Shane O’Donoghue, host of CNN’s Living Golf, is joined by 1998 Masters champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member Mark O’Meara to provide First Republic clients with an inside look at the 2021 Masters Tournament.
We’ll discuss the uniqueness of having two Masters tournaments in the span of five months, how the course will play differently from the fall championship Dustin Johnson won, which players are positioned for success and how COVID has affected the PGA Tour, as well as hear the inside perspective of O’Meara based on his experiences of competing at Augusta National over the years.
Read below for a full transcript of the conversation.
David Lichtman - Good afternoon and good evening. My name is David Lichtman and I'm the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer at First Republic Bank. Thank you all for joining us for this unique discussion on the Eve of the start of the Masters Golf Tournament. We are very thrilled today to have 1998 Masters champion and World Golf Hall of Fame Member Mark O'Meara join us to provide some insight into the Masters, which starts tomorrow. Mark is in Augusta now, and attended perhaps the most exclusive dinner in the world last night, the Champions Dinner at Augusta National Golf Club. Welcome Mark.
Mark O’Meara - Thank you, David. It's great to be with you
David - And our MC for the hour is Shane O'Donoghue. Shane is an Irish sportscaster with a deep background in golf who hosts CNN's Living Golf show. Shane will keep the event lively as he and Mark discuss the uniqueness of having two Masters Tournaments in a span of only five months. How the course will play differently from the fall edition, which Dustin Johnson won, and which players are positioned for success. And of course, the inside perspectives of Mark from his experiences of competing at Augusta National over the years. Before we start a quick housekeeping note, you're welcome to submit questions during the discussion. To submit a question, please use the Q and A Icon at the bottom of the screen. We'll try to answer as many questions live during the discussion. This event is also being recorded and will be replayed on the First Republic website. And with that, let me turn it over to Shane.
Shane O'Donoghue - Well, thank you very much David and hello everyone. I am in Dublin, Ireland for this particular Zoom. Normally I'd be in Augusta, but with COVID-19, it certainly restricted the travel of so many journalists and broadcasters to this year's Masters Tournament. But because of the connectivity now that we can enjoy through Zoom and you can be at your home place or at your work and office or wherever you're watching us, we can have a nice little community here in a very exclusive hour with Masters champion, Mark O'Meara. So it's going to be a very interesting hour and we do want you to submit questions and we will answer as many as we can. And that's what's going to add to the exclusivity of this group with First Republic today. But, Mark, you've been onsite, and it's a place well, but what's it looking like in 2021?
Mark - Shane it's amazing that the golf course and I was out there yesterday and today I was out there also, and it's in perfect shape, it's fast, it's firm. It's kind of the way I think Augusta really wants the golf course to play. Hopefully we're spotty on the chance of some rain, maybe on Friday, but as it stands right now, I mean, it's going to be a tough goal for those guys out there, as opposed to when we played, in November when it was wet and soft and not much wind out there. So I think the competitors, they've had their practice, they've had three, four or five days to get ready and there'll be teeing it up tomorrow morning, bright and early, first round.
Shane - Do you miss the nerves? Because you've competed in so many and obviously having won in '98, which we were getting into.
Mark - I do, but I don't, I think it's given me a better appreciation, Shane, to be honest with you. 2018 was my last go around Augusta National. And I'm 64 now. I think I played maybe close to 34 Masters from 1981, when I played there as U.S Amateur Champion to, like I said, 2018. And certainly the course has changed a lot. I hit it almost as I obviously don't hit as far as I used to, but I can still get it out there but it's so based on power, you've got to have length to play well there. I mean, it gives you a huge advantage, but don't be fooled. You still have to putt well.
Shane - Well, it is all about the putting and you putted superbly in '98. And what a win that was, before we get into that, just the atmosphere around Augusta National now because it's more of a normal Masters because it's in April, it was quite different in November but with COVID-19 and a lot of restrictions still in place, what is it like? Are there that many people there?
Mark - No, I think they have 20% capacity. So as you know Shane, you spent a lot of time here too. And when it's practice rounds, let's say Monday through Wednesday, there's always a full crowd normally 50,000 people out there. And I'd say this year, well what I saw maybe 10 to 15,000 people possibly, but they've done a really good job. People are wearing their mask, people are being respectful. They understand the social distancing. They understand what all of us throughout the world have gone through. And the precautions have been laid in line. And our chairman, Fred Ridley has done a super job. I mean, we had, the players all got tested, I got tested. You couldn't really, I just don't think of a safer place you can really be than Augusta and to be fair, it's perfect timing. because when we played here last fall, when they all played the players, and I was here last fall too, the azaleas aren't blowing, the dogwoods aren't in bloom. It's the fall, it's a different feel. This year, it looks like they've hit it just perfectly. I mean, the course and the magnolias and dogwoods and azelias are in full bloom. So it's going to look incredibly beautiful on TV.
Shane - And do you miss the excitement of what was entailed in getting ready for a Masters because everyone wants to go to it, they want to attend it, but for players it's the one championship, one major that they all crave being a part of and getting that precious invitation, you've kind of gotten over that? Having experienced it at all sides?
Mark - Yeah. Kind of, it was kind of fun in '19 to go back for the first time where I wasn't that competitor playing, getting ready, the nerves. I think at this stage, in my life the last time I played while there, when I was 58 I made the cut and finished 22nd tide, 22nd but it gave me a different outlook on it because I was able to walk around the grounds not worry about hitting a five iron, varying in the bunker or hitting in the water on 11 or 12. And, I could go and see the media center, places that I hadn't seen before or Berkman's place, what they have done there at Augusta National and as the club, I mean the way they keep improving the infrastructure, not just taking good care of the golf course and making improvements on the golf course, just on the overall grounds so the experience, for the patrons is second to none, as you know.
Shane - And obviously there are other traditions there like the Par-3 Tournament, which is nice to take part in but you are a part of that exclusive club as David was pointing out at the start, who get invited every year to attend a very special meal on Tuesday, you hosted it yourself in 1999, what was it like last night?
Mark - I think it was really good. I mean, there's 31 of the past champions there. Almost everybody was there. It was great to see all the guys. I got to spend some time with quite a few of them. It was, obviously it was Dustin Johnson's night. He is our defending champion, he hosted our dinner last night. I must say that that the pigs in a blanket appetizer were pretty tasty, it'd been a long time since I had, the little pigs in a blanket. So those were very, very tasty. And we went downstairs, we didn't have it in our usual room right out front of our locker room, but we had it downstairs, like we did last November kind of social distancing and being respectful. And it went smoothly. I mean, Ben Crenshaw sits at the head of the table. He took place for Mr. Nelson when Byron couldn't travel anymore and he passed the Baton on to Ben to host, basically, host and run the dinner. And at the head of the table, next to him, was Dustin Johnson, and then next to him is our chairman, Fred Ridley. And then Jack Nicholas was also up there at the head of the table. So to be included in that room, Shane, is quite the honor.
