July 23, 2003
Q. Can you reflect on events of 1977.
TOM WATSON: Well, the look of the golf course was different than it was in '77. We had one grandstand at the back of the 18th green here back in '77. Of course the amphitheater seats that made last hole look a lot differently. That week was a very special week for me. Wasn't quite as special for Jack but it was very special for me.
I was coming into the tournament playing very well. I had a very good feeling about the tournament. I had just won the Western Open, and a couple of weeks before I went over to Barcelona and I played in a tournament there and shot a 61 there in the final round there, a two-day tournament there, to win by ten shots. I came in here really playing well. One of the few tournaments going into the tournament that I really thought I could win the tournament just right from the first tee on. That was to come true, but there was one man standing in my way, and a pretty formidable opponent over here. Ten years my senior, Mr. Nicklaus, it was quite a four-day event.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't remember anything.
TOM WATSON: That's what you keep on saying. See, you lie like a rug.
JACK NICKLAUS: Actually, the golf course is very similar condition-wise to then. It was fairly dry and hard. The rough was relatively thin then if I recall.
TOM WATSON: I think we played a practice round together and the third hole, I remember they cut the rough I think it was 7 yards or 9 yards wide. They cut the rough because there was no rough, they let it grow up, and you went to the officials and said, you know that's a little bit too thin or too narrow of a fairway there.
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably did. But the golf course this year is very similar to then, actually. And actually, some of the tees, I know that the golf course has been lengthened, but see some of the tees we were playing this week were the same tees we were playing then. I just remember that Tom and I didn't play with each other the first two rounds, and then we were paired together in the third round, and of course we both shot 65 and in the fourth round we both played well. The long putt Tom made, I felt like I was in very good shape and fairly in command with a shot-lead on 15, and Tom holed it from off the green. I notice they put a bunker where he played before, so he can't play that shot anymore. And of course, I hit it about 15, 20 feet and I missed my putt and that made us even.
Tom had a pretty good chance for eagle at 17 and didn't make it, and I had a chance for a 5- or 6-footer for birdie that I missed.
I never had a problem with somebody beating me as long as I think I've given it my best shot and that's basically what I told you.
TOM WATSON: That's what you told me on the 18th hole when you walked off: "I gave it my best shot but it wasn't good enough."
JACK NICKLAUS: You just beat me. There's been a lot made over that golf tournament, and I think I'm glad to be part of it. I didn't want to be on the side I was on but that's all right. You're not going to win everything. Tom played better than I did that week and deserved to win. That was that week, and we've had only 26 years since then to talk about it.
TOM WATSON: As Jack said, the course is very similar to when we played in 1977, and the wind is just a little bit stronger today than it was back then. We are playing the Senior -- we are playing the Senior British Open, we're playing against a few of our old competitors here that played against back there in '77.
I feel that my game is pretty good. I struggled last week and didn't hit too many land mines. That's the way I feel playing St. George's. When you play around there, you're always looking at where you're stepping because you could be -- could you go for a double-bogey very, very quickly there and not hit a bad shot.
Here at Turnberry, the most modern of the Open rotation courses, you pretty much get what you deserve. There's not a lot of bad bounces you get here. You pretty much can understand the golf course after playing a few rounds here. But it's a lot different than last week. Last week is a course you never fully understand. And I feel my chances are pretty good. I'm playing well. Jack is playing well. He almost made another hole-in-one on No. 4 today. He made double the score he shot yesterday.
JACK NICKLAUS: Bad break.
TOM WATSON: Bad break. It will be fun. We're going to be playing the first two rounds together.
JACK NICKLAUS: Are we?
TOM WATSON: 8:20 and 12:30 or something like that.
JACK NICKLAUS: I didn't know that. That's great.
TOM WATSON: We'll have a chance to relive a couple rounds together, and you never know, maybe four rounds together, who knows.
JACK NICKLAUS: We'll have a good time.
TOM WATSON: I enjoy playing with Jack. I watch Jack's swing, and I've always felt when I watch somebody swing the golf club properly, it makes me swing the golf club properly. Little did you know, Jack, I played so well because you helped me play well by watching your swing.
JACK NICKLAUS: That's what I used do with Hogan and Snead, Boris, guys before me. I used watch their swing, and when I played with them, as I was growing up, I copied their swing. I think all kids imitate, and not that you've copied my swing, but you might have --
TOM WATSON: Something about the rhythm or just something about the way -- you understand how you hit the ball and you can make that adjustment just by feel.
JACK NICKLAUS: I've done it a lot of times with guys playing with. It's kind of neat. It's a nice compliment. Thank you. I appreciate it.
