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June 12, 1996

Tom Watson


TOM WATSON: Buses or boats back to the hotel? How much rain did we get? This much rain? (Indicating four feet) Anybody have any idea of how many inches of rain we got? This is your job.

Q. It is still going.

LES UNGER: Four inches of the rain.

TOM WATSON: Are you serious?

LES UNGER: Seems like it. Does anybody really know?

Q. More than 2.

TOM WATSON: More than two? That has been the official word? That's is your word?

Q. It was on the TV.

TOM WATSON: It was on the TV; more than 2. I was on 16 when it happened, and we just walked right on in. This golf course is really going to play long now. Very, very long. The golf course is as soft as -- it is softer than I have ever seen it, and this rain is going to really make it -- really going to make it tough. The greens are going to hold a little bit better; but on the other hand, it is going to make it -- make them more spongey. And with the later groups in the afternoon, there is going to be a lot of bouncing around the hole because of the sponginess of the greens. It will make it difficult, very difficult to play. They were getting some speed. Today they were getting some speed back. The first day I played on Monday, they weren't very fast at all, and today they started to get their speed back. But after this rain, they are going to be hard-pressed to get very much speed back in a couple of days. So what else has happened in the last couple of weeks? I don't know.

LES UNGER: Did you go back to the locker room? Was it pandemonium in there?

TOM WATSON: I sat with all the Aussies back over there. We talked about Australian Rules Football, how Murdock (ph) and Packer (ph) are screwing it up. It's just what you normally do, you chew the fat for a little while, tell a few stories. I am coming in here, obviously, on a pretty good high. I won my first tournament again. That is what it felt like a couple of weeks ago at The Memorial. And this last week, I have been basically just celebrating for a week, I had a couple two or three days I had to do some things. We had our annual benefit in Kansas City for Children Mercy Hospital. I had Michelle McGann and Laura Davies come in to play Peter Jacobsen and me, and we had a little contest from the same tees. The men won. We were behind by one after 10 holes, but we came on strong and won. So Bobby Riggs, rest your soul. I have played the golf course now -- I played two and a half rounds -- basically two and a half rounds on the golf course. It is as tough as I remember it. It is a difficult golf course in the sense that each green you basically have to quarter the green up. Actually, a lot of the greens are in thirds. You have got to be able to place the ball on the third of the green or else you are going to have to have some great imagination on some of your putts. I think this week it's really going to take a lot of guts to win the golf tournament again. Andy North did in 1985. He played just a gutsy last round to win the golf tournament, getting the ball up-and-down three or four times in the back nine to win the golf tournament, and I don't think anything is going to be any different with this tournament. The rough is so deep. Even though they topped it, the rough is so deep that any time you hit it in the rough, the chances of you -- most any time you hit it in the rough, the chances of you hitting the ball on the green from the rough are virtually nil. And that's different than when we played in, I think in 1979 the PGA here when the rough was a little bit kinder to us but, right now with all the rain, it is just like cabbage. In fact, I think -- I don't know who is going to make more money, the superintendent after he cuts this hay and sells it or the winner of the golf tournament.

Q. Tom, I just wondered -- two questions, if I might. No. 1: Obviously, the course will probably stay wet. Will that take some of the teeth out of it? And secondly, will you have a different strategy, like so many people were saying, we'll use long irons off the tee, we will use this, we'll use that. Can you pull out the driver more often now if the fairways are really wet?

TOM WATSON: Well, I think -- the way I was going to play it, I could play driver on quite a few holes because the fairways are wet. And -- well, now they are going to remain wet for four days, so a driver is in play in just about every tee shot because the ball is not going to roll off of the slopes into the rough. It is going to hit and stop. And yes, the thing is, you can't get the roll, so you are going to play up, lay-up short and hit longer shots into the greens which are softer or take a risk with the driver and put it in between the bunkers and the rough, which this course narrows down in the landing areas quite a bit. It's a typical Trent Jones Sr.'s type of design where it narrows it in the long hitter's zone, and you are going to have to -- again, it is how you feel. I ask Bruce a couple of times a day, "what do you think I really ought to do here?" He says, " just how you feel. If you feel like you can put a driver in the fairway, hit it. If you feel more comfortable hitting a long iron than hitting a long iron into the green, you can do that because the greens are little bit softer." The ball is not going to bounce as much, so it is basically up to the strategy of the individual player.

