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Thursday, June 17, 2010Shaun Micheel Media Center Interview
Shaun Micheel

Player Bio

BETH MURRISON: We're honored to be joined by Shaun Micheel in the interview room at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Shaun shot a 2‑under par 69 today. A very fine round. He's one of our co‑leaders, Shaun could you talk a little bit about your round and your play today.

SHAUN MICHEEL: Sure. I said this before and anybody that comes in here is going to say the same thing, that I think the secret to success in Major Championships is managing yourself around the golf course. Even more I think to this golf course. Because it's very challenging.

I think that the USGA has done an incredible job of setting the golf course up and it's a very playable course. It's difficult, but it doesn't require you to hit driver off every tee, or long irons into every green, it's very manageable.

I didn't hit a lot of greens in regulation today, but at least it stayed on the green. I didn't have a lot of looks at birdie, but I left myself in places that I wanted to be. That made it easier on my round.

I hit the ball solidly, I hit the ball the right distance, and again I managed myself and I think my emotions pretty well. I think the only time that I recall getting really upset was when I wasn't able to carry the bunker on the 13th hole. And I'll know better tomorrow.

BETH MURRISON: Could I ask you very quickly to go through the birdies and bogeys on your card.

SHAUN MICHEEL: Sure. I think that my ‑‑ okay. So No. 2, very difficult hole. I think that all three of us I think were in the right fairway bunker off the tee, and very difficult shot. I think difficult pin position, but overall it's just ‑‑ and the pin was actually in an easy spot on the green. But left it just short of the green and I had an about an eight or ten‑footer that I just didn't read well, which I was fine with.

Managed to come back with a nice pitching wedge off of No. 5, and we actually played there on Tuesday. We hit that tee and in the weather conditions were about the same. I hit a pitching wedge to about 20, 25 feet and made a nice, it felt great to get that ball in the hole. I think it's always important to get your birdies early.

6, missed the fairway, Rocco and Graeme hit great shots up there on the green and I left myself a difficult pitch from about I'm guessing 75, 80 yards. Hit it to about three feet and knocked that one in. Kind of parred around and then made my way to 14, which of all the holes it's the one that scarce me the most. And maybe all the or guys might say the same thing. The green is outrageous. It's very challenging.

But I had a good yardage and what's interesting is that Peter Jacobsen was out yesterday and I was speaking to him on the 109 fairway, and I asked him how he thought about playing that hole. And obviously you have to hit the fairway, but he felt it was important to get your next shot as far up the fairway as you can get it.

And so I did that today. I took a 3‑iron and normally I probably would have hit an if I have or a four and today I took a 3‑iron and moved it up the fairway a little bit further and took a little bit of a risk. But that left me a perfect, I had 112 yard shot up the hill, kind of downwind. And to be honest with you, I was trying to just hit it over the back of the green. Just hit it on to the back of the green so I could just putt to that pin.

But anyway, that was a one‑footer. The next hole was just a great 2‑iron down the middle with a gap wedge into the green. So it was about 15, 18 feet.

Then on 17th bogey, I, if they showed it, I don't know if they did or not, I had a difficult time in getting my ball to stay where I wanted, where I marked it. It just, there was a spike mark there. And I find Lee got it settled and I don't know if it hit it or not. It had a little bit of break in it, and I just missed it on the low side.

But and then I was able to come back and make a nice birdie on the last hole. Certainly unexpected. But maybe I was just someone was looking down on me because I missed the one on the hole before, I don't know. But it was a nice way to end. I would have been happy making par, to be honest with you. I felt like where I put myself on the green I took a couple extra looks at it, and I like I said, I would have been very happy just to have made par there. But I take a lot of smiling away from making that long putt.

Q. How many putts today do you feel like you had like a green light on as opposed to ones that maybe you were putting more defensively?

SHAUN MICHEEL: I'm not really sure how many greens I hit in regulation today for birdies, but I think ‑‑ I think with the exception of the last hole of the birdie putts I had, that was the most difficult one. Every other putt that I had hit was really ‑‑ I was either pin high or just a little bit below the hole. Likewise with all my par putts with the exception of No. 8, I mean every putt that I had was, I was putting up at it.

