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February 18, 2007

Tom Watson


TOM WATSON: 17, I pulled a 5-iron 90 feet left of the hole and got THAT ball up-and-down from about 100 feet, a nice pitch shot. Those three pitch shot there were kind of the Watson of old, where I got the ball up-and-down where I really had to. So that's been kind of the weakness of my game, I think as I look back in the last five or six years, my short game has deteriorated. I've hit a lot more greens out here on the Champions Tour, probably because of the length. My short game has not been very good. But today, it shined when it had to. And that's -- that was kind of it in a nutshell.
My birdies on the back nine, I birdied 12 and 13 after birdieing the 10th hole. The 12th hole, I hit a 3-wood for my second shot just short and left of the green. I hit a good pitch up about eight feet and made the putt. And that was the best putt I made all day.
The next hole, I hit a drive and a little knock-down pitching wedge to about 15 feet and made that putt. That was breaking a little more than I thought it was going to break and it went in.
And then it just happened. I just didn't hit a very good drive at 16. I didn't hit a good second shot at 15, but when it counted, I had to make it -- I had to make a couple of good swings at 18 and I made a good drive there, hit a real good drive at 18. Hit my 5-iron a little bit left of the center of the green. I was trying to hit it to the center of the green. Of course, the wind was blowing left-to-right, and I was trying to make sure it didn't go to the right, and I got it the right distance which was -- that was the key thing on 18 for me to get the second shot to the right distance, which has been high-left, and had an easy putt.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: You knew Jay was posted at 3-under?

Q. Some of the other guys talked about how this is a day made for you almost. They talked about you excelling in tough conditions and being such a good ball-striker. I just wondered starting out if you had that sort of feeling, especially after you got within one this morning.
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I really felt -- I was really under control the first seven holes. The first seven holes, I didn't have any problems at all. I drove the ball right down the middle of the fairway. I hit some real quality iron shots in for -- really good, makeable birdie putts on holes with a lot of wind. That was fun.
Then 8, not a very good second shot out of the bunker. 9, I misjudged the second shot. And three sloppy shots on the back side that I -- again, I relied on the short game, and the short game came through today. First part of the -- it was two rounds of golf. First seven holes, it was really good ball-striking with no putts. And the last 11 holes, it was pretty sketchy ball-striking with some good putts. Even though they didn't feel very good, I made two of them that I knew I was going to make and then a couple of them that, yeah, don't know if you're going to make them or not.

Q. You were one of three groups that were unable to finish today, so you had to come back very early.
TOM WATSON: It's been a long day. That 4:45 a.m. wake-up call came early, and I was a little tired after, actually before I started the final round today, a little bit tired. But it was so darned cold out here, I woke up.

Q. There are a lot of guys out here who can win golf tournaments, but not as many who can win in 35-mile-an-hour gusts. What does the wind potentially do to a guy's swing and game? What does wind do?
TOM WATSON: Wind adds another series of factors. Wind is break on the green. You have break on the green, you have the slope on the green, the ball breaks. And sometimes you've got a big slope on the green, and it really breaks. It's the same thing with wind. You've got to play the break with wind. You've got to understand how hard to hit it. That's the difficult thing in the wind is the proper distance control, and that's -- with no wind, players of our caliber can hit the ball plus or minus two or three yards with every iron in the bag.
But when you add a 20- or 30-mile-an-hour wind, you get a little mis-hit in there, you've got a little mis-direction, and now it's 60 feet off-line or 90 feet off-line. That's the fun of playing in the wind is to be able to out think it, or actually not out think it, but to come up with a formula and make that formula work.

Q. Was this comparable to any of your British Opens -- weather-wise (laughter) the conditions?
TOM WATSON: Actually, I have never been this cold at the British Open. I've been this cold at -- the coldest I've ever been on a golf course was in Florida back when Dave Eichelberger won the Bay Hill Classic in 1979. That was the coldest I've ever been on a golf course. It was blowing about 35 miles an hour, and for some reason, I wasn't dressed for it. I just froze.
Usually I'm pretty good at that. Playing golf, growing up in Kansas City playing a lot of golf with all of those crazy guys that like to get out in the cold weather, you prepare for it.
But that one day in Florida, I've never been as cold on a golf course as there.

Q. How would you assess where you are now in your golf career? You still play some with the kids; do you think you've still got a run on the PGA TOUR left in you? Do you think you want to do this more now? How many times are you going to hold that putter up on 18 in victory, do you think?
TOM WATSON: Well, question came last week, the same thing. But I know my place, basically, as far as the kids are concerned. I can play with them -- I can play with them on certain courses. I know I can't play with them on courses such as Augusta National. I can't compete on that golf course. I don't know how long I'm going to compete on that golf course.
But I still can hit some quality shots. My putting is not nearly as good as it used to be. And my short game, as I mentioned before, is not as good as it used to be. But my ball-striking is better than it used to be. My driving, my iron play, I'm pretty good at that right now. And so I would have to pick my places out there, but I don't have much intention of doing that.

