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July 2, 2009

Tom Watson

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Good morning, and today we welcome World Golf Hall of Famer, Tom Watson, the winner of the 1977 Open Championship at Turnberry participating in today's conference call.
The Open Championship returns to Turnberry later this month, and Tom will be competing in his 32 Open Championship and he has five total victories in the event.
Tom, thanks again for your participation today. If we can just start with some opening comments and we'll take some questions.
TOM WATSON: Thanks, Joel and greetings everybody. I hope everyone is having a good day. It's not like I haven't talked about this before. There have been quite a few questions over the years about Jack's and my final 36 holes in the '77 Open Championship there at Turnberry, and I would welcome any type of questions about it.
I'm looking forward to going back. It's going to be a different golf course. I played a little bit of the changed golf course three years ago when I won at Turnberry in The Senior Open Championship. They had just started to add a few bunkers. They have added, from what I understand, 28 bunkers. They have rerouted two holes: The 10th tee, making a longer hole and hitting over the corner of the ocean, or the beach there, rocks. And No. 16, they have completely rerouted the fairway into the green. They have moved it to the east and down the hill a little bit.
So the direction into the greens are going to be a much more difficult shot in my opinion, even though I have played it. But I understand a little bit about the strategy now that now anything going to the right will go into the burn. Before, you carried somewhat over the burn at an oblique angle, and with any of the prevailing winds from the right, the water did not come into play as much as you would think.
But with the new direction, it's going to come into play much more. It's definitely going to be in play much more.

Q. How would you explain, or is there an explanation, for how two guys could separate themselves by ten shots from the rest of the field, which I don't think has ever happened before in any major?
TOM WATSON: I don't think there is an explanation except that maybe we were just playing that much better than the rest of the field. We had identical scores the first two rounds, first three rounds, and then we started to separate after the third round. By the time Jack was 3-under par in the fourth round, I caught up to him, that the field had gone back yards. Hubert Green commented, "Hey, I don't know who won this tournament, but I won first flight."
I really can't explain it. We both were playing very well. I was at the top of my game at that point, hitting basically on all cylinders and actually going into the tournament, I was in good form and that was one of the few times in my career I really felt I had a great chance winning the tournament going into it. Just a handful of times where entering into the tournament, I really felt it was my tournament to win.
And the other tournaments, you might question that, because going into other tournaments, sometimes there might be something a little bit off in your game, and that may give you a little bit of a question about, well, do I have everything in order this week in order to win. That week was one of those weeks where I really felt confident about my chances of winning the golf tournament.

Q. And you have won the Open on five different links; how do you rate Turnberry? What is it about Turnberry that you put different from the others?
TOM WATSON: Well, all courses are different. I mean, you can't -- you really can't separate it. Every hole is different from the other holes of the various golf courses. It is different in the sense that you -- well, actually let me put it this way: There's a lot of sameness to the conditions on which you play, the links land, the bounce, the links-type of golf you play. That's why the R&A has the Championship on links golf, because they want that certain condition. And that's the similar thing about all the courses we play over there.
In some previous years, they added a little too much water in the golf course, and the R&A understood that and they backed off that and let Mother Nature dictate the conditions, which separates it out from American-type golf where courses need to be watered and the water is used either to toughen it up or soften it up.
Over there, I think the R&A has it right. They let Mother Nature dictate the conditions. A perfect example is St. Andrews the last time we played there. It was just rock-hard, no rough, play it. If it had been rain for two or three weeks prior to it, and had wet conditions, the rough would have been a lot more difficult than it was. But they want the players to play the course the way any other person would play the golf course; with the exception of the flag positions, which they really toughen it up for Open Championship golf.

Q. How do you rate Turnberry amongst the five Opens you won?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think it was the tournament where I was playing the best. There's not a question about that. The other tournaments, I went in with mixed emotions about my chances of winning, and what separates Turnberry from the other four is the fact that I just mentioned, I really felt confident about my chances of winning.

Q. You had some great duels with Jack over the years, and obviously this one was the most dramatic. Was it the most satisfying, even more satisfying than the '82 U.S. Open?
TOM WATSON: You're asking a how-many-angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin question. The U.S. Open and Turnberry and the Masters and '77, playing against the player in the game, I really can't separate them out. I can just say that playing against the best in Jack and coming out on top was what I was out there to do, and that was to beat the best and try to establish myself as one of the best players in the game.
You know, I don't go into rating golf courses or rating wins for that matter or rating tournament victories, but it certainly was one of the top competitive times I've had in my career.

