An Interview With: Shaun Micheel

JULIUS MASON: We are joined by defending champion Shaun Micheel. We are at the 86th PGA Championship and we are in Wisconsin at Whistling Straits.

Shaun, welcome to the state. Thoughts on the golf course if you don't mind, and we'll go to Q&A.

SHAUN MICHEEL: First of all, I'm excited to be back. There's not many opportunities that players get to have a chance to defend a major championship. There's a little apprehension, a few nerves, I think, maybe just a little bit more than I was expecting, I think, coming back, because the golf course is so unique.

It is certainly going to test all of us, and I hope to kind of put on a good show. I think in some ways maybe I'm a little bit more nervous that way than if we were going back to a traditional?style golf course, much like we played last year at Oak Hill.

I'm happy to be here. Obviously the fans in Wisconsin, 83 percent of the ticket sales coming from the state, that really shows the love for the game that the people up here really have. It's been enjoyable to be up here for the first three days, but I'm ready to get things going tomorrow.

The golf course is in excellent shape. The superintendents, they have done a great job. The PGA of America, when I was up here in June, I think they took a good look at the golf course and saw how difficult that it was to play two months ago, so I'm pleasantly surprised to see that some of the tees have been moved up a little bit and some of the areas have been widened.

With that being said, there's still enough trouble out there that awaits us, so hopefully I will do my best to kind of keep it in the green stuff. But I'm looking forward to it.

Q. You've had about a year now since you've won. How has your life changed and has it changed how you thought it would change?

SHAUN MICHEEL: I suppose to so. I've said this before, I felt like with me winning the last major of the year last year, I wasn't as affected maybe as Mike or Jim were last year with a lot of the media requirements and maybe just some of the responsibilities that go along with winning a big championship.

So in some respects, I was really pleased it was the last one, because I didn't play that much, right after I played the World Series of Golf. Even after that, I still looked forward to the birth of my child.

Professionally, it's changed my life significantly. A lot more opportunities have come my way, and it's certainly been a dream of mine to win. But I don't think really personally it's changed me too much. It's just kind of allowed me to take some time off. With my son being born in November, I was able to really kind of stay home a little bit more, and I didn't really travel the world at the end of last year as maybe some of the players have.

It's put a lot more pressure on me. I'm starting to feel that a little bit more in the last four or five months. I haven't played as well, really, since the Masters. I took some time off, and I think in a way, that has probably hurt me more than anything else. But certainly there are more expectations I feel that people have -- not that they have put on me, but I just feel like I won a major championship. I feel like now, people are expecting me to do more as opposed to maybe some feel it was kind of a flash in the pan.

As evidence of what Ben did last year and what Todd did this year, it just shows that any of us that are here can win the golf tournament, and how we handle that afterwards I think is probably the biggest part of golf outside of the ropes that I've felt.

Q. Speaking on that kind of so?called surprise winners of majors we've had recently, how much of a part do you think it plays that guys see another guy winning and say, hey, maybe I can win one of these things? And also, if you could tell us a little bit about the guitars from last night.

SHAUN MICHEEL: It's funny that you say that, because just about 15 minutes ago, Bambi, who caddies for Todd Hamilton, he and I were speaking for the first time, and he came up and said, you know, you were really an inspiration. You could certainly take that two different ways. I certainly took it positive because I know that's how he meant it. It makes me feel good.

I didn't feel that, really, when I won, that Ben was really, had any effect on how I was going to play or even if I could win the golf tournament. I've always felt that, you know, if you're on the PGA TOUR, the European Tour, you can play the game. I mean, we've been doing this for years. There's still 18 holes out there, just a matter of who is going to shoot the lowest score. I think it's exciting for fans.

I felt that last year at Oak Hill. There was a lady -- I've said this numerous times. There was a lady, and I wish I could have found her afterwards, as Chad and I were walking down the fairway, that yelled to me, "It's nice to see some fresh faces out here." That really kind of struck home.

I think overall, it's exciting for golf, it's exciting for the fans, to kind of see some new blood really winning tournaments. Tiger certainly set a high standard for himself. It's very difficult for any of us to attain the accomplishments that he was making in '99 and 2000. I don't think you'll see that ever again. He just was playing so well.

What's kind of nice, it's kind of turned around a little bit, that maybe some of the players have figured out how to play the game and maybe how to win.

On the guitar, I was excited when I found out, even up to last year, that I was going to be able to have the menu and present the gift. There's still a lot of people out that think that I actually paid for the guitars. Luckily I have the PGA of America and Julius Mason up here to thank for all that.

JULIUS MASON: Happy to say that he remained within the budget (laughter).

