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July 4, 2007

Tom Watson


RAND JERRIS: I'd like to welcome Tom Watson to the interview room this afternoon. He is playing his 8th United States Senior Open Championship at Whistling Straits. He is a former USGA champion, having won the Open in 1982.
TOM WATSON: How far back is that? That's a long time.
RAND JERRIS: Tom, you had a win earlier this year, top-5 finish, how are you feeling about your game this week?
TOM WATSON: I haven't played a lot on the Champions Tour, but I've played other events near and dear. I played the AT&T with my son Michael, did very well, finished second in the Pro-Am division there. Doesn't seem like a lot to you people, but it was a great deal for father and son to perform well.
Did win the Outback. I played pretty well under tough conditions, the conditions were cold and windy, Watson Weather, and up until this week I played just a few events.
One event, we started a new event in Kansas City just to see who is the best local player, only for local players in Kansas City. I played and lost in the playoff to the assistant pro at Hallbrook Country Club, probably not information you want to know, but that's what I've been doing.
I'm going to start playing quite a bit in the Champions Tour right now throughout the summer. And I'll be playing -- I have a wedding to go to, my daughter is getting married during the Open Championship at Carnoustie, so I'll miss that. But my next event will be the Senior British Open at Muirfield and will play most of August and I have a good stretch here in the summer.
RAND JERRIS: Talk about the windy weather at Pebble Beach. You characterized it as Watson Weather, does it make you happy to come to a course like this where wind is a factor?
TOM WATSON: I enjoy the wind. The wind is -- it certainly separates the people who are hitting the ball solidly to the people who are not. And when you hit the ball solidly in the wind you usually can get the right distance. The toughest thing in the wind is to hit the ball the proper distance, to know how the wind is going to affect the ball and especially on a new golf course like this is for almost everybody who has played here.
We have some holes that go uphill and it's going to take a while for us to kind of hit our stride, for the players to hit their stride.
My game plan is basically just to start off and trying to keep it in play pretty much as best I can and stay around par and if I get under par that's great.
I just think this golf course is such a tough golf course, you stay away from the land mines and you'll have opportunities for birdies on the golf course. There are -- you'll have some birdie opportunities as was proven in the PGA 2004 when the wind died and the course -- the course gave up quite a few good scores the first couple rounds here. It blew the last day and the course grew some teeth.
One thing I love about this golf course is the look. It's a beautiful golf course, it reminds me of my favorite golf course, Ballybunion. Severe dunes, the flat-top dunes. Pete did a wonderful job in recreating that look here.
To me it's just a beautiful, beautiful look, very much of a pleasure to go around and take a look at these things.
Now, the golf course doesn't play like a links golf course because it's a target golf course, it doesn't allow you to roll the ball on the greens very many times, there is always an upslope. And the greens, we had rain yesterday, but I know it's more of a target golf course than a links golf course. It plays like an American course and, man, is it tough.

Q. You mentioned that once you get off the fairways it's a penal course. Is it supposed to be fairly low wind those next few days? Do you see these guys being able to put up the type of numbers that the PGA guys did, with the conditions?
TOM WATSON: I wouldn't be surprised. The rain we had yesterday, it's probably not going to dry up a lot through tomorrow, maybe Friday is when it starts to get crusty if they decide to take something off the golf course.
Again, we're trying to get used to the golf course, we've had both winds now, Monday we played into a good, strong southeasterly wind, Tuesday we had a northwesterly wind, basically 180-degree different wind. So we got a chance to play the course under the two different conditions which is to our advantage.
Last year it wasn't like that at Prairie Dunes. We played the three rounds with the northerly wind. And then it changed to the south and that was a different golf course during the tournament.

Q. Does it take a U.S. Senior Open or a PGA Championship to get you motivated or fired up?
TOM WATSON: No, I enjoy competing. I liked teeing it up the last, two weeks ago, I played up in Boston, thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a good competition. I got off to a good start, didn't play particularly well in a couple of the rounds, but basically it was a learning -- I'm still learning out here. Not to be trite, but I still -- the problem is you go out and play golf and you forget things and then you say, I know how to do this, here is the way you make this shot.
And each competitive round you make mistakes and you try and learn from those mistakes. And I still enjoy that, trying to refine the talent that you need to win a golf tournament.
Right now I'm in pretty good shape. I feel the golf swing is in good order, the putting is in pretty good order, so I'm excited about tomorrow.