Shane - And what does Ben Crenshaw do in his capacity as the kind of lead champion, if you will?
Mark - Well, I think he kind of sets the table, basically. What I mean by that is he kind of runs the show. So he kind of gets up, welcomes everybody. He gives a little bit of history. We all sit down, we have appetizers literally the dinner starts around seven and after everything is done, we're usually done in two hours. So it goes by pretty smoothly. I sat next to a lot, there's no assigned seating and usually I'd always sit next to Tiger. I didn't get to do that in November because he was defending champion. But as we all know, he's recovering from a serious accident. And I sat next to last night, Charlie Cooney was to the left of me and Fuzzy Zoeller was to the right of me. So it was pretty cool.
Shane - Right, and they obviously have some war stories from their battles around Augusta. Fuzzy won it in his debut year in 1979, when you won your U.S Amateur. So you played with Fuzzy, am I right, the following year?
Mark - That's absolutely correct Shane. In 1979, when I was lucky to win the Amateur, I got to come to Augusta for the first time in '80 as the U.S Amateur Champion and play in my first Masters. And I was paired, like you said, with Fuzzy Zoeller on the first round. And he couldn't have been more gracious. I knew Fuzzy already, but he made it so much easier for me even though I didn't play very well. He kind of picked me up when I was a little bit down, which was pretty cool. And we have a lot of fond memories and stories that I have from those days of playing as an amateur because to be fair, I wasn't that good. And, we talked about that a little bit last night.
Shane - Did Dustin Johnson have to make a speech as the defending champion?
Mark - He did, he got up, I actually talked to Dustin up in our Champions locker room before we went down to the dinner. Then I spoke to him a little bit more as we were down there by the dinner, thanked him, obviously, for hosting us. I think he realizes how incredibly honored and special it is to now be a Masters Champion. Plus the guy's got a great shot at repeating it. It hasn't happened many times, I think three times. Is that right Shane?
Shane - That's right.
Mak - And so--
Shane - Jack Nicholas, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods.
Mark - Yeah, there you go. And I think he got up and gave a very nice speech. He's a quiet guy, a very talented guy as we all know, number one in the world, and look, I wouldn't count them out of the mix this year.
Shane - Is it nice just to meet up with all the other champions? I'm sure there's some you don't get to see during the year. You just see them on that Tuesday night or during Masters week.
Mark - It is good, I mean, this year, the last two years the table has been kind of a U shape. Normally it's a, just a long rectangular shape table. And this year, basically Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam sat across from me, as you know, Ian's playing again this year, he was going to retire. He's playing, go retired, playing, go retired. I told him, I said, which one is it bud? And so he goes, "I'm going to give it one more shot, O'Meara". And I'm like, Hey, why not? It's a nice opportunity to be able to do that. That's the great thing about the Masters and to see all these champions come back, Bob Dolby was there, Tommy Aaron was there, like you said I think it was Charlie Cody's 50th anniversary. He won the Masters in '71, the man's sitting next to me. I mean, there's, there's a lot of history in that room. And I truly believe like whether it's Gary player or Jack Nicklaus or Nick Faldo and the players have the utmost respect for having a green jacket, being a Masters champion and the history of the tournament. So the Masters Tournament is, you listen to guys that are playing in the Masters this week that haven't won it yet, they would dearly love to be hosted in that dinner next year.
Shane - Oh yeah, I mean, it's amazing, that they do celebrate that history and the embodiment really is the champions who gather and to be there with them and to just talk about their wins or just to be around them, I'm sure it's quite infectious but you mentioned Sandy Lyle there, and it's hard to believe like that's if it's 23 years since you won, it's 33 years since he won. And it still seems like yesterday because we do celebrate these great victories and, there's so much accessibility to coverage now and you can watch all of the final rounds on YouTube. And Sandy Lyle, I read today was two hours on the range, getting ready for this one. I mean, it still matters a lot to these old timers.
Mark - Yeah, for sure. I mean, whether it's Sandy, or Woosy or V.J out there, and Phil Mickelson who takes a big cut at it now, hitting it as far as he's probably ever hit in his life, the thing about Augusta National, is that it's rare, true, that you pointed out earlier, that a first time player there wins. I think it's one of those golf course where it does take a little bit of knowledge. I've always believed there's a lot of creativity factor Shane that goes into playing well at Augusta National. And that's why I always believe that European players have faired very well at the Masters. A lot of creativity that they have in their game.
Shane - Yeah, and Phil Mickelson is probably the American ambassador of creativity and he's won three green jackets. And in the space of seven years, he was the man himself and Tiger. But he was in his press conference yesterday talking about, a topic which I know is close to your heart which is you have to putt well, on the greens are the defense, but if you can not putt well, it's not going to be your week, you'd agree?
Mark - Absolutely, 100%. I mean, I say to everybody, yes, we can talk about Bryson DeChambeau hitting it 360 or 370 or 350, or we can talk about D.J, how far he hits it, or Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, all the players who are really very talented and they're in the top of the world rankings, Rory McIlroy same thing. Incredible power, incredible distance but it does come down to two things. It's comes down at Augusta National, to placement on the greens, so controlling your iron play and putting it in the right place, and if you missed miss it in the area where, you got a chance to pick the ball up and down basically not short-sighting yourself, but no matter what happens this week, and no matter who wins it's going to come down to that chain. Who's going to be able to make the putts, on that back nine especially the last four or five holes who can, nerve up and make and hold those important putts.
Shane - So how important is experience then, for those who are playing in their fifth, sixth Masters is it an anxious time because, are they going to learn more about the course with every passing tournament? I know it took you quite some time but with these,
Mark - Yeah.
Shane - With these young guns out there and the confidence that they have?
Mark - I think it does, it was my 14th time playing Augusta National that I was fortunate to don the green jacket. I believe that sometimes the expectations that these players put on themselves, because they realize how important the four major championships are. Whether it's the Masters, the U.S Open or the Open Championship or the PGA, there's a heightened awareness, you might say amongst these players. And sometimes, it's a better to maybe lower your expectations just a little bit. So then you can go on and perform at a higher level, as opposed to having all the hype on you, all the expectations on you, and then you feeling like you have to deliver, that just puts more added pressure on a player that probably doesn't need any more pressure than they already have.
