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April 5, 2016
THE MODERATOR: It's a great, great honor for me to welcome two‑times Masters Champion, Tom Watson. All of you are very familiar with Tom's record, and I could spend a long time on it, but I'll be very brief.
As you know, Tom was won eight major championships, including two here in Augusta, 1977 and 1981, I believe. Tom has astoundingly made 21 straight cuts here at the Masters, which is really almost unbelievable. He played on The Ryder Cup Team four times, and he was captain twice. He is a member of the Golf Hall of Fame. Tom, congratulations to you on a wonderful, terrific career and congratulations on your splendid record here at Augusta.
I know everyone here, including me, would like very much to hear your feelings as you approach your last competitive tournament here at Augusta.
TOM WATSON: Thank you, Senator. It's a pleasure to be back.
The feelings that I have, people ask me, what is it going to feel like walking up the 18th hole. And I really don't know. Same thing as walking up the 18th hole at St. Andrews last year. I really didn't know. Although when I got to the tee last year, I looked at my son and he had tears in his eyes and I said, "Son, no tears. Let's just have some joy going up there, from all the memories that I had playing in The Open Championship." I pretty much confirmed‑‑ it's pretty much going to be the same thing for me walking up the 18th hole.
I made the decision last year to announce it at The Open Championship that this was going to be my last Masters. You look in my toolbox, I have‑‑ my toolbox, I have one of those tape measures and that tape measure used to extend out to 265 yards carry off the tee. And now it doesn't do that anymore. It's 250 yards off the tee.
When you see these kids play out here, and see them carry the ball 280 and 290 yards off the tee, it's time to say I can't compete with them. And I haven't been able to really honestly compete with them for several years.
So that was the decision‑making process, the reality of it that I really can't play the golf course anymore. I didn't want to take up another spot and shoot scores and just not even sniff making the cut.
I said this morning on the Golf Channel, I said‑‑ I was thinking about it last night. I said, "This is a lot like when I first joined the Tour in the sense that all I'm trying to do is make the cut."
When I first joined the Tour, when you made the cut, you didn't have to qualify on Mondays. So you got in the next tournament, so making the cut was really important. That's the way I feel about this, I'm just trying to make the cut. That's not enough, and it's time to say, adios.
With that said, I've had so many good memories here; to be able to play with my dad and Gene Sarazen on the Sunday before the tournament with Dan Yates, that was a special time. My dad loved the game of golf and he loved the history of it, especially the U.S. Open history. He was down and we had a chance to play. To see him interact with Gene was wonderful.
To be able to be here with the greats on the Tuesday nights and all the dinners, all the past Champions Dinners we've had on Tuesday nights, to be with the greats, from Gene Sarazen to Ben Hogan one year, and of course Byron was the emcee so many years at the past Champions Dinner. Of course, Henry Pickard, Claude Harmon, Herman Keiser. You had the gentlemen that used to tell stories about how they played the tournament at times.
Last year was Doug Ford's time to get up and talk about how he won the tournament. I don't know if anybody knows the story about Doug Ford. I asked him, this was last year before the Champions Dinner. I said, "Doug, tell me about how you won the tournament."
He said, "Well, I had a two‑shot lead going into the last hole, and I hit a good drive up there but I pulled my 7‑iron into the left bunker." He said, "The left bunker used to extend up the green to the left of the green," and he buried it in that bunker. The flag was in its traditional fourth day pin position, front left. He said there was no way he could hit the shot, the buried shot. He hit it toward there, and he's going to roll off the green, he's going to make double and go in a playoff.
So he turned around backwards, he said, and hit up the slope, that heavy slope, and he hit the buried bunker shot out, went up the slope and then did a Tiger Woods. Came all the way back down and rolled in the hole for three and he won by three.
He had a chance to tell that story at the Champions Dinner last year. Tell some of the kids that had not heard that story. I thought it was really‑‑ those are the types of stories that generations who come here‑‑ and this is unique. This tournament is unique in that fact that when you come here, as a champion, you have dinner with generations of great champion golfers every year. Very few people don't show up for the Champions Dinner. I intend to keep on coming, God willing, that I can make it and go to the Champions Dinner. But you go and you have the chance to listen to the stories, be around the older guys.
