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July 25, 2018
St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom
GORDON SIMPSON: Please sure as always to welcome Tom Watson back to the Old Course at St. Andrews. Great that you're here today and that the Old Course is hosting this incredible championship, the Senior Open. What about nostalgia. I feel it. Do you feel it the same every time you come back here?
TOM WATSON: I think it's reflected by the quality of the field and how many people tried to qualify for the British Senior Open. You saw a lot more people wanting to play at the Old Course, and St. Andrews, when you think about, it if I asked you, and are, kind of any golfer, what course first comes to mind to them, you know, if it's in Europe, it's St. Andrews and if it's in America, it's probably Pebble Beach, Augusta National. And oh, by the way, St. Andrews, and it's recognised around the world as a very special place to be. People, they make sojourns to come here from all over the world.
GORDON SIMPSON: You mentioned three courses and one you still have to win on. What about this week.
TOM WATSON: I played a very good round yesterday and I was very happy with the way I was playing, putting. Who knows? Something good might happen here. I won the Pro-Am and I won the Par 3 Contest. Actually I'm on a winning streak here.
Q. Is your form good?
TOM WATSON: That's a good question. When you're practising and you're playing, you're practising all facets of the game, from the putting to you're pitching off these tight lies and your bunker play and goes up, how are my knock-down wedges, how are they doing, how am I actually hitting the ball just normally. Can I fade the ball; can I hook the ball. Right now, I feel, you know, pretty confident with it, about my form. My form's pretty good.
Q. Is there anything in particular during all the years that you've come here, is there anything in particular that you do when you come to St. Andrews, is there a tradition or a particular spot that you always visit?
TOM WATSON: Well, not in particular. Just every now and then we go over to the cemetery to see Tom Junior's grave site and just for the historical part of it, St. Andrews University, being honoured there several years ago with Arnold Palmer. That was a very special event, and walking by that evoked some really strong memories.
I've seen the town change since I first started here in 1978. In 1978 there wasn't much here in the town. The restaurants, the various things, it was pretty closed down at night. Not a lot going on. Now there's a lot going on here, and it's fun. My stepdaughter, she got a chance to sing in one of the pubs.
St. Andrews is my favourite venue because of the town's right here on the 18th hole. The town, of course, at ten o'clock at night in 2015 they all came out of the pubs to see some old has-been finish up his Open Championship career here.
I made the comment yesterday, the way I finished my Open Championship career here, the last four holes, my last four shots, were a shank and 3-putts. Make good of that this week. Hope I do a little bit better.
Q. What did she sing in the pub?
TOM WATSON: She has some, a couple songs she could belt out. She's on the verge. You may her hear name, Kelly Paige here, pretty soon. She's getting some real traction.
GORDON SIMPSON: Maybe give us a song at your victory party on Sunday night?
TOM WATSON: Well, she's not here but in the future.
Q. Does it nag a little bit that you didn't win an Open at St. Andrews?
TOM WATSON: I always remember what Jack said. He said, "Your career is not complete unless you've won an Open Championship at St. Andrews."
In a sense, he's right. This is the oldest venue in golf. It would have been nice to have that feather in my cap. I can't complain. I've got a few of them.
Q. Could you maybe reflect on last week's Open Championship at Carnoustie? You were there?
TOM WATSON: I was there.
Q. First of all, what did you make of Tiger coming back? There was a huge excitement.
TOM WATSON: Let's put it in perspective. The Open Championship the last three years, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson's marvelous -- maybe the best ever Championship in the final round; and then you had last year Jordan Spieth coming out of nowhere after hitting it everywhere, all of a sudden, completing changing gears and doing what he did last year, with birdies and eagle.
And this year, you had Tiger moving the needle, again. He always moves the needle. You go on the ESPN website, go under the golf category, the first article is virtually always about Tiger, whether he's in a tournament or not. And of course now, he has a chance to win The Open Championship, first major championship since 2008 or something, something like that. You know, it got the world excited. It was great. It was great for golf.
When he took the lead there midway through the round, you know, people -- the excitement metre was at the top. It was sensational.
Q. Do you think he can come back and win?
TOM WATSON: That's for to you write. I don't have an opinion about that. It would be one of the most iconic moments in golf if he had come back and win. He'll win a major championship again. It's anyone's guess when but he might as well.
Q. There's a picture from 2015 after The Open when you stood on the Swilken Bridge saluting the crowd, and two sides to the coin this week --
TOM WATSON: Two of those.
Q. It's fantastic that you have the opportunity to play the Old Course again?
TOM WATSON: In a major championship.
Q. And your colleagues have an opportunity to take the walk over the bridge on Friday or Sunday after another competitive competition at the Old Course but also sad for a couple of guys, it may be the last time they do play a competitive round on this great course.
TOM WATSON: You know, life goes on. It may very well be my last competitive round. I don't know whether they will come back here with the Senior British Open or not.
I know if I feel like I'm capable, I would play in it again here. I don't plan on hanging them up yet. This game is diabolical. It is diabolical. Yesterday, you never really -- you never want to admit it, but I was pretty happy the way I was playing. I give myself a chance here. But just as quickly, it can take you away from you. It can take it right out of your gut.
You like making decisions a little bit more tempered. Okay, let's see what my real abilities are to be able to play this game. That's why I hung it up at the Masters. I couldn't play the golf course. It's just too long.
Over here on these courses, when they are hard and fast, I can still maybe compete on a limited basis on these courses against the kids.
2009 was eight years ago, or nine years ago now, but I really felt like I could win that tournament. I was 59 years old. A lot of it had to do with the golf course. It boils down to how you assess your capabilities on a particular golf course and Augusta National, absolutely not. Turnberry, absolutely yes.
Q. What's the mood like in the players' lounge this week? A little bit more of a buzz than usual?
TOM WATSON: Without a doubt. I've seen an excitement level here; it's palpable. You can feel it. You can feel the players really loving to be here at the Old Course. We're very grateful that they decided to have the tournament here, very grateful, everybody.
Q. When Francesco Molinari won on Sunday, it almost looked like he was going to par all 18 holes. Could you think of a modern -- at this time, where a guy could win a major on a British Open venue versus --
TOM WATSON: A British Open venue? Alex, you yanks, you never get it. At The Open Championship, Alex. Where's the hot dogs -- I had a sausage yesterday.
Q. You can I get my question? You know what my question is?
TOM WATSON: Nick Faldo.
Q. That was so long ago --
TOM WATSON: In my memory.
Q. -- a long time.
TOM WATSON: Well, 30 years, what's that?
Q. I guess that's just a --
TOM WATSON: No, I understand your question. Making pars like that -- actually, I did an interview that morning for BBC Radio and I said, you know, the shining stars are all up there but I think one of the shining stars is not only in the golf tournament, and I picked Molinari and with good reason.
It's like when you're Ryder Cup Captain, you want people playing well to be your picks, if you have to make a pick. Molinari won -- he ran away from the field. He's always been a great ball-striker.
That's what that course took when the winds blew. The only question was, is how was his putting, and I marveled at his putting. I don't know if you noticed this or not: Every short putt that he made went right dead center in the hole with authority. There was no just falling in. It went right in the middle. It wasn't on the edge. Didn't lip out. Didn't kind of lip in. It went right square in the middle.
When you're doing that, and you're hitting the ball well, you're going to succeed. Unfortunately I didn't put any pounds on him. I didn't bet on him.
Q. When you come back to places like this, is it almost like a switch that you get seamlessly back into the links kind of feel or does it take you a wee bit of time?
TOM WATSON: It takes me time. This course is hard to understand. It's hard to understand. A lot of blind shots. We have the luxury of having the yardage books with a photograph of the tee shot from our tee, like this, and it delineates the line -- the right edge of the left bunker and the left edge of the right bunker, it shows you the blindness, and exactly the line to take to prevent that.
I play by feel. I play golf by feel. I can keep it within the goal posts like this, left edge and that right edge. If I can put my ball in there, that's kind of the way I play.
Yeah, I pick a spot to hit to but I'm thinking if I good left a little bit or if I go right a little bit, how best to put it in play, and the yardage books give you the exact detail. In the old days when I played here, man, you had to walk through the heather and the gorse, and a lot of gorse you had to hit over; they have taken most of it out.
If you get stuck, gorse is not a very pleasant walking experience, and you get up there and you put your club down and get a line back to the tee, and down the line, okay, there it is. You know, write in your notes, this gap in the gorse is the left edge of the fairway, like that. Now, you've got it easily given to you.
Most every green here, except the flat ones, we have a few flat greens, but you had greens like 7, you had greens like -- you pick them, 16. You've got all kind of slopes and valleys to deal with, and you've got to figure it out. It takes longer. It takes longer. Even as many times as I've played it here, it still takes extra time to be certain before I pull a club in the bag, okay, this is the club and this is how I want to hit it. Most of the time, I ask my caddie, what is it, and he says, 178. Okay. I know the club and the shot I'm going to hit.
Here, you have to think about it. You have to think about where you want to land it, where the knob is, where the valley is, where is the best place to leave it, more so than most any other course.
Q. Has the course changed for the better or worse in your eyes down the years, tweaks here or there?
TOM WATSON: It's been easier because they have taken all that gorse out. The first time I saw it was 1978 and I was playing with Jerry Pate yesterday, and he played it in the first couple years as an amateur over here, and they had a lot of gorse on the Old Course. They have taken most of it out. You had to worry about the gorse -- to the right of No. 4, back in the old days, I would hit it over the mound in the left there and I would hit it far enough to get it in the fairway but I can't do that from the tee we're playing.
By the way, we're only playing two shorter tees now than we did in The Open Championship in 2015. We're playing from the back tees on every hole and that makes No. 2 really tough for everybody. Makes No. 4 really tough for everybody.
Q. There's an argument going around at the moment that the modern game is getting beyond the Old Course because the scoring with no wind or little wind is so low and the record is 61. There are some people that believe perhaps it wouldn't stay in the rota. Could you conceive of the Old Course not being in The Open rota?
TOM WATSON: No, I can't. I think it's always going to be there.
You know, the thing that the R&A understands, succinctly, is the fact that they are going to let Mother Nature dictate the scores here and they are not disappointed when somebody shoots 61 on the golf course. They understand the golf course is there for the taking at times.
Look at Saturday last week at Carnoustie. Look at the scores. Obviously no 61s, but there's 64, 65, several 66s, a bunch of 68s, on a very difficult golf course when there's no wind.
You add the wind on Sunday, and what was the average score on Sunday? Come on, Alex. You know that.
Q. No, I don't.
TOM WATSON: Come on. You know. You're a detail-stats guy.
Q. I appreciate that, thank you, but I don't know.
TOM WATSON: You look at the average scores on Sunday but compared to Saturday -- 1980, Jock, we played Muirfield, right? We played Muirfield. Saturday there was absolutely no wind and the average scores there were well below -- below par for sure. First round, it blew 30 and it was raining. The average score was like 77, 78.
You know, let Mother Nature dictate it but don't let it get out of hand. I played with Peter Dawson yesterday, and the Old Course, people don't understand, the outside loop, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, it blows harder out there than it does right here. Remember when they hit -- they suspended play because of winds here? It wasn't for any of the holes in here. Three-quarters of the way out, it was all the loop out there.
They changed the 11th green for the good. They call it the modern green speeds; the left side of the green couldn't support the flag position when the wind was blowing from the west. It was too severe. Just a little tweak, and the uproar -- do you remember the uproar, people saying, oh, you're messing with the Old Course and all this. No. They are doing it because the modern greens, they had the greens just a little touch faster here. They can't get them a lot faster than they have right now because the greens aren't designed for that.
They are pretty sensible. They are sensible in setting up the golf courses here. I was kind of surprised last week at Carnoustie, the depth of the rough. I played there in 1975 at Carnoustie and there was no rough, and it had -- it had a drought. Same thing. We had the same drought conditions this year. But I think there was a lot of green going on in some places and the rough, they had the capabilities now that they didn't have in '75, and it played differently.
I remember when Trevino said, leave bets on me because if Watson hits it everywhere like this, and he can put it and he can hit it high, and there's no rough. The main thing he said was there's no rough. Fortunately I kept it out of most bunkers and whatever gorse there was in Carnoustie back in '75.
Q. Martin Slumbers was at Carnoustie last week talking about skill versus technology, not necessarily with equipment not yardage books per se but green reading books. The R&A has a thought process on doing something of limiting greens books. What do you think of those books in general, and do they take away from golf and should they be out of the players' hands?
TOM WATSON: I answer that by saying, on most topographic greens books -- I don't use one. But do these players precisely know, precisely know, where the flag position is, I mean, within an inch or two inches? Because if you move that cup from here to here, like this, there could be a difference in the break, and can you read those contours well enough to understand that.
What's it bringing to the table is maybe more uphill or downhill, but I can feel that with my feet just walking the line. I don't usually get busted by poor speed because I kind of read the putts with my feet. I read the slopes with my feet.
But to answer your question, they can do whatever they want to with that. To me, it slows up play. It's another element of, do you really need that much detail. For some players, I guess they do.
Q. Related to that, how do you feel when you're walking back from the greens here to the next tee? Do you think to yourself, maybe they should have done something about the equipment rather than built the tee back?
TOM WATSON: I know. It's really different. We used to walk off the greens right to the tee, side-by-side. Now, they finish the 14th hole and it's nothing -- there it is, way back there.
When I first played with that tee back, it was way back there. But it has to happen. It has to happen and they move them back even farther here. That's just the way that the game is.
The biggest change in the game was the golf ball change, the biggest change. Equipment, yeah. You can say players swing faster because they work out and they are stronger and they can swing faster, yeah, that's an element.
But when they changed the golf ball in 2001, that was the second stage locket that -- well, it's actually not. You went from the feathery to the gutta to the rubber -- the Haskell. The Haskell. Then you went with the pure wound, the wound balls, and then you went with the solid, and then of course the two-piece ball. When Pro V1 came out, it changed. It's 29 yards different, 384 balata and 2001 Pro V1. So you had drives on 14 holes, that's 400 yards. You add the extra distance you get with the irons, another hundred yards maybe, so 500 yards shorter. You're playing a golf course 500 yards shorter playing with that ball versus the best-ball in the market.
You have one ball for the pros, let the amateurs play anything they want and you play one ball in major amateur championships, as well as professional tour, yeah, could do that.
I like David Feherty's response to it. I was talking to David at the Masters, they were all talking about equipment. I said, there's a very simple solution: Just make the ball bigger. 162 versus a 168, there's a difference in the distance. Make 1 a 184.
I remember some manufacturer came out trying to market a ball saying it's better because it's bigger and I looked, I said, you're an idiot (laughter) he didn't last long.
GORDON SIMPSON: Hopefully the Pro-Am is a portend of things to come.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports