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Steve Jones News Conference Transcript - 1996

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STEVE JONES:My impressions? Well, I was never very good in school, so I can never come up with anything eloquent to say, but I say it is a thrill of a lifetime. I think every young boy growing up that has played golf has dreamed of making a putt on the last hole to win. Fortunately, mine was about one foot long, and if it was one inch longer I am not sure where I would have gone. But it is a great feeling. I never even thought about that. I had a great pairing with Tom Lehman today. I think that really helped calm me down. And several times out there he gave me some words of inspiration from the Bible and telling me to be courageous and be strong and I tried. It wasn't too strong on 17, but 18 felt pretty good and I would have rather have won it with a birdie on the last hole, but Tom got a bad break. He hit a good drive, nice tee shot; hit the fairway; just kicked it a little bit left and barely went in the bunker, but he tried it. He hit a good putt. Gave me a good read on it, so it helped me quite a bit. I couldn't have hit that putt any shorter on 18. The nerves wouldn't let me, so -- just glad to be here.
 
Q. We need to go through the birdies, bogeys.
 
STEVE JONES: I guess I parred the first eight holes. And let us see. Did I have some saves? There had to have been something. No saves, no. Hit all -- I think I hit all the fairways except for number 2 and all the greens the first nine holes. That is what my thoughts were today. I really wanted to try to focus in on hitting the ball in the fairway. I did that on Thursday and Friday, but I also wanted to make some birdies, so when I hit it close on 9 and that putt went in, I was really relieved. It really helped me a lot when that putt went in. Then on 10, I hit a driver just perfect. I was on the side slope and I kind of chunked -- pushed my 8-iron out there about 40 feet. I had a good line on hit, but I was just trying to lag it kind of close to the hole and it went right in the middle. That was a big thrill. The next hole parred. I guess the par 5 I birdied that; Tom hit driver. He hit a great cut shot driver. I was going to hit driver, but when I saw his go over the green, I felt like I needed to keep my ball below the hole, so I hit a 3-wood and I hit it in the bunker. And Tom got a bad break there with a bad lie downhill, and he tried to chip it out to the right. Unfortunately, he made bogey. But I hit mine four feet and made birdie. I really felt good at that moment. But I got up on 13 and I pulled my 7 out just enough left and probably basically two feet too far. If it had been two feet less, it would have rolled back pin-high. I felt like I had a good blade sand wedge out of there and missed the putt. And then par up 'til 15, I think -- I guess it was. 14 was definitely a big save. I had a really hard shot there and chipped it up there about a foot. And then 17, I got a little quick. Tom had hit a 6-iron. I guess I felt like it went over the green because the people, you know, they weren't yelling up there. I thought he holed it. And so I was just going to hit a hard 6-iron and I got ahead of it and kind of bladed it to the right and left it in the high muff; made bogey there, kind of pulled my putt about eight feet. 18: I saw Tom's kick left, and it went in the bunker, wasn't a good break at all. And so I just -- everyday I'd hit that fairway, so today I said 'take it right over the bunker and hit it perfect. ' I was really relieved when I hit that fairway.
 
Q. That next shot, do you know how close that came to going in?
 
STEVE JONES: I don't, no.
 
Q. It was close, we could see that on the screen. On 12, what was your shot, club to the green, I think you may have missed that one.
 
STEVE JONES: Hit a 3-wood in the bunker, then hit it
 
Q. Number 9.
 
STEVE JONES: 9 was a 4-iron about ten feet.
 
Q. Putt on 13.
 
STEVE JONES: That I missed in probably six feet. 18: Distance club, 170. It was perfect, really, for me, 170, cross-wind, I knew I could hit a hard 7-iron uphill. I was pretty pumped up, and I knew it wouldn't -- it finished somewhere up there if I could just get it started, and I hit it a little bit thin, similar to the shot on 17, but this time I turned it over a little bit and it drew, and I think it landed just short of the green, took a big bounce, because I hit it a little bit thin. But when I saw that it was up there by the hole, I was very thankful. Wasn't looking forward to that putt. But again, I got a good read off Tom. He really helped me with the speed on that one. I couldn't have hit it any shorter. I mean, I just felt like I touched it.
 
