June 16, 1998
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
LES UNGER: We are going to get started with a gentleman who has thrust him in a position to be the possible winner this year. I am wondering if you might agree with that, Tom Watson.
TOM WATSON: Well "possible winner" from "not a chance" is a big upgrade for me, isn't it? It helps to win a golf tournament at my age and kind of gives you thoughts, "well, maybe -- why can't I do this every week. " But in reality, it came at a time and a golf course that I was very familiar with, Colonial. And, I made a slight change in my swing and it has really carried me through the week. I was playing free and easy and the putter was working. Everything was hit-- was hitting on all cylinders. That was at Colonial. When you hit the ball in the rough at Colonial you can still the get the ball on the green. When you hit the ball here you are lucky to be able to move it at 50 or 60 yards. This rough is the worst rough, most difficult rough that I have seen in the U.S. Open, I think, ever. I think I can probably say ever. Around the greens, even though it wasn't as long as it was at Oakmont, when we -- we played Oakmont, when? In 1982, wasn't it? 1982, it was really severe around the green in 1982 -- 1983. I forgot who won it in 1982 -- (laughter). See, it is nice to be 48 years old, you know. (laughter). Isn't that what you are supposed to do on the SENIOR TOUR? You ask the press to help you out and what happened back then? No, but that rough was as tough as I'd seen it, but this rough is -- it is clingy rough. It is rough, the ball just -- you just don't know what it is going to do when you are trying to hit a shot out of it around the green. If you are, you know, in a lie that is deep in the rough, 15 feet is - with just a simple shot - is your average getting the ball out of there, 15 feet. So, it is going to put a premium on everything as it always does in the U.S. Open, but especially this year. The rough off the tee shots is just as bad as around the greens. And, the greens right now are not quite as firm as they were in 1987, but with the high sky yesterday afternoon, they started to turn a little blue, and they will get their firmness. True test. It is a great golf course. It has, I think it favors a person who hits the ball left-to-right, without question. I think that is the shape of the shots you have to play with to win here. I think if you do that, hit the ball straight or left-to-right, I don't think it favors a person who draws the ball very much. Keep it in play. Hit a lot of good iron shots. The greens are -- they are -- I would say they are from the standpoint of being -- they are not Oakland Hills type difficulties in putting. Oakland Hills had some difficult slopes. These slopes are broad, long slopes that, I think, you know, the toughest pin positions on the golf course are the front of the greens. If you get the pins on the front you are -- you are going to see lots of bogeys and 3-putts. So, that is -- if I were going to set it up to keep the field from breaking par, I'd put every pin on the front of the green.
LES UNGER: Questions, please.
Q. Greens as fast as Augusta?
TOM WATSON: No. They are not. Greens are not as fast as Augusta.
Q. Could you just address being back here. Is it good memories or bad memories for you?
TOM WATSON: Well, there are bittersweet memories. I played -- I remember going into the tournament I was playing lousy. I was really struggling, played nine holes on Wednesday with Jack Nicklaus and I said "Jack, I have got to go to the practice tee." He was playing just as badly as I was. He said, "I am going to join you there." So we went to the practice tee and practiced. I practiced for a couple of hours and figured out something that may work for the next day, just try to get the ball in, play off tee. And, got off to a shaky start but kind of -- when I made the -- I made a bunker shot I holed a bunker shot at 17, from the right front bunker, for a 3. And that really kind of changed my whole tournament right there. I played some pretty solid golf the last three rounds of the tournament after that.
Q. Can you just -- all the things that came together for you to win at Colonial, whatever change in your swing, whatever confidence over your putter, what came together there, and why were you so emotional after you had won? What were all the thoughts afterward?
TOM WATSON: Well, I wasn't -- I have still -- I still believe that I can still swing the golf club and hit the ball straight. I just made a slight change in the take-away. On Tuesday, I went and practiced for a long spell on Tuesday after the Byron Nelson, because I didn't play very well at the Byron Nelson. And I did the same thing with the putter. I changed my take-away on the putter a little bit which kind of coincided a little bit with the long swing and played a good solid Pro Am round, shot 66 in the Pro Am and I said, "Well, it is working now. Let's play. See if it works during the regular tournament," and it did. As far as being emotional. I was honestly thinking well, is this -- is this maybe my last tournament I am ever going to win on the Tour. But it is nice -- I said it was a great feeling to be there again. That is the reason there was a tear or two came out.
