An Interview With: Meg Mallon
RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you to the press conference of the defending champion: Meg Mallon won her first United States Women's Open championship in 1991 and then thirteen years later she won it. That was last year. That proves one thing, that she was a great player for a long, long time.
RHONDA GLENN: I have noticed you have been out on the practice tee just pounding balls every day since Friday. You have worked with Mike McGetrick, the professional up in Denver. You have struggled a little bit early in the year. You seem to be playing better past few tournaments. What is the state of your game now going into this big week?
MEG MALLON: You are right, it's actually been the longest I have struggled in my whole career, so it's been an interesting year for me. As of today I am on my 14th driver and in my 10th week. I guess that's where you can start where my struggles are.
I think I found a driver which I am very happy about. It was its been very interesting going through this process because I am normally a player that hits a lot of fairways and I don't like the rough. I have been playing a lot out the rough this year, and it's why my scoring average is much higher and why I haven't played as well. It's actually been a good challenge for me. It's been an opportunity for me to work on my short game an awful lot in tournament situations and I always look at the positive side of things, or at least try to, and say, well, maybe this is helping me get my short game sharp for a time when I need it, when the rest of my game comes together. Hopefully it will start this week.
MEG MALLON: Oh, yeah. You know what was good -- I keep calling Mike and telling him, well, this is what we're doing, and even when I come out to see him my swing plane is perfect, my putting stroke is perfect looking, but I get you know, in a tournament, I may start missing fairways and then just trying to play catch-up. I got to show that in the practice round yesterday, so we went to the driving range for quite a while. Worked on drivers and hopefully we found one this morning. I think this might be the ticket to keep me in the fairway.
MEG MALLON: I was working with a Taylor Made rep. I am not affiliated with any manufacturer, so they had been standing behind me all year with drivers, which makes it hard also because there's almost too many choices out there. Technology has screwed my accuracy for some reason, because I used to hit it a lot straighter before these big giant drivers came along, so (laughs). Now I have settled with a Taylor Made driver.
MEG MALLON: This is a fantastic golf course and the players had been talking about how much they like it. Karrie Webb said to me the other day she thinks it's probably one of our favorite Open courses that she's played out here. It's just good pure hard golf. Everything is right in front of you, but you have to play your best.
Q. In the last season you were sort of in a similar situation, having played not that well, does it give you confidence knowing you can turn it on like you did last year, not only the Open, but the two tournaments that were right after?
MEG MALLON: I think the difference -- well, I know the difference between this year and last year is last year I felt like I was playing okay, I just wasn't getting anything out of my rounds because I wasn't putting very well. It came down to Mike and I kind of finding a key in my putting.
We happened to find it the week of the Open, then I kind of took off from there with that because I knew the rest of my game was in place. This year is different because I struggled so much with the driver, so when you struggle off the tee you don't know how the rest of your game is because you are punching out half the day (laughs). So you are behind the 8 ball from the get-go. So it is just a little different.
I would have to say earlier in the year my confidence is probably the lowest it's ever been in my career. That wasn't much fun to play like that, but now I have kind of played my way out of that and feel a lot better about my game and you know, again, if I get my driver in the fairway things will turnaround for me.
MEG MALLON: Well, hopefully I will hit my 11-wood when I need it out of the fairway because the 11-wood's going to be my third option out of the rough. I have my two sand wedges and then I will go to my 11-wood. That's how good that club is out of the rough.
MEG MALLON: It will be -- yeah, depending on the shot that I have. Just testing it the last couple of days out of the rough I can carry that you know, out of the thick stuff, I can carry it about 120 yards, and then it will roll from 40 to 50 yards with the 11-wood. The wedges will just be like, you know, anywhere from a 40- to an 80-yard carry out of the rough but they will stop there. So it's a great utility club to have for a US Open.
I kept it at home. I actually had to store it away during the hurricanes because I was worried about it floating away somewhere. Then I gave it to my club that I am a member in Boynton Beach. They had a big party for me there and I brought the trophy in, and I left it there for about two months, and then I had to send it off to be engraved. Then I got it back for about a month.
MEG MALLON: Yeah, last year we were talking about how 16, you know, through the practice rounds it was playing so long and people weren't able to reach it and by the time we played the tournament and adrenaline kicked in, 16 got a little bit shorter.
The difference is 18 plays so uphill that I am not sure it's going to get shorter, even with adrenaline. It's just a great finishing hole. I mean, in my press day that I had here about five weeks ago, I said it's just a terrific short par 5, and that's how I am going to look at it. (Laughs).
MEG MALLON: For everybody, yeah, I think if you are trying to stop it, she's going to train right by you. Every player out here is a great player, they just have to figure out how they are going to play great themselves. That's what I did so well last year is, I just played my game myself, played the golf course, had a great time, and happened to win by two shots. That's how the players have to approach it. They can't start playing another player.
Especially in golf. You can do that in tennis. Any other sport you are playing the other player, but you are playing the golf course this week. And if you start having this person in the back of your mind, the rest of the field is going to pass you, let alone Annika.
MEG MALLON: I was awesome. I mean, the thing so great about it, I have a 4-shot lead with three holes to go and she birdies the last two holes. That just was fun stuff and I loved it. I was looking at her on 18 and I am standing on 17 tee, I knew she just birdied 17 and she just stuffs it in there on 18. I got this big grin on my face and said, you know, she's a greatest player out here and this is the reason why. That was a ball on Sunday to be able to go toe to toe with her and Kelly Robbins. They were both playing so great last year.
RHONDA GLENN: I might mention I have been doing some research on Grand Slams and that sort of thing. In 1950 Babe Zaharias won all three of the majors on the tour so that's already been done, which you might want to note somewhere.
