Friday, June 22, 2007


I'm outta here for a week...


It's 1:30 in the morning, I can't sleep and I'm pacing the floor, pondering the great questions of the day:

-- How to solve the health care crisis in America?

-- What to do about Iraq?

-- Why does David Letterman wear white socks every night?

-- What's up with Tiger and Elin naming their daughter Sam, not short for Samatha, but only Sam?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Phil's sorry

In an open letter on his website, Phil Mickelson says that after he missed the cut at the U.S. Open, he said some things out of frustraton that may have been a little "out of line."

As we say in newspapers, here's the "nut" graf:

I have to say Oakmont was a bitter disappointment to me. Not the Open, really, despite what I said on Friday, but not being able to prepare properly for it. I tried as hard as I could with a wrist that was far less than 100 percent. It’s the national championship and the event I want to win most. But being injured for really the first time in my career, aside from a broken leg years ago, and not being able to follow the routine that’s served me pretty well over the last three years was really frustrating. It’s probably why I said some of the things I did on Friday and some of them may have been a little out of line. It was frustration talking. I’ll be a little smarter about my preparation for majors in coming years, although I’ll continue with some variation of my routine. Without it, there’s no way I would have come within a shot of making the cut, let alone shooting 74 in the first round.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wie WDs from John Deere

Finally, Michelle Wie has done something right -- withdraw from next month's John Deere Classic.

If you missed the small item in the news last night, the teen phenom from Honolulu has pulled out of the PGA Tour, where she has enjoyed sponsor's exemptions, saying she needs more to heal her ailing wrist. Frankly, I don't know which is more injured these days, her wrist or her pride, but she's smart to get away from the game and the glare of the spotlight for a while.

In the weeks since Wie WD'ed from the Ginn Tribute hosted by Annika, she has been pounded in the media. At the McDonalds LPGA Championship a couple of weeks ago, the long knives really came out for her -- from the media, the players and the LPGA.

Almost in unison, everyone said Wie's parents, B.J. and Bo, need to give her more space, stop micromanaging her life, let her grow up a little. Wie herself took heat, too. Annika Sorenstam called her out. In Sports Illustrated this week, Dottie Pepper, the former LPGA player who writes a column, said Wie comes off these days as a "self-centered, unapologetic brat."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Following is the official press release from the John Deere regarding her WD.


EAST MOLINE, IllinoisMichelle Wie has withdrawn from the 2007 John Deere Classic to continue to rehabilitate her injured wrist, tournament officials announced today.

"This has been a particularly difficult decision to make because of the support I have received from the John Deere Classic and everyone in the Quad Cities," Wie said. "I want to thank John Deere for offering me this tremendous opportunity. I hope I get the chance to go back and play there again."

The decision comes as Wie is rehabilitating from a wrist injury suffered earlier this year.

“I’m just coming back from an injury,” said Wie. “While my rehabilitation is on schedule, I do not have all of my strength back yet. The TPC Deere Run course is obviously very long, and I just don’t have the length to play there right now. I do intend to play in the U.S. Women’s Open, and to continue competing throughout the summer to help myself gain strength and get back to where I want to be.”

Tournament officials were supportive of Wie’s decision.

"The John Deere Classic has long been a supporter of Michelle Wie and we remain so today," said John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson. "We support Michelle's decision and we sincerely hope she continues on the path to reach her full potential in every aspect of her life. We look forward to welcoming her back when the time is right."

The John Deere Classic is a PGA Tour event to be played July 12-15 at the Tournament Players Club Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. Last year's champion John Senden will defend his title against 155 other of the world's top golfers, including Masters Champion Zach Johnson.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Furyk's rationale at 17

With his bogey at the 17th on Sunday at Oakmont, Jim Furyk missed his chance to force a play-off with Angel Cabrera. Whether you think he blew it or not, here's his post-round press conference with his explanation of how the last few holes played out.

JIM FURYK: I played well all day. I struck the ball well. I hit a lot of good putts. I think I ended up making four birdies today, and the four bogeys just -- I didn't do all that much wrong; I didn't hit that many bad shots. I just wasn't able to dig it out of the rough and get the ball on the green on two on 17, and in the end that's going to be the difference. But I had a few holes like 2, 12 and 17 where I really should have been able to make par, to manage par on those three holes and I wasn't able to do it. And that's what a U.S. Open does to you, you hit a lot of good golf shots, play the hole pretty well, and somehow you add it up in the end and you have a few bogeys, and I did that a couple of times today. I was able to turn it around in the back nine. I thought making the turn if I shot 2-under, I would have won the tournament and that would have been the case. And I had a lot of opportunities; it just didn't work out.