Q. Speaking of Davis Love, he feels as though the rough is too painful because it takes away some of the skill involved in hitting a golf shot when you just hack it back out to the fairway. He says there is no skill involved. Do you feel as though the rough can get too painful, or are you okay with the way it is?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think if you look at what you do once you hit it in the rough, you better use your head coming out of the rough. I think it takes a lot of skill to know that you just don't take it -- you get upset and just try to beat it up in front of the green. There are certain greens that you don't want to be up close to. The green when the pin is in -- in the front of the -- you better be thinking about your shot after the shot that comes out of the rough. So you better be playing that shot just as precisely as you would any shot that you really needed to make. So I don't -- I mean, it is there. They are not going to change it. No sense in complaining about. It better just go ahead and understand that there is a penalty involved and you better make the best of it. Just like in your field at the British Open, you put it in those bunkers at Muirfield and the British Open. It is like hitting into a water hazard. You take a stroke penalty. You may hit it out with a sand wedge but you can't hit it more than 20, 30 yards out of those bunkers or sideways. So you -- basically, you have lost a shot and when you hit the ball in the rough. Here, it is the same way. You can't get to the green, and if you want to try to get to the green, it is dangerous because you don't want to put the ball up in that rough around the greens. 40 yards from the green you might not be able to get it to the green. It is not that easy so you better use your head.
Q. Are you comfortable or are you enjoying the pressure of having won a tournament being listed as one of the favorites to come back and win another Open Championship?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I like being a favorite. I am very comfortable with that.
Q. How highly do you rate Lee Westwood?
TOM WATSON: I spoke of him the other day during an interview about the Open. I think he is -- I played with him at the PGA last year at Winged Foot. I played with him at The Masters, I think again this year. He is a wonderful player. Excellent player. I like his attitude on the golf course, like his attitude with which he plays. He has got talent and I think he is a real -- think he is a real threat to win here. I think Colin Montgomerie is a real threat to win here. He works the ball left-to-right, and it is the perfect golf course for Colin. I think left-to-right is the shot this week.
Q. Could you give us a chronology of your back? Have you ever had the kind of back problems that some of these young guys seem to be having?
TOM WATSON: You want it from the first lumbar to the last cervical.
Q. Could you just talk about what you do to try to keep your back in shape like some of these other golfers?
TOM WATSON: Well, I was born a Watson, fortunately that says it all. I haven't had a bad back because I guess genetically, it just doesn't run in our family.
Q. You have three young Stanford golfers out there playing. Do you feel like they have forgot about you and --
TOM WATSON: (laughs) yeah they are a year young enough to be my sons out there. It is great to see them.
Q. What was the change that you made in your take-away, and it is still working?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I was just -- I was just trying to use my Jack Nicklaus method taking it away, which is try to keep the face more square to the ball longer in the backswing.
LES UNGER: Do you have a guess on a score, winning score?
TOM WATSON: Winning score here? I think for four rounds it will be -- I think it is going to be over par.
LES UNGER: Over par.
TOM WATSON: I think it is going to be over par. I don't know how much over par it is going to be. But I think this year, we are going to see over par win the tournament. Reason I say that is we are due for some wind. We still have sun, the conditions of the golf course -- condition of the greens are going to be very difficult, greens are going to be hard, harder than they were yesterday, and they are going to sit, going to be a difficult to shoot around par here.
Q. What do you make of Tiger Woods's chances?
TOM WATSON: I think Tiger is a threat any time he tees it up. He can play this course -- he is going to have to lay up a lot on this golf course but he can lay up with a 2-iron on a lot of holes here and still hit it out of here with me with my driver. Actually my driver is perfect here. In 1987 ways hitting the ball a little farther and I had to consider using 3-wood off the tee a bunch of times. But, since they are a little bit shorter in the last 11 years you can use a driver off the tee most of the holes here.
LES UNGER: You just made, to me, an interesting statement that you are shorter and yet there has been this controversy over clubs carrying the ball further. So are you saying that even with equipment as it is today and the ball as it is today, you are shorter than you were 11 years ago?
TOM WATSON: I probably am, yeah.
