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July 15, 2015

Tom Watson


THE MODERATOR: We'll make a start. I was just going to ask, in 1975 when you arrived at Carnoustie, would you have thought that in 40 years' time you'd be sitting in a press conference as five-time Champion Golfer of the Year thinking about what might be your last Open Championship?

TOM WATSON: Of course not. Back in '75 I was just trying to learn how to play this game for a living and compete successfully. I had a fortunate week at St. Andrews, not a lot of wind, of course not a lot of rough, and I prevailed in a playoff with some wind, and that kind of began my Open Odyssey, you might say. The '77 Open at Turnberry was the place where I really felt that I belonged out here on the professional Tour. I felt that I could play against the best and beat the best, and that was the goal that I eventually had after the first three or four years on the TOUR, that I felt like if I worked the way I continued to work, maybe someday I'd get there, I'd achieve that goal. And when I won at Turnberry against Jack, I realised that I could play against the best. '80 at Muirfield and '82 at Troon and '83 at Birkdale -- actually '82 and '83 is when I actually enjoyed links golf. Up until that time I didn't enjoy links golf very much. I fought it. I didn't particularly like it. In fact I didn't like it at all here when I first played here at St. Andrews in '78. Didn't like the uncertainty of it, didn't like the look of the bounce, just didn't like links golf. I played the ball through the air. I played it way up here. That's not the best way to play a links golf course, as many of you know. So that's kind of the -- and then had a few years in between, and then in 2009 hit at Turnberry, and as I said, I scared a few of the kids that week. They looked up on the board and they saw Watson, and they were thinking, well, that's Bubba. I did scare a few of them, and it was a disappointment, but it was a week that I'll always remember, being my age, being able to still compete against the kids, against the best, on a particular course that I knew how to play. And now it's time for my final Open Championship here at St. Andrews. This will be it. I don't expect to probably end up in the top 10. It would be nice if I ended up in the top 10, to be able to extend five more years. I don't foresee that, although I'm playing pretty well. I hope that -- I kind of just hope that I make it to Sunday. When you get to that position in your career, you're just hoping to make it to Sunday. Then it's really time to hang them up. With that said, I'm just going to make the announcement that next year's Masters is going to be my last Masters. I am not going to play any more after that. Even though I will be eligible to play, I won't play. The golf course is too big for me, and with my declining skills and length, I won't be playing that. As I said a few weeks ago, the toolbox is kind of half empty with the tools I used to be able to play good golf. Those tools are missing right now or pretty rusty, rusty like me. That's kind of where I am. People have asked me also this week about how am I going to feel. I really don't know how I'm going to feel, although I can start with some of the emotions. With my friends and family who are there, we've got a few housefuls of people coming over for my last Open. It's going to be wonderful to have them around, and we'll have a big party on Friday night. I hope that's just the in between the four rounds that I play. We'll have a good last get-together at The Open Championship at that time. That's pretty much where I am right now. That's where the state of mind is. I still want to compete. I still want to hit that shot that really means something under the pressure. I just don't think -- I know that I may have a few left in me, but probably not enough to really make it right. With that, I'll say farewell to The Open Championship, and I'll still be a part of it, still -- I hope to still be involved with The Open Championship in one way or the other. I most likely will probably play in the Senior British Open because they still continue to play on links courses there. Sunningdale is the exception, but they keep on going to links courses, and that's just -- I love links golf now, and I'll probably continue to play in the Senior British Open. With that said, are there any questions?

