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August 9, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Scioto Country Club here in Columbus, Ohio. It's my pleasure to welcome Tom Watson here into the Media Center.
Tom is an eight-time Major champion and six-time Senior Major winner playing in his 15th U.S. Senior Open this year. He has three runner-up finishes and eight top ten finishes in those 14 appearances.
Tom, at age 66, you're still competing at a very high level and, in fact, last year you led after 36 holes out in Del Paso. Do you approach it any differently now than when you turned 50 in 1999?
TOM WATSON: Not at all. It's always one of the couple of tournaments that I point to all year. It's a Major championship to me. I always had the feeling that any time I played in a USGA event, it was going to be the toughest golf course we play all year, and it hasn't disappointed me.
The U.S. Open, as I've said many times, is the tournament I've always wanted to win the most, going back to the days when I started playing at USGA events over 50 years ago.
I was just counting it up today. My first USGA event that I played in was 1967. I played in the National Amateur at the Broadmoor in 1967. I played here in 1969 in a National Amateur, and Bruce Fleisher won. But the first USGA event I ever played in was kind of a disappointment because I qualified for the USGA Junior, the National Junior at Indian Hills Country Club when I was 15 years old. My dad said, son, you can't go. It was too expensive. He didn't want to send me to the East Coast or wherever it was playing. Too expensive to get there.
But I qualified number one, and the second guy got in. I believe that was 1965 when I qualified. So I've had a long experience with the USGA and continuing on now right here at Scioto coming back to the place where Bruce Fleisher won.
THE MODERATOR: What do you remember about playing here? I guess it was almost like 50 years ago.
TOM WATSON: Not a darn thing. You're taxing my memory now. I remember the golf course was a very challenging USGA golf course, but I honestly don't remember much about it, and I haven't played it since then. I'm going out for the first time today to reacquaint myself. I hope I reacquaint myself very quickly.
THE MODERATOR: And you mentioned more than 50 years in USGA Championships. And with your experience in the National Amateur, the U.S. Open, and now the Senior Open, you've talked about before how your dad made you memorize some of the names on the U.S. Open trophy.
TOM WATSON: He didn't make me memorize. He memorized the names. I always used to quiz him. Who won the 1903 National Open, the 1896 National Open? Everybody knows that Willie Park won the first one in 1895, but who won it in 1896?
THE MODERATOR: Tough question. I think it's James Foulis. I'll have to look at the record book afterwards.
TOM WATSON: Is that right?
TOM WATSON: How do you know?
Q. I looked it up.
TOM WATSON: 1899?
Q. Willie Anderson. Is that correct? I don't know.
TOM WATSON: I don't know.
Q. Alex Smith.
TOM WATSON: That might be right.
THE MODERATOR: What has made these championships so special to you and your dad over the years? You talked about the Open was the one that you wanted to win the most.
TOM WATSON: Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Over the last 50 years, what has made the National Amateur, the U.S. Open and the Senior Open so special?
TOM WATSON: I grew up under my dad's wing, and he said, if you win the U.S. Open, you win the National Open, you are the best. He said, that's the most difficult golf tournament to win. If you win it, then you've really accomplished the pinnacle in golf when you win the U.S. Open.
THE MODERATOR: And now we've looked back. Let's look to the present day now. How is the state of your game heading into this week at Scioto?
TOM WATSON: Actually, it's pretty good. I played last week. I played with my son up in the Boston area for three years and played pretty well at a course called Old Sandwich, a really good Crenshaw course. Really felt like I'm playing pretty well.
THE MODERATOR: Glad to hear it. Let's open it up to questions.
Q. You had a chance earlier this year to say good-bye at the Masters and then last year saying good-bye at St. Andrews. How different is it for you to play in a tournament like this where it's not ceremonial moments, but it's a tournament that's more competitive for you, I assume?
TOM WATSON: Like I said, this gets your juices flowing, your competitive juices flowing. The USGA always makes the golf courses tough. They're tough, tough conditions. I wouldn't say they have the rough quite as long for our event as they do for the kids' event, but the golf course is plenty tough, and it requires what you're supposed to do as the Open champ.
