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U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

June 12, 2001

Sergio Garcia

TULSA, OKLAHOMA

RAND JERRIS: We're now joined by Sergio Garcia. Thanks for taking a little time out of your practice and preparation time for joining us for a few minutes. This is Sergio's second appearance in the U.S. Open. Sergio, you've had a very nice run lately, tied for eighth at the Byron Nelson and your first victory in the U.S. at the Colonial, and a tie for second at the Memorial. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about what's been working in your game the last few tournaments that's moved you a bit higher up on the leaderboard.

SERGIO GARCIA: Yes, well, of course I've been hitting the ball extremely well. My putter I'll say wasn't very hot at Memorial. But I've been practicing my wedges quite a bit. I've found that I've been hitting it a lot closer. For example, like Colonial, where the greens were firm, it was nice to get over the ball and know where you're going to hit it with the wedge exactly the place you want to hit it. That was nice. I made some good putts there. More than anything, I've been playing pretty solid, and my putter has been working a little better.

Q. Sergio, David Duval was in here a few moments ago talking a bit in terms of Tiger, and obviously he being the favorite, that players need to play almost -- he used the words "mistake-free" and "perfect" to make sure that they can overcome Tiger here. Can you address that a little bit? Do you go into a tournament thinking that a little bit or do you go into rounds thinking that?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I actually think that way, even when Tiger is not around. I think if you want to win a tournament, you have to play really well, and you have to make very few mistakes. That's something that probably I wasn't able to do last year; that's why I didn't win. But, for example, this last two tournaments, last three tournaments, I made very few bogeys. Colonial, as hard as the course was playing, I didn't make many bogeys. Memorial, I made probably six or seven bogeys at the most. So that's something that you've got to realize in every single tournament. When Tiger is not around, of course, you have to make few mistakes and maybe some more birdies. But I think you've got to play your own game and try to play well, and try to beat the golf course every single time. And the way to overcome Tiger is to be perfect, and if not, congratulate him.

Q. Sergio, how difficult is the rough here, and do you think you can reach most of the greens or a few of them out of the rough?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it all depends on the kind of lie you get because it's a little -- this Bermudagrass is a little tricky. It's very thick in some places, and a little better in other places. So it all depends if you get a thick lie, the ball just doesn't come out. And if you get a cleaner lie, it just -- you get some flyers that are unbelievable. So either -- it's going to be tough both ways, because if you get that major flyer, it's really difficult to spin (the ball) on the green. If the lie is pretty thick, it's going to be difficult to get it to the green. I think it's going to be very good to see how we handle it, and I think you've got to try to hit as many fairways as you can.

Q. People have talked about the heat here; it can be a factor, but it's not as bad right now. Do you expect during later in the afternoons to have the heat affect your round at all? It be a distraction?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it could be a little, yes, because as hot as it is, it kind of almost gets into your head, and it's kind of like uncomfortable when you start sweating, because it's humid; the shirt kind of gets stuck on your body. But, for sure ,it's better than the cold. Because at least you're playing only with a shirt, and it's not like you're wearing two jerseys and your rain suit and it's all thick. But it will be a factor more than anything if somebody forgets to drink and gets dehydrated or something like that; it's going to be tough. But you've got to realize that, drink a lot and try to handle it the best you can.

Q. Sergio, at Colonial you seemed to keep the driver in the bag quite a bit. Do you consider that part of a maturing process with your game? Is that something you're planning on doing here, as well?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I don't know, it all depends on how the course is playing. If it gets as firm as the fairways were in Colonial, the thing is you can hit -- there I was hitting 270 yards into the wind. So you don't need to hit drivers anymore to hit into a fairway and not be far away from hitting it to the green. But it all depends on how the course plays. I think, of course, it's probably a little maturity, I've been working on it. But anyways, I consider myself a pretty good driver. I've always drove the ball pretty well. For probably the last year and a half, I've been driving it even better. It all depends on how you feel when you get to the tee, because sometimes you might see like the right club -- the wind is to the right and a 2-iron, but a cut drive, holding it with the wind, so it stays in the fairways. So it's many things that depend in what club you're going to hit on the tees. But more than anything, you try to hit the club you feel more comfortable and you think you're going to be able to hit the fairway with.

Q. Sergio, do the shoes affect your performance? David Duval came in and he had red balls on the heels of his shoes. Yours are bright blue. What's with the golf shoes?

SERGIO GARCIA: No, well, they're not golf shoes. They're just running shoes, and -- I don't know, I just feel comfortable with them. I still have to change shoes to go to play, but that's okay.

Q. Just wondering whether you have any thoughts on why Europeans haven't fared all that well in the U.S. Open in recent years, versus how well they've played at other venues?

SERGIO GARCIA: Probably because there's more Americans than Europeans in this tournament. That's probably one of the reasons. I don't know, I can't tell you. It's just one of those things that happens once in a while. But I can't really give you a fair answer. Hopefully we'll change that.

Q. You said you were a pretty fair driver. And you are. How are you going to play 5? Are you going to go for that in two?