Shane - We're inviting everyone to contribute questions. If you have something that you'd like to ask Mark, I'm going to get the ball rolling with this one, Mark. This comes from Ken Richard, you as a former champ knew when to actually stop playing this events. Do you think that perhaps too many former champs that are invited to play take up too many of the 80s slots? What do you think?
Mark - Well, that is a great question. I'd say that the one great thing about Augusta National, and the Masters Tournament is the fact that they let the players decide, when they want to walk away, it's not a 10-year exemption. It's not a 20-year exemption, it's a lifetime exemption. And yeah, I mean it's kind of always an edgy thing. My take would be that in a round about way that makes it special that the fact that the player can walk away when they feel like their game is not at a level that they want to compete anymore. And I remember for the last four, three or four years of myself playing there when I was 60, 61, 62 I would get asked that question a lot. Mark, when do you think time is going to be time? And I said, I kind of knew the last two years of playing there, that it was getting close. And even in '18 when I decided that was going to be my last go around Augusta, I never really said anything. My wife knew, my close friends knew, but I didn't make a big deal about it because it wasn't a big deal. The tournament, the greats whether it's Faldo, or when Seve was playing or, Tom Watts, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tiger woods guys that have won multiple times. Crenshaw who's meant a lot to Augusta National, it's different when they want to announce it, and the patrons pay respect. I didn't feel like that was important for me to do that, Shane. So I was comfortable when it was time for me to walk away.
Shane - And how was it for you? And did you have a heavy heart, because you knew yourself that it was, it was it?
Mark - Yeah, I did. I did. When I got done, I think, I don't remember. I remember the first day I was one under through six on Thursday, of that year, in 2018. And then I don't know what I shot, 75 or four six whatever I shot and maybe another 76 or seven on Friday, after I signed my card, I went off and the media was there. There wasn't a lot of people there but there were maybe six to eight media, guys and girls there, and that's when I told them. And I had like a little bit of a tear in my eye because, I knew that was it for me. And it was a tough decision, but it was the right decision.
Shane - And it was also the anniversary of, your victory later that summer in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. So, was it a significant year in that respect? You knew that this was kind of the perfect year to kind of put a bookend on it.
Mark - Yeah, kind of, like my passion, like I've told many people, I mean, look, I started as a young guy hoping to make a living or win a tournament on the PGA tour, now I'm 64, and I'm still competing on the Champions Tour. And I'm 41 years of playing golf around the globe, and I've been a blessed man and a lucky man and to have won the Masters in April and then go across to Birkdale and win the Open Championship, the Claret Jug, become champion golfer of the year in 1998. And that was a dream come true because in fairness, Shane and you know, cause global golf, you're so well-researched on all this stuff that when it comes to golf, I always tell the media, look, if I was fortunate to win one major championship, and I know I'm an American, I get it, but I would want the Claret Jug, I would want to be the Open Champion. And it was funny because earlier this week on Tuesday, when I was out course at Augusta, I bumped into Shane Lowry our current defending Open Champion. And I said to Shane, I hadn't seen him since he obviously with COVID and everything like that, and I don't play the regular tour anymore. I went over and had a brief talk with him and congratulate him and told him I really believe that the Claret Jug is one of the great trophies in the all of sport, I really believe that.
And then he goes, "You know O'Meara, I appreciate that. "But do you remember?" He goes, "I think this is my sixth Masters "but in my first Masters around Augusta National, "I was paired with you the first two days." And I said, I remember, he goes, "Do you remember what happened?" I'm like, Oh, I remember Shane. I said, we played the first round. It was you and I and Chris Kurt, I believe. And so I think we all shot even, or one over the first day. And the second day I was playing well, Shane and we were on the ninth team. We did good drives and I might've been three or 400 at the time for the day. And we're walking off the tee and I looked at Shane Lowry and I'm like, Shane, how old are you? because he's got the beard and he's an Irish man and blah, blah, blah. And he goes, "Mark," he goes, "I'm, I'm 26." And I said, I looked at him. I said, "Wow." I said, "I've got you by 32 years." And he looked at me and as Irish accent, he says, "Yeah, and you're kicking my f-ing ass." So it was classic, I mean, he's a great champion. I was so happy for his win. And I know he's excited about this week.
Shane - Before we talk about your window in 1998. So I mean, it is worth pointing out and it's significant, you reached a high of number two in the world, in September of that year you won the Cisco World Match Play Championship. It was like, everything lined up in 1998, it was quite incredible, and given the talent that was coming on tour with Tiger the year before, just turning pro winning the Masters and Duvall, all these guys there were some hot young talent but it all happened for you at the age of 41, quite incredible. Could you have foreseen anything like that? I mean, you sound to me like a guy who was quite comfortable in himself and how you had done so far in your career, but that's a dream year for any golfer no matter what age or what I experience like to do what you did in 98.
Mark - I'd be dead honest with you, Shane. I think I've told you this before, I was absolutely shocked because I went into the Masters in April. I'd played at home, practiced the week before with Tiger and we were all there in Orlando. We were up there together, we played practice rounds together at Augusta in '98. I wasn't hitting the ball very well. I wasn't putting very well, my confidence was low. Nobody expected me to win the Masters in '98 and including probably myself. And so once again, it's like what I said earlier, sometimes when you lower your expectations, and even the first day in '98, it was windy, the course was playing tough. I shot 74, and I'm like, here we go again, you just try to grind to make the cut. I shot 70 on Friday, now I make the cut. Now you're grinding to finish in the top 24 so you can get invited back the following year. And I went out on that Saturday and shot 68. Next thing you know I'm in the final group on Sunday with Fred Couples, so, it was a dream. What happened that April, to be able to stand on the 18th green on a Sunday afternoon. I mean, I've watched players, I've watched Woosy, I've watched Sandy Lyle, I've watched Seve, I've watched all the great players, Ben, whoever doesn't matter, make a putt on 18th, went and captured the Masters. And I always wondered as not only just a player, but as a fan, how does somebody do something like that? And there I was that Sunday afternoon, and some way, that putt went in, later obviously winning the Open Championship was a dream come true in the playoff against Bryan Birkdale. And then beating my friend Tiger Woods in the finals of the World Match Play there at Wentworth. So you're right, it was a dream year and it was kind of the icing on the cake for me, Shane, in my career.
Shane - Was it life changing?