Q. Right after your second shot on 18, you took a look over to where the crowd was. Was there a noise that you heard? Why were you looking over there so long?

JIM FURYK: Probably was looking at the scoreboard on the way up to the green. It was difficult coming in. I saw the board at 15, and then we didn't see another one until 17 green and it was tough really to be aware of what was going on ahead. I was trying to tell by the groans. I couldn't tell whether Angel Cabrera made four or five, and I wasn't aware at the time what he made on 18. But either way, it didn't matter. I was trying to hit it at the stick, just wasn't able to.

Q. On 17 did you know you were tied for the lead?

JIM FURYK: I didn't know what he made on 17. There was no way for me to know that. I heard the groan; knew he missed a putt of some sort, but I didn't know if it was a birdie or a par putt.

Q. Can you talk about the birdies and keeping the adrenaline down and how you kept yourself in it?

JIM FURYK: That's what we do to get into those positions to try to win tournaments. I think I got really excited probably after knocking the putt in at 15, and that was a pretty crucial putt. I was three down at the time and I knew the leader, Cabrera, was right in front of me. And I had to knock a putt in and get momentum going again. And I made a great par at 16. And I'm still a little surprised at 17. Surprised I made bogey and with the pin on the left-hand side of that green. The no-no is to go left, but I didn't think I would hit the ball -- I haven't hit a ball anywhere within 20 yards of anywhere that one went. So I was shocked to see how far it went. At my length, I can hit the ball left of the green and it had an avenue up the center, and that's where I wanted to go all week. And the ball I hit today carried a lot farther, and I was surprised by basically how far it went and didn't realize from the tee box that I put myself into that poor of a position. I should have been able to dig it out, and I was playing away from the pin because I had no shot at it. And I should have been able to dig it out and make a 4, and it cost me. Q. Are you the type to take consolation from two runners-up in a row and being the only guy that's going to shoot even par on the weekend, or do you kick yourself for that? JIM FURYK: No one likes consolation prizes. I'm proud of the way I played, and I'm proud of those finishes. But, you know, a second is not that much fun to be honest with you; possibly third, I guess. I'm not sure what Tiger did out there.

Q. Would you have been done anything differently on 17; would you have taken an iron and laid up?

JIM FURYK: No. The play I made was the play. Now if I went back, I wouldn't hit left of the green for damn sure. But, no, it was the play. I would stick by that play through and through with the way the wind conditions were and the pin position was. In my mind, I made the right decision. I shouldn't have hit the ball so far left, but I'm surprised it went as far as it did.

Q. The long one on 16, were you surprised it was coming in?

JIM FURYK: At the very end, about eight, 10 feet short it looked like it might have had a shot, but I was trying to coax it up there, and I was playing a good eight, ten feet of break. From that distance I didn't have a club in my bag to go at that pin. My 3-iron wasn't going to safely carry the bunker and get back there. And my next club is a hybrid, that as soft as I wanted to hit that, I thought I would have trouble hitting the green. So taking a three-iron out to the left and trying to make three was my only option.

Q. Talk about the gallery.

JIM FURYK: It was a lot of fun coming back to Pennsylvania, my family being from Pittsburgh and the people here; knowing that this is where my roots started. And even though I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and I call Lancaster home, I had so much support here and so many fans from Pennsylvania rooting for me, and it was special. It meant a lot to me.

Q. Did you hear the chants from the guy behind the bleachers?

JIM FURYK: I heard a ton. "Here we go Jimmy" was the great one on 17. Wish I would have made birdie; I would have remembered that a lot longer.

Q. What was your ball doing on --

JIM FURYK: If it would have come back 15 feet, I would have a realistic chance of knocking the putt in. The shot I've been fighting I double-crossed a few times; I did earlier in the week, quite a few times this week and I hit it in the Church Pews. And the shot was kind of a regular to a little bit of a smooth 7-iron. Ran it down in the valley and hop it up to the pin. And being a little jacked up, I got quick and I double-crossed it. And because of getting over the top of it, obviously I hit the ball longer than I wanted to, quite a bit longer than I wanted to. And, you know, whether I was at that time -- whether I was tied for the lead or one back, I was sitting there right in the middle of a fairway with a stick trying to win the U.S. Open, just didn't do it.

Q. Can you talk about what you like about the U.S. Open?

JIM FURYK: No one enjoys getting their rear-end kicked, but I feel good about my ability to get the ball in play and hit the ball straight and kind of gut it out. And I think I've come to the U.S. Opens in the last five or six years in a good mind-frame, knowing that the course is going to be really difficult, and there is not that many places where you can go out and shoot 72 or 73 and feel good about yourself; or shoot 75 like I did in the second round and know that you hadn't shot yourself out of the tournament. You just have to -- I do enjoy it. But I also, as I said, I don't have that much fun getting pounded and shooting 6-over par.

Q. You pulled your hat down and caught your breath. Do you remember what your thought was there, covering your face.

JIM FURYK: Just excited, taking a deep breath and concentrate on what I wanted to do in the last three holes. I hit some decent shots in the last three holes. I would have liked to have got it in at par or better, but I guess if I had to kick myself on one shot, I would love to go hit the 17th tee shot again. But more than anything I would like to dig that flop shot out of the rough and get it up on the fringe and make 4. But I wasn't able to do that.

Q. 15 and 16. You and Angel Cabrera were side-by-side. And you see what each other are doing; does it feel like match play?

JIM FURYK: Not really. No, I wouldn't go that far. But I was definitely -- I was surprised when I got to the 15th green. I didn't think I was three back. I don't know where he made the birdie, whether it was 14 or 15, but I hadn't realized at that pint -- there wasn't a heck of a lot of leaderboards out there, and you get lost in the golf course where they don't have the ability to put them by 11 and 14 and some of the holes. But there was times where you would go two or three holes without seeing a board. I think you go from 9 to 12, I'm not sure if there is a board on 10 but there might be. It seemed like two-hole jumps, rather than I'm used to the 1-hole jumps. But I knew I had to knock a 6- or 7-footer in, and let him know there was a roar coming and he wouldn't make a mistake.

Q. I think there was a five-shot swing there in three holes, you went from five back to the share of the lead; is that good that you don't know about it?

JIM FURYK: No, no way. I don't mind looking at the leaderboard and seeing where I stand. I realize there is a couple of holes where they can't put one, but I like to see them.

Q. Of the majors, is this the most difficult one to come from behind, even if it's only two or three strokes?

JIM FURYK: Starting today? I would say no. You can make up two or three shots in a hole here; so I would say not. It's tough to make up two or three shots when you've got to go out there and -- I think it's harder when you have to fire birdies, and you know the scores are going to be low. You start two or three back here and par one, you can be pretty much tied at that point. I think going out there and grinding away and get in red numbers in the U.S. Open, you can make up ground in a hurry.

Oakmont Ugh

After nine holes at Oakmont yesterday, I could finally identify with what the players were saying all week.

Given the traditional media pass to play the course the day after the U.S. Open, I intended to play all 18. But it was pushing 90 degrees, I was carrying my own bag, we had no forecaddie and, frankly, you couldn't find a ball in the rough unless you practically stepped on it. There was also the drive back to Philadelphia.

After the front nine, my threesome of writers had experienced enough. We called it a round, grabbed a 'dog and a cold beer at the halfway house and chilled.

It's always a thrill to play these brutally tough golf courses that the USGA has set up for an Open. But when golf is that hard, that unforgiving and that discouraging, it takes a lot of the fun out of it.

You hit a shot that you know is dead-on perfect only to watch the ball trickle across the green and disappear in the rough. Two feet off the green and you can't find it. Without a forecaddie, if you hit a tee shot into the rough, good luck finding that ball.

The players talked about the linoleum-fast greens. True, they are extremely hard to putt. But at least you can get used to them after a few holes. You know to barely touch a three-foot downhill putt and still expect the ball to roll six feet past. But I found the rough to be the toughest challenge of all. If you find the ball -- and that's a big if -- you have no clue and no control over how it's coming out, where it's going. When you've only missed the fairway by three feet, that strikes me as too much of a penalty.

That all said, I started well: 1-over par through three holes. On the 4th, I visited the church pews on the left. Actually, with a decent lie and the ball not up against a lip, that turned out to be one of the easier shots of the round.

I made my first of two doubles at the 5th, where a blind uphill tee shot left me whacking away in knee-high fescue; I made another double at the par 3 6th when I missed the green to the right and my flop shot over the bunker trickled off the green on the other side and sank into the rough.

The famous par 8th, we played from 245 yards. I hit a 3-wood to the back of the left bunker, blasted to 12 feet and two-putted for bogey.

All in all, I was 7-over on the front nine.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cabrera victory press conference

Here are highlights from Angel Cabrera's victory press conference, with a translator...

USGA: It is a pleasure to welcome the 107th United States Open Champion, Angel Cabrera. Angel, round of 1-under par 69 today, 285 for the championship. Could you tell us what it means to you to be the first United States Open Champion from Argentina?

ANGEL CABRERA: It's definitely a very difficult situation to describe. You are not the U.S. Open Champion like every day, so it's very difficult to describe at the moment.

