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July 21, 2004

Tom Watson


DAVE SENKO: Tom, thank you for joining us as the defending champion. I guess maybe first question, just talk a little about your health. I know you missed last week.

TOM WATSON: Yeah, I had to pull out of the last two tournaments. Around the tournament in Kansas City first of June, I had a weird experience with my golf swing. I lost power from some unexplained reason and I didn't know why.

I went to see the doctors and the doctor said I had some sort of nerve problem. I had a cervical epidural in C 7, which is in your upper neck, and that occurred about, oh, two weeks ago. And I've been doing exercises at the behest of the doctors, and try to get strength back in the arm and there was a real at that time there was a very apparent weakness in the right arm and that caused a very weak hit at the ball, and it seems like I've gotten most of that back, not all of it back, but I've got most of it back.

Now I'm a true senior golfer; I don't hit it very far.

DAVE SENKO: Have you had a chance to see the course a couple of days, just your thoughts?

TOM WATSON: This is one of the best links golf courses I've ever played. This is a wonderful test of golf. There's not a bad hole on the golf course. We played with some strong winds. It challenged me to break 80 yesterday, which it should, the way I'm playing. I mean, that was kind of my goal yesterday because I had not played very much. I went, if I break 80 that would be a pretty good score on this golf course after playing a practice round the previous day.

Today I played quite a bit better, and that's encouraging. I played better and I putted better. Things are looking up.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TOM WATSON: I couldn't hit the ball, you know, with the driver probably about maybe 230 in the air. Normally with the new equipment, I can hit it about 260 in the air. I had lost at least 20 yards in the air with the driver. It was apparent in all of the other shots, too, from the pitching wedges I couldn't get a 3 iron in the air. Couldn't get it in the air. It was impossible.

Q. What was it?

TOM WATSON: They say it was a pinched nerve in my cervical axle canal coming out of the spinal canal. I had a slight indentation of the disk going into the nerve, into the canal there, but it's not an impingement. There's arthritis in that particular joint and it's just a classic case. They are looking at it right here and they go like this and push down, and I have no strength and they looked at the pictures and said, well, we knew it, no big deal. Anyway, I just said, well how long is it going to take? They said, well, it could be two weeks, it could be three weeks, could be two months, could be four months. It's been about a month.

Q. Any pain?

TOM WATSON: I have no pain. I have no pain. I've always had a little stiffness there, but no pain.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM WATSON: Yeah, all of the said, I lost what's this.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM WATSON: Yes, it does because the timing is all messed up when you lose your distance. All of a sudden you try to make up for it and you lose it with your timing. I'm just learning how to play old guy's golf. I have to swing a little bit slower. Use the timing and try to hit it. I have some of the strength back, there's not a question I have it. I did my exercises and I practiced three days before I came here. Tuesday of last week, I didn't think I was going to be able to make it, but Friday it started to get a little bit better and Saturday, I made the decision to come.

Q. How many shots did you take off

TOM WATSON: How many shots? I didn't keep score today. I was trying to hit to the centers of the greens today rather than the front where the pins were. But actually, I played very well. I hit every green and every fairway through the first 11 or 12 holes.

Q. So a considerable improvement?

TOM WATSON: It is a considerable improvement, yes. But it was also similar to the swing change, too. Made an adjustment in my swing and that tended to help.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM WATSON: Sometimes the light switch goes on when you're not playing well. That light switch goes on and it just gets better and better and better. You get more trusting in what you're doing. You get that nervous confidence that you know you're doing the right things. Right now it's just kind of up in the air. Well, it may work, it may not. But there were a lot of good results from a lot of good swings today that tell me that I might be able to compete this week. It's up in the air. I don't know.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM WATSON: You know, one of the things I overdid before the British Open is come early, and there were two things that I two reasons why, simply, one is to get adjusted to the time change so that by Thursday of the tournament, you'll be ready to go and you try to sleep, an 8:40 tee off time as I have tomorrow.

And the No. 2 is to play links golf to get adjusted to the turf conditions. I've always had good luck on hard turf. I've played well off hard turf. I think my ability to get my ball up and down from around the greens, I guess that's always been part of it. I think to get the right weight on the shot, the right distance, judging how hard to hit it and if you're going to balance it bounce it into the green, how short do you bounce it? I've always been pretty good at judging that weight.

It's just been, there have been a lot of examples. When I've played well, the weight was right on, or I was very close. And that's the toughest thing to do in links golf is to get the right distance. When you're playing in windy conditions, bouncing it in firm conditions, to get the feel for that distance is I think I've always had a pretty good, when I've been on my game, I've always been able to do that well.

Q. You said a few minutes ago

TOM WATSON: It's up in the air. It really is. I don't know. I may go out and shoot 85. I don't know. I played pretty well today, and I wouldn't have shot 85 today, I know that.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM WATSON: He did, he played well. I saw a little bit of it. You know, you look at his history, it's remarkable. He really had a good history. It's great to see somebody who has paid his dues, that's an overused cliche, but he's paid his dues. Canadian Tour, Asian Tour, Japanese Tour, struggled to get on the American tour, got on there, won his first tournament this year; after blowing it and then winning the British on last two holes; saying that I have a game plan, going to stick to my game plan and hope it works.

Obviously his armor has been thickened by his international play. He did not have much of he didn't have any weak spots in his armor, it seemed. It seemed like he was right on his game. He played accordingly.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TOM WATSON: I think so. Todd has won a lot of tournaments. He has not won a lot of tournaments in America or over here, but he's won a lot of tournaments, and you learn by winning. You learn from winning. You learn from winning that you can win.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TOM WATSON: I have a game plan, yeah. I don't think it's a fully knowledgeable game plan because I've only played it in one wind condition. If the wind changes then it's a brand new golf course and I'm going to have to use the best of my imagination how to play it.

Q. Is it a question of using driver off the tee or on certain holes?

TOM WATSON: Certain holes you do. Certain holes you do, certain holes you don't.

Troon is a golf course on which I think I can compete against the kids.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM WATSON: Last Tuesday I was pretty sure I wasn't going to play.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TOM WATSON: No, I planned on playing a strong stretch from the Ford on through. I'm planning on playing the PGA Championship. I'm planning on playing of course next week in the U.S. Senior Open, and then the Tradition, the First Tee Championships at Pebble Beach, constellation. My stretch of golf was going to be through the summer and it didn't work out. I hope it starts to work out right now. Again, as I said, it's up in the air. I don't know how I'm going to play, but I feel pretty good about it after today's round.

Q. Inaudible?

TOM WATSON: Two, just the last two tournaments were the Ford Senior PLAYERS Championship and the Open Championship.

Q. Hamilton improved his chances of make the Ryder Cup team inaudible?

TOM WATSON: I think he would be a good choice. You always go with the players who are playing the best for your pecks.

I just did an interview, they asked me 25 questions about the Ryder Cup, and one of the questions was: What's the difference between the American team and the European team? One of the big differences is that the European team chooses their two picks a lot later than we do, which is an advantage because they can go with players who are more recent in judging how they are playing. We have to pick ours the week of the PGA, and there's a month there. In the period of a month, players might not be playing very well. You don't know. Some guys will take two or three weeks off, and that's not necessarily good.

The European team, they pick theirs, when, about the 13th of September, two weeks before?

Q. End of August.

TOM WATSON: End of August. So they have a two week push on us. I think there's a slight edge, picking your players.

DAVE SENKO: Thank you, Tom.

End of FastScripts.

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