Mark - I think it was, because, look, I mean, I had won prior to winning the Masters. I'd won 14 times on the tour, I'd went around the world. I played on Ryder Cup Teams and Presidents Cup Teams. But I was kind of in my own little world, I always kind of flew under the radar and luckily I represent some really good companies and I have a lot of friends out there, you included, we've done quite a bit of stuff together. And, I spent a lot of time in Ireland as you know and I have a lot of great friends there and, traveling the world and winning around the world was something that I took tremendous pride in so, I don't know, I mean, it just seemed like whatever happened in '98, it was hard to put my finger on it because I just, I think once again, the expectations really weren't there for me to do something like that or accomplish something like that. So, yeah. I mean I couldn't have dreamed of capping off, somebody asked me whether it's Billy Horschel or I talked to Kevin Knob, who is playing this week. Billy just won the Match Play. They're all like, "Help me get this straight O'Meara. "So your last two wins on the PGA tour, "let me get this straight, is this true? "With the Open Championship and the Masters?" I'm like, yeah, those are my last two wins on the PGA tour, not bad.
Shane - What a way, what a way to conclude your PGA tour, record. It was fascinating, to look at kind of different stats, but as you mentioned to have won 14 times before, you won a major championship as a professional. Was that actually hugely helpful in that, you were undoubtedly a proven winner, you had been in these positions before when it comes down to it, when it comes down to having to do something like, make a putt, you had proven to yourself, throughout your amateur and professional career that you had the stuff to do it. Like, can you describe the presence of mind, for you, personally, with the conclusion of the '98 event?
Mark - Yeah, I think a lot, the stars kind of have to align a little bit. I mean, you have to be, if you can't, unless you're Tiger woods and you're winning by 12 to 15 shots, I mean you have to get a little bit of luck, there's gotta be good breaks at certain moments on the golf course on Sunday, whether it's holding a putt or a ball landing like mine on 12 where it wasn't trying to hit it right at the pin on 12, I pushed it and I didn't quite catch it all and flew on the fringe. If that ball lands 12 inches shorter than we're at flew to it's in Race Creek, and in the three iron and I hit into 15 a little bit on the bottom and flew on the front fringe, skip forward, I mean I look back at those memories and I realize how everything just fell into place for me, certainly at Augusta National in the Masters in '98. And the Open Championship, like I had come close in other major championships as you know, I mean in '91, I played in the final group, tied for the lead, 54 hole lead at Royal Birkdale at the Open Championship, with Ian Baker-Finch. And I went on to watch Ian win the Open Championship right alongside of him. So I kind of knew what it took to win a Major but I also had the utmost respect for the fact that you just kind of had to have everything fall in place. I remember on Saturday at Augusta in '98 I went to the media center, which I hadn't really been in the media center very much, to be honest with you. And of course the media doing what they should do, they're like Mark, "You're playing in the final group tomorrow "with Fred couples. "You're on that list "of next great players to have not won a major. And I said to the media, I'm like, "Listen, I used to wash cars when I was going to college. "It used to be a country club. "I was hoping to make it on the tour, I don't know. "And now I sit here at 41 years of age "playing around with Open, I've done okay. "I haven't done great, but for me, "I think I've done pretty well, and if I don't win tomorrow, "it's not going to be the end of the world to me." So, I do believe that, winning is not easy, it's difficult, and the percentage of guys that win consistently, it's just not that easy. And there's so many good players globally now, Shane, that that's just made it that much tougher.
Shane - Fascinating though. You were the most prolific winner on the PGA tour not to have won a Major at that point, with those 14, but you certainly did it when you needed to do it. And to birdie the last two holds or indeed to, to know that you needed to birdie the 18th, to win this. I think Arnold Palmer in 1960 and Sandy Lyle in 1988 were the only two prior who came to the 18th knowing that needed to birdie, to win. Like how aware were you, of scoreboards, leaderboards and your position?
Mark - I kind of knew my position all day long. Yeah, no, I knew my position pretty much all day long. And then, as we played like eight, nine and then make the turn around 10 and then Amen's Corner, 11, 12, and 13, I kind of knew where I stood, early that day when I was on the range warming up, to go out with Fred and the final group, Jack Nicholas at 52 years of age, was four under after seven holes. And he was on the leaderboard. he was making the big Bush and, the noise and the roars and the way it could be around Augusta, it was electrifying. So, but I think you just, you can't get all caught up in that. you have to go out there and perform, you can only control what you can do. But I do know that I distinctly remember standing on the 15th tape. And at the time, I was 600 par, Fred was 600 par and Duvall had finished. He got it to nine, but he three putted 16 dropped back to eight and he had posted eight under par. So David was in the clubhouse at minus eight Fred and I are on the par five. He hit his right wave right off 15. There used to be mounds between 17 and 15. The trees, it wasn't like it is today. There was some big trees down by the green but he had an open, clear shot over the trees. I hit the 300 on the green to about 35 feet. He had a six iron over the trees to about eight feet. He made a free Eagle, I too putted for the birdie. And so now, I'm seven under, Fred's eight under par going to 16, so on the 16th tee, Shane, he hit it to about 35, 40 feet. I got up, I hit a six iron to about 18 feet. I hit a really good shot for me under that kind of pressure. And I know you've watched the highlights. I don't really, I've seen it but I haven't watched it that much, but I know, I can distinctly remember I hit a really good putt. It looked like it was going in and it broke off to the left. And I made a par, and I've told you this story and people are watching right now, might have never heard it but I never really considered myself an overconfident player but as I tap my par by the end and Fred made par, now he's eight, I'm still, six or seven, excuse me. I'm seven under, I handed my caddy, I throw him my ball and I said, "Jerry that's as good as 600." I was like, "That's as good a putt as I can hit "under this circumstances. " I said, "Give me a new ball, "I'm going to birdie the last two holes." But I said it so quietly. And I would never say something like that. I don't even know why it came out Shane. It just did.
Shane - Great.
Mark - Luckily I had a good drive on 17, nine iron over the pin, made the putt for birdie, felt good. Stayed on the 18th tee, we're all tied now. Eight under, Fred's eight under, David's there sitting in Butler Camp, a cabin with Jack Stevens, who was the chairman of Augusta at the time. And I never stood on the tee thinking, okay if I birdie this hole, I win the Masters. I just don't think you can get ahead of yourself. You still have to stay in the process, the key is obviously hitting a good drive, getting the ball in play, which fortunate I did, Fred left bunker, then he hit in the right bunker. I hit it on the green to that 18 feet right of the hole, pin high, front left-hand. And as I walked up to the green, I distinctly remember I needed some water, because I was so nervous. Everybody stands up, applauds, my mouth is extremely dry but I said to myself, look, Fred's going to hold his bunker shot to get to nine under. I'm going to have to make this to tie Fred. I think that's just the way I'm wired, the way I think. And Fred had a beautiful bunker shot to about five feet below the hole. I marked my ball, I went through my routine, as I was lining it up my self-talk was exactly this. I said, look, this is what you play for, sooner or later, you're going to have to make a putt. Whether it's here 10, 11, 12, it's not going to get any easier, and the longer it goes on, the more the odds fly out of your favor, I don't know why I said that, but that was my self-talk as I went around, before I put my ball down to hit one of the biggest putts of my life. And luckily for me, Shane, I was obviously nervous, but when I hit my putt about two feet off the putter, my first thought was, thank God I hit a decent putt. I had no idea what was getting ready to happen. And as you've watched and everybody's watched, who's a fan of the game, as the ball was tracking down there that people stand up and it got about a foot and a half from the hole, and I'm thinking, please it was breaking off to the left, don't lip out. And when it caught the left center and over the head hole, my arms and hands, my putter went up in the air and you look at my face, it was more in shock than disbelief as to what the heck just happened. And then I realized I'd won the Masters. Unbelievable.
