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June 13, 2000

Tom Watson


LES UNGER: It's a pleasure to have Tom Watson with us today. I do all the video work for the USGA, and people are always asking for the spectacular shot for commercials or whatever else. And obviously, one of those shots that we always offer is the chip-in on 17 back in '92 --.


LES UNGER: '82, excuse me.

TOM WATSON: That was Tom Kite in '92.

LES UNGER: And you had told your caddy you had a feeling you were going to make it; is that correct?

TOM WATSON: Well, the situation was pretty simple. I was in an awkward lie, and I was even with Nicklaus, playing in the tournament I wanted to win most, and that was this tournament. He put the bag down, I took the sand wedge out and he said, "Get it close." I said, "Get it close? Hell, I'm going to sink it." I did it more out of just trying to get myself ready to play the shot than anything else, mentally play the shot. And when I got up over the ball, it looked -- I knew what I had to do. I had to hit a very soft shot, and it just came up in the air and dropped, off a downhill lie. And fortunately, it came out exactly the way I wanted it to. It came out as high and soft as I could get it. And it started up from the hole, took the break, went to the hole and hit the pin dead center and went in.

LES UNGER: The cameras shortly after that switched to Jack, who finished on 18, and you could tell immediately that his attitude had changed.

TOM WATSON: My attitude would have changed, too, I can assure you of that.

LES UNGER: How are you handling the Senior Tour?

TOM WATSON: Well, I'm handling the Senior Tour just fine. I've played about nine events, eight or nine events, and I've played reasonably well. I haven't won this year. I finished 2nd four times. And it's different than the regular Tour; we play shorter golf courses. We play -- the thing I liked about it, we've played a lot of new golf courses, some of which have been very interesting and enjoyable to play. I've enjoyed that part of it a lot. But I have to admit that I miss the great competition out here on the regular Tour. I like being challenged to the ultimate. And obviously, here, you're challenged with the ultimate test here at Pebble Beach.

LES UNGER: You have a feeling of optimism, getting back to actually just playing?

TOM WATSON: I do. I think certain elements of my game are in good form right now, and it gives me cause to think that I might do pretty well here.

Q. What certain elements are you talking about? Would you discuss that?

TOM WATSON: Well, my driving is good, and you need that for this golf course. I cannot hit it out of the rough in this golf course, unless I get lucky. Tiger says, "Well, the rough is not too bad." For me, it's impossible. So that's one element, obviously, that you have to do well here, just like you do anywhere else, any other U.S. Open; you have to drive it well. My putting is good. I putted well the last week or so in practice, and I'm happy with that. Plus the fact that I've got a lot of great memories here at Pebble Beach. That inspired me. It's great to get -- it's great to get to the 3rd hole, that second shot on the 3rd hole, and you just -- to me that's where Pebble Beach begins. Obviously, you have to play No. 1 and No. 2. In fact, we've talked about No. 2 being par-4 or par-5. They should have kept it a par-5. There's no sense in making it a par-4. Who knows. But the third shot, when you're playing that third shot on No. 3, and you really can't feel the wind, you make the right choice, and hit the right shot, and hit a shot that comes up close to the hole, there, that gets you started. The 5th hole is a very difficult par-3. It plays downwind. There's really no bail-out there. You have to hit the shot right to the front edge of the green and hope you get a forward bounce, if you're playing downwind. The green plays very, very small, from front to back. Even though you've got a lot of depth there, because you hit to a downslope, and it will go right over the green. So it plays very small. It's a difficult hole, more difficult than the old one. But obviously, when you hit the 6th hole and on around -- my dad termed the greatest three holes in golf, three par-4s in a row at 8, 9 and 10; you've just been introduced to Pebble Beach and the teeth of Pebble Beach right there. If you play those holes well, and you must play them well in order to win, because you can make a big number of big mistakes. The greens play very small at 8, 9 and 10. 10 probably plays the largest. But you're hitting some long shots in there. So they play very, very small. That's the key element in this golf course is how small the greens play. They're just tiny. And when you have conditions like they did in the '92 U.S. Open when the golf course got away from them, in the last round, the greens became concrete, then they go from needing a dinner plate to a coffee cup saucer.

Q. Did you reflect on your thought process of the final round of '82, and when you started the round and got to the middle holes? Kind of take us through the holes and down the stretch.

TOM WATSON: Well, I was -- I started the round, and I was -- I shot 68 the third round. And I started the round just thinking, "Okay, let's get off to a good start, and knock it on the green." When you knock it on the green and you have a birdie putt, it's a good start. And the No. 2 par-5, it was a birdie hole, and I got the ball up-and-down there for a birdie and made a good putt. And that's the way you want -- that's always the way you want to start. I started hearing the cheers for Nicklaus; so I knew he was making birdies. I made a birdie at 6, missed a short birdie putt at 7. And then I really kind of lost touch with what Nicklaus was doing. I was just playing my own game. 8, I made about a 8-footer to save par. Then 10, 10 and 11, I made two long putts. One at 10 when I hit a 7-iron, hit it off to the right short of the green, in the hazard. Fortunately, I could play it and I made it from about 25 feet after hacking it out of there. 11, I knocked it on the green and I made about a 25-footer that broke about three feet to right, which was a heck of a good putt. And then I bogeyed 12. And I'm thinking about, now, what's my position? Finally, at 13, I knew that Jack was close. I finally figured out I was a shot ahead. And then I played 13; had a pretty good birdie opportunity there. 14, I make it from the back of the green. Bruce gave me a great read. I knew I was in the lead then. 15, I make a good second shot, about ten feet from the hole and missed the putt. I had a good putt, but missed it. Then the infamous 16th hole. I say "infamous" because the bunker had been resigned by my good friend Sandy Tatum, and made it unplayable, basically, and I knocked it in the bunker off that tee and ended up having to pitch out sideways, on the down slope. The pin was on the front of the green. I hit a lousy third shot. I hit it to the back edge of the green, and now I'm in 3-putt territory. I lagged a 60-footer about a foot from the hole, about a 10-foot break. And I have to say that's probably the best putt I've ever made. And then, of course, 17 and 18, nothing particularly happened there. (Laughter). So that gives you a rundown of my feelings on the last round. I know it took a long time to get there. But that was the feeling I had the last round.

Q. Yesterday you and Jack went a practice round together.

TOM WATSON: It was a huge gallery.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what that round was like?

TOM WATSON: The practice round was -- I wanted to play with Jack, because this may be his last Open, he said. And I played with Arnold when he played the last British Open at St. Andrews. It's a nice feeling to go out and play with some of the guys you competed -- you battled against all these years and have a good time. We lost 20 bucks, unfortunately, to Seem and Salman, but not without a battle. It was fun.

Q. What do you think are the chances of Nicklaus conjuring up one more win this week?

TOM WATSON: Well, it's funny, because we react the same way about how we're playing: If we're not playing a good round, we get frustrated, just like any other golfer. If you make a change and you start hitting the ball well, it just takes two or three shots with the change to give you that -- put you in overdrive. And Jack had that feeling yesterday on the back nine. Jim Flick came out and helped him out with his golf swing, and he started hitting the ball pretty well. And you can't count Jack out, I don't believe, because very simply he still has the talent to win up here. He has a great putting stroke. He can hit the long iron with the best of them. You have to do that. You have to hit some quality long irons here. No. 9 and No. 17, you've got to hit some quality shots there. And you have to play very precise shots. Jack always has had the ability to do that when he's on. And it's just a matter of whether he's on or off. And after yesterday, he made those three good swings in a row. So, his attitude changed, he was on.

Q. Tom, do you feel you have a chance to win the golf tournament? And secondly, how is the course set up different from '92, excluding the obvious changes to No. 2, and the new hole No. 5 and the added length of No. 10?

TOM WATSON: I gave myself an outside chance to be there. I would like to have the opportunity to have a chance to win. I've had some opportunities, rare opportunities in the '90s to win the major championships, but maybe 2000 will be a different time. The way the golf course is set up, it's more difficult than it has been in the past. The fairways are a little bit more narrow. The greens yesterday in the practice round were the right consistency, I thought. They weren't too firm as they can get. I think if they get them too firm, the golf course gets unfair. But the rough, for me is very difficult, but they've changed some of the lines on the fairways, which requires more accurate driving. That's the biggest change I've seen in the golf course.

LES UNGER: You have a guess on what might happen with the winning score?

TOM WATSON: I think the winning score will probably be in the neighborhood of 3- to 5-under par.

