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July 22, 2015

Tom Watson


STEVE TODD: We appreciate you joining us. Welcome back to Sunningdale.

TOM WATSON: Thank you.

STEVE TODD: Last time we had you here was 2009 following an emotional occasion at The Open Championship. Déjà vu this week, it's the same scenario, give us your thoughts on being back here this week.

TOM WATSON: Well, first of all, Sunningdale is a wonderful golf course. We professional golfers, we look forward to coming to golf courses that we love, that we love to play and this is one of them. You look forward to that. Sometimes the golf course, that golf course doesn't treat you -- I haven't played very well there or you don't particularly like the golf course and you're going to play it anyway. This is one you look forward to coming to play. The reason you look forward to it is the variety of the shots that you have to play here. You have some blind tee shots you have to understand. You have to deal with flag positions on greens. And of course there's always the halfway house and the sausage rolls you always come back for.

STEVE TODD: There were signs at the Senior U.S. Open, the game was there. Give us your thoughts on game coming into this week.

TOM WATSON: My game going into The Open Championship last week I thought was in really good shape. I was playing well with the exception of my iron play. My long iron play wasn't particularly good and it got pretty bad there at the end. Kept the driving it in these small divots and depressions, the old divots at St. Andrews. I don't have the talent to really play those shots very well anymore. But I kept driving the ball pretty well and the putting wasn't particularly good. It was really good going into it. Yesterday in the Pro-Am, I took a hard look at the golf course and remembered some of the things that you need to have in your arsenal to play this golf course. And so it's fresh in my mind and I'm looking forward to putting it to the test again tomorrow.

STEVE TODD: The prize at the end of this week would be a record fourth Senior Open, and also a place in The Open Championship, as well. How much would a fourth Senior Open mean?

TOM WATSON: Well, obviously it would be extra special at my age, 65. I have to go through a lot of players to get there. I have to go through Monty and I have to go through Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer and Miguel Ángel. There's so many players I have to go through to get there. Ask me that question later on. I hope you ask me that question: How does it feel to be the Senior Open Champion for the fourth time.

Q. If you are Senior Open Champion, would you come back for Royal Troon next year?
TOM WATSON: Unequivocally, yes, I would.

Q. Tell us about that group that you're playing in, first and second round, obviously Colin and Jeff have had a lot of success on the senior?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, they have been running the tables in the senior championships, haven't they. I played with Jeff in the Senior Open. I played with him in the third round. He played very well. He's, again, another man I have to go through to win this tournament. He's playing very well. You have to kind of give the edge to a guy like Monty. Monty, he's probably played here, I don't know how many times Monty's played here, but he's had to have played here 50 times at least. When you play a course like that, and you're that familiar with it, you have an advantage.

Q. Steve mentioned earlier about the contrasting emotions coming into this week and also 2009. How much different is it, the varying emotions, in comparison to six years ago?
TOM WATSON: Well, the emotions, they are different. There was great disappointment in my emotion in 2009, and yet this year, as I said, coming down the 18th hole, I told my son, I said, "No tears. Let's have some joy coming down here." I've been around 40 years playing this tournament, and it was a joyous occasion. The only -- I have to laugh. The only thing that put a pall on it was my last two shots, or last four shots in The Open was a shank and three putts (laughing). How about that. That's what I'll remember, not the most, but I'll always remember that. I know Jack's last memory of playing in an Open Championship, he made a beautiful downhill birdie putt on 18 and I shank it and 3-putt (laughter).

