June 11, 2002
RAND JERRIS: We are now joined by Sergio Garcia. This is Sergio's third appearance in the United States Open. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us today.
You've been playing quite well all year, and your statistical ranking overall, driving is first on TOUR. How has that helped you, coming into a course like this, a U.S. Open setup.
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it does help when you have good confidence in your driver. You know that driving the ball, it's probably about the most important thing in this kind of tournament. You know, I'm getting better. I had a couple -- I had about three bad weeks and it looks like I'm back to where I want it.
So I think that if I'm able to keep driving the ball as well as I've been driving it, you know, that's the main thing here. It should be okay because I'm hitting my irons pretty nicely. I feel quite comfortable with them, and it all comes down to holding some putts.
RAND JERRIS: You are already a National Open champion this year, having won the Spanish Open. What would it mean adding the U.S. Open to your resume.
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I had a chance last year but unfortunately I had a bad last round. I'm really looking forward to this tournament. I've always liked it. I always like tournaments that play hard, where the winning score is a high score. I can't wait to see what happens this week.
Q. Do you think it's important to play the week before a tournament or would you rather have that week to rest and relax?
SERGIO GARCIA: Would I rather have it to rest? The way I felt last week, it was a little tougher, but I was defending champion, so I felt like it was -- I had to go and play.
I've always liked that course, too. I've played it three times and I've done well all three times. It's a course that I enjoy playing. I would rather have it to rest, but, you know.
Q. You were one shot off the lead heading into the final round last year and shot that 77. So I guess there's a little bit of good, a little bit of bad last year, do you come out of that feeling good about playing this year, or which way do you feel when something like that happens to you?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, I think so. I think that wasn't good, unfortunately.
You guys know, on these courses, if you're a little off, you can shoot that number like that. (Snaps fingers)
You have four par 4s there over 478 yards. If you miss a fairway on some of those, you can easily make a bogey or double-bogey. It's hard. It's not easy to make birdies on these kind of courses. If you've got one of those days where your birdie chances don't go in and you don't putt too well and you miss a couple short ones for par or something like that, you start losing confidence. It's easy to shoot a number like that.
But I think that last year was very positive for me. I like the way that I played. I like the way I hung in there. Unfortunately, on Sunday, I probably was too aggressive. I probably thought that I needed more than what I really needed, and that's why I ended up shooting what I shot.
I think I was still pretty pleased.
Q. Tiger said that he noticed this week that the galleries are more outspoken, a little bit louder than normally for this type time of the week at the Major, have you noticed the same thing?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, they like to talk, there's no doubt about that. That's the way New Yorkers are. But it's fun, though. Sometimes you hear a couple comments that you don't know where they come from, but other than that, it's okay.
Q. Can you talk about that stretch of holes, 10 through 12, particularly on a day when you may have to start on 10?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it's a tough start. It's one of those starts that if you start well, if you start even par or maybe 1-under, something like that, you get out of that stretch thinking, hey, look at me. But it's a start where you can have a rough one and just try to hold on the whole day.
So it all depends on the way it goes at the beginning. For sure, it's tough. And not only that, 15, 16, 17, 18, there's a lot of tough holes out there.
Q. Sort of along the same note, can you talk a little about the decision to tee off on 1 and 10, and if you think that will help improve the pace of play over some past U.S. Opens?
SERGIO GARCIA: I hope so. I think that's why they did it. Hopefully it will. That's the main reason of doing it. Unfortunately in the past it's been quite slow, so hopefully this year it will work.
Q. What's the reason you were so aggressive in the final round; because you feel you should have won a Major by now?
SERGIO GARCIA: No, no, no. Not because of that. More than anything because I thought that the winning score was going to be lower than what it ended up being. I had a couple of bad breaks on the first five holes, and I bogeyed 2, hit a good drive on 5, but it bounced right, went in the bunker and ended up making bogey.
On that particular hole, after seeing the driver and everything, seeing how the guys in front were doing, I was thinking that maybe 6-, 7-under par was going to be the winning score. So I probably tried to attack some pins that maybe I shouldn't, and instead of making pars or birdies, I ended up making bogeys. The winning score was 4-under par. So if I would have hung in there, maybe. But you never know what's going to happen. You try, you always try your best, and sometimes it comes out right and sometimes it doesn't.
Q. Most tournament golf in this country is played on courses that are not places that the public can get into, and this is a course that anybody can play. It's a municipal, public golf course, that 30,000 rounds of golf are played on it every year. Do you think there's any special significance to the fact that the U.S. Open is being played on a municipal public golf course?
SERGIO GARCIA: I think that the beauty of playing a public golf course is that it gives a lot of guys out there that are watching the tournament, it gives a feel of -- of course that the golf course is playing harder than what it usually plays, but more or less, they know what the hole is about and they know that this putt is going to go this way; there's a bunker there; what sort of shot you have to hit into some greens. So it gives a better feel for the crowd to know what's going on.
You know, it can probably show them that sometimes the shot looks like it's not as good as it really is, and sometimes, you know, because maybe this week, because of knowing the course, they can realize how tough some of those shots are.