Q. So many wonderful memories from Scotland throughout your career. If I was to press you for just one, which one would it be?
TOM WATSON: Probably the very beginning, that Sunday morning of the playoff against Jack Newton. I was leaving the house, and it's raining, it's cold, and here comes a little Scottish girl, comes up to the front door and said, "Mr. Watson, please take this for good luck." I could barely understand her, but I finally figured it out. She gave me a little thing of tinfoil, and it was some white Heather, and I kept that in my bag for years for good luck, and it brought me good luck. But I remember that little girl. She was so sweet and innocent, but came over to wish me good luck. That's what golf is in Scotland, right there. She probably never played the game before, but her mom and dad said, go over and give this to Mr. Watson and wish him good luck. It's such a part of the fabric of life here in Scotland, the game of golf. People who don't play the game understand it. They understand the passion that people have who play the game. That very beginning kind of gave me an indication of what golf was like over here. It's a little different than in America. A little different. The people take it, I think, a little bit more seriously in their lives. They take it -- they play the game the way it should be played: Fast, foursomes, twosomes, this thing called -- well, we call it a birdie-bogey but you call it a little different game over here. The game is part of the fabric over here, as I said.

Q. Based on what you said earlier on, and forgive me for being presumptuous, but if you made the top 10 here this week, are you saying you won't take that up?
TOM WATSON: I didn't say that. I said I'd continue on the links courses in the Senior British Open. I wouldn't call it quits, no. No. It just depends on, again, the toolbox. The toolbox has to have some workable tools in it, and as I said, there are some tools missing now, especially distance. I've lost my distance in the last couple years. I don't have the club head speed, and I don't compress the ball very well. Every now and then I get it going. I got it going pretty well at the Senior U.S. Open. My long iron game wasn't very good, but everything else was good, my driving and my putting was very good. There's just some -- I need everything to compete against the kids, everything. If I don't have it, I'll know. I'm pretty honest with myself. I know.

Q. In your heart do you think you can challenge those kids over the next four days?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I'll challenge them. I'll be out there -- again, part of this walk in the next few days is going to be just the way I've always taken it. I'm out here to compete. I'm out here to compete in The Open Championship. I've prepared right. I've prepared properly. I'm doing some things right. I've got a game plan. I'm always prepared, and I'm going to compete just like I've always competed. I've never stopped competing that way, ever. It's not a ceremony at all. I'm still trying to compete against these players out here. The other part of it is the final walk over the Swilcan Bridge. If it's Friday, it's Friday, and if it's Sunday, it's Sunday. I'll be walking over the bridge with my son Michael on the bag, which will be a very special time, and I hope I'm fighting for the top 10 going across that bridge. That's what I hope. But in reality if I'm not, it'll be a great final walk, and I'll be -- you know, I've done it before. I've done that final walk before, and it's déjà-vu all over again, like Yogi Berra said.

Q. You spoke about how you scared the kids a few years ago. Do they scare you now by what they're achieving, particularly Jordan Spieth, what he's achieving at the moment?
TOM WATSON: No, not at all. I relish watching them and playing with them. I played with the youngsters the last several practice rounds here, and they hit the ball so much farther. They launch it. That's the way I used to hit it. I know what I used to be able to do, and I can't do that very well anymore. I popcorn it out there, it's like this out there, and they're just like that. They impress me. They impress me the way they play the game, but I've been in that echelon before, and I know what they're thinking and I know what they're doing.

Q. Is there one thing that you would have changed throughout your career?
TOM WATSON: One thing I would change about my career? I never look at it that way, no. What happens happens. I've got more than my share of lucky bounces because I feel like I'm lucky. I really did. And I've had some bad bounces, but I've had some lucky bounces, too, and I've had more lucky bounces than I've had bad bounces over my career, so I feel grateful to have accomplished what I've accomplished, and I hope that I've entertained people along the way. That's the thing. I hope that they've enjoyed my golf play as I've competed over these last 40 years in The Open Championship. I hope I've hit some shots that they remember. I remember shots. I remember Tiger's shot at 16 when he chipped the ball up the side of the hill and came back. I remember Jack's 1-iron at Pebble Beach in '72. There are so many shots that I remember. I remember -- the shot that -- they ask me about the shot I remember most in The Open Championship. It's the 2-iron at Birkdale in '83 on the final hole. I mean, I hit that just 100 per cent. I hit it just straight on. 2-iron is a hard club to hit, especially under -- you've got to hit a good one there, and I hit the best 2-iron I've ever hit. I remember that. I try not to remember the bad shots, but there's some memories there, but the thing that -- the shot I hit on the Road Hole here in '84. I just hit a terrible shot. I pushed it 30 yards right of where I was trying to hit it. It wasn't even close. Yeah, it could have been the wrong club, but I was trying to land the ball on the green like an idiot from an uphill lie. Sometimes you make the wrong decisions out here. Over the years I've made my share of wrong decisions, but do I have any regrets? The only regret I have is that it's the end. It really is. It's the end. It's 40 years. It's the end. And I regret I don't have the tools in the toolbox to be able to continue on.

