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April 8, 2016

Tom Watson

Augusta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. As you know, we are just delighted to have Tom Watson with us, two‑time Masters Champion, who has completed his competitive career here with 43 appearances.
Tom, congratulations on a wonderful career. Tell us how you feel about things now and whatever else you'd like to say.
TOM WATSON: Glad I don't have to hit the 5‑woods and 3‑woods at 18 anymore. That's what it's all about. That's the reason I'm not playing here anymore. These kids are hitting it up there and they are hitting 7‑ and 8‑irons on 18, and I'm back there trying to hit a 3‑wood on that green. It's a little bit out of my league now, the golf course, certain holes in particular. But it was a good experience.
Yesterday I putted the eyes out, Watson of old, and today I putted like I normally do. If I had putted well today, I'd have made the cut, one of those things. I can assure you I was trying to make the cut.
I look back on it, walking up the 18th hole, I did have a tear in my eye, because I started talking to my caddie, Neil Oxman, and I said, You know, I really appreciate what you do for me. And he does a lot of other things besides just carry my bag. He's a confidant and just a very close friend. It was great to have him on the bag in my last Masters.
Probably my last tournament I'll play against the kids. I know I'm going to continue to play against the old guys. I doubt if I play against the kids anymore. Depends on maybe if there's a 6,400‑yard course that they have somewhere the kids play, I might go play that one.

Q. You said you weren't really sure what your emotions were going to be on the last day, and I know you were grinding to make the cut. But what were those emotions inside?
TOM WATSON: Well, the emotions were frankly just what I always do. I'm just a golfer. I just go out and I try my damnedest to play the best golf I possibly can every time I'm on the golf course when I'm in competition. It wasn't a walk at all‑‑ I didn't feel like it was a final walk until basically the last couple holes, because I still had a shot at it. And that's just me. That's just me.
But the gratitude that the crowd showed me all day, hats off. I feel very (pausing) I just feel very blessed that they feel that way about me. I hope that over the period of my career, I've been able to show the crowd, show them some great golf.
When I was a kid, I was a shy kid and one of the ways I expressed myself was to hit a golf shot. Wasn't like Ken Venturi, but I got ‑‑ to hit a good golf shot was a way of, kind of a non‑verbal way of communicating. I parlayed that into a professional golf career. Hope I entertained a lot of people over the years.
I know I won probably more than my share, but on the other hand, there are a few that got away. I guess it all balances out in the end, just like they say. But it was a career against‑‑ on the PGA TOUR, it was a dream to be able to play on the Tour. When I was 14 years old, when I won the Kansas City Match Play against the men, I said, Maybe I'm good enough some day to be a pro like Stan or like Duke, two golf professionals in Kansas City.
And I got a little better and they asked me to play with them and I started playing with the pros. The dream got more real and a couple years in college doing different things, and then the reality of getting out of college and finding something to do and the dream was still there, and I pursued it.
Frankly, at the beginning of my career, I didn't know how I was going to do. I didn't know I was going to make the Tour. I didn't know whether I was going to qualify for the Tour. And what was I going to do if I didn't qualify for the Tour?
Dad said, "Well, son, might be able to find you a job selling insurance." Being a shy kid, I'm not much of a salesman. That didn't really set real‑‑ like that was an option. But golf was always on the front burner.
And when I qualified for the Tour, again, I didn't know how I was going to do. I just simply didn't know. The very first tournament out of the box, I shot 68‑68 the first two rounds. I was tied for third at the Kaiser Open. Kind of went like that; I shot 74‑74 the last two rounds, finished 32nd. But I do remember the 68‑68, said maybe the dream was progressing. You know, that's the way it worked.
I had to learn how to win. Took me a while. Then I got on a golf course like this one, which fit my golf game very well. Could have run the tables a few more times here. I was very close a number of times in this tournament that I didn't win, but grateful I won it twice, and to be able to play it for so many years.
You know what else I'm grateful for is the fact that they allow the past champions to pick the time they say, no mas, to retire. I think that's really a good thing. I know a few years back, there was some talk about maybe setting an age for retirement, but it didn't work. I think we know when it's time to say no mas, and let us make the call. That's what makes the Masters unique compared to all the other tournaments, all the other majors. Allows the players to make the call. I still think that's a very special thing about this tournament.

