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June 26, 2019
Notre Dame, Indiana
THE MODERATOR: It's my pleasure to welcome the 1982 U.S. Open champion and eight-time major champion into the media center. That's Tom Watson. Tom, playing in his 17th U.S. Senior Open this week, and Tom, your 52nd USGA championship.
Now, what has made playing in the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Open, the U.S. Senior Open, your national championships meaningful and special to you over the years?
TOM WATSON: Well, it started with my father, who said, If you win the U.S. Open Championship, you've beaten the best field on the toughest golf course you're going to play. And so I always -- when I was a kid growing up, it was a U.S. Open, that was the tournament I wanted to win.
It still is.
THE MODERATOR: This past week or two weeks ago, you were at Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open there for the celebration of champions, getting all the living U.S. Open champions back. How was that experience, and did you get a chance to talk with your fellow Kansan Gary Woodland after he got the win.
TOM WATSON: It was delightful to be there with 32 out of 36 living U.S. Open champions. We had a chance to mingle and talk, and the old guys got to talk with the young guys, the young guys got to talk with the old guys, and it was a real delightful night. We were there at the Beach Club looking right out over the 17th green, and Jack and I were co-hosting, and when I got up to speak, I said, Jack, I'm sorry to do this, but just look over my shoulder here. (Laughing). Huh? What are you doing?
But we're good friends, and it was a fun night because we asked each table -- one person at each table to talk about their U.S. Open and national Open experience, and it was fun to listen to some of the guys talk about it, yeah.
Leave it to you to come up with, what, 52 times I've played in a USGA championship. Is that what it is?
THE MODERATOR: 52.
TOM WATSON: Stats. Stats. No, I go back to what my father said. He said, When you win the U.S. Open, you've won it on the toughest golf course against the toughest field, and you've accomplished the pinnacle in golf to win your national Open.
THE MODERATOR: Your fellow Kansan, Gary Woodland, with the win. I don't know how well you know Gary, but have you had a chance to talk with him in the weeks since?
TOM WATSON: I haven't had a chance to talk with him. I Tweeted out I was extremely pleased as a fellow Kansan. I said, we Kansans have a special affinity for the 17th hole at Pebble Beach.
THE MODERATOR: And this course this week here at the U.S. Senior Open here at the Warren Course at Notre Dame, what are your thoughts on being out there from what you've seen so far?
TOM WATSON: Well, the golf course is generous off the tee, but the greens are as tough a greens to putt as I've ever experienced. There's so many humps and bumps on the greens that it's very difficult to get just a consistent breaking putt. You may have a putt that starts to break to the right and then it straightens out, maybe goes a little bit left and then back to the right again.
What's that mean? You'd better hit it close. (Laughter.)
THE MODERATOR: A premium on ball-striking this week --
TOM WATSON: A premium on approach shots, yes, without a doubt. The golf course for me plays really long, especially a couple holes on the front side there. So I'd better be on my game with my iron play and my hybrids and 3-irons and 3-woods and things like that. I'd better be on. That's what I've practiced out on the practice tee.
Q. Tom, we talked a little bit yesterday about South Bend, kind of surprised that in all your years, and you're a football fan, I would imagine, and you follow Stanford, that somehow or other you didn't come here for a football game in the fall or that you've never been --
TOM WATSON: No, the Irish and the Cardinal -- used to be Indians -- Cardinal, they play just about every year, don't they?
TOM WATSON: And I've always watched them on TV. It's always been fun to watch them.
Q. And I told you yesterday that your friend Sandy Tatum --
TOM WATSON: Yeah, he won the NCAA right here in South Bend.
Q. And Byron Nelson would have won his first professional tournament here at South Bend if he hadn't played the 16th hole in 9-over par when he played here in 1935.
TOM WATSON: I thought you were going to say he won his first one here.
Q. It would have been. Do you see the course here -- you're talking about the greens. Are you surprised how young this course is? A lot of players have been saying this is -- they think this is an old course, like 30, 40 years old.
TOM WATSON: Well, it was 20 years ago; is that correct? It was built 20 years ago?
THE MODERATOR: Yep.
TOM WATSON: I wouldn't say that's a young course, but it's getting toward -- it's past teenage years.
The golf course is right there in front of you. You have to do -- as I said, you'd better be on with your approaches to these greens because when you have a lot of long putts -- if you're more than 15 feet away from the hole, you're going to have a difficult time ever making a long putt on these greens.