Q. You've talked for a few years about how the length at Augusta has just been too demanding for you, and you've considered when to draw a close to that part of your career. Did you maybe delay it a year because out of deference to Ben Crenshaw this year and maybe even Craig Stadler the year before to try to give them their stage?
TOM WATSON: I still wanted to play. I wanted to try to compete there and see if I could do it. Through smoke and mirrors I shot a 71 in the first round, 1-under par. That's the best round I had at the Masters in a few years, but then I shot 81. And when you shoot 81, it's time to say goodbye. It truly is. Ben was -- that was part of the decision, I think, not to do the same year as Ben, but I knew my time was coming six, eight years ago at Augusta. I couldn't carry the ball far enough to play that golf course. You have to carry the ball on holes like 7, 14, 17. Couldn't carry the ball far enough to hit the greens in regulation. Just couldn't do it. No tools. It's part of the tools that are missing.

Q. The overriding sensation I'm getting, and especially in your opening remarks, is one of sort of melancholy. Are you going out with any sadness, or is it tempered with a huge amount of joy from The Open Championship, which I think is probably the major that has defined your career?
TOM WATSON: Well, it has defined my career I have to say, and there is a certain sense of melancholy. You can sense that. The regret that it's over. I said it a few -- a month ago, it's a little bit like death. The finality of the end is here. But what tempers that very much are the memories and the people I've met along the way, from the Keith Mackenzies the first time to all the way through Peter Dawson, who's been running the championship here for the last 12, 14, 15 years, to Ivor Robson who was at the dinner last night at the Past Champions' Dinner, who was celebrated last night as this being his last Open Championship, to the wonderful people at Prestwick Airport, the man who went through immigration. We were friends for years and years, a man whom I've never understood, but understood that he liked me and I liked him. Truly, he's a wonderful man, and we saw each other when we used to fly into Prestwick and go through immigration. There was just a lot of -- there's just a lot of good memories about all of this. But it's time. It's time.

Q. I noticed next door at the British Golf Museum that you played a Hogan ball in '77, which I was surprised to see.
TOM WATSON: That's right.

Q. Did Hogan play any role in you actually choosing to play that ball?
TOM WATSON: Not at all, no, not at all. I met Ben Hogan once. I met him at Shady Oaks in 1985. We were kind of in the midst of contract renegotiation with Ram and Hogan was interested and Ben wanted to meet me. I went down there, I stayed with Ram, but it was an enjoyable lunch. In fact, I was just there to -- I was down there doing an event at Shady Oaks and saw the Ben Hogan -- they have a special office there that helps with their wonderful First Tee programme right there at Shady Oaks. They have over 30,000 kids in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But in there was a bunch of his old clubs. Took them out, the reminder grip. I don't know if it was a string or a wire, a reminder grip, if you know what a reminder grip is, and it was kind of fun to put my hands on history there.

Q. When you hit that shot in '84 on 17, if you look at your face, you're showing absolutely nothing, and I'm wondering, did that come instinctively to you? Did you learn that from watching people like Hogan, or how did that quality in you develop?
TOM WATSON: I don't know. I hit the shot, and I hit a bad shot. There was nothing I could do about it. When you hit it, it's over, and then you've got to go find it and hit it again and try to get it up-and-down. I almost got it up-and-down. I knew I had to make the putt because Seve made his putt before I did, and then I didn't make the putt, and then I had to hole my second shot at 18, and I didn't hit a very good shot there, either.

