August 13, 2003
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK
JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Tom Watson joining us at the 85th PGA Championship.
Tom, welcome to Rochester. Some thoughts and we'll go to Q&A, please.
TOM WATSON: Well, this course reminds me of one of those courses where you -- this is a typical U.S. Open type of layout where you -- actually, it's kind of like Carnoustie. If you knock the ball in the rough, you have absolutely no play. Carnoustie, back in '98, '99, somewhere back then.
First and foremost it is an absolute must that you put the ball in the fairway off the tee, and that has got to be an issue with a lot of players. I was thinking about Furyk as a player who will probably do well here. You've just got to go down the list to see who is driving the ball well, who is hitting the ball straight and you have to go with something like that.
The length of the golf course is not much of a factor until you hit the last two holes and then it becomes a factor. The length, with the greens as soft as they are, they will still be soft tomorrow and probably into Friday and maybe they will get a little bit firmer. But the firmness of the greens is not much of an issue right now. They are allowing you to hit the ball pretty close , to get the ball to stop pretty close to the hole.
Every time I come here, I just think, driving first, and basically, if I can drive the ball in the fairway, I'll do all right. But it's long, wet and it will provide a great test, a great test of golf.
17, yesterday, played a little bit into the wind. I hit a real good drive and I hit a real good 3-wood and I couldn't get to the front edge. Now, somebody said in the locker room when I was having breakfast with him today, it says 495 yards on the card but it's really well over 500 yards now. I don't know whether that's a fact or not but it certainly played over 500 yards yesterday for me.
17, it's a tough hole in the fact that you drive the ball in the fairway, but if you could get a downhill lie to that uphill green, that causes a problem. So you've got two real tough finishing holes, but at least you can put the ball in the fairway unlike you could at Royal St. George's, last two finishing holes, 17 and 18.
Q. You're in a stretch of eight majors in a row, you have to play nine by the end of the year, could you talk about that, and also about just how tough it is with what you're going through with the emotions of Bruce, it's hard not to get up for majors, let alone with the extra?
TOM WATSON: It's not too difficult playing what I played. But what happens to me is I get a little bit tired of a stretch of golf and the last two weeks I just recharged my batteries to get ready for this week, and I'll be playing at the Tradition, which is our last major in the Champions Tour in a couple of weeks. That gives you a background there.
But Bruce, I'm going to miss him. I've got a caddie who is caddying for me this week who has caddied on the Tour before. He's a good caddie. He has not caddied a lot in the last few years; he's been making his fortune in the securities business and he's retired. I don't know how much I'm going to have to pay him this week. That's the thing, he may not get quite as much as the needy, as in Bruce, but he's ready. He's ready for me this week.
As far as Bruce's condition is concerned, he's basically holding in there, getting a little bit worse as far as his disease is concerned, as is the path of the disease. It takes you down slowly but surely, and he's trying this week -- he's in the Bahamas trying a therapy that's supposed to arrest the deterioration of his motor neurons. That can be encouraging.
But what was really encouraging, this past week it was publicized that a new way of getting an insulin-like growth factor directly to the spinal cord, to be technical about it, has been achieved in mouse studies, and that would be the biggest jump in the treatment for ALS that we have seen in basically the history of and the treatment of it. So we are getting closer there.
The fact that there are other things that can go along with that, that will be discovered and in the process of being discovered.
What we are hoping for is a cocktail, much like the AIDS victims take to solve their problem with AIDS, we will try to do the same thing with ALS. That's kind of the direction that people are pointing. There's going to be several factors that you can administer to the patient that will in combination help the patient slow down the disease to a standstill.
Q. Before the Senior British Open, Bruce had predicted that you were going to go across the Atlantic and win. Did he make any predictions for this week's tournament?
TOM WATSON: He didn't make any predictions for this week. I'm worried now. (Smiling).
I've traditionally had a hard time on this golf course, by not putting the ball in the fairway as consistently as you need to. I just find this a very, very challenging difficult golf course.
Q. Given Bruce's condition, Donnie Watts (ph) got multiple sclerosis and had to retire, is there a need for the Tour to come up with some kind of health care situation for the caddies?
TOM WATSON: That's a good question. I don't have an answer for that. I simply don't.
Q. You're an inspiration to all golfers, especially those of us in your same age category, can you explain the keys to your resurgence this year?
TOM WATSON: Well, the main key in the last few weeks has been my putting. I mean, I made everything at the Senior British Open. I shouldn't have won that tournament by two factors, one, that Carl Mason double-bogeyed the last hole.