I actually feel like I'm playing decently. I haven't been scoring. I've been playing -- scoring just horribly. But, you know, I sort of feel like sooner or later, I'm going to break out of that and start playing some decent golf or at least putting some decent numbers on the board. Today was a good number and good day but it was only a Pro-Am. But at least it was a good round of golf and I enjoyed that. The golf course seems to suit me and so we'll see what happens. Tom and I will have a good time. 8:20?
TOM WATSON: 8:20 tomorrow.
JACK NICKLAUS: That means we have to get up early, doesn't it? So we'll get up and do that and we'll look forward to a good week, have some fun.
Q. Have you found something in your game?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I think by leading St. George's, my swing has improved.
JACK NICKLAUS: (Laughing).
TOM WATSON: And I don't mean that too facetiously. What I mean, honestly, is that St. George's is one of those golf courses where you are always struggling. It is just a continuous struggle to play St. George's. You never feel like you get into a rhythm. I've never felt that way. I've played four events there. I've never felt in rhythm with my golf swing or -- which then breathes confidence into your game.
I come to Turnberry, you can see your shots better, you play -- you pretty much get -- you get what you deserve here. And when you play St. George's, the ball -- on the first tee, you hit the ball out there somewhere and you don't know where the ball ends up till you get there. Similar, you play a dozen similar shots there, where you hit the ball and you won't know until you're maybe 50 yards from the golf ball where it ended up, whether it's going to bunker or whether it's in the rough or whether it's on the green. It's one of those golf courses where the anticipation is always great.
Here, you'll get a direct feedback from your shots. I found myself uncomfortable playing the golf course. Here, I feel very comfortable.
Q. Has Bruce had anything to say about the way you played at Sandwich?
TOM WATSON: I e-mailed him back and forth and he was happy about the way I played. I told him I needed to help me line up a few putts last week, but he was happy about the way I finished. His condition has slightly deteriorated from what it was at the U.S. Open, but he's on a little bit different regimen right now. They hope this regimen is going to reverse some of the symptoms that he has.
Q. Have you ever come across Ben Curtis?
JACK NICKLAUS: We gave Ben Curtis an exemption, our Captain's Club, an exemption for the Memorial Tournament this year. I don't recall having met him. I don't think I have. I was looking at a picture -- I've never seen a good picture to know whether I have or not. I mean, I'm sure that I've seen him. I haven't seen a good picture of him to know whether I really have known the young man or not. I mean, I really don't know him, but you know what I'm saying. But I may and just not know who he is.
But we did give him an exemption. I don't think he made the cut in the tournament; I don't recall that he did. But my wife looked on the news as we were -- we were in Moscow and she said, "Guess who won the British Open." She says Ben Curtis.
I said, "I'm sorry?"
TOM WATSON: Just like all you people did.
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm sure everybody said the same thing. But, you know, it's like a lot of things, you come out of nowhere, we've had guys that do that. I'm sure there's other instances of fellows who when they won their first tournament you never heard of them. Old Lee Trevino, for that matter. Lee Trevino was 28 years old when he won the U.S. Open at Oak Hill and he finished 50th the year before and had not played much in between. I said, "Who is Lee Trevino." Well, you know who he is now, right? Well, you may know who Ben Curtis is as time goes on, I don't know.
TOM WATSON: I watched some of his swings. I was impressed at how easily in rhythm he swung the golf club. It seemed like very languid. That's what impressed me. It wasn't -- you would think in the heat of the battle that thing would get really fast. It just seemed like he was just waving at the ball.
Q. How do you think Royal Troon compares with Royal St George's?
TOM WATSON: I intend to be at Royal Troon next year. It's a different golf course than St. George's. It's not as bouncy. It has smaller bounces, let's put it that way, smaller hills. It's a difficult golf course. I understand that they have added some length to some of the tees and all of the long holes. They have actually linked all of the long holes and these short holes look pretty much the same. I have not seen it, so I cannot comment on what I've heard. As they continue to do, they have to add length to these golf courses to keep up with the extra length that the kids are hitting it.
Q. You were the last player to win the Open on your debut - what advice do you have for Curtis?
TOM WATSON: On the first attempt?
Well, again, I was playing well when I went to Carnoustie and I got a break because the wind did not blow. I hung in there with a 67 -- I shot a 67 in which round, maybe it was the second round. I either the second round I shot 67, so I hung in there pretty close to the lead.