Q. Relating to the kids and how long they hit it, do you think is it conceivable that this course, the Old Course, could be inadequate at some point to challenge the pros?
TOM WATSON: Well, John Paul, you ought to ask that question after Saturday. You'll see this course take its toll.

Q. Because of the wind and the weather?
TOM WATSON: Listen, the biggest defense of a golf course are the greens and the firmness of the greens. If you have firm greens, you can defend a golf course because you can put the flag behind someplace where nobody can stop the ball close enough to the flag to make a birdie. If they're soft, you can't defend the golf course. I don't care how long you make it. But you're going to add a 30 to 40 mile-an-hour wind on Friday, you'll see a lot of scores in the 80s. Equipment doesn't matter. When you have that type of wind, equipment doesn't help you a whole hell of a lot.

Q. You seem to be enjoying this press conference a lot more than the one at Gleneagles. What's your feelings now about the way that you were treated that day, especially by your own team and Phil Mickelson in particular?
TOM WATSON: Well, again, that was a disappointment to me, but it was disappointing. Phil was very disappointed about not being able to play. It was kind of sour grapes. That's understandable, and we just got waxed, the whole team, and the disappointment was just there. We let our hearts talk for us. You know, I did everything -- as I said, I did everything I possibly could in my own mind with the help of my captains and the PGA to do everything possible to have us win, and it just wouldn't -- the other team was better. And we had a chance to win it on the last day, and we had them tied or -- with all the matches on the board, we were up in the whole match, if the matches ended that way. We got off to the start that I asked them to do that previous night. We were in the right position there. Just didn't carry on.

Q. How are things with you and Phil now?
TOM WATSON: We're cordial. I saw him last night, we said hello, and yeah, we were fine.

Q. To go to a happier moment, a funny moment, the time when you are thinking was it Crenshaw and the boys got --
TOM WATSON: Paddy Hamner.

Q. Playing with the old clubs the evening of the --
TOM WATSON: Yeah, it was after 1980 when I won The Open there at Muirfield and we had been in the room celebrating, got on our coat and tie and dressed up to go to dinner right there at Greywalls, and we walked by the 18th green, and out comes from the door from Greywalls, a whole party of people. I said, where are you going? And there's Ben there, and I said, well, Crenshaw is going to play 10 and 18 with his hickory clubs and gutty balls. I said, well, I'll challenge him again. I think he finished third or fourth in the tournament. In my coat and tie, I go get my clubs or I'll go get my ball, which is a real ball, and we played the 10th hole down there, and the 18th hole, we came back on the 18th, my wife at the time, Linda, organised a Piper to pipe us up the 18th hole. We were having a great time. Got to the 18th green, and there were about 15, 20 people out on the green including Polly Crenshaw in her four-inch spike heels, and I can understand why Paddy Hamner came out and said, I don't think we need to aerify these greens right now. Would you please leave? That wasn't the real story, but that's my theory.

Q. Did he ask you to report to his office?
TOM WATSON: I heard they asked Crenshaw to report to his office at 6:45 a.m. sharp the next morning. I don't know if that was true, either. But everybody had a good laugh about it, and it was part of the story of that tournament. You know, we had some other good times, the times of joy after winning in '77, going down to dinner and seeing all the people at the Turnberry Hotel that were around the tournament at that time. '75 was just kind of unexpected in that when I went over there I started playing well. I made a change and adjustment in my golf swing, I started hitting the ball where I was supposed to, let's see what happens, and it happened. But the other memories I have over here were not directly related to Open play. A lot of them were directed to times that I prepared for The Open at Ballybunion and Royal Dornoch and Troon and Prestwick, and playing some of the links courses before I came over here. There was two purposes in that, one, to get used to the time-zone change. One of the young men I was playing with yesterday said, God, I have a hard time with the time zone. I said, did you come over on the charter from Iowa? He said, yeah. I said, well, no wonder. I used to get over here on Friday morning prior to the tournament just to get used to the time change. We went out and played some links golf and got used to the turf, and that was my preparation. I think it served me well.