Q. You just reminded me, it was quite late at night when you finished. How gratified were you to see so many people had stayed onto cheer you on?
TOM WATSON: Well, it was pretty easy because everybody is at the bars. All of a sudden they said, "Hey, Watson's finishing on 18, let's go." So they all made a mad dash to the 18th hole. So yeah, let's go watch Watson finish. It was pretty easy. Actually, I heard the proprietor of the Dunvegan, he brought a ladder out so he could see over the people. He brought a ladder so he could see. It's special. I said up there, walking across the road, the thought went through my mind that Bobby Jones when he played his friendly, years after he won the Grand Slam, and he came to town just to play a friendly, and he started out. And by the time he finished, as legend had it, everybody in the town was there to watch him. Of course that wasn't in The Open Championship. But I could just imagine him going up the 18th hole looking at the crowds the way I was looking at the crowds in appreciation and in humility. One word, when you play this game, the one word that stands out is that it humbles you. I don't care how good you are, how good you have played, the game will humble you. That's why everybody has said, written about it, who anything about this game, it defines and it reflects your character. It reflects the human character. Humility is part of it. You will be humbled if you play this game. With the shank and the 3-putt, I was very humbled (laughter).

Q. Talking about that relationship with the fans, were you pleased to see that Zach went along the line, high-fiving with the spectators after he'd won?
TOM WATSON: I didn't see him do that. That's wonderful of him. I'm proud of him but I'm happy for him. He's a tough competitor. I texted him. I said, "Zach, now you know the reason I picked you to be the last man, the 12th man in Sunday's Ryder Cup. You're tough. You're tough." He showed his toughness. Making his putt on the last hole, the 18th hole: When you do that, you make that putt -- he knew he had to make that putt, there's no question. And he makes it, man, what is it, 25 feet, and he makes it. And that's the type of guy you want coming down the stretch when all the chips are down.

Q. My first question was going to be, A, the difference, and B, the sameness, of St. Andrews and Sunningdale. What do you find -- because on the surface, they would be two very, very different golf courses. But there's quite a bit that links them, isn't there.
TOM WATSON: I think you could find some similarities in some of the bunkers here. They play -- there's some deep bunkers here as there are in St. Andrews around the greens. I think there's a similarity there. Of course the elevation difference is completely different. Elevation here, you have a lot of elevation to deal with. Probably the prettiest shot -- well, I know the prettiest shot on the golf course is the tee shot from the 10th tee hitting down the hill. There's a beautiful tee shot with the three bunkers there, just perfect alignment. Love that tee shot. And that's the difference. There's more differences than similarities, I have to say, there really are. The greens are obviously not as large and commanding as the greens at the Old Course.

Q. And the texture of the soil when you're hitting your fairway irons, is there a difference?
TOM WATSON: It's softer. It's softer, which is good for me. Good for me. Hard thin lines are not very good or old guys like me anymore. I remember Arnold Palmer talking about his game -- I can't remember how many years ago, but Arnold said -- I asked Arnold, I said, "How you playing," one pro to another. Not just a throwaway line; it was: How you playing. He said, "Tommy, I'm driving the ball perfect but I can't hit an iron shot. My iron shot, I just can't hit it." When you get older, staying with it, being able to turn out of the way and hit it, it's kind of hard for me like that. But maybe I'll find it on the practice tee tomorrow. Maybe there's something that can help me get to my left side. I'm getting it off my right side and that's not good.

Q. You said ahead of The Open that you were going to have a good old party.

Q. You left the media centre at 10.45 on Friday. Did the party start then?
TOM WATSON: No, we postponed the party until Saturday night. Actually all day Saturday, or all afternoon, we went over to Crail. They had a garden tour of nine homes in Crail and the people we were with, my younger brother in particular, he's an expert gardener. I grew up with parents who loved to garden and flowers and things like that. We went around and followed my younger brother around, as he was talking to the owners of the gardens, he knew all the different things. Found out about, who was it, it was -- Mrs. Willmott's ghost, anybody ever heard of that? Miss Willmott was a curator, a landscape curator for royalty, as the story goes, and she went around all the gardens she went to and she would spread seeds unannounced, spread seeds in the gardens. What grew there is this plant that looks a little bit like a thistle. But it has a beautiful flower to it. Anyway, that's one of the things we learned there. But the thing that I really enjoyed about that day was that my really good friend, David Wysong, was with me. We sat looking to the east there, Firth of Forth to our right and looked over here and saw North Berwick and Gullane, May Island over there with the lighthouse. We watched -- it was blowing so hard, the white horses are like that. We sat for an hour and watched the white horses just disappear. Had a good time with people walking by. It was, "Are you Tom Watson" sort of stuff. We just relaxed that day. We had a big party that night and it was fun. So we had a nice, relaxing day. Friends and family is what made last week. My play certainly didn't make it. Am I disappointed? I'm a little bit disappointed about my play but it was just a wonderful last Open Championship having all my friends and family there to be there, just to be there with me. That was the joy part of it. That was why I said to my son, this is joyous. Let's just walk up the 18th hole and embrace the moment.

