U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Interview With 2015 Senior Open Champion Jeff Maggert June 28, 2015 | Sacramento, Calif. By USGA

Jeff Maggert posted a two-stroke victory over defending champion Colin Montgomerie at Del Paso C.C. in Sacramento, Calif. (USGA/J.D. Cuban)

THE MODERATOR: It's my pleasure to introduce Jeff Maggert, the 36th U.S. Senior Open champion. Jeff with rounds of 70, 65, 70, and 65, for a 72-hole total of 270. That's 10 under par and a two-stroke victory over Colin Montgomerie. Jeff, a great round. You get custody of this lovely trophy here to your left, a gold medal which you're wearing around your neck, and an exemption into the 2016 U.S. Open next year at Oakmont, where you finished tied for ninth in 1994. Just to start off, it was a very crowded leaderboard going into today, and you were able to separate yourself quite early with birdies on the first three holes. Take us through how you started off your round.

JEFF MAGGERT: I wanted to start out playing pretty aggressive. Like you said, a lot of guys near the lead. I expected a few to kind of break out of the pack, but, man, Bernhard made the long eagle putt, and I birdied the 1st hole. All of a sudden, he's already 7 under, and I'm thinking, we need to make some birdies today. I made a monster putt on the 2nd hole. I was just trying to lag it down there close, and then hit a great shot from the fairway on 3 and made another nice birdie there. So that was kind of the key to the day. Got some early birdies and got myself in a mindset to stay aggressive. At that point in the round, I took a glimpse at the leaderboard and saw a lot of good numbers getting posted on the board. So I kind of said to myself, let's try to get to 10 under, somewhere in double figures under par, I thought, was kind of a good target to keep myself playing aggressive, and that helped me just stay focused and not try to just hang around near the lead, to try to put a little distance between myself and the others. Colin played well, obviously. It looked like he had a bogey-free round, which I kind of expected him to play well today. Bernhard was playing well. On the back nine, had a few troubles. But I just wanted to stay aggressive. When I got on that back nine, I was still thinking 10 under, 10, 11, even 12. And then I had the little bogey on 16. I played the chip a little too quick. Bernhard was having some trouble in the rough, and I was getting a little anxious to hit that chip and just left it a little short. But 18, I had a lot of club in my hand there. I didn't want to leave it short of the green. I was kind of standing over it thinking, man, don't hit this thing in the back bunker behind the green because that's not going to be very good either. I just tried to put an easy swing on a 6 iron, and I caught it a little thin. Unfortunately, it caught the bunker there. Just had an easy little uphill lie in the bunker. My mindset was a nice easy 6 in the middle of the green and two-putt and get out of there. Anyway, it all worked out in the end.

THE MODERATOR: It sure did. Just to go back a little bit in your round. You birdied the first three holes, made a string of pars. Then you came to the 9th hole where the tees were moved up a little bit and decided to go for it and drive it and hit a very nice drive to the back edge.

JEFF MAGGERT: When I'm playing well, driving is my strong suit. I'd been hitting a lot of good drives yesterday and early in the round. I didn't feel like there was any reason not to hit the driver there. I felt like, if I hit a little bit offline, I'd be in the bunker there. Just hit it dead straight right in the middle of the green. It rolled over the back edge, and a nice two-putt birdie there. It was a good kind of setup for the back nine. Hit some good shots. Hit a good shot on 10 but didn't make the putt. 14, I actually pulled that 6 iron a little bit, but there is a little bit of a flat spot there on that side of the green, and the ball hit just perfectly right in that flat spot. Anything to the right of that, it would have caught the downslope and really kicked towards the back of the green. I think Bernhard kind of hit it on the line I was trying to hit it on, and his ball wound up over the green in the back. So kind of a good miss at the right time. So that birdie there kind of really set me up. I knew 15 they had the tees way up and was playing a little downwind. I hit a monster drive there, 3 iron right in the middle of the green. At that point, I was thinking, man, you make this putt, 12 under, the tournament's kind of mine. Just missed it a little bit. But still at that point, being 11 under, I thought just play your game the last three holes, and I didn't feel like I was going to have any trouble.

THE MODERATOR: It had to be extra special having your family, who's here right now, winning in front of them. Apparently, it's the first time that they were here to see you win in person. Can you talk about some of the emotion that you had on the 18th green, having them run out?

JEFF MAGGERT: Fantastic. It's hard to coordinate travel with your family out here. Playing professional golf for 30 years, it seems like you want them there, and then you're playing bad. And then all of a sudden, you're playing good, and they're not there. They missed my first two Champions Tour wins. They weren't able to get there. So we talked last night. They were all the way in Sea Pines, South Carolina, and they said they were coming today. I said, all right, we'll make it happen. Fortunately, they were up at 5:00 in the morning East Coast time and off to the airport. They got here in Sacramento about 11:30 this morning. So the timing was perfect, and it was awesome to have them out there.

THE MODERATOR: And you got the desired results.

Q. Jeff, congratulations, first of all.
JEFF MAGGERT: Thank you.

Q. Very well played. You made mention of it a couple times about perhaps lacking a little maturity to win U.S. Opens. You were in contention a number of times. I'm wondering how that immaturity manifested then. Was it poor shot selection or strategy or whatever? And how you've grown into, I guess, not having that kind of golf now.
JEFF MAGGERT: Well, when I play at this level, you're playing scenarios in your head in a big tournament and how to handle yourself and how to play well. I had some really good U.S. Opens early in my career. And like I said, I was nervous as heck, but I fought my way through it. Maybe didn't get the bounces I needed here and there on the weekend. But just the confidence of that and being able to do that, not just once, but four or five different occasions in the U.S. Open. And now, I say it a lot on the Champions Tour. Most guys out here don't have a whole lot to prove out here anymore other than we're very competitive and we like to win, and this week's a test to that. Mr. Watson comes out here, 65 years old, and kind of is dusting the field with his game, and it's just amazing how well he can play. He had just as good a chance to win this tournament as anyone else. Actually, I was probably a lot more nervous yesterday playing with Tom. He has kind of been my idol really, when I was in high school, watching he and Jack Nicklaus battle it out. I was thrilled to be playing with him again. I had a chance to play with him a number of times on the regular Tour, when I was a rookie and he was kind of finishing his career. I was still nervous. He's Tom Watson. He's got a lot of pedigree there. So it was fun to play with him, but I was just kind of trying to stay out of his way. He had a good round yesterday, and I played a steady round. So hopefully, he played well today. I didn't see where he finished.

Q. Just a followup. You're sort of in the same class as Colin Montgomerie, where you guys got close and didn't win a Major on the regular Tour, and now you found multiple Major success on the Champions Tour. I'm just wondering how satisfying that really is to be able to prove you're capable of raising your game to a Major level.
JEFF MAGGERT: Well, it's satisfying just because of the guys out here on the Champions Tour are the same guys that I was trying to beat 20 years ago, and they're great players. All of the game that these guys have is, I would say, almost just as good as it was 20 years ago. The thing that hurts us a little bit is our distance off the tee ball. Other than that, these guys are playing just as well as they were 20 years ago. Their iron play and their short game and their putting, they're just all fantastic players still. Tough to beat.

Q. Mr. Maggert, it appeared that sometimes during the match, you and Bernhard -- he'd do something, and you'd do something good, and he'd do something equally good. Can you talk about teeing off with him and his play today?
JEFF MAGGERT: Well, I expected Bernhard to play really well today. He's played well in a lot of the Majors, regular Majors and Champions Tour Majors. When he made the eagle putt on the 1st hole, I kind of said to myself, I'm going to have to play well and make birdies today, because I didn't expect him to be going backwards. Certainly, the eagle putt on the 1st hole, and then I think he made another birdie on the 4th hole, and we're both sitting at 8 under, and I'm thinking, it might be a battle between me and him the rest of the day. So I was trying to play aggressive and make birdies. He had the misfortune of missing a few fairways with his driver and kind of paid the cost and made some bogeys and kind of gave me a little cushion. Then kind of at that same time frame during the round, there was a lot of good players on the leaderboard playing well. Guys finished at 6 under, with 6 under pars, Kenny Perry and Lee Janzen, I think. Billy Andrade. Those guys, they don't have to play another shot, and they're sitting in the clubhouse at 6 under. They looked like they were in a pretty good position to be in. And then Colin was playing pretty well. He just kept creeping up the leaderboard. So I just had to stay aggressive all day and try to make birdies on every hole.

Q. I just wondered how big the second round was for you because you had back-to-back bogeys, and then all of a sudden, everything changed. Was that the turning point of the championship for you or just that day?
JEFF MAGGERT: Definitely, the five birdies in a row kind of took my tournament from a standpoint where it was looking like kind of a middle of the pack week to those five birdies thrusting me out where, hey, let's get your head in the game here. You're going to have a chance to win. So that was definitely a turning point. U.S. Open conditions, you try not to worry too much about the bogeys because you know you're going to make them. Some tournaments, a bogey really kind of ticks you off because you don't feel like you should be making bogeys, but you've just got to accept them on these types of golf courses. A couple of early bogeys, yes, on the second round, but then I was playing well. I just felt like I could bounce back from that and did.

Q. Just as a follow, I think you said the other day something to the effect that the golf course was there in front of you, and everybody -- I mean, people hit it different distances, but everybody pretty much is playing a similar way, and it just came down to whoever executed best.
JEFF MAGGERT: For sure. You paid the price if you didn't drive it straight. The rough was penalizing. If you were missing greens, it was tough to get the ball up and down. So ball striking, like most U.S. Opens, was very important. They were a little bit more generous in the fairway width this week than I kind of expected, which is okay. I like to be in the fairway. But I think maybe that one specific aspect of the course was the reason we saw a lot of guys up near the lead. The fact that you didn't have to drive it down a bowling alley to hit it in the fairway. You could mis-hit your shots a little bit offline and still find the fairway. That's probably what led to the leaderboard like it did.

