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June 12, 2003

Tom Watson


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome 1982 U.S. Open champion, Tom Watson to the media center.

Tom, a solid round 5-under par, 65, has you tied for the lead after the first round of the championship. With all the perspective that one hour can bring, where does that round rank among your memories of U.S. Opens?

TOM WATSON: Well, will wonders never cease? You don't expect an old 53-year-old golfer to be tied for the lead in the U.S. Open, do you? I looked at the oddsmakers, I guess I was in the field 50 to 1 odds. I'm glad I was put in the field there.

Obviously it was a special day for not only me, but my caddie, Bruce. A lot of good things happened today, and we can talk a little bit about Bruce later.

Let me say a couple of things. I relied a lot on past memories of this golf course, past memories being 35 years ago, I played in the Western Open here, the year Jack Nicklaus won. And not until really today did I kind of focus in on where to hit the ball, as precisely as I needed to be, and today it happened, because I relied on those old memories of back in 1968.

I made the cut here. That was my goal, was to make the cut. I remember being presented the trophy by Chick Evans. Chick's name is on the Evans Trophy for the Western Golf Association. He started the Evans scholarship Foundation. And so I have some great ties here to Chicago. It was a pretty special day. It's run full circle, I guess you might say, from my first professional golf tournament in 1968 to maybe my last National Open, 2003, you never know.

Q. Congratulations on another great round. Could you just share your feelings? You mentioned Bruce Edwards, what it was like at this stage to be able to produce that kind of golf with him?

TOM WATSON: Well, if you don't know, Bruce has ALS. He was diagnosed with the disease January 15th of this year, and he's deteriorating some. It's an insidious disease. It speeds up the aging process, in a sense, of the body. And since I've got the pulpit, I'm going to make a little speech here, because this disease is what they call an orphan disease.

An orphan disease is a disease that the drug companies can't make any money finding a cure for, because there's not enough people who have it. 30,000 people have this disease, 250,000 will die -- 250,000 people will get it in the next 20 years. And the drug companies don't -- they can't afford from a business standpoint to find the cure for a disease that only would help 30,000 people. Therefore, the disease needs private funding. And most of the funding comes from patients and patients' families. The efforts there have really just -- just haven't gotten to the point where there's enough money involved to find the cure.

Now, the way you find the cure of this thing is you infect mice, transgenic mice, SOD 1 mice with it. If I'm boring you, stop. But since I have the pulpit I'm going to say it. You infect the mice with the disease, you try different FDA approved drugs on the mice. You find out what works, what doesn't work, then you go to clinical trial or directly to human trial.

There's a Foundation called the Therapy Development Foundation that goes almost directly to human trial, from the mice studies to humans, because people are dying from it. People are going to die from it quickly. They want a cure. And what I'm saying here is that the more money involved, the more mice you can get and the more researchers, pharmacologists, doctors, people who can use that money and do the types of studies that will find the cure.

Two doctors I've talked to, Dr. John Turnbull and Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein, both indicated when I asked the question, do you think there's a cure for this, and both of them said absolutely there was a cure. There's a drug cure. There's a drug out there that will cure ALS. I said, when? 5 to 10 years. Average life span for someone with ALS is three years. So that's why I took the time and the pulpit right here to tell you this.

Q. Could you give us your feelings on being able to play such great golf for Bruce?

TOM WATSON: Well, after being with him since 1973, I didn't start getting emotional until he did. He started to crack up early in the back nine, actually the front nine that I played. And he kind of shed a tear there. And then the last few holes it was -- there was quite a few tears there, from both of us. And it was quite a memory for me, to be able to play the last few holes in the U.S. Open, my favorite tournament, most difficult tournament to win, with my friend and caddie for 30 years, Bruce Edwards. It's a memory that I will -- if I shoot 90 tomorrow, I don't care.

Q. You're one of the few guys who's even played this golf course who's in this field. And I wonder what you think about it as an Open venue, of what the strengths are, possibly, and maybe what some of the weaknesses are?