Q. You said earlier when you first came over here you disliked links golf. Was there any precise moment where you changed your moment and you got it?
TOM WATSON: Well, I did get it. In '79 I was on my pity pot thinking about Lytham St. Annes and I wasn't playing very well and I was whining, I don't like this type of golf, it's terrible golf and it doesn't reward a good shot and you have to guess too much, there's too much uncertainty. In '81 my friend Sandy Tatum asked me, Watson, let's go and play some links golf courses that you haven't played in the rotation. One in particular was Royal Dornoch. So we started at Ballybunion, which we had just a wonderful time at Ballybunion, we played a bunch of holes there the first day, and then we ended up going to Prestwick and Troon, played Prestwick in the morning, had what you'd say was a rather long and lengthy and very unsobering lunch, then proceeded to go over to Troon, and the next day we headed up to Dornoch and played Dornoch, and in the morning it was beautiful, no wind. We go in there, Donald Grant was the historian at Dornoch and he had a reception for us after we played, Sandy and me, and we had a few pints and we ended up -- looked outside, and it had started to gray in the last few holes, and the wind was blowing and the rain was coming down sideways, and I look at Tatum, and I said, Tatum, what do you think? He said, I'll organise the caddies. So he organised two caddies, our original caddies, and we went out and we played another 18 holes in the wind and the rain. That's when I fell in love with links golf. That was quite a struggle, struggle, struggle. You occasionally hit the shot that really makes you proud, but it's always a struggle. That's the element. And we're going to see that at St. Andrews. We're going to see it on Friday. As far as the wind is blowing, we're going to see it on Saturday. You're going to see some major struggles out there, according to the weather forecast, and it's going to be interesting to see how the field copes with this golf course under those conditions.

Q. I imagine that at this stage in your career you have a better perspective on time and how it passes than you might have when you were say 25 --
TOM WATSON: It goes faster.

Q. Well, that was going to be my question. If a young player came up to you and said, can you either give me a piece of advice or explain to me what it feels like when the bulk of your career now is in memories instead of ahead of you, what would you say to them?
TOM WATSON: Well, it depends on what type of advice they're looking for. I've been playing with some of the kids out there in a few practice rounds I've played here, and I offered some advice, and they asked for some advice. I was just trying to help them out saying this is where you don't hit it, this is where you try to hit it, and they asked me my advice on No. 12. Mr. Watson, what do you do off the tee at No. 12? And I said, I still haven't figured it out yet. And I haven't. I don't know what the hell to do at No. 12. All I know is just try to keep it out of those bunkers and get it up there around the green somewhere and get your par and get out of there. That was the eighth-toughest hole in the last Open Championship, No. 12, 325 yards. It's tough.

Q. This is obviously a stage to look back as much as to look forward. I wonder how you would like to be remembered as a sportsman for what you've done and as a man. How would you want to be remembered?
TOM WATSON: Well, I hope people say that I did the right thing. I hope that people understood how passionate I was for the game, how I gave it 100 per cent, and I don't go blowing my own horn, but I hope that they understand that I've helped some people along the way. That's how I want to be remembered.

Q. You hardly ever played regular European Tour events, and now near the end of your career you decided to play the KLM Open. Can I ask why?
TOM WATSON: Well, I was offered to come over there to play, and I've never been to Amsterdam, never been to Holland, and at the time I was offered, I was playing pretty well. It's really kind of -- it's kind of depending on how I'm going to play against the kids. I've got to have the tools in my toolbox still in there working. If they're not working I wouldn't have accepted the offer to come over to play. I'm looking forward to it. I don't know much about it, but I know it's quite a good golf course.