You have to drive the ball straight, and you have to hit quality approaches. You have to think your way around the golf course. Usually the scores that are winning are around par, at least in single digits under par. So you know that kind of going in.
Again, the USGA, I've always liked the way they set up their golf courses for the most part, from the standpoint you know it's going to be as tough or the toughest golf course you play all year when you go in and play it. That's the heritage of the USGA, of the U.S. Open. I think every golfer needs to face the ultimate test at least once a year like they do in a USGA event.
Q. Tom, if you can remember back to when you turned 50, talking to guys, they said the window is somewhat short out here or shorter to kind of make hay to win out here, but you've kind of -- I don't know. You've broken that mold, and Bernhard for sure has. Can you explain why Langer is doing what he's doing and the success you've had beyond just a three- or four- or five-year window?
TOM WATSON: Well, Bernhard prepares better than anybody else. He prepares his body. He prepares for the golf course better than anybody else. That's the bottom line. That's why he -- plus you add to the fact he's a heck of a golfer. He can really get it and really play.
Those three in combination, he's going to win, and he's going to maintain that. You maintain your body and your competitive desire, if you do that and you can play, you can play a long time.
Q. A couple things. First of all, you've mentioned before, including last year at Del Paso, that you don't have all the tools that you once had with your game, but what tools do you still have and how do they work in a Senior Open?
TOM WATSON: Well, the tools that I don't have are my length. I don't have the chipping tools. I used to be a very deft chipper of the ball. I used to be able to get the ball up and down. Part of that was I could make a lot of putts when I didn't chip the ball too close too, and I don't make those putts as much anymore as I used to, although I got a new putting stroke this week that's going to work.
Q. More on that later.
TOM WATSON: More on that later.
Anyway, those are the tools that I miss; the length, the height with which I could hit the ball. My 3 wood play is not nearly as -- it's the worst part of my game. I can't hit a 3 wood and it lands on the green and stops anymore. Used to be I could launch that thing up in the air, and it would come down, and I could stop the ball on the green. I can't do that anymore.
Q. So what do you bring? Let's go to the positive side. You just covered some of the things you can't do, but you can still play. What are the things that you still do pretty well?
TOM WATSON: I still feel as if I can -- I understand how to score. That's the biggest part of it. If I can do the right things and understand how to score and not make the -- the older you get, the more mental mistakes you make as far as why did I hit the ball here when I know I'm not supposed to hit the ball here?
That's where Langer is so tough, and he's not going to make those types of mental mistakes. I find myself making a few of them during the course of the tournament, and that costs me strokes.
Q. Switching gears a little bit, and I know you've talked about this briefly, I know you watched the Mickelson-Stenson showdown at Troon.
TOM WATSON: That was awesome.
Q. Where were you, and what were your thoughts?
TOM WATSON: I was in a car for two and a half hours listening to it on Sky Radio. It was awesome. When Mickelson made the par, made the two par putts just to stay in it. He had a chance at 16 to make an eagle, and Stenson makes the birdie putt there, I mean, it could have turned around there. It was one of the great events.
Those are the sporting events you're waiting to see. Whenever you tune in a sporting event, you rarely get the opportunity or the pleasure to be able to see an event like that, and it happened this year at The Open.
Q. Where were you going? You said you were in a car.
TOM WATSON: I was tooling around London.
Q. So you were already there. That's great.
Tom, a couple of things. First, you were talking about what you can do now and what you could do years ago. How much less time do you spend preparing or practicing than you did when you were 30 years old or whatever?
TOM WATSON: Well, I don't play and practice every day. That's the difference. When I'm playing in a tournament or getting ready to get on the Tour, I'm start getting into shape a month in advance and start hitting balls a couple weeks in advance. Main thing is to get my body in good shape and keep my body in good shape over the course of the year.
I don't play that much anymore, so I have long periods of time where I don't play competitive golf, and I don't play a lot of golf during those times with the exception of the couple weeks before I go out to play because I want to get my game into the type of shape, and I enjoy that. I enjoy still preparing for a golf tournament, preparing to get my game into shape, working on my game and trying to hone it, saying, yeah, I've got it.
It's like the putting stroke. I've got a little bit different way of going about my putting stroke right now, which translates into my chipping, which wasn't very good. And now, hey, that seems to be working there. Now we'll see what happens when the gun goes off.