TOM WATSON: Well, the golf course, the strengths, obviously, are the narrowness of the fairways. The golf course is playing soft. Whenever you have a soft golf course, the scores are going to be low. And you can't fool Mother Nature. You can't really speed up the golf course very quickly after we had the rains we had. Now tomorrow the golf course is going to play tougher because it will play firmer. The greens will be firmer since we're not going to have any rain. And that's all it needs, just some more firmness to it, the greens and fairways.

Q. Greg Norman says that even though he's 49 and he's not playing as much, he hasn't forgotten how to win a major. Out there today, did you remember the guy that you used to be, to quote what Nicklaus once said?

TOM WATSON: I am the guy I used to be today (laughter). I don't have to remember, I am the guy I used to be. Maybe it was just for one round, you never know. But let's find out after Sunday.

Q. Did Bruce pull any good clubs for you today or give you any particularly good advice?

TOM WATSON: Yeah, the par-3, 7th hole, I said -- I really wanted to hit a 4-iron, I wanted to cut it. And I said do you want me to hit 4 or 5. He said -- he waited for my answer. A lot of times he does. I said I want to hit 4. He said you've got to cut it. And that's what I did. I put a cut shot on it, held it up in the side of the wind so it didn't get away from me.

Q. Do you remember anything about the guy on your bag in 1968?

TOM WATSON: No, I don't.

Q. Three quickies. As that ball is hanging on the lip, why did you walk so quickly up there? Was that your biggest jump --

TOM WATSON: I always walk quickly.

Q. Was that biggest jump at the Open since 1982?

TOM WATSON: Well, I have a vertical leap of about eight and a half inches. I think I reached that, yeah.

Q. Really and truly, what went on between you and your caddie? What went on in your mind when you played the first hole today and you started that round of 65 with a bogey?

TOM WATSON: Well, with a bogey -- actually the first two holes looked pretty ugly. The first hole I hit a 3-wood in the neck, and just got into -- it was hanging right in the heavy rough, in the short cut rough there, and I tried to hit a snap hook 4-wood, and ended up right of the green, pretty good shot up there 10, 12 feet from the hole, hit a terrible putt, awful putt for bogey. The second hole I hit a good drive, good second shot, left a little bit short, then I hit a terrible putt, I knocked it eight feet by, downhill putt, and I made it. And so it's starting off a struggle. Then the third hole, the 12th hole, I hit a perfect drive, like I did on the 11th hole, because I drove the ball well with the driver, not the 3-wood. 3-wood was bad today, but the driver was good. And I hit a 6-iron right at the hole, and I said, well, I hope that's close. All of a sudden the arms go up, field goal. Everybody in the back said field goal. And Bruce said, you holed it. That completely changed my round around. It would do it to anybody's round.

I felt yesterday that I was hitting the ball better than I had in a while, in the practice round yesterday. And it started -- that started that feeling again, where I said, okay, I'm in control now, I'm not out of control. And if I stay in control I'll be -- I'll do fine in this golf tournament.

Q. You equaled the lowest round, but you --

TOM WATSON: That's pretty good at age 53.

Q. If you would extend this answer just beyond yourself and this major, how probable is it that we will see a player 50 or over win a major, and what part do you think equipment plays in keeping players viable later in their careers?

TOM WATSON: I don't think equipment is the answer, to answer the second part of your question, first. I think it's keeping yourself in shape. Hale Irwin, 57 or 58 years old, had to withdraw today. He's been struggling with a bad back. Our parts wear out. And my back was stiff today, but it wasn't painfully stiff. We just wear out. When you see an old guy win a tournament, wait until Tiger turns 50. And who knows, maybe Watson might have a chance this week.

Q. Tom, for the record, there was a period in those 30 years with Bruce that he briefly worked for Greg. When was that, and if you could indulge us with some history, how did you get him back?