Q. Why is this course able to define such classical championships that other courses sometimes can't?

TOM WATSON: I think what defines this golf course is the beauty. I think everybody who thinks about Pebble Beach, the first thing they think about is not that it's a par-72 golf course. They think about the beauty of this place because that is what this place represents. It's a beautiful golf course. The area here is -- has always had a rich golf history, but only until recently has the Open been played here, starting in '82. But I think that's the element that everybody who plays here, who writes about this place, they understand it and that's the first thought that comes to mind. That's what makes it special.

Q. Tom, after the Tom Watson era, they said that nobody would ever dominate golf again like Arnold did, like Jack did, like Watson did. What are your thoughts of this new group of young golfers, led by Tiger? Is it good for golf, bad for golf, or do you think it's going to increase the popularity of golf?

TOM WATSON: I wasn't one of those "theys". When asked the question if I thought somebody would dominate the game, I said, "Darned right there will be somebody that dominates the game." When you think the bar is at a certain level, you're going to have somebody who's going to be able to jump over that bar and raise it to a different standard. And Tiger has done that. It's great for the game. It's wonderful for the game. He's getting the media and the non-golf world involved with golf. It's cool. The game is cool to play. You see that with players such as Michael Jordan. He loves to play the game. And that man is cool. If he plays golf, golf must be a great game. The USGA has tried very, very hard in the last decade to make the game more friendly to everybody. And Tiger came along, and he's been a great catalyst for them. If you think the professional game, maybe there's too much of a circus around there, the atmosphere, I hear that. I hear other things that are criticisms. But I think the positives with the Tiger Woods era, if you will, and I think we are just in the beginning of that era, are wonderful for the game of golf. And he's conducting himself the way he should. He's doing the right things, I think. Sure, you're going to make some mistakes, but he's going to be great for the game. And you raise that bar that extra standard, that extra height, and we're going to see some great, great golf coming up.

Q. This morning Tiger mentioned the adjusted par on the No. 2 par-5 has been reduced to a par-4, that the standard of par, what he would call 4-under, is that what you're referring to with the 3- to 5-under?

TOM WATSON: Exactly. Par 71, and I think 3- to 5-under will probably win.

Q. Tom, along the same lines with Tiger, could you put him in some kind of historical perspective? Where do you think he's going to go?

TOM WATSON: You can't put him in any historical perspective, because it hasn't been done yet. But obviously, he has the talent right now to dominate the game for a long time. Even though we have a lot of great players out there, he's the standard. He's the person on the leaderboard that everyone looks for. You look for him, the players look for him, the golf fans look for him, and the non-golfing fans look for him. He's the man.

Q. Tom, you've played in a lot of major tournaments and seen a lot of rough. How would you compare the rough here with Pebble when you played last or in other major championships?

TOM WATSON: I think the rough right now, for me, is extremely difficult. It's very, very thick. There's not a lot of space in between the blades of grass. It's just sometimes the ball will sit up in it because it's so thick, and you worry about whiffing it or going underneath it. I don't play shots like that where the balls stay up. But there's some different attacks you have to take for the grass around the greens. That's why you see the players practicing so much around the greens, here. It's just a lot of guesswork. You're going to see some funny shots around the greens this week. They'll leave it in the grass -- most of the time, it's going to be left short or pulled left. Here's the pitch over here, the ball is going to end up going over there. Johnny Miller said that's a crappy shot -- sorry, "that's a lousy shot," Johnny would say; "that's a terrible shot." When in reality, that's what happens when you get in this heavy grass. It's very hard to guess. And that's what it is, a lot of guesswork, what the ball is going to do coming out of grass going to the greens.

Q. The beauty of the 18th is pretty obvious. But could you talk about the degree of difficulty of the 18th, especially as it compares with what other famous holes there are in golf?

TOM WATSON: If you play the 18th hole here at Pebble, when we played it in the past, I believe the fairway this year is a little more narrow right off the tee. If you hit the ball in right rough over there, you're faced with a problem, because you have those trees to negotiate. Try to get the ball back in the fairway off a bad lie in the rough, but you can't go high, because the tree is in your way. That's the element you start off with. Number two, the fairway bunker along the left side of the wall by the greens spins back about 100 yards. They've increased the front part of that away from the wall, so you have a more narrow area to hit into. In that narrow area, you've got grass about this high, fescue. You've got to avoid that at all costs. You have to avoid the right rough. Now you've got two shots coming in there, unless you're Tiger and you've driven 50 yards by the tree. The green itself I think is pretty evident. They'll put the pin back left or back center, and they'll put the pin center back right and front right. And so if you hit to the center of the green there, you'll have some -- actually some pretty makeable putts.