Q. You've always been one for the heritage of the game and passing on to the next generation. You must have been delighted to see some of the youngsters that came through last week, the young amateurs, five amateurs.
TOM WATSON: That was terrific.

Q. Five amateurs in the last two rounds.
TOM WATSON: Two of them in the Top-10 going into the last round; one tied for the lead.

Q. And I think a couple of the young Americans tagged you during the practise?

Q. That must be nice.

Q. The game is safe in their hands, isn't it?
TOM WATSON: It's safe in the professionals's hands. It truly is; professional golf I think is in great hands. The game has diminished as far as number of players are concerned. That's our huge concern from mine and other players and what can be done about it. We just don't have the time anymore. This thing right here (showing an iPhone) is a culprit, social media, people spend the time here. They can't afford the time to go out without that and play golf. We have to deal with that. As I said, my dad would come home from the office and we would play three holes. That's a half hour. We would go play six holes; an hour. That's what's needed, that type of inspiration, basically, from a father. Or second level is professionals. Professionals really have to work harder to get new players into the game. There are lots of different programs. We have The First Tee Program in our country, and there's junior league golf in the PGA. There are all kinds of good junior programs, but we have to certainly work hard to get youngsters involved with the game early; so that they can get competent at the game so they can pick it up later after they are through with their boyfriends and girlfriends and later on in life and they can come back to it and not have to start at an older age when it's really hard to learn the game. This is a hard game to learn. It's a lot easier to learn this game as a kid than it is when you're older. Those are the dark clouds on the horizon. But the professional game with the youngsters involved with the game, it's in great steed. The future of professional golf is bright.

Q. Well, they were inspired by you, and now hopefully they will inspire other people.
TOM WATSON: That's the way it's always been. Players come and go. Expertise comes and goes. There's a beginning and then there's an end and in between, if you do things right, and you give it all you've got, and you help people along the way, those three things makes life pretty simple. It applies to the game of golf: If you do it right, meaning if you start off technically and you do it right with grip and setup, get somebody to kind of teach you how to swing it a little bit, then you can evolve into a heck of a player, if you give it 100 per cent. That's kind of what I did. See these young kids do the same thing. When I see kids out there, fans and they come up for autographs, a lot of times say, what's your best score. And regretfully, a lot of times, they don't know their best score. To me, I would always have that as a goal, to better the score that I made. And maybe that's just me. But when I have a kid and say what's your best score and he says 78; 81, well, all right, you have got to break 80. If his dad is around there, I say: You have to do what my dad did with me; you have to promise him five pounds when he breaks 80. I got a dollar. I got a dollar when I broke 90 and I got a dollar when I broke 80. But every time I went out it was: Can I shoot that score; can I break 90 or can I break 80. I remember the day I shot 76. I came in and played the back nine first, came in and those are the days when you're allowed to leave the flagstick in. And on the ninth hole, I knocked it -- I knew I had 80 made but I was about 40 feet from the hole and I hit the putt way too hard and hit the middle of the flagstick and went in for a par. 76. I said, dad, you owe me a dollar. So the kids today, again, they have a lot of competition in time, in time, and that's what we have to figure out, how to get them started. How to get them to love the game just enough to always stay with it. That's a chore. We have a harder road to go on right now with the game of golf. But there are a lot of people looking at it hard. You know, we as old-time professionals, we can inspire them to do things through The First Tee in Kansas City, go out and be with the kids, hit some shots that they look at in awe. Of course can't hit it very far anymore but at least show them how to slice the ball and cut the ball or hook the ball and hit low shots and hit real high shots, chip it around the greens and things like that. Show them, this can be done; can you do it; can you do it. This is how you do it. Can you do it. And see how many grip onto that. That's what we need to do.

