Senior PGA Championship
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Interview with Tom Kite and Fuzzy Zoeller
Thursday, June 6, 2002

JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Fuzzy Zoeller and Tom Kite after the first round of the 63rd Senior PGA Championship. Gentlemen, beginning with Mr. Kite, go through your round.

FUZZY ZOELLER: I knew when you said gentlemen, that eliminated me. So, go ahead, Tom.

TOM KITE: What am I doing?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Go through your round real quick.

TOM KITE: Made three birdies today. The first one was on No. 2. The drive and 5-wood on the green, two putt from 40 feet or so. Birdied No. 6, had a good drive in the fairway, nine-iron about 6 feet, made that. Bogeyed No. 7, pulled a 5-iron into the left bunker, blasted past about 20 feet and two putt from there. And then birdied No. 14. All three in our group, birdied 14 today. Hit a pitching wedge about 15 feet, 18 feet, and that was about it. Good solid round. Hit a lot of greens out there today.

FUZZY ZOELLER: You drove the ball well.

TOM KITE: Yes. FUZZY ZOELLER: That's the one thing you have to do when it's windy and wet like this.

TOM KITE: I missed a couple of fairways out there today. I missed the first one and 16. I can't remember. I guess maybe that was the only two fairways I missed. So when you drive it that well, it puts you in a position to shoot a good score.

JULIUS MASON: Fuzzy, go through your score as well.

FUZZY ZOELLER: On 2, I chipped up 3 foot of the hole and hosed that one right in the jar. No. 4, I had a skinky 4-iron from 490 yards off the hill. And when I say "skinky," when I hit it, my ball said "Ouch!" It was about a 30-footer. And then I hit a 5-iron on 5 to about eight feet. And then I got a 6-iron on 7, and chipped up and missed about an eight-footer there. It was a good chip.

And 9, the club going into the green was a 7-iron. Chipped up about 2 feet short of the hole and missed. It was a very uneventful front nine. I made a couple of pars. That's kind of the way I play golf anyway. 12, I three-putted. Which that's the only three-putt I had today, which is not so bad with the way I've been putting. So I'm pretty happy with that, from about 12 feet, I guess, 15 feet.

13, I drove it into the left rough where I had to stand in the bunker, so I opted to take my oats. I chipped it out with an 8-iron and landed on the green and missed the putt from 15 feet, I guess. Close enough. And Tom and Ben put the pressure on me on 14. I was the last one to putt from 10 feet. After they made theirs, they looked at me and said, "Go ahead and make it three," and I casually just tapped it right in the hole. Yeah, right.

And then on 15 I hit a 4-wood to about three and a half feet, I guess. And that was about it.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks?

Q. How do you feel the course played after all the rain?

TOM KITE: It is very, very wet. They did some nice things for us to kind of help us out a little bit. There are a couple of tees they moved up, 17 and 18 in particular, were the two holes they moved it up all the way to the next tee box. I guess that was to avoid a lot of areas where the casual water was probably very bad.

FUZZY ZOELLER: Like 17 is below the hill.

TOM KITE: Where most people would drive it from the back tee. That gave everybody a chance to get past that. They did some nice things for us, but still the golf course is very, very difficult, and the rough if you do drive it in the rough, it is just brutal coming out of that stuff. It's so lush and wet now with all this rain, it's growing so fast and it's thick, and you have to play well to score well.

FUZZY ZOELLER: Would you say it's a half-shot penalty to hit it in the rough?

TOM KITE: Sure.

FUZZY ZOELLER: If you miss the fairway, it's a half a shot. You have to hit a very, very good shot to get it anywhere close to the green.

Q. How is the Senior Tour going?

FUZZY ZOELLER: I've been very happy with my performance on the Senior Tour. I haven't missed a cut. Everybody is worried about Fuzzy Zoeller on the Senior Tour. Christ, I'm happy with it. I look back and said, "You haven't missed a cut yet." I'm a streaky golfer. With this game you have to have patience. I'm seeing a lot of these golf courses for the very first time and learning the golf courses, knowing what courses to play and what courses not to play, I think that's part of the first year, but I'm happy. Heck, I have got no complaints.

Q. What's different about it compared to the other tour?

TOM KITE: It's older.

FUZZY ZOELLER: It's an older tour. What's nice is there is no jealousy out here on the Senior Tour. You don't see anybody biting your head off to get a nice contract. Everybody is congratulating you. You come in and play a good round -- like everybody, all the senior professionals, will walk up and say, "Nice shooting. Nice round." It's like they're proud of your accomplishments of playing a nice round. So there's no jealousy out here, and it's a much more laid back tour.

Q. Tom, do you see a 68 holding up for the lead?

TOM KITE: It's certainly a good position. I mean, like I said, they moved a couple of tees up for us today to help us out a little bit, but still in the red on Firestone on any day is a good score. The conditions are not such that I can't see anybody going super, super low. There is not going to be any 61 or 63 or any of those numbers. There very well could be a 66 or 67 before the day is over as the conditions get better.

We played six holes in the rain, five or six holes in the rain. And even when it quit raining, it's not very comfortable out there. And as the day goes on, the conditions are going to get a little better, I assume. They've only got one direction to go. They have to get better. It can't get much worse. It's possible that somebody will shoot a good score, but I'm very pleased to start off the first round in the red.

Q. Weather aside, how does the layout of this course stack up to other courses you've played? Chi Chi seems to think this course is just too difficult for a senior event.

TOM KITE: Everybody has their opinion as for how difficult the golf course is. This is a major championship, last I checked, and major championships are supposed to be more difficult than your normal event. Even on the Senior Tour, your majors should be more difficult than your normal tour. So I personally like the golf course.