Shane - And how does it sink in properly? When do you really, really come to terms with this? Because it must be a bit of a blur for the next couple of hours.
Mark - Well, for the next, whatever, they take you from there, obviously make sure your scorecard's correct and signed and playing with Fred. And he made his part, par to finish the eight under they bring you straight down the Butler cabin. And as I got down there, they went on commercial break and Jim Nance is there, Joe Ford who's also there there was a member of Augusta who was kind of during the presentation and Matt Kuchar, who was low amateur that year in 1998, Matt was there. And then obviously Tiger. And Tiger, he kind of saw me and gave me a hug. They go to commercial break. They come back as they're getting ready to come back, they said, look, we're going to go to Matt first speak to him about his amateur, low amateur win here. And then we're going to go to Tiger, and then Mark, we'll go to you Mark. I'm like, no problem, and I'm just sitting there and I'm kind of amazed that I'm in this room. And so they do all that stuff and then they come around and talk to Tiger for a minute. And then of course, Jim Nance then says, "Okay, Tiger, "it's time to present, Mark with this green jacket." And everybody obviously knows that for many, many years, for 10 years, he was my little brother, we traveled together. We played together, we practiced together, he changed my life to be honest with you, as you know Shane, we've talked about this before. And so he stands up and he's got the green jacket and he's holding it up and I stand up and I'm trying to get my arm into the jacket. But the problem is Tiger's about four inches taller than I am, and he's got the jacket off so high. I can't get my arm in there. And I'm like, I'd have to look back. And this is live, worldwide feed, I'm like tiger, lower the jacket, then you can slip it up. So he does, and he gives me a hug and, we have a quick chat and then we go to commercial break. And so I look over at him in the commercial break after all this transpired and happened. I said, Tiger, I said, what was that all about? And he goes, "O'Meara I've never put "a sport coat on anybody, how the heck "would I know how to do that?" So, those are the things that I remember. And then obviously going to the media tent and they whisk you around. And I literally, I didn't leave the clubhouse until about 11:30 that night, because there's the dinner too, on top of that.
Shane - because you are as the champion, obliged to attend.
Mark - Yes sir. Yep.
Shane - What an incredible evening that must have been though for ya' and oh, to wake up the next morning, I'm sure it was even better to actually see that the jacket was there. And the trophy.
Mark - Yeah. It was and it was really cool because after all the and then having dinner at the club and they were gracious enough, Jack Stevens was gracious enough to let my kids and the neighbors that my kids were playing with, all come to the dinner, they had a special table they set up in the back and then, so my kids were there but there were 11 and 10, my daughter, Michelle was 11. My son Shaw was nine at the time. I don't think they could really quite comprehend what just has happened to their father. But as I drove back, even though I'm 41, I'm still not quite sure what's going on. As you pointed out Shane, and I pull into my driveway the house that I was renting and Tiger's there. And I get out of the car and I got my green jacket on. And I'm thinking, whoa, wait, I'm not supposed to, I was supposed to leave this at the club, aren't I? And then he goes, "No, no, no, Mark, "you won, you get to keep it for a year." So it was nice to see my good friend there at the house. And, he was very supportive and it's different obviously today with media and the attention that it gets to be a Masters Champion. The next day, I literally, I drove over to Hilton had to play the next week's tournament with my family. It wasn't like I flew to New York or I was on the sidelines with something, big sporting event or on some talk show or doing the rounds. it just, it didn't happen that way back then Shane.
Shane - Amazing times though, I mean, congratulations. It's just a unique achievement, you're one of few and it's great to be able to celebrate that every year, at the Masters Tournament. But just to get to the questions for the Q and A, Jeffrey Murphy has been in touch. Jeffrey asks, Mark as a past champion, do you get to play Augusta anytime you want, or with friends, and do you have a special membership status? What is it that you get as champion?
Mark - Well, it's not a good question. So yes, I am a member of Augusta National and yes, I can go there as long as they're not hosting a Jamboree or a Member's Tournament. But as when it comes to full privileges, I'd say no, there was only really Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer or like . What I mean by that is like, if I want to bring anyone that's watching right now or anyone of my close friends, or even you Shane, I have to pick up the phone and call a couple of friends of mine that are actually full members and be guests of theirs to be able to bring other guests on the property and be able to experience playing there. Even if I want to bring my son Shawn, or back in the day, bring my dad, my son there, I would call one of the members who I know, quite a few of the members, some of them that live there in Augusta that would host us to be able to go play around the golf, around Augusta. But I kind of can pretty much go there pretty much anytime but I don't ever do that. I mean, I just don't see the need to do that.
Shane - And what about in advance of the tournament, once you are an invitee, what kind of access do you have to the course?
Mark - Well--
Shane - And for how long out?
Mark - Yeah, I know, I'm not a 100% sure but I'm pretty sure once you're an invitee to the tournament, you can call the Club. And then once again, as long as they're not having a tournament on, I think they do allow you to come and play some pre-practice rounds or get familiar with the course, whether it's in the fall or early spring. because as you know Shane, the courses usually shuts down around end of may, and it's closed all summer. They do a lot of the renovation on it. They basically, anything improvements that they're going to make on the course or the surroundings, there at the club, they do from May to, I believe maybe middle of October they open up, or it's end of October. So it's only open for I don't know, five months, six months, maybe at the most.
Shane - Because we saw all the photos, which were available. I'm not sure how correct it was to be publishing photos because the Masters can get very strict on that. But they showed the course in advance of November and it didn't look like it was going to be ready for the Masters, but in a couple of weeks, they were able to just get that place, as well as it could possibly be at that time of year. It's an extraordinary place.
Mark - They can perform magic around there. I mean, I would say this, from the time I first went on property in 1980, some 41 years ago to the time that I'm on property now and see the improvements there at the club and witness what they've accomplished, it really totally blows my mind, from as you'd know, you've been there to the media center to the patrons access and entrances. They're always like one or two steps ahead of the curve. I've been to a lot of sporting events in all different walks of sport. And I find it hard to believe that there's a media center anywhere in the world, that's much nicer than what they have at Augusta National. Would you agree with that?