Q. Will the wetness take a lot of the teeth out of the course?

TOM WATSON: I don't think it takes that much teeth out of the course. It makes the rough more difficult. It makes the greens softer, so I think it is a wash.

Q. Tom, a lot has been made out of your swing changeover, the years trying to win again. How many swing changes have you actually gone through since 1987, and have you changed your putting stroke, too?

TOM WATSON: Well, that is a two-part question, too. Because '87 -- I basically made a swing change about three or four years ago that really helped me and leveled my shoulders out, hit the ball a little bit lower and straighter. The putting, I have had -- I can't count how many times I have tried different putting styles or different putters. So it has been -- it is kind -- I have been saying it is like a reversal from the way I used to play. When I played in the '70s and '80s, I didn't really fool around with my putter or my putting style very much. It was just -- it was just a normal situation to go out and make two or three 30-footers a round and have 26 putts. Now, it is a struggle. Back then it was not uncommon when I go out and hit 10 greens and shoot 67. My game has changed around now. I go out and hit a lot of greens in regulation and I shoot 71. That is -- my game has -- it has had a 180 degree reversal in the sense that I don't putt as well as I used to, but I hit the ball better and that gives you an indication of how important putting is in terms of winning golf tournaments.

Q. Tom, once you happen to go in the rough, what then becomes the thought pattern between you and Bruce as to whether if you're going to land short in less clubs try and hit it in a better area than what if you try to go to pin maybe and end up in a bunker that you didn't want to be in?

TOM WATSON: Well, if you can't get to the green in the air, then most likely you are going to lay-up, because you have a lot of trouble in front of the greens here. So your thought pattern is just to get the son-of-a-gun out. When I played with Jack Nicklaus, Jack said -- he said, "I almost thought it was just simply technique in how to get it out of this heavy rough," and Jack was by far the best in getting it out. He took take a 4 out of the lies and most people couldn't hit 8 iron and hit the ball 180 yards out, but he said it helps to be strong, too. And there is a lot to be said about how fast you can get that club through that grass.

Q. Tom, just wondering, the nine years, did it feel like nine years two weeks ago, or did it feel like longer as that was going? Was it -- did it seem like longer than nine years to you?

TOM WATSON: It felt -- I didn't -- I didn't feel it was a matter -- I didn't feel as if it was the right tournament if I was going to win. Again, I just felt "win." I still felt I was good enough at striking the golf ball. If I can get the putter to react properly a few times, I could win a golf tournament again, and that is what happened. But I know one thing; sitting there and talking to the press and talking to the crowd and the ceremony afterwards, boy, it felt good to win again. I realized how much I missed it.

Q. Tom, can you describe your putter to us and how you got this putter and what your present style is?

TOM WATSON: Well, my present style is still shaky on the greens. This putter came to me from Lee Trevino a couple of years ago, and I used it in the Skins game and in a couple of tournaments earlier in '94 -- '95. And I discarded it just like I discarded a lot of other putters because, you know, we still believe -- we golfers still believe that it is the putter; it is not the stroke. We get a new putter that will work better, but that is not the case. So it really is not the putter. I've putted with lots of different putters. I have putted with heavy putters, light putters. I haven't putted with a long putter. The question has been asked of me, "why don't you go with a long putter? " And I answered that I tried it with 3 balls. You know, you get 3 balls in a pack, put the 3 balls down, and I took this long putter of Lietzke's and I hit -- this was about a 30-foot putt. I hit the first one 10 feet, second one 6 feet, and third one about 20 feet past. I said this really works. (LAUGHTER) I discarded that pretty quickly.

Q. Could I have a follow-up question? Could you take a moment to tell us what it was like for you to be in your basement by yourself sitting by yourself anywhere and having been asked 9 million times about your putting? How did you handle that in your mind? You were always asked about the same thing. What went through your mind?

