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July 7, 2007

Tom Watson


RAND JERRIS: We're now joined by Tom Watson. Shot a 73 today, 7-under for the Championship. Tom, these were the most difficult conditions we've seen so far, and you emerge with a 3-stroke lead. You must feel good about where you stand?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, especially after the front nine 3-over par. The back nine was a struggle, but I made a couple of birdies, saved a couple of pars from awkward places and I was grateful to be in the lead. I had some problems judging the downwind shots today. I had four of them I knocked right over the green actually hitting shots the way I meant to hit them. So that was -- something was wrong in the computer there.
I somewhat struggled putting the ball in the fairway off the tee again. The golf course is a hard one for me to set up and line up and get the ball in the fairway. I haven't learned it that well yet. I've played six rounds here, and different wind today than there was yesterday. Slight east wind. Supposed to be the same tomorrow, so maybe I'll put the ball in play a little bit better than I did today off the tee. The round started off, I hit a good drive on the first hole, although it went through the fairway and ended up in the light rough. Hit a pitching wedge -- actually hit a 9-iron from 140 yards and it went right over the hole.
Failed to get it up and down. Birdied five but it was a no-brainer, made it from 45 feet, hit a sand wedge for my third shot, landed by the hole, went 45 feet by, it was a tough green and hard to get the ball close. I had the same -- basically the same shot at six, knocked it right over the green with a sand wedge again at six. This time I did not get the ball up and down.
7 I made -- I hit a 6-iron off the tee and went a little bit to the right, went down in the heavy stuff. I hit a shot out about 20 feet from the hole and I holed it for par, said "all right."
8, I hit a 3-wood off the tee, into the light rough, shortcut, had a 7-iron in my hand and hit it to the front edge of the green and stopped downwind so now I had a 3-putt -- missed my first put 20 feet left of the hole. That was embarrassing, but I was over the putt said, "You know, I'm playing too much break here. Nah, go with it." Ended up 20 feet left of the hole. Made bogey there.
And 9, I hit it in the right rough with a 3-wood and hit it just short of the green, left it short with a sand wedge and miss it had from about 10 feet.
Not a good front nine, struggled, made two long putts for 3-over so I'm grateful for that. Started off the back nine and I birdied 10, hit a driver and a sand wedge into about 6 feet and made it.
Next hole I hit a big drive, left it short of the green and pitched it over the green from about 30 feet from the flag. I two-putted from over the green.
13, I missed a short birdie putt, then 14 -- I'm sorry, let's go to 12 because 12 was one of the holes I hit over the green, par 3, hit a good shot. Ball landed pin-high and one-hopped down into the green, almost into the hazard. Fortunate to have a lie. And I was not in the bunker, I was in the grass. I flipped it up there about 3 feet from the hole and made the putt for par.
13 was kind of routine, although I missed the fairway there again trying to drive it on the green.
14, I hit it pretty close, hit it about 10 feet from the hole, missed it.
15, I hit the best shot of the day, I hit a shot out of the bunker, a right fairway bunker, with a 4-iron. And I hit it about 25 feet from the hole. Big cut shot up the hill.

Q. How far were you out, Tom?
TOM WATSON: I was 177, something like that. 177 to the hole.
Then 16 I made birdie, drove it in the fairway, hit a 3-wood in the fairway -- it's amazing how good you can do from the fairway -- and I knocked a running pitching wedge in about 10 feet and made it.
Then I hit another really good shot at the next hole. I hit my Idea 2-iron I flushed it right at the hole, had about a 15-footer for birdie, misread t missed it.
And then 18, same club in my hand, I hit it in the right rough. Hit a 3 hybrid there, 3 Idea there, short of the green. Fortunately, I had a half decent lie I could work with and I pitched it up about 4 feet from the hole and made the putt for a scrambling par.
It was a scrambling round of golf. It's kind of like the first round is a scrambling round. I have yet to feel very comfortable on the golf course. It's been a difficult course for me to judge. I feel like I was -- to feel like I was in control. The course is a fooler. It fools you. You have some blind shots, uphill shots, downhill shots that you have to deal with. You had about a 10 or 15 mile-an-hour wind and that's all you need for a good test.

Q. Talk about the pitch on 7. Looked like you were on a downslope. How tough was that lie? It appeared to be a good shot, classic Watson par, was it as tough as it looked?
TOM WATSON: It was a level lie, but fortunately it wasn't in the heavy stuff or in a corner of one of those bunkers. It was in the grass.
But I didn't have a shot, really, because I had a knob that I had to go over and the pin was over the downslope of the knob and I tried to hit it as high as I could and hope I caught it just right and it landed on top of the knob and trickled down, but it flew past the hole. You have a lot of shots like that on this golf course you've got to play.

Q. A lot of players have said that this isn't a scrambling-type of golf course and yet you seem to be doing it so well. How do you explain it?
TOM WATSON: I think it's a scrambling golf course. You have to scramble to make some pars here, keep in the hunt. You know, there are some places you can miss it. There are some places you can't miss it, I'm learning those places. That's what you learn on links golf courses, where can you miss it? Where can you hit it where you know you're going to have a good chance for par? Where do you have to hit it to assure yourself a reasonable chance for par?
And there are some places here you don't hit it. And then you just hope you can make bogey.

Q. Are you doing anything daily to address your hip as far as stretching, therapy?
TOM WATSON: I am, every day I use the gentlemen in the trailer over here and get stretched out.

Q. How about the cumulative affect of six or seven or eight or however many times you're going to be playing this course --
TOM WATSON: This is my 6thround today. It's okay, it's not painful, just stiff. Like a lot of rust in that joint right now.

Q. Can you talk about how in your heyday you slept on a lead going into the last round and the feelings, are they different now many years later in the same type situation?
TOM WATSON: No, they're not. When I'm in the lead the heart beats a little faster, I sleep a little longer, I don't sleep quite as soundly, but I sleep a little longer.
I still have the same feeling, that's why I like it. It's competition. I like being in the thick of it. I like coming out on top.

Q. The sight of fescue turn you on? The British Open --
TOM WATSON: Not as much as my wife.

Q. Not that way. Links golf courses, what is it about links golf courses and you --
TOM WATSON: Actually it does. If you play this golf course you walk outside the places where it's watered it's a links. Unfortunately, where it is watered it's a little soft and the greens play more target-like rather than links-like, but the surrounds are pure links, everything, the paths -- the narrow sandy paths like this, everybody wears them out and it's -- you know, that's the beauty of this golf course and it is -- it's about the prettiest golf course I've ever played, as far as beauty is concerned. I really, really like the look of it. Certainly haven't learned how to play it yet, even though I'm in the lead.

Q. Do you feel you have an advantage because you've won a significant number of Major Championships over some of the other people in the field who are close to the top, but maybe don't have your record?
TOM WATSON: No. It's just -- it's who can deal with the problems the golf course gives you under the pressure that you're under. And under the pressure sometimes, it's different for different folks. Sometimes I can deal with it better than others. I just try to concentrate on the shot at hand and that's how I try to deal with the pressure. I don't know how other people deal with it, but that's me. It's in the now.

Q. Two questions. 7, 12, and 18. You always talk about Watson pars, were those good examples and maybe as big a keys to your round today? And second question, did Michael just get here today?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, he's sitting right behind you.

Q. Must have been kind of nice to have him here.
TOM WATSON: Maybe he's better luck than you are. That's the first thing.

Q. Everybody is better luck than me.
TOM WATSON: Geez, you're awful. No, typical Watson pars, that's right. You hit the nail on the head. I made some Watson pars the first round, too. I made one at 4, made one at -- where else did I make one? On the first round? Even better than 4.
8, I hit way off the right at 8, barely got it out, chipped it up about 10 feet in the hole for par. I'm down -- I'm almost with the seagulls at Lake Michigan so far right on 8.
But ordinarily I would be making -- those are the things that you do when you win tournaments. You have successes, those are -- those are more of a success than making birdies. Especially and in particular on a hard golf course like this is. Making a tough bogey or a tough par is better than a birdie sometimes. Kind of gives you a deep breath, man, just, I did something. Go on and the next tee you're more relaxed.

Q. What do you suppose it is about the game of golf that allows people to play it so well at an age where --
TOM WATSON: We're so old?

