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July 5, 2006

Tom Watson


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Tom Watson to the interview room this afternoon. Tomorrow Tom is playing in his 7th United States 2006 U.S. Senior Open this week at Prairie Dunes. He's a past USGA champion having won the 1982 U. S. Open.

TOM WATSON: I can't remember back that far.

RAND JERRIS: Can't forget that shot on 17.


RAND JERRIS: Someone with such close ties to Kansas, could you talk a little bit about what it means to you to have a championship of this significance here in Kansas and what it means for golf in this state.

TOM WATSON: I'm a Kansan through and through. I grew up in Kansas City, and I got a little bit of affiliation with Missouri though. My mom is Missourian, was a died in the wool democrat; and my dad was a Kansas died in the wool Republican.

So we had some border wars growing up here. But I live in Kansas now, and I've always enjoyed this area out here. I've done a lot of quail hunting and some pheasant hunting throughout this general area through -- here down through Emporia, all the way up to Council Grove and Wamego and that area, all the way through there.

So pretty familiar with this general area and in the eastern half of Kansas, and I certainly enjoy it. And the question has been asked of me many times: Have I played Prairie Dunes a lot? Of course I have, I said. No, actually just once, back in 1977.

So I haven't. I'm green and new just like about everybody else who is playing in this tournament this week. So I took my time looking at the golf course trying to get a feel for it.

We have an unusual wind with the north and northeast wind today. And tomorrow's supposed to come from the southeast where it was on Monday, and somewhat on Tuesday. So we got -- actually Monday it was basically we had a southeast wind, so we haven't seen any of the winds from the west, the southwest, where they normally kind of blow this time of year.

So it ought to be a pretty new golf course as the week progresses, if we do get the winds here. That's -- this golf course is fairly short. But what makes it very difficult are two things: The greens are very, very contoured, undulating. They are not particularly fast because of the contours and the wind possibilities.

And then No. 2, the rough is as deep as you'll ever find in any major championship, any championship. The rough is just -- the mown rough is about this deep (Indicating), and you get in that stuff and you're really lucky if you can hit more than a wedge at it. And even if you -- if you're hitting a wedge at it, sometimes you're kind of careful about where you're aiming it. Because you can pull that thing off to the left pretty quickly.

And, of course, you got the real, real heavy rough, the unplayable lies and the lost balls, that if you get beyond that mown rough which is four or five inches, it seems, you have got your -- you're going to make double bogeys and triple bogeys if you do that, so...

It's a great golf course. It really is a great test of golf for us. What I like about it, you got holes running all sorts of different directions on this golf course. So you don't get just a hole going -- a variety of holes going one way or the other. You get them going all different directions, and it makes for a great challenging golf course.

RAND JERRIS: I heard a number of comments this week comparing this golf course to a links-type course. As someone who's had a lot of success on links, do you think that's a fair assessment?

TOM WATSON: There's not a question, this is a links golf course. Links Land is defined as sandy land, land by the ocean. If you go back 200 million years ago this was sandy land by the ocean. So in the true essence of the word, this is links land, it's old links land.

RAND JERRIS: Take some questions out here, please.

Q. You already mentioned about how important it is to play the events. How important would winning a Major be here in Kansas, if you would?

TOM WATSON: Let me talk about that. I've come close before, and here I'm on the Senior Tour, Champions Tour now, and the status of my game right now is really kind of in flux. I'm doing a few things right, but it seems like I'm hitting the occasional really bad shot. Which I have been doing for -- I don't do that very often, so that's the one thing that concerns me.

But I work real hard around the greens this week as far as trying to get the touch and feel around this type of turf. This turf is very similar to Augusta National's turf: Very tightly knit, cut grass that can grab your club. It's great turf to hit irons off of, but around the greens it's very tight.

And it -- the golf course is in -- I think it's set up perfectly for this championship. And the greens, I played both mornings, yesterday morning early and this morning. They were a little bit softer this morning. Seemed like a little bit faster this morning.

But, again, they can't get the greens too fast because of the heavy contours of this golf course. And you add -- if you add a 20- or 30-mile-an-hour wind, and you have these contours with just -- you know, our normal fast greens, for a Major championship, you wouldn't be able to finish. So they slowed the greens down to a certain degree, and that is good. They needed to do that. And that's the way the golf course is designed to be played.

Q. Do you ever get tired of being asked about your putting? And having asked that, how's your putting?

TOM WATSON: Well, I made an adjustment after last week's poor performance, and I feel like I'm putting better now.

It's just a matter of whether it works under the gun or not.