Q. You have a local guy caddying for you this weekend. How has that relationship developed in a short period of time, and how did that all come about?
TOM WATSON: Well, John Foster, the pro, was very helpful. My caddie for business reasons couldn't caddie for me he told me last week, so I called John and asked him if he could arrange a caddie, and he came right back and said Greg would be -- assistant pro here would be happy to do it, and glad to have him on the bag.
Q. What kind of expectations do you have for him? What's kind of the relationship like between you guys so far?
TOM WATSON: Well, he knows the golf course, and I'll ask him about the golf course. Again, the thing about the golf course is it gives you a lot of -- it gives you a lot off the tee where you can get the ball in the fairway. But the greens are something else. It's awfully hard to ask somebody to help you read a putt. He doesn't know your speed and hasn't seen you putt. I'm certain I'll be relying on him for certain bits of information about things, maybe the wind factor on a couple of holes there that -- actually yesterday when the wind was blowing, it seemed like it swirled on that par-3, the short par-3 on the back side. It went downwind and then into the wind all in a minute.
Those are the types of questions I'll ask Greg.
Q. You mentioned the greens being a challenge. Any other thoughts on the design of your fellow ASGCA fellow member Bill Coore, and can you sense it's a Coore course when you're playing it?
TOM WATSON: I can. Every green seems like it has a false front to it, very similar to Ozark National which we played the Bass Pro Legends of Golf. All these greens, the fronts of the greens -- a false front means that the front of the green starts here but then it goes uphill like that, and the real front of the green is like five, six, sometimes ten steps on because if you don't hit it that far in the air, the ball is going to come back off the front. And most of these greens have that. They're very consistent.
Q. Tom, any special plans for September 4th?
TOM WATSON: No.
TOM WATSON: What's September 4th?
Q. Isn't that your birthday?
TOM WATSON: Is it my birthday?
Q. 70th birthday?
TOM WATSON: Well, thanks a lot.
Q. I was just curious --
TOM WATSON: You were curious. Now you blab it to the whole world I'm 70 years old on September 4th. I'm just kidding you. Age is but a number. That's all it is.
All I know is I'm losing my hair, I'm losing my hearing, and I'm losing my distance off the tee. I'm at a loss in a lot of different ways. But I'm still healthy, and I'm very grateful for that.
Q. As such, you were asked about expectations for your caddie. What about for yourself?
TOM WATSON: See, I can't hear you.
TOM WATSON: I couldn't.
Q. I was asking about expectations for yourself this week.
TOM WATSON: Oh, for myself? I'm sorry. I wasn't being flippant, I actually couldn't hear you.
My expectations are -- right now they're uncertain because I really didn't play very well yesterday, didn't play very well this morning in the pro-am, didn't putt very well. I went out and I worked on a couple things in my golf swing that seemed to kind of tie in with what has worked with me in the past and said, oh, yeah, well, I get that. Yeah, okay.
And with my putting, I had a little brilliant thought last week that worked for one hole, and then it didn't work, and I'm back to that brilliant thought that I hope works for more than one hole.
You know what I'm talking about. This game does that to you.
Q. Yes, it does.
TOM WATSON: I mean, when things aren't going well, you make an adjustment. Okay, my adjustment is a little bit more closed to open with the putter and a little bit -- the adjustment with the club, taking it back, is trying to keep it -- one piece taking it back rather than getting my hands ahead, just things like that which have worked in the past and worked very well in the past.
But seems like I've forgotten them. Maybe that's -- I want to go into tomorrow with -- go to the practice range tomorrow and the putting green tomorrow with two positive things about my swing and my putting stroke. My short game is good. My touch and feel is pretty good.
Again, it's a very difficult golf course around the greens. If you miss the greens, you've got all these humps and bumps to deal with. If you're in the wrong position, you don't have a chance.
It's essential to be a good iron player this week, essential.
Q. This is, I guess, age related, but as you progress through the game, is there a lesson or two that you have learned through the years that you wish you'd known when you were younger?
TOM WATSON: Of course, yeah.
Q. Any particular --
TOM WATSON: All kinds of lessons, not just golf, but there's life lessons.
Q. Any one or two that just like stayed with you, like boy, if I'd have known that at 25 --
TOM WATSON: Yeah, the one lesson that I found in 1994 is keep trying to keep my shoulders more level plane on the downswing. That's the one lesson I wish I had learned early in my career.