But the other, I made 11 or 12 putts over 20 feet during the week. When you do that, you certainly make up for a lot of mistakes, which I was making that week.
My iron play wasn't particularly on, so I was a long way from the hole, but I kept on making these long putts and I kept myself there. So that's the resurgence.
As your putter goes, so does your game and so does your attitude.
Q. What is it like to come to a course like Oak Hill that has such a storied tradition, and how do you gear up to play at a course like this, which goes back to Walter Hagen's days?
TOM WATSON: Well, it's a beautiful golf course from the standpoint of its maturity and its history. It's fun to play on the same golf courses as the past champions. The people who have won here have been great golfers. That gets to the point of, how has the course changed. Well, they made it too long, but they have had to and that begs the question of what do you do about it. And we've given it a long, drawn out discussion about equipment and golf balls and whether they go too far or not, which I think they do, and try to come up with a solution or questions that we should ask the USGA and PGA to reduce the distance that the golf ball goes.
I want to see the golf courses play as similarly as they can compared to how they played a long time ago. Then you could compare the difference. Yeah, steel shafts versus hickory shafts, that's a huge difference. That was the biggest change.
But now we've gotten to a point where the golf ball goes too far and now we are taking these golf courses and we are extending them too far and we are running out the space. Marion can't have a tournament there. A lot of other courses can't have a tournament.
I built a golf course at Kiawah Island called Cassique and that golf course is obsolete now as far as a major championship. It's just not long enough. I built it for the golf ball of six years ago, and it's been that big of a difference from six years ago with the golf ball and the COR effect of the drivers from six years ago to today, and I think that's a serious issue. I think everybody here in this room has written a story on that.
I think that issue should remain on the front burner until some action is taken to reduce where the golf ball goes.
Q. With 17 being so long, how will that impact players, especially in a final round, maybe through the first 16 holes, knowing what they have facing them at 17 and 18, especially with the length of 17, will that impact their minds or your mind coming into those closing holes?
TOM WATSON: I don't think so. Obviously, when players play a golf course, they know what holes challenge them the most, and 17 is No. 1 challenge to me. It probably is for everybody else, most everybody else except for the guys who can fly the ball up on the top of the hill. But when you fly the ball up on top of the hill, you still have to worry about keeping the ball in play. If you fly it to the top of the hill and you fly it far enough where the first bounce is a hard bounce, you have to keep it along the right edge of the rough line or you're going to go through the fairway.
I don't have to worry about that because I can't fly it. Actually it makes it a pretty easy driving hole for me. I just hit it on the upslope, ball stops and it's in the fairway. Problem is, I've got a 3-wood to the green. But I know one thing, when you get to that green, you'd better be on one particular side and not the other.
Q. Is there anything that you do different this week for an event like this, as opposed to a Senior event in terms of your preparation or approach, knowing that you have to compete with the younger guys?
TOM WATSON: Honestly, no. Because whenever I prepare for a tournament, I go out and I look at the golf course and I try to determine how I'm going to play it. I formulate a game plan. Every course I go out to, there's a game plan.
And pursuant to the last question, yeah, there's two or three holes on the golf course that I say, "God, I've got to play this hole well." That's how I go into a golf tournament. And it doesn't change from one tournament to the next.
Q. Much has been made of the last 15 PGA Championships with 12 first-time winners.
TOM WATSON: I hope there's another winner from Kansas this year, new first-time winner.
Q. Can you explain that phenomena, why there's so many first-time winners in this particular event? Is it course setup or some other unique factor to the PGA Championship?
TOM WATSON: I don't think there's a unique factor, with the exception that the course is always set up for the -- the U.S. Open and PGA set up their courses very much alike. It requires just very, very straight driving. Many times, it takes a driver out of that person's hands. I don't think this course takes it out of your hands as much as other courses where they set the course up with narrow fairways and where the player has to drive the ball if he's a long hitter, 280 or 290 in the air that that narrows down too much that prevents him from hitting the ball with a driver off the tee.
Can you explain the fact? I don't know. The best players are always going to rise, rise to the top.
I would suspect that -- I'm going to make a prediction: I would suspect that Tiger Woods is going to break his slump this week.
God, there's only a few people laughing. Do you actually believe he's in a slump? No. (Laughing). But you have to write something, right? I think it's a good course for Tiger because he's allowed to hit the driver at certain times where it's going to help make it -- it's going to give him the advantage.
