Michael Allen (pre-championship)
BETH MAJOR: We're very happy to welcome Michael Allen, Champions Tour player who, at age 53, is the elder statesman in the field this week he qualified this week at near by Lake Merced and TPC of Harding Park. He's playing in his sixth U.S. Open but this is his first U.S. Open Championship being played at a course that he is in fact a member of. He told me he's been a member since age 14. Can you talk a little bit about what it means to qualify for an Open being played at your home club?
MICHAEL ALLEN: Well, No. 1, first, I would like to know ‑‑ wonder where everybody went to. (Laughter.)
Yeah, to me it's been a life‑long dream to be able to play in a really ‑‑ well certainly in a Major and really any tournament here. I was young, so I wasn't able to play in the club championship, I've never played a U.S. Amateur or U.S. Open here and that's always been my dream when I started playing professional golf was to be able to play in a U.S. Open The Olympic Club my home course in front of so many friend and family and just a place that's so dear to my heart. For me to be here with a chance to be here and to compete in this event ‑‑ my mother says I'm a slow learner, back 30 years ago she said that, and so after three chances of getting here I finally got my chance. She just never told me how slow a learner I was.
BETH MAJOR: What was it like to drive up? You said you arrived today. What was it like to drive up this morning when you're used to just arriving under normal circumstances with sort of everything that's here this week?
MICHAEL ALLEN: Well, it was kind of halting with all the police were up there on Highway 1, you know. It's great to drive in here and see all the people and see the course the way I've always seen it and remember it from 1966 when I was a child watching the first U.S. Open, the first time I had been here. The course has gone through so many changes and this is just, it's a great club, the members. The greatest thing about this club has always been that you have some of the wealthiest people in the world and in the city and you also have good people that are painters and have tire shops. But the bond is that everybody loves golf. That's why we are here and that's what make this is club and this place so special.
BETH MAJOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Tiger was just in saying you really have to shape the ball here. And that would be a key here, shaping it both ways. Would you agree as someone who plays here quite a bit and why?
MICHAEL ALLEN: Yes, for sure. When I play here normally the fairways are soft and even that short course plays pretty long. Now, they get the fairways firm, every fairway canters one direction or the other and you have to shape the ball into that or it will run out, at least the ones I've seen, since I've always been an observer here.
This week I think we're going to ‑‑ my coach is back there and I'm going to be working on getting my driver up in the air just a little bit. Because I hit it flat. And they will start running a little too much. So that is the key. I believe that's the key to this golf course is getting the ball, shaping the ball into the fairways on the tee shots. Once you get the ball in the fairway, the shots are ‑‑ the greens are relatively small, they kind of sit on a plank, so you never really have any straight putts. But the shots themselves are not like some of the other courses where you got to get around a mound or this side or that. If you get it in the middle of the greens here you're going to have a lot of good birdie putts. So you've got to be in the middle of the fairway.
Q. Can you talk about all the changes that have taken place over the years on the 18th green? I don't know if you have enough time to discuss all of them, but have there been some that the members have liked more than others, the changes?
MICHAEL ALLEN: I've always thought it was just a wonderful hole and the way the green sits, but I never played it in a U.S. Open. And watching the balls roll backward at you, when we play as a member you never have that issue. They can be quick and they can be real slick putts, but the ball's never rolled back.
Once you get in a U.S. Open it changes things. So everything gets faster and everything gets overdone a little bit. Exaggerated. So I'm sure that now te green will probably be sitting on much more of a two or three degree plank and that will be much more playable and that's what you want to see. You never want it see what you saw a few years ago where the ball's rolling back to you, it doesn't make the golf course look good and it's not great playing conditions.
So the great thing about the course is, except for 7 and 8, this course is exactly the way it's all always been. And just a little longer, but it's still the same golf course and wonderful.
Q. When you got here today did you see friends or did it feel like you were at a Major or feel like you were at your home club?
MICHAEL ALLEN: Well, so far since I haven't ‑‑ I just been to the parking lot to here, it's definitely a Major, because right here where we're sitting is my old pit where I used to hit balls. Used to be this hole that was right between the 18th and 8th hole, I think it was, and it was like an old practice fairway, like an old hole. So that's where this whole concession thing is and this whole merchandise tent is on my old practice grounds that I have spent many, many hours sweating on, even in this cold temperature.
Q. You played obviously in several U.S. Opens what do you think this will be like for you? You talked at Harding last week about friends and family. In your mind's eye what's it going to be like Thursday when you step on the tee here?
MICHAEL ALLEN: It's probably going to be the first time I'm going to be extremely nervous teeing off. It's just going to be a fulfilling for me, a life‑long dream of being able to play in this championship ‑‑ I always loved playing in this championship but to play here is what makes this so extremely special for me. I just, I've grown up here, I played 2000 rounds of golf on this golf course. I had so many great friends and so many great times out here. It's been a great learning experience for my life and I've been very blessed with my family to be able to play out here. It's going to be one of the greatest moments of my life playing golf for sure.
Q. Since you're a local guy do you have any plans to spread your wealth of knowledge with any other local guys, maybe even some sectional qualifiers like James Hahn, the medalist, and if you don't have any plans are you open to any of those guys approaching to you get a practice round in maybe tomorrow?
MICHAEL ALLEN: Well, let me see, am I favored or not? I'm not sure here. Who has a chance to beat me? Oh, yeah, everybody in the field. So yeah, if people want some help, I love talking about this golf course. I always have.