SHAUN MICHEEL: Well, anyway, it was really obvious. I just went through some of the lists of what other guys have given over the years. Certainly you want to keep it local if you can, and being from Memphis and living the majority of my life there, it was obvious. Rendezvous Ribs, which is my favorite barbecue place from the south -- barbecue is a big hit down there. My friends down there were gracious enough and nice enough to come down and do that.

The guitar, Gibson started there, blues, that was the first thing that came to my mind was somehow to get them a guitar. I was really happy, and I think it turned out very well.

JULIUS MASON: For those of you that are interested, we have some photographs available from the evening on our Web site, and information on how to access that is available up here and for those of you that are looking for a quick black?and?white snapshot, and those of you that were in attendance and an image of the guitar itself, be sure to put a smile on your face, the images up here.

SHAUN MICHEEL: I'm just learning how to play. I was with my friends from Kiss last week. The guitar player and the lead singer were both trying to give me some guitar lessons, so my first song that I'm learning is Kumbaya, and that's only two chords, and I have not quite figured out how to do that.

JULIUS MASON: Hang on for a second. The rock group Kiss is teaching you Kumbaya?

SHAUN MICHEEL: I wanted to start a little more advanced. Of all of us last night, I think John Daly is the only one that can play, and he's pretty good. So I look forward to spending some time with him and having him teach me a few things.

Q. I know you're going to talk about this forever, but you mentioned the shot that you hit on 18 last year, that you didn't see how close it was till you walked up there. Could take us back through from the time of the impact to the reaction to when you saw how close it actually was?

SHAUN MICHEEL: Well, certainly I will be remembered, I think forever, for hitting that last shot. That's a memorable shot, no matter who hit it. That's something that I draw upon when I really need some confidence.

I did play some pretty good golf prior to that and I certainly will draw on that, as well. Just remember last year, on Tuesday, my caddie, Bob, and I were walking up and I was on the right side of the fairway and I had almost the same yardage, and I hit the same club. It was a 10- or 15-mile-an-hour wind and I came up exactly one club short.

On Sunday when I walked up, Bob gave me the yardage, and I think it was one yard shorter, I think. Immediately, we just kind of went back to Tuesday. He said, "Remember what you did on Tuesday, and now I think there's no wind, it's just going to be the same club." Really, at that point, I didn't have anything in mind about what the shot meant or how important getting the ball onto the green really was. It was just a matter of really trying to go back and focus on my setup and just execution of the shot and just trying to play it one shot at a time. I know you guys have heard that a lot, but that's really all I was trying to do.

And I was comfortable, because I had played well up to that point. I think maybe if I was hitting some errant shots into the greens, it might have been a little bit different story. But I was hitting the ball so solidly, and that was really my main focus. I think that's what anybody would tell you is make sure you hit the ball solidly. Typically when you do that, the ball goes where you're aiming.

It's amazing how quickly, when I go back and look, how quickly everything kind of took place. Some people may say that things are in slow motion, but that's not how it was for me. I grabbed the club as quickly as I could because I knew it was the right club. Before I could even start to think about what the shot was going to mean, I went ahead and executed. I certainly did not know it was that close.

I knew it was on right line; I could see that part of it. Could have been a little bit short, a little bit long. As well as Chad was playing, I certainly did not want a five? or six?footer, not that I could not make it, but I was pleasantly surprised when I reached the top of that hill.

Q. You mentioned some apprehensions and anxiousness getting ready for tomorrow. Can you talk about maybe your preparation this week? Have you done anything different or have you been approaching it the same way as you did last year as coming into this as the defending champion, and do you think you're going to get a good night's sleep and be ready to go tomorrow?

SHAUN MICHEEL: Very similar to what I did at the U.S. Open this year. I played nine on Monday, I played nine yesterday, and then hopefully the rain will stop and I'll go out and play nine more this afternoon.

The golf course is so demanding, you really -- I've pretty much figured out how to play the golf course. I got to play a full 18 holes in June and I have a pretty good understanding on how I want to approach my round tomorrow and even through Sunday.

But I haven't changed my routine yet. I've just been working on my putting quite a bit and my chipping. I spent two hours already today just hitting a bunch of chip shots because out there the greens are pretty large and you may have some long shots.

I'm just kind of ready to get things going. I'm ready to tee off and get out there and get playing. I think that's where I am at my most comfortable.

You know, it's such a different golf course. In a way, I think it's more difficult maybe to defend in a golf course like this. What Herb and Pete have done with this place is remarkable, to see what the property was like before they built it.

So, it's unique. No one has any advantage here, I don't think. You know, it's unlike anything we've ever played before. So there is a little apprehension in that respect. But like I said earlier, I'm just kind of ready to get this day over with and get back and get started.

