June 15, 1994
LES UNGER: We have Tom Watson with us who has just completed
his second practice round. Tom, we have been asking everybody
- we can't leave you out - to give us an evaluation of the Oakmont
course and what you think will happen this week.
TOM WATSON: Well, my assessment of the course is really very simple
assessment. The type of architecture that was used here was a
"rejection architecture" which the greens reject all
-- basically, rejects the shots. They don't collect -- very few
places along the greens -- around the greens collect the ball
onto the greens. Most of the greens just reject the ball off the
greens. Very user unfriendly golf course. It is going to cause
a great embarrassment to a lot of players this week. I'd say probably
about 95 percent of the field probably don't have a chance. The
golf course is obviously a very difficult golf course.
Q. Are you in that 95 percent?
TOM WATSON: I am in the gray area.
Q. How are you playing?
TOM WATSON: I am playing pretty well, pretty well. Driving the
ball well. I am hitting a lot of good iron shots. The head of
the pins -- there are not very many places along the greens that
can put the pins, keep a nice smooth surface for the regular play,
so they put the pins in goofy places; really don't have that much
putting -- don't have a chance to putt kind of a normal putt.
The greens are treacherous. We play holes 1, 10, and 12 where
the greens slope away from you and that creates a real problem
of judgment; how hard you hit it; how far; what club to use. It
is not unlike when I played in '83 before the rains. It is just
very, very difficult, unfriendly golf course. If it was a woman
it would never say, `I do.'
Q. Tom, what is the biggest aspect on these greens, experience
or young nerves?
TOM WATSON: Experience or young nerves. That -- in my case, it
would be experience. I think experience is playing this type of
golf course where bogey is going to be a good score, quite a few
times for the winner. That the experience of knowing that you
have to stay away from a double bogey; you have to put yourself
-- when you are in the rough, you have to put yourself in the
position where you can play your next shot; make a good shot to
the green. It is a true national Open test; very, very difficult.
And as I said, I think about 95 percent of the field here doesn't
have a chance.
Q. Tom, did you feel the same way about the course in '83 or
has it changed a little or --
TOM WATSON: No, really hasn't changed much. It is just -- Oakmont
is just a terribly difficult golf course, and is a golf course
that will, as we get the rain, then it becomes more friendly.
You have a chance to stop the ball a little bit quicker, a little
bit faster, you don't depend on the bounce so much. This is the
test -- we haven't seen the test of golf I don't believe in an
Open championship, with the exception of Pebble Beach in the last
round, where it is -- it is really going to be difficult. There
are going to be more scores in the 90s than there are in the 60s.
Q. Given the nature of the greens, is it fair to say whoever
wins this week is going to make a lot of par putts in the 4 to
6 foot range?
TOM WATSON: Absolutely. Greens are very good. I mean, putting
surfaces are beautiful, very, very good, very quick. Probably
too quick for the greens, for the contours in the greens, probably
too quick. I'd like to see them slow it up. I don't think they
will. But the putting, you are just going to have to make those
4, 6, 10, 12 footers. You are going to have a lot of them after
your first putt.
Q. Tom, every year the players, you might say, complain a little
bit about the U.S. Open conditions, narrow fairways, fast greens;
all that. Do you think this year maybe they have gone to a new
extreme beyond what has been the normal criticism of the past?
TOM WATSON: If I were to make a criticism, I think the greens
are too fast. Other than that, I think the golf course is -- the
high rough is playing the way it should play. I just think the
greens are a little bit -- they're too fast for the contours that
are on the greens.
Q. The question was partially answered, but I just wondered,
are you endorsing what you see or are you saying, geez, the 5%,
we don't know who they are?
TOM WATSON: It is not all or nothing. It is just there are very
few people who have the game to win it on this golf course, very
few. And that conditions dictate -- it will dictate that. If we
get some rain, then the field -- there will be more people capable
of winning the tournament but if we don't get the rain, we don't.
If I were to be critical, I'd say the greens are too fast for
the contour of the greens.
Q. Can you name some of the players you think have the perfect
game for Oakmont?
TOM WATSON: I think -- I really believe that Norman and Nick Price;
I think those two players are the players to beat in this field.
Q. You said the objective of identifying the best players --
TOM WATSON: I am sorry, I didn't understand the question.
Q. U.S. Open sets out to identify the best players; not to
punish them --
TOM WATSON: To embarrass them.
Q. Not to embarrass them?
TOM WATSON: This is going to embarrass a lot of players -- this
golf course, this week, it really is.
Q. Tom, what do you have to do to get out of the gray area
into the 5%?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think I have to keep the ball in play; that
is-- off the tee, that is the critical thing. The golf course
is playing fast enough right that you have to use some irons off
the tee and keep the ball in play and still have an opportunity
to the get the ball up by the greens, you know, on the green,
but these greens, to get the ball close, I mean, you will watch
this championship for 72 holes and there will be some holes that
you won't see - a handful of shots in the entire day - within
15 feet of the hole, the entire day. That is the nature of this
golf course, nature of these greens. A good shot is 30 feet from
Q. Given the incredible growth in popularity of particularly
the majors; particularly the U.S. Open, does it ever occur to
you -- thoughts come to your mind that some of our great venues
here might be going to Jurassic Park in the future and the infrastructures
are more important than the golf course; just incredible amount
of logistics problems at these places?