I figure I'm the fourth generation from the end now. We've got Doug Ford, who I think he's 94,95. We have got Bob Goalby, who is 87; Arnie is 86. That's the second generation.
Then you've got Jack who is 76, he's right in there. Charlie Coody, he's sniffing around in there, as well. That's the third generation.
And I'm 66, I'm the fourth generation from the end.
And then you go the other side of it and you've got Jordan Spieth. What's Jordan, 22 or 21? He's 22. Who is the youngest in the tournament this week? The Costa Rican kid. Is Jordan the second youngest?
Q. Matt Fitzpatrick as a pro.
TOM WATSON: There's a lot of generations in between. But it's unique, played at the same venue every year, and the Champions Dinner happens every year. It's just a pleasure to come back and be around the players who won the Masters. I don't have a whole lot else to say, I guess.
Q. You mentioned Jordan Spieth. Who are some of the young golfers who you may enjoy watching for years to come?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think that you've got Rory McIlroy, has won four major championships. He's the guy. He's my pick this week. He's my pick. He's just got a tremendous talent. He hits the ball high. I think it's always been an advantage to hit the ball high on this golf course.
And I can tell you the golf course is different this year than it was last year. The greens are faster yesterday and today than they were last year. They sped them up. They seem just a little bit harder.
Today they had a real sheen to them. No. 5 was like a mirror. They are out there syringing the greens, so I think you're seeing a little bit different setup this year. I think it's going to be a tougher setup. And the people that hit the ball high, they have an advantage.
Q. If they were to ask you to stand up at the Champions Dinner tonight and speak, what would you like to tell them?
TOM WATSON: Well, I don't know if I would cry like Arnie did last year. Arnie got up and just gave an impassioned short talk about how the room was filled‑‑ it was a unique gathering of people in that room, and to cherish it. There were a few tears.
That's what happens. There's some wonderful stories that are shared, and last year was just a wonderful dinner, probably the best dinner we've had in a lot of years. People shared their stories.
What I would say? I don't know what I would say. I'm just glad to be there. Thanks for having me here. I'm glad I've been able to qualify for this.
I go back to 1975, my first year as a pro, and I played with Jack Nicklaus in the last round. I was two or three shots behind him in the last round going into 16. Still, God, if I birdied the last three holes, something could happen, you know. I promptly put my ball in the water in the left trying to hit a cut shot. I double‑crossed it. He hit a shot up there, it came, trickled back down 40 feet from the hole, back right flag position.
I go up through the front of the tee and I try to cut it again and I pull‑hooked it again in the water. Now I hit my fifth shot, knock it on the green, it's taking forever. We walk up there, and I don't know exactly what I did. I know I 2‑putted for 7. I made quad. And then watched Jack as he (indicating lining up put and raising right arm in victory) the infamous Jack.
Johnny Miller said, "What did you think about that?" I said, "The Bear tracks were very apparent." He was on the 15th green right there. So I was a part of early history of the Masters, being around the greats. It inspired me. I had a lot of inspiration and I learned from them.
Q. What is or are the defining characteristics in your mind of the young players that you're watching today at the top of their game?
TOM WATSON: Well, they are really good. That's number one. They can flat play the game. And it's not a one‑dimensional type of game, either. They have the skills to do different things with the golf ball when they have to, and Jordan can really maneuver the ball when he has to.
Rory, he can emasculate a golf course, he flat can. He hits the ball high and so far. Look how good he did at Congressional.
And Jason Day, he hits the ball very high, same trajectory, almost with every club, it seems like, from the wedge to the driver. Just like that (indicating), but penetrating with the driver.
I'm very impressed about how they play the game, but I'm equally impressed by how they handle themselves outside of just playing the game. They are generally nice people. They help people out. They really do. They do a good job of that, the way I've observed them.
