Senior PGA Championship

Interview with HALE IRWIN:

June 3, 2003

Note: the news conference was moderated by Julius Mason, the Director of Public Relations and Media Relations for the PGA of America.

JULIUS MASON: HALE IRWIN:, ladies and gentlemen. Birthday Boy, HALE IRWIN:, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 64th Senior PGA Championship. Hale, welcome to Aronimink Golf Club. How about some opening thoughts on being here this week, please?

HALE IRWIN:: Well, I think it's going to be a great week. I hope that the weather is more cooperative than it has been these last few months, I suppose, but the golf course is wonderful. Superb condition. I think the PGA has done a wonderful job in coming to the venues that we have enjoyed the last several years, and this is certainly one of the very best that we have seen and I think it's fabulous to be here. All the players that I have had some conversation with have all spoken very highly and are all very delighted to be here. That certainly is my feeling as well.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you.

Q. How much is the weather going to play based on what you have seen so far going into the week?

HALE IRWIN:: What I believe could happen certainly not to say that, but if -- the course is playing fairly long right now. I don't know what it measures, 6,928. I would say it's playing easily that. We're not getting much roll. If it rains and becomes softer yet, it adds a few more yards, but more importantly that rough, which is quite difficult now, becomes that much heavier. So I think it puts a tremendous premium on putting the ball in play. Even if you were to opt for a safe play off the tee with perhaps a fairway wood or an iron in sacrificing some distance for accuracy, you have just flipped -- now you have made your second shot that much longer, that much more difficult. So I think the weather could play a big factor, particularly if it blows. If we get some wind, some of these holes could be very difficult.

Q. How about the second cut around the greens, some of them. If they don't keep cutting them, are they going to get high too?

HALE IRWIN:: They are there already. They are out doing some -- we were watching one of the mowers go by on the fairways just cutting that rough immediately -- the deep rough immediately off the fairway, and there was no grass coming out of the mowers. He was going up and down the rough and nothing was coming out. So I think it's a fake-out. But that -- the rough, I mean, as far as the golf course being prepared, it's uniform throughout. The high grass around the greens is very much a factor even though the greens are relatively large. There's enough undulation in them, which really breaks up the largeness, so you might have pockets of greens within a green, if you wish. If you miss some of those plateaus that (course architect Donald) Ross put into his greens you have got some very difficult recovery shots.

Q. Was this the first time you have seen this course?

HALE IRWIN:: This was the first time, yes.

Q. There's some guys in the field that have more local knowledge but I am hearing that isn't much of an advantage. Does this course -- everything is kind of straightforward in front of you and you could see what you got to do and guys will adapt quickly, do you think?

HALE IRWIN:: I think you make a good point that it's pretty much in front of you. The question really I think are some -- it's always and I am sorry I don't remember the holes as yet. Somewhere on the front nine, maybe the 4th or 5th hole, a blind shot kind of dogleg right goes down where that little house is, whatever it is. Let's just say some of the more blind shots is always an uncomfortable shot and those people that may have played it know the line better than those of us that have not. And if we get the rain coming in and some players may not get in a practice round, that's what concerns me.

That's why I went off quite early this morning to try to at least get the one round in because I wasn't here yesterday. But I think the local knowledge is helpful for those people that have played here a lot. Jay Sigel for one, he probably knows the course certainly better than anyone and the advantage may lie with him because he will have a comfort factor. Of course, then you might flip it and say, well, sometimes maybe it's good to go in blind, you don't have a preconceived good or bad.

But it is there in front of you pretty much. But some of the carries over the bunkers that were not -- at least I am not real comfortable as yet as to can I carry that bunker off the tee; do I need to play around it, my second shot where is -- can I hold it in that area. So those are things that you pick up over the course of two or three practice rounds. Whether or not we get another one in tomorrow just depends on the weather, but I'd love to see -- in fact, I was even thinking about going out this afternoon maybe walking around to see where some of the other shots are going. I probably won't, though.

