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June 26, 2015

Tom Watson


THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Tom Watson into the Media Center. Rounds of 66 and 69, for a two-day total of 135. That's 5 under par and currently is tied for first place. Another very good round today. Started on the 1st hole and started again with a birdie.

TOM WATSON: I did. It was a good start, par 5 opening hole. I hit a good drive down the fairway, put it to my number, and I hit a good shot in there to the right of the hole about 12 feet, just trickled it in. But it's a good putt; good, solid putt. Then I had a birdie at the 5th hole, the par 5 there, knocked it in there with a 9 iron real close. And then birdied 9 and hit a pitching wedge in there from about 109 yards, hit it just to the right of the hole about 15, 16 feet, and just trickled that one in there too. I got it up and down at 8 for a par after hitting a pretty good shot, but it's a tough green there. It's just I hit it over the green. Had a real good pitch shot up there. And then I hit a lousy shot at 10. It was an unforced error at 10. I hit a pitching wedge to the right of the green from the shortcut and failed to get it up and down. I hit a pretty good chip out of that bad lie. And then I bogeyed 13, the par 4. That's just a tough one. The one bad drive I hit today, I pulled it left in the rough, laid it out, hit a real good sand wedge in there about 12 feet behind the hole, just missed the putt. I kind of played it the way you should after you hit the ball in the rough. Then I made a field goal at 14 from the front edge of the green. I don't know what happened on my third shot. I hit it right down there in front of the green, kind of the yardage I wanted. It was about 80 yards. And I think it came up about 13 yards short. I was trying not to hit it 80 yards in the air, but I hit it about 68 yards in the air and ended up on the front edge, and I drained that one long distance, made a field goal there. I'm sorry, 15 is the one I hit it on the par 5 there. Then 16, I hit a good drive there and two-putted. 17, I have a hard time with that hole, holed the green with a 3 iron, hit it on the front of the green, it rolls through in the rough in a bad lie, and I hit a really good chip out of that bad lie. Then 18, I hit a perfect drive, and I laid the sod over a 5 iron and ended up in the hazard short. Fortunately, I had some sort of lie to work with and hit a good shot and then I had a good par putt, just left it short dead in the heart. The two things I'm doing very well are driving the ball and putting the ball. The things I'm not doing well are my long iron play is below average. It's really pretty poor. Short iron game is good. I don't know. I need a lesson. Anybody have a clue? I can't get the ball in the air, don't hit it solid. I don't know what I'm doing. Maybe you'll find out tomorrow. Who knows?

THE MODERATOR: You said the other day that you were taking some of your own lessons from a book you wrote in the early 1980s.

TOM WATSON: Yeah, chipping. I made some good -- with the putting, I'm putting well. I'm very, very happy about the way I'm putting, and it's keeping me right in the ball game right here. Again, the tough holes with the long irons, I've not done well on, have not played those holes well. I'm going to have to play those holes a lot better if I have a chance to win this golf tournament.

THE MODERATOR: How much does strategy come into play? The par 5s, you played at 5 under the first two days. It seems like you're trying to lay up to a fairly precise number. It's obviously worked out very well for you. Has that been part of the game plan?

TOM WATSON: Today I was trying to hit a 3 iron at No. 5. I laid the sod over that one and hit that about 170 yards. Then I knocked the 9 iron stiff. Maybe it tells me something. Maybe my strategy on that hole is not right. The longer hitters can knock it on 15. Ian hit just a beautiful 3 wood there today. He hit a cut shot right there, landed short on that side slope, and ran up about 25 feet from the hole. That was the best shot in our group in two days right there. It was beautiful.

Q. Tom, you've had a hall of fame career. You've got a nice farm, great family. What keeps you coming out here grinding like this at age 65?
TOM WATSON: As I said earlier this week, the illusion. The illusion that I can still do it. I don't have the tools in the toolbox I used to have. They're missing. Some of the tools are missing. And so it's getting more and more difficult for me to compete, but I still feel as if I can somehow get it done. I'm doing two things very well at this golf tournament keeping me in the tournament. I'm driving the ball well, and I'm putting the ball well. The short iron games are good. But the other part of the game, those tools are missing.

Q. And do you get the same thrill seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard now?
TOM WATSON: I do. I do. To hit a shot under pressure that's really a good golf shot is why I'm out here. That's what I like to do. And when I get to the point where I, you know, I can't do it or I can't do it often enough to really satisfy myself, then I won't be out here.

Q. Tom, you mentioned it when you were in here earlier this week, but you seemed to intimate that you kind of felt like you were close. Are you at all surprised to be at the top of the leaderboard or near it? What did you feel then?
TOM WATSON: I know one thing. I'm not very close with the long irons, but I'm very close with the driver. I'm driving the ball on the fairway, and I'm putting the ball very well. I'll tell you, in a U.S. Open, if you drive the ball and putt the ball well, you're probably going to be there if you've got any short game at all. My short game's been very good too out of some of these lousy lies around the greens. I really hit some very, very good shots from those.

Q. So you're not surprised? You knew you had some capability to at least get it going?
TOM WATSON: I'm not surprised if I was driving the ball the way I was driving the ball and putting the ball the way I was putting the ball.