USGA: Would you share with us a little bit what your thoughts were as you were sitting and watching Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods finish their rounds on the 18th green.

ANGEL CABRERA: I was there sitting, waiting. I knew that I could do no more to lower my score, so I was only waiting and hoping that it was going to be a win.

Q. Can you talk about the shot you made to the green on 15?

ANGEL CABRERA: It was a very impressive shot. It was a 9-iron from 160 yards, and it was very impressive. (Laughter).

Q. What brand of cigarettes did you smoke and does that help you settle down?

ANGEL CABRERA: (Laughing) Well, there are some players that have psychologists, sportologists; I smoke. (Laughter).

Q. What brand? What brand?

ANGEL CABRERA: I don't want to say the brand but they are short 72s, they are called, short cigarettes.

Q. Have you been in contact with Eduardo Romero this week and how do you think he feels about this championship?

ANGEL CABRERA: I haven't been around Eduardo, but I am definitely sure that he's very happy about this win, and, well, he's a very close friend of mine.

Q. You never missed the cut in the U.S. Open; what makes you so good in this tournament?

ANGEL CABRERA: Yes, well, I definitely usually play very well in the U.S. Open. Most of the time I'm not making any putts, but this week it was like everybody was missing the putts. So that gave me an advantage.

Q. I have actually two; one, I'm wondering how many cigarettes you went through today and that 50-minute wait from when you finished up and went inside, how stressful was that wait, watching on television?

ANGEL CABRERA: I usually smoke between eight to ten cigarettes in a round and this round was not special about the number of cigarettes; it was more or less the same. And the wait, it was tough, because I was nervous.

Q. How disappointed were you with the 76 on Saturday, and did you fear that you shot yourself out of the tournament?

ANGEL CABRERA: I shot 76 and I thought that I still had chances; that if I scored low on the final round, I would be able to win it.

Q. Two questions. One, coming off a bogey on 16, bogey on 17, what pressure were you feeling standing on the tee on 18? If you're understanding me, why aren't you answering this in English? (Laughter).

ANGEL CABRERA: Yes, definitely making bogey on those holes made me feel nervous. But, well, I knew that I had to hit a good drive to make par on the 18th hole and sit and wait. I don't speak much English because -- I understand, but I'm not fluent enough, so I feel that I cannot be myself.

Q. I just wonder if you can tell us the story of how you took up golf. There was a mention of Eduardo wanting you to play when you were 15, but I wonder if you can share in your words how you started playing this game.

ANGEL CABRERA: I started as a caddie when I was ten years old in Cordoba Golf Club, my home club, and they allowed caddies to play on Mondays, when I started playing golf, and I turned pro when I was 20 years old.

Q. Name of the club again?

ANGEL CABRERA: Cordoba Golf Club.

Q. What brand of cigarettes do you smoke and how does it help you?

ANGEL CABRERA: (Shaking head. ) I smoke.

Q. 40 years ago, Roberto DeVincenzo beat the best player in the world to win the Open Championship at Hoylake. You beat the best player in the world to win the U.S. Open Championship. How do those accomplishments compare?

ANGEL CABRERA: Yeah, definitely I don't want to compare because comparisons sometimes are not so good. But the good thing is that I beat everybody here, not only Tiger Woods.

Q. After you birdied 15, did you stand on 16 tee knowing you had a two-shot lead? And then go through your nerves and the shot selection on 16 and 17.

ANGEL CABRERA: I knew that even though I had birdie on 15, that I had to play very well the last three holes because the last three holes, you can birdie or bogey them, so I had to keep concentrated and try to make the lowest score possible on those three holes.

Q. You have six Top-10 finishes in majors previously; did you take anything from those majors, maybe draw on that today in this round or in this tournament?

ANGEL CABRERA: Yes, the more you play in a major, it gives you a lot more experience. It helps you accomplish great things.

Q. You said you beat the best player in the world and the rest of the field, but you also beat a very, very difficult golf course. In this last round, were there ever any moments for you where you said, "What are they trying to do"?

ANGEL CABRERA: Yes, definitely I was able to beat the best player and the best players here, but I wasn't able to beat the golf course. The golf course beat me.

Q. Who taught you how to play golf, and did you ever have any professional teachers?

ANGEL CABRERA: I never had a professional coach. I've always had people getting close to me and giving me one advice or two, but never had a coach.

Q. I wonder if anybody has had a moment to reflect on your impact on children in South America and Hispanic-speaking children in America? It seems now with this victory they have someone to focus on as a hero and a role model; could you comment on that? It seems very exciting.

ANGEL CABRERA: I don't want to set an example. I just want to do things right so that people can imitate and follow. And definitely this is going to be something to be remembered in Latin America, not only in Argentina, but also in Latin America and probably some other places in the world.