Q. There were some great shots that you hit into the final hole at major championships that you won, two over there in particular stand out with yourself iron into 18 at Turnberry and the 2-iron that you hit into the 18th at Birkdale. Obviously different circumstances, but what is it about that, I'm just wondering about shots to close out majors, those two have to rank very high, I would imagine, without trying to put a numerical number on it.
TOM WATSON: They do. I've always said probably my most satisfying shot I hit at a particular time was that 2-iron into the 18th hole.
The chip shot at Pebble Beach obviously was somewhat unexpected. It's a 1-in-100 shot. The 2-iron, I had a better chance of pulling that off than the chip shot. I hit it exactly the way I meant to. It was one of those -- you know, Ben Hogan said it right. He said, "If I hit one or two perfect shots in a round of golf, perfect shots, I've played a good round of golf." And that was the perfect shot at the right time. It closed them out. All I had to do was 2-putt from 15 feet and I win Open Championship. Given the conditions and the pressure and all that, I have to rank that right up there at the top.

Q. When you won in '77 that was a new experience for the guys because there had not been an Open Championship at Turnberry, and at least 15 years have elapsed since Nick Price won his Open there, and it's going to be a new experience for another generation of golfers. If you were telling that younger brigade what makes Turnberry distinctive, different, what would you tell them?
TOM WATSON: I think one of the distinguishing characteristics of it is it plays with a lot of crosswinds, and you have to deal with that.
It's not unusual but the crosswinds and the velocity of the winds, that's what -- that's where the young players, the players who have not played in that type of condition where you have to not only measure the movement of the ball with the crosswind, but also the movement of the ball on the ground. When it hits, it's going somewhat sideways and you have to factor that into how much room you give it.
I kind of play golf by -- I don't take the dead-aim philosophy of Harvey Penick where you take dead-aim. What I do, I take, for instance, in American football, the goal post, what I do, I have a right limit and a left limit. Boy, when you play in a crosswind such as we played last year at Royal Birkdale, I love Greg Norman's comment. He said, "It's really hard to play golf when you have to aim the ball 80 yards off-line."
That's the thing about The Open Championship. In American golf, yes, you play the wind, but usually the ball stops a lot quicker than it does in links golf, and that's the distinguishing characteristic between the two. And that's the element that the young players may have somewhat of a hard time with.

Q. And for you, was it your brain or was it your ball-striking or a combination of those things that both made you an outstanding links golfer in general --
TOM WATSON: Well, I don't know if it was my brain. I always enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out the correct distance. The most difficult thing in links golf, is to judge the correct weight, as we say over in the U.K. You want the ball to end up flag-high, and how do you get it there. In American golf, it's a lot simpler formula. You hit it to a certain spot, it stops, and you're there.
In links golf, you have the additional factor of the ball hitting on the ground, and that ground may be very uneven, so you have to deal with the uneven bounces. And say you pitch the ball on the downslope or just on the downslope of the fairway where it just bounds forward and it goes 60 feet beyond where you're trying to pitch it, or it hits on the upslope and stops 60 feet from where you're trying to hit it. Those are the uncertainties about links golf that I really enjoy.

Q. There's obviously a lot of joy for you connected with Turnberry, because you won a Senior Open there, as well as an Open Championship. I'm wondering if there was also a little bit of frustration. Was the year that Nick Price won, I think you were either leading or very close to the lead after 54 holes, if my memory serves my right. Was that one of the ones that got away?
TOM WATSON: I have to admit, that was probably -- it had to be in my top five most-frustrating tournaments, because I was really hitting on all cylinders. I was driving the ball perfectly. My iron play was great. My putting just completely let me down.
I didn't have the feel for the greens at all during the week. It was always a struggle, and the last day, I got off to a great start. I had birdie putts, literally, inside ten feet on four or five of the first six holes, and I think I made one. I jiggled one in, but that was it.
And when I missed the short birdie putt at the 6th, a long, short hole, the 6th hole, it kind of broke the dam of my patience and I let it get to me.

