June 1, 1996
WES SEELEY: 70, 68, 66, 204 12 under par for Tom Watson. Tell us about your day.
TOM WATSON: My day was epitomized by the bunker shot at 17; everything went right for me today. I played well. Didn't make any mistakes on the greens and I was really very happy about the score 66, no bogeys. First two days I have had -- I had several bogeys, but -- and a double bogey, but I have had a lot of birdies and today I had hit a lot of birdies and no bogeys, so that is what -- that was my objective today, go out there and eliminate the bogeys. And you never could tell. It worked today, may not work tomorrow, may not work next week, but it worked today.
WES SEELEY: Let us go through those birdies.
TOM WATSON: All right. I started -- I parred the first four holes. I did have to chip from the back fringe at number 4 to save par. Number 5, I knocked it on with a 3-iron 2-putt from about 50 feet for birdie. I parred 6 and 7, no problem. Then 8, I hit a 7-iron just behind the hole about 20 feet, made that putt, just a short birdie putt at 19; missed from about five feet at 9. Then 11, I hit a very big drive and then I hit 3-wood on the green about 30 feet from the hole and 2-putted there for birdie. Number 12, I hit an 8-iron just through the green awkwardly on the downslope, chipped it up to about 3 and a half feet, made that putt for par. 13, I hit -- I pushed my drive a little bit on the right. It ended up on the right end of the fairway just to hold; 8-iron - it's the worst iron shot I hit today; hit it then to the right, ended up in the fringe, fringe rough, and I had an awkward lie there. I knocked that by about 15 feet, but I holed that putt for par. And then 14, I hit a 2-iron off the tee, sandwedge about twelve feet; made the putt for birdie. 15, I hit a drive and 3-wood on the green, 2-putted there. Good first putt was right down the hill, very fast putt, knocked that up about two feet there to the hole; made that putt for birdie.
Q. How long was the first putt?
TOM WATSON: First putt, I'd say it was about 45 feet, 50 feet. 16, I played it pretty safe, knocked it to the center of the green and pushed it a little bit, had a long putt from about 60 feet, knocked it up about -- I left it about four to five feet short, made the putt. 17, I hit a 3-wood off the tee, and I hit a 9-iron. I was really debating between 9 and 18 which way was the wind coming; which way it was it blowing; if it was blowing a little bit into us rather than a little bit down, and the 9-iron just didn't carry. Hit it at the top part of the bunker, came back down, and I had a decent lie, and I just got in there and holed it with a sand wedge.
Q. That was how far?
TOM WATSON: I'd say it was probably about 30 feet in horizontal distance and about 9 feet in vertical distance. So you figure that out with your triangulation there, let us see what is the hypotenuse?
Q. We forgot our slide rules.
TOM WATSON: You guys are smart.
Q. Is that a new drink?
TOM WATSON: You majored in English. You didn't major in math. You can't figure hypotenuse.
Q. If you figured the hypotenuse you would have been into the lip then.
TOM WATSON: I can't win. I can't win. Can't win this one. 18, I hit a 3 driver off the tee and I hit a 7-iron from about 146 yards and hit the putt where I was aiming, but the ball really broke hard left and missed.
Q. How far?
TOM WATSON: I think it was about eight feet.
WES SEELEY: Questions?
Q. Paul Stankowski was just here. He said that you were his childhood hero as he was growing up. He said he wished he had the opportunity to play with you tomorrow. He raved about you on and on. I am sure that doesn't make you feel any younger.
TOM WATSON: It makes me feel very old.
Q. Being his childhood hero, but does it make you feel any younger at all just by the way you played today?
TOM WATSON: I had my heroes, too, Arnold Palmer and Nicklaus was my hero. Sneed and Nelson, Jones from the historical sense, a lot of years.
Q. Tom, can you talk about just what it feels like now to be, you know, in a very good position going into the Sunday round and how you feel about it?
TOM WATSON: I haven't been in the position like this for quite a while. The British Open, I guess, couple of years ago, Turnberry, maybe the last time, maybe I had a couple other opportunities. I have had three or four opportunities to win. This certainly is the best opportunity I have had to win for -- in a while. I am in the lead of the tournament, and it means a great deal to me. What does it mean? It means that I have an opportunity to end the dry spell, a dry spell meaning that I hadn't won since 1987. Now, figure how many years that is. Now the math..... (LAUGHTER) '87 from '96 --
TOM WATSON: What is the the hypotenuse?
Q. I will get back to you.
TOM WATSON: Okay. Get back to me on it.
Q. You talked about how you used to be -- you put the lights out every round. Did you feel that a little bit today? You didn't miss much of anything.
TOM WATSON: I didn't. I tried.
Q. Was it like the old days?
TOM WATSON: Not exactly like the old days, but...
Q. The confidence level, maybe?
TOM WATSON: I am trying to make it like the old days, let us put it that way.
Q. How are you trying to do that?
TOM WATSON: Just by imaging. That is the way I felt. That is the way I feel. That is the way I felt. It was great. One of the advantages of playing golf you have played so many times you put yourself in situations that you can remember before. I can't remember much, but I can remember enough that I put myself in situations where I remember this putt or that putt or that shot or this -- this wind and that means a lot to me, from the standpoint of being able to go out and feel like I have an advantage. But also with my feel of my putting on the greens, the same thing, I can remember a lot of the putts in these greens. In the past, greens were a little bit slower now, and it makes it a little bit easier to imagine than going to a new golf course like Oakland Hills in a couple of weeks. It will be hard to kind of imagine yourself on those greens.
Q. 15, you just had that long 2-putt, but I mean --
TOM WATSON: That was a tough putt.
Q. You probably had about, what, two and a half, three feet left; you just walked up and wrapped it. Is that sort of what you are talking about? I guess maybe there seems like there is almost an aggressiveness to you now.
TOM WATSON: I have been trying to putt like that. It hasn't been any different. Just making too many mistakes on the greens. Today I didn't make any mistakes.
Q. Does it get tougher as the years go by, this streak or this dry spell; I mean, do you get into situations a couple of times a year where you are close? Will it be any harder now than it was last year or Turnberry or do you think?
TOM WATSON: I was pretty disappointed at Turnberry. That was a tough way to go, because I played awfully well, and I didn't -- I came up with nothing on the greens the last day. And I got frustrated there for a while. And it -- I have always had the philosphy that if you didn't play well this week, there is always next week; that is the way I have played. I don't lament my missed opportunities. Everybody has missed opportunities who plays this game. It doesn't mean that they don't hurt for a while, but the next week I tee it up and I am not thinking about the last week, I am thinking about going ahead and going forward. I have always had -- I think I have always had the ability to come back from a disappointing tournament and do well at the next week or very soon afterwards. Same thing in the golf course, come away from a disappointing hole and come back with a birdie. I don't know. It is just part of my nature.
Q. How would you compare the way you are feeling now with the way you felt in your career when you were having problems winning and you weren't sure --
TOM WATSON: I feel tired now, but other than that -- (LAUGHTER) I still feel I have the ability to win. I said that three years ago. I haven't won. I feel I have come close. I have played awfully well for the last three years, I think, from tee to green I have played very, very well. I have made errors not only on the greens but, you know, mental errors, probably more so than I would have made during the middle of the end of my real good streak there in the '80s, '70s, and '80s, and that comes from probably not being -- not playing enough. I play about 18 tournaments a year, and I think to be more competitive you have -- I have to play more, but that is the -- that is the schedule I have chosen.
Q. Tom, are these greens good for your putting?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, they are good for my putting. They are not easy greens to putt. But they are good in the sense that I can kind of remember how the putts were breaking. Like tomorrow, the pins are going to be back right at 17 and if I come up little bit short on that, I remember how that putt breaks. 18, you know, this golf course today played -- the first three holes and last three holes played pretty tough. In the middle there, the middle 12 holes, is where a lot of the birdies were made.