TOM WATSON: What went through my mind, I can't run and hide from it. I have to address it the way you address it. Yeah, I have trouble on the greens. I mean, it's not obvious. I can't deny it. People say, well, "deny it" because then you will putt better. I say, "no, that's not the way it works." It doesn't work that way.

Q. Tom, people are already comparing this weather to Oakmont in '83. Can you give us some memories of Oakmont?

TOM WATSON: That is -- you are quite right, because Oakmont got very, very wet and very, very damp. You know, you look at the -- look at the golf course and how wet it is going to be, and the mud is going to be on the balls, and it is going to be a struggle. These conditions are not easy. I say that with mud on the ball -- I mean, you are going to -- we're going to find lots of situations where that mud is going to be on that ball and going to make the ball fly like a knuckle ball, and that is going to create some bad shots. But in '83, it rained. We came back out on the golf course to play on Monday, finished the golf tournament. I think it probably would help -- I think it probably helped the scores at Oakmont more than it does here. Oakmont greens, you have some greens that slope away from you a little bit more -- and here it comes again -- but I think it is going to help -- it helped in a long run at Oakmont, then it will help here. It will be just simply a tough golf course. We will see some red numbers out there, but over the course of a week it will still be par.

Q. Will there be any red numbers at the end of the week?

TOM WATSON: Well, I predict there might be two or three.

Q. Can you tell us what the last major was that you went into that maybe you have a similar confidence to this year's major here at the U.S. Open?

TOM WATSON: I have had a lot of confidence in the last three our four years going into the Majors. I was very confident going into Turnberry a couple of years ago. I was confident in the U.S. Open last year, PGA at Southern Hills. Nick Price won. Of course, he ran away with that. I have had my opportunities. U.S. Open at Oakmont, I felt very confident there.

Q. Of all the major championships that you have won, including the '82 Open, which one has meant the most to you and where would a Championship at Oakland Hills rate with those?

TOM WATSON: Well, I think probably the most satisfying or gratifying tournament was the '77 British Open, Turnberry, and second right then is the U.S. Open in '82 at Pebble Beach. So that is the tournament I probably wanted to win most throughout my life was -- is the U.S. Open. And to win here, you know, I look at this, it is kind of like Hale Irwin's victory at Medinah. He played really well at a little stretch right there for an old guy. He won the tournament there in a playoff with Mike Donald, and I look back at that saying, "okay, if he can do it, I possibly could do it, too."

Q. Tom, can you talk about reaction to your recent win from fans around the country, fellow players?

TOM WATSON: It has been great. I mean, I have had so many phone calls, faxes, even telegrams. You know what a telegram is? It comes in that yellow piece of paper. It has just been wonderful. Flying up in the plane from Kansas City to here we took out mail, which I hadn't seen my wife had gone through when I was out of town, and we still have lots of mail to go through and it has just been wonderful. It really has. You are hearing from people and friends, fellow competitors out here and friends on the Tour. It has just been a tremendous pleasure, just been heart-warming. I feel choked up half a dozen times a day. It's just been great.

Q. You said softer conditions might have helped you there. Do you feel the same way here?

TOM WATSON: Yes, I do. I don't hit the ball quite as high as I used to, but the conditions are soft and it might help me here.

Q. I think you said at one stage that you were continuing competing so the children could see you as a winner. What was their reaction to your win?

TOM WATSON: Well, my son said -- my son Michael said "cool, daddy, cool," on the plane after they picked me up on Sunday night late, and my daughter just gave me that big smile and gave me a big hug.

LES UNGER: How old are they?

TOM WATSON: My daughter is 16. My son is 13, and I said I'd hope that I'd win again so that my kids could see me win and understand what I was going through, what I was actually doing for a living and truly understand, and I did.

Q. How much will experience be a factor this week?

TOM WATSON: I think it will be a big factor. Any time you play the golf course before -- this golf course, even though it is going to be very wet, the more times you play in the Open or PGA conditions, the better. Those memories can help you determine what type of shots to play on these holes. Any time you play a golf course more than somebody else, I think you have an advantage, no question. It is harder to play a golf course blind. It really is. You fail to realize that the shot that you must play is away from the pin and where away from the pin you should play. U.S. Open, many times that is the key. On 15, -- 14, for instance, where do you play that shot when the pin is on the right-hand side? You got to play it long; can't play it short. You've got to be long. Got to be chipping back up the hill. Play it short? There is no way, your chances of getting up-and-down are very slim.