TOM WATSON: Traffic a problem again this year for you?
Q. Not for us.
TOM WATSON: It was last year for you, I know that. Logistics are
-- it is a huge undertaking. There are 3,500 volunteers here.
That is a lot of people -- park and get to the golf courses, just
to help out. That is a lot. I enjoy -- I enjoy the -- the U.S.
Open is different than any other tournament. It is the most difficult
tournament to win. It has always been and always will because
of the way the USGA conditions the golf course. You go to Japan
for the Japan Open and the JPGA conditions of the golf courses
are more difficult than the USGA makes the golf courses here.
15 yard fairways, 6-inch rough. I have seen it on television.
I say I can't believe. They narrow these fairways down like this.
We all play the golf course and the old cliché is we play
the same golf course, but I'd like to see it be a little friendlier
as far as the speed of the greens are concerned. The speed we
can get away from, I think, a bit.
Q. You say the greens are from a rejection school of design?
TOM WATSON: That is right.
Q. What other golf courses can you think of that have the same
design characteristics in the greens?
TOM WATSON: Well, I'd say 16 of the 18 greens here are rejection
greens. The ball is just rejected off the green. They don't collect.
Very few shots collect onto the green. All but holes like 7 --
7 collects onto the green. And 14, you know, 14 is a short enough
hole where it actually rejects onto the left side and off the
backside, so basically is one green that collects. Toledo, Inverness,
those greens were sort of rejection type of greens. The ball hits
the edge of the green; it will roll right off. Doesn't collect
onto the greens very much. Those are small versions of these greens.
But there are a few greens that-- Inverness, actually, it did
collect the ball onto the greens. These greens, in total, are
Q. Is that the only other course you can think of?
TOM WATSON: Oh, of the major championships, yes. You hit the ball
onto the green and just-- didn't really-- there is a lot of guesswork;
just a lot of guesswork you have to be-- I can understand why
Jack Nicklaus won here because it is the perfect course for strategists
like Jack because Jack plays to an area. He wanted to get the
ball into an area. That is how you have to play the U.S. Open.
You have to put the ball in an area; not go for the pin, but put
the ball in a general area where you can 2-putt; get your par
and get to the next hole, but 2-putts there, 40, 50 feet, 70 feet
and second putts, those 12 footers; we are talking about 6 footers,
eight footers - that is going to be a part of the winning formulas
that make a lot of those putts that we talked about before.
Q. Tom, what was your formula in '83? In other words, what
did you do in '83 to overcome all these obstacles we are talking
TOM WATSON: The most important thing was to try to put the ball
on the fairway and I played a little bit more aggressive than
I wanted to after the practice rounds. I was playing too timidly
in the practice rounds and I got -- I became more aggressive.
I said, the heck with it, I am going to hit a driver on some of
these holes where I am going to lay-up as it proved -- I was hitting
shorter shots to the greens and I could, at least, stop the balls
to the green. A lot of players would be hitting 5-irons and 4-irons
into number 10. Well, 10 goes this way and that one goes this
way (indicating on opposite slants); how the heck are you going
to stop a 5-iron on a down slope like that with the speed - no
way. You just have to be lucky, very lucky. So, you may have to
be -- have to play it more aggressive get your driver down there
like I did in the practice round; hit a wedge to the green. But
it is this narrow down there (indicating approx. four inches),
versus this narrow (indicating approx. two and a half feet), like
this. So that is part of the formula. It is strategy. It is how
you feel and how I am going to feel. Tomorrow I will probably
get up to the first tee and I will probably try to play a bit
more aggressively. The golf course -- I don't want this golf course
to embarrass me. I just hope that I can make it without making
too many mistakes. Very easy to make a lot of bogeys on this golf
course, and a lot of bogeys and double bogeys.
Q. Tom, can you talk about your experiences in the Church Pew
TOM WATSON: I do not think I have been in there but once or twice.
That is why they call it Church Pew. You pray that you can get
out and get the hell out of that thing. Many times you come out
sideways. You have to come out, literally, sideways to play it
out of those bunkers.
Q. Tom, did you get in on the third hole or the fourth hole,
the Church Pew?
TOM WATSON: I think I got in once on both the third and the fourth.
I was lucky to get in the fourth hole because I was on the outside
edge of it where I can take a full swing to get it out that way.
Third hole, I was cold turkey. I had to come out sideways. That
was a great shot of Palmer in the program coming out of the Church
Pews. That was a great shot of him. Who took that shot by the
way anybody know? Staged.
Q. If you could pick a score that would win here, what do you
think it would be, right around what?
TOM WATSON: I think it is even par. Even par is, you know, if
we don't get any rain I think even par is going to be the score
to beat. Could be a little bit higher. Could be just a little
bit lower. I wouldn't see it more than 4 under par. I mean, you
know, Larry Nelson shots-- we are talking about today-- he shot
65, 67 when he won in '83, but we had the soft conditions. Up
until that time, struggling to shoot even par. Hell of a score
was 71. But with the soft conditions, you can stop the ball on
these greens. But the conditions now, we are not going to see
that. We are going to see a lot of people getting embarrassed
like CBS did to that poor kid couple of weeks ago in Kemper.
LES UNGER: Anyone else? We appreciate you coming.
TOM WATSON: Thank you.
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