Going into the last round, the wind blew. The wind started to blow, and I'll never forget, I practiced over at Manafried (ph) Golf Club because the practice grounds there were not too good at Carnoustie. I had some time to spare because of traffic. I went into the media tent and saw Byron Nelson. I asked Byron, I said, "Byron can you give me any advice?"
He said, "If you shoot around par today, you'll be right there." I felt that that was probably a pretty good -- pretty good advice to take. I either shot 1-under or even par that last round.
Q. Jack, your first pro win was a Major too though?
Well, I don't know. When I won in '62 at Oakmont, it's one of those things that happened, too, I don't know. And I followed it up. I have no idea what he'll do.
TOM WATSON: (About Curtis) Quarterfinals for the U.S. Amateur, pretty damned good amateur player. Come on now.
The other thing that Jack did, and I don't know if he's right or not, he came over and started playing practice rounds early. That's right, Saturday, Sunday, took Monday off, 18 holes Tuesday, nine holes Wednesday. Now he played St. George's well; you've got to play a lot of golf on that golf course to understand it. And I think -- and he had a local caddie, or he had a caddie who had been there for Andrew Coltart and he helped him quite a bit as well.
So he had a lot of pluses going for him to understand the golf course. The golf course, I don't care how many times you play it, as I said, it's very difficult to understand.
JACK NICKLAUS: I won a tournament there when I was 19. Never played a good round after that.
I'm basically the same as Tom. I've never played particularly well there. It's always been a hard golf course for me. How I could shoot 83 one day and 66 the next and don't feel like I played any differently? It's just that type of a golf course. It was not that I didn't think it was a good golf course. It was just a very difficult golf course for me. It was a difficult course for you; didn't understand how to play it, had today figure out to you to play it.
TOM WATSON: Big golf course with blind-sided hills, bounces, three fairways you can't put the ball in, No. 1, 17 and 18. You know going in there that to put the ball in the fairway there you have to be really lucky. So when you're finishing the tournament, you've got a one-shot lead and you have to make a couple birdies to put the ball in the fairway there, 17 and 18 those two tough greens to control it, you say, well, how do I do it? You can take an iron off 17 and lay it back and then chase one in, lay an iron off 17 tee, you still have to hit it in like a 12-yard area on the right-hand side and hope it stay there or it goes in the rough and then you're hitting a 3-iron into the wind.
JACK NICKLAUS: It's like playing the ninth hole here about 18 times.
TOM WATSON: That's about right.
The first two days, they were as tough as you are going to get and the last two days, they eased up.
TOM WATSON: Well, the first two rounds they had the most difficult position they could put it in, last two rounds they were easier. That's what happened.
Q. Tom, you have had good rounds this year but not for all four days, can you keep it going here?
TOM WATSON: My track record, no.
JACK NICKLAUS: He's playing very well. He's hitting the ball well. He's had some great rounds this year. He's had some good tournaments he has not been able to quite finish off. I think an awful lot of that has been pressure he's put on himself but he's playing very well and he's been playing well all year. This golf course will play a lot more consistent than a lot of other places for the exact reasons he stated earlier.
Q. All four majors have been won by first timers this year - what does that say about guys like Mickelson?
JACK NICKLAUS: In my opinion, I've said all along that somebody is going to start stepping up. And competing and winning other than Tiger. Tiger's competition is going to come in the future, not in the past. Some of the guys in the past may get better. Certainly Mickelson is an awfully good player and Davis Love and Vijay and Ernie, Els, there's no question about that. And Ernie has won a little bit more than the others, but they are all good players. But they haven't stepped up as much as what Tiger has stepped up.
His competition is going to come from the young kids, say, Ben Curtis or whomever it might be. Those young kids, those guys are going to get more confident. It's a little different than when Tom and I were playing. It wasn't just Tom and I playing golf. There were ten others guys: You had Weiskopf, Miller, Palmer, player, Trevino, guys that all could win and had won major championships and had a history of doing so. When you start to get some young guys and different guys getting a history of winning, then Tiger's competition becomes much more difficult.
Tiger is a terrific player and I don't think there's a better player out there, and I don't know in this case whether there is a better player out there. But you can't have it all to yourself all your life. You're going to get some other guys that are going to play golf.
TOM WATSON: I think that you're going to see Tiger win quite a few more major championships.
JACK NICKLAUS: Sure.
TOM WATSON: There's not a question. He stepped up, he's raised the bar right here. Nobody has been able -- everybody else is right here at this table. There's going to be somebody that's going to be able to get over that bar, maybe not consistently, but challenge him. I think if you're all asking, who is that going to be, well, Jack said it's going to come from the future. If it's going to come from the future, I think Ernie Els is the man. He can do it. He's the got the strength, he's got the touch. He's right there. If anybody's going to do it, Ernie, in the present tense, is going to do it.