I am going play with that kid I think Scott Smith, I believe, he's from, went to school at Reno where I went to school. So hopefully we can, I can help him a little bit. I don't think this course has a great deal of local knowledge, every putt, every hole except for the third green breaks toward the like. It's really about shaping the ball and getting into the play and trying to miss it where you can chip uphill into the greens and you will never have a straight putt here unless you're dead below the hole.
So really for an Open course it's probably more straightforward than most. But I'm looking forward to ‑‑ I played the front nine, I haven't played the back nine yet. I played it Saturday before the qualifying, so it's a matter of also how they cut the fairways, where they have cut the fairways, which is going to make it a little more interesting.
Q. You had a good tune‑up at the Schwab Cup as far as having a lot of friends around. Do you think that experience of doing well at Harding last year will be a good tune‑up because sometimes with having so many friends around can add a new challenge to things?
MICHAEL ALLEN: Actually I only had three, they were just really loud. (Laughter.)
No, I do. I think I'm going to have a lot of friends here and so being I'm not also in a star pairing that it will be really nice to have some people around, some atmosphere and get some people yelling, hopefully, and I love it. I love having enthusiasm and atmosphere when I'm playing, so hopefully I'll have more friends than I knew I had.
Q. Having played 2000 rounds here, the subtle differences of this golf course playing early in the morning and the wetness versus late in the afternoon, they will be playing very late here with prime time on the east coast. And then the second part, how much wind does it take up there for it to start to affect things?
MICHAEL ALLEN: The morning to afternoon, it can be, it depends on the weather. If it's, if we get some cool foggy mornings, it's, it can be tough those first two or three holes when the wind's really heavy and blows across there. And for the most part the wind affects ‑‑ most of your shots will be affected early in the round, the first two or three holes. And then it can be like on 17, the wind can start blowing down there. So the wind's not too much of a factor out here, once you really get past about 3.
Just around here, usually toward the evening, it gets cool and breezy and that's kind of when it gets ‑‑ starts playing a little bit longer than it normally has. So those finishing holes can definitely start being a little bit more of a challenge as far as clubbing and, boy, it's amazing how short the ball can go at times when it gets cool and breezy.
Q. Can you put a number of yards? How big a difference to the average golfer so they would understand?
MICHAEL ALLEN: I know when we played Harding Park those last few holes it's certainly at least a club. Sometimes more than that. I remember that was kind of a little breeze blowing too with it, but I think I had about 110 or so and I hit an 8‑iron over at Harding. It can blow, when it gets, when that air gets cool and heavy, it is amazing how short the ball can go.
Q. Does this start to become a Major in your head? Has it already? It's Tuesday, but when do you have that, oh, it's a Major feel in your mind. And being on the Champions Tour so much now, how much more of that competitive edge is there now that you have to draw within yourself?
MICHAEL ALLEN: Well to me it started being a Major like last Christmas when I was starting to get ready. The Champions Tour certainly we ‑‑ our crowds are much smaller. Our biggest event we really have is our Senior U.S. Open, the most support out there. Coming out here you just look at the people that are around the driving range, that's a good day's crowd out there. So certainly it's going to be a lot bigger and more ‑‑ these days I just look forward to it. I love it. It's so much fun for me to play in that atmosphere. I truly enjoy and look forward to it. It's still, when you get out there it comes down to competition. I'm getting better at not seeing all the crowds and doing my thing, so it's not that important to me, I hope. Hopefully I should say it doesn't affect my game that much. But I love the atmosphere and I just think this is going to be the most fun week I've ever had playing golf.
Q. Not to belabor the age thing, but 14 year old kid qualified for this?
MICHAEL ALLEN: No way.
Q. He did.
MICHAEL ALLEN: Did you check his birth certificate?
Q. That's Beth's department. What do you think about that? A 14 year old kid playing in the U.S. Open?
MICHAEL ALLEN: I'm baffled. I can't imagine I wouldn't let my 14 year old kid go backpacking over the weekend, besides letting him go to the U.S. Open. My God. Well, I just, you know, you watch some of these young kids, they're so good and the kids that qualified with me, how far they hit it, I'm sure this little 14 year old punk hit it past me already so ‑‑ oh, excuse me, kid. (Laughter.)
Q. He's six feet tall, 185.
MICHAEL ALLEN: Is he really? God almighty. Well, different genes than I got. (Laughter.)
I find that truly amazing. What's his name?
Q. Andy Zhang.
MICHAEL ALLEN: Well good luck to him.
Q.That's the age you were at when you joined Olympic Club.
MICHAEL ALLEN: When I joined, yeah.
Q.Think about what your game was like at that point.
MICHAEL ALLEN: Oh, God I was ‑‑ I remember my first time I ever broke par, I came out here with my father one morning at 5:30, total fog, couldn't ever hardly see my 7‑iron land and I shot 68.
Probably the only time I broke par until I was like 16 or something. But, no, for me, God, I was lucky, I was nervous playing in The Examiner out there at Glen Eagles, you know.
BETH MAJOR: Someone mentioned yesterday that he would have been seven months old when the Open was played here in '98 so that really put it in perspective for a lot of us.
MICHAEL ALLEN: I hope he's really good and can date my daughter. (Laughter.
BETH MAJOR: Thank you very much for joining us this morning. We're happy to have you in the field and here this morning and we wish you well this week.
MICHAEL ALLEN: Thank you very much. A pleasure being here.