They treat the fans well. They kid around with the fans and they do things that I never did. I had my blinders on like this. I was just down‑‑ if I hit in the fairway, I was down in the fairway, and I was all game.
And the other thing is that they are working out on their bodies more than we did. We never worked out. The only workout I had was the 300 or 400 balls I hit every day, and that was a pretty damn good workout. These guys are working out in the gym with their trainers and getting some real strength.
What is it with these really short‑sleeved shirts, tight, like this? They put one of those things on me and all they saw was chest hair and I needed a manssiere.
They really do keep themselves in shape. All in all, I think the game is in great stead right now. The kid of the day, they look up to them because they are not too far away from them in age. It's really cool. It's good for our game, that's for sure.
Q. Earlier today in his press conference, Jason Day talked about how he considered giving up the game before his first Masters because he was so frustrated with it. Was there ever a time early in your career where that thought might have crossed your mind?
TOM WATSON: I hated the game. And after I went through the stretch of my career, the meat of my career, I started to fail. I practiced myself into a frenzy. I stopped playing the game for six months or six weeks at a time, trying to say, well, if I do that, maybe I can come back fresh.
What I didn't do was come back and do kind of what Jack did. He said, all right, in '79, I think it was, wasn't it? He was having a lousy year, in '79, he goes to Jack Grout, his teacher, and he says, "Jack, let's start from scratch. Grip, setup, golf swing, let's start from scratch again."
I really didn't do that. I had Stan to help me out, but it was just, I finally figured it out myself, honestly. But the game is frustrating. It's a hard game at times. Sometimes it's very easy. You practice your routine, you practice your swing so that you can make it as easy as you possibly can, but you know if you're a realist that the game is never easy, never.
Q. Why do you think the culture exists here that players will help other players, their competition, try and learn this golf course?
TOM WATSON: Well, I was trying to help the guys I was playing with today. I was playing with the Asia‑Pacific Amateur Championship champion, Cheng Jin. I was with Robert Streb and Troy Merritt. It was Robert's second, and I think Troy's first. I did what Ken Venturi did for me and Byron did for me. I went around with Kenny and Byron, and they said this is the type of shot you should play into this green; this is where you miss it; this is where you don't want to go; these are where the flag positions are. Try to help out a little bit.
TOM WATSON: It's the right thing to do.
Q. You have such a powerful connection to the British Open. I'm just curious about how do you by contrast or comparison, how do you describe your connection to this tournament and these fans?
TOM WATSON: The way I've always looked at the Masters, the Masters was the beginning of the golf season for me. I never played golf ‑‑ when I was a kid, I stopped playing golf in the summer on September 1, when school started, and I didn't pick it up until the Masters. Never touched a club, never. And I don't know, my whole life, did in college. Just hardly even touched a club going to college, first two years, from first of January until about March.
I played football, I played basketball. But when the Masters came along, it was Arnold Palmer, it was the charge, coming from behind. It was the tournament that got you started, that piqued your interest to get back on the golf course.
I carried that forward. It's the same feeling every year that I've played in Augusta. I get ready for Augusta well in advance. I start getting ready, let's put it that way. I start preparing for it. When I'm practicing, I try to hit the shot at No. 10. Used to be a sweeping hook. Now I feel like I hit a high shot right over the corner, and that's the best, safest point, most risk‑free shot I can hit.
Shots into No. 4.
Try to hit the shot into 17 and 14, a real high, long iron, and I have a hard time doing now. Those were the types of shots I tried to practice and try to get proficient at doing it.
But that's well in advance. I started six weeks in advance doing it. I always did that. Always looked at the Masters that way. So it's always been‑‑ the preparation, it's like to prepare for going fishing. You go in your tackle box, you look for some lures that worked in the past. They are all bent out of shape, you straighten it. Preparing for a hunting trip, you do the same thing. The preparation now is more fun than actual fishing or hunting, it seems like. Same thing with golf. The preparation is fun.
I'm going to miss that, I think. I think come next year first of March, I think I'll probably miss that. I'll miss that. Well, I don't have anything to prepare for.
