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July 28, 2004

Tom Watson


RAND JERRIS: It's our pleasure to be joined in the interview area by Tom Watson. Tom is the 1982 United States Open champion and is playing in his fifth Senior Open this week. Tom, maybe you could start us off with a few comments about from a player's perspective what it means to be playing in the Senior Open.

TOM WATSON: You mean finishing 2nd? I can tell you how to finish 2nd in this thing (laughter). The U.S. Senior Open is played on very, very fine golf courses. This is a very difficult golf course. We'll get into that later. But they're difficult and testing.

I've said in the past, we out here, the old guys' tour, we have two really serious championships, the PGA Senior Championship and the USGA championship are the two big ones, and they really make a -- I think it makes a difference winning one of those two. That's not to belittle the other majors that we have out there, the Ford Seniors, the one we played last week at a great golf course, and the tradition, but we played a history of golf in majors, and the U.S. Open is a major and the PGA is a major, and this is just the continuing of it.

You probably want to know about my condition, what condition am I in, like the song said. I'm getting a little bit stronger. I'm not full yet, but I'm better than I was a month ago, I can tell you that. Basically it's a weakness in my right arm that's caused by a nerve problem that is really unidentifiable. I have no more pain in my neck, they've given my a cervical epidural, and I've seen some relief, but it's still a bit weak.

Anyway, it's just a little bit strange playing golf when I don't have the horsepower on my right side.

The golf course is as tough as I remember it. I think they've added some length on six or seven tees. I'm not so sure what the equipment changes we've had since 1992 that we're not playing it farther back than we did at the PGA in 92. I'd like to know the answer to that. I'm not sure. Does anybody know the answer to that?

Q. Less than 100 yards.

TOM WATSON: Less than 100 yards, okay, so obviously it plays about like I remember it.

The course is in great shape. The fairways are similar -- it's a similar grass that I've played on for many, many years, zoysia grass, and it's a grass that I know and I can play out of. I hope I play out of a lot of the zoysia grass, the half-inch cut, because the rough here is as deep as you want it, that you'll find at a U.S. Senior Open championship. It's very tough.

Q. A lot of people are pointing to you if, of course, the shoulder is healthy enough as one of the favorites out here because of your ball-striking abilities and because this is probably an approach-shot golf course. Do you feel like it fits your game well if you're healthy?

TOM WATSON: Well, in the practice rounds that I've had yesterday and today, I've hit some quality shots, and I'm pretty happy with most of my shots. I still feel a little bit weak at times with the longer swings and shots out of the rough, and actually I feel a little bit weak putting of all things, in my hand. So, it's going to be a challenge for me to compete this week, but I'm not considering myself out of it by any means.

Q. Nick Price said several years after when he looked back, he didn't realize how much Squeaky's passing affected his game in the year or year and a half that followed it. How much do you think the absence of Bruce is affecting you as a player these days?

TOM WATSON: Well, it affects you from the standpoint that he was a great caddie and he had an ease about him when he was on the golf course that made my life on the golf course very easy. Jeff Burrell, who caddies for me right now, is not the same on the golf course as Bruce, but he's still got a lot of contribution, and it's not that much different. I miss him as a friend, but I can't judge how it's affected my golf game.

Q. If you don't mind one more question about the arm, what kind of adjustment do you make, especially on some of those longer swings? What have you done to cut around that?

TOM WATSON: Well, basically what I've done is do exercises to get stronger. After playing all last week and last two practice rounds, I feel myself a little bit weaker, and I haven't done my exercises. That's telling me something.

Q. Is it anything to do with your actual swing over a shot differently?

TOM WATSON: No, I still make the same move. As I said, I just don't have the horsepower in that right arm. It's a Yugo versus a Vette you might say. That's stretching it at my age. Maybe a Mercury Marquis. A Cadillac has too much strength in the engine. I need to refer to something a little bit weaker than that.

Q. Can you sort of gauge, where would you put your game last week, what percentage of your game did you have last week? And also, has this been a frustrating summer for you?

TOM WATSON: Well, last week, I hadn't played for a while, really hadn't hit very many golf balls. I had hoped that I could get the swing into some sort of groove, and it seems like I'm in a much better groove this week than last week. I had trouble driving the ball last week, and I had a lot of trouble putting the ball. I feel like I've addressed those two issues so far this week, and I'm doing both of those better. So I feel some quiet optimism going into tomorrow's first round because of the changes that I made in my driving and putting.

Frustration? Well, there's not a whole heck of a lot I can do. I didn't have the strength in the arm, so what am I going to do? I've just got to build it back. The doctors don't know how long it's going to take to get it back to full strength. They said it would be three weeks, two months, four months, something like that. It took a while for it to finally get to that point, but it -- now, it's going to take a while for it to get back into some strength.

The good thing about it is I will regain my strength.

Q. Could you talk about having three majors in a short period of time? How difficult is that or is it in the whole context of the schedule? It's not hard?

TOM WATSON: No, the only difficulty in what we're doing is the travel, going to northern Ireland and coming back here and playing right away. This morning I got up at 2:45, and my playing partner out there today, Andy Bean, he was up at 2:30. I asked Bob Gilder what time he got up, and he said he got up at 3:00. We were destined for early practice rounds today (laughter), people coming back from the British Senior Open.

Q. At the outset, you mentioned finishing 2nd a couple times in this tournament, and also this is one of the major tournaments for you on the Champions Tour. Obviously the health is an issue right now, but after finishing 2nd those past few years, how much do you want this tournament?

TOM WATSON: I really do want this tournament. This is, as I said, a continuum of the regular Tour. The U.S. Open was a tournament that I wanted to win most, and the PGA since I hadn't won, when I won PGA Seniors, that was a great time. I had accomplished something I always wanted to do, but not in a reality of winning the junior tour's PGA Championship, but at least I got my name on a PGA trophy.

Same thing about the U.S. Senior Open. I want to win this because this is one of two premier tournaments on our Champions Tour. I'd like to win it very much.

Toughest conditions, we basically play the golf courses in the toughest conditions to be played all year on the Champions Tour. Whether they'll get it as tough as they did the last round at Shinnecock, I don't know. I hope not.

Q. One of our local players, Jay Haas, is trying to do something sort of unprecedented in terms of the two Tours. From somebody who's faced that situation, as you watch Jay go through this year and try to do a variety of things on two tours, how difficult a task has he set for himself?

TOM WATSON: It is difficult because he wants to make the Ryder Cup team. That's the difficulty. If the Ryder Cup team wasn't on the line, it wouldn't be very difficult to do. But since he's got to -- he's putting pressure on himself to make the Ryder Cup team and playing a lot on the regular Tour and picking a couple tournaments here to play. He picked the PGA senior championship at Valhalla and this tournament here at Bellerive, and that was a sensible thing for him to do, but if he wants to make that Ryder Cup team he needs to get enough points to do that or get close enough to be Hal Sutton's pick.

Q. If you were a captain, would you pick him?

TOM WATSON: He'd be one of my top choices, yeah, he sure would.

Now, as a captain, the way I look at it when I was trying to make my -- when I was making my choices at the PGA Championship, there were players ahead of Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins on the list, but the problem is those players seemed to me were having a real downtime, all of them. Almost every one of them was just kind of on a down. They hadn't played well, they took some time off because they weren't playing well, and nobody just said, okay, I'm taking it, I'm there. I don't know why. So, I went with experience. That's what a captain has to do. That's the only thing a captain has to do is make two picks. The rest of it is the players' responsibility to play and win matches.

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

TOM WATSON: Appreciate it.

End of FastScripts.

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