Q. Can you talk about your childhood; how humble was the place that you grew up, and did you have to quit school to raise money for the family? And also, I read something where you didn't learn to read or write until later in your childhood.

ANGEL CABRERA: I wasn't able to finish elementary school. Also, I had to work as a caddie to put some food on the table, so that's why probably these moments are enjoyed even more than the common things, yes.

Q. You strike me as a very private person.

ANGEL CABRERA: Yes, I am private. I have friends but it's not a big group of friends. I try to remain, you know, as private as possible.

Q. But was golf and becoming successful at golf important to you, to not only help yourself, but to help your family? Were you motivated by the fact that you knew you could have a career in the game and take care of the people you love?

ANGEL CABRERA: Yes, I couldn't do anything else. I definitely had to play golf to make a living, to feed my kids and wife. So I just feel that I have no other option.

Q. What will you do to celebrate?

ANGEL CABRERA: I don't know exactly how I'm going to celebrate, but definitely I will at some point later on tonight.

Q. Can I have an invitation?

ANGEL CABRERA: You're invited. (Laughter).

Q. Why are there so many good golfers from Argentina?

ANGEL CABRERA: There are so many opportunities for caddies to play in Argentina, even though they are private golf clubs, they allow the caddies to play. This is something that helps boost the careers of the caddies and they usually turn pro. 90 percent of the great golfers of Argentina have been caddies.

Q. I want to know, if you looked at the leaderboards today, and was there a particular point in your round where you realized you were at least tied for the lead today?

ANGEL CABRERA: It's impossible not to see them because they are so big that you cannot miss them. You have to look at them.

Q. Just talk a little bit about what kind of town you grew up in; was it a small town or big town, and what do people do in that town?

ANGEL CABRERA: It's a middle-class kind of town with a population of 30,000, and that's pretty much it.

Q. Which players do you hang out with on The European Tour, and are you playing the Scottish Open this year and do you think it will be an easier week or a tougher week?

ANGEL CABRERA: Well, Carnoustie where the British Open is going to be played, is going to be absolutely difficult, so we have to work very hard to make a good score over there.

Q. I meant the Scottish Open, not the British. And who do you hang out with in Europe?

ANGEL CABRERA: Yes, I'm going to be playing the Scottish Open. I usually hang out with the other Argentines that are playing on The European Tour. There are like ten other players that are members of The European Tour.

Q. I was just wondering, how is this victory going to be viewed in Argentina, and will this knock Manu Ginobili off the page for a day or two?

ANGEL CABRERA: Ginobili is still going to be there on the front pages because he has accomplished things that no other Argentine has. What I have done has already been done by DeVincenzo, so what he has done will be more recognized.

Q. As a result of this win, do you qualify for the FedExCup? And how likely are you to spend more time playing on the American tour?

ANGEL CABRERA: I'm not going to change my schedule, and so I'm going to keep on playing the events that I had planned to play. I'm eligible for the FedExCup.

Q. Do you consider yourself one of the best ball-strikers in the world, and if so, to what do you attribute your gift?

ANGEL CABRERA: No, I don't consider myself like being the best-ball striker. Everybody that is here playing and on the Top-50 in the World Ranking are excellent ball-strikers. So it's difficult for me to say that I am the best ball-striker.

Q. Congratulations, Angel. How much influence has Roberto DeVincenzo had on your career, and are there any players in particular that you looked up to most growing up?

ANGEL CABRERA: DeVincenzo was not much of an inspiration for me because I wasn't able to watch DeVincenzo. When he won the British Open, I was not even born. So, yes, I looked to Eduardo Romero, Fernandez; those are the Argentinians that I followed.

Cabrera wins Open

Shows you what I know...


I have just come from a half-hour spent watching Tiger Woods and Aaron Baddeley in their final preparations to go out as the final pairing in the final round of the U.S. Open.

Tiger had his game face on like I rarely see. On the practice putting green near the first tee, Tiger and Aaron were maybe 20 feet from each other but they never spoke, never acknowleged each other. They putted in silence, each in his own little world.

If Badds wasn't already intimidated enough, Tiger is wearing a bright red, skin-tight Lycra shirt that makes him look like some kind of bulked-up video game superhero. Badds, by contrast, looks quite human.

To make matters worse, on the first hole, Tiger pulled out his driver and smoked a tee shot dead center. Badds pulled his 3-wood and made a short, quick swing, hanging the ball out to the right.

I'm telling you, this is over before it starts.

And the winner is...

Tiger Woods.