Prepare for the Par 3, though (laughter). I intend to come back and play in the Par 3 and the Champions Dinner, but I'm going to miss that. I'm going to miss the people. I've been asked the question, what will I miss about it. Well, frankly, when I watch the Masters next year, I'll be missing being in the hunt, being inside the arena, being down on the floor, being on the field. I'll miss that. But the reality is that maybe I can‑‑ no, you can't do it.
Q. Are you going to play an seniors golf on the Champions Tour?
TOM WATSON: Yes, I am. I'll continue to play on the Champions Tour. Those golf courses are more to my liking. I still have to beat the likes of Bernhard Langer and John Daly this summer when he comes on the Tour. I'm losing my distance, so I don't have that advantage.
I was one of the longest hitters out here, I really was, in my prime. I hit the ball farther than almost anybody. Obviously there's a great advantage doing that. But when you're starting to come into those greens with longer clubs and you're not making the birdies you used to, then it's a little bit harder. A little bit harder to score.
Q. So you're going to play it forward?
TOM WATSON: Well, play it forward like Jack? No, I'm going to be playing‑‑ they don't have Super Senior tees.
No, actually, I'm going to continue to play on the Champions Tour. And again, when the reality sets in that that is not what I should be doing, then I'll call it quits then. But it's not now.
Q. I know you will continue to play on the Champions, but every golfer at this level faces what you're facing. What's your legacy? How have you left the game better than you found it?
TOM WATSON: You have to ask other people that. I just hope that when all is said and done that my peers say that Watson was a hell of a golfer. I've said that time and again. I just want to be remembered by my peers, the guys that know what it takes to be a championship golfer. That guy Watson, he was a hell of a golfer. He got lucky, got a lucky chip at the U.S. Open; he got the ball up‑and‑down from places he shouldn't have been getting it up‑and‑down. That's kind of what I want to be left with.
I hope that also going throughout my career, that I've treated people the way they should be treated. Sometimes I haven't. But most of the time I have, I think, and I think that's important. It's not setting examples. It's just who you should be.
Q. As you just mentioned, you played with Cheng Jin today, who is an 18‑year‑old amateur, first time in Augusta. So what's your feeling about him? Any impressions what you think he can do?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I like how high he hits the ball. He hits the ball very high. It's good for this golf course.
But again, I'm looking forward to the weather forecast. The wind is going to blow and there will be times he can't hit the ball‑‑ he shouldn't hit the ball that high. But I'm just saying he has that type of trajectory that I like playing Augusta. He can carry the top of the hills at 14 or 17. He has an advantage there.
He's got good fundamentals. He has a good grip, good setup and he has a very good golf swing. He's off to a really good start in his golf career.
Q. I know on your last time around this course, you'll be thinking about many things from the past. How much will you think of Bruce Edwards and is there any story you could relate to how much he loved this place?
TOM WATSON: Bruce, I'll leave the egg salad sandwich on the 13th tee on that bench on Thursday. That's part of the tradition, my Masters tradition. He loved the Masters. This is his favorite tournament.
He had ALS and he struggled and struggled. I saw him in February the year he died, and he checked out on the morning of the Masters. Just perfect, perfect timing for him. He checked out. He said, all right, take it forward, Tom.
He loved the game. He loved to caddie and he loved to caddie here more than any place in the world. He just thought this was the neatest golf tournament there ever was. I loved to see his enthusiasm. His enthusiasm wasn't much different at other courses, but just a little bit more when he came to Augusta. The excitement in his voice was just a little bit more. He loved this place.
Q. Can you pinpoint when it was you toured this place and thought, I could win here some day?
TOM WATSON: Well, when I played my first Masters in 1975, as a pro, when I kind of started having the game‑‑ I was just trying to make the cut when I first started out here.
Getting back to as an amateur, I played as an amateur in 1970. I keep telling this story, I had the cut possibly made. Shot 77 the first round and didn't play very well. The second round, I think I had it a couple under par going into No. 13. And I hit a drive around the corner, just miles. I had a 6‑iron to the green. 6‑iron, birdie, 3‑under par, the cut was 147. Now I'm under the cut.