Q. How did you maintain your concentration and ability to get a pretty decent score out of it in the heat and playing with the lead --
TOM WATSON: The heat wasn't a big deal today. I was hydrated. We kept in the shade most of the time, as much as we could. We played at a reasonably good pace. We played 4:40, something like that. It's pretty good in the heat and a U.S. Open condition. That's a pretty good speed. The kids will be playing 5:40. That would slow you up and be out there an hour longer. So I said to these guys, you know, the heat is good for old bones. This old elbow here, it feels pretty good when it's hot, when it's got the heat on it. The body's loosened up. So that's good. That's good.

Q. Finally, when you take in everything that happened today and the first two days, just your assessment. Are you pretty pleased? Are you satisfied? Are you semi-satisfied?
TOM WATSON: I'm really grateful to be where I am because, again, the long iron play has been really poor. I put the ball -- fortunately, I haven't made any terrible mistakes, but it's been pretty bad. I've got to -- again, I've got to be hitting the ball more in the center of the club face and laying the sod over the top of the ball with the long irons. I've got a thought in mind that may be the cause, but we'll see. We'll see tomorrow on the practice range.

Q. Tom, you talked about you don't have the same toolbox you used to have. What you do have is you've been here so many times. Then you talked about the thrill of hitting a shot under pressure. Do you still get nerves, or are you completely comfortable being in this position?
TOM WATSON: No, no, I still have nerves, and that's -- if you don't have nerves, you're lying. The guys out here, if you're playing in this competition, there's an element of pressure that affects you. But the thing is I played under this type of pressure all my life, learned how to deal with it early on in my career and finally kind of solved the problems of not being able to deal with the pressure. But pressure can affect you, make you go a little faster, walk a little faster, breathe a little shallower. Take a deep breath, walk a pace just a step slower. That's what I advise some of the kids today when they say, how do you play? How do you play under pressure? That's what I advise them.

Q. Granted we're only halfway home, but at this age and this stage of your career, what would this championship mean to you?
TOM WATSON: Ask me on Sunday if I win. Right now it's a horse race for me. In my career, there have been about a handful of tournaments where I really felt I was going to win the tournament going into the tournament. Every other tournament has been some sort of form of a horse race. You start off, and you try to get there near the lead by the end on Sunday. I don't know if I'm going to be there or not. I sure hope I am. Ask me, if perchance I would luck out and win, ask me then. I can give you an honest answer.

Q. Mr. Watson, I guess a two-part question. Does this start, to be a leader over the first two rounds, does it even exceed your expectations? And as you mentioned talking to the youth and how to deal with pressure, what is the biggest distraction as you head into Saturday? I mean, you've got tons of experience. What tends to be the biggest distraction that you try to block away?
TOM WATSON: Well, you're always playing against yourself, and that's the main thing. When you're playing -- again, getting back to the toolbox, even back in my heyday, there's certain parts of those tools -- there's certain tools that weren't working very well. Sometimes the tools are working mostly pretty well, but there's one tool that wasn't, either your putter or your driver or your short game, something like that. But you're always playing against yourself. The bottom line is how am I going to feel and how am I going to deal with myself and be able to play this golf course? I think I know how to play it. I think it's pretty straightforward. Put the ball on the fairway off the tee is obviously the number one priority on this golf course, and if you don't do that, you're not going to win, and I've been doing that well. That's the priority. When you make your mistakes, can you make up for them? Can you make enough birdies to make up for your mistakes? Going into the last two rounds here, 5 under is leading the tournament, is the number going to be 10 under to win the tournament, is it going to be 12 under, or is it going to be 7 under or 8 under? It's supposed to blow tomorrow. So when the wind blows on this golf course, none of us have played this, except for Sutherland, have played this golf course with any type of wind. So that changes things. It makes it tougher. So we'll see what happens tomorrow in the wind and see what the final score is going to be. What do you think the final score is going to be, Dave?

Q. 5.
TOM WATSON: You think it's 5? Okay. Well, we'll see.

Q. I have one last question.

Q. How the heck do you keep doing this? How do you manage to, with no tools, you're 65 -- not no tools, but not the same number of tools. You're 65, old bones, you just continue to come out.
TOM WATSON: Again, there's certain parts of my game that are going very well right now, driving and putting. Boy, those really help you score. Put the ball on the fairway and make the putts.

Q. Would you say your mind is still as good as it ever was too?
TOM WATSON: I think my mind's good, and I think I have an understanding how to play the golf course here and what it takes. I'm sure I don't understand it fully, I mean, as far as all the greens are concerned. I only played 27 holes on this golf course, and now I've played another 36 holes. There's parts of these greens I keep on looking at. I know they're going to put a flag position here or a flag position there, and you've got to use it in your strategy. Boy, if they put a flag here, I've got to go over here. It's like on 13 today or 14 today, the par 3. That was -- I hit a really good shot there. I landed it short of the green, took the slope, and I had a very makable birdie putt on a tough pin position there. But knowing that green, after playing a couple of practice rounds on that green, knowing that you can't throw that ball onto the green and have it stop short. It's going to go, at best, to the middle; and most of the time, two-thirds of the way back on that green. Flag's in the front, you've got to land it short.

Q. You're having a lot of fun, aren't you?
TOM WATSON: Well, when I hit a good shot, I'm having fun. I'm having fun driving the ball. That's been fun. It's been fun putting the ball. See if we can get the iron game to work a little bit better tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: That's 22 of 26 fairways this week for Tom. That's third in the field. Tom, this is your fourth 36-hole lead in the U.S. Senior Open. Best of luck on the weekend.
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