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July 26, 2005

Tom Watson


RAND JERRIS: It's our pleasure to welcome Tom Watson to the interview area. Tom is the 1982 United States Open champion. He's playing in his sixth U.S. Senior Open this week.

Tom, you're coming off a win last weekend at Royal Aberdeen. First of all, congratulations. This is your first win now in two years. You must be feeling pretty good about your game coming here this week.

TOM WATSON: Well, I am. I've been hitting the ball pretty well all year, and I've been struggling with the putter some, but I had a good streak on Saturday last week with the putter and made some putts, got back me in the tournament, and then I just kind of hung on and won.

One thing I have been doing very, very well driving the ball, and not to plug my company I work for, but the 460D driver that I used I started using just before Kansas City, didn't miss a fairway in Kansas City with it. I drove it very well in Detroit with it, and then drove it very well both in the British Open, the British Senior Open with it. Unfortunately today I hit a ball, looked at the driver the next time, and the top of it cracked, so now I've got to find a new driver. So I've got Max picking me up another one. I hope it's just as good.

The driver has been very, very good to me, and the putting has been the struggle. That's the thing that's been the big struggle. I haven't been making the putts that I used to make.

You know, they asked me, why do you play such good links golf? And I said, well, I was a good wind putter. When it blew, I could putt in the wind. Now I'm very much less than average when it comes to putting compared to some of the other guys out there.

But where I've made up ground is hitting the ball. I hit the ball a little bit better, hit the ball straighter, and that's the enjoyable part of the game.

Last week I should have seen, blowing 30 miles an hour on those greens, and you have to play the wind on a two footer, you have to play the wind, and you don't trust your stroke and it's a little testy, let's put it that way.

Q. And the wind putting is how it differs from others, it has such a role in the ball on the greens?

TOM WATSON: Just like I play the ball in the air when it's blowing, you have to play putting the ball. If it's a cross wind, any type of wind, it will affect the ball's roll on the green.

Q. And does that not happen in the United States on the different textured greens?

TOM WATSON: It does, it definitely happens. You're a little bit more exposed on the golf courses over there. There's not too many trees on those links golf courses. None to be exact. You're fully exposed to the wind on a lot of the greens, and you definitely have to play the wind. You have to play the gusts sometimes. Just, okay, it feels like a three inch break. No, now it's a six inch break, now it's a two inch break. This is all in the matter of a second before you play it.

RAND JERRIS: As a former U.S. Open champion, can you talk about what this particular championship means to you and the players this week.

TOM WATSON: The U.S. Open has always been my favorite tournament to win, my national Open, my national championship. The U.S. Senior Open is the same, when we play on the Senior or Champions Tour. It has the same meaning to me. It's the championship to win out here. I've come close, I was in a playoff, Caves Valley here three years ago. I think it was with Don Pooley, and I had my opportunity there to win and I didn't do it. But it's the tournament that I want to win most out here on our Champions Tour.

The golf course I played for the first time today. It's a unique golf course. These greens are big, but there's not a lot of pin positions. There are not a lot of pin positions on the greens. Huge slopes on the greens and just a few areas where they can put the pins, and if you're on the wrong side you have big, big breaking putts.

It's a very challenging golf course. It has good rough to it. You can play out of some of the rough, some of it you can't. It looks like we're going to get some rain. It'll soften up the course, make it play a little bit easier, may change the wind direction to the north, which will make it play completely different than it did today.

That's what happened in the British Senior Open last week. We played Tuesday practice round, wind blowing 30 miles an hour from the south, what happens Thursday, it's playing 30 miles an hour from the north and nobody has ever played the golf course. It'll be similar to here on Thursday if the wind changes to the north. We play the practice rounds Monday and Tuesday with the southwesterly and maybe tomorrow with a northwesterly and maybe get a little bit of a break tomorrow playing the golf course from the way it'll play on Thursday.

Q. You've had some classic battles with Jack Nicklaus over the years, and now that Jack has retired, you've just come back from the British Open, do you feel any competitive void at that point?

TOM WATSON: With Jack leaving competitive golf, you do. Jack has always been somebody I've looked up to to try to emulate, a lot of things he did with his golf swing, the way he conducted himself on and off the golf course. I've said that many times. I learned a lot from him, how he managed a golf course. I'll miss that. I always liked playing with him.