Q. Tiger's gone down to 258 and it's a pretty unthinkable ranking. Is there anyway back, do you think?
TOM WATSON: There's a very simple way back for Tiger. He's got to develop a golf swing he trusts, bottom line. And I can reflect back to my career when my swing was in the tank. I was playing well -- actually, I was never really playing well. It was always a struggle. I was just competing with my short game and just trying to make a score. Until I figured it out with my golf swing and I did figure it out, late in my life when I was 44 years old, the golf game was really, really tough. I went through nine years where I didn't win a golf tournament, or won one tournament or something like that. And then after I figured it out, the game was easy. That's what Tiger needs to get to. He needs to find a swing that works and he trusts. It's there. It's there and it can be done. I know I did it.

Q. How far do you think Jordan Spieth can go in the game right now? Do you think he can challenge yourself and Tiger and Jack as the game's greatest?
TOM WATSON: I'm going to say exactly what Jack said when he was asked the same question of Tiger when Tiger was in the youth of his career. He said, "You don't know how far he's going to go." He's got off to a great start. But there's several things in life that can change the way he plays, and the first thing is injury. Is he going to be injured. Second thing is family. How much and how do you deal with a family? When you get married, fine, but when you start having kids, now you're responsible. You're totally responsible for another life and how do you deal with that, along with your career, and making your career; can you keep that edge. Can you deep that edge with a family. And the third thing, bottom line is desire. Desire is how long can you keep that desire to be the best and to improve yourself. How long can you keep that. Money corrupts desire and there's a tremendous amount of money out here that these guys play for. Zach won 1.8 million dollars or 1.1 million pounds or something like that. Money corrupts desire, if you let it; if you let it. You look at Jordan Spieth, he seems very well grounded. I don't know how many personally. I haven't sat down with him at dinner or been around him a whole heck of a lot. The Ryder Cup is a different situation. We are all pretty much on pins and needles there. I do know one thing: He talks about his disabled sister and how she has grounded him and to know what's right in life, the things that you need to do. That's part of it. Jordan will experience some downs in his game. He's probably already experienced that. Rory certainly experienced some downs two years ago, didn't he. There was there a year and a half where he really struggled and then came back and ran the tables. So things can change dramatically out here. We golf pros, sometimes we're this far away from perfect golf (indicating an inch) and we never can get there. And then we're this far away (indicating three feet), we feel like we're this far away from perfect golf thinking we have no chance to get there, and all of a sudden something clicks like that and then you're right in perfect golf. It's amazing. You go from lows to highs, and that's the nature of the game. Anybody who has played the game is like that. You've gone out to the golf course, I've gone out many times hitting the ball in the practise round just warming up hitting it cruddy. Get up to the first hole, let's just see what happens here and you hit a perfect shot and it's off to the races. You play a really good round of golf. And other times you go to the practise range and God, every shot's perfect, I've got it, you get in the first hole and you snap-hook it; wow, where did that come from, and you're screwed for the rest of the day. You're messed up. That's the way the game is. It humbles you. Get back to that word humble; it humbles you. That's the beauty of it. That's the beauty of the game of golf right there.

STEVE TODD: Tom, many thanks for joining us. We hope it's a good week for you and we'll see you tomorrow.
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