Q. You said today and pretty consistently through the last year, it's not so important to play like the PGA Champion as to conduct yourself properly as the PGA Champion. Why has that been your thinking and how do you feel you've conducted yourself?

SHAUN MICHEEL: As far as conducting myself? Well, the spotlight is on you a lot more. I'm as competitive and fiery as I suppose anybody is, no matter what tournament you win. But not only am I representing myself and my family, but also 28,000 men and women that got a lot of us started in the game of golf.

I owe a lot -- certainly my father who is sitting right here, never gave me lessons, but of course he got me started, but it was a PGA professional that got me going, so I feel like if I do something out there -- and I probably have done a few things that I look back on that maybe I wish I wouldn't have done, but I think we can all say that, doesn't matter what you do.

I'm just trying to -- you know, go out there -- like I said, the spotlight is on you more, there's more focus, more to be written about. If I was just a regular top 125 player, no one would care what I had to say or what I did on the golf course.

Just certainly, I'd really like to be like Nick Price. Nick Price and Jeff Sluman and Bob Tway have been great friends to me, particularly Bob and Jeff, because they won PGA Championships really early on in their career, and they have certainly maintained a standard that I think I would like to maintain.

You know, it's hard to explain when you read. I think I'm pretty sensitive, and if you read something negative, it has a tendency to maybe affect you a little bit in the way you play, but I certainly don't need any enemies out there.

Q. You mentioned some of the differences in the course since you played it in June. Does that make the course any easier or playable this week as compared to when you played it?

SHAUN MICHEEL: Well, I think so. The first thing I noticed was hole No. 1. I mean, right here by the upper putting green when I played in June, the tee was all the way back, so we started off on a hole that was 490 yards or so. That was the first thing that I noticed when I got to that hole. I didn't notice if they also moved back some of the high fescue grass.

The fairway widths have not been increased that I can tell, but just optically it looks like there's a little bit more room.

I noticed that there was no bail?out on the first hole. Now it looks like you can play a little bit from the right side, which actually is where you want to be anyway, because it gives you a better angle into the green.

Maybe one other tee was moved up that I can think, I think it was No. 2, the par 5. Maybe it was moved up 20 yards or so.

Other than that, it still is as demanding as it was in June. As you can tell from Monday and Tuesday, we had that west wind. I played with a wind that was out of the south, the southeast, so when I played 1 through 4, I was going pretty much straight into the wind, and I've certainly seen that change.

I think in a way, the west wind maybe is a little easier because every shot is a crosswind. You can reach the greens in two now even if you miss it off line a little bit. But you can turn right down to No. 18 and guys are struggling to get there with 3-wood.

I would almost prefer to see a west wind, I think. But outside of that, and I think the next day, I think some of the guys from the PGA of America maybe made a few phone calls to try to help get us around a little bit. I think the way it was playing before, it would have been very difficult to get us around in 5, 5 1/2 hours. Nobody wants to see that.

Q. That shot last year on 18, could you envision anything comparable this year for a guy walking up on 18, especially if they place that pin back right?

SHAUN MICHEEL: No, I can't. I think that green is a little bit out of place. It really will be interesting. I think the weather will affect the tournament more than any other golf tournament that's ever been played.

But we are all out there playing for opportunities. Again, last year I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity, and I had certainly blown my chances on Sunday coming into the last hole, so to hit a shot like that was pretty amazing.

We all dream of just having a chance to win. So I guess it really doesn't matter where the flag's location is going to be. If you're right there with a chance to win, that's really where you want to be, and you're kind of battling your inner demons from there on, how each of us handle things differently. It's certainly a position that I would like to find myself again.

Q. Getting back to the important thing, are you saying that you get guitar lessons from Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley, and when and where would something like that happen?

SHAUN MICHEEL: Well, actually Ace has been replaced with a good friend of mine, Tommy Thayer. He's been with them for three years.

I was with them last week in Atlanta. I was actually going to have Tommy come up to the golf course and was actually going to have him help me present the guitars to the guys last night, but they added some shows. But I was with him last week in Atlanta and I flew down and rode with him to the show, and we got stuck in the Atlanta traffic trying to go to their gig.

Paul and I were just talking, he's just showing me little things, just very beginning, where to put my fingers, basically little chords. It's exciting.

And then the next day, I took Tommy out and Doc McGee, their manager to play at the Peachtree Club in Atlanta. Tommy and I are going to exchange services, but I think it is going to take him a lot longer to teach me to play guitar than me to teach him to play golf.

JULIUS MASON: Questions? Kumbaya, ladies and gentlemen, Kumbaya.

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