Q. Is there anyone else on the Senior Tour that you might lock horns with for some more classic battles?

TOM WATSON: We'll just have to see. I don't know who that would be right now. Jack was always the man I shot for because he was the best that ever played the game.

Q. You've mentioned that you've come close to winning this event. What makes it so tough to win here?

TOM WATSON: Well, what makes it tough, first of all, we play new golf courses every year, it seems like. We don't play like we do on a regular Tour event on a familiar golf course. We're playing a new golf course, seems like, every time we play in the U.S. Senior Open, so you have to know that golf course. Your golf game has to be in very good shape, and you really have to study it a lot harder than you study the golf courses that you've played a couple dozen times in your career.

So that's the issue here, getting to know the golf course before you play it. I studied it pretty well today, but it's still unfamiliar to me, and tomorrow I hope it kicks in and I get a lot more familiar with it tomorrow.

Q. You just came off the British Open, and now you're coming to the U.S. Open. That's a pretty heavy strain on you guys, isn't it? Jet lagged?

TOM WATSON: A little bit. Right now it's 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, and I'm ready for dinner. Tonight at the Nicklaus celebration it'll be 9:00 o'clock but 3:00 o'clock in the morning, so I'll be pretty wasted, although I do at my age take more and more naps. I'll go back to the hotel, take a little nap, get ready for tonight. I'll probably wake up and feel like it's 5:00 o'clock in the morning again.

This four week stretch, I started at the Ford Senior Players Championship, and I didn't wear myself out there, got to the British Open, played a practice round on Tuesday, just a few holes on Wednesday at St. Andrews, didn't wear myself out there. At the British Senior Open I didn't play all three days, I played two out of three days prior to the tournament, and yesterday I didn't do anything but just relax here, and I'm going to try to keep my energy sails charged up.

Before in a four week stretch like this I'd probably wear myself out before the tournament starts, and pretty much by Friday I'd be tired and couldn't get it back.

Q. Would the players like to see more space between the two majors?

TOM WATSON: Yes. In fact, next year we will have space. Next year the tournament will be at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kansas, over the July 4th week.

Q. How do you feel about the opportunity to win two majors in two weeks? And do you feel like you have some momentum given your victory in Scotland?

TOM WATSON: Well, I have some momentum. I'm a little bit worried about my driver. That driver really was a great driver. It's the best driver I've ever had in my life, that 460D, and I worried that I brought a backup driver that I used before on the Tour and I drove very well, another Adams driver. It's not the same one with the two screws in it. This one with the two screws, the 460D, is very stable. The one that I used before is a little softer shaft and I hit it a little more crooked. But I still hit it pretty well.

I've got that as a backup, so I'm worried about that. Tomorrow I hope that Max will get me that driver, but momentum, if that didn't happen, I'd have some momentum. I'm simply worried about that.

Q. Talk about the process of selecting a driver. What do you go through to make one that feel right or seems right to you, and certainly in a pinch right now, it can't be easy.

TOM WATSON: Well, it's not at the Adams trailer we have plenty of heads that are stored with the type of head that I use. We have plenty of shafts that I use. The problem when you put the two together is, is it exactly the same as before? Chances are it's not, so what will probably happen, Max will make me up three drivers, and I will see if they have the same stability and flight characteristics as the driver I had been using.

One of the quirks of a graphite shaft versus a steel shaft is the graphite shaft is a little bit less consistent as far as shaft by shaft by shaft compared to a steel shaft, and that's what worries me.

Anyway, I've got the backup, I'll go to the backup, and if all else fails I'll go to that backup and use that. I won't have any trouble doing that.

Q. Will that be done on site here at the trailer, at the golf course?

TOM WATSON: Yes, it will.

Q. So you'll be able to get with them?

TOM WATSON: That's the beauty of our Tour now. We're spoiled now. We've got all these trailers, air conditioned press tents, food in the clubhouse, all this stuff. But yes, we've got these guys on site, the Adams people on site, and they're working on it right now, getting the drivers fixed up for me to use, kind of like a race car outfit. They've got extra engines, all kinds of extra body parts and things like that, and if you break something, they put it right back into motion and you get the same thing.