Q. Do you get, more or less, nervous now when, you know, on a Sunday or in contention? Is it different?
TOM WATSON: It is different. I am more nervous on the greens. I am less nervous hitting the ball. It is kind of reversed - reverse rolls.
Q. What have you learned about putting in the last, let us say, three, four years? Have you learned something that you have been able to take into a round now?
TOM WATSON: I learned if you don't putt well, you don't win. I learned the hard way.
Q. But anything in a technical sense, just a mental sense about putting, that that is getting better for you?
TOM WATSON: Again, I try to imagine -- I try to think about Crenshaw and his stroke. I try to think about the good strokes I see, Larry Mize. I played with Larry today. He has a beautiful flowing stroke. I get out there, and I am going bang, bang, choo, choo, like this. (indicating sounds) I have always had a very quick stroke, popped it like this. And to be consistent with it is tough when you are going that fast and you have good rhythm there and you maintain that rhythm.
Q. You try to incorporate rhythm in your stroke?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I try to have a little rhythm there.
Q. You said yesterday you experimented a little bit with your stroke. Did you find anything that was working?
TOM WATSON: I went back to what I was doing the first couple of days, "stick with it, stupid," I said.
Q. What technically is it?
TOM WATSON: It is just open the gate, close the gate.
Q. Finish the putt?
TOM WATSON: Finish the stroke. See, there is tip number 5,747, finish the stroke, but I have had -- (LAUGHTER) -- I have had lots of letters from people saying "you quit on it," well, sure, get out there long and --
Q. Stab stroke?
TOM WATSON: Yeah.
Q. Has it been a while since you have had the kind of reception you have had coming up the 18?
TOM WATSON: That was wonderful. All day it was that way. It was really pleasurable out there. The crowd was really pulling for me.
Q. Did anything in particular flash through your mind when you holed out at 17 or not?
TOM WATSON: No. Only thing is I went up to my caddy because I said, "I guess it was the right club, wasn't it?" (LAUGHTER) I thought when I hit the ball it was in the air. I said, "oh, God, gosh, it's going to go too long" and the son of a gun, came up short. The wind was playing tricks on us there. I will learn the next time I play that shot if I have that shot.
Q. If you can remember it?
TOM WATSON: That is right, if I can remember it.
Q. What is --
TOM WATSON: That is about 50/50.
TOM WATSON: That's right, CRS.
Q. What is your greatest reason for playing now, you know, is it different than it used to be? Are you playing for a different reason or --
TOM WATSON: I am doing it because I love it. I love part of what I am doing and I hate part of what I am doing, but it is a love/hate relationship. I am just trying to get -- trying to get it all together. But it has always sort of been that way in a sense.
Q. The dry spell is not necessarily something that if you were to conquer if it would --
TOM WATSON: I don't spend any time thinking about it, no, and I am more of a present-day person. If I win tomorrow, then I will tell you what it means. But I don't know what it is going to mean right now, because I am not thinking about what does it mean. I am thinking about how my first -- how I am going to play the first hole tomorrow in an inch and a half of rain.
Q. Would you compare this round at all in any way with that 69 in 1979?
TOM WATSON: No, the conditions were a little bit more difficult then, quite a bit more difficult.
Q. Paul Stankowski says he is -- to sum his comments, he is actually repelled by playing the U.S. Open. He said he'd would rather fight an 8 pound bass. Can you assess your response to that?
TOM WATSON: U.S. Open is the most difficult tournament to win. It is not even -- there is no doubt that it is the most difficult tournament to win. The reason it is because they condition the golf courses where -- or where par is the score to beat. And if par is being beaten, then the courses get more difficult overnight like it did at Oakmont, the last one at Oakmont. They had about 11 guys under par, and all of a sudden it got completely different the last day.
Q. How about a guy at this stage of his career at that age just having won his first tournament with that kind of attitude; do you have a response to that?
TOM WATSON: No.
WES SEELEY: Anything else for Tom Watson?
Q. Nice day?
TOM WATSON: It was a nice day, thank you. Thank you very much.
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