Q. Hi, Jeff. Congratulations on your championship.
JEFF MAGGERT: Thank you.

Q. As you've been talking about, you have played in a lot of U.S. Opens. I'd like to ask you a question about the golf course. Can you compare this golf course to any other U.S. Open venue that you've played in? Are there any comparisons? Or are there any aspects of this golf course that have been unique to your experience this week that stand alone?
JEFF MAGGERT: Well, I think, to me, it was just more of a traditional architectural design, and the course is similar to a lot of the U.S. Opens that I played in the Northeast, maybe like in Oakmont or just old traditional design aspects as compared to -- you know, I didn't play at Chambers Bay; but certainly, watching on television, it was obviously a lot different than any of the U.S. Opens that I ever played in. So I would say this was more down the alley of a typical U.S. Open course other than the fact that they did give us a little room on the fairways to drive the ball. If this was a course for the young guys, they probably would have narrowed the fairways up quite a bit and had four inches more rough. Anyway, it was a fun golf course to play. Like I said, you didn't get any penalties that you didn't deserve. If you hit a bad shot and got penalized, it's because you hit a bad shot.

THE MODERATOR: Jeff hit 12 of 13 fairways in the final round.

Q. Jeff, you said you were nervous as heck in your Opens when you were in contention. When you look back, is that why you think you weren't able to finish that? What was different this time? Because it's not the Open or you learned how to deal with those nerves?
JEFF MAGGERT: When I say nervous, there's always a good nervousness. When you're nervous, it means you care, and it means you're trying hard. So you always want to have that level of intensity. The U.S. Open golf courses are just tough on a Sunday afternoon when you're playing in the last two or three groups on the golf course. It's the toughest the golf course plays all week. The golf course is usually the driest, the firmest. It's tough to finish off that last round in a U.S. Open and play well. Even though I have the confidence in my ball striking to pull it off, it just seems like it's very difficult to have everything come together. It would have been great to win one of those, but I had a lot of fun playing in them. It was fun being up on the leaderboard and having a chance to win, and that's really why we're all out here, to get ourselves in a position on Sunday to try to win. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's fun.

Q. You mentioned the fairways being a little wider, but you look at the scores, there were a lot of non-U.S. Open-like scores today. 63, 64, you shot 65. What was different today? Did it not feel at times like a USGA Open?
JEFF MAGGERT: There was a little more humidity, I think, in the air, and the greens held their moisture a little bit better throughout the round. Also, they moved the tees up on 9 to have guys have a chance to drive the green. And then 15, I was really surprised how far they moved the tee up there. I expected the tee all the way on the back today. So that was almost playing like a long par 4 today. It was a little bit downwind. I hit a driver and a 3 iron on the green. And that hole from the back tee is, I think, 640 yards. So the tee must have been up a good 100 yards, 100-plus. So that kind of surprised me. But then that's another factor in why there was some good scores today.

Q. It looked like when you were coming up 18 and on the green, it kind of looked like you were looking for your family a little bit. I'm just curious, when did you finally see them? Was it that final moment there?
JEFF MAGGERT: No. We hooked up on the driving range this morning, so I knew they were there. But it was getting crowded at the end. I kind of lost track of them coming up the fairway there, and I was trying to make sure they had a good vantage point and have a chance to get out there on the green and celebrate with me.

Q. Can you just describe that moment when you see your twin children coming at you?
JEFF MAGGERT: Oh, it was fun. I was excited that they were coming this morning. They had an early start, like I said. I knew they were going to be here right around my tee time. I guess their flight got in a little bit early, and they were able to make it out to see me warm up. It was a good -- a little bit of an extra, hey, they came all the way here. Don't screw this one up. Let's play hard. I don't want my 10-year-old son giving me a hard time coming all the way here from South Carolina, and my daughter and my wife going, oh, we're never doing this again. So I wanted to play well for them for sure and myself, but for them too.

Q. Jeff, this is just sort of a bookkeeping question. I know you were born in Columbia. I'm from St. Louis. And you explained this once at the '92 PGA. You moved when you were 1 years old, is that right?
JEFF MAGGERT: My parents were from Kansas City, Missouri, and my dad went to University of Missouri. So when he finished college, he went to Texas to take a job with Exxon Oil company, and I was just a baby. So off we went to Texas, and that was pretty much my whole life, growing up in Texas.

Q. So you didn't spend any time in Kansas City?
JEFF MAGGERT: Quite a bit on summer vacations. My grandparents lived -- my mom's parents lived their whole life in Kansas City, and my dad's parents were there for a while. So we spent a lot of time in Missouri, summertimes as a kid, yeah.

THE MODERATOR: With that, congratulations, Jeff Maggert. You are the 2015 United States Senior Open champion.

JEFF MAGGERT: Thank you.

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