See, what happens in a U.S. Open or a PGA, when the rough is up so high that it takes the driver out of your hand, then it's basically an equal contest from a length standpoint. But if you can use one of your major weapons, and that is his length, which he can on this golf course on some holes, and his strength to get out of the rough and up to the greens.
I cannot get the ball from the rough to the green. I doubt it very seriously if one time this week when I hit it in the rough -- I'm hoping it's just a few times -- I doubt one time I can ever get the ball to the green from the rough. But Tiger can and those stronger hitters can.
This course is a great test. But again, I'm getting back to my first statement, you've got to drive the ball in the fairway.
Q. Just to follow up on your speaking about the advances of golf and what's happening to golf these days, is there a distinct fear that maybe an Oak Hill or some of the more legendary courses may become obsolete if the progression goes the way it's going?
TOM WATSON: Well, your question is worded improperly. Distinct? Fear? No. The real fear is. These courses are obsolete.
Q. What's the name of your caddie this week?
TOM WATSON: His name is Bill Leahey.
Q. You were just talking about talking about Tiger and his quote unquote slump. When you were No. 1 in the world everybody was following you more than anybody else when you came to a tournament. How conscious were you of the higher standard that you were being held up to; and when you didn't win a tournament and people wanted to know what was going on, was that tough to deal with when you were in that situation?
TOM WATSON: No. Let's put it this way: It's tougher to deal with your failures because of the standards that you and only you set for yourself, not anybody else.
I never went into a tournament feeling that the standards were set by anybody else. People weren't setting any standard for me going into the tournament. Obviously, people followed me because I was -- they wanted to watch me play and see if I could win a golf tournament. But those standards, golf is a game where you set your own standards. Like Tiger is setting his own standard. He's got that list of Jack Nicklaus's major tour victories on his wall and he's checked all of them off. He's got 11 to go. That's his standard.
My standards were to try to become the best possible golfer I could be and compete against the best. That was my standard and when I got there, obviously I wanted to maintain it, and I wanted to only maintain it for a relatively short period of time, six or seven years.
Q. First of all, would you estimate the winning score this week and how many players are going to shoot under par?
TOM WATSON: Winning score this week, I think the winning score this week will be 5-under par.
And I think there will be three players under par. And I'm a notoriously poor prognosticator, so don't bet on that.
Q. Looking at distance gains over the last dozen years, you broke it down into five categories: Balls, clubhead, shaft, conditioning and instruction, especially the young guys that have come up with it, all the way through with videotape, if you had to put a percentage on each one of those five categories to say how those have contributed to the yardage gains, how would you break that down?
TOM WATSON: Without really knowing the facts and figures of the golf ball, it's just my opinion, I would put the golf ball number one on the list at 50 percent; clubhead 40 percent; shaft, eight percent; conditioning two percent, and the other, non-entity.
Q. How has Bruce helped you to have this great year, and not so much as a caddie, but his situation and the perspective that gives you and maybe makes golf easier in a way?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think you're right on. The fact that obviously Bruce's health, your health is obviously your number one -- probably your number one issue in your own personal life. When you have somebody that is close to you like Bruce, that becomes a priority in your life rather than just about anything else.
I think that his spirit of being able to deal with it has been wonderful. As you said right from the beginning, he's just going to carry on and try to do the things that Bruce and that Marcia, his wife, have designated for him to do.
The one good thing about it from a spiritual standpoint, he has hope that the things he is doing are going to make him well. The history of this disease says you can't believe in that, but just to see him believe in that, gives me hope. And the golf -- the golf is just side-light of it, of what I do. When I'm out on the golf course, yeah, I get upset when I don't play well, but not as upset as before. And that's how it's affected me.
Q. Could you talk about the public response since you started your campaign to raise funds for ALS research?
TOM WATSON: Public response has been -- I've never been involved with something like this before, so I can't compare it to other things. But the public response has been heartwarming, it's been sincere, it's been kind of off the wall at times as far as people saying what can work and what can't. It's been very human and it's been -- I think it's been successful to a great extent in helping us make this disease more aware to the general public of the United States and the world.
I think that has been a very, very rewarding experience; bittersweet, meaning that obviously people are dying from ALS, not just my caddie, but the sweet part is that people are more aware of it and people are -- I've got a check for $1,000 from a guy in the gallery yesterday. "Here." That's happened quite a bit: "Here, let me help. I want to help."
I can't compare it to other things, but all I can do is just tell you in the context of how it's happened to me, it's been tremendously rewarding to this point to see people, to see and feel people's responses to this disease, ALS.