Shane - Oh, it's just out of this world.
Mark - Yeah and--
Shane - I've never seen anything like it.
Mark - One week a year, whether that's or Workman place and now they have, so many more access points. So like, for example, if you've never been to Augusta National, if you've never been to the Masters but maybe you've watched it on TV as we're all fans and I'll be watching it on TV this weekend, if you could only comprehend, if you've been to Disney World or Epcot and you see the entrance into the parks, it's kind of like that for a golfer. That's as a patron, if you're fortunate to have an opportunity someday to go to the Masters, or some viewers have been to the Masters, they know what I'm talking about. The treatment of the patrons that have access to come to either practice round or tournament round, they're just treated so well. And it's one of those sporting events that you want to go to and be a part of
Shane - Mark Houghton Barry has sent us a question. He had the great pleasure of watching you defeat Tiger in the final of the world Match Play at Wentworth in 1998 Lee Westwood had, he believes lost in the quarters that year, I you're think you're right but is currently playing as well as ever. Do you think he has a shot at Augusta National this week?
Mark - Absolutely, I think Lee does. I think Lee is swinging great. It seems like a great place in his life. He's performed so well, over the last year and a half. I mean, last couple of years, Lee Westwood has played extremely good golf. So it wouldn't shock me whatsoever to see him in the mix on Sunday afternoon. And he's come so close as you know Shane, in so many Major Championships. He's got the pedigree, he's got the qualities that it takes to win a major championship. And he's very deserving to be a major championship winner. And who knows? This could be Lee Westwood's year. Look whenever he's close, I'm pulling for him.
Shane - Oscar Barancheau sent us a question. What was on the menu when you hosted the champions dinner?
Mark - Well, I'm a big, I love free types of food. I'm a big Italian food guy, I'm a huge Mexican food guy and I love the Japanese cuisine. So when I served the '99 dinner and I will tell you this, obviously I hosted that in '99 and every living, major champion that was alive, came to the dinner in '99. So I'm sitting at the head of the table at Byron Nelson and at the time still Jack Stevens who was chairman. And then, Gene Sarazen was there, Billy Casper was there, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer you name it, Raymond Floyd, Watson, Seve, Gary. I mean all these men in this room and I'm at the head of the table, I served a sushi appetizer, big sushi like full with sashimi and sushi and all that kind of stuff. And then I served chicken and steak fajitas. So last year's dinner when Tiger Wood served like sushi and steak fajitas and chicken fajitas, I'm like, hey, how? You copied my dinner? And he goes, "I did I suppose. "It's amazing how you forget these things so quick "as you start getting older in your life." So yeah, chicken and steak fajitas and sushi, for my dinner '99
Shane - Pretty nice, sounds appetizing. Oscar actually says, I just wanted to, correct. That was a question from Ken Richard, Oscar's question was Mr. O'Meara, have you been able talk to Tiger recently? And how is his condition and prospects of recovery?
Mark - Well, Oscar I haven't. Obviously we saw an horrific viewing of what happened, back in February, I was at home and then I was traveling that day and I landed, I was playing in Tucson that week and I turned on my phone and I saw what had happened that morning. And of course, I just instead of reaching out right away, I knew he was alive, which thank God for that. No one else was injured, that was great. And I sent a text about, I dunno, five days later on a Sunday. And I didn't really hear from him because still probably he was finally getting bombarded from a lot of different people and I was okay with that, we're not talking that much. I don't get to see him that much. I saw him last November at the dinner. When he hosted us, he was the defending champion. We walked down together to the dinner. We spent some time talking to one another, while we took our picture. I saw him at the Father/Son last December when he played with Charlie, which was extraordinary, seeing Tiger out there with his son, and the way Charlie played. I mean, it was just quite remarkable but I really haven't talked to him that much. And then last night at the dinner, as we were finishing up dinner, Ben Crenshaw asked the chairman, Fred Ridley if it was okay, if he wanted to pull out his phone as his pretty strict with their phones there and cell phones at Augusta National, and Tiger had sent Ben Crenshaw a text last night and he wanted to have Ben read it to all the past champions at the dinner last night. And Ben got up and read this incredible text that Tiger sent last evening at our dinner on Tuesday night.
And then I decided to reach back to him today, thanking him for the text, telling him that I missed him at the dinner. because I always enjoyed sitting next to him but I didn't get that opportunity in November. because he was the head of the table. And he pinged me back today saying that he missed sitting next to Fred and I, jabbing each other with different like we would do all the time, giving each other a little bit of crap you might say. But, I mean, I guess he, hopefully God willing he's doing okay. Who knows? I mean, no one really knows for sure what the long-term prognosis is. But I thought, like I said earlier during this Zoom call, I mean the kid changed my life. I mean, he came in at a great time for me. I consider him one of my best friends. I consider him my little brother and over the last yeah, eight or 10 years that I played the champions tour, he plays a regular tour. He has a family, he's been through a lot of difficult emotional times, this and that, but I've always let him know that my phone's always on for him. And that's all you can do as a friend.
Shane - Well when he was setting out, I mean he was a neighbor of yours. You were living in the same area. It was a different dynamic, time moves on he's got a lot on his plate, he's got a lot of other distractions. And certainly with his kids who are a hugely important part of his life, I'm sure it's a full-time occupation but it's sad that he's not able to play this year. And hopefully we will see him back at the Masters in the future. But one other question just relating to Tiger, kind of, Dog Sager says, other than Tiger, who was your favorite player to be paired with at Augusta National, for the Masters Tournament?
Mark - Wow, I've had the great opportunity to play with all the greats, whether it was Seve or Jack Niklaus at the Masters. I mean obviously as a young man growing up, Jack was my idol. But over the years, like I've played with Mr. Palmer quite a bit, I never got the opportunity to play with him at Augusta National in the Masters Tournament. But my relationship with Mr. Palmer was incredible. I loved the man dearly, he treated me like a grandson, like he treated all the young players. I mean, it was an amazing attribute that he had people, the connection that he had. And so for me, I've enjoyed every time I've gone around there, and I enjoyed the times that I've had to play with the young players. I remember not that many years back, I played the back nine one day with this young man that was just bursting onto the scene a guy named Tommy Fleetwood. And I remember coming home that afternoon and telling my wife Meredith at the time I said, listen I just played nine holes with this young man from England. This kid has got so much game, he's going to be really, really good. I mean, he's going to be like special. And I believe Tommy Fleetwood has done all that stuff. And he's another guy, that could easily win around here at Augusta National.
Shane - So who's your big, hot pick this week?