I know, I know, I'm hardly going out on a limb in predicting that the most dominating player in the game will win the U.S. Open today. But it boils down to this: If somebody stuck gun to your head and said, "Pick the winner -- and if you're wrong, I pull the trigger," who would you pick?

The way I see it, Tiger shoots 70, maybe 71. He wins because everybody else just sort of melts away under the withering pressure. I doubt anybody blows up to, say, 80, but I think we'll see some 74s, 75s, 76s.

If I turn out to be wrong, my best guess is that Paul Casey will win. The guy is a thoroughbred who will eventually win a major, even if it isn't today. Maybe, just maybe Jim Furyk. I also think Aaron Baddeley has an outside shot.

Given the pressure, I'd be very surprised if Stephen Ames, Justin Rose or Bubba Watson wins.

Baddeley's third-round interview

Here are highlights from third-round leader Aaron Baddeley's post-round interview:

USGA: We are now joined by Aaron Baddeley, Aaron with an even-par round of 70 today, 212, 2-over par for the championship. Your thoughts on having a two-stroke lead after three rounds of the U.S. Open.

AARON BADDELEY: It's, I mean, it's exciting you know. That's what I felt like could I do when I came here this week. I felt like I could come here -- I felt like my game was nice and I felt like I could compete this week.

Q. When you first turned pro, you were criticized a lot and came out and said, "I want to be the best player in the world." Do you think looking back on that, people, a, misunderstood what you were saying about Tiger; and second, do you think maybe you were a bit young and naive when you were saying that stuff. I remember Butch said, "Let's see your game improve" or something along those lines. Looking back at where you are now, do you find you've sort of answered the critics, if that what's it is?

AARON BADDELEY: I would say looking back, would have been a little bit naive; I was young. But I look back at that time, I was just speaking my heart. My whole life I've always been honest. I've always spoke whatever was in my heart, you know. I've always told you guys what my dreams were, my goals. I wasn't shy to do that. So when someone says something like that, you're always going to get criticized. But that doesn't bother me a whole lot to be honest. I guess now, I mean, I wouldn't say I'm answering my critics because I'm not playing golf to answer anyone. I'm playing golf because I love playing golf. I feel now my game is totally different. I feel like I'm a different person from back then. Yeah, I mean, it's night and day the difference between -- and also who I am as a person, as well.

Q. Tiger said after he finished that all of the players up on that leaderboard who have not won a major will be dealing with emotions tomorrow that they have never dealt with before. Two questions. Were you dealing at all with any of those emotions coming in, trying to finish off a good round when you had a three-shot lead, and how do you look forward to tomorrow and dealing with that again?

AARON BADDELEY: Coming in, I knew there was tough holes coming in. I mean, 15 is a tough, tough hole and so is 16. And then 18 is a tough hole. I mean, 17 can be a tough hole when you don't put it in the fairway. So I was really just trying to keep playing. I knew I was in the lead. So I was really just trying to focus on just not worrying about that and just trying to play golf. Tomorrow, I mean, obviously I'm going to deal with some emotions because I've never been in this position before. But I play golf, I've worked my whole life to be in this position so I'm going to embrace it. I'm going to enjoy it, and I feel like if I play well, if I play my game, I feel that there's a good chance that coming down the last hole if I've got the lead.

Q. You had to scramble quite a bit today, especially down the stretch, and one shot out of the bunker, the ball was up in the rough and was pretty miraculous shot. What are you taking out of today's round and digesting for tomorrow?

AARON BADDELEY: I honestly felt like I played well, like I hit a lot of good shots -- on 14, I think it was 14, I hit a really nice shot and thought it was perfect and was just sort of the back edge. There were a couple of those today where I thought I hit good shots and didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. But I was really happy to make par on 17, just hitting in that lie. When I saw that lie I wasn't worried about it. If I hit it in the fairway, I wouldn't be in that position. I was just like, let's get it up the left side and make a par. Tomorrow, out of this round, I feel like I played nice, so I feel very comfortable out there so I'm going to take that into tomorrow, just being comfortable on the course and being comfortable with my game.

Q. Robert and I were trying to recall, you played with Tiger a few times at Augusta, I guess this would be the first time on a Sunday in the last group, and I'm wondering, is it going to be hard for you to sort of stay and keep your mind in your own game, given that that guy is going to be right next to you the whole time, and he tends to generate an aura, other players have said.

AARON BADDELEY: Yeah, Tiger -- I like playing with Tiger, because Tiger is a great person to play with because he's very complimentary. When you hit a good shots, he'll say, "Good shot." Obviously he's a great competitor and loves competition. I'm very comfortable playing with Tiger in a major. When I see that pairing, I'm always pleased, because he's the best player in the world, and I like playing with the best players in the world; I always have done. When I was young, I remember asking Greg Norman for a practice round; I remember asking David Duval for practice rounds, because these guys were the best players in the world. I just enjoy playing with the guys who are the best at what they do.