I had pushed it in the water and made 7. Made double. And I still hate that hole (laughter). I hate, hate doing that. It cost me when I was an amateur making the cut here.
After actually, frankly, 1975, when I played with Jack in the last round, I played pretty darned well. I made 7 on 16, but I can't remember, I was only two or three shots behind him going into the last three holes. You know, I had a chance. I felt that legitimately I had a chance, and that thought stuck with me; that whenever I played Augusta, I had a chance to win.
Q. Beyond the playoff loss in 1979, to you, what was the one you really thought you might have pulled another victory out here?
TOM WATSON: In 1978, that was one. I don't know if I was in the lead or tied for the lead. 14, I hit it five feet above the hole on 14, and I putt five feet past and I missed it, and I 3‑putted from five feet there.
Then I hooked it in the trees at 18 and made bogey. That hurt. That hurt.
Q. Say 20 years from now, some whippersnapper asks you, and you want to tell the story of one shot you hit here or a hole that kind of defined your experience here, what might it be?
TOM WATSON: I keep on going back to the 16th hole when I won in 1977. I was playing head‑to‑head with Jack, just had to birdie 15, because he birdied right in front of me, to stay even with him. I did it.
Get to the 16th tee, and the pin is in the back left there and I had a choice between a hard 6, whether I could get it‑‑ because I hit it so high, whether it would stop too short and I had a 30‑footer like that or take a 5‑iron and take it right at the hole, hit it soft, but hit a three‑quarter, not full. Just too much club.
I took the 5‑iron, and normally in a situation like that, when you're under pressure, when that pressure is right here, you want to hit something hard. You want to hit it firm. But I was swinging well enough that I said, I'm just going to take a 5‑iron and I'm going to take a little bit off of this. I hit it, absolutely hit it exactly the way I wanted to. It covered the flag, a little bit of a fade, just like Hogan used to play that shot, just like this. Came down right at the hole and went by about 12 feet, something like that.
But as soon as I hit that shot, that pressure here just drained right out of my body (exhaling). It was real. It was amazing just to say, here I am, under pressure, the whole day, and pressure really had not diminished at all. I'm tied with the greatest player in the world and I hit this shot and the pressure just went (exhaling) like that. Had not happened too many times in my career, but that happened then for the first time in my career when the chips were really down. That's the shot right there.
I went on to birdie 17 and par 18, but I didn't have the pressure on me, nearly as much pressure on me, to play those two holes as I had the previous holes the whole day. So that was the shot. Doesn't sound like much.
People say, well, what about the putt you made at 17? Well, I made the putt for birdie, but it wasn't the putt that I made, it was the shot that I hit that made the pressure go away. That was the cool thing.
Q. Was part of that related to the 1975 poor shot you hit on that hole?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I was thinking about that shot. Because I was trying to hit a cut shot in 1975 and I double‑crossed it. That had something to do with that. It was a good round, that last round. I had four birdies in a row on the front nine, and Jack was keeping pace. I think he was 2‑ or 3‑under and then he birdies 10. I bogeyed 10 and the game was on.
We were tied and we tied every hole coming into 17 where I birdied and he bogeyed 18 to give me a little breathing room.
Q. You're playing tomorrow with Gary and Jack. Have you talked with them about maybe in the future joining either of them as Honorary Starter?
TOM WATSON: You know, what goes around, comes around, like making the cut. My very first Masters as an amateur, guess who I played with in the Par 3? Gary Player.
Honorary, yeah, that's not my decision to make. But I just thought about that, yeah, Gary Player, first year. I remember I hit a 9‑iron on the fifth hole there as we play it now, or the fourth hole. He said, "Man, you hit the ball a long way." (Smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Tom, I'm taking bets that you'll make the cut again.
TOM WATSON: Okay. What are the odds, about 100 to 1? (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: No, even money for me. Wonderful career.
TOM WATSON: Thank you very much.
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