JACK NICKLAUS: I mean, the guys today, yes, they will win and Ernie -- what I'm saying is there will be a lot of guys coming from the future that we have not heard of that will add to that.
TOM WATSON: Add to the pressure, or add not to the pressure, but there's a mix of beating Tiger.
Q. Do you think the game needs the rivalry you and Tom used to have?
JACK NICKLAUS: Doesn't hurt it. Absolutely. It's good for the game. Right now, Tom is right because Tiger is up here and everybody else is jumping up and trying to catch him. There really is not a rivalry right now. The best player is Ernie, I think, too. But it's -- we don't know. I mean, it may be Phillip Francis. Never heard of Phillip Francis, have you?
TOM WATSON: Could be Fay McCoven (ph).
JACK NICKLAUS: Phillip Francis is a young kid that's beat all of Tiger's -- what do you call them, the one in San Diego, World Juniors? He beat every one of Tiger's record in the World Juniors all the way through, but he's like 13, 134 years old. But there's kids like that coming long all over the place.
Q. How long do you think the feeling of invincibility you used to have over the rest of the field lasted?
JACK NICKLAUS: How long did it last for us? Not more than 30 years. (Laughter.)
You have to feel that way. Even if you're not winning, you have to feel that way. I'm sure when Tom walked into a golf tournament he felt like, this is my tournament to win. I always felt it was my tournament to win.
Now, we didn't always play well enough to win and we sometimes got beat, but you have to feel that way and play that way. And the game of golf is a game where if you're winning 20 or 30 percent of the time, you're dominating the game. Tiger has been doing that maybe in excess of that. I'm sure he walks into a tournament and when he doesn't win, he's trying to figure out why.
TOM WATSON: If he's in a slump.
JACK NICKLAUS: Sure. That started a long time ago. I don't know what that period would have been. I think Tom probably was -- '75 to --
TOM WATSON: It was really '77 to '85. Jack was not too far off 30 years.
JACK NICKLAUS: Ten years in front of that.
TOM WATSON: Thirty years for Jack.
JACK NICKLAUS: Not really.
JACK NICKLAUS: Never realized it. That's why we are here. You don't ever realize it. I don't mean that in a cocky way by any means. That's why we are both playing golf. I mean I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I was competitive and didn't think I could win. If I play well, I think I've got a very good chance of winning this golf tournament. Tom feels like if he plays well, he'll have a very good chance of winning this golf tournament. There's a lot of guys in the field that don't feel that way.
I haven't played worth ten cents for the last few years but that doesn't mean I don't feel like I can still play and if I don't get something going I don't remember how to play because I didn't think I will. And if I didn't feel that way, I'll hang it up and I'm not going to fall off of that. I'm not going to play a whole lot longer. I don't want to be out here just beating the ball around. That's what keeps us both going. We both Love the competition. We both love -- we'll do tomorrow. I may still be ten years older than Tom and out of his league right now, but I'm is still going to try too beat his rear end tomorrow and he's going to try to beat mine. That's the way it should be. And we're both trying to beat everybody else, too.
But basically we are trying to control ourselves because we are the only ones that we can really control.
When I'm playing with Tom, I won't even know Tom is on the golf course from my golfing standpoint. I'm going to play my golf game and he's going to play his golf game, and when we get done, that's when we hope our scores will beat somebody else and that's all that you can ever do is control what you do.
We'll have a good time because we are good friends and we've enjoyed the competition and enjoyed playing against each other. But it's the competitive spirit and the feelings you get inside you that you feel like you have a chance to go out there and beat the course and beat yourself and beat other people, too.
TOM WATSON: There's nothing like going out and hitting a dead solid 3-wood into the 16th hole and a 35-mile-an-hour wind in your face making 3 like he did today.
JACK NICKLAUS: We all hit 3-woods that made 3.
TOM WATSON: Even if it's in a practice round.
JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, sure.
TOM WATSON: It just gives you a shot of adrenaline. It gives you a shot of, yeah, I can do it, and you build off that. You say, God, I hope the conditions are like that tomorrow so that I can do it again.
If I can do that shot again, I'll beat the whole field. That's the joy we have about playing this game, hitting that perfect shot, a lot of times or close to that perfect shot a lot of times during a round of golf or during the course of a tournament. You're all golfers, or most of you golfers or call yourselves golfers. And you know how much joy there is to hit that shot that you remember for that day. We had the same feeling.