Q. With this tournament at Aronimink and the Open at Inverness, can you talk a little bit about the challenge of a Donald Ross course; what makes them so great and why they stood the test of time so well?

HALE IRWIN:: Bear in mind that most of these courses were not manufactured as we manufacture golf courses today. They were built upon sites that could accept a golf club and not necessarily a country club. They weren't looking for home sites. They weren't looking for tennis courts, swimming pool. They were looking for good golf. I am not taking away from the ingenuity of those people because we all revere what they have done and rightly so, but they did have good terrain and topography from which to pull their masterpieces.

Today we don't tend to get that. We run into conflict with well, there's a great golf hole, but the developer says, boy, that makes a beautiful home site; well we'll return the hole a long this ridge line -- well, that makes a great entry road. Well, we'll play along this hollow -- no, that's going to be a lake. So you do have conflicts now that perhaps these gentlemen didn't have to deal with back then.

It's still comes down to, I think, bunkering styles, the flow of a hole, the shot value. By that, I mean what is required of you to play the hole correctly and in today's game -- yesterday, for instance, I was out at Somerset Hills, and those greens for (course architect A.W.) Tillinghast not to divert away from this golf course, I really love this golf course, but to throw it up as an example, those greens, they could be the most -- I almost want to say "bizarre", most difficult that I think Tillinghast -- that I have seen him do. And boy, if those greens had the speed that these greens do and, perhaps they will once they get through the springtime, I don't know how you play that.

So we tend to -- my point is if we designed in today's game what was designed 100 years ago, they'd probably run us out of town because it's okay for somebody else to have built it that long ago and it stood the test of time and it's proven and everybody enjoys it, doesn't matter if it's here, Pine Valley or any of the great courses, but if you would design those courses now, well, now, I can't play that or it's not -- it's not -- it's not built for the women or it's not built for the high-handicap players, not built for junior golf, or whatever that point is, we have to encompass so many people into the design theme now that it's hard to take a bland site and turn it upside-down for a minimal construction budget, that appeals to everyone. Yet we take the Donald Ross course and the McKenzies and the Tillinghasts and the Wilsons, all the great architects and we hold those courses up in great reverence, and that's fine. But they were -- they started with pretty good terrain. But I think that's why we all love it because there was not the sacrifice, still the integrity of the game was first and foremost.

Q. Assuming that you can't get another practice round in, what is your style do you think on Thursday, will you just kind of take it easy, attack certain holes, that kind of a knowledge of the course at this point?

HALE IRWIN:: No, I don't have a real grasp of where to attack and where not to. I can't imagine that the course will play any longer. It might. But we just weren't getting much roll today. The air is cool; I don't see where the temperature is going to get that much warmer, the air is going to lighten up any and plus we're also playing the back of the tees that it is going to play appreciably shorter.

But these greens do have some hole locations that could be -- give you such a different look from one day to the next, and the depth of them, it may be a 7-iron one day and might be a 5-iron the next or vice versa, so -- and again it's that where do you carry it on to a certain part of the green and not always do you want to shoot at these holes, I think there's some hole locations where you just say I am not going there. And have to take that 30 and 40-foot putt and try to 2-putt it. You are talking about some big swings at some of these putts too. So it will be a trial but that's the way it should be. I don't think anybody is complaining about that.

Q. Would you play a little bit more conservatively to start off with?

HALE IRWIN:: I think so. Until I get a better feel for it, perhaps we can get something in tomorrow. A lot of it depends too on how you are hitting the ball that day. I have got a little bit of strained back right now so I am trying to just kind of get the ball out there and play and bend over and not fall over. So it's not a good time for me to have this, but I have it.

Q. Besides a golf game, what is the one trait that you have to have to win a major championship? We always hear about patience. Is that the key thing and then how does it come into play and why does it come into play more in a major than other places?

HALE IRWIN:: And I think you make a good point in that patience always seems to be a word that is thrown out when it comes to that. The obvious holds true all the time. Obviously you have to put the ball in the fairway, simple. Obviously, you have to put the ball on the greens, simple. You have to stay out of the problem areas, but when you say that, I think you have to bear in mind that these kinds of courses and these venues do not give up your normal number of birdies, your number of opportunities to have a birdie have lessened; therefore, your probable birdies have lessened and that's something different.

When you have different circumstances, you have different venues, you have different situations, you have to be patient with that. That's where I think patience comes. It's not just well, I am going to sit back and be patient and see what happens, no. I think you sit back and you have to use your -- maybe it's course management. You have to use course management. You have to be patient with that. You can't press it because I am looking here and trying to remember the holes and I am thinking there wasn't a hole that I saw today where I could kind of step on it and say, okay, I am going to really go at this one. I don't recall any out there. And so I have to kind of throttle back and for those players that may, I have a game that's go for it, go for it, go for it, I am going to say, well, go for it, that's one less guy you are going to have to worry about.

I think that's where patience -- it's rather a broad, generic term, but I think it is a well meaning term in that it's probably course management, and perhaps it comes into self-management. How do you manage yourself around a different venue that asks you to do more than you are accustomed to doing. And that applies not only here, but any of the U.S. Opens, PGAs, Masters, they all ask us to do something that's not the norm.

Q. That leads real good into this question, I think, but all that aside, what made HALE IRWIN: and makes HALE IRWIN: special at the Winged Foots, the Medinahs, the Invernesses; perhaps the Aroniminks, what allowed you to step up on those kind of courses?

HALE IRWIN:: You know, I don't know. I think it has to go back to my background, my athletic background, my competitiveness. I will just throw up -- I will just throw up -- (laughs) I will bring up as an example Winged Foot. When I got to Winged Foot the first part of the week and played a practice round there, I decided that par was going to be a great score on every hole. Pull that reasoning out of the air, I don't know how it I came up with it other than it looked so hard, the golf course was just so difficult that I had convinced myself that par would be a really good score on every hole and if I made a birdie, that was a bonus, and I was going to make some bogeys, don't expect that, so don't be surprised.

So I think my mindset, my mental preparation going in was right on. But also I wasn't going to accept that as a probable. I mean, in a way I did but that was my opponent; that the golf course and that hole was my opponent, not the players, and then you fall back on something fairly simple. If you are a competitive person, doesn't matter if it's the business world or the athletic world, you are to compete and you are competing against some thing or somebody, and that was my competition.

That's what I have thrived on through the years is that competitiveness; that zeal, I love that situation. Did I have the basic skills that everybody else didn't have? I doubt it. I mean, I have always driven the ball in play and I have hit a lot of good iron shots, kept the ball in play nicely, but I think I just did not give up because there was a lot of conversation that week of players that sort of accepting that they couldn't play it and I am quite certain there's going to be some players coming around this week that are going to look at this golf course and kind of be thinking how in the world am I going to do this because it is different.

So I think that's probably the basic ingredient is I have just never had that willingness give up on it. So when I encounter a course like Winged Foot or Aronimink or wherever it may be, I can kind of fall back on that -- maybe it's like football, just being one of the smallest guys on the field and having to do something a little better, whether it be preparing myself better or trying harder or whatever those locker room clich�s are, they have helped me through the years.

Q. Gary Player and Arnold and Jack are here again this week. What does it mean to the game and to the Tour and to the tournament that those guys are still out here competing even though they are probably not likely to win?

HALE IRWIN:: I think you put it in the proper order: What does it do to the game? I think the game is what we really need to bring back to the forefront. And for getting the names out there, those names, whomever they maybe, whether they be players long in their years or are very still wet behind the ears, the up-and-comers or the guys yet to come, I think the game has to precede everyone. And we have to be willing to participate in this game at the game's level; keep the integrity of the game alive and that's very important to me. And those gentlemen have done that. They have kept the game in front of them. They have not superseded the game.

