2014 U.S. Senior Open

Saturday, July 12

Press Conference

Gene Sauers

An Interview with

THE MODERATOR: Again, welcome to the 35th United States Senior Open Championship, 3rd round. Our leader, Gene Sauers with a 3-under 68 for the day, a commanding 7-under, 206 following the 3rd Round. Gene, just tell us a little bit about your round and what you're feeling right now.

GENE SAUERS: Well, I started out today, I had a bogey in the first hole, hit it in the left bunker off the tee, didn't have too much of a shot. But, I hit the ball pretty solid today. Let's see where I did make my birdies at? No -- the par 5 was the next birdie.

THE MODERATOR: Let's try --

GENE SAUERS: 8, a 4-iron, almost got it on top of the hill, came back down. I was probably 30 feet and two-putted for birdie there, and had a chance at 9. Where is another one? 10, I had a chance. I hit the ball really solid today and being 7-under par on this golf course is pretty tough. I think somebody said earlier in the week that 5-under or worse to win this golf tournament.

THE MODERATOR: One of three that were under par for the 3rd round. Tell us a little bit about your putting today.

GENE SAUERS: Well, you know, that's always been my downfall. I've always been a good ball striker and hit a lot of fairways and greens. I end up making 33, 34, 35 putts a round, which is awful. You can't do good there, you know, with all that. But I made a lot of putts today. I made a couple saves, made some good putts and I birdied 18 which was nice. Hit a 6-iron in there probably was about 8 feet behind the hole and 16 was it, 16 hit a 5-iron in there just couple inches which is nice. I like those birdies.

THE MODERATOR: We love those, too. Tell us a little bit about your health. How are you feeling right now?

GENE SAUERS: Right now I got a little summer cold. I got a little fever and scratchy throat and achy body. They always say be aware of the sick guy. Hopefully will come true.

THE MODERATOR: Sure. Certainly considering your history of health, tell us a little bit about what this Championship means to you and specifically to be at this point in the Championship going into the final round.

GENE SAUERS: You know, being a U.S. Open Champion is a dream for everybody, even as a Senior Championship or whatever, but I lost to Nick Price in '92 at the PGA but, you know, all that I've been through the last three, four years is remarkable, the position I'm in right now. You know, I didn't touch a golf club for 7 years after I got off the regular Tour and then I got sick and going through all this burning that I went through, got both my arms and legs and I never thought I'd be playing golf again. Just to be up here with you guys is phenomenal. So, just -- like I said, told everybody else, a bogey doesn't matter much anymore. The good Lord touched me and said I'm going to give you another chance. Hopefully I can play good tomorrow and pull it out.

THE MODERATOR: Any preparation that you will do going into the 4th round?

GENE SAUERS: Just the same as it as been all week. Concentrate on the fairways and greens. You got to hit fairways here or you're not going to have any chance to holding the greens at all. My theory is just fairways and greens and hopefully have some birdie putts and hopefully a few of them will drop.

THE MODERATOR: Sounds terrific. With that, we'll leave it to questions.

Q. Gene, you were talking a couple days ago, no Top-10 finishes, felt like you were maybe getting it going. To be one of only three guys to go under today, get hot on the back-9 to have the lead going into Sunday, talk about what came together for you to have the lead going into the final round.
GENE SAUERS: You know, it's just I hit a lot of solid shots coming down the stretch. Like I say on 16, hit 5-iron in there couple inches away. 17, hit a good little 6-iron just right of the pin. Playing smart, I think, just playing within myself, not trying to do crazy things or trying to go at the pin and try to attack a pin and have something bad happen. Just playing smart is all I was really trying to do.

Q. Gene, you referred to the arthritis starting in 2009. There are references, as you said, to not touching a club prior to that. Is that because of your health or you stepped away from the game, little unclear?
GENE SAUERS: I stepped away from the game in like 2005 after the regular Tour. I was kind of playing bad and wasn't having a good time, pulling my hair out and going crazy. I stepped away from it for awhile and then 2009 came and started feeling bad. Then all that stuff progressed and that's what happened to me.

Q. You mentioned from a health standpoint how important it is to be in this position but strictly from a golf standpoint having won on the Champions Tour, actually not a Top-10 finish, so from that standpoint, what are your thoughts in being in this position right now?
GENE SAUERS: I had a good year last year. I had some opportunities to win last year. I lost in a playoff in Houston. I've been struggling this year with my swing a little bit and putting and I've got some help back home, some friends and some teachers have been helping me a little bit. They got me hitting the ball solid now. Building my confidence is mainly what they do. They know I still have it. You know, it's just go out there and do it. Try not to put too much pressure on myself and try to have fun.

Q. Gene, seems like you have tons of confidence. On No. 12 you hit about a 12-footer, just nice touch in for the putt. 16, didn't you go in the bunker off your tee shot, fairway bunker?
GENE SAUERS: That was like 14, the par 5. Yeah. Hit a bad tee shot there in the bunker and didn't have -- 8-iron, kind of hit it thin and caught some leaves that were growing around the top of the lip and shoot it a little left. Then I had another 8-iron to the green and hit it in that bunker, greenside bunker and I didn't have much of a shot there, downhill and -- but I hit a decent bunker shot, what, 12 feet and made the putt for par which I think that kind of perked me up a little bit.

Q. Helped your confidence and 69, 69, 68. Maybe 68 tomorrow to win the whole thing?
GENE SAUERS: I think that will do it. Thank you very much.

Q. Gene, again, just to clarify on your previous health situation, you said outside they didn't really know what it was but did they think it was that Stevens Johnson Syndrome or they're not sure, you're not sure?
GENE SAUERS: I don't think they're really sure. I think they called that it just to be able to treat me, I think. But it's kind of almost the same lines as Stevens Johnson. Stevens Johnson also gets your face and your body which it did not attack that. If it would have got anything in my face I would have been gone. Thank God, didn't get my organs.

Q. Mostly your arms --
GENE SAUERS: And legs, all skin grafts on both my legs.

Q. Gene, going through what you did, how often did you think this would never be possible, that you would never be sitting in the Media Room? How many times did that go through you mind this would never happen?
GENE SAUERS: A lot. A lot. When all this started going on I talked to a friend of mine, Brian Claar, who is the head rules official guy. He called me, "Gene, you going to be able to play?" I said, "I don't know." He said, "You're going to have a two year exemption on the Champions Tour." "Oh, no." I didn't know what my status is. I'm sick and I'm not going to be able to play. But thank God I did it. When I got out of the hospital I couldn't hit a pitching wedge here to you. It was awful.

Q. Did you just think about giving up sometimes?
GENE SAUERS: After -- well, when I quit the regular Tour I was kind of pretty much done. Something hit me in the hospital. I told my wife -- she came in there and after about a month being in the hospital, I said, "I think I want to play golf again." Her eyes got real big and she goes, "Okay, good." But I hadn't played in 7 years. I wonder would it would be like. The whole time I was in the hospital I closed my eyes and pictured a golf swing. Went out and -- after two, three months after being out of the hospital finally did all my rehabilitation and when out and shot 71 on a tough golf course. Birdied the last three holes. I said if I can do that I can sure give it another shot out here.

Q. You said the good Lord touched me. Is that an element of your faith or change in that through this whole process with you?
GENE SAUERS: Change in faith and all? I'm a Catholic. I believe in the Lord. I pray every night. Hasn't been -- I've been doing it my whole life. I guess being as a little kid my mom and dad always woke me up every Sunday morning, "Come on, we're going to mass." Hadn't changed me much.

Q. You said earlier in the week physically you felt like you were okay -- no Top-10s. Your mental side has improved greatly. Talk a little bit about that on where you are mentally this week.
GENE SAUERS: I think this golf course makes you concentrate more. It's kind of like I said out there, when I played Augusta my first time in '87, just going around that golf course and you got to hit your tee shots in certain areas, certain distance and you got to pick the point on the greens and as those greens at Augusta were just like putting on this tabletop, you got to concentrate so much. At the end of the day you're worn out because you concentrated so much. I just remember going back to Harbour Town and being so easy that week. I think this is the -- kind of same kind of thing you have to concentrate every -- on every shot because you got to hit the fairways and you got to hit the greens because the rough is so brutal, and just giving yourself an opportunity to make some putts.

THE MODERATOR: Anyone else? Great. Gene Sauers, our leader at 7-under for the United States Senior Open Championship. Thank you
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