Q. A day like today it's beautiful and sunny and not similar to some of the weather you had in '77, given the advances in technology, is there a great risk that Turnberry could be dismantled by these guys in this beautifully sunny and freeze-free weather?
TOM WATSON: Well, I don't think so, simply because the flag positions can be managed where it's very difficult to get the ball very close to the hole. You're going to have to be putting your eyes out -- putting the eyes out of the hole to score well. I did make mention to Peter Dawson of the R&A after the Senior Open Championship I won there that the course is playing too short and I'm sure you're going to do something about that.
The bunkering, what worries me about the bunkering is they are going to constrict the natural flow of the holes too much. Now, I haven't seen the bunkering, and that's my only worry. I don't want the bunkers to be somewhat in the middle of the fairway so that it just forces the player to lay-up. That's just not the way it should be.
I hope that, on a sidelight, that maybe with our new rules of grooves that are coming into effect next year, which is just announced this week that they are, that the ball will be softened up somewhat to be able to deal with the less spin that will be coming off and the ball will be going maybe a little bit shorter than it is now.
It concerns me, it concerns a lot of people, about the length that the golf ball goes these days. I believe it should be pulled back to a certain degree, and maybe this is going to help.
But the golf course will -- I think the golf course will stand the test, even though we have perfect conditions.

Q. There was a time decades ago when the British Open was an occasional stop by U.S. players. Who or what changed that and made it more popular? And also, do U.S. players have an obligation to play The Open Championship if they are eligible?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think it's very clear the change in the attitude of the players is when Arnold Palmer went over to qualify after he won The Open Championship, I believe in '61, and he had to qualify the following year. He put that much emphasis and importance, and when somebody of that importance put that emphasis, the rest of the players followed. And over the period of the 60s and the 70s, it was a must-play tournament, with a few exemptions. But you know, the bottom line, your second question, is, yes, everybody has an obligation to play in what I call the world 'Open' of golf, the world Open Championship.

Q. When you look back, how often do you look back at this? Do you watch tapes of this?
TOM WATSON: No, I don't. Although I have been -- when I was playing at Turnberry in the Senior Open Championship, they had the loop of the '77 Open Championship running continuously on the monitors in the clubhouse there. So I had to kind of stop by; yeah, that was a pretty good shot; or, how did Jack do that?
No, I don't go back in the quietness of my home and relive that. It's past, but it's a wonderful memory, there's not a question. And it's a wonderful time to go back and relive that, and our primary objective is to go back there and play well enough to compete against the kids.

Q. So you've never really sat down and watched a tape from that afterwards?
TOM WATSON: I've never done that, no.

Q. How much do you and Jack go back to that when you see him now or over the years how often do you guys discuss that whole weekend, because it was pretty much unlike anything else.
TOM WATSON: Well, Jack is funny about this. We have been asked to do combination interviews and talk about Turnberry this year, earlier this year when we played the Senior Skins Game in Hawaii, because Jack, he made the comment when they asked him a question about, well, what happened on the 14th hole, and he says, "I don't have a clue. I don't remember."
"Hey, what happened on the 16"?
"I don't know."
And I look at him and kind of smile, and I say, "Jack, let me fill you in."
But we have had some good laughs about it, and it was one of those championships -- I have to say, Jack was the most gracious competitor I've ever seen in the throws of defeat. I've never seen somebody be able to take defeat and give credit to the player, even though he's hurting inside, give credit to the player who beat him. And he did that when we walked off the 18th green and he put his arm around me, and he about broke my neck, he squeezed me so hard, he said, "Tom, I gave it my best shot but it wasn't good enough. Congratulations."

Q. I was curious about Turnberry in '94, I'm sure in some ways a bad memory, but I just wondered, how after such a difficult loss, do you then at a pretty advanced stage of your career, and then the next year you lost a really painful one, do you recover; what is it in your makeup that allows you to recover to the extent where you win ahead and won at Memorial and at Colonial to finish off your victories on the PGA TOUR. The resiliency, I guess, that you had; I wonder if you can explain it for me, your perspective on it?
TOM WATSON: It's just very simple. I continued to believe in myself and my ability to get the job done. If I kept hitting the ball the way I was hitting the ball through that stretch of time, and still have the same moments, even now, when I'm closing in on 60, I just had that belief in myself. I had a belief in myself going over to Turnberry, that, unlike my belief going over to the Masters and playing Augusta National, that course is out of my league now because of the distance that you have to carry the ball on holes like 14 and 17; and to hit the proper iron shots into the greens, I'm at such a disadvantage there.
But conversely, I can play links golf courses, I can get the ball running and I can hit the proper shots into the greens, and the greens are designed where you can role the ball on the greens. You can bounce it and there are methods of getting the ball to the green other than in the air; it's designed that way.
So I have a belief in myself that I can still do that. And if I'm hitting on all cylinders, I can make a run, I believe in that. So that was my belief factor back then and my ability and it still remains today.