Q. Back in 1980, when Jack won at Baltusrol, it was like a light switch flipped. Everybody loved Jack, and then of course here in '86; everybody liked Jack before, but everybody loved Jack. Did you get a sense of that sort of feeling after Turnberry in 2009; that emotionally, more fans came?
TOM WATSON: All the old people loved me (laughter).
As my caddie said, there's a few defining moments in my life: Winning the U.S. Open, chipping it in was one. That chip I chipped at Pebble Beach. Bruce, my caddie, contracting ALS and dying was another moment, a sad moment. And the third moment was 2009 at Turnberry.
Ox has a very cute understanding of things. I think he probably hit the nail on the head with those three things.

Q. I'm curious how you prepared for the emotions of today, trying to play the best golf you can, but knowing what might have been, which is where you're at right now.
TOM WATSON: I didn't have to prepare. I was preparing to play my game. Emotions never got in the way, ever, of possibly playing my last round here. I was trying my damnedest for it not to be my last round here, I can assure you, the whole day. The putter yesterday, said, Man, if I can putt like this today, I'll be in the cut.
As I said a couple days ago, it's kind of come full circle. When I first came on Tour, I was just trying to make the cut so I didn't have to qualify for the next tournament. You got in the next tournament by just making the cut. And now full circle, I'm just trying to make the cut, just in my last Masters.
So my emotions, they hit me a little bit on the last hole, they sure did. The gratitude that I have for Neil and my family and my friends are there, the fans. It was very special walking up the 18th hole.
It's one of the‑‑ I remember Arnie going up the last time and Jack going up the last time, Ben last year going up the last time. Yeah, it's sad; it's sad that the era is over. It's sad that my era of PGA TOUR golf, playing the Masters and others is over, essentially over, playing against the kids.
But I still intend to play against the old guys, and I can play‑‑ I still feel as if I can play a little bit, and I still like to compete and I'm going to continue to do that, on a limited basis.

Q. I'm sure a lot of people said a lot of nice things to you over the course of this week. Is there one particular moment that sticks out in your mind that you can share with us?
TOM WATSON: No (laughter). There's just a lot of things, a lot of people. Just players to fans, people, members of the club here. It's been a special week.

Q. Did you think about Byron and Stan today?
TOM WATSON: I did. I did. It's just one of those, I said, What was my favorite memory here at Augusta? And that was my call after I won the first Masters, the calls that I made both to Byron‑‑ I was by myself in one of the cabins down here. I said, Can I make a phone call, long distance?
Sure, you can make a phone call. Go ahead and dial out. Go threw the switchboard and dial out.
So I called Stan first and then Byron. Those were pretty special. It ranks right up there with being able to call my dad when I won the U.S. Open at Pebble. "Why in the hell didn't you lag that last putt, Tom?" That's what he said to me at the U.S. Open (laughter).
Stan and Byron were wonderful, and to be able to share it with people is special, people who helped you along the way.

Q. You just mentioned Pebble Beach, and of course your last U.S. Open being at Pebble in 2010 and the last Open championship at St. Andrews last summer, late into that night, and of course this last walk at Augusta as a competitor. How do they compare as a whole for you, just the experience?
TOM WATSON: Well, this one, there's more finality in this walk here, because it really is‑‑ I really have made the decision that the kids hit the ball too far. I can't compete against the kids. This course really shows the difference. You've got to hit the ball a long way to play this golf course.
I played in theDutch Open last year. I competed on a golf course that was a little long for me, but I competed very successfully on it, I did okay. It was just squeezing by in the cut like this. If I don't have a chance to win, like I do on the Champions Tour‑‑ I like that thrill of being in the hunt, having that pressure on to win and having to hit shots that really count down the stretch.
When you're playing just to make the cut, there's some pressure there, but it's not like coming down the stretch trying to win a golf tournament. That's what I do. That's what I have done, and it's getting more and more difficult to do that.

Q. You mentioned watching Jack and Arnold come up here for the last time, and you've had a chance over the years to see that in a number of places. Does any one of those that stand out in your mind and do you recall what you thought about them having those walks and having those moments?
TOM WATSON: I remember crying like a baby playing when I played with Jack when he played his last professional golf tournament against the kids. That was at The Open Championship at St. Andrews, and I was crying like a baby. Just here is the greatest player who's ever played the game, he's taking his last walk, and I'm lucky enough to be in the same group, being able to walk inside the ropes with him. That was really special. I still tear up thinking about that.
Jack has meant so much to me in my career. I've always tried from day one, when I saw him hit golf shots at Topeka Country Club, when I was 16 years old playing in an exhibition with him, to see that ball go out like that with a 2‑iron or 1‑iron, I said, Wow, I want to do that. That was the beginning.
Before that time, Arnold was my hero. Jack was the villain (laughter). With Jack, it started to change then. I said, This guy hits the ball (indicating smooth and far). I started to watch him and copy him, and then we played golf together. We played golf against each other. We played a lot of Ryder Cup Matches together as teammates.
It's been a wonderful relationship. We don't see each other very often, but when we do, it's always a lot of fun to be around him.
THE MODERATOR: I would like to add something, I know you didn't ask me the question, but I've had the pleasure of being with Jack and with Tom on several occasions, and I can tell you that they are very dear friends. They respect each other, they love each other, they care for each other and they are family. So they've got a unique and wonderful relationship that I have observed with my own eyes, just by being with them on several different occasions.
Let's have a couple more questions.

Q. Coming up 16, it seemed like you were almost surrounded, an echo chamber of cheers. Did you feel that moment a little bit? What did it look like as you looked out? A term I kept hearing on the course was, "Thank you, Tom." Did you hear that?
TOM WATSON: I did. I heard it a lot today, "Thank you, Tom."

Q. Did that mean anything to you in particular?
TOM WATSON: I think what it meant was that maybe I succeeded in what I tried to do when I was a kid. I hit shots; I hit shots that they will remember and it's just I hope I did it in the right way, too. I think they thanked me for that.
But 16 was kind of an amphitheater, right, left and round‑‑ not kind of; it really is. It was a special walk there. Still, if I make that putt, and I birdie 17, I'm right in here. I'm playing the weekend. I'm still thinking golf.

Q. You adopted a certain set of standards about how to carry yourself on the golf course and how to play, I'm sure from your dad and Byron Nelson and Arnold and Jack, and then you took it on yourself; and then today you played with two young golfers. When you watch them go about their business, do you feel they are carrying themselves the way professional golf‑‑ I don't mean these two guys specifically‑‑
TOM WATSON: I think the Tour is in great stead. The youth of the Tour is just great for the game with the young players, the stars right now that people are talking about all the time, the McIlroys, the Spieths, the Days, the Fowlers, they are young kids. They are younger than my kids.
It gets kids involved when you start talking, let's go be like Rickie Fowler, let's go be like Jordan Spieth, let's go be like ‑‑ like me, I was trying to be like Jack Nicklaus, be like him, swing like him. You study, and if you really want to be a golfer, you look at these players, how do they do it, why are they so good. You try to figure it out, and that leads to a lifetime of golf. And I think that's really healthy.
And the guys, they treat people the right way. They do the things that‑‑ there's a lot of pressure. There's a lot of time pressure. There's more time pressure today than there was when I was at the top of my game. There's more time pressure.
And yeah, obviously social media has a lot to do with that, but there's‑‑ remember the Quonset Hut here? It was about that big, right there, sticking 200 people in that little Quonset Hut right here.
THE MODERATOR: I interviewed you in that Quonset Hut (laughter).
TOM WATSON: You go back to Byron. I asked Byron, I said, "Byron, how many autographs did you give during your streak of winning 11 tournaments in a row?"
He said, "Tom, end of a round, I might give three or four." (Laughter).
He called me up one time and said, "Tom, I don't know what to do."
I said, "What do you mean, Byron?"
"Well, I get 75 to 100 pieces of items to autograph every week sent to my house here."
I said, "Byron, you have to make a decision. Some people, they want it for themselves and other people want to sell them and you're going to have to figure out yourself what to do."
He said, "It was never like this before."
But it's different. That's what's so wonderful, again I get back‑‑ and maybe this is the last thing we should say. I get back to the Champions Dinner, and you hear these stories from these guys, what it was like playing in the 1937 PGA, and the cart ran over my ball ‑ Byron. I think it was the '39 PGA, the cart ran over his ball on the playoff hole and they lost the playoff after going 36 or 18 or something.
A cart in '37, '38, I didn't think they had carts back then. Some buggy was taking something (laughter) a radio apparatus and ran over the ball. Actually, it wasn't his ball, it was his opponent's ball. He was in the deep rough like this, ran over the ball, so he got a drop and a good lie and he knocked it up on the green and beat Byron.
But those stories, those are the stories that you hear from these old guys and they pass these things down to the young guys.
Again, the unique thing about this tournament, again, Billy, is that particular event that brings all the champions together, whether they are playing in the tournament or not, it's a congregation of the greats that played. That's what makes this tournament unique and I appreciate it. Thank you all.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much for what you've meant to Augusta National and the Masters golf tournament, and thank you for what you meant for the game of golf during your whole career now and what you will do for it in the future. Thank you, God bless you.

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