Q. Take away the presence of Tiger, but there's another aspect of playing with him, which are the galleries, a lot of movement, huge media contingent, the potential for distractions taking place. When you've played with Tiger in the past, how much of a distraction or problem has that been? Have you ever been burned by that circumstance?

AARON BADDELEY: No, never had one issue to be honest. I think because the galleries are so big that you can't see anyone move. (Laughter) It's true. It's harder when there's four or five guys there because when one guy sort of moves his left arm, you can see it. But when you've got like 4,000 or 5,000, you can't really see anything; it's just a sea of people. So I haven't had any issues with it.

Q. A couple of weeks ago, Jack Nicklaus said he was very impressed that you came to him to ask to pick his brain a little bit. Would you talk about why you did that, what you got out of that and did he tell you anything that could help you tomorrow?

AARON BADDELEY: I spoke to Jack -- I was really keen to talk to Jack, because obviously he's the best player that's ever played the game, and everyone talked about how -- like his whole career, everyone talked about how well he thought around the golf course. Like that's one of the reasons why he won all of these tournaments and all of these majors because of how well he thought. So I tried to talk to him about how he prepared for tournaments, majors, and how he played his way around the course and things like that. He was great. I mean, I was amazed how he was like, "Ask me more, ask me more." Basic things, like, "Go out and try it, and if there's something else you want to talk about, just give me a call, no problems." He was great.

Q. Anything to help you tomorrow?

AARON BADDELEY: Tomorrow, yeah, absolutely. Just -- I'm not going to say anything, but I'll take something from what he said tomorrow, absolutely.

Q. That was at Memorial this year?


Q. Can you take us through the maturation you referred to of when your swing and confidence kicked in, when you got better, why you're better and so forth?

AARON BADDELEY: I would say in October, November, 2005, I was out working with Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, and ever since I started working with them, there's really been an upward curve of improvement of driving the ball in the fairway, hitting better iron shots. Yeah, I mean, that's just been a constant improvement, and I feel like every time I go to practice with them or even by myself, I know exactly what I need to work on. And I just feel like I'm going to keep improving because of what I'm working on.

Q. I was just wondering if you were observing leaderboards out there today and did you know Tiger was making a bit of a charge, and how did you react?

AARON BADDELEY: Yeah, I was definitely watching the whole day. I mean, from the -- I think from the second hole, I was looking at the leaderboard. I saw Tiger was 1- or 2-under early, so I mean, you've got to expect that. Tiger loves playing in majors and loves winning. So I was expecting Tiger to have a good day today.

Q. Johnny Miller famously said during commentary during the last round last year that Geoff Ogilvy could at least say he was leading the Australian Open. If you don't win tomorrow, is this some sort of consolation?

AARON BADDELEY: I can't think about that right now. I'm just worried about tonight. I'm worried about just doing better, a good session on the range tonight, a little bit of work and relaxing with Richelle and coming out tomorrow and playing as good as I can.

Q. Back when you were a teenager and won the Australian Open, there was a tremendous amount of hype and a lot of people talking about the next great player, and you have the commercials and all of those things. Does that seem like a long time ago, and how do you look back at that time of your life?

AARON BADDELEY: That does seem like a long time ago to be honest. What was it, eight years ago? I just look back at that time as like after the Australian Open, I look more at that time of when I struggled and was missing cuts, wasn't playing good. I look at that time as probably the most important time of my life, those two or three years -- probably three or four years when I struggled. Because if I don't go through that, if I didn't struggle as much as I did -- if I had just struggled a little bit, it would be different. But to struggle as much as I did, that was the most important part of my life. No. 1, my relationship with the Lord grew like beyond anything what I could imagine, which is the most important thing in my life; who I am as a person, my character, everything has developed and become stronger. I feel a lot wiser now because of all that and things I did wrong. And then I look back at that time, as well, and just say, if I didn't go through that, I wouldn't be sitting here today. I definitely wouldn't be sitting here right here right now leading a U.S. Open, if I don't go through that time of my life.

Q. Sunday is a long day for leaders. It takes a while for the leaders to get out; how do you make the day go by? Do you go to services or do you have a Bible study?

AARON BADDELEY: This morning actually went by really quick. I slept in a little bit until like 8:30, 9:00, got up. Every morning I always like study my Bible and wrote down some stuff and pray and stuff. So I'm just going to do that tomorrow like normal and have breakfast with Richelle, hang out. Probably be 11:00, 12:00 by then and get ready to come out here, come out here two hours before and do my regular routine.