Q. The PGA is unique in that you've got the 25 club pros in the field. Can you talk about how difficult it must be for them to compete here, and also, how much respect do you have for the Tour players, for what they have done to get here and to be in this championship?
TOM WATSON: Well, I know it's just a great prize to be able to play in a championship if you're not on the Tour. An amateur playing in the U.S. Open, for instance, playing with all of the greats. It's the same feeling as a club professional, PGA professional has. It's not their business to play professional golf, but it's their dream to play professional golf the way Tiger Woods plays. And now they are in the tournament. That in itself is I think the best thing that comes out of this for those 25 professionals.
I respect these guys because I know from Stan Thirsk, the fellow who taught me, a retired PGA pro, what type of love he has for the game and how he could play and how he did compete when he did get a chance to compete in the PGA, the U.S. Open. I know that these guys can play. And given the chance, you'll see some very good scores from these guys.
Can they shoot four scores? Probably not. But if they get that one good look in, maybe two, that's what they want.
Q. Could you elaborate on that $1,000 check, did you meet him in the clubhouse, out in the gallery?
TOM WATSON: No. He has been in the gallery walking here in between the practice area and the first tee.
Q. And he just stuck it in your hands, a $1,000 check?
TOM WATSON: He said, "Tom, I'd like to give this for Bruce."
Q. Of all the major championship venues that you've competed at, which would you say are among your favorites and what would you say to the membership that is giving their club up for the week?
TOM WATSON: Well, the favorites, Winged Foot has been a favorite of mine because of how difficult it played in 1974, and I had the chance to win the tournament. I guess if I had missed the cut there, I probably wouldn't think so. But Winged Foot has always been one of my favorites because of how tough it played.
This will be my favorite if I can have one good round on it. I've never felt like I've played a really good round at Oak Hill.
And to the members who give up their clubs, I think obviously there are mixed emotions among the entire membership. Some will say, "I don't want that here because I want to continue to play. I don't want to lose my golf balls in that rough. I don't want to try to hit out of that rough." I could commiserate about the rough with the members here. God, it is really, really tough.
I know that they have a great pride in their club here, as do the members of places like Oakland Hills and Winged Foot. They want to see their course stand up to the best players in the world and be a great test. And it will. This course will be that great test.
Q. In the last couple weeks, there's been a lot of commentary with regard to a person going to a different club outside his sponsorship. In your long career, have you ever made that decision?
TOM WATSON: Are you talking about the use of a club, use, of equipment?
Most people have in their agreement that they should play a minimum number of their sponsor's clubs. Mine in particular, with Adams is I think I'm required to play nine clubs or ten. I play 13.
So by not using a particular club, it still falls under the terms of your contract. I would ask that person who you're referring to what he has in his contract, if he will tell you. You may be making something that really is not -- there's no issue here. I don't know what the terms of his contract are.
Q. On the response that you've gotten with Bruce, are you the type that believes that maybe things happen for a reason, just the thought that you're having such a good year at a time when it can do potentially so much good?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think, yeah, I'm a pretty level-headed guy but there are some spiritual things that I know can occur and I think this is one of them. This could be something of a greater power, what's happening here.
Is it just luck or coincidence? Well, it's anybody's guess. I'm not going to guess one way or the other.
Q. You talked earlier about dealing with or setting high standards for yourself and the expectations that came along with it. How difficult was it for you to deal with those same expectations when things weren't going your way and how did you battle out of that? What's the psychology behind getting out of a slump?
TOM WATSON: It was difficult to deal with them. I dealt with them in a lot of different ways. I practiced harder. I took time off. I took five weeks off one time without touching a golf club. And that's the way I dealt with it, but I didn't find any success, but I did know one thing; that my confidence comes from finding something in my golf swing that makes it work consistently.
And did I ever believe that I would never find that again when things started going south? No, I never believed the fact that I wouldn't be able to be a better player. There are times when I was close to believing it, but I didn't fully ever truly believe that, yeah, this is it, I'm never going to be any better than I am right now.
I tell you what, one of the reasons that I felt I was, was something Jack Nicklaus said to me. He said, "Tom, the older you get, the better you'll swing the golf club."
And also, Byron Nelson. He said, "I retired after 1945. I was a better golfer four years later than I was in 1945."
So I had to take that, those two -- not advice, those were observations, and put that in my hopper when I felt sorry for myself or that I felt I would never find my golf swing again. And I did persevere. I found a key that found my golf swing, and that was 12 years ago. That's how I've dealt with it.
