not a revamping. I think I just need to work on my fundamentals like we all need to and work on my grip a little bit, my setup. I would say my fundamentals are just a little bit off and I'll continue working on them. I think just getting the reps in without playing a tournament, it seemed to do well in 2002, where I didn't play very well, had a nice break mid-October through December where I got to spend a lot of time with Mike and work on my game. So at the start of 2003 I was ready to go, where last year 2003 seemed to keep going with all the stuff I had at the end of the season and I didn't have the time to spend with Mike. I learned a lot listening to Jack Nicklaus talk about how he spent time with Jack Grout in the off-season working on his fundamentals so when he started the following season everything was fresh and clear in his mind. It seemed to work for me and it's a pretty good formula, so I'm looking forward to that.

Q. Do you expect wind to be the biggest factor this weekend, and what are your thoughts on 18 as a finishing hole?

MIKE WEIR: Wind is going to play a major factor on this golf course. If the wind doesn't blow or if it blows in a direct south direction, some of the holes are a little easier than the wind blowing some other direction. So it's going to play a major factor, the wind.

18th hole is interesting. You know, I was practicing my chip shots off the front of the green the last two days because, you bust a driver, 3-wood to the front of the green, you have a fringe that you can't putt them through. Paul Azinger was showing me how to chip off the greens yesterday. It's an interesting hole. Hopefully with the wind the way it is, if they play it up maybe a little bit, the hole will be a little more fair for everybody.

But if not we've got to deal with it and everybody has to deal with it. It's an interesting finishing hole.

Q. The greens are pretty big and pretty receptive, are they fast enough to the point now where the wind is causing the ball to break a little more or a little less because of the wind?

MIKE WEIR: Yeah, any time you get a strong wind and it seems like you're close to the water, if you catch a gust, the ball is definitely affected by the wind.

Using Shinnecock as an example where the greens are burned out dead where the ball would actually blow from a resting position. Out there when you hit a putt, the wind will affect it once it starts its roll; and once it starts to slow down, if you catch a gust of wind it will blow. From a resting position it doesn't seem to be jostling around.

Q. Are the greens relatively easy to read?

MIKE WEIR: There's a lot of subtle breaks. And it's a fairly new golf course, so the greens aren't quite settled yet so there are a lot of little subtleties in it. When the green speeds change day-to-day, so does your line and your break. So you've got to pay attention to that stuff.

Q. When you play on the golf course, does it feel long, does it feel like the whole golf course seems to be long or do you have to fight it a bit length-wise?

MIKE WEIR: Not necessarily. I thought yesterday the way the wind was, it didn't feel like it played 7,600 yards where today was a different wind and it played much longer.

So I think it's going to be day-to-day depending on the direction of the wind, depending on if we get a little more rain. The ball is running a little bit on the fairway yesterday where it seemed to be a little bit softer today.

Q. A lot of these courses are obviously getting bigger and technology, but as they get bigger, can it not help a player like yourself in that everybody is going to be missing greens and everybody is going to be missing fairways?

MIKE WEIR: There's always going to be a place that accuracy and distance control with your shots, no matter where you play, is going to be a key and an advantage for someone who is able to control that. The long player who is going to be accurate and hit a shot solid is obviously going to have an advantage. But at the same time, I still feel like if you can wedge it and putt it, you're going to be in there in the tournament.

So in that regard, this golf course being 7,600 yards, hopefully my wedge game and my putting is on and shots around the greens, hopefully that's good and hopefully have a chance.

JULIUS MASON: Mike Weir, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

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