SERGIO GARCIA: It all depends on how the wind is. I mean, if there's no wind or the wind is a little into, for sure, I don't even think Tiger is going to risk it. I will say if the wind is coming down a little on the right, it's a wind that I would like to reach it with a driver. If I get that wind in there, I think I'll be able to reach it in two. It's still pretty tough to hit it onto the green, because you have a huge bunker on the right. It's not like you get to that green straight in. The way to get in is kind of a little -- the fairway just short of the green goes a little to the left and back to the green. So, for sure, it's not going to be easy to hit that green, but if you're able to get it in those bunkers, I think it's going to be pretty good to be able to get it up-and-down. But it has to be the right wind, though.

Q. Sergio, how much do you think you learned from last year's experience in the Open, and how much of it are you bringing to this year's?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I'm sure I've learned quite a lot of things. You kind of realize those things when you're on the golf course, and what position you're on and what to do. But I'm sure -- for sure, it helped. I'm looking forward to go out there and try to play as well as I can and try to put myself in contention, like I've been doing lately. So hopefully, I'll have that chance. To tell you the truth, I can't wait to start playing.

Q. Sergio, this course tends -- obviously, it's hard, dry, fast, tends to get a little windy. You won in Texas on a similar type of course. Do these courses remind you a little bit more of home; maybe you feel more comfortable playing on them?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it reminds me a little more of England. Spain, the courses are similar to here, to the States. But you have to be pretty creative around these courses when the fairways get firm, because you're going to have to hit some 9-irons or some wedges that you're going to have to fly short of the green; and hope the ball releases into the green, because you're not going to be able to spin on the green. You have to be creative, but you have to be a little lucky, too. Hopefully everything will come together, and we'll be able to be there.

Q. Sergio, if for some reason, unforeseen reason, Tiger slips up and doesn't win this, do you think Ernie Els will be a natural to step in there since he's won two of these, plus he's won both times when it was in hot weather? Do you think Ernie would be in a good position to step in?

SERGIO GARCIA: If he's leading after the last round, he'll be in a great position. (Laughter.) But you can never tell until you see what the guys are doing, because if all of a sudden he goes and shoots 73 on the first round, then it's going to be tough to come back. But, I mean, for sure he's a great player. He's won two U.S. opens. He should be able to be there. Unfortunately, he's not having a great year, but I would expect him to be up there. And, of course, I'm sure Tiger is going to be up there, too. There's going to be a lot of -- hopefully, there's going to be a lot of guys up there fighting for this tournament, and hopefully, I'll be able to be one of those, too.

Q. Your three finishes, Colonial and Nelson and Memorial, that money didn't count towards the Ryder Cup earnings for the European Tour, and this event does. Does that give you added pressure, somewhat? What's your feeling on that selection system?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it would have been great if those tournaments would have counted, but that's the way they do it. And it kind of -- it kind of probably puts a little more pressure on me, but encourages me more to try to get those points that I need to get in the Ryder Cup team, because I really want to be there. Hopefully I'll be able to play, to keep playing as well as I've been playing, and I'll get as many points as I can to get into the Ryder Cup team.

Q. How disappointed will you be not to see your teammates like Jimenez and those good players that decided to play more in the United States?

SERGIO GARCIA: You said how, what, disappointed?

Q. How disappointed? It's a kind of lose/lose situation if they don't get the best 12 players in the world.

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, they still have the same chances, if they play well here, British Open, Loch Lomond, PGA, those kind of tournaments, they should be able to make it. For sure, they have to play well, and that's not always easy in a major. But it's a little tougher for us to be able to make it, because we have less tournaments, but that's why we're playing this, too, because I think we're good enough to do it. We just have to trust ourselves, be confident and try to play the best we can to make it. It will be disappointing if they don't make it, because I really had a great time with Olazabal and Jimenez in '99 at Brookline, and it would be great to be able to be teammates again.

Q. Sergio, if you disregard the obvious financial benefits of playing in the Tiger Woods era in golf, in terms of trying to win major championships and establish a personal legacy in the game, do you consider yourself lucky or unfortunate to have come along in this era?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I'll probably say both. I feel lucky because I think, thanks to Tiger, he's raising the level up. Our games are getting better and better, for sure. Purses and the image of the PGA TOUR and golf worldwide is getting a lot bigger thanks to him. But a little unlucky, too, because it's tougher to win a tournament, that's for sure, and that's what you want to do. As I said before, I think overall, I feel lucky because he's just -- probably he's getting everybody to a level that we probably thought we couldn't get, and that's something pretty good for the game of golf.

Q. Sergio, after Medinah, did you actually expect to be challenging Tiger in week-in and week-out, and how hard was it when you couldn't do that?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I did, yeah. I was able to do it that time and I knew that I was going to get better. So I was expecting it, but there's still a long ways to go. I'm still working a lot, working hard and I think I'm getting better and better. If I would have putted a little better at Memorial, I'm sure I would have been right behind him, just trying to -- I'm not saying that I would have won, but for sure I would have been no more than two or three shots behind him. So I think we're all getting better, and, of course, I think I'm getting a little better, too. I'm practicing pretty hard. I expect myself to keep improving a lot, and getting closer to the level he's playing at so I'll be able to challenge him.

RAND JERRIS: Sergio, thanks very much for your time, and we wish you luck the rest of this week.

End of FastScripts....

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