Q. I know it's two entirely different courses, this one and the one in Overland Park last week. Do you think the guys who played last week might have any advantage at least kind of getting acclimated to the heat and the wind?

TOM WATSON: Well, we don't have the heat. We have the wind, but we have -- the wind is probably the biggest thing. But, again, you -- this is a different golf course all together with different types of greens and your approaches are different.

Q. First of four Major championships in a row for you. If you say you get your putter going like you said, maybe the adjustment has it going, where do you see yourself all the way through the four majors, and especially that last one at Hoy Lake?

TOM WATSON: Well, it's not my last one. The last one is at Turnberry. But the -- I didn't get off to a good start as far as last week in getting my game in shape, and I practiced quite hard to get there.

But I didn't come up with anything, and I'm still struggling a little bit with the swing. But it's just like any time in a year that you pick a certain time of the year you would like to play well, and sometimes you just -- you're not playing that well during that time.

You look at Tiger Woods at the U. S. Open. He was not on it. It's awfully hard to keep that type of streak going for an extended period of time. If you look at people who are going to have a good chance of winning this golf tournament, you look at the straight ball hitters. The week -- this week you got Fred Funk. What Fred -- usually he leads the TOUR in accuracy off the tee, and that's No. 1. You got to do that here. You got to put the ball in the fairway. As I said, the rough, when you miss it, it is unplayable.

You have Dana Quigley who just split the center of every fairway last week. The fairways were very big, very wide. But Dana is on a roll here, and he ought to do well here.

You look at Jay Haas, Loren Roberts, who had a good -- a good stretch of golf this year. Whoever can put the ball in the fairway is the favorite right now. That's the key ingredient in winning here at Prairie Dunes.

Q. You're going to get a chance to tee off both in the morning in your first round and then in the afternoon and vice-versa. How important is it going to be when you get that morning tee time to take more advantage of the golf course when it's maybe not as windy and the golf course might be playing a little bit softer?

TOM WATSON: Well, we're just -- it's speculation, but with the wind this golf course is a very, very difficult golf course. As I said, you have a variety of directions that these holes go, so you're never -- you're always going to be faced with a lot of cross-wind shots on this golf course.

With the narrowness of the fairways, that's hard to get the ball in. Unless you're really playing well, it's hard to put the ball in play.

Q. You mentioned Fred Funk, he's played really well in the latter stages on the PGA TOUR.

TOM WATSON: Pretty good for an old guy.

Q. Yeah. He comes into this event, and, boom, all of a sudden he's a favorite and he's never played in a Champions Tour event before. Is that -- do you think that might cause any kind of additional pressure for him?

TOM WATSON: Oh, I don't think so. I think the transition is seamless when it comes from the PGA TOUR to the Champions Tour. I don't think there's any -- in fact, you might -- he might feel like he has a little bit of an advantage because he's been playing the longer golf courses out there on the Kids Tour, as I call it.

Q. You talked after Monday's round, about the feel of the putter, the take back and follow through. You said you forgot about it; you remembered it.

TOM WATSON: Still have it, yeah.

Q. When you talk about forgetting something and remembering it, what exactly are you talking about?

TOM WATSON: Well, just like your body evolves, your swing evolves to an a certain degree, and it evolves with a variety of reasons. Usually ball position -- or usually it's the ball position thing. Or it's the body doesn't work as well. It doesn't turn as well.

Putting, what happens there is that you get in a bad set up position and you work from that position for a long time, and it gets ingrained in your stroke. And that -- it's hard to break that, any bad habits. It's worth about three weeks of effort to break it.

Q. Talk about Fred Funk coming on to this TOUR. And this week Arnold's not playing. What do you think of the way that this TOUR is kind of turning over a little bit and some of the big, big names that really made this TOUR very popular are not playing as much?

TOM WATSON: That's right. There's not a question there's a lot of big names that haven't played or are not playing now. And you look at the names that people are familiar with the Trevinos, Nicklauses, Palmers, that hurts the TOUR. But the thing is, it's a evolutionary process and we go from the TOUR that doesn't have those names to names that we have now. And you make the best of it. And that's all we can do. We have got a lot of new blood coming out on, a lot of new players coming out on the Champions Tour and that in itself gives it a sense of newness every year. That you, you know, a sense of newness and expectations. And that's I guess very healthy. I think it's a winning formula for the Champions Tour.

Q. As a native Kansan yourself, what impressions do you hope that the players will take away outside of the golf of Hutchinson, the community, and the state of Kansas?

