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Uihlein Feeling More Comfortable in Majors
As befitting the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Peter Uihlein is in Bethesda, Md., for this week's U.S. Open. One of the perks of being the winner of America's national amateur is an invite to the following year's Masters and U.S. Open.
Uihlein acquitted himself well in April at Augusta National. Though he didn't make the cut after rounds of 72 and 77, the experience gave the 21-year-old All-American at Oklahoma State a sense that he belongs in such high-octane professional events with thousands in the gallery and millions more watching on TV. (That won't be any different as Uihlein will be paired with reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen in the first two rounds at Congressional Country Club, site of the 111th U.S. Open.)
"The biggest thing was just getting comfortable out there in front of all the people and just the whole major setting and how difficult major championships are, how patient and things like that you have to be. Hopefully I'll use some of that experience this week and have a little better week," Uihlein said Monday from Congressional.
Now ranked second in the Men's World Amateur Golf Ranking behind fellow American Patrick Cantlay and right ahead of fellow Cowboy, Kevin Tway, and two spots ahead of David Chung, who he beat 4 and 2 in the U.S. Amateur championship match at Chambers Bay near Tacoma, Wash., Uihlein has enjoyed a remarkable run. In addition to the Amateur win, he was a key member of the 2009 Walker Cup team, posting a 4-0 record for the victorious American squad.
His 2010 season was capped off in September when he was awarded the Mark H. McCormack Medal for being the top player the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the end of the amateur season.
On Monday, Uihlein, the son of Titleist chairman Wally Uihlein, met with reporters and talked about his chances of becoming only the seventh amateur to win the U.S. Open. The others were: Francis Ouimet, The Country Club, Brookline, Mass., 1913; Jerome D. Travers, Baltusrol G.C., Springfield, N.J., 1915; Charles Evans Jr., Minikahda Club, Minneapolis, Minn., 1916 Robert T. Jones Jr., Inwood (N.Y.) C.C., 1923; Scioto C.C., Columbus, Ohio, 1926; Winged Foot G.C., Mamaroneck, N.Y., 1929; Interlachen C.C., Edina, Minn., 1930; John Goodman, North Shore C.C., Glenview, Ill., 1933.
Here's what Uihlein had to say during his Q&A with he media.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon. We're very happy to have with us here this afternoon the reining U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein. He won last year at Chambers Bay, a phenomenal victory. He's playing in his first U.S. Open. He did play in the Masters back in April. He also made the cut at the PGA Tour Transitions Championship. Can you talk about playing in your first Open and being here this week at Congressional?
PETER UIHLEIN: Yeah, I'm very excited. When I won out at Chambers, I immediately thought of playing in the Open, and it's at Congressional and my mom is from around here, so I was definitely pretty excited about it. It was a good practice round today. The course is amazing. It was a lot of fun to play.
MODERATOR: What do you think you learned at the Masters, having been through your first major, that you might carry on this week to the Open?
PETER UIHLEIN: Just the comfort level. That's the biggest thing was just getting comfortable out there in front of all the people and just the whole major setting and how difficult major championships are, how patient and things like that you have to be. Hopefully I'll use some of that experience this week and have a little better week.
Q. What were your feelings as you stepped onto the course today for the first time, excitement, nerves?
PETER UIHLEIN: I was excited and nervous at the same time. You know, I was definitely excited to get out there and play and check out the course. I've heard before it was a great track, and it definitely was today. It was a lot of fun. It was hard. But yeah, I was definitely nervous. It took a while to get a little more comfortable. But towards the end of the day it felt better.
MODERATOR: You played on the 2009 USA Walker Cup team and you went 4 and 0 for the Americans en route to victory. What did you learn about playing under pressure that will help you in a week like this?
PETER UIHLEIN: I don't know, I enjoy any form of USGA event. I think the way they set up a golf course is great and it's a lot of fun. It's challenging, so I enjoy the challenge of a difficult golf course and trying to see how well you can do and things like that. But the Walker Cup was a whole different kind of beast and different style, but it was a lot of fun to play.
Q. Just wondering, you talked about being nervous out there this morning, and this is your second major. I just wonder if you could compare the nerves of being out there this morning compared to being out there the first day at Augusta and whether you're getting used to majors or whether they're still all new to you?
PETER UIHLEIN: No, they're still all new. This is my second major, fourth Tour event. I still get nervous in college, so I think no matter what the setting is, I'll still be a little bit more nervous.
Q. Are you nervous right now?
PETER UIHLEIN: Yeah. Do I look nervous?
Q. Yeah. Can you remember the first time, whether it was in college or at a junior event, where you weren't putting up very good scores and you had to remind yourself that you really weren't playing all that badly, that the course was that difficult that you had to convince yourself that it's not as bad as it might look and how you learned to deal with that?