Q. Can you talk about last year, what a disappointment that was coming down the stretch with Allen Doyle and not winning.
TOM WATSON: It was difficult, playing in the home state of Kansas, it would have been a great story. But it wasn't to be. I missed a couple of short putts on 2 and 3 early and kind of got off on the wrong foot. I was struggling the whole day with that, it gets you off in a negative frame of mind.
But Allen has proven himself to be a heck of a competitor, throughout his career, as an amateur and a pro. We were talk about Allen today. If you saw Allen swinging on the first tee, you would probably say, well, I can give him five shots and beat him pretty easy.
But, you know, that isn't the case. He's certainly refined his golf swing, he knows how to play, and he's a heck of a competitor. It was a disappointment, but that's history. I'm thinking about tomorrow right now.

Q. Tom, you're known as one of the better golf strikers that the game has ever seen. First of all, do you take any gratification from that when your peers say that about you? And how does one become one of the better golf strikers?
TOM WATSON: I don't know. Hit a million golf balls, to answer the second part of your question. But in the early part of my career I had some streaks where I hit the ball pretty well, but I never was comfortable with my golf swing. And literally in 1992 I kind of found my secret, what I needed to do to hit the ball straighter.
And after that I started doing that, unfortunately, my putting went to heck and I didn't make all the putts I used to make. And you have to make the putts to win, so I had a lot of tournaments where I could have won if the putter acted well. But it didn't, compared to the previously -- compared to the early part of my career, where the putter won me a lot of golf tournaments, even though I didn't play particularly well.

Q. What was the secret?
TOM WATSON: Very simply, leveling your shoulders, leveling my shoulders. Keeping the shoulders more level at impact.

Q. Could you elaborate on the local event that you played?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, for many years I've wanted to have a local event in Kansas City, only for the best players in Kansas City. And we have eight counties that we draw from. If you're outside of those counties, you can't play.
And this year we had that event, it's called the Watson Challenge, we had it at hallbrook Golf Course. I came from nine shots in the last round to get in the playoff, shouldn't have been in the playoff. Sean Dougherty had some hiccups in the back nine. But the good thing was prior to the event, when we announced the event last year, both the amateur events, the Kansas City Golf Association and the Midwest Section PGA events all saw a significant increase in participation in their events, so they could plat in the Watson Challenge.
When I was a kid I always felt that we had -- we had tournaments that really determined, hey, that's the best player in town. And most everybody played.
And today with the American Junior Golf Association events taking the kids away for, the best kids; college golf both in the spring and the fall; we had a date in June, week before the U.S. Open, where it wasn't -- it really fit into everybody's schedule, with the exception of the pros, the club professionals there who -- that's the height of their season -- and it was hard for some of them to get away, let's put it that way. But the tournament was a big success, the players thoroughly liked it and the club liked it there, so we're going to rotate clubs around town and have this event on a yearly basis.

Q. Mark O'Meara was just in here talking about how he's had an accomplished PGA Tour career and sometimes he's torn between the passion of fly fishing and playing on the Champions Tour. Do you ever face that? Have you ever had that?
TOM WATSON: I love being on my farm, but I can compartmentalize it to a fact, when I come out on the Tour here I'm doing the best I can to play best golf I can. And I still love to compete.
My other life is certainly important, is a lot larger part of my life than it was when I was trying to be the best player out there. When I concentrated almost everything on that.

Q. Do you find yourself just as motivated at this age as when you came out on the TOUR originally?
TOM WATSON: No, I'm not as motivated now as I used to be, but I am motivated when I'm out here or preparing to come out here, I'm as motivated as I ever was.

Q. I have to ask you as one of the greats of the game, the state of the game right now, it seems there is an awful lot of emphasis on raising child prodigies, maybe some of the great rivalries are lost that you had in the '70s and '80s, between friends and competitors, what do you think of the state of the game?
TOM WATSON: Let me put it in the perspective of the Champions Tour. Every year you have new guy coming out or a bunch of guys coming out during the year that you know, you know the names. You can pick them out, you've watched them in the past, and that keeps our -- that keeps the name recognition in our Tour very high.
When you look at the PGA Tour it's hard, Tiger has sucked the wind out of it, so to speak, he's taken some of the wind out of it, because he's dominated so dramatically. And it's hard for people to get notoriety because of Tiger. So there is a difference between the two Tours.
Our Tour, Jay Haas is the best player out here this year. Last year you had the rivalry between Loren Roberts and Jay Haas, Hale Irwin has been a great player, he will do well here this week, on this golf course, this is a great golf course for Hale.
So you have the names there -- Jack Nicklaus came out and played sparingly, Arnold came out and played quite a bit, Trevino played a lot. Arnold and Trevino and Sam Snead made it what it is today and it continues to have that name recognition, which is so important for you people to say, "Hey, who is coming out?"
Well, who is coming out this year is Bernhard Langer. "Well, who is that?" He won the Masters a couple of times. You know that. You kind of think, yeah, he won a Masters a couple times, got in a playoff in Colonial, he's playing well this year.
But you've got a name like that coming out every so often. And every year it keeps the questions in your head, is this guy going to dominate the Champions Tour?
I think Bernhard Langer will. I think he'll win a heck of a lot out here.