Q. Well, yeah, you couldn't play basketball, baseball, or something, it's fun to watch guys --
TOM WATSON: Well, like I say, they don't tackle you in golf and you don't run up and down the court like you do in basketball and ruin your knees. You ruin other things. My hip is bad, and I've been fortunate that's about the only thing that's ever given much of a problem.
As long as you keep your flexibility, work out, keep in good shape, you can still play.
Can we play against the kids? No. The kids have got that extra length. We're probably a little smarter than the kids, we've been around the pike a bunch of times. Probably play the courses a little bit better than the kids.
But as far as the talent hitting the ball the way you have to do it on courses like Oakmont or the Masters, the old guys don't have much of a chance.

Q. You talked about your success on the links-style courses, the British Open, what do you think was the key to your success and what did you see in Tiger Woods today that kind of makes him go down that path?
TOM WATSON: I felt on links courses I had a pretty good understanding of how hard to hit it and a great ability to get the ball up and down and when you're playing in tough conditions getting the ball up and down is at a premium when you're playing links golf. You're not going to hit the greens like you do in America where the greens hold. You're going to be missing the greens, you have to play bump-and-runs, shots around the greens and there is the factor of how do you negotiate these golf courses in those -- I call them the pot bunkers, those are water hazards, every one of them, you knock it in it's a stroke penalty.
That's what Tiger did last year so well at Royal Liverpool, just refused to challenge the bunkers. And he had the talent to be able to lay up short of those and still get the ball on the greens.

Q. You went through a process of a few disappointments before you won the U.S. Open and I think it's chronicled how --
TOM WATSON: Maybe it's my time, you know?

Q. I was wondering if it feels sort of similar, like almost --
TOM WATSON: I hadn't thought of it. Yeah, maybe it is time. Could be. Kind of playing like I did at Pebble. Hit the ball in the rough a bunch of times, hit some pars. The first two rounds, I hit it terrible the first two rounds at the Open in Pebble. Finally found it on the range and it was easy after that.

Q. You mentioned staying in the now as being a thing you try to do. Couple players said that your commitment to every shot has always been a hallmark of your play. Could you talk about that? Are you talking about the same thing?
TOM WATSON: I played golf that way my whole life, and you never play a shot without trying to do your best with that shot. And you never play a round of golf without trying to keep score. What did I shoot? I know every time I play a round of golf what I shoot. That's -- that's the benchmark.
When you go out to play, I don't know if you play, do you keep score? To me, I do, because that's the bottom line. That's how I played that day, I like to relate to the score I shot. Today's 73 was -- I have to say it was a very good round of golf. Even though I didn't hit the ball well it was a very good round of golf.
I'll never forget Byron Nelson telling me the store about Eddie Lowery at the Masters, Byron came off and shot a 72, hit about five greens that day. And Byron could mope a little bit. And he's moping around and he sees Eddie and Eddie followed him that round. And he said, "Eddie, that was the worst round of golf I ever played." And Eddie cut him off and said, "No, Byron, that's the finest round of golf I ever saw you play."
Put it in perspective. Golf is not hitting greens, making birdies, it's being able to do what Tiger does, he gets into the junk and makes birdies out of them, making Watson pars. Ben Hogan said, "I expect to miss seven shots in a round of golf." How did he figure out 7? I don't know, maybe he compiled an average over the years.
And he just said it's about 7 bad shots a round. And then he follows that up and he says, "It's not how good your good shots are, it's how good your bad shots are." Like Rotella says, it's not a game of perfect.

Q. If you could look back at your U.S. Senior Open history if you could have a mulligan or one finish you could replay, is there one that stood out, maybe you thought you beat yourself or you would like to play again?
TOM WATSON: They all even out. There are shots that you would like to have back, but there are shots that you say, "I got lucky." And one of the things my father taught me is to be very honest about the way you play the shot. Get lucky, you say, "Hey, I got lucky with that shot."
Those lucky shots, like the first hole this week, I drive it in the right rough, I'm in this hole. Where did my ball end up? On a drainage grate in this hole.
Well, that was perfect. I played it right off the drainage grate and I could make a 2-putt for par. If I dropped it in the grass I couldn't have gotten to the green. Did I get lucky? Hit a bad shot and got lucky.

Q. Will you say you've always been lucky --
TOM WATSON: I'm the luckiest SOB alive. And Nicklaus is too. And there are other guys that are unlucky. We won't go into that. But they believe they're unlucky. I go out there with an honest assessment, if I get a good break I admit it, I got a great break.
RAND JERRIS: Tom, thanks for your time.

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