Mark - It's so hard to bet, like, I'm not a gambler guy but I tell you what? My sentimental choice is, as you and I would probably both agree would be Roy McAvoy. I've played with Rory when he won his first tournament in Dubai, when he was 19 years old on the European tour. He burst on the scene, I saw the immense talent. But if I had one guy to go with, I mean, there's 23rd , there's pretty much not everybody in the field. Most of the guys in the field could possibly win this week but I would have to go with Justin Thomas. I mean, he's coming off a big win there at the Player's Championship. He has got the tools and the ability to play well around Augusta National. I think he's learned a lot from this practice rounds playing with Tiger. He's improved every year that he's played at Augusta National, he's come close. So it wouldn't surprise me to see him play well this week. But there's a lot of interesting things that everybody's going to be able to watch on TV starting tomorrow. Whether it's Bryson DeChambeau or whether it's Jon Rahm or whether it's DJ trying to win back-to-back, whether it's Rory, whether it's Jordan Spieth who just won last week at the Texas Open, who, all of a sudden, which he's battled through a rough patch, you'd say, I mean, he could win. He's won before, so a lot of times a guy that's won before can use that to their advantage coming down the stretch.
Shane - Okay, I'm going to throw a name at you. And I think, you can actually add some color to this as well because he's a very young man, but he's already won a Major. He's only out on tour a couple of years but he credits you with kind of transforming him, his game earlier this year, Collin Morikawa. He said that he had a great chat with you about putting in particular. And that was one of your key strengths, certainly around Augusta National as proven in 1998, but a young guy like Collin Morikawa, very bright, is out of Stanford, went the full distance there, he's got a business degree from the best school in Stanford. And he seems like a guy who is on a mission. Talk to me about your interaction with him earlier this season.
Mark - Well, Collin Morikawa has got immense talent. I mean, he's just a heck of a player, Shane. I mean, he's got everything and it was interesting because it was about, I don't know it was right before he won the World Golf Championship there in Florida. We were at home in Vegas and we were at the Summit practicing and playing and he called me over because whenever I was out there, I made sure I saw him or we would played some practice rounds together, nine holes together. And I witnessed, especially, how talented this kid is. And then watching him win the PGA championship last year, in Olympic, yeah, Olympic, exactly. Anyways, so he was at Harding park, he won there at Harding park and he pulled me aside and he goes, "Mark can I ask you a question? "Can I have a moment of your time?" I'm like, sure, Colin, what's going on. He goes, "I want to ask you about your grip and putting "and this, the saw grip." And I'm like, yeah, and he goes, "What was the reasoning behind it?" I said, because I had a little bit of hit in my right hand and my stroke that, I felt like when Hank Haney actually came in and told me, "Look, you kind of got the yips," which I did. And he goes, "Put your hand on with the right hand "kind of in that saw position." I went with it and I don't yip up. And I said to Collin, I said, Here's the deal, I mean, you're a great player. Obviously you've been a good putter, but putting is all about speed. If you have any hit in your stroke at all, you can't control your speed, you're not going to make any putts and you're going to lose your confidence. And so he says, "Well, you what I'm trying this . "What do you think? Would you watch me hit some putts?" And we spent a little over an hour, an hour and 20 minutes on the putting green together.
And I watched him and I told him, I said, look it doesn't matter how you hold onto the putt column. If you feel like you roll the ball better with it, go with it, go with it, stick with it. And he did, and I was proud of him, and look, he played a little bit better then he won. And of course, then he obviously mentioned my name which he didn't have to do, which was very nice of him. And I know he said something in the press room again this week about it. And I bumped into him this week and told him, look I'm always pulling for you. These young players are that are respectful, that are talented, How can you not pull for them, Shane? You know how it is, I mean, they're really, really good. And this kid is a kid that's going to be around for a long time.
Shane - I should correct myself actually, because I knew at the second that I said it, he went to UC Berkeley, he's a Cal Bayer, and he's an exceptional talent, but thanks to Paul McClain and to DJ and Attorney, who were swift to correct me there. And they're absolutely right, my mistake. But he is one of a band of young players who just have incredible confidence, but is it too early? I mean, we've seen Fuzzy's other win on his debut but Collin is going in, this is early days for him, but with the likes of Bryson DeChambeau these young guys have a greater degree of confidence or what is it that they bring to the world game right now?
Mark - Well, I think they, are mature beyond their years. They have not much of a fear factor. So they're coming out, full flaps. I mean, they got the sale totally open. They're ready to go. And I just back in the early days, when I started on the tour, it seemed like, you had to wait till you're like late twenties almost in your thirties until you got the experience. These guys have the experience and not afraid to win when they're, 20, 21, 22 and they're proving it. I mean, we've seen it, what obviously Rory's done what Jordan has done early in his career. And yeah, maybe they have a little bit of a setback here or there, but when you've won around the world and you've competed well in major championships, and you either won major championships at that early of an age, it doesn't mean necessarily that it gives you the right that you're going to win like consistently. But it does give you a little bit of an edge, going in knowing that, Hey, I've done this before and there's no reason why when I'm in contention that I couldn't do it again.
Shane - We're kind of tight on time as we wrap things up, Mark and it's just a pleasure to talk to you because it's great insights and you're a joy to listen to but Robert May has contacted us. What do you think when you see DeChambeau's distance and we've seen videos of him on the range and I mean he is going after it. It's, and VJ's seeing this, observing this. I'm not sure if you spoke to VJ last night as to what he saw, but what do you see and what do you think?
Mark - I think it's unbelievable. I know everybody's worried about equipment and the ball going to far and everything but in fairness, I mean, the athletes, what Bryson has done, kind of as we know maybe the mad scientist, you might say, he goes outside the box and he's done everything in his power to create this speed and the power that he has, through these unbelievable drives. And it makes a different sound. I mean, I don't know how he does it, when he stands on that range, and hits 150 or a hundred drivers full speed like that. I don't know how long that will last, but while we're witnessing it right now, it's kind of fun. But once again, when he won the U.S Open at Wingfoot last year, yes he hit these unbelievable drives way down there whether it was a rough or whatever, but in fairness, he was one of the best putters that week at Wingfoot too. So if he's going to win this week at Augusta, yes, big drives, short irons into the greens. That's a big advantage, but if you don't hold the putts you're not going to win here at Augusta.
Shane - How confident were you going into that final round? I mean, you were the best putter there after the first three rounds in 1998, but then to play with the pressure and also being in the last pairing, I mean, how did you control your emotions because you spoke a lot that week about just staying calm being calm
Mark - Yeah, I did.
Shane - And on TV, you looked very calmer.