Q. With everything you've accomplished in golf how much would it mean to you to win this championship right now and on such a unique layout as this one?
TOM WATSON: Well, I consider there are two Major Championships out here on our Champions Tour and this is one of them. It means a great deal to win the U.S. Senior Open because you know you're playing under tough conditions. What it does -- look at what it did at Oakmont? Oakmont was the last man standing, you try to stay close, stay close, don't step on any land mines. You're going to step on one or two during the week and it may blow off a finger or something, but you're hanging in there.
And Angel Cabrera put a little run on there and he was the last man standing.
That's what the USGA does. Rarely do you have a person in the USGA go out and flat win it and dominate it.
This tournament is one with a heck of a lot of patience and you have to drive the ball, do everything well. You can't be sloppy and win this tournament.

Q. Allen is trying to win for the third time this year. Can you reflect back to when you were winning the British Open, U.S. Open, going into that next year and how you handled the pressure involved? How tough is it to defend?
TOM WATSON: It's tough to defend. Look at how many times you win. You win -- if you win five events in a year you've got a heck of a year. But if you played 30, what is that? That's less than 20%. You look at it that way and basically what you do, you prepare your best, prepare your routines, and you hope you're playing well when you go into the event. If you -- if you're not, you better find something that's going to work real quick and use that. If it doesn't work you better learn something from your failure.

Q. Did you feel any extra sense of pressure after you had won a Major coming in as the defending champion?
TOM WATSON: No, never did, not at all.

Q. Why not?
TOM WATSON: Because that's history. What you've won is history, it doesn't help in you winning the golf tournaments you're preparing to play in. Bottom line is that -- the only time it helps you when you won a tournament is that if you play on the same course again, you remember -- if you can remember the shots you played and how you won the golf tournament. And when you get under the gun, coming down the stretch, you remember how you won it. And you can use that as a blueprint to do it again.
That's the only time it helps you from past tournament wins. But there is no extra pressure, no, for me it isn't. I wouldn't think for anybody else, either, because it doesn't have any bearing on the week you're trying to prepare and win the tournament.

Q. When Allen Doyle was in here he credits the 6 hybrids and he said he thinks you have one in your bag.
TOM WATSON: I've got two.

Q. Were you hesitant --
TOM WATSON: I have no Idea, I have two Ideas.

Q. Were you hesitant to embrace that technology?
TOM WATSON: Not until I saw how easy it was to hit it compared to the 2-iron. Now a 2-iron is -- I do a lot of clinics and I'll go out there and ask the crowd, "How many of you have a 2-iron?" And I'll say, "How many here have a 2-iron, raise your hand?"
And this last clinic I did there were about 10 people who had a 2-iron in their bag. And I shook my head and said "Boy, I thought this was an intelligent crowd." And I went and hit some shots with the hybrid, and it's so easy to hit.

Q. What do you think of --
TOM WATSON: You know, when I was a kid we had what amounted to an Idea. I grew up with a club we called the cleek, it was a small Wilson laminated 3 and a half wood, shallow face. And it had a double brass sole plate, very heavy on the bottom. And you could hit that thing out of the rough, out of bad lies, it was easy to get in the air.
And Nicklaus came along with his 1-iron and if he hit a 1-iron I had to hit a 1-iron. And I started trying to hit the 1-iron and I was lousy at it. But if I had stayed with that cleek, I would have been a better player -- I was a better player.

Q. What do you think of Brad Bryant using a 1-iron?
TOM WATSON: He is a 1-iron guy. That's good, he can drive the ball with a 1-iron a long way. He should hit a 1-iron straight, compared to a 3-wood. 3-wood is basically the toughest club in the bag to hit, would you concur? Less loft, smaller head. Hit it off the ground, it's kind of hard to hit it.

Q. I was wondering if you ever look back at any of your PGA Championship moments and maybe specifically '78 and wonder "what if?"
TOM WATSON: No, life isn't like that. If you go around looking at your past like that and "what ifs" your life isn't very full.
RAND JERRIS: Tom, thanks very much for your time today. Good luck this week.

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