Q. What was it, about 9 feet?
 
STEVE JONES: I think it was more like about 14, 12 or 14 feet. On 18: Number 10, I was about 40 feet.
 
Q. Anymore on the card?
 
STEVE JONES: I hit 7-iron short of the green on 14.
 
Q. Steve, when Tom was in here, he mentioned that during your two seasons you sat out after the finger injury --
 
STEVE JONES: Three.
 
Q. Three seasons you sat out, that he kind of -- you guys talked during that time and became good friends and stuff. Would you kind of elaborate on that for us a little bit?
 
STEVE JONES: Yeah, I met Tom, I don't know, back -- I think it was 1983 or 1984. Might have been '85. I can't even remember. But I really kind of got to know Tom when he moved to Phoenix since I had moved there in 1982. And definitely, I mean, he has always been an inspiration to me because of where he came from coming up on the Nike Tour, the mini-tours, and he was just grinding his way up to the Tour ranks. And he has always given me words of encouragement when I was off, and even the last couple of years when I came back out here, just kept telling me to be patient.
 
Q. You said he was quoting some biblical -- giving you some biblical scriptures on the course. Can you tell us where and what it was?
 
STEVE JONES: Yeah, the first hole he was just telling me -- he said, 'you know the Lord wants us to be courageous and strong, for that is the will of God,' and I really got to thinking then. I said, 'yeah, that is right.' I had another brother, Jim Hiskey (phonetic) called me this morning; he said the same thing, 'be strong and courageous,' and I was trying, but I was really, really nervous. I know how strong I was, but I knew I was nervous. And then on 16, walking down the fairway on 16, he told me -- he said the same thing to me again and it really helped calm me. And after watching his shot go, you know, basically drew it right in at the pin; then he lipped out, I knew he meant what he said, because anybody in that situation that would fire at that pin -- he actually aimed it almost at the water and drew it away from the water on 16. Then he lipped the putt, hit a good putt, then hit it right at the pin on 17 and hit driver on 18 - I knew he was courageous and strong. I just tried to hang on.
 
Q. You weren't the only one that was nervous today. That was a great show to watch.
 
STEVE JONES: Thank you.
 
Q. After hitting the first eight greens in regulation and missing those makeable birdie putts on 7 and 8, what got you going on 9 where you birdied 9, 10 and then 12, and 12 you took the lead outright. How did it feel to take the lead outright at 12 and what did it feel like at 9?
 
STEVE JONES: I think it kind of -- the pressure kind of got off me a little bit because of Tom - he was, I guess, three birdies and a bogey was 4-under. I was three shots back. He is the only one I paid attention to all day. I never looked at the board. I just kept telling myself 'hit the fairway, hit the green.' That is what I told Roger this morning in an interview. I just want to try hit fairways and greens like I did on Thursday and Friday and be patient and my swing was really working well. As you know, my swing could really go haywire at times after watching me yesterday, but when I made the putt on 9, that really kept me going, just because I finally made a 1-putt for birdie. I didn't know if I was, you know, was going to have any birdies, because I didn't have any on Thursday, Thursday and could it happen out here real easily. On 10, I didn't hit a really good approach shot and I tried to whack the putt in there and it went in. One of those things that happens.
 
Q. With a name like Jones, has Bobby Jones been an inspiration for you, what he did and also, can you talk a little bit more about the Hogan book?
 