Q. I was there in '77 and walking the course on Sunday and, I remember this situation because the Scottish gallery was getting out of hand, but I don't remember whether it was the 9th or the 10th fairway that you and Jack both put your bags down and told the officials, that we are not hitting another shot until you get this crowd under control; is that right?
TOM WATSON: Well, it wasn't delivered to the steward like that, Furman. That was the effect it was having. Jack graciously went to the steward and said, "We really can't continue to play golf like this and having to wait continuously for the crowd to pass in front, and we had to keep a certain pace there." That's the way he put it to the steward, and the steward, he relayed that to the other stewards, and the crowd was somewhat -- they did what was asked of them. They were very gracious.

Q. Well, they were full of fire that day.
TOM WATSON: They were. They were running. The only thing about it, it was dry and dusty, and as I've said many times before, the 14 tee, we were waiting for the crowd to cross in the crosswalk up in front of the tee here about 60 or 70 yards, and it was dust and we were looking into the evening sun there and it was like a fog, it was so dusty. It was spiritual, kind of reminded you of Golf in the Kingdom, Michael Murphy.

Q. Was it on the 9th fairway or 10th fairway?
TOM WATSON: It was the 9th and we were walking back to the tee back there.

Q. That's one of the great tournaments, my first British Open, and one of the great ones I shall ever see in all my lifetime.
TOM WATSON: And I'm grateful to be a part of it.

Q. What a great finish. Good luck and have a good run this year. I guess it's going to be a bit different, but you've got a few of us old goats in there that still think you can win.
TOM WATSON: I believe the same, Furman. Thanks for your confidence.

Q. Jack said something last month that I thought was kind of intriguing. He said, "Watson and Trevino probably played me better than anybody." Did you feel that way?
TOM WATSON: Well, one of the things -- I believe that -- my goal, my goal was to beat the best, and the best was Jack. And it was also Lee at the time, too, and Johnny Miller. Those were the players that I as expired to conquer, if you will.
But Jack was the No. 1 guy. I put myself in position to win and I won a few times with him. He won a lot more times than I have, but I got my licks in, and as luck would have it, I won a few times.

Q. And secondly, Harrington is going for obviously his third straight Open this year, and you had a chance at that in '84 and came up close, I think you were leading going into the last day at St. Andrews that year in '84. What do you recall about that, and do you expect Padraig will have any added pressure, just trying to become the first in 50-odd years to win three straight?
TOM WATSON: I never really looked at winning consecutive tournaments. All I concerned myself with was the present time. It didn't make any difference whether I had won the tournament the year before, and that's past history. It didn't help you at all to win at the present time.
So I've always kept myself in the present and never, ever thought about that. There was not even a luxury of thinking about it because it didn't make any difference to the way I played. It didn't put any added pressure on me. It didn't reduce the pressure. The thing I've always said about winning a golf tournament, if you play it on the same course where you've won before, you've learned how to play that course under the pressure of winning. Those are good memories.
And even if you lost on that course or you had a chance to win, remember what caused you to lose. So you use that bank of information, but you never thought about, wow, yeah, I won that tournament I'm going to win this one. That has no bearing on whether you can win or lose a tournament.

Q. From Turnberry, you come south and you come inland to the Senior Open at Sunningdale, I was wondering what experience you have of Sunningdale, and also, what your thoughts are of playing an Open over here inland.
TOM WATSON: I have played Sunningdale once, and thoroughly enjoyed the golf course. It had a lot of links character to it. I thought the bunkering has a links character to it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it's going to be a wonderful venue.
There's no -- I have no qualms about playing an inland course, as you call it. It's a wonderful course, and wherever they put it, I play in it. Again, I'm looking very much forward to playing the golf course because I liked it very much the one time I played it.

Q. Just as a hypothetical question, could you see the Open itself ever coming inland or would that be a step too far?
TOM WATSON: Well, I would hope not. They have such a wonderful rotation of golf courses from which they could choose. I would never like to see them go to an inland course.
Links golf, as I said, is it different type of golf. It's the real fabric of The Open Championship, the courses on which we play. There is no other golf like it in the world, and that's what makes it unique, and they ought to always think about that, if they ever consider going.

Q. And in terms of alternate years, '03, '05, '07; do we put money on you for '09?
TOM WATSON: If you'd like. If you'd like. (Chuckling) I hope the trend continues; let's put it that way.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thanks, everybody, for joining the conference call, especially thank you to tomorrow Watson sore his participation. Tom, best of luck to you at The Open Championship in a couple of weeks.
TOM WATSON: Great, I'm looking forward to it.

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