Q. You said you don't have regrets or don't look back or wish things had been different. Is there any part of you, though, that '09 that you still wish that one shot was different or imagine what life would have been like if you had won that?
TOM WATSON: You know, I had so many times in my career where I hit a shot that cost me a tournament, but I had so many times in my career where I hit the shot that won me the tournament. So they balanced out. So no, I don't have any regrets on that. It was just kind of the luck of the shot. As I said about links golf, it's about uncertainty. On links land, it's an uncertain game, uncertain -- you don't know the luck of the bounce. You don't know what's going to happen. You don't know where the ball is going to end up until it stops rolling. You just don't know. I hit that shot at 18 at Turnberry in 2009, the final day, I hit it exactly the way I wanted to, and the ball apparently landed almost exactly where I wanted it to, but it landed on just a slight knob on the downslope, a foot short or a yard short or a yard past it and it would have been right there. But the thing that I loved about the tournament was what Jack did. He called me, and he consoled me, but he made a joke, and that was the fun thing about it. He said, you know, Tom, you hit a great tee ball off the 18th hole. Then you hit a perfect second shot. He says, if it stops six inches shorter, you two-putt and win the tournament. The third shot, he said, you played the right shot on the third shot, you putted the ball rather than chipped the ball. You gave yourself a chance to win the tournament. A stubbed chip or something like that you're cooked. But putting the ball from there on that cuppie lie I had right there, he said, that was the right shot. Then he said, you hit the putt like the rest of us would have hit it. That cracked me up, because he knew -- it comes from the greatest player in the game. He knew how to console me, and I love him for it. That was a very -- that helped me in a moment of turmoil, sadness.

Q. This has been a lovely trip down memory lane, some amazing memories, but I'd just like to ask about the game of golf now and the game of golf going forward. Are there things that trouble you and annoy you about the way golf is heading?
TOM WATSON: I think the professional game is in great stead. I think it's really in a good place. There's always going to be young people coming along to challenge. We're going to be looking to see if Tiger can make a comeback. We're going to see if Rory can quit playing soccer. We're going to see if Jordan Spieth has what it takes, and Jordan said it right, he said, I'm not in Rory's league. This isn't a rivalry, I haven't done what Rory has done. But that's what everybody is waiting for. So professional golf is in great stead. Where golf is not in good stead is the participation in the sport, in the game. We're losing participants. There's all kinds of reasons that you might look at about that. It's expensive, takes too long to play, it's hard to learn. Those have always been the three things about golf. I've always said that about golf. And today maybe they're more true than others, but I still have great hopes that the game will still survive as far as people learning to have the passion for the game. The game still has that hook, that great shot that you hit, man, I can do that. Whether we play 12-hole golf courses like Jack suggested, whether we build courses with bigger holes, 18-inch holes or 12-inch holes, I don't know. I don't know how it's going to work out, whether the programmes that are bringing in kids and trying to bring them into the programme, into golf, like the First Tee and junior league golf, things like that, those things are very helpful. Like Scotland had given three free golf lessons to every kid under nine years old here in Scotland. That's great. The girls participated more than the boys did, though. Why? Well, you've got a lot of competition in youth. You've got other sports. You've got other priorities. But the biggest thing is I still get back to is the social media, the time that kids and we all spend on social media, on our internet, and that takes time away from playing the game. I think we're seeing an evolution of life for us not just in golf but in the way we humans live our life because we're connected so much, and we have to respond to those connections, and how much time it takes away from maybe some of the more important things or more enjoyable things that we can do in life. It's there right now. I know I spend way too much time doing my emails and doing different things every day. It could be used productively doing other things. I'm at fault, as well. But that's the concern that I have about the game right there.

THE MODERATOR: Tom, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon. We all wish you the very best of luck this week.
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