Q. If you could talk about No. 7, short yardage a little deceiving?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I like 7. It is -- it is a very short par 4. I think if you feel like you are driving the ball well, it is worth a gamble given the pin's in the right position of the green.
Q. When you were at school, how often did you get up here, if at all?
TOM WATSON: I played -- I think I only played it once in all the years I played Stanford. I played it; shot about 80. I don't think I even broke 80. It was very wet. My right-to-right didn't work here.
Q. What are your feelings about Casey Martin using the cart in this tournament?
TOM WATSON: I think Casey is -- I wish him well. It is a tough situation the Tour has taken -- it is a tough position the Tour has taken, but I think the Tour is right in the sense that the game should be played walking. It is still an athletic endeavor that does create -- it does create a problem for you when you go -- especially 36 holes. People in better condition have an advantage to people who are not in good condition. So think -- it is a tough situation. The compassion must go to Casey. It goes -- it goes from me to Casey. I think that he has got a wonderful golf swing. He has got a powerful golf swing. And, it is a shame that he has that affliction. That creates a problem for him.
Q. How far have you come since, say, being in the pits of your game in the mid-'90s? Are you much more enthusiastic now about playing or at any point, say, previous to two or three years ago, did you consider even just stopping for a while?
TOM WATSON: I am enjoying the twilight of my career out here, yeah. Starting -- you know, in the late '80s, that is when I was really struggling and not having any fun out here at all. Then I made the swing change in 1991 or 1992 - whenever it was - I started hitting the ball very well. So that was a pleasure. The putting was not a pleasure. But, at least part of the game was a pleasure so that kept me going. And, I just hope that, you know, I can continue to play the way I am playing and still -- and make the decision, very difficult about the SENIOR TOUR, whether I play or not. But most likely I will.
Q. I'd like to ask you hypothetically -- your son is Michael; isn't it?
TOM WATSON: Yeah.
Q. If his game was such that he was ready to qualify for Tour play and so forth, but he had the ailment Casey Martin has, what would you tell him?
TOM WATSON: What would I tell him? I'd tell him you know: Son, I want you to play the best you can within what the Tour will allow. The Tour doesn't allow it, that is just one of the tough decisions in life.
Q. You say you are in the twilight of your career. Your course design work is picking up. You have got the National in Kansas City and you have been working overseas. What are the visions for the National and your goals overall with that work?
TOM WATSON: When you are forwarded a good piece of property, a fine piece of property like that, it makes it easy to build a good golf course. The difficult ones are the ones where you are not forwarded a good piece of property, a totally flat piece of property or a piece of property that has tremendous contour. I am forwarded a very good piece of property, so it has been very easy to build one there. It is a joy to be able to go out and think up the shot values that that property gives you.
Q. Are you able to reach 17 in two shots and where are you on the setup of that hole?
TOM WATSON: (laughs) 17 is a little out of my range, 609 yards. No, it is -- it is a -- you know, the key in that hole is to put the ball in play off the tee and then, you know, when we played it, I remember the final round in 1987, the pin was on the back right and a slight downslope reaching you to the pin, and it's a very, very shallow area to hit to there. It is a very small surface to hit to, and, people were not hitting the green, they were hitting on the green and the ball was bouncing over. I hit a good shot in there pretty close, but I missed the putt. If it is not back right, then you have a little bit more green to work with. I think the shot -- I think the smart play is to make sure you get the ball in play off the tee and then take a risk on your second shot.
Q. Are you talking about 16, the par 5 or 17 the --
TOM WATSON: Talking about 16. 16, I still can't reach in 2. Yesterday I hit a good drive. Actually I outdrove everybody at 17 yesterday, and I hit a 2-iron short of the green. So, it played very, very long. So it -- again that hole, if you make par there, it is like making birdie. We played the tee -- we didn't play the tee as far back -- as -- I think we played the tee farther back to where they will play the tee.
Q. When was the last time you played a major championship with two men who are young enough to be your sons?
TOM WATSON: How old is Lee?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I have never played one -- I have played with people in major championships who could be my father, but not vice versa. (laughs).
Q. What do you think it will feel like?
TOM WATSON: I know I will be hitting first all the time on my second shots and I certainly hope I hit first off every tee.
LES UNGER: Is that it? Well, needless to say, we are very pleased that you stopped by and we hope there is occasion for you to return this week.
TOM WATSON: Thank you.
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