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U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

June 15, 2004

Sergio Garcia

SHINNECOCK HILLS, NEW YORK

RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Sergio Garcia to the interview room. Sergio is playing in his fifth U.S. Open championship and has been playing very well of late. A couple of wins on the PGA TOUR on the last few months. What's been the difference in your game in the last few months.

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I think, you know, the long game has been pretty similar all year long. I've been striking the ball pretty nicely. But it seems like all the work I've been put in my short game has started to pay off. I'm making a lot more putts and my chipping has been a lot better, too, so I think that that's probably one of the main reasons.

RAND JERRIS: Now that you've seen the golf course, what's going to be the most important part of your game this week.

SERGIO GARCIA: Definitely driving the ball is going to be huge this week, because you don't want to be coming into some of these greens from the rough without any control on your ball flight. So I think driving is going to be huge. And if you can manage to make some nice saves around the greens, that unfortunately during 72 holes you're going to get some very difficult chips. So if you manage to put yourself in position, that's good.

Q. One of the interesting things heading into this Open is that so many of the world's best players are playing so well. Can you talk about the fact that yourself and Vijay and Ernie are playing so well, it makes it difficult to handicap them?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, fortunately we are, I feel like we are playing pretty well. I had a chance on playing with Vijay last Sunday, and he played quite well, too. Unfortunately he didn't finish well. He didn't finish as well as he would have liked to. But I think that it comes at a good moment. On this type of course, too, it kind of has got a European look to it, although we're in New York, Long Island, it feels like you're back in the British Isles. It's an absolutely links course; even the grass and everything looks the same as in the British Isles. We're all looking forward to it. I played today, and everybody is hitting the ball nicely. It's going to be a tough week, but it should be fun.

Q. Your confidence, obviously, has got to be pretty high coming into this week. Do you get the feeling that the players in general are coming into these majors more confident that they can win, now that we're not seeing one guy winning three-quarters of them?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, maybe, I don't know. I can only speak for myself. But I'm definitely looking forward to it. I feel like I'm pretty comfortable with my game. I've been getting quite consistent throughout these past years. I really feel like I have a bit more confidence in myself to try to do something here. But you've got to take it one step at a time. It's going to be a long week, this week more than any other, if the wind blows. So there's going to be some times when you're going to struggle. But you've got to get through those times and hopefully do the best you can.

Q. A lot of guys think that No. 7 may be playing the toughest of all the holes this week, have you found that?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, actually we were joking after we played that hole, my group I was playing with, with Ernie, Thomas and Adam Scott and we were joking about this week if you hit 17 greens you'll get a hundred percent in greens regulation because it's almost impossible to hit that green. Ernie hit an unbelievable -- just a great shot with a 4-iron, it was into and to the right, he flew it pretty much middle right of the green, flew it about two yards right of the hole, left bunker. So it's going to be difficult. It's one of those holes where you've just got to realize you're probably going to have to get up-and-down from the left bunker or one of those places to make par. And you have to hit an absolutely perfect shot to get it on that green. But it's going to be the same for everybody, so you've just got to take it that way.

Q. The last European to win this event was eight years before you were born, roughly. Do you have an explanation for that?

SERGIO GARCIA: No.

Q. Do you think the way you are playing can change that week?

SERGIO GARCIA: Hopefully, it would be great to get a European guy to win here. But the field is so strong, and the players nowadays, everybody can play so well. So everybody has their chance. But hopefully we can get some Europeans up there and at least threaten everybody up there, so we'll see.

Q. After last week, do you feel you're going to be one of the favorites to win this tournament?

SERGIO GARCIA: I want to say -- I don't want to say favorites, but I feel like I'm playing nicely, so that's for my own confidence that's always good. But as I said before, it's going to be a really tough week. And you've got to be just very patient and hopefully get around it with as little mistakes as you can. But they are going to come. And those tough moments you have to try to get through them.

Q. Is there a certain time during the year when you really started to feel the swing changes that you've been making starting to come through and starting to take home. You talked about your improved chipping, how important do you think that will be, especially the way the course is set up around the greens?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, about -- I feel like since probably American Express last year I felt like my game was getting better and better every week. I feel like my ball-striking was getting better. This year I've done something that I don't think I've ever done in my career, and that's finishing first or tied for first on greens in regulation on three or four tournaments already. So that shows a lot, that gives you a lot of confidence. But this week, as you said, your short game has to be on because even hitting good shots you're going to miss greens. You've just got to manage to get a couple up-and-downs here and there that can really get you going, because if you get one of these difficult up-and-downs it almost feels like a birdie. I think chipping is going to be huge and putting with the wind is also going to be difficult. So we'll see how it goes.

Q. It's only Tuesday, I was wondering, have you noticed any difference between the crowds here and the crowds at Bethpage, because this is a private course, it's not as open to the public, the galleries are not as familiar with the course as they were with Bethpage; have you noticed any difference between the crowds here and the ones at Bethpage?

SERGIO GARCIA: Maybe a little bit. I think they're all great and they try their hardest to help us and to keep us going. You're always going to find, unfortunately, a couple of guys that maybe had a bit too much beer or something and they have a couple of comments that maybe they're not even trying to say, they just get it out because they don't know what they're saying. But I think that, as I've been saying, New York has been great to me, I mean the crowds have always treated me fantastically, Westchester last week was great. Today was great. Everybody was congratulating me. It was nice to see. And I'm sure they're going to be great all week long.