So that's what brings us out. But we do it under competition. Do you it for five quid. We do it under competition.
Q. Jack's hole in one in practice yesterday?
JACK NICKLAUS: I made one at St. George's and I made one at Birkdale -- I'm sorry, Lytham. I made the fifth hole at Lytham and 6th at St. George's.
What was fun today, we sit on the tee today and I said, you know, I said, "Has anybody ever made two in a row on the same hole?"
And Tom said, "Yeah."
I said, "Have you?"
He said, "No," but he said, "this is your 20th chance." And I hit an 8-iron, it just missed the right edge of the hole about this far and ran by, about, what, five, six feet?
TOM WATSON: Yeah.
JACK NICKLAUS: That much less, and I would have had two of the same. I was expecting you out there to film that, but you weren't there. (Laughing).
JACK NICKLAUS: No. I think it's really kind of funny, well, because my eyes are not that good, I haven't seen many hole-in-ones.
TOM WATSON: You also shrunk an inch. You're a little shorter.
JACK NICKLAUS: I've shrunk about two inches. I would have seen it about 20 years ago.
Q. You played with Gordon Sherry in the practice rounds before the 1995 Open at St Andrews. Does it surprise you that he hasn't progressed in the game?
JACK NICKLAUS: 11. What's he doing?
Q. Just playing low level pro tours.
JACK NICKLAUS: He has a lot of talent. We have a lot of kids that have a of talent that just don't quite get the right break at the right time or gain the confidence that you need or you lose the confidence that you had. Happens to a lot of people. He may re-gain it.
I fully expect Tiger to break the number of majors that I've had because that's been his goal and I think he's a very goal-oriented the young man. He's got a tremendous work ethic. He works very hard. But, who knows. He's going to need an awful lot of things happen right way to do that. He's got to have good health. He's going to have to make the right putts at the right time. He's going to lose some like he did last week, but, you know, is that an easy record? Is that a gimmee? It's by far not a gimmee, but I fully expect him, with his talent, I think he's got a good chance to get there and he probably will. Do you think that's probably correct?
TOM WATSON: Yeah. You look, he's got to win ten more majors -- 11 more majors, put it that way. That's a lot of majors.
I've finally just begun to understand the language over here. I'll never forget when I won that British Open, I went to the -- trying to think which one, it was -- I went to British Airways. We were taking the plane down to London and they wanted to get a picture of me with the trophy in front of the aircraft with the pilots. There was a Scottish gentleman there who talked to me, walked me out on the tarmak, going up the stairs, talked to me for fully five minutes on the way out and I never understood a word he said, not a word. I was so embarrassed.
Then we waited for another five minutes and he kept on talking, and I'm still sitting there and I'm just trying to make out any word possible just so that I could fake it that I understood what he said. After it was all over, I said, this is a different language. Or he must have said the same thing to me.
The part that Scotland has played in my life is one of a lot of joy. I've had a lot of joy playing golf here, simply for the fact that the people love the game so much here. It's part of the fabric of life over here. It's been a fabric of my life since I was a youngster and my dad introduced me to the game. I watched my dad hit golf shots and I loved the game the way did he with his passion. It became my passion and I come over here and I see the passion of the Scots play the game. They love the game with that same type of passion my dad did. That's what the game means to me over here in Scotland.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you obviously know that I won all three of my Opens in Scotland. I've had the reception I've had from the people, the way I've been accepted and so forth and so on has been phenomenal. From the time I came over to 1959, I loved it, at Muirfield. To have won at St. Andrews, not only that, to have won twice, to have won at Muirfield that was probably setup -- I couldn't have had anything more different for me to win on. I've always enjoyed just coming over and playing here because it's a different kind of game, it's where the game started. People in our country don't understand the game the way the game started and was played here and I loved coming back and playing that game. It's been a great part of my life.
I think point people here embraced me right from the start and the opposite, too: I, them.
TOM WATSON: Did you play the small ball all three victories?
JACK NICKLAUS: '78 I won with the big ball.
TOM WATSON: It was required in '75, I think it was, wasn't it? '74 it was required?
JACK NICKLAUS: '74.
TOM WATSON: Lytham was the large ball? Small.
JACK NICKLAUS: Small ball at St. Andrews and then the large ball in 78, I guess it was.
Q. Can you tell us what is your favourite Scottish course and why?
JACK NICKLAUS: Not a chance.
TOM WATSON: We make a lot of enemies when we say that.
JACK NICKLAUS: Not a chance.
TOM WATSON: We may have mentioned something like that in the past but it's not the right thing to say. We secretly have our favorites but we are not going to say.
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