Q. Would you discuss your decision to play nine majors this year?
TOM WATSON: Well, it was no decision. It was just the way the cards fell. Really, the only issue here was one of the tournaments in the middle part that I didn't play last year that I decided to play this year. I didn't play a lot of tournaments the first three or four months of the year. I had two really long breaks there, a couple three-week breaks and a couple two-week breaks, until the first of June, and then I knew the summer was going to be a very, very busy summer. I didn't know how busy. I didn't know I was going to be in the U.S. Open or the PGA. So that certainly changed a lot of what happened this summer.
As I said, I recharged my batteries last two weeks. I'm ready for this week and after the Tradition, I'm going to take some time off. I'm not going to play for a while.
Q. What was the key to your swing that you found a few years ago, and also, why do you think you've become a better golfer after your prime, so to speak, as long as you stay with it?
TOM WATSON: Well, first, I leveled my shoulders going through impact rather than my shoulders were too steep going through impact. In fact, right shoulder got too low and I kept my shoulders more going around rather than vertically.
Second part of your question -- I've already forgotten.
Q. Playing better in your prime?
TOM WATSON: Why do you get better as you get older? Very simply you eliminate the things that don't work and you find your fundamental rhythm. If I had really worked on my rhythm a little bit more than my swing as a youngster, I think I would have been a better player. But obviously, just like any kid, I wanted to hit the ball as far as I could and that's how it developed into a fast swing.
I'm not looking back on it because I feel that that change I made 12 years ago was the right thing to do. Just like playing golf, the money we made 30 years ago versus the money we're making now. I don't look back on it and wish I was there.
Q. You talked about off-the-wall things as far as with Bruce; has it been somewhat difficult to sort through for lack of a better word, the crackpots and people who are really, I guess, have some knowledge about alternative theories about treating ALS, sorting through that whole thing?
TOM WATSON: It has been because you are willing to try anything. The medical profession, inside the medical box, seems pretty slow. Although you know that they are doing very solid research, but it goes along slowly. When your time frame is three years, you want it to be faster.
And yes, it was hard to sort through and say, all right, this works or this doesn't work, but you know what, we are going to give this person the benefit of the doubt. Even though it sounds a little far-fetched, we'll give that person the benefit of the doubt in that theory.
Jeff Julian has gone through a lot of therapies. In fact, he is with Bruce in the Bahamas going through that therapy right now because it is not FDA-approved in the United States. In fact, right now, at this present time.
Q. You finished ninth in this event three years ago. Any reason you couldn't do that again, considering how well you're playing?
TOM WATSON: Well, I don't feel as if I'm playing as well right now from tee-to-green as three years ago, but I'm putting better.
I think first thing's first. I said it right off the bat: If I don't hit the ball in the fairway. I'm having a little trouble doing that right now, spinning my wheels out here. Three years ago I was playing well. I drove the ball beautifully. I wasn't having any problem from tee-to-green at all. Right now I'm having a little trouble from tee-to-green.
But, my putting is very good. So we'll see what happens.
Q. Given the situation that David Duval is in, do you think he's doing it the right way where he appears to be playing through; he has not backed off his schedule a whole heck of a lot. Do you think David is approaching it at the right way, and at the same time, have we ever seen a slump like this?
TOM WATSON: I think David's slump relates to his grip. I think that's the most difficult thing to change. Bruce Devlin went through that change back in Bruce Devlin's career. Bruce went from a very strong grip to a weaker grip and it took him -- it took him 12 months to feel comfortable with his grip and be able to play professional golf again.
I think when you go through a slump like David's going through, like I went through, you realize there's something wrong.
I refer back to Harvey Penick in his Little Red Book. After the first day when you don't play well, you don't even have to think about it. Second day after not playing well, start thinking about it. Third day after not playing well, you'd better go try to change something, do something different.
Well, obviously, in my case back in '84, my shoulders were too steep at the impact position. I didn't realize that was the real cause. I didn't know how to get out of it. Nobody could tell me. I just kept practicing until futility set in. Then I tried getting away from it, tried to do all sorts of different things. It didn't work, until I found that this was what was going to work, in my shoulders. That changed my whole perspective about my golf game.
That's what David's going to have to find something that's going to change something in his golf game right now. Grip is the most difficult thing in the world to change.
Q. Why is that?
TOM WATSON: Because it changes the action of the hands and/or the body in combination with the golf swing.
JULIUS MASON: Tom Watson, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming down.
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