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A Few Words About Golf With Condoleezza Rice

Verne Lundquist and Condoleezza Rice.

As she did last year, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came out to the AT&T National, in this case spending time watching the golf with several Marines on Marine Corps Day during the third round. After spending a good while in the gallery around the ninth green, she came to the media tent right off that green for interviews with CBS, the Golf Channel, XM Radio, a military outlet and The Washington Post. Somehow, I was nominated to represent The Post.

As the CBS producers shushed the rest of us, Rice told Verne Lundquist how big a fan she was of his, and how she watches him every Sunday she can. During their interview, she said that she had been playing golf seriously for three years, that she played a round at Andrews Air Force base on Friday and that her handicap is around a 21. She also talked about the importance of this tournament, of honoring the troops, of the 4th of July, and so on.

Then she moved on to the Golf Channel's Mike Ritz. Some of the answers were the same, but she also told Ritz that her best-ever round was an 89, that Tiger Woods's U.S. Open performance was "amazing...just amazing," that her driver is her best club despite recent wildness, and that "you should be able to hit it the same every time and you never can....Golf is a constant challenge."

Then it was my turn. The transcript is below.

So how often do you think you actually play?

Oh, I'm lucky if I get out once a month or so, a couple times a month maybe. For me, the only reliable time in my schedule is Sunday afternoon, so if it's not raining Sunday afternoon I'm out.

Do you play 18?

It depends. If it's late in the day, which it sometimes is, I'll play whatever the light allows. But I've been known to be out there when it's pretty dark.

And your swing, it looks good, or....?

I think I have a pretty good swing, particularly off the tee. I've always been good off the tee, and I putt pretty well. I've just got to get the rest of that in between pulled together a little bit better.

Do you have a policy about mulligans at all? Or not?

I do. I have a policy on mulligans. I try for only one, and after that I count it as a stroke. One per 18. Well, except for the first hole, when we have a "hit until you're happy" rule.

I like that. What do you think the hardest part about golf is?

I think staying in the moment. Yesterday when we played--my family was here, so I took them out yesterday--and I had just a fantastic first hole. I parred a par 5. It was just fantastic. And I couldn't get mentally set for the next hole, and the next thing I knew I double-bogeyed the second hole. So, I think it's staying in the moment. It's very hard.

Do you walk or ride when you play?

I tend to walk. Yeah, I love to walk.

I thought maybe you'd have a bulletproof, tinted windowed golf cart.

Noooo, no no no, I try to walk. I'm rarely outside. I think one of the things I love about golf is that I'm out and I'm walking in the open air, which is really unusual.

So you don't do the whole cigar-smoking and drinking beer and stuff?

No, no, no, no, no, no, definitely not. I'm an athlete.

Do you have a favorite golfer?

Well, everybody loves Tiger Woods, and I know him a little bit from Stanford, so he's terrific. But I've got a lot of golfers that I really love watching. Phil Mickelson I love watching, and Fred Funk, who's out here. And a couple years ago I met Stewart Cink. I've met now a number of golfers. Brad Faxon is somebody I love to watch putt.

Do you have any kind of favorite athletes away from the golf course?

Oh sure. I'm a huge sports fan. Probably my favorite athlete of all time was Michael Jordan, but now, I'm a Cleveland Browns fan, so I'm a big Derek Anderson fan right now. Maybe Brady Quinn next year.

Can I ask you a couple semi-serious questions?

Sure. Not news questions. We're doing golf out here.

Semi-serious sports.

Semi serious sports? We'll see.

Like drug testing. They've started this week....

Yeah, I don't really know. I don't have time to follow such things, but I do think it's important that these sports find a way to be clean. I think that's important.

And this one you're probably going to reject, but looking over political contributions, there's a whole bunch of very well-known athletes who have given to Obama. I'm curious if....

We live in a free country, and people should back whatever candidate they want. I really mean it. We live in a country where you support candidates, and nobody is in a position in this country to judge who a candidate should be for anybody else. That's an individual judgment.

Ok. Have you ever played Augusta?


Would you like to?

I'd like to play all the great golf courses.

Ok. Do you have any kind of feelings at all about the fact that they don't have any female members?

I'm not going to comment on that. It's a private club. I'm not going to comment on it. Obviously I'm a fan of openness and believe in openness across the board, because from my point of view, men and women should be equal in these things.

There's a course around here called Burning Tree....

I'm not going to comment, but I will tell you that it is my view that men and women should be equal in all things.

Ok. This is the last thing, I promise. I'm sure you heard what the President said about how he's not playing golf now. Did you have any kind of feelings about that, because I guess some people in the golf community were a little bit hurt by that somehow.

I just think the President made that choice, and he is somebody who really feels strongly about having people sacrifice. He wanted to do this. I know that the President cares a lot about sports and he keeps himself in awfully good shape. He rides his bike, keeps himself in very good shape, and I think that's the important thing.

So Cabinet secretaries can still play?

Cabinet secretaries and the President can all do exactly what they wish. But all of us are trying to stay in shape in these tough jobs.

The Golf Channel's Mike Ritz, interviewing Condoleezza Rice.

By Dan Steinberg  |  July 5, 2008; 2:39 PM ET
Categories:  Golf  
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