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July 25, 2007

Tom Watson


DAVE SENKO: Tom, welcome. Maybe just if you can get us started.
TOM WATSON: You don't have the roar proper accent to be conducting this interview.
DAVE SENKO: That central New York State accent. Talk about this event you've had great success, you won in 2003 and 2005 and now we're back here at Muirfield. Just talk about this tournament.
TOM WATSON: You know, the event, it's great stature because of the venues where we play. We've played some wonderful courses and we continue to do that. Muirfield is obviously one of the premiere courses that we could play in any tournament, and we're very grateful to be here.
Next year is the Troon and then on to Old Sunningdale. It really makes this event very, very special.
I wish -- on an aside, I wish The Ryder Cup would go to these courses, rather than go to the commercial venues where they have been going. But remember the old days, when we played Lytham and we played the links courses until they went to The Belfry and went on. But so be the commercial world of golf.
DAVE SENKO: You had a chance to play the course now. What, if any, changes since you last played here?
TOM WATSON: It hasn't changed much. The golf courses are longer than when I played in the 90s when I played here. I remember playing here, I believe it was in 2000. I want to say 2000 or 2001, it was before the 2002 championship here, and they had lengthened the tees at the fourth, played the 9th as a par 4, and lengthened the tee at the 6th. That certainly does make a difference.
In fact, they have some abilities to lengthen the tees even more. Of course, that goes with, that, goes with where the game has gone as far as equipment is concerned. They need to do that in the sense that the players should not be allowed to drive over the bunkers, at least to them. Muirfield is a course that as any typical links course is a course where you must stay out of the bunkers.
I remember in 1980 when I won here, I was putting probably the best of any one particular moment in time of my career. And I just told myself, if I could just stay out of the bunkers and somehow stay out of the rough, I could win the tournament because my putting was so on that week. It was so good. And that's what I did. I hit it more in the cross-bunker on the 17th out of the right rough, made bogey there, but my putting was absolutely superb that week.
After the first round where we had really, really strong winds and a tough day, I led it with 68 tied with Trevino. It was just a matter of just kind of keeping out of trouble the last few rounds because I rely on my putter so well.
The bunkers here are just like little hazards. You can lose more than one shot out of the bunkers here because the ball can roll up against the edge and you have no shot. You have no shot to get out of the bunker. And that's a chance you take in hitting into these hazards, which they are; they are a hazard. And stay out of them as best you can.

TOM WATSON: Well, you're the master of the obvious. It is more severe than Carnoustie in '99, yeah.
You know, the rough -- one of the things about Muirfield, and I've played here in some friendlies over the years, you don't see any change between the condition of the golf course when it's not an Open venue and when you're just playing a normal round. That's one of the beauties of the golf course. The rough is always high, just depends on how dense it is from the standpoint of the weather, and all you have to do is just beat up the greens, and here is an Open Championship quality course right here. Put in a few ropes, and you've got a tournament.

Q. Is the rough fair?
TOM WATSON: Well, is it fair? Let's put it this way. There's places where you're going to lose your golf ball if you hit it into. The marshals are not going to be able to find some golf balls this week, but hopefully can find all mine. Hope I don't hit it in there very often, is the most important thing.
So you can -- the golf course, there's a lot of variety in the golf course. Some areas you have some wide driving areas, others are very narrow. The beauty of the course is some of the areas look more narrow off the drive than they actually play. Another beauty of the golf course is that it rotates in direction unlike a lot of the links courses where they are down and they are back. So you get a variety of wind directions here if you play it. You all know that from the past year, but that makes it -- that makes it more enjoyable to play to me.
I've always enjoyed Muirfield. It's always been a favourite of mine. I always said it was one of my top choices to play over here.

TOM WATSON: I'd like to be hitting it 350, first of all. We have to play the old way, hit it down the knock it on the greens. It will be the same thing. The game has passed me by as far as the distance is concerned. I can't compete with the kids anymore because of the distance. That's very apparent.
But I still have a lot of enjoyment playing against players of my calibre and also against places where we play. Like I've said many times, the reason I'm out here is because of the competition. I enjoy the competition. Every now and then I get a chance to play against my kids in the Masters or The Open Championship when my daughter doesn't get married.
This is always -- the Open Championships are places where I feel like I can compete given the right conditions. And if the condition are firm, the ground is running, I usually can probably get there.

Q. The Champions Tour
TOM WATSON: The beauty of The Seniors Tour/Champions Tour is the fact that every year, you have new blood coming out there, who everybody recognizes.
I felt earlier on that since you didn't have the Nicklaus's and the Palmers and the Trevinos playing every week anymore that maybe there would be some luster off the Champions Tour or Seniors Tour. That's not the fact. The fact is that every year you have names that people recognise come on the Tour.
And the challenges, or the beauty of it is that you're waiting to see whether these players can then take over the Tour at their young age of 50. And yes, it is more difficult because you're getting fresher faces, people hit the ball maybe a little longer than you do, and you know, the rust is starting to show on certain parts of your body.

Q. Colin Montgomerie said earlier today he would not be playing the Seniors Tour when he turns 50. Will he change his mind when he turns 50.
TOM WATSON: I can't -- I'm not in Colin's mind. I don't know what he means by that. Let him turn 50 and see what he thinks then.

Q. What were your thoughts on the Seniors Tour when you were in your 40s and did you think about playing?
TOM WATSON: Well, I still felt I could compete against my own and I didn't really consider it really seriously until the last couple of years. I won them when I was 48 years old on the regular tour and still could compete there. My caddie, Bruce, always wanted me to play more on the regular tour. Once I got to turn 50, it started to be apparent that I could not compete with the length that was necessary to play that tour. And more and more so, it's that way.

Q. What is the most important club in a Senior players bag.
TOM WATSON: It's always been and always will be the putter.

TOM WATSON: That's right. That's right. Looking forward to that.

Q. Nick (Faldo) leads you 2-1 here at Muirfield.
TOM WATSON: That's correct. I intend to even the score this week.

Q. How is your game now...you played well at the Sr. Open.
TOM WATSON: Well, I'm playing a little bit sketchy, I'm not -- I haven't really been consistent, let's put it that way. This Senior Open, I had one very good round where I hit all of the fairways, almost every fairway; and then I had rounds where I missed fairways I shouldn't have missed. And the last round got me. The last eight holes, it seemed every time I missed the fairway was in a bad position where the first few rounds I missed the fairway and I played a decent shot or I had a good break.
Consistency is the key here. The main thing here is to put the ball on the fairway, get the ball in the fairway and make a few putts. You're going to be able to hit quite a few greens if you hit the ball in the fairway here.
Some of the holes I love on this golf course, getting back to Muirfield, the 13th, par 3 up the hill, that's a great par 3. And the reason it's a great par 3 is that the bunkers are dental. They can be death. If you hit it into the bunkers, 13 -- one of the great thrills in golf is the uncertainty of what kind of lie you're going to have when you get to your ball. And on 13, it's one of those things that, God, if I hit it in the bunker, am I going to be able to play it out or not.
And sometimes you put it in the bunker there, you feel like you have a pretty easy bunker shot. Other times, you absolutely cold turkey, you cannot play. That's the stress that this course puts on you every time you play, and that's what I love about it, 13 in particular.

TOM WATSON: I never really feel that way. I've always taken it in the moment where if I'm playing well at the moment, I feel I have a good chance. I feel more comfortable out there. If I'm not playing well, it's a struggle.
The older I get when I don't play well, I don't perform very well. In the younger days, I could find a way to get it done. In the older days, it's harder to get it done when things are not close to being right on. It has something to do probably with my preparation and practise. I don't practise very much anymore. And the reason is my body doesn't -- my body doesn't allow for it. I do work out, but I don't hit a lot of golf balls. I only have so many more swings left in this left hip before I become bionic man.

TOM WATSON: Well, when you compare it against the kids, you can swing the clubhead 25 miles an hour and we can't compare that. We're swinging the club head 110, 112 miles an hour. The hybrids do help, but on the other hand, you don't get balls spinning with the hybrid; you're going to have a hard time on hard, fast greens. It's okay with slow greens and soft conditions. On hard conditions, hybrids are great.
My idea is I use it quite a bit off the tee here. I can hit the ball a long way with it. To stop the ball downwind, I have a hard time with any long club anymore because the golf ball doesn't spin as much as the old golf ball and because I don't hit the ball as high as I used to with as much spin.
The game improvement clubs do help. My idea is one of those clubs.

Q. Your thoughts on Seve retiring?
TOM WATSON: It's always sad when a player like Seve hangs it up, but gives you a chance to go back and recognise what he did and how he played the game. Makes you feel good that he graced the game of golf with his presence.

TOM WATSON: I think, yes, there's not a question. As I said every year when they come out at age 50, they wait and see and they are names all people recognise and that's what makes our Champions Tour viable and continues to do so.
Seve has not played well for years, let's face it, and it's been a struggle. He probably called the right shot. He's said, I don't want to embarrass myself, I don't want to go out and try to compete and shoot 80. Nobody wants to do that, especially with a record like Seve had, the type of joy playing the game.

Q. What is your most poignant memory of Seve?
TOM WATSON: Well, the most poignant memory is when I was on the 17th hole at St. Andrews and I watched him make that putt at 18 before I putted out my -- I had a par putt from about 20 feet after hitting a great shot off the road on to the green. I needed to make that now and birdied the last hole to tie him. I do remember that putt going in; "I'd better make this putt." That was history; championships, you know, one of them that kind of slipped away, both slipped away from my fingers and also Bernhard Langer's fingers, too. We both played together in the last round, and Bernhard hit the ball close to the hole and never made a putt and I hit the ball close to the hole and made about one putt in the whole round. It's just one of those days, the putter didn't cooperate to close the deal for both Bernhard and myself and Seve won.

Q. Your thoughts on last week's Open Championship?
TOM WATSON: Well, it was more exciting. This Carnoustie the 2007 Open Championship was more exciting because Romero coming in there and just grabbing the lead; and you had Padraig coming in there and grabbing the lead and after Garcia had, you know, had the tournament in his possession for a while, then losing it, coming back; then having the lead and then losing it; it was -- it would be easy to say if you watched the tournament, you would be rewarded with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, as we say on ABC Sports. It was good, really, really good.
DAVE SENKO: Thank you, Tom.

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