I made a comment yesterday that I think the last time I was here was either '95 or '96, and I kind of forgotten how good this golf course is, and you come back here and play it and it's just good old-fashioned golf. It's straightforward, no real tricks, but it is hard. It is definitely a difficult golf course, and you better bring your A-game if you're going to play.

FUZZY ZOELLER: One thing good about this golf course is it's right in front of you. There are no hiddens. It's in front of you. You see it, you have to hit around it.

Q. How many fairways did you hit today?

TOM KITE: I missed two fairways today. I missed No. 1 right out of the bat and drove it into the right bunker, and missed 16 into the left rough.

Q. And that was key you had said yesterday?

TOM KITE: Driving the ball in the fairway is going to be paramount. I think, I don't know, we've had three inches of rain. I can't see this grass not growing over the next couple of days. As difficult as the rough was today, it's going to be even more so by Sunday.

Q. Tom, you haven't played on the Senior Tour for a while. What are your impressions of it?

TOM KITE: I'm like Fuzzy. I enjoy it very much. We've played this game professionally now -- this is my 30th year, and you kind of enjoy the relaxed attitude, not having to go out there and beat your head up against that wall day after day, like the regular tour is. The competition is great. The players so love to play. It doesn't mean the players are laying down out there.

If you go out there this afternoon, there will be guys on the practice tee practicing and working on their game, trying to play as well as they can. But as Fuzzy said, there's not the jealousy that you have out there on the other tour and it's much more of a relaxed attitude. And after playing in the fish bowl of the PGA Tour for as long as we were, it's nice to relax a little bit and enjoy this nice mulligan, as they call it, that we have out there.

Q. Jealousy, like off the course stuff over endorsements and that kind of thing? That's present there, but not here?

TOM KITE: Well, the regular tour is so competitive. And yes, they're playing for a lot of money, but there are very few spots out there and there are a lot of people trying to get them. Out here, there's not as many people trying to get on tour. There is still relatively few spots, but once you get out here, it seems like everybody is still pulling -- it's more of a -- especially in light of some of the things that have been written over the last couple of years over the demise of the Senior Tour. I think everybody has rallied around each other and understand that that if we can put on a good show and do good things for the tour, that it's beneficial for everybody.

And somebody asked about Fuzzy's game right now. I think everybody on the senior tour wants to see Fuzzy win a tournament and soon.

FUZZY ZOELLER: By God, let's all fall over dead tonight.

TOM KITE: Obviously it's come down to the situation. The guy that's going to battle against Fuzzy in the tournament he finally wins is not pulling for Fuzzy, whoever that might be. But for the long run, for Fuzzy, to win tournaments out here on the Senior Tour is good for the Senior Tour. So we're hopeful of that.

Q. If the weather forecast is to be believed, Sunday will be different from today?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Are you talking sunshine? Are we?

Q. This is the norm right here. This is the way it's been.

FUZZY ZOELLER: Is it supposed to be sunny?

Q. Sunny and 80.

TOM KITE: Actually, I heard -- and confirm this, Julius. I heard the PGA of America is revising the weather forecast. Now when the sun comes out, they'll post the weather. Is that true? Can you confirm that?

JULIUS MASON: You look real good in yellow.

Q. Fuzzy would you address that? Your joining this tour was widely anticipated because of a perceived charisma deficit. Would you talk about that?

TOM KITE: Perceived? I love that.

FUZZY ZOELLER: What do you want me to say? I can only do so much out here. I'm one player. I enjoy the game of golf. I enjoy the challenges that it brings every day that I'm out there. There are some days it's good, some days that's bad, but all in all, if I can make two or three people outside those ropes, or maybe more, smile, I've done my job out there.

Q. Do you think people underestimated the Senior Tour if they expected you to come out here and win every tournament?

FUZZY ZOELLER: I got a big ol' hunk of humble pie the first couple of weeks I was out there. I was getting my butt kicked and I was enjoying it, because I couldn't believe the quality of golf these guys still play. Tommy hasn't lost anything, maybe a few minor things, like short putts or whatever, but he's learned to deal with that and he's still putting and being aggressive with his golf game. There are a lot of guys, and they'll tell you, that have improved, and are better golfers now than they were when they were on the PGA Tour. And that totally amazes me, because the way everybody writes, it's supposed to go the other way and it hasn't, it's gone up.

Q. How hard is it to walk out there?

FUZZY ZOELLER: My legs are made for walking. I don't ride a cart.

Q. It's soggy. Does that make it harder?

FUZZY ZOELLER: I think for the older guys. I don't think for guys like us, we walk all the time. But for the older players, they'll feel it. Chi Chi said yesterday his butt was hitting his ankles when he was going up 17 yesterday. And I said if we can just get you turned around, we can go downhill, back down 18.

Q. Fuzzy, you mentioned about using every club in your bag. This used to be a course where on some of the long par 4s, you would use a wood or a long iron into the greens. Did you feel that today with the conditions?

FUZZY ZOELLER: Yes. Yesterday they moved the tees up, but the long par 4s are playing downwind.

TOM KITE: Except No. 4.

FUZZY ZOELLER: 4 is the longest, though, uphill, long hole. Driver, 4-iron, and we both whacked our drives pretty good. So driver, 4-iron is still a legitimate hole.

TOM KITE: We played with Ben today. And Ben wasn't hitting quite as solidly as he can and there were a number of holes where he had to hit a wood into the par 4s. And you hit a 4-wood into 15, the par 3. There are some pretty strong holes out there. Still playing 16 over 600 yards, still playing 15 at 220. So there are still plenty of length out there for us.

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