Q. Can you name two or three players that would benefit from this rain, improve their chances, and two or three that it might hurt their chances in this rain?

TOM WATSON: Well, I think any time you come into this golf tournament, you look at who is playing well and you look what the golf course favors. This golf course is going to favor a good putter. No question. A putter who has imagination, a putter that understands how to get the ball close from 60 feet with a 12-foot break. A guy like Loren Roberts. It's long golf course, but Loren could play this golf course with the type of putting stroke he has got and do well. Some of the rookies that are playing for the first time, playing just a few times, guys like Scott McCarron hits the ball a long way. Steve Stricker, he has got the monkey off his back; he's finally won a golf tournament. I think, you know, people might tend to discount Greg Norman, but I think Greg is the type of person he will make a run at this. And I don't think this course sets up any better for anybody than Nick Faldo, and Nick will play this course very well. And if you look at him, he has got the putter. He has got the putting statistics right there in the top 5 in the putting statistics this year, and that certainly -- he is going to be right there, in my opinion. As far as who it hurts, it hurts anybody who hits the ball in the rough. Somebody who is not hitting the ball very straight, he can kiss it good-bye. Just at number 2 at Augusta, you hook it down the left tree down there, just like a Delta ticket office down there; you better go get your ticket, because you are out of town on Friday.

Q. Corey Pavin said he was thrilled that you were the first one to introduce him as the reigning National Open Champion. What are your recollections of that day and his reaction?

TOM WATSON: I was so proud of Corey for winning it. He is a consummate golfer in the sense that he knows how to maneuver the ball, make the ball do the things he wants it to do, and he is very good at managing the golf course, and he has got to be. He is not very long, and he is the type of person who needs to be able to position the ball better than the long hitters do. I know how good it felt when I was National Open Champion in 1982, and when he stepped to the tee at Blue Hill there last year, I said "this is the 1995 National Open Champion." I know how much it meant to him to be announced that way. That was the first time he had been announced that way.

LES UNGER: Any other questions?

Q. Can you comment on Jack Nicklaus playing his 40th consecutive U.S. Open?

TOM WATSON: I played with him the last couple of days. Jack Nicklaus still wants to compete. He still wants to play well. He gets upset when he is not playing well, and you know, that is the record that's going to be -- it is going to be very hard to break 40 straight consecutive U.S. Open Championships. I mean, how many times has he finished second in the U.S. Open?

Q. About five or six.

TOM WATSON: Four times?

Q. Yes.

TOM WATSON: You know, he has had a chance to win this tournament so many times and, you know, we have talked a lot about it. This tournament really eliminates quite a bit of the field right from the beginning. The field has some players that haven't played in the Open ever. They are not used to playing under this type of pressure, so you eliminate that. He said, "you know, in a sense you look at it realistically. You only have a handful of players to beat." And Jack was always the best at figuring out the situation and winning golf tournaments.

Q. Follow-up to that question. I guess it is sort of difficult to put your finger on Jack Nicklaus, pretty -- what would be the game if this is indeed Mr. Nicklaus's final Open?

TOM WATSON: Well, it would -- the game would be at a slight loss if he doesn't play anymore. But I understand Jack, he wants to compete. He wants to play well, and he truly believes it is time to pass the baton when he no longer feels he can compete and compete well, and that is the right thing to do.

Q. You mentioned only a handful. You said a hand -- does that handful expand now with the weather or does it narrow?

TOM WATSON: It broadens. When you have wet conditions, I think it broadens. When the greens are hard and fast, then there are fewer players who can win. When the greens are softer, more players can win. And very simply, because the ball stays on the green. When the greens are hard, you really have to fit the ball onto the greens and to make it work.

LES UNGER: Tom, we thank you a lot. We hope that you have additional good fortune as a couple of weeks ago.

TOM WATSON: Thank you. Appreciate it.

End of FastScripts....

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