TOM WATSON: Well, for one I, they, I hope they enjoy the Kansas hospitality. I did last night. I went down and saw the fireworks display over there at the fairgrounds and there was a one of the women volunteers with her baby or her youngster was there and she came up and said, hey, you're incognito. I was there with my hat and shorts and T-shirt and watching the fireworks as I always do on the 4th of July. And I met some nice ladies, I went to the Dairy Queen yesterday to get a hot dog. I have to have a hot dog on the 4th of July. That's -- so I went over there and met up with five nice ladies who, two of them wanted to take me to the fairgrounds and watch the fireworks with me. And that, that's your Kansas hospitality and I hope that they come away with that type of feeling that people love to have the tournament here and they will do anything for you to make you feel at home.

Q. You talked Sunday about Dana playing so well and he plays every week to stay sharp. You don't do that as much. Do you see your schedule staying about the same as it is this year or trying to play more or less or what?

TOM WATSON: Well, I played an average of about 15 or 16 events every year for the last 20 years. And that's the way I like to play golf. And Dana's had a great stretch of golf. He loves to play every day. I don't love to play the game every day. There's other things I love to do other than to play golf. But I still love to compete and that's the reason I'm here. I'm here to compete, try to win the 2006 U.S. Senior Open.

Q. You mentioned the Kansas hospitality and this will be a second week in a row playing in your native state how much do you feed off of that kind of home crowd advantage and fan support you get?

TOM WATSON: I feed a lot. It's just a very warm feeling to, obviously, to have your friends and people that you met -- I had a fellow farmer here who I hadn't hunted quail on his land for several years and he said, when are you coming down to hunt some birds with me. And I said, I thought the turkeys took care of all your birds. Just a normal conversation. But I hadn't seen him for awhile. And there are a lot of people that I hadn't seen for quite a few years. And it's kind of like old home week, it's fun to be around it.

Q. Talk about the difficulty of driving the ball here at Prairie Dunes that there's not the 90 degree doglegs but seems like you have a lot of kind of diagonal shots and the wind flips and you really got to pick your point with the difference of the wind coming from the north to the south.

TOM WATSON: You're exactly right. You said it all right there. That it is a very difficult driving golf course. Because many times you're hitting into a dogleg. And that -- and you got to know -- it's very much like links golf. The fairways play smaller than they are. And they're somewhat generous in certain areas, other times you got a slope like this, like at number 5, you catch a east wind, and you have a slope like this, a left-to-right wind, and you got to thread that needle up the left side. If you pull it 20 yards you're in stuff this high (Indicating).

So you got to be careful. And the typical, right-to-left and into you on number 5, a southwest wind, you can kind of hang it out that right side and the ball falls left and stays in that fairway. But a left-to-right wind, it blows it off into the junk like this (Indicating).

And that's the type of, that's the mental processes you go through playing this golf course. You have to know which way the ball is going to bounce. For instance number 8, what do you do at number 8? Playing downwind today, and there's all the contours up there in the fairways there, if you get it going a little bit right-to-left, you can roll it right through the fairway up over in the rough, which you got to be careful not to do.

Q. The fact that the greens are so elevated unlike maybe most links courses where you can bump and run the ball and roll it up the green, that's really not something you can do here because the greens are so elevated.

TOM WATSON: Oh, sure you can. Yes, you can. You can bump and run the ball on to these greens. Not a question.

The elevations are usually about like that (Indicating) from here to that level right there and it goes up like that, that first elevation. Yeah, you can bounce the ball on something like that.

Q. I was referring more to probably holes like 4 and 8 where the greens, where you are hitting significantly more uphill the par-3 fourth?

TOM WATSON: Well, it depends obviously what type of club you're using too. If you're using a lower trajectory club you can get that ball running in there. But it gives you the option to bounce the ball on the greens. Yes, it does. That's what I like about this golf course. Look at number 7, the par-5. Your smart play is to try to bounce the ball onto that green, not to fly the ball on to the surface, if you have a chance to reach it in two. And because of the heavy stuff left and right, if you just miss it off line 15 yards here or 10 yards there, you're going to be in that -- you're going to be unplayable or lost. This course is like playing in a mine field. There are a lot of places out there that you just don't want to be. And as I said, we're all green as far as knowing all those places. I don't think we all know them yet. I hope we don't find too many mines out there.

Q. You just said mine field, is this the kind of course where at any one time one hole can just jump up and really grab you and put a big number up?

TOM WATSON: Well, with the rough the way it is, yes, it can. You don't have any recoverability when you hit the ball in the rough here. Rarely will you see somebody knock the ball on the green from the rough.

RAND JERRIS: Tom, thanks very much for your time this afternoon. Wish you success this week.

TOM WATSON: All right. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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