I still enjoy the competition, and this is a game of not constantly adjusting your swing, but making adjustments that fit your body, fits your swing at that particular moment, and you hope that adjustment stays with you for a long, long, long time and you don't have to look for another adjustment.
We all know playing this game that, once the wheels start to fall off a little bit, we're not going back to something that we think -- that we're working on. That's not working anymore. We go and we try to figure out something else that's going to make it work.
Q. Let me switch topics just for a second. I wanted to know what you thought of the 58 the other day and if --
TOM WATSON: Wow.
Q. How many times, if ever -- I'm sure there were times maybe -- where you were having that kind of a round, where you thought you might do something like that?
TOM WATSON: I've had a couple of times in my life -- I've never shot under 60. I've shot 60 just once. But that day, I had my opportunity to shoot 59 that day. Shooting 58 -- he shot both 58 and 59 on the Tour. How about that? That's awfully special.
Q. And could have been 57. Of course, it can always be something.
TOM WATSON: You know it. If you're a golfer, you know it could have been better. Every round could have been better. There have been a few rounds in my life where I say I couldn't have scored any better than I did on that round, but if I really looked at it, I'd say, yeah, I could have.
Q. We're on the course where Jack Nicklaus hit his first shots. We're down the street from Jack's tournament. Talk about your relationship/rivalry relationship with Jack over the years.
TOM WATSON: Well, when I registered today, there was a wonderful collage of pictures, scorecards of Jack's youth here. It showed pictures of him with Jack Grout in a junior lesson format there that he was in. Showed his scorecard when he shot 31. And 77 was a number -- he beat everybody in that grouping. I'm not sure what age group that was when he shot 77.
I remember talking to Jack about my youth -- my youth, as they call it -- and I said, when I was 14, I had a plus 1 handicap. He said, you know, Tom, when I was 13, I had a plus 3 handicap. I said, I don't doubt that, Jack.
I remember a story about Jack -- actually, it was in Golf World magazine. There was a blurb in there, 16-year-old wins Ohio State Open. He beat all the pros and amateurs here in the Ohio State Open when he was 16 years old. You knew there was something special about that guy then.
Q. As you talk about Mr. Nicklaus, you had epic battles back in the day. Is there anybody on the Champions Tour that gets your fire going like he did back then?
TOM WATSON: Well, they've all gone. Actually, it's anybody that I have to beat to win a tournament, I guess I have to say. The bottom line, as I said, I'm out here to still compete. I enjoy competition. I still prepare for the competition. It's what I do. I play professional golf. Trying to find work as a golf course designer is pretty hard right now, but that's also what I'm trying to do. It's pretty short right now, that business for me.
Playing the game of golf is what I love to do, and I love to do it well. I get frustrated as hell when I don't do it well, just like anybody else, but it doesn't make me want to say that's enough. I'm not anywhere near that yet.
Q. Tom, this afternoon you're playing with three amateurs. I just wondered if you knew those guys and how that all came about.
TOM WATSON: I'm playing with one of the amateurs who is a friend of a friend of mine, my caddie, Neil Oxman, won the British Amateur championship. He's won the British Amateur three times and made the cut all three times at the British Senior Open. So the guy can play. The guy can get it. Hope he doesn't show me up too much. Hope he doesn't show this old guy up too much today.
Q. You alluded to the change in your putting stroke. Can you just elaborate a little bit on what you're doing right now that's different?
TOM WATSON: Rock your shoulders. Rock your shoulders. If you just take it back with your arms and they're not connected to your shoulders in the movement, I tend to jab at it and stop and close the face going through. So if I rock my shoulders, I can keep more of a pendulum motion going through rather than taking it back, going to the inside, and then going like that where I don't rock the shoulders. That's too specific?
Q. No. Thanks for the lesson.
Q. I'm going to use that tomorrow.
TOM WATSON: You hear them on TV. I mean, I watch TV, and you hear Nick Faldo say, now just rock your shoulders. Rock your shoulders, and that's all you think about. So I'm thinking, what is he talking about? Oh, wait a minute. If I go that way and that way, hey, it's working.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Best of luck, Tom.
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