TOM WATSON: That -- I was going will you a bad spell in the late '80s, and I told Bruce, I said you're a caddie, you're out here to make money. I know you caddie for other people. If they offer you a job, take it. If you can make more money with somebody, take it. It won't make me upset at all. I can find another caddie. And he caddied for Greg a couple of times. And Greg offered him a job, and Bruce came to me -- I think it was in '89, and said that Greg has offered me a job. And I said go for it, man. I'll find another caddie. Good for you. And Bruce made enough money to buy a house from working for Greg.

In three years they parted ways and Bruce called and said, hey, you need a caddie? I said sure, come on back.

Q. Could you speak briefly about the exemption this year, and I know it's not on the list of priorities, but the satisfaction of playing a good round and really showing that you certainly were worth it?

TOM WATSON: Obviously I'm very grateful for the exemption because it is probably my last -- it will be my last exemption for the U.S. Open, with the exception of winning the U.S. Senior Open and getting in the tournament, which I would do, I would play. I love playing this golf tournament because it's the most challenging tournament we play all year, the most difficult -- always been the most difficult test. I've always relished playing the most difficult tests.

Q. Tom, how long was the fairway shot you holed and how long was the putt you made at the end that dropped down?

TOM WATSON: The putt on the last hole? On 7? Let's go to that putt first. That was probably about 45 feet.

The shot at No. 12, it was 171. The ball landed -- the ball landed just about 169 and just trickled in the hole. I just saw it on the replay. It just went in like a putt.

Q. The putts you made on 8 and 9?

TOM WATSON: 8 and 9? I made a putt at 8, after a 9-iron shot. Let me go over my round. The first hole, I told you I made bogey, 3-wood, 4-wood, sand wedge, two putts.

Next hole, just a normal eight-footer for par, after a lousy first putt.

I holed the next from 171 yards for a 2.

16th hole I holed from about 15 feet, after a pitching wedge. I made that for birdie.

The first hole after a sand wedge, about 12-footer, 10-footer from behind the hole.

No. 7, a 4-iron, cut 4-iron, I made it from 45 feet.

No. 8, after a 9-iron shot I made it from about 20 feet.

And the 9th hole after a lousy 7-iron shot, only had about 60 feet to hit the ball into the green, missed the whole green, a good bunker shot out at about 8 feet and made the putt for par.

Q. From a competitive standpoint, golf standpoint, how important was it to get up-and-down on 9, that last shot? And secondly, if I could, from a moment standpoint, with the way the crowd reacted, can you talk about that a little bit, too?

TOM WATSON: Sure, it's -- you finish on a high note. You finish on a positive note. You make that dinner taste a lot better than if you make bogey, after having a 7-iron into the middle of the green. That would have been a very distasteful dinner tonight if I made bogey the last hole with a 7-iron in my hand.

Q. Just in terms of the moment.

TOM WATSON: The moment was -- the moment with the crowd helped me. They willed me to make par on the last hole. I felt them pulling for me.

Q. Along those same lines, can you describe the feelings inside the ropes when fans bond with a team, you and Bruce working together, maybe rooting for somebody that isn't going to hit a single golf shot this week?

TOM WATSON: They were very kind to Bruce. If there wasn't one good luck Bruce, there were 50 today, from the crowd.

Q. You mentioned that you switched putters. Could you go into details about how -- what this one was doing all those years while it was inactive? And what happened to the original, how it got stolen?

TOM WATSON: The original putter was stolen out of my golf bag at a local club in Kansas City when I was -- it was just basically stolen out of my golf bag. It's been on the first team a lot. It's been there. I used it a lot last year. This year I started with -- I started with the Callaway 2-Ball putter, but I find it's a little heavier than the Ping and it's more face-balanced than the Ping. And I find I swing a non-faced balanced putter better than a face balanced putter when I make a stroke, to be technical about it.

Q. Were they both in your bag today?

TOM WATSON: No, I just had the Ping in the bag.

End of FastScripts....

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