So I didn't feel like I had to putt defensively at all. I look ‑‑ a couple ‑‑ Rocco had a couple very difficult putts. And I just told myself I said I just can't afford to leave myself those.

And it really started on 1. I missed the green and he had a tough downhill putt and I told myself to leave it short of. Of course you want to get it to the hole and give it a chance, but I managed my game enough that I was in control of the ball really from my irons to my chipping. And with the exception of the last hole every putt I felt like I had was a green light.

Q. Have you altered your playing schedule at all because of your mom's condition and can you give us her name?

SHAUN MICHEEL: Yeah, it's Donna, D O N N A. And, yes, I have altered my schedule. I was in a tough position I think this year. Last year I was playing on a major medical. I had 15 or so events to make enough money and I wasn't ready to play last year. I was so eager to come back from my surgery that I probably rushed my come back. Not from a health standpoint, because I think my shoulder was healthy, but from a playability standpoint.

But to answer your question more directly, I joined the European Tour this year. I've always enjoyed going over to play, but I really needed some place that I could play, because look, last fall when I needed exemptions I got none. I got zero. And what I consider a hometown event in Jackson, Mississippi, three hours from my house, Randy didn't give me one. And that tournament got cancelled. I ended up getting in on my own past champion number, but I found it ‑‑ it was impossible to get an exemption. And it made me really realize how quickly people forget you.

And I feel like I've always written for exemptions or written thank you notes and so forth. But so anyway, I joined the European Tour because I needed a place to play. And I was supposed to play at the BMW at Wentworth a few weeks ago. On Mother's Day I talked to my father ‑‑ every Sunday we have family Sunday dinners at my house. We started that not ‑‑ probably should have started a long time ago, but we started that this year when my mom got sick.

On Mother's Day I spoke to my dad at 3 o'clock, at 3:45 he called me and said I need to come over. And I thought that I had lost my mom then. And I picked her up and put her on the bed, and she could barely talk. And I called the ambulance and she was suffering from what they call neutropenia. So her white blood cell count was extremely low. And I was supposed to go to the BMW Wentworth the next week, I think I was supposed to go from there to Spain and I just couldn't go. I just told them, I said I was in Dallas ‑‑ and those are some of the difficult things too. I'm trying to play both tours and it's not easy.

But I think with my mom's health, that's extremely difficult, because missing events and then playing events, there's a guilt factor that I feel right now anyway. And, but I needed to withdraw from those events because I could not afford to be far away, I need to be able to drive home immediately, I need to help my dad. Because right now it's just me and my dad and my mom and my immediate family; and then of course I have my wife and her family there to help. But I just need to be there. So, yes, I have changed a lot of my events, particularly overseas because of that.

Q. You kind of just touched on this, but earlier you talked about how everything in the past was me, me, me, in terms of the Money List and just the nature of golf, how do you sort of view your career differently in the wake of your injury and then your mom and everything the last couple years?

SHAUN MICHEEL: I've certainly had a lot of time to reflect on not only the golfer that I want to be, but the person that I want to be and the father that I want to be and the husband that I want to be.

It's difficult for me in the first few months to be at home, kids had certain routines and schedules ‑‑ and she's laughing, she was ready for me to be gone. And my life was just different.

I thought a lot about my career. When you don't win multiple times and you don't always have that exemption, it's not easy finishing in the top‑125, it really isn't. There's a lot of great players. I just ‑‑ I needed to work hard, I needed to be healthy first, but I needed to work hard and I needed probably a little bit of an attitude change. I think I'm so result oriented. I think I look too far out in the future instead of focusing on what it is I need to accomplish each day as a golfer.

It's unfortunate that a lot of our jobs are constantly looking at the FedExCup list, which is great for viewers, I think, and fans, they're seeing the change, but it's not so great for players. Especially when you're not in the top‑125. But I've kind of put a lot of those things aside and really focusing a little bit more directly on my health first and now with my mom I'm just really, every single day I think about her and I'm really playing for her. I think a lot about what Dan Jansen did in the Olympics when he was out ice skating and speed skating.

Every time I feel like I'm in a tough situation, I think about my mom and all the events that she went to as when I was a collegiate and all the events that she took me to as a kid and dropping me off at the golf course. There's so many great things about that. It seems to have made my life a little bit easier.

I certainly wish she didn't have this illness, but sometimes you rise under difficult situations. And it might be the first time in my life that I'm actually playing better and feel good about myself with the pressure that I have.

Q. I think we're all little surprised given the very good early morning conditions that the two best scores have come in the afternoon. Do you have any thoughts on that; and secondly, how did the greens hold up in the afternoon?

SHAUN MICHEEL: I thought the greens held up well. I did watch some of the coverage this morning and they were talking about the wind maybe coming up a little bit and sure enough it did. But I don't think that the wind was a really a factor at all. I did hear that they put some moisture on the golf course, on the greens, and I feel like if you have a good ‑‑ the balls are receptive hitting into the greens. If you land the ball short, that's where I think you can kind of run into some problems, but fortunately they have allowed you to do that.

I don't really think too much about a morning or an afternoon. Today I think the wind was just benign enough that it really just didn't matter. It was a warm afternoon. And I don't know, it's hard to say. I didn't really think that much about it. I think maybe other people focused too much on that. I don't know.

Maybe I'll know that tomorrow morning when I'm up at teeing off at 7:22, is the ball not carrying as far, it might take me a little bit more time to get into what I'm doing.

I'm going to have perfectly smooth greens tomorrow, so I'm excited about that. But there's so many great players here that it's not a shock to me that one score or two good scores come from the afternoon or however many there are. It just, I just try to go out and play. I had a great round and I think that if you played well you were going to get a good score no matter what time you played.

Q. I would imagine it was a difficult decision to come here, I know it's the U.S. Open, but since, because of your mom's condition, what, how did you come about deciding that and did your mom play a role in the decision for you to be here?

SHAUN MICHEEL: Yeah, my mom, she's a very encouraging person. As I said before about the Mother's Day incident. My mom was in the hospital for five days before they could get her blood cell count up. Ultimately she went through, needed two or three units of blood after that, but I sat with her and on, right before I needed to leave to go to San Antonio and she just was ‑‑ I think like any other mom ‑‑ that she wants the best for her kids and that made me feel really good.

I think she understands my situation and kind of where my career is and it's a great thing about parents is they always want what's best for their kids and there's no doubt that my mom wanted that for me. But she wants me to play. And at some point there will come a time that she wants me to play but my dad needs me at home. And I need to be home. I'm hoping that I know when that is.

I've tried ‑‑ my sister is a nurse practitioner in Oregon and she was home, she tries to kind of help me through some of the medical questions that I have. I talk to my father a lot when my mom ‑‑ my mom sleeps at 7 o'clock every night and she probably sleeps until 9 every morning. And so I don't get a lot of time to talk to her when I'm on the road.

So I spend a lot of time with my father just kind of asking how she's doing. And I just, I only hope that when the time comes that I know when that is. But for right now I'm doing what she wants me to do and what I think I need to be doing.

Q. Given that you said that the wind was pretty much down today and the greens were pretty receptive, are you surprised at all that the low scores is only 2‑under or does this setup where anything around par is going to be good the whole week?

SHAUN MICHEEL: I think I played a great round of golf and that's probably as good a score as I could have gotten out there, I think. It's just too difficult, I think, to get the ball close to the hole. You're not going to see somebody out there have 13 or 14 looks at birdie. It's just not out there. And then on some of the places you know you have to be defensive on your putts as well. So it's not ‑‑ you can't be real aggressive.

I try not to look at the leaderboard, I did see the 1‑ and 2‑under was leading kind of throughout the day. The conditions probably allowed itself for a little bit lower scoring, but I think in order to get that you're going to have to make four, two or three putts about the length that I made on 18. I just don't think that that's ‑‑ I don't think that's the mindset that people have. When you have a putt that is of that length it's just about making par and leaving it around the hole.

So no, I'm not, I'm really not surprised at all. I just don't see, even today as nice as it was, I don't see 4‑ or 5‑under out there at all of. I just don't see it.

Q. You've gone through so much adversity since the Major win, how do you feel yourself and how you handled it and also is there any anger or bitterness about the exemptions and not being recognized more as a Major champion?

SHAUN MICHEEL: You know, I don't know. The exemptions are hard to come by. I think I've been out here long enough I certainly know how the game is played. There's a lot of young talent that's out here, and again, I felt like the reason that I lost my way or at least lost my exemption or, you know, the exemption, was not because I played poorly, it was because I was injured. I kick myself a lot.

I'm over it now, but why I continued to play so long. And I think that just show that is our sport, I mean you have to be out there. It's just me and my caddie out there and there's no guarantees at all.

I felt like I needed to be playing. So when I had my surgery I could at least look myself in the mirror and know that it wasn't that my game was not where it needed to be, because I was slacking off, I wasn't practicing, because if anything I practiced more than I ever had. The more I practiced, the worse I got, which probably meant the more injured I got.

Hey, you know, again, I think I've done the good things, I think, of writing thank you notes to the sponsors and everything and there's only so many spots that are out there available. I write a letter and if I don't get it, I don't write a nasty letter back saying, I can't believe you chose this person over me, I just wish everybody the best in their event because again I think that in the end being out here for 14 years or whatever, I understand that it's basically how I play and I know that I'm good enough to get back up to the top and I look at some of the guys, Steve Stricker and he come from way down and Lee Westwood even admittedly, you know, came from way down. And maybe not that I'll ever reach that level of player or World Ranking, but I've worked hard and it feels really good to start seeing some results.

And if anything else comes with that, I mean because, look, short of a win, this year, I'm going to be in the same situation come the fall. I'm going to be in the past champion category. If I make 900 thousand dollars and I'm locked up for my PGA TOUR card for 2011, I still have to write for exemptions for the fall events. And which I will do and which I've been doing. And you know, I have gotten some nos, but you know I've gotten some yeses.

And I go back to Houston and what Steve Timms and the Houston Golf Association did and I ended up finishing fifth that week. And I do have one for John Deere if I need it, but again, I don't want to be too long winded with it, but it's, I think it's always important to look out for the sponsors, the volunteers, the fans, and everything, throughout, you know, on your way up, because you certainly don't want to burn your bridges on the way up, because nobody's going to care about you on your way down. I don't think I've done that, but it's just ‑‑ it's difficult to get a no. But I think that's just the nature of the game. It's kind of a, "what have you done for me lately" TOUR and I understand that.

Q. Athletes typically use their sport to get away, escape for awhile from things off the field, it gives them a distraction to concentrate. Given your mother's circumstance, how easy or how difficult that is been for you to focus and not think of her while you're playing?

SHAUN MICHEEL: Oh, I don't know. I think I'm doing surprisingly well. Golf I think is different than any other sport. Think about how much time ‑‑ it took me five hours to play golf and I probably only really played golf for maybe 15 minutes. I don't really know. I never put the numbers to it, but there's a lot of time to think out there and there's a lot of things to think about.

This is a beautiful place. I sent my dad an e‑mail today and I just said I wish ‑‑ or last night ‑‑ I wished that they could have been here. They were here when we had the NCAA's at Poppy Hills and in 1991 ‑‑ I'm aging myself ‑‑ but it's not, it's not been that difficult. I do ‑‑ last week was tough because I really felt like I was in contention to win the tournament and I thought a lot about what my father had said that if I was doing well that he was going to get my mom and bring her in her wheelchair out to the 18th green and I never got that opportunity.

When I think about her it's, it makes me smile, it makes me want to work hard, it makes me want to dig deep and do it for her. But again, I just think there's so much time involved with playing golf that, there's so many great things and not so great things that come to mind.

But I'm trying to focus on the great things in my mom, all the great things that she's done for me in the course of my life, and I'm just hoping for a miracle that she can come out. I really wanted her to come to the PGA this year and she was at Whistling Straits when I was defending my title in 2004. She loved the place. I would love for her to be there. I just don't think it's going to happen this year.