Q. I'm just wondering how acclimatized you've become to playing in America?

SERGIO GARCIA: Excuse me?

Q. How accustomed you've become to playing in America and whether you're faced with a difficult shot now are you thinking about it in Spanish or in English?

SERGIO GARCIA: To tell you the truth a bit of everything. I've sometimes gone to a putt and talked to myself in English, "Come on, let's hole this one." And probably after I hit the putt and hit the ball I'm like, "What was that?" But it's weird because it doesn't matter, even in Europe you speak in English the whole time. So it almost gets to a point where you're -- you're thinking and everything, it's all in English. I have a South African caddy, and he talks to me in English. All the thought process goes in English. There's been a couple of funny times where I've stopped and thought, why am I talking English to myself. But whatever gets the ball in the hole.

Q. How difficult is this course and why is it so difficult?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I think when the wind kicks up like it hopefully will, I think it's really tough. I think that the greens are tiny, they're really small. They're going to be very firm. And the thing is, you can hit a really good shot and you're five feet away from where you want to hit it and you can have a really tough chip coming back. So that's why I've mentioned quite a lot of times patience is going to be huge here because everybody is going to go through some of those moments where you're thinking this one is going to be stiff and all of a sudden you have a chip where you're thinking this is going to be tough to get up-and-down. So some of those things are going to happen and I think that's one of the reasons why this course is going to be playing so hard. But it's in great shape so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

Q. Do you know about how many times you figure you're going to hit driver in the round and whether you figure that's a very important club this week or do you see yourself or most of the players hitting irons or 3-woods?

SERGIO GARCIA: Today we did hit quite a lot of drivers. We're trying it out and it's -- I think a beautiful thing about the course is it's a course that gives you a lot of different chances, different opportunities, different options, sorry. You can definitely hit an iron in a lot of these holes, but also some of them are even tough to hit with an iron, some of these fairways. And if you miss the fairway with an iron, youâ??re short coming in, it's going to be tough. So I think it all depends on how you feel. If you feel comfortable and you think "I'm hitting my driver well, and I can get it down there," even if you miss the fairway, if you hit a lob wedge or sand wedge or pitching wedge, you can still manage to get around the greens and make a par.

So it's going to be -- it depends on how you feel on the tees. But we probably hit -- I'll probably have to say we probably hit seven or eight drivers -- probably six, seven. We did hit quite a little bit, just trying, though.

Q. Can you explain in sort of regular terms the swing? I know the changes weren't massive, but the alterations you made and why you felt it necessary to make them and are you happy with the results?

SERGIO GARCIA: I'm definitely happy with the result. The main thing it's just the take-away, and probably the posture. I'm standing a lot taller in front of the ball and just the take-away, I used to be a little bit on the outside and then as I got to the top the club will be quite a bit aiming towards the left and I have to recover it quite a lot. Now the start is a bit more in line and the club, you know, is a lot better on top, it's not aiming so far left. And from there I don't have to make as much movement coming down to get it back on the right path. So that's given me more consistency, taken a lot of movement out of the swing. The low lag is still going to be there, because that's my signature move, you can call it. The smaller it gets, the easier it is. So those are probably the main two changes.

Q. At Bethpage the crowd was pretty rough on you after the first round. How much did that affect you that week and how long did it affect your thinking about playing in New York?

SERGIO GARCIA: I never had a doubt about coming back to New York. Also a funny thing, right after Bethpage I came back here to watch the U.S. Open, Flushing Meadows. I've always loved New York, and it's been unbelievable to me. A lot of my success has been here, between here and Texas, probably. So I never doubted coming back; that never really cut through my mind. But I don't really think it affected me that much that week. I tried to block it out a little bit. As I always said, I think it was just a minority of the whole crowd. I felt like a lot of guys, a lot of people were behind me. Just there were a little group that were a bit louder than the rest and you could hear them more. But I felt like they were still very good to me.

Q. What do you remember about Bethpage and yourself being in the hunt, your game in general and the difference now coming in here two years later?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I hope I can put myself back in that position and test myself again and see how I go through that, but I really feel like there's a lot more consistency in me now than there was before. I feel like now when I get it in the hands I feel like a lot more in the control. I feel like I know what I'm doing. I can feel everything I'm doing. And I think that's what's been helping me throughout this year. So I'm looking forward to getting myself back up there and see how things go. But there's a lot of good feelings about Bethpage. I really liked the way I played all week long. Unfortunately Sunday I didn't come out as well as I wanted to. But there's a lot of good, positive thoughts about that week. So it was a good learning experience.

Q. Getting back to the crowds, when you do encounter the occasional bad fan, are you now better prepared to handle that, perhaps, than you were at Bethpage?

SERGIO GARCIA: Probably so, yeah. Probably that week gave me the experience of handling it a bit better than I was at that moment. So, yeah, I'd probably say that it doesn't affect me as much as it used to. Now I can block it out a bit better? Q. You mentioned that you thought patience is going to be key this week. Did you think last week was patience on your part?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I thought last week the way the course was playing, we know how Westchester, how fast and firm it was playing last week, I thought more than anything Sunday was a big day to check your patience for this week, because it was playing really hard with those probably 20, 25 mile-an-hour winds that we had. It was a good test. And I was happy to see myself get through that, although I started badly with a couple of bogeys on the first three, I managed to put myself together and get through it. So I think that this week is going to be like that, but probably ten times more.

RAND JERRIS: Sergio, thank you for your time, wish you luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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