Q. Is it among the hardest closing holes you play?

TOM WATSON: No. It's not one of the hardest closing holes, from the standpoint of I think making par or bogey, if you have to win, but it does scare you. I like the article about Nicklaus when he won here in '72, he couldn't sleep. He woke up and said, "There's no way I can par 17 or 18." And he comes in there, and now, "what do I hit off" -- the thing about 18 is that off the tee, what do you hit off the tee? I remember Payne Stewart hitting an iron at the Crosby, way back then, and he knocks an iron off the tee. I think it's a 2-iron, and I said, "That's the wrong club," and he knocks it right up the base of the tree. And it's very unlucky. But I just remember how Billy Casper played it one time, with a 3-iron off the tee when he won the tournament here. And so there's lots of way you can play the 18th hole to make par. I played with a 3-wood, a 7-iron and a 9-iron. I took a 7-iron; I hit the 3-wood so far by the tree, and I couldn't knock it on the green, but that wasn't a proper play.

Q. Talking about the younger players, again, David Duval, in your estimate, how does David fit into the mix of young players? He's had an unusual situation with a long time not winning, and then winning tournaments in a short period of time, and now he's struggling to find one. Do you have an observation?

TOM WATSON: My observation is that he's too good a player not to win again. I know that could very well happen here. I remember Nicklaus not winning -- he really struggled until he won at Baltusrol in '80. He struggled that whole spring and winter golf, and then he ends up winning the tournament. But he was playing very well. It just takes that light switch to go on for most of us. And that's what people in golf magazines write about all the time: What is that light switch? A light switch can be a variety of things, but it's there. And it happened to Jack prior to Baltusrol, and it's happened to me prior to actually winning here at Pebble Beach. When I won here in Pebble Beach in '82, I couldn't drive it in a ten-acre field in the first two rounds. I hit the driver sideways. I was 3-over par entering into both 14 and 15 the first two days. And I finished 3-under par both days and stayed at level par for the tournament. I was really struggling, until I went to the practice tee on Friday, and found the key; that light switch went on and I drove the ball like a machine the last two rounds.

Q. Tom, reflect, if you will, on the very first time you played Pebble, what you remember about it, and also how many times have you tried that chip shot at 17 since then and have you made it?

TOM WATSON: The pin's never been in the right place, so I really can't say that I've made it. I've hit the shot a few times, both in the light and the dark. We won't go into that. The first time I played Pebble, I came out here from Stanford in 1967, spring of 1967; had a chance to play Pebble then. I don't recall -- I think I shot 79 or 80 or 81, something like that, when I first played it. It was everything I thought about. I remember when Pebble got snowed out. I remember them saying, "Today's round has been canceled because of snow." Watching the tournament here all the years, with Bing Crosby, I wanted to play the golf course. It's a beautiful, beautiful golf course.

Q. How many times have you played?

TOM WATSON: A hundred.

Q. Another young player is Phil Mickelson. Are you surprised he has reached that age and not won a major championship, and how do you expect him to do this week?

TOM WATSON: Again, if he's playing well, he ought to win. He could win. If he's not playing well, he doesn't have a chance to win. If he's in that position, he has the type of short game that can get him through until he finds the light switch. You're not going to win this tournament playing mediocre golf. You just won't. My friend said many years ago: "We're not trying to embarrass the best golfers; we're trying to identify them." And sometimes they have crossed the line; they have embarrassed them. You have to get the course to that level, I don't mind that. We don't have to play a course like that. I don't mind that they -- getting to the difficulty of that course to that level. Sometimes that level may go beyond that, and that's a mistake, but I think they've been pretty good at keeping them that way.

Q. Going back to the 17th hole, when you do plop the ball down and occasionally try the shot, can you describe maybe the little kid in you, that feeling you get, how it makes you feel? And secondly, do people come up to you and say, "Hey, I tried that shot, I did that when I was here"? Could you maybe describe an anecdote or moment when somebody has done that?

TOM WATSON: I think to answer your first part of the question, again, you don't try the shot around the pin there very often. The pin will be there one of the days on the tournament, I'm sure. But as far as people talking to me about it, there were -- probably in the stands, there were probably close to maybe 1,500 people, but I've had over the course of 18 years probably 6,000 to 10,000 people saying they were there (laughter).

LES UNGER: Tom, thank you very much and we wish you good luck.

End of FastScripts….

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