But anyway, all the things that I think about on the golf course as it pertains to her, I'm starting to channel that into a little bit more positive as opposed ‑‑ I struggled my first couple weeks upon knowing her illness a year ago and a lot of sleepless nights on how it was going to affect my family, how it was going to affect my father.

It's interesting, you know, that a lot of people ask me about me and my mom, they don't ask me about me and my dad. They don't ask about how my dad's doing. And I don't know, I think that it's difficult on him. He's got a lot of, he's got a big support network at home, and he's handling things very well.

But you know, I just, I take each day, I wake up each day and the first thing I do is call her to see how she's feeling. And today she wasn't doing so well. But she just encouraged me to go out and have a great round and that's what I did today.

Q. What was the most satisfying shot of today's round for you?

SHAUN MICHEEL: That's a good question. Because I felt look I hit a lot of good shots. I don't really know if there was anything that really swayed my momentum one way. Obviously the one at 18. It just, it really felt great to make that putt. Because it's so unexpected.

But I think really the 14th hole. I played that hole well. And I was rewarded with it. So I would say that hole. Because, again, that hole is the one that I think intimidates me the most. Because there's just so much difficulty associated with the green and a big number's waiting there.

So, yeah, probably the third shot. And again I didn't know how close that ball was, it was a foot. And anything on the green on the correct level is fine. So I suspected that probably that one. Because that definitely carried me over to hitting a great tee shot on 15.

Q. You mentioned that you felt like you managed your emotions pretty well today. Is that more difficult with the circumstances that you're going through or has that even in some weird way made it a little easier to manage the emotions of playing golf?

SHAUN MICHEEL: I think maybe it's made it easier. I used to be kind of filled with a lot of anger. When I first started going I was frustrated with myself, with my injury and everything else. And then the first part of last year when I found out that my mom was sick, I struggled because I was thinking about her, I was thinking about all my exemptions running out or my medical events were running out and everything else. It's just really hard to say. I feel good about the things that I'm thinking about now.

I often wondered, is it better to lose someone quickly, never get the opportunity to spend that time with them, how would you handle that; or is it better to have this time and share it with her and share it with your family and get to, I don't know, maybe say your last goodbyes. I don't know.

Golf I think is a very emotional game anyway, if you let it be, so in some way I suspect that maybe this is helping my game. And I can't, I don't understand it. Like you said, it's strange, it's weird, but it is what it is.

Again, I feel very calm and I'm scared to death for my mom. I'm scared to death of my own impending demise, at some point in my life. I have two young children that are still trying to get to know my mom. Right now my two children are with my wife's family, I haven't explained that to them yet.

They know that my mom is sick. I have a six and a half year old and he's now starting to ask questions. Oh, they think she's sick, she's lost her hair a couple of times and I've kind of beaten around the bush a couple of times, but I've not told him. And I struggle with that every day really on whether or not I should even mention anything.

Again, knowing that my mom wants me out here playing golf is comforting. And so while I'm able to do it, while she's able to really encourage me to be out here, I'm going to give it a hundred percent. I'm either going to do that or I'm going home. And my mom doesn't want me to be home. And I want to be out here.

And again, as I said a little while ago, when the time is right and when the time comes for me to stop playing golf and to be home, I'm going to be there.

I mean, look, last week I thought a lot about Len Mattiace last week because I remember when Len was playing the 17th hole at the TPC and he brought his mom and his mom had cancer and I thought a lot about him. And hey, I think the whole TOUR's a great support group. Jonathan Byrd lost his father last year of brain cancer, Kenny Perry has lost his mother.

And I don't care how old your mom and dad are, we all understand the kind of chain of events, but my mom's 63 years old and, you know, it's just nice to have great friends out here and everybody's helping me through it. And I'm very fortunate to have that.

BETH MURRISON: Shaun, we thank you very much for spending time with us today. Congratulations on your fine play again.

SHAUN MICHEEL: Thank you.

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