Q. What did it change?
TOM WATSON: My ball flight came down a little bit, but I hit the ball so much straighter. The game got easy. Literally got easy, for a long period of time.
Q. And as you look at younger players today, what do you think when you watch them play? Obviously they play sort of a different game, but what kind of wisdom or experience would you impart to them, or do you feel like they're doing it all pretty well, what they're doing?
TOM WATSON: Well, I played with a young man by the name of Andy Spencer last week from KU. He won the Watson Challenge, the tournament I started here 13 years ago in Kansas City. He won it the last two years, and I played with him in the first round, the second round, and we got rained out in the third round. Watching this young man hit the ball, that's the first time I have played with somebody with that type of speed.
To compare how short I hit it compared to how long he can hit it, I said, What's your swing speed? You know, it's in the 120s. I said, What's your ball speed? Oh, 170s, you know. Like that.
I guess he doesn't really -- like me, losing my distance, I want to know if I can get that driver going 100 miles an hour, right, at impact, and he's up there in the 120s.
It's the first time I've played with somebody like that who hit the ball that solid but that far, and it was striking. It was really striking to see and compare my game to his game.
A lot of the kids hit it like that. The other thing I was -- when I'm watching a kid like that, 20-year-old kid or 21-year-old kid play golf, I want to see how they play the game. Do they understand how to play the game? Can they hit the low shots into the wind? Can they work the ball left to right, right to left? Do they have good touch around the greens, or are they a great putter? He filled most of that.
I was very impressed, very impressed by the young man. He's got another year at KU, and then he's going to turn pro. But this guy has some talent.
But, again, all I'm doing is relating how I'm comparing myself to that, and the first time seeing that up close and personal, that's the way the game is played today.
But I certainly liked the way he shaped his ball, and I'm not sure how -- if the players on the TOUR today shape their ball like he does.
Q. Curious if you would share your impressions of the 18th hole and how you think that will fare as a final hole of the championship, of a major championship.
TOM WATSON: Well, if you can bomb a drive out there, you have a chance for eagle.
Q. On 18?
TOM WATSON: 18 and 17, par-5.
Q. The hole after that.
TOM WATSON: Oh, 18?
Q. 18, how you think that sets up as the final hole of a major.
TOM WATSON: Well, I actually went to Darren Clarke and I asked him, I'll pay you for it. He said, What do you mean, pay me for it? I said, I'll tell you what, I'll pay you a lot of money for 50 yards. (Laughter.) It helps to hit the ball a long way on that hole, obviously. It's a good finishing hole.
You know, the tree is right there. It forces you to be aware, and it's -- there are several holes that you've got to be really concerned about on this golf course. The front nine, I want to say it's 5 and 6, the par -- is it the 4th hole they turned from a par-5 into the par-4, the 4th hole and the 6th hole? The 6th hole is that par-3? I hit driver there yesterday. I hit a good shot, knocked it on the green.
But there's some real length you've got to have playing this golf course. I think they think we're 20-year-old kids. That's what I think. But there are a few of us out here that can hit the ball with that type of speed, Stricker and Vijay and Darren Clarke. There are some guys that can really get it out there.
Q. Have you been to Royal Portrush?
TOM WATSON: I was there two weeks ago.
Q. And your thoughts about it?
TOM WATSON: It's a wonderful, great golf course. I think it's just a great example of a great links golf course. Ultimately, fair. With no wind, I think they'll shoot pretty low. I think they can hide some of the flags even with no wind, keep them from going really, really low. But with the normal Irish winds there, it's going to be a test.
Q. Did you get a sense of how big a moment this is going to be for that area given --
TOM WATSON: Yes, I did, yeah. It was in a sense from 2013 when they held the Irish Open there to the sense from Darren Clarke -- I played with Clarkey here about a month ago, and he lives two drivers from the golf course, right there, and he said the excitement that the people in Ireland have for this tournament is beyond the pale. They sold 45,000 tickets out in six weeks, season tickets. First time they've done that. The R&A, I don't know if they're going to continue that template, but it will work there.
If you had a 20-mile-an-hour wind, that golf course is all you want, but it's ultimately fair, and the beauty of it is bar none probably the prettiest golf course over there that we play in the rotation.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports