The 2004 Senior PGA Championship
A PGA of America Event. Click to learn more

Interview with 65th Senior PGA Champion Hale Irwin

May 31, 2004

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, your champion of the 65th Senior PGA Championship, Hale Irwin. Based on some of the facial expressions we saw out there today I would guess you probably wouldn't want to jump up here right now. Hale, congratulations. Some opening comments and we'll go through your card and then we'll go to Q and A if you don't mind, please.

HALE IRWIN: Well, as I indicated at the reception right now, relief is spelled S R, P G A, O V E R. (Laughter.) I think we're kind of like family now we have been here so long. It's been a long week, a very trying week for everybody. I think for the PGA staff, for the players, certainly the superintendent and his crew and all those people in blue who did an unbelievable job. I just don't know how they did it. The volunteers. I think everybody was put to task this week. Valhalla held up remarkably well, considering the conditions under which we had to play. Unbelievable. I don't think anybody was disappointed in the quality of the play, it tested the players up one side and down the other, particularly today. It was not an easy golf course to play. I am proud, I'm relieved, and I'm hungry.

(Laughter.) And I'm glad it's over.

JULIUS MASON: Which is why we'll swing by this. Let's go through your card.

HALE IRWIN: Started yesterday at the first hole.

(Laughter.)

Let's see? Let me get yesterday. First hole. Oh, yeah. Well, I bogeyed the first hole yesterday with a 9-iron to the green. I don't know if you want the particulars, but I missed it and it just punched back off the green and to the right and it took me three to get down from down there.

Then we hit the drive at 2 and then the horn blew and so I was faced today now we have got this wind ?? this thing will stay together, right?

(Laughter.) Barely? Had a 4-iron to that green from a downhill lie. I hit it out to the right once again in Jack's pit to the right of the green there. And did not hit a particularly good approach with my putter. It's like chipping, but putting. To probably 10 feet from the hole and I made that for opening par. Not that any one shot is more critical than another, but that certainly was a time to make a putt.

I hit a 3-iron at the third hole and made a par.

4, that was relatively routine.

5 may have been the shot of the week for me. One of the shots of the week. I drove it to the right and it hung up in the rough on the side hill from where I just hooked a 5-iron up near the green. I was 44 yards from the hole and I pitched it with a pitching wedge, appropriately named, into the hole for a 3. Taking a 3 from the jaws of a 4 or 5 was a big, big swing.

Then I played the next several holes very, very well. Missing birdie putts at 6, 7, 8. I played 9 very well.

10, I hit it just over the back left of the green in 2 and made about a 7 foot birdie putt there.

I bogeyed No. 11. Hitting a very poor 6-iron. This is about the time my back's starting to get a little tight. I must say that I just could not seem to get through the ball as well as I would like to and I started pulling the irons particularly. So I hit it to the left in the bunker and it took me three to get it into the hole. So I made bogey there.

A poor drive in the right rough at 12 and I just got it down to the bottom fairway and up on the green and two putts for another bogey.

13, I did hit a 4-iron off the tee and a sand wedge second. Making about a 12 foot birdie putt.

14, that was pretty straight forward.

15, that was less than straightforward. I hit a 3-wood off the tee, very, very nice and pulled a 9-iron again over to the Jack's other pit on the left. And did not hit a very good approach putt from down in there and left it perhaps six feet short. And a nice little gut check time. I made that for a par.

16, I did play well. I hit a good drive and a 4-wood and a poor putt to within four feet of the hole from about 35 feet. But I made that.

Good drive at 17, but a poor 3-iron. I pulled it and it buried in the bunker where I did not have much of a shot. And I missed a 12 foot putt for a par.

And then I hit a good drive at 18, up the left where I wanted it to be and so I could take the 248 yard 3-wood and let the wind kind of be my friend and hopefully get it up there around the green somewhere because certainly I was watching intently what Jay was doing ahead of us. And I think we're going to see an awful lot of Jay Haas over the next decade or so. He's a wonderful ?? first he's a great guy, and secondly, he's a wonderful player. And then of all the putts to have to putt, just the opposite of Jack's pit, this is Jack's mound, I guess. Can't say I was real happy with what I was looking at. But fortunately I did read it well. I finally hit a putt hard enough. I got some, got the right speed going over the top of that mound and then it just coasted down there to within about a foot from the hole. But those foot putts can be very difficult. Maybe those of you that play can understand. So even par, not a pretty day, difficult day, but effective.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks, Hale.

Q. Talk about from the time you got to the green on 18, it took a little while for your playing partners to get there. What was going through your mind on that putt and what did you think when you first saw it and what you had to go over?

HALE IRWIN: Well, when I first got there I thought, oh, boy, this is ?? I've just come off of Jack's pits now I got Jack's mound. So I'm, and my touch on the long putts has not been particularly good this week. Two things I started the week with, I started Thursday's round with a new driver and I used a putter which is relatively new to my bag. I have not used it over the last couple weeks. So it was interesting in that I didn't prep well coming in here because my son got married a week ago Saturday, so we had the wedding stuff going, so maybe there's something to be learned in this, I'm not sure what it is, but ?? and then I told my caddy, to get back to your question, I said, "Can this take any longer?" By the time they had hit it up and it rolled back down the hill and they had putted and done their thing, it, that putt was not getting easier. And of course when I got over the putt now we got the real strong wind starts blowing and I'm thinking all I need is that thing to get over the top of the hill and to get airborne with the wind and it's down there, 6, 7, 8 feet. So I was very pleased with the, to state the obvious, Hale, that was a very effective putt.

Q. How long was that first putt?

HALE IRWIN: How long was it? Oh, it was probably 80 yards ?? no. I would guess it to be probably about 40 feet.

Q. To win a, what I think is a 40th senior tournament, to win another Major at roughly 58 years old ??

HALE IRWIN: Roughly is 59.

Q. Okay.

HALE IRWIN: This Thursday.

Q. Talk about your emotions, this has got to be too cool for you.

HALE IRWIN: Well, as I said earlier, I'm very proud. I'm not satisfied, but I'm proud. I mean, I'm not satisfied in the sense that I'm just going to sit back and that's the end of it. But I think at the stage where I am in my career and still be able to go out and play the kind of golf that I'm capable of playing, particularly in light of a year ago at this time I was in severe spasms with my back and sat out a good part of the summer and really kind of had to learn how to play golf with a different kind of a swing, knowing what I can do and what I can't do, I'm still in that learning curve. So nothing beats good putting though.

Q. I think I stayed in the same hotel as you last night. When they set the alarm what did you do? Did you go downstairs, get in your tub, did you even wake up?

HALE IRWIN: How do you sleep through that? No, at 11:15 when that stuff hit the window, of course I woke up. And then if you're not awake, now like Mark McNulty, he didn't hear it, but when they put it over the PA system, he heard that. He said he just shot right up and clung to the ceiling like a cat. But I quickly turned on the television and then of course they were going through the whole thing. And I said, wait a minute here. So I went and opened the windows to see what's going on outside. And it was blowing and I have kind of grew up as a kid in Tornado Alley, and this wasn't a tornado. And I'm thinking, am I going to get dressed to go all the way down to the ballroom? No. So I went into the bathroom for a few minutes to do some business and went back to bed.

(Laughter.) Thanks for waking me up. But of course you don't go back to sleep very well. Now that the mind is going and now I got this tournament and what if, what if, what if, what if, you know.

Q. Do you have full size replicas of this thing at home?

HALE IRWIN: No, I wish they would. Would you work on that, Julius?

JULIUS MASON: I promise you I will bring it to Mr. Orender's attention, Mr. Irwin.

HALE IRWIN: No, they are not ?? I don't know, what is it? I can't even remember? It's the small, it's a smaller one. A smaller trophy.

JULIUS MASON: Third size replica.

Q. Of all your Senior Majors is this one of the more satisfying, with everything that's gone on in the last eight days now?

HALE IRWIN: Sure. Yes. It's been an awkward week for everyone, you guys, as well as anybody else. You've got stories to write and they're not there. And you got people to talk to and they're in bed. And it's been a very, very awkward, difficult week for everyone. Now having said that, from the playing perspective, it was probably more difficult to keep your focus because it wasn't the normal four and a half hours or whatever, first tee, 18th hole, go home, do your thing, come back and repeat it. This was, what was it going to be? Were we even going to have it today? I'm laying in bed last night thinking, man, that, they're saying with where this tornado is, that's going right over this golf course and I'm thinking, well, if it takes the club house, I hope it doesn't take my clubs, you know. And I didn't know what we were going to do. You come out here and see the river up and I guess it's just a creek, but it looks like a river now. So I think that the most difficult part was to try and stay in the now and not get caught up in the all the conjecturing, all the opinions. And in fact I tried to isolate myself this morning in the locker room, getting away from all the opinions. I went to my car, laid the seat back, tried to take a snooze. I just needed to ?? I didn't want to be reminded of all the what ifs. I was trying to stay focused on the playing part.

Q. Would you talk about Valhalla a little bit, the course itself, the way it projects over the next few years with the Ryder Cup coming in the next four years after what's happened over the last 20 I guess hosting the fourth Major championship.

HALE IRWIN: I thought it held up very, very well. It was magnificent when we got here on Monday and Tuesday. It still is. I think it held up extremely well. There's lessons to be learned out there. I would ?? if asked to give a critique of the golf course and in some sort of official capacity, I would be happy to, but I would think generally speaking there would be not very much that I would suggest changing. I think the second hole is a very awkward 4. It may be an awkward 5, I don't know. But it's built for a 5. I think there's an ?? I think one of the players in fact asked Jack about some of the pits he's got out there and he said he didn't know what he was thinking about. I would say a few of those could be modified, but not so much it takes away from the character of it. That wouldn't be the right thing to do. But perhaps some modification in places. But I think it's every hole's different, great selection, good routing, and boy, when the wind blows like today, wow, it's tough. Particularly that 16th hole, 17th hole. They're tough coming back into the wind.

Q. You've lauded Mark Wilson and his staff all week. Just talk about the job that the maintenance crew has done to get this course playable.

HALE IRWIN: Well, have you talked to him? I would like to hear from him how they did it. They had to have zero sleep. I cannot imagine, every night, having to be out here, all night. And they all came out there for the pictures at the presentation, they looked like they're fine. I don't know how they did it. I feel like I've been run over and put away wet. And they don't look like they have been even sweating. So maybe that's youth. Well ?? but I think ?? he knows his golf course. Let's put it that way. Some superintendents just kind grow grass, maybe. But he knows his golf course. And that's a compliment. I think for a superintendent, they're more than just grass growers now days. You have to be not just an agronomist, not just a botanist, you have to be a scientist. And of course you have to please your club members, which may be the most difficult thing to do.

JULIUS MASON: Questions? Questions twice? Hale, we have another appointment upstairs at the club house we got to get you to.

HALE IRWIN: We do?

JULIUS MASON: We do.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports ....

©2004 The PGA of America / Ryder Cup limited / Turner Sports Interactive. All rights reserved.
Turner Entertainment Digital Network PGA.COM is part of Bleacher Report - Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network.
Send all feedback / comments to webmaster@pga.com. Sales inquiries contact sales@pga.com.
PGA.com Privacy Policy / Terms of Use.