August 21, 1996
WES SEELEY: We have Tom Watson who, along with making a return visit to the NEC World Series of Golf, is featured prominently in the "Best of the Best" that we just had a press conference discussing. If you could comment on your inclusion twice.
TOM WATSON: Just to give you a little background you probably know about what happened. MasterCard asked me to help them out with "Best of the Best." I went, to whom I thought was the best of the best, and that was Sandy Tatum - who comprised a committee that you've probably seen or you've probably seen the names and they have come up with this list of 25 best moments. I took a look at them for the first time today, but I have been talking with Sandy and he had talked to me about some of the other great moments which, what we really ought to do, is put all of these moments in a historical perspective in a book, in a book form. I know Los Angeles has done that in one of their -- for their golf tournament or for their area as far as the best moments in Los Angeles athletic history, but this would be a wonderful book. Starting with these 25 right here. I looked at the 25 today several times and I really haven't seen - I really can't think of anything else that I would include in this. I think that this 25 is really a solid list of moments and it is going to be fun for the next committee, the World Golf Hall of Fame Committee, to pick out what moments -- what single moment is the greatest. The only glaring difference of anyone of -- actually, the only thing that really strikes me in this is the one "1961 to present, the Jack Nicklaus career accomplishments." Doesn't seem like a single moment there, but you certainly have to, I think - I think you have to include that. I was, obviously - I was not a part of the Selection Committee because there are a couple of things in here which would - 1977, 1982 would prevent me from being on the committee. That was decided very, very early in the process here. I just hired -- I didn't hire Sandy. I just asked Sandy to do us a favor and he did it as a favor to me and give him great credit for coming up with these. It has been fun to talk with some of the members of that committee. Alistair Cook, with whom I had dinner with in June. We had a great conversation about some of the great moments in golf from his perspective and a couple of them weren't on here, but one of them was, when Scotland seceded from England and golf was made legal again. I think that was -- that had to be a pretty good moment in history because it didn't - it wasn't on the black market anymore. I am not sure exactly what year it was. I think it was sometime in the 16th, 15th century, I forget when it was. We golfers aren't real historians. But looking down through the list here, Arnold Palmer drives the first hole at the final round and goes on to win the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, that really solidified Arnold Palmer as a charger. I mean, his image was enhanced immeasurably by that particular round of golf. My favorite - you are going to ask me my favorite. If I were going to vote - and I am not - but if I were going to vote it would be Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam in 1930 when he beat Eugene Homans 8 and 7 at Merion at the U.S. Amateur at Merion.
JOHN MORRIS: You are eligible to vote.
TOM WATSON: Am I eligible to vote?
JOHN MORRIS: All current members of the Hall of Fame.
TOM WATSON: I know that, but I didn't think since I was on here I still can vote. I am going to tell you what I am going to vote. I am going to vote for that one right there.
Q. Which one?
TOM WATSON: That is going to be it. Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam.
Q. Which one of your two would you rank higher?
TOM WATSON: I would have to define both of them. I have to define -- I played better when I beat Nicklaus at Turnberry for a single moment and I had to rank the chip-in at Pebble Beach, so I am going to hedge.
Q. John just said you have three votes, no, just kidding.
TOM WATSON: There are some really, really fine - just great moments here. Byron Nelson - how can you not consider that as the best -- one of the best moments in the game, when he won his 11th straight tournament or how about his 10th straight tournament or his 9th straight tournament? I mean, how can you not -- any of those tournaments right there in a row, how can you not really consider that as one of the greatest ones? Johnny Miller's 63 at Oakmont. I mean, that was a great moment in the game. I mean, it is just tremendous. Then the emotional moments Ben Crenshaw winning The Masters; also Jack Nicklaus winning The Masters, such emotion. Jack hugging his son Jackie, as the caddy, and Ben Crenshaw winning after his lifelong teacher Harvey Penick died. He was his pallbearer on that Wednesday. That had to be some emotional moments. So you have a lot to choose from here, a lot to choose from.
WES SEELEY: How is Tom Watson return to the NEC World Series of Golf? It is good to have you back.
TOM WATSON: Nice to be back. I am not playing very well right now, but I am kind of in a sour streak right now. May get a little bit better. It normally has.
Q. How are you feeling physically now.
TOM WATSON: Physically I am okay. My foot hurts a little bit, but that is just old age.
Q. What is the biggest -- of course you have only been gone three or four years from here, but is there any one to compare the first one to this one?
TOM WATSON: First time I played here, I played in it as one of the original World Series of golf format. That was a four-man event, the major championship winners as a two day event.
Q. When it was in '76, when it went to a full --
TOM WATSON: I have always liked playing here. It is a golf course where a north wind really makes the golf course play its toughest. The greens are better now than they were when I played -- back when I did play back in 1992.
