Senior PGA Championship

Interview with Larry Ziegler
Friday, June 7, 2002

JULIUS MASON: Larry, great round today. If you wouldn't mind giving us some initial thoughts and going through your card and we'll go to Q and A.

LARRY ZIEGLER: I started on the back nine. It was overcast and cool. The golf course played a lot longer this morning than it did yesterday afternoon. The ball was just not traveling. And then the front side, the last four holes, I think it came out on the fourth hole. It played shorter after the air thinned out and the ball just traveled better. This morning when I teed off, we hit two clubs longer than I hit yesterday, and when the sun came out, I must have been 152 yards longer than I was yesterday. So the air just got thinner and it just travels more.

JULIUS MASON: Go through your birdies and bogeys.

LARRY ZIEGLER: It's the hardest course we're going to play. We're not going to play anything that's any harder. It's the fairest golf course I've ever played, no gimmicks, no trickery, just straightaway golf, just tee it up and play good or you're going to have a tough day. If you miss the fairways, it's just bogey.

You want my birdies? I started on 10 and made bogey. I drove into three divots today. I couldn't believe it. I started off and drove it into a divot. I made bogey there. I birdied the par 3 and made about a 15, 18-footer on the 12th hole. And then I guess 14, I pushed a 6-iron right in the bunker and buried it and made a bogey there. And then I put it in the bunker on 16. And that's just a good bogey. I hit a 3-wood to the green on my third shot. Hit two from 233, so that was a good bogey.

On the front side I probably played as good as I don't know when. Never missed a green, never missed a fairway. Made four birdies and no bogeys. I birdied 1, hit a 6-iron, made about an 18-footer. 2, I knocked a 3-wood on, two-putted from about 30 feet. Then I birdied 4, hit a real good drive and 3-iron to about 12 feet and made that. And then I birdied 9. I hit a drive, put it in a divot, hit a little 6-iron and made about a 25-footer there for a 31.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks?

Q. How did you play this week? What did you do this week coming into the tournament?

LARRY ZIEGLER: I did an outing Monday. Then I had an opportunity to stay over Tuesday to watch the Detroit Red Wings and I decided instead of coming here and play a practice round, I would stay and watch the game and I did. I came here Wednesday morning. I got here and played 9 holes here.

Q. (Inaudible)?

LARRY ZIEGLER: Scotty Bowman was a coach, and that was our connection, so that was the reason I went.

Q. You jinxed them, too.

LARRY ZIEGLER: I went to two games there and they lost both of them in overtime. Scotty said, "Get out of town."

Q. The front nine, is that about as well as you've played in a while?

LARRY ZIEGLER: When you shoot 31, you're not missing very many golf shots. Again, if you don't put it in the fairway, you're just not going to make par.

Q. Is it an easy course if you keep it in the fairway?

LARRY ZIEGLER: No. It's long, we don't play -- we've hit 2- and 3-irons here a bunch this week. We just don't play golf courses that play this long.

Q. Larry, you're about the fifth or sixth player that has mentioned on 16 you hit a wood for a third shot. What is the difficulty on that hole?

LARRY ZIEGLER: If you don't put it in the fairway, it's a 600-some-yard par 5. If you don't put it in the fairway -- I had to lay up out of that bunker. I have got 233 left. Now I have to carry it over the water. It was a dumb move on my part, probably, when I look back. I pulled it left into the bunker. But the chances for knocking it on there with a 3-wood and keeping it on there, you won't do it. The smart thing was to take a 3-iron and lay it up and put a wedge on there and go ahead and make six.

Q. What's the ideal thing for that hole? Driver in the fairway, and what's the second shot?

LARRY ZIEGLER: Then 3-wood. And yesterday I hit a little 9-iron. Well, I hit it a 133-yard 9-iron. If you don't hit a really good -- two good shots, you have a tremendous third shot, 5- ,6- , 7-, 8-iron in there. And it's not an easy hole and the green isn't that big, and the rough is so deep, once you get over the green you have problems. Now you're coming back to the water, taking a pretty big swing and buried in that rough and it's a tough shot.

Q. You hit it in the rough on 16 and you had to chip out and --

LARRY ZIEGLER: Anything over an 8- or 9-iron, if you're in the rough, you're chipping out. You just can't get a lie good enough to hit a medium iron or 3-iron out of the rough. It's just too deep. Thorpe is as strong as they get, and he pulled it left on three, and he had to take a little wedge. The rough is really tough. I mean, there's just no -- you just got to really get lucky to get a lie where you can advance the ball.

Q. Fuzzy said yesterday it's about a half-stroke penalty if you hit it in the rough. Do you agree with that?

LARRY ZIEGLER: I'm more of a stroke. He's getting up and down somewhere. I'm not. But I've driving the ball really good. I missed two fairways today. I think I missed the 10th hole today and then I missed 17 in the short rough, but those were the only two holes I drove it out of the fairway. It's a must to hit certain holes out here or you're just not going to make par.

Q. Thorpe said this course was playing toughest of any course he's ever seen. Do you agree?

LARRY ZIEGLER: I think it's the hardest, fairest golf course I've ever played. No gimmicks. Guys love coming here to play golf. The condition is unbelievable. But there's just no gimmicks to it. We play so many golf courses where you feel like you're playing Mickey Mouse. They've got big, old rolly greens. It's not fun to play what they're building today.

Q. Do you think it's playing 6,900 plus?

LARRY ZIEGLER: Every bit of it. I looked on the 12th hole today and it says 160. I had 165 to the pin. I don't know where they're getting their measurements, but mine came up 165 yards.

Q. The rough that you were coming in on, they said they cut it at four inches?

LARRY ZIEGLER: I'm sure they cut it four inches and now it's grown another three. They're not lying. They cut it at four and now it's seven. It's going to be another inch and a half by the end of the week. If they get any sun out there, it's going to really good.

Q. What does a round like this do to your aspirations for the next two days?

LARRY ZIEGLER: At our age, we just hope to get up in the morning.

Q. Larry, how has your game been this year? Any areas you've been trying to improve upon?

LARRY ZIEGLER: I've been working a lot with my son and we have worked on some things. I'm hitting the ball better than I have in years. Actually, putting the ball. It's a question on how many putts you can make. I had a lot of putts on the front nine. I actually had a chance to make three or four more putts on that front side. I had it really close and left a couple of them short. I still made four. That's pretty good.

Q. Larry, you said there were some holes you absolutely have to drive the fairway on. Before you tee off on the holes, is that something that's going through your head?

LARRY ZIEGLER: You know you have to make a good swing. You just tell yourself, be slow, trust it. A lot of times you just get quick. The first couple of holes, I just tried to steer it. After I played a couple of holes, I started to let it go and drove it a lot better and started hitting it more solid. The back side, which was my front, I really drove it good, drove it long and drove it straight.

Q. Larry, I was reading some press material earlier in the week and they said the greens aren't going to be as fast this week as they've had them in years past for the NEC. Maybe my eyes are deceiving me, but some putts really appear to be skidding out there. Are the greens faster?

LARRY ZIEGLER: You have some putts going downhill very quick, but overall, I would not say they're as fast as I would have thought they would have been. And again, the rain -- poa annua has a lot to do with it. They just got a lot more rain than they thought they were going to get, but there's putts that can really get away from you going downhill. But overall, I don't think they're as fast as I thought they were going to be. That's because of the rain.

Q. You mentioned sort of the atmospheric change and how it affected your ball flight today. Do you think players in the afternoon group gain an advantage?

LARRY ZIEGLER: If they take advantage of it, there's definitely going to be -- you're going to hit the ball further, but you still have to drive it in the fairway.

Q. Getting back to sports for a moment, have you given a lot of thought to getting involved with NASCAR?

LARRY ZIEGLER: We're trying to get a sponsor for a team. I thought we had something going this winter and it fell through. We're still talking to people about it. Hopefully by next year, we can come up with a sponsor and I'll be involved with a team.

Q. What's the hardest thing on this tour? Is it just maintaining a mental focus for four days at something like this, at a more advanced age, more than physical?

LARRY ZIEGLER: We're just not as supple and it's just harder to play. 62 is a lot harder to play than when you were 32. Your mind set gets set for a 54-hole tournament and now it's 72. And it's harder to play four good rounds than it is to play three rounds. You just have to adjust. I'm just going to go out and see how well I can drive it and play as well as I can. If I keep hitting them like I'm playing, I have a chance. If I don't, if I drive in the rough, you just eliminate yourself.

I played with Fernandez today and he drove it in the rough all day and he couldn't make par. But we all know that going in. That's what makes it such a great golf course. And I think the guys really appreciate none of the gimmick stuff. Bunkers and trees in the middle of the fairways and big roly-poly greens.

Q. Why are they building courses today like that?

LARRY ZIEGLER: I have no idea.

Q. Certainly you guys must have some kind of input?

LARRY ZIEGLER: Well, it would surprise you with some of the architects, what they like and what they build. Again, I guess it comes from the guy that says, "Build me the hardest course you've ever built," and the guy that has built 50 of them, they're going to be pretty ridiculous. But golf should still be fun. I can be honest, some of the golf courses we play today, I don't enjoy playing them. I don't know how I would pay $125, $150 to go out there and take that kind of abuse. I don't call that fun.

Q. Yesterday Chi Chi said he thought that the golf course was set up for the PGA Tour not the PGA Seniors. It seems like you're stepping up and enjoying the challenge. What's the difference in mentality?

LARRY ZIEGLER: I can accept this is a major and it should be hard, but I wouldn't want a steady diet of it. One week is fine.

Q. So you wouldn't want to be a member here?

LARRY ZIEGLER: Yes, but they're not going to set it up like this every day. It's a fun golf course to play. It's a beautiful golf course to look at. You can visualize your shots. There are just no gimmicks to it.

Q. What's going to win this tournament?


Q. Eight under? 10 under?

LARRY ZIEGLER: What's leading now? Two?

Q. Yes.

LARRY ZIEGLER: Somebody better get hot. There is going to be more pressure now. The next couple of days, there will be more pressure to play good. Four under, five under, maybe. I know if I could get it to five under, you wouldn't see me play again. Again, a lot is going to happen with what happens with the weather. If it gets windy, that will have a big bearing on the golf course.

I just think the PGA has done -- the last two years I've been critical of the PGA with the course we played in Palm Beach. It was not a great test of golf. The last two tournaments we played the PGA, Ridgewood and here, you couldn't ask for better golf courses. I think they've done an outstanding job of getting great golf courses for their championship. And the players all year long will talk about it. Whoever wins here is really going to play good.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you.

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