Mark - I was nervous inside, golfers are kind of actors, Shane but if you're not nervous, you wouldn't be human out there. But once again, that whole week, it's crazy as you pointed it out because I actually had the fewest amount of putts for four rounds in the 1998 Masters, and obviously won. But I never felt overconfident whatsoever on my putting, even though I made some putts, I never, I mean, I felt good to be fair, on the 71st hole where I had that birdie putt down the hill for birdie on 17, I felt confident over that, I felt I was going to make it, I've made it, but all the other putts that I hit out there that day I was not overconfident by any means. And somehow someway, everything kind of fell into place.
Shane - Tom Davin has an interesting question. Given recent trends of players hitting bigger what is your prediction on how the game will evolve over the next five to 10 years? What courses need to change in response? It's a regular topic of discussion now. And certainly with Bryson has been doing of late.
Mark - Well, as we know, I mean, obviously the USGA, the RNA and all of the ruling bodies at golf are taking a look at it. My might take has always been, look as long as I can't blame the manufacturers for pushing the limits. And I don't have a problem with them pushing it right to the edge of their limits, but you can't deny the fact that the athletes are bigger, stronger. They have more creative, more speed. They play a different game. I think where sometimes the mistake lies in golf course preparation and setups is they think to combat that, you have to keep making these courses longer. And in reality, if you asked me, I say that some of the shortest holes in golf are the greatest holes in golf whether it's number seven at true in the Postage Stamp or it's number seven at Pebble Beach or number 10 at Riviera, or number 12 at Augusta National the shortest hole in the golf course can actually cause the most drama come Sunday afternoon, and it's the shortest hole. So I don't see the creativity in a 530-yard par-4, I mean, I just don't see it. Yeah, just get up and away or whatever but I love the creativity and somebody having to be accountable to hit the ball, the precise distance, the correct trajectory and holding players accountable and those great short holes in the game of golf do that.
Shane - Can you talk just briefly about Augusta National and the lay of the land, the topography there, because it is very undulating, but just to give maybe just sort of a little insight into what it is actually like to play it.
Mark - Well, when Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones came together and found the property there, as you know Shane, I mean, it was a nursery, it's on a basically a square block piece of land in Augusta, Georgia and the fact that they were able to get Dr. McKinsey to come in, and the three of those gentlemen laid out the golf course, designed the golf course, And there is, there's tremendous amount of movement around Augusta National, as we all know it slopes down the Hill towards Ray's Creek, but the dramatic elevation changes there are tremendous whether it's on the 18th hole, the tenth hole, the side Hill lies, the undulating lies that you get in a fairway like on 13. I mean, you can pick those up on TV but until you're actually standing there on the fairway playing the shot, you don't have the appreciation for how many uneven lies like you were pointing out Shane, that you have around Augusta National. So, it's a constant battle. And the thing that would affect the scoring the most, like for example, this week, if it stays firm and fast, the probably won't go as low as the 20 under par record setting base that DJ had last fall, because the course was wet, it was soft, it was gettable. With it firm and fast, it's not going to be as low. And then you'd throw the wind in, the wind is the biggest key around Augusta. If there's not much wind, yeah, these players are good. They can control the ball, but if the wind blows around Augusta National, it's open season for all the players, because any one of those holes can jump up and bite you out there.
Shane - Quick question from Howard Weinman, who in your opinion is the greatest golfer of all time, Tiger or Jack?
Mark - Well, I grew up idolizing Jack and Jack has the 18 majors, but when I did David Feherty show years ago, David asked me that question, Jack or Tiger? And what I said was that, I said, listen I grew up idolizing Jack Niklaus, he has 18 majors. And then I looked at the camera and I said, Jack please don't be mad at me. Tiger woods is the greatest player I've ever seen. And I believe that Tiger woods is the greatest player. Jack has the greatest record. And if it wasn't for Jack or maybe Mr. Palmer beforehand, players of Nicklaus and now the Woods era that I was able to be around and witness, would have never transpired. So I just find it hard to believe that anybody's ever played golf like Tiger woods.
Shane - Did you have any favorite hole at Augusta? Which was the toughest for you? It just came in from one of our viewers this evening.
Mark - Boy, they're all tough. I think, there's not a lot of easy holes around Augusta National. I gotta be honest. Like number four, the par three, now that it's been lengthened, and it's a very difficult par three, from the back tees, or the pins back, or over the bunker, it's 245 yards. I mean, it's different if it's 185 or 200 yards, but 245, and then with the wind blowing, the fourth hall can be very, very difficult. They've lengthened the fifth hole tremendously which I haven't played because it was done after, when I retired in '18. But I went back and I saw it. When you play for the members' tees at Augusta National 2019, I played with Mr. Player and a couple of friends Sunday prior to Augusta. In 19, we played for the members' tees. And I think I shot 67 or 66, whatever I shot. And Gary's like, "Why aren't you still playing Mark? "Are you kidding me? You're playing so great." And I love Gary Player, and I said to Gary, I said, Gary, let's just take a look. Oh yeah, back there like 60 yards. I said, that's where I'd be hitting from. I said, it's a little different playing from the member's tees. So, all the holes out there have my respect at Augusta. there's not a lot of easy ones out there by any means.
Shane - Well, we're going to wrap things up. I just want to point out that this interview will be available on the First Republic website next week. And to thank everyone for contributing the questions. It's really added hugely to this discussion with 1998 champion Mark O'Meara. You've got that green jacket, you're in a unique club Mark. You've had an incredible career, 34 wins as a professional and still applying your trade on the Champions Tour. When are you next out?
Mark - So I actually play next week in Naples, as you know, I was fortunate in '19 to win in Tucson which I hadn't won in eight years. And we have some new comers coming onto the tour. I saw Thomas Bjorn this week at Augusta, and he's like, "Are you playing Houston?" I'm like, I am, and he goes, "I'm 50, I'm going to be playing in Houston, "on the Champion Store." Jose will be there in Naples, Rojas Gustavo, he's playing this week at Augusta two-time Masters champion. I put the green jacket on Jose in '99 for his second Masters win, and then Woosy will be there. So we have a great tour, we really love it. I still love competing, as long as I have my health, I'm going to keep on playing Shane and I appreciate what you've meant to me as a friend and what you've done for the game of golf, bud.
Shane - Well, thank you very much Mark. It's a pleasure, the best of luck with the season of 2021. And here's to a couple of more victories as well just to add to your tally, but it's always a pleasure of being with you and our thanks to everyone in particular, David Lichtman for inviting us to be part of this, and to everyone in First Republic. We hope you've enjoyed this little Q and A, and let's do it again sometime soon. Thank you very much, Mark.
Mark - Look forward to it, thanks Shane.