TOM WATSON: The greens weren't in very good shape. Now they have smoothed them out and they are in good shape. Fairways are immaculate as always. Excellent driving. It is going to take -- rough is very wiry. Knock the ball in the rough, you are going to have a problem there. The greens are flat enough where you have to spin the ball pretty well to hole them.
Q. Were they a lot move undulating back then?
TOM WATSON: They went from not a lot of undulation to a lot of undulation to somewhere in between in the transition between the original greens built -- which were they built by Trent Jones?
Q. He redesigned them.
TOM WATSON: Right. Those were the greens which we played and then Nicklaus came in and redid all the greens over and put a lot of contour in and now contours are just softened up somewhat now. So I have played three different sets of greens now here.
Q. Tom I was talking to a lot of guys. They tell me that because the course is in great shape that that is not necessarily going to be conducive to low scores and I wanted your thoughts on that.
TOM WATSON: I don't know why not. I think it is the opposite. I think if it's in great shape, it makes for better scores. There is not a course that I can think of when it is in bad shape would be an easier course to play on.
Q. In other words, if the wind comes up and the greens get firestoned fast --
TOM WATSON: Well, if the wind comes up and it is in bad shape, it would be a tougher golf course to play than it would be in good shape because you can control the ball better from the fairways. Fairways here have never been anything short of excellent, anything short of excellent. And that is the way the golf course is always played. If you hit the ball in the fairway, you rarely if ever get a bad lie. You may hit it into a divot, but that is about it. The rough is very wiry. Talking to Nicklaus a few weeks ago and he said that your rough, the new strains of blue grass, which they planted in the rough are more difficult to play now because of the denseness and the wiriness of the new strains. And I think he is just getting old like I am. (LAUGHTER) But I remember I used to be able to play out of this rough a little bit easier than I can play out of it now.
Q. Tom, you may have answered this question earlier, but I believe there are 17 first-time players here. Of course, a lot of them will be paired up with guys like you who has seen this course year in year out. Let us say you are paired with a rookie player. Will that cause you maybe to work a little harder at it; maybe teach him a lesson or two out there?
TOM WATSON: I am not going to give him any pointers. We are competing out there. (LAUGHTER) One thing about the World Series of Golf we get a world -- we get a world-class field of players to play here and it is always interesting to see how they play it for the first time and -- Firestone is not an easy course to learn for the first time. It takes some local knowledge to play this golf course. And I was looking at the greens today, I noticed the greens had changed from 1992 and they were a little bit easier to play from the standpoint of getting the ball closer to the hole. So from a rookie standpoint, or somebody who just simply hasn't played here very much, I think they are at a disadvantage.
Q. Likewise, if somebody is playing at a disadvantage -- I have found that, for example, if I am playing bad and I am playing with a really good golfer, sometimes things come down a notch or two simply because they are waiting on somebody to recover from bad shots. Do you think that will impact the more experienced players?
TOM WATSON: We play at Pro Ams every week where the guys can't break 100. So it doesn't make any difference when we play with somebody who is having a bad day out there. I don't think it really makes a whole lot of difference. It's like my grandfather always said, he taught me a lesson early in my life, he said go out and just play the golf course, don't watch what the other guy is doing except use the information around the greens and what the wind is doing to try to help your shots; try to judge your shots, but you know, it really isn't something that should bring your game down to a different level.
Q. You said you are not happy with your game right now.
TOM WATSON: Not really. I am not hitting the ball very well right now. Just in a little -- as I said, the spell is a little bit sour now.
Q. Played well at the PGA, though?
TOM WATSON: I did. I played well at the PGA but International got worse and didn't play very well up at Peter's tournament at the Fred Meyer Challenge and right now, it is not going exactly where I am aiming it, so.....
Q. Is this your last tournament except for THE TOUR Championship.
TOM WATSON: Yes, it is. I am playing here and then the Tour Championship and I will be playing over in Japan at the Dunlop Phoenix and in between I will be playing an exhibition in -- I am going over the eastern rim. I am going to play in Taiwan and just outside of Seoul, Korea. Never been to either place.
Q. Can you compare the rough here to how it was at the PGA?
TOM WATSON: I think you can. Maybe not quite as dense because of the trees. The trees shade them. If you get -- if you get it in the trees, then you have a shot. If -- you have at least a shot to get to the ball along the edges of the fairways, is where it is the worst, as it always is; it gets more water, more sun and you will -- you don't want to be there. You don't want to be there.
Q. How is the putting nowadays.
TOM WATSON: Well, your guess is as good as mine, Ed. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is bad.
Q. Any particular thing you are doing to change it?
TOM WATSON: I do try different strokes here and there, about every other hole. (LAUGHTER)
Q. After you won the Memorial, did you send back all those putters and all those tips and all those --
TOM WATSON: The tips slowed down, the putters slowed down, yes, they did. My office is still full of them, though. I have got them around the wall, my office into Chuck's office and then around the wall there, I have got a lot of putters.
WES SEELEY: Okay? Thank you.
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