But I got a wonderful sponsorship opportunity with Fidelity. They were based out of Boston. They loved the connection with winning in Massachusetts. I actually did a function for them here last night and really enjoyed working with them as a company. So it's really been a nice fit for me and that's the only sponsorship I have gotten, but I am very happy with it.
Q. From a sports fan's side of things, not necessarily competitive side of things, if you find yourself sort of hoping Annika wins a Grand Slam in light of what it might do for this tour and what do you think it might do for the tour?
MEG MALLON: That's a very complicated question because Annika has done so much for the tour already and she hasn't gotten half the attention she deserves. So that's going to be the big question, if she does win the Grand Slam are people just going to go, well, you know, here she goes again, or is she going to get to the level of idolatry that she basically deserves. I don't know. I hope so. I think she deserved it after The Colonial. Definitely helped her step up after Colonial, but then she's won 25 times since then and people are blase about it, which is really sad.
Am I secretly cheering for her? Probably not because I'd like to win those events. If I win the British Open I have won a career Grand Slam. If, you know, I win this week I have won three U.S. Opens. Not many players have done that, so I am kind of selfish on that respect. Forgive me for that, but this is towards the end of my career and it will be kind of cool to do that.
Q. Ten years ago you saw Annika pass you on that last day and she won. I know it would be impossible to guess then how she would do, but did you have an idea on that day or at that time, when she was just 24, that she could be a great player long-term?
MEG MALLON: No. Absolutely not. She had a terrific collegiate record. She was a good player. She had proven that she could win. She went about it the right way, went through college, did all those great things. But she's developed herself into the great player she is. It wasn't like a Michelle Wie phenom, we know she's destined for greatness.
Annika went out and researched the game, looked at the stats, saw Karrie beating her week-in and week-out and said, how am I going to be better? I kind of equate her to Michael Jordan, when Michael Jordan first came out, they said all he can do is dunk and doesn't win championships. So Michael Jordan went and perfected his jumpshot and became one of the best in the game. That's what Annika does year-in and year-out. She find her weaknesses and makes them better.
MEG MALLON: Yeah, I don't mind being out of radar. I am not someone that needs to be in the forefront of things. I love the way I did it last year. I didn't have to do this until Sunday afternoon. It was a nice way to approach it. But again I have also am used to doing this, too, so they deserve attention. They have made their mark and done exceptional things in golf. So I am a fan of the game, too, and I appreciate that.
Q. I'll ask you about the intimidation or whatever that word is going to be as it relates to Annika, how it might have been different when Pat was winning a lot of majors in 1986, what Tiger did, maybe the presence Greg Norman had, does she have a frightening presence about her or how do you define it or how difficult is it?
MEG MALLON: I think that's a question you ask for players of her age and younger than her, because I have gone with her through the beginning of her career and on and there's not an intimidation there. Yet you can say Juli Inkster is intimidated or even Rosie Jones even, won't be for the next two days because we have gone through players that have played. The Nancy Lopezes and Beth Daniels and JoAnne Carners, who have been at the top of their games and been pretty intimidating in their era. So we have been kind have been through that on the backside of it. I think we admire and appreciate what she's done, but certainly our competitiveness won't allow us to be intimidated.
MEG MALLON: Well, I like it call that group the "Super Six." When I came out, that was just an unbelievable era for our tour. I mentioned Nancy Lopez, Amy Alcott, Pat Bradley, Beth Daniel, Pat Sheehan, Betsy King. They won 240 events or something in like a 12-year span, I don't know. They were incredible and I just sat back and learned from them. I watched them do press conferences. I watched them practice on the range. I played practice rounds with them. I just tried to draw anything off of them because they all the consummate professionals and all hard workers and they all wanted to beat each other so bad. It was just a fantastic era for me to start my career out watching and learning from.
I had only played 18 holes once out here because we would always work in the mornings and we would go out in the afternoon to play, and we would get an afternoon thunderstorm every single time. It's probably going to happen this week, too, but I have played bits and pieces of this golf course over 15 years, but only 18 holes consecutively once.
Q. Talking about the personal reasons why you'd like to win. Do you think there's a sentiment among the better players out here that, you know, this thing can't happen on our watch, we have got to find way to stop Annika? And is there a concern that, you know, how you guys get perceived if Annika does win all the majors, that whole notion, well, then there must not have been anybody --
MEG MALLON: Golf is different as far as that mentality because, you know, it's such a hard game and you have to focus on what you are doing and you are not really thinking you know, if you get the opportunity, like I did, last year, I had the opportunity to -- Jen Rosales was also leading, I knew it was going to be a tough day for her just because it's tough to lead the U.S. Open. I was watching the group in front of me. If you get the opportunity -- I had to go out and shoot 65 to beat her on a Sunday at U.S. Open. That's rare and very hard to do. It's taking advantage of the opportunity. But working it like right now I am concerned about hitting the fairway. I am not concerned about, you know, how am I going to beat Annika because I am just going to sit back and everyone is going to fly right by me if that's how I am thinking.
But if on Sunday I have the opportunity again and she happens to be there, that's when those kind of thoughts come in like, not on my watch, not today. I am ready, whatever. If you are mentally there, you know, anybody can win on any given day.
Q. Talk about Michelle Wie. She has made some pronouncement in terms of her goals. I wonder realistically do you see it as being possible that a woman could play regularly on the men's tour maybe 10, 12 years from now?
MEG MALLON: It's definitely a possibility. I won't see it out of the realm. You just don't know what is going to happen down the road. I'd love that she's 15 and she has that goal. Why not? Good for her, I hope it's her goal. It sounds like it is. So if that's what she wants to do then, that's absolutely wonderful. I hope she gets the opportunity to do that.