PETER UIHLEIN: My freshman year at Oklahoma State, Carson Creek, it beat me up. It's a hard golf course. It exposes kind of every form of weakness that you have. I really struggled and had a tough time for a couple months. But then I'd go and play -- I won an amateur event over that Christmas break and played well in another one. But then I went back to Karsten for the spring and struggled again. That kind of golf course does that to you. But over time I figured out how to play it and improved in some areas that definitely were needed, and I was able to gain from that experience and try and use some of it to my advantage.
Q. When people talk about needing patience what is your definition of that word as it relates to tournaments like this?
PETER UIHLEIN: Literally just taking it one shot at a time. I was practicing last week with Jonathan Moore. He went to OSU, won nationals and played in the Open at Winged Foot, and he said that was the first time he ever played a tournament where -- literally one shot at a time, you can't get ahead of yourself or lose focus or just kind of try and jump ahead to a different hole. I mean, you have to focus on every shot out here, and that's going to try and be my mindset for this week, try not to make too many big numbers and just kind of take my medicine when I need it and just try and be as patient as possible and try and execute some shots.
Q. You've won championships for years all around the country and you talked just briefly about nerves, et cetera. When you get out in a competition such as Augusta and this week, is there a go-to shot that you prefer? Do you change anything under the gun? Or if there's water left or water right with either the driver, chipping, iron shots? Are there certain changes you make?
PETER UIHLEIN: With a driver if I want to get it in play or just get it out there, I tend to cut it. I like to cut at the ball with a driver. But if it's like a 3-wood or an iron, I usually work them a little bit more right to left. It depends on the hole. First hole out here, it's either a driver or a 3-wood, so it's kind of a -- it's a pretty nice first hole. If I'm nervous going to the tee, it's definitely friendly until you get to that 240-yard par-3. Yeah, we'll see how it goes.
Q. Seeing Russell Henley and Scott Langley play so well at last year's U.S. Open, a couple guys you know so well, what does that do for your expectations this year?
PETER UIHLEIN: Well, I don't think my expectations are going to change. I was definitely happy for those guys to play so well. Scott and Rex are great guys and great players. My expectations are going to be pretty much the same as Augusta but try and grow on it a little bit, just have some fun and enjoy it and just figure out where I need to improve in areas and try and go from there.
Q. Are there things that you know intuitively or nuances about golf equipment having grown up around it? Are there things that you just recognize that maybe other people don't?
PETER UIHLEIN: No, I think they would recognize it faster than I would. I don't know much about equipment or anything like that, no. I've stayed away from all that with my dad. I've never really asked him questions or anything like that. He's always been my dad, and that's how I viewed it. So when it came to equipment, I couldn't tell you much.
Q. You probably made a bigger name for yourself when you made that long putt at the Walker Cup in Merion. How much have you grown as a player since then, and what did that do to you for your confidence as a golfer?
PETER UIHLEIN: I mean, I remember that match. I wasn't -- I missed everything, I think, leading into that putt, and then I was able to roll that in, and it kind of -- I don't know, just kind of opened up some floodgates for me that week and I was able to build from that week and gain the confidence and had a pretty good year. I had a good year last year. So it was a pretty big putt looking down to it. It really did help, and it helped from a mental standpoint and a confidence level. Yeah, it was a nice putt.
Q. Who did you play a practice round with today?
PETER UIHLEIN: I played 18 with David May and nine with Adam Scott.
Q. Having taken your share of lumps from Karsten Creek, I was wondering the kind of lumps that Congressional might have to deliver to golfers out there.
PETER UIHLEIN: Yeah, I'm sure it's going to have some. I mean, it's a major championship, and that's what all majors -- from what I hear, they're difficult and there's nothing easy about them. But like I said, just try and stay patient and just take it one shot at a time I think is really going to be the main goal and not get ahead of yourself. I'm sure there are some birdie holes out there if you can execute some shots and just try and keep it like that and not try to force anything or get overly aggressive and just try and be patient and take what the course gives you.
Q. What's the earliest golf memory you have? What comes to mind?
PETER UIHLEIN: When I was -- I don't even know how old, maybe five or six, we were playing up in New Bedford where I was from, New Bedford, Mass, and I had always played from like the 100-yard plate when I was that young to keep me interested and keep me excited, and actually I made it on the first hole, and that's pretty much my first memory.
Q. Have you ever started a tournament on a par-3?
PETER UIHLEIN: No. I was asking Coach Bratton, who's caddying for me again this week, if I've ever done that. I can't remember like a college event or anything like that starting on one.
Q. Any idea what you do on the range right before you go on when you tee off on 10?
PETER UIHLEIN: Yeah, you try and recreate the shot, the shot that you're going to hit your first tee regardless of the hole. You try and recreate that on the range, and that's probably what I'm going to do.
Q. How did you play 18 today?
PETER UIHLEIN: I hit driver down the right center and a 4-iron into the right bunker, then hit the bunker shot to like a foot, so I'll take that every day. That hole is hard.
MODERATOR: Peter, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate it, and we wish you well this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.