STEVE JONES: Yeah, obviously as a young kid growing up and hearing everything and reading things about Bobby Jones, kind of gave me that little boost of confidence having that, you know, one of the Jones boys has done a really good job at playing golf, and now to be on this trophy, is just incredible. The Hogan book, a guy Drew Tutt, (phonetic) a friend of mine in Phoenix, sent me the book in Montana last week and he had read it. He felt like it would help me. It did. I read the book. I wasn't too sure about it. Boy, when I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I read that book for three days, finished it on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday, I really practiced hard. I was exhausted after Monday and Tuesday working on my swing, and basically what I got out of the Hogan book was this guy, no matter what the situation, he was always trying to make birdie, always trying to focus on the next shot, and that is what I tried to do this week. And I honestly don't think I could have won this tournament without reading that book. Sounds crazy, but I guess -- I mean, it does. It takes a lot of guts to win, and I wasn't ever sure if I had the guts to win another tournament, let alone a major. You got to be patient. I was trying to be patient, but I was nervous and I wanted to be impatient. But I kept telling myself just what Hogan said, you know, focus in on each shot and don't worry about the outcome. When he was walking up the fairway -- actually, after he had won the tournament here in '51, the best quote was the runner-up, I can't even think of his name now in '51 -- Clayton Heafner? Heafner had asked him. He told him -- he said, 'Congratulations, Ben.' He says, 'well, thank you very much.' He said, 'how did you do?' (LAUGHTER) And Clayton got second. He lost by two shots and Ben had birdied the last hole. Ben was only focused on himself. Playing as good as he could do. I think of that and I just laugh. Yeah, you know --
 
Q. Talk a little bit about the things you have done over the past few years, not just immediately, but the setup, a routine that got you here today, monthly goals, weekly goals. I mean, what did you do to get back on the road to health and end up the United States Open Champion?
 
STEVE JONES: Well, I think -- first of all, I don't care how much preparation and how many goals you set or anything like that - that would never guarantee a U.S. Open Championship. I think there is a lot of people that can attest to that. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. And Nick Faldo asked Hogan once, he said, 'what do I have to do to win U.S. Open?' And Hogan said, 'shoot the lowest score.' And that is true. I mean, you shoot the lowest score and you win. It was real simple. Basically for me, when I had the three years off, I wasn't sure -- I injured my finger a couple of times trying to come back; wasn't sure if I was ever going to play again; wasn't sure if my finger was going to hold up. It is still not 100%, but anything over 95 percent, I could handle it. I never practiced too much because I was afraid I would injure it again. But the last, probably, year I started practicing a little bit more, and my teacher since 1982 has been Paul Purtzer out in Phoenix, he has taken me under his wing and just helped me through thick and thin. He has helped me for 14 years. And Paul Purtzer is Tom Purtzer's older brother. I can't thank him enough for sticking with me and all the lessons he has given me with no charge. The guy is incredible. I mean, he really knows golf, and I really appreciate him very much. He was a big inspiration to me. He has always told me -- he said, 'you are the greatest. You are the greatest.' I know he says that to Tom too, but he is a very big encourager.
 
Q. Besides your finger, did you go to a sports psychologist?
 
STEVE JONES: No, I don't use a sports psychologist.
 
Q. How many autographs did you sign at the last tournament, and how many will you sign next week?
 
STEVE JONES: Thousands, I hope. I love it. Next week, thousands, I hope.
 
Q. Last week?
 
STEVE JONES: Last week, how many? Well, it was during Muirfield. I hadn't played last week, but two weeks ago, signed a few. There was a lot of gracious people at Muirfield, but not as many as I am going to sign hopefully in a little bit.
 
Q. Give us some details on the Sectional, what you did on 18? Did you have to do something there to just to get in the playoff?
 
STEVE JONES: I did. I hit a perfect drive on 18 at The Lakes in Columbus, Ohio, and I was playing really well. I was 6-under after 12-over Brookside and ended up 5-under on that round. Then went back, played four holes at The Lakes, got rained out, came back on Tuesday, very long day on 18. My 36th hole, hit a good drive, had an 8-iron shot in there, pulled it a little long left of the green, had a little uphill chip shot. I was very nervous. For some reason, I was 3-under par, and I knew I had to make par to have a chance at going to the Open. I chipped it up there probably about a foot and a half. I was, 'oh, no, one of these;' just a little bit longer than the one I made out here, but almost the same feeling. The nerves were there. I made it. Got into the playoff. Parred the first hole, and Tom Purtzer didn't make it, but he ended up getting in as an alternate anyway. But if I had bogeyed the last hole, you know, I might not have made it here.
 
Q. Do you and Tom spend a lot of time together? Do you play a lot of golf together? You talked about his inspiration for you. Did you encourage --
 
STEVE JONES: The first one was about -- oh, no, we don't really play much golf when we are home. We haven't played much together at all. We just -- couple of times we have hung out; talked to each other on the phone. We have busy schedules and everything like that. But our kids enjoy each other. The other thing, no, I didn't encourage him at all. I wanted to win, no just -- (LAUGHTER) -- No, just kidding. I didn't know what else to say. I mean, he was -- I mean, Tom was a class person and he really did -- I am just saying -- I just said, 'amen, amen.' He kept telling me 'okay, okay.' I didn't know what else to say because he was saying -- everything he was saying is the right words. I said, 'okay, both of us, okay, both of us.' To come down to the last hole I just, you know, the one thing I was thinking about was I don't want to go another day. Hogan did that once or twice, I don't know, but he talked about how tough that was, and I didn't want to have to play tomorrow. So unfortunately Tom, you know, ran into a bad break and bogeyed the last hole, but..... Tough course.
 
Q. To follow-up on the Hogan book, did you also take any inspiration from his comeback from that car accident and also for those of us who haven't heard it, could you please recount how your bike accident occurred?
 
STEVE JONES: First of all, in November of 1991 I was out in the desert riding dirt bikes with a friend and he wrecked in front of me, and instead of running over him I tried to stop, and I should have ran over him, but I didn't. And I ended up when I woke up, he was over there, against the ditch, and he had broke his collar bone and I had sprained my ankle and separated my left shoulder, and my finger hurt real bad too. I didn't realize my finger was hurt that bad because I had dislocated it before, but it was quite a shock when it happened. I was playing pretty good golf at the time, and I forgot your last question.
 
Q. Hogan --
 
STEVE JONES: Definitely. I mean, obviously my accident wasn't even close to what he went through. I had no idea what he went through with the surgeries, almost dying several times, the pain he went through. I just had no idea. I am not really a golf historian, although I really enjoy watching all the old tapes of the players. I have always enjoyed that St. Andrews and all the old courses, the Majors and Shell's Wonderful Wild World of Golf, all that stuff, that is just -- it was -- it was the big inspiration. I have said that all week, every time I have talked to someone, I told them that the Hogan book really helped me and I honestly think I wouldn't have won without reading that book. Hopefully the sales will go up right now.
 
Q. Could you talk about the MCI Tournament where you hit it out of bounds on the last hole; Davis winning that first tournament?
 
STEVE JONES: I had no idea that he had bogeyed the last hole until my brother told me on 18 green, he said -- I said, 'how do we stand?' I didn't even know, you know, and he said, 'you are tied with Lehman and Love.' I am thinking, oh, great, I got to make this putt or I am going tomorrow. And he looked at the board again, he goes, no, he is one -- it is just you and Lehman. I said, oh, okay. You know, I kind of -- oh, okay. But yeah, he told Chris Berman he has been waiting for 10 years to pay me back and if he was ever going to do it he said this was a good tournament to do it, but obviously I didn't want him to bogey the last hole either, but I hit it out of bounds on the last hole at the Heritage there to lose by one to Davis. I was really nervous that tournament. I mean, I couldn't even feel my legs. But I knew that there wasn't any out of bounds on 18, so I just went ahead and ripped it.
 
Q. Steve, did you start playing golf after you had moved to Colorado and did you play sand green courses out there?
 
STEVE JONES: I was Colorado's sand greens champion for two years in a row back in -- (LAUGHTER) I was!-- in 1979 and 1980 up in Jewelsburg (ph), was it? Yeah, Jewelsburg, and they gave us a car for a month as a trophy. But, yeah, I shot 7 under and in 45 holes in my second year. So I have always been proud of that.
 
Q. Can you tell us how you overcame your finger problem and whether you ever came close to quitting golf?
 
STEVE JONES: Well, I went to see a lot of doctors and I baffled a lot of doctors no one really knew what exactly was wrong with me or how long it was going to take and that was frustrating at the time. It wasn't until about three, four months after the injury that I felt like my finger was the worst part of my body that wasn't recovering right. And after seven months of rehab, I didn't know what else to do. And reinjured it playing again went and saw another doctor. And finally after ten months from the original time I injured my finger, it was September of 1992, I talked to John Cook and -- well, my manager did. He got John Cook's doctor out of Palm Springs. I went and saw him. He basically told me -- he says what it sounds like every time you hit it, it makes it worse and it takes longer to heal, so why don't you just wrap these two middle fingers for two or three months and call me in three months and tell me if it felt any better. So I called him about three and a half months later. I said 'it went from 45% to 85 percent better.' He said, 'good, I think we found out how to cure it, just don't do anything.' Because with a ligament -- you basically keep your stretch in motion, but you can't work. It is not a muscle. You have to wait until it heals, and that is what I did.
 
Q. Steve, can you talk about just playing 18, it was the toughest hole in the course, but you were one under I believe for the week; I think Tom was 3 over.
 
STEVE JONES: Yeah, well, I hit four perfect drives there on the first day. I hit it in the left bunker and made, I think, about 6-foot putt for par. The next day I hit it in the right bunker and made about a 6-foot putt for par, I believe. Yesterday, I hit it up there, I think, about eight feet; made that for birdie and then today I honestly felt I could make that putt on the last hole and just rimmed the edge but definitely, I think I would give all my credit to my driver. I have only been using that driver for four weeks, the King Cobra driver, and it is really helped my game -- what can I say?
 
Q. Steve, you talked about being nervous. Every time the camera flashed on you seemed to be laughing and, you know, kind of playing with the crowd a little bit. Talk about your emotions today.
 
STEVE JONES: Well, I guess part of that was I didn't really try to focus there on my score too much. I just said, hey, just play the best you can play. You know, just act like you are out here Tuesday. I played -- Jeff Maggert and I played Lee Janzen and Phil Mickelson, and we had a little bet going. And it kind of pumped me up. And afterwards, we won the bet one up, Jeff Maggert and -- I think we were 8 under and it kind of pumped me up a little bit. Last time I did that was in 1988 I played with Tom Watson and Tom and I were partners at Cypress Point, and we were playing against three amateurs Sandy Tatum, Robert Trent Jones Jr., and the third name just -- you know, he will probably shoot me, but I can't remember Tom and I ended up winning that day and we won a few dollars. They actually paid. I ended up shooting 64 at Cypress Point. I won AT&T Pebble Beach, my first win, and after Tuesday we won one up. I said, 'last time I did this, I won a tournament.' So I think I know my route now. I need some Tuesday games, and I really honestly thought about that a little bit and said it gave me some good competition early; what I needed to do I had five birdies that day, and kind of pumped me up.
 
Q. Steve, you missed two cuts coming in here. Where was your mindset then and what did you think your chances were having missed two cuts?
 
STEVE JONES: Well, it was funny because at Kemper I was playing pretty well. I just finished 6th at Colonial the week before, but it just didn't happen; just wasn't there. Missed by one; went to Muirfield, was on my game, playing well, 4 under, with two holes to go the first day. Hit a perfect drive on 17. Hit good 7-iron, made bogey; got upset at myself. Went on 18; hit perfect drive on 18, hit it in the back bunker, went by a rock out of the bunker -- what is a rock doing there at Muirfield in a bunker? Probably the only one in the whole place. Made double bogey finished one under. I was upset. Came out the next day. Ended up bogeying 17, 18; missed the cut by one. Couldn't believe it. Probably the best thing that happened to me. I went to church that Sunday; got some things resolved in my own life, what needed to be resolved; got my priorities straight again, and came out on Monday qualifying at the U.S. Open regional, and kept my focus, played well, and almost, you know, lost it there too after being 6-under after 12 the first round. I ended up 3-under for that and -- but I feel like my focus is back where it should be and hopefully I will remain there.
 
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