Q. How much carryover was there you played so well last week with Michael to this week?
TOM WATSON: That's the best question, because there's a lot of carryover, a lot of carryover from last week. The thrill I had playing with my son last week and doing so well carried over to this week. And it was a big reason that I played so well this week. Not a question.

Q. A lot of great, great players from the PGA TOUR have come over to the Champions Tour and maybe struggled to find some motivation. I just wonder, having accomplished so much, what more is there? I just wonder how you fit in that. Has that been an issue for you at all? Or when you get between the ropes, is it still competition?
TOM WATSON: Let's put it this way. I don't play a full schedule on the Champions Tour for a reason. I play about 15 -- 13, 14, 15 events, and I do that because I love to compete. But I don't -- I can't go out and practice and try to be at the top of my game all the time. Frankly, at times I put the clubs away for long periods of time.
But then I believe that back in 1992, I really learned kind of the secret to my golf swing, and like Byron Nelson did with his golf swing, he learned kind of the secret. He didn't have to practice a whole lot. I remember Byron telling me that when he laid off for a while, he would come back -- he just hit pitching wedges and 9-irons. And if he got that swing rhythm, that rhythm going with the pitching wedges and 9-irons, he knew that the rest of the game would be good.
To me, I do the same thing. I'll lay off for some time and come back and I'll practice before I go out to play in the tournament at home if it's not 20 degrees and four inches of ice. I'll work on the same things I learned about my swing in 1992, and usually things work out pretty well.

Q. I am curious, the Florida streak that has ended, did you ever think that "maybe I'm not supposed to win in Florida?"
TOM WATSON: I did think, yeah -- well, no, not that I didn't, wasn't supposed to win, but time is getting a little bit short as far as winning in Florida is concerned.

Q. Is there any way to explain it or just a fluke?
TOM WATSON: I've had my opportunities. Somebody said I finished second 12 times here in Florida out of the 80 or 93 events. That's not too bad.

Q. Could you just comment on this week as a spectacle and sort of the vibe of this tournament that might make it different than other weeks?
TOM WATSON: Well, the Pro-Am is a great addition to this tournament because it gives -- I played with Ronde Barber and he's a wonderful guy, wonderful man. He struggled. I gave him a little bit of a lesson today, or yesterday, right before he finished. And I said, "Ronde, your left-hand grip needs to be a little stronger."
He said, "Well. I've got a problem. About a month ago playing football, I kind of sprained this finger right here." I don't know if it's broken or what, but he couldn't put his right hand on the club very well. So he was having some problems.
But that's the essence of this event is to have Bill Murray and Ronde Barber, having people like that playing in the event and having some fun out here.
You know, Outback puts a lot into it, and for us playing with a lot of their customers and a lot of their friends, we do it every week and it's no big deal for us to do it. I'm glad to do it.

Q. At this stage, is winning still winning?
TOM WATSON: Yes, it is.

Q. Is it still just as satisfying?
TOM WATSON: Not a question. Winning is still winning. Competition is still competition. It's trite to say, but if I have failed and not get upset over a bad shot, I'm out of here. I'm gone.

Q. Is it a little bit of the spirit of the old Crosby tournament in this event?
TOM WATSON: There is. We had a dinner Thursday night, had a big auction. Chris Sullivan was up there putting the touch on a lot of his friends. Raised $230,000 for the local charities. The pros and their amateur partners got to meet each other. We got the pairings for Friday/Saturday. There is some Crosby-esque times here at this event.
This is a very well-run event. Chris and the people would run this event, they put a lot of money and effort in making this a premiere event. In my opinion, they have succeeded very well.

Q. You said you'll pick and choose where you play, is the British, both junior and senior version of the British Open, going to be on the pick-and-choose list?
TOM WATSON: Pretty much so. Although this year the British Open is not. I get the pleasure of walking my daughter down the aisle on July 21, the Saturday of the British Open this year. That's a dad deal.
I'll be at Muirfield. I'll fly over Sunday to Muirfield. I'll be able to play that tournament at Muirfield; keep it out of the deep rough. I don't know if you've ever played Muirfield, but you've got fairway, you've got a little bit of cut rough maybe ten yards either side, and then you've got hay. You've got hay. And if you add about a 25-mile-an-hour wind, you're going to hit it in the hay. I don't care how good you are. It's a fun golf course to play. I'm looking forward to that.

Q. Is it true the first time you played over there you didn't like that style of golf?
TOM WATSON: Exactly. I did not like links golf when I first played it. I liked the game through the years. I patterned my ball flight after Jack Nicklaus, hit it high, hit a fade, hit it out there. But I did not like the idea of, well, you've got to land the ball short of the green, because the green doesn't hold. No, didn't like that.
And I kind of fought it and fought it and fought it and I said, you know what, what am I fighting this for. Let's pretend you're a kid again and you can't fly the ball on the green with a 3-wood or an iron. As a kid, you always ran it up on the green anyway. You kind of hit it short and ran it up. It's just kind of like play like a kid again. Use your feel and use that. That change in attitude helped me a lot.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Tom, thank you very much. Congratulations.

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