Q. Does it help the popularity?
SERGIO GARCIA: Oh, I think it does help, too. There's no doubt about that. We'll see. I think it's going to be great. Hopefully anything that helps the game of golf is always great.
Q. Johnny Miller was in here earlier today, and he was talking about this tournament, this championship is the nervous championship; it makes people very nervous, he thinks, from his experiences with it. Now that you've won an Open from another country, is this country's Open the most nerve-wracking of all?
SERGIO GARCIA: I think this is probably the most nerve-wracking tournament in the world. Because I think that -- don't get me wrong, I think the Masters, it also gets you up there on your nerves because you have some really tough shots into the greens, but in this tournament, it's everything. When you're on the tee, you're thinking, "Geez, I'd better hit it in the fairway." When you're in the fairway, you're thinking, "I've got to hit a good shot, to the right spot of the green." And then the greens are usually really fast and quite slopey.
I think it's the toughest, probably the toughest tournament in the world, playing without wind. If the wind blows at the British Open, it gets really rough. But playing without wind anywhere in the world, I think this is the toughest tournament.
Q. I can't speak for you but we in the media look at Tiger as the guy to beat. Is that more the case considering how long the golf course is and how it is setting up?
SERGIO GARCIA: Of course, he's going to be one of the guys to beat, but I think there's going to be plenty out there. I think this course is going to make Tiger hit more drivers, and we'll see how he's hitting the driver.
You know, if you start hitting drivers and losing your confidence, hitting it in the rough -- if you start thinking, "I'm going to be hitting 2-iron on this hole," you're going to be hitting some really long iron shots into these greens, and it's not the way to go. Even as high as he hits it, if we don't get a lot of rain and the greens stay firm, it's tough to hit on the green, on these greens, with long irons.
Q. Once you do get it on the greens, how flat are they? It looks like for the first time in a Major you might be able to be above the hole and make a putt.
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, you have a lot of chances where you're above the hole and you can make some putts, but they are not as flat as they look, anyways. And they are going to get them really fast.
The difference this year between this year and some of the other years is that some of the U.S. Opens, because they were so slopey, they could not get them as fast, like it happened last year some of the holes at Southern Hills. But this year because they are flatter, they are going to get them faster and the little slopes are going to become bigger.
For sure, they are not as slopey as we are used to playing, but you have probably the slopeiest in this tournament, the 15th hole, it's really, really slopey. You have some reaches around the green that can make it tricky.
Q. Can you explain for us some of the ways that you try and maintain a positive attitude in this kind of environment where if you do drive it in the rough, no matter how talented you are, you know that you are ultimately going to be faced with a lengthy par-saving putt, and in that process, what do you tell yourself walking up the fairway to maintain a positive demeanor?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, first of all, the first thing you wish for is a good lie. If you don't get it, you've got to realize that you're going to have to chip it out and be good with your wedges. You've got to realize that you can still make par that way. You make a lot of birdies on par 5s that way; why can't you make a par 4 that way. You've just got to be confident with that and realize that it's going to happen sometime in the tournament. You've just got to try to not do it too many times, or not have to do it too many times.
Q. We talk a lot about Tiger, as journalists, if he intimidates people. Do you think he intimidates you or other players?
SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know about other players. I've always said that I liked playing with him. I always enjoy the thrill of playing with the best player in the world.
I won't say that he intimidates me. He gives me respect, there's no doubt about that, he's a great player, but I don't think he intimidates me. I know what I can do and I know that if I'm on top of my game, I can beat anybody.
Q. You are a great soccer fan; have you been getting up in the middle of the night to watch any of the World Cup?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, last week on Friday I was playing late so I woke up a little early to watch Spain against Paraguay. I'm happy the way it's going. We'll see what happens. We'll see the game tomorrow.
But they are looking pretty good. You never know. It changes pretty quick.
Q. You mentioned last year's final round that you were too aggressive. What's your game plan on this course and will aggression be rewarded, or do you have to balance it?
SERGIO GARCIA: You have to balance it. There's a lot of holes out there where you are thinking, just get my par and let's get out of here. You're going to have some chances because the greens are not as slopey as they usually are; you're going to be able to attack a little more with some putts. That's a good thing.
But it all depends in how everything starts. This tournament, more than any one, it's just about confidence. You have a good start and you just -- you feel like you don't have to attack as much, and all of a sudden you're more relaxed, you start hitting better shots and it seems like everything is going a little smoother. Hopefully I can do that like I did last year and give myself a good chance of winning it.
Q. Generally speaking, younger players are more emotional and veterans are more patient, and patience would be the quality of a U.S. Open. Are you patient enough in the U.S. Open right now to discipline yourself over 72 holes at this particular tournament?
SERGIO GARCIA: I'd say so. I'm young, but I feel like I've been here for awhile. You've got to realize that I've been playing professionally for a long time now, probably about seven or eight years. I'm probably not as experienced and maybe patient as some of the other people, but I'm trying hard. I think I'm doing a lot better. So we'll see.
RAND JERRIS: Sergio, thank you very much for your time and we wish you luck this week.
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