But the key is, is it exactly the same thing? That will be the question until I hit it tomorrow.

Q. And can you find that out on the driving range or do you need to be on the course to really figure it out?

TOM WATSON: I'll be able to find it out probably about 95 percent on the driving range, and then on the course probably just confirm it.

Q. Are you hitting all graphite shafts or just your woods?

TOM WATSON: Just my woods. I've got a 3 wood, 4 wood and driver, all graphite shafts. The other shafts are what they call a GT. It's a graphite tipped True Temper shaft that I've used for about six years now.

Q. How long have you been playing with that particular driver that you cracked?

TOM WATSON: I started with this driver, Max gave it to me right before Kansas City. I put it in play and I didn't miss a fairway in Kansas City. I hit every fairway. I'd say it went right into the first team. I've been driving great with it ever since. I hit it longer and I hit it straighter.

Q. Tom, you're in great shape. Are you doing more to stay in shape, or does the golf, walking the course, et cetera, do that for you? And you guys are banging the heck out of the ball. It's just miraculous, wonderful to watch.

TOM WATSON: Well, I don't regularly work out. I work out in streaks basically. Like for instance, the beginning of the year, I'll start working out about a month in advance to get ready for it, but up until that time, I may not work out for a month or two. It's not a very good cycle, let's put it that way. I need to be more consistent through the off season or whenever I'm not playing. I've got a little procrastination in me.

Q. You look great. You look 40.

TOM WATSON: Well, that's from mom and dad. That's genetics. God bless them.

Q. Earlier you were talking about your putting, that it's kind of less than average lately. Is there one increment or one element of your putting that's just not coming together?

TOM WATSON: Yeah, when I have a short putt the stroke doesn't go straight back and straight through; it goes right off line and then I have to manipulate the putter to get the ball to go on line. It's always a guess. I'm not very certain with it. That's why I had so much trouble with it last week in the wind. It was a wild guess. I missed some short putts that it was ugly.

Before, as I said, I was a great wind putter. I had a short back stroke and a popping stroke like this. Now my stroke goes longer to the inside like this, kind of on a curve, and it's not pretty. The longer stroke is pretty good, straight back and straight through, but once I get to a certain stroke, way to stroke, where I have to hit a softer hit, it doesn't work very well.

Q. When did you get to town, and does this course remind you of any others you've played?

TOM WATSON: Well, I got to town late Sunday night, and this course is unique to me. I have not played greens like this very often in my career. These are certainly unique greens big greens, big slopes, not a lot of pin positions on the greens. When they do put the pin positions on the greens, they're going to have to be careful that there's not too much slope where they put it and that the greens don't dry out too much where it gets too fast and all of a sudden you get in a situation where you can't stop the ball by the hole. I don't think they'll get that way, but it seems like there's plenty of undersurface moisture on the greens to keep them just slow enough where they're not going to have that.

If the weather changes like they say, we're going to get some rain, then the humidity dries up and we have low humidity on the weekend, we'll see some different greens out here. Right now they're a little sticky, just a little sticky. But they need to be with the big slopes on them. If they get if the grass dries up just a little bit, they'll be all we want and then some.

Q. From an architect's perspective, what do you think Dick Wilson had in mind when he designed the greens as they are?

TOM WATSON: Well, he designed the greens as a championship golf course. I'm sure that was his directive from the owners. They wanted a championship golf course, and he certainly did it. He did it as far as length and he did it as far as the severity of the greens and the punishment for missed shots. You have to hit the ball very straight going into these greens, and you have to hit the ball they are large greens but they play very small. Augusta National is the same way. The greens are big at Augusta National, but they play very small. These greens don't play quite as small as Augusta's. You have a little bit more room for error, but that's how I'd compare them.

Q. Would you compare them at all to Pinehurst No. 2?

TOM WATSON: No, I don't. These greens, I don't see a lot of similarity, no, I don't. These greens seem to be a little bit more collecting. Pinehurst's are pitched up a little bit more like this. These have some shoulders where they fall off, but Pinehurst's fall off on all sides. It's just one big top hat. These greens have elements of that but not like Pinehurst's.

RAND JERRIS: Tom, thanks very much for your time, and we wish you luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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