I dare say that when you talk to any of them whether it be privately or publicly, they will always have the game first and foremost. And that's what I appreciate and respect about those guys. Certainly Jack's (Nicklaus) record while we're quick to crown a new guy who happens to be on that other Tour right now, he's yet to do it. Perhaps he will. Perhaps he won't. But you take Arnie and Jack and Gary with what they have accomplished and how they have done it and the class in which they have done it, that speaks volumes for the game.

Now specifically for the tournament, it can only help. There's not a sponsor, not a tournament, not a location anywhere in this world that would not love to have any of these three gentlemen, but when you have all three of them at once, that's great. I agree. I played with Arnie two years ago, I guess, where were we two years ago, New Jersey, Ridgewood, and he shot his age that first round. And I was cheering just as -- I was cheering just as strongly as anybody else.

I thought this is great, ultimately great for me to have Arnie do this because he's going to bring some -- that excitement and it's fun to see that. So I am playing with Jack Thursday and Friday and never have I played with any one of those guys where I haven't gone out and it's been an honor to be there. To hang around them in the locker room is one thing, but on the golf course, where they have achieved and done their thing and done it in such a spectacular way that's an honor.

Q. Did you have any problem keeping your ball in play, which one was your favorite hole and which was your least favorite hole today?

HALE IRWIN:: Oh, boy. I don't know. I don't know the course well enough right now. Showing the pictures of these greens, they all kind of look alike because you done see them like a spectator sees them. You see them from the fairway looking in. I think, frankly, I think that tee shot at 1 and the tee shot at 18 are really great looking shots, even though your second shot at 1 is uphill, that drive looks really nice as does the framing at. I really like that look.

Now, as to second shots, I think the second shot at 1 might be one of the hardest ones out there because it's elevated you don't realize how long a shot that shot is up the hill and you can't see the bottom of the flag. I think starting right out box, you have got the first hole, which could prove to be a very difficult hole. I don't know the prevailing wind. I didn't play out of many bunkers today. There could be some bunkers looking in here, there are some pretty difficult bunkers. I just -- I am sorry I can't answer your question right now, but there's certain shots that I thought were spectacular simply because they were framed nicely but as to which ones I felt were more or less difficult I just don't know it that well yet. Perhaps tomorrow. Can I take a rain check on your question? (Laughter).

Q. Hale, how could you like the chipping areas around the greens here? A number of the holes have areas behind the green where there's chipping areas versus heavy rough do you think that favors any type of player? Does it put you at an advantage or disadvantage?

HALE IRWIN:: No, I think it brings a little bit more of a feel of those shots back into the game. When a ball runs into the heavy stuff, it's pretty generic play what you are going to do: You are going to take a sand or lob wedge, you are going to flop it out there and hope you've guessed right in the amount of grass, and perhaps get it in there close enough to make your putt.

But when you have these runout areas and you have to chip, now what do you do? It's not generic. You have to use a little bit of imagination. You have to use some creativity. And it could be a shot played anywhere from a putter all the way up to perhaps a fairway metal of some kind and anything in between. And we did experiment -- I have experimented with a putter today, I have tried a 7-iron, I have tried a 17-degree fairway metal. It really kind of depends on how much slope you have in front of you, and how much grain you have against you, because you are probably going to go back up, obviously, which means you have got some grain to deal with. I like that in that you have to use some creativity.

And the one thing -- the only thing I think sometimes is missing and not necessarily here because the trees are spaced far enough away, but oftentimes you see the rough will catch a ball and keep it from going into the trees, and I have suggested like Medinah, I always thought Medinah would play great if it didn't have a lot of heavy rough and let the tee balls run so you again have to be creative on how to get under, around, over, rather than just hanging up and chopping back to the fairway. Penal? Yes. Imaginative? No. But I think those areas do create that opportunity to see some creativity, which I think is exciting.

JULIUS MASON: Three-time Senior PGA Champion, HALE IRWIN:, thanks for joining us.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

©2003 PGA/Turner Sports Interactive. All Rights Reserved.
Send all feedback / comments to Sales inquiries contact Privacy Policy / Terms of Use.