Q. What are your keys to putting and what are the special challenges of these greens at Oakmont?

AARON BADDELEY: My keys to my putting is just I keep it really simple. I always have my little checks of making sure the ball is in the right position, making sure the putter face is square. That's really all I do with my putting. And I just look and react, like if you watch me putt, I'm pretty quick over the ball. That's something I've done since I was like 16. And then the challenges to these greens, best example is the 10th hole today. I was six feet from the cup and I had at least a three to four feet break in the putt. It came in really backwards. That's how challenging these greens are, because you've got to just hit the putt out and led it feed in there. Even like the last hole, the putt was so quick and so slopey, you had to just feed it out to the left and let it fall in there. There's no bashing the ball in the hole or anything like that. So you've really got to be careful with your speed and your line.

Q. Do you think the harder the greens, the better for you?

AARON BADDELEY: Yeah, I enjoy when you need to -- when you have to have feel; when you've got to get on the green and be like, okay, it looks like two cups out on the right, but you have to play a foot, foot and a half and sort of feed it in there.

Q. What prompted you to wait behind the 18th green at Augusta for Zach? Is that from Wednesday nights and those type of things, and would this not be a good time to remind people out there because you're playing with you-know-who that you were actually born in the U.S.?

AARON BADDELEY: Yes, I was actually born in the U.S. I've got dual citizenship. With Zach, Zach is a fellow brother in Christ, and I know it's very special to -- it's a special time in his life. I mean, he just won the Masters. We were at home watching the coverage, and when he birdied -- I think when he birdied 16, we were like five or ten minutes from the course. We drove straight back to make sure we were there on the 18th.

Q. You were at the house?

AARON BADDELEY: We were at the house just watching the coverage and we came back to watch him play the last couple of holes back at the course. Yeah, I mean, I wanted to be there because Zach is just a great guy and great friend and just wanted to be there to support him for that special time. It was just awesome. Richelle wanted to go back, as well. She was like, we're both like, "Do you want to go back?" "Yeah, let's go back right now." She's friends with Kim, as well. Both Richelle and I definitely wanted to be there.

Q. Your Web site has daily scriptural readings and the ones for tomorrow don't seem to be particularly pertinent to golf or to competition. Is there one that you key on when you're in a situation like that, anything, favorite verse?

AARON BADDELEY: I always use one verse, I used it at Hilton Head, it's the 2 Timothy 1:7, it says, "For God has give us a spirit of fear but power of love and a sound mind." I constantly quote that verse to myself. But I just enjoy reading the Bible. This morning I was just reading and writing and praying, and that's what is most important to me, every morning.

Q. Did you as a kid that you would ever be sitting here? And then second part of the question, when you were sitting in Scottsdale and you didn't have a Tour to play on, and it looked pretty grim for you, did you ever lose your faith; did you ever think that, you know, you're not going to make it as a professional golfer?

AARON BADDELEY: What is it, September 2000? I felt like that -- that I was going to quit. I told my dad I was quitting and walking away from the game because it was too hard. So, yeah, I definitely had doubts for sure. What was the first part of the question?

Q. When you were a kid, did you think to yourself that you were going to -- did you dream about ever winning?

AARON BADDELEY: Absolutely. That was something that was very vivid with my dreams, really, to be honest, seeing myself in that position. I mean, I've watched so much golf, I can tell you about what people wore, what they shot, everything. I just loved golf. I loved watching the majors; I taped them and watched them over and over; I can recite commentary from when Nick Price won. I saw myself in that position, absolutely.

Q. What did your dad say to talk you out of it, assuming it was him and not your own decision?

AARON BADDELEY: Dad said, "Fine, if that's what you want to do. If you want to walk away, that's absolutely your decision." I spoke to my dad and Greg's dad and they both said, "If you want, that's fine, but what's in your heart, what do you want to do and what are your dreams." And I started writing some stuff down, and I wanted to play golf. That's what I wanted to do. That's what was deep in my heart and that's what I got back to, like what was deep down in my heart, not just the frustration and annoyances.

Q. You're in the same position Appleby was at Augusta, final group with Tiger. We know who won there. Can you talk about scoreboard watching; could it be a mistake not to do some scoreboard watching tomorrow and just ignore the rest of the field and stay focused on just the two of you?

AARON BADDELEY: I think so for sure, absolutely. Because it's not like Tiger and I are seven shots ahead of the rest of the field, you know. It's like it's me and Tiger and there's a few other guys at 5-over. I think it would be a mistake not to look at the boards. It's all fun when you see your friends up on the board playing well. I always look and enjoy it and play my game. Like I said, I can only control what I do tomorrow.