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July 29, 2007

Tom Watson


STEVEN FRANKLIN: Four Open Championships in Scotland and now a third Senior Open, what is it about this part of the world?
TOM WATSON: Well, this is -- as I said this week, this week's been a very serene week for me. It was just the weather was right up my alley, good, blowy conditions, a little rain here and there. But the beauty of the place, I just feel very comfortable. And when you feel comfortable, you don't get too nervous. You don't get too much out of sorts when you hit a bad shot.
I hit a couple of shots today that -- 1 and 10 out of the rough, I hit it in the right rough and I tried to hit a 7-iron over the cross bunkers and just laid the face over and it got the heavy grass. I was thinking I was 26 again I guess, and I ended up making double-bogey there.
But even after the double-bogey there, I felt pretty much in control and I played two good shots and a good putt on the next hole, No. 11. It's funny how I remember the last round, 1980 that I did the same thing in 1980 playing with Ken Brown the last round, last hole. And I remember going to that hole and played right into the teeth of a pretty good wind and I hit a driver and a 5-iron and hit it about -- I think I hit it about eight or nine feet and made the putt for birdie, and Ken made a five or six on the hole and he was seven shots behind and that was it. I just tried to keep it out of the bunkers on the last seven holes.
But a lot of the same thoughts came back playing this golf course. The tee shot at 12; the tee shot at 18 actually. I was thinking, 1980 and the tee shot at 18, I remember having a four-shot lead and just putting it out there, you could see the fairway cut down the right side, and I aimed right there and I don't know what my body did. I thought I made a pretty good swing and it goes into the one place you can't hit it in the left bunkers.
STEVEN FRANKLIN: What were you thinking at that stage?
TOM WATSON: Well, at that stage, "What am I doing in here?" That's about the only thought I had about that. And I said, "Let's get the job done." And didn't have much opportunity on the first shot, I had to try to just get it out, not too far, and I didn't get it out far enough and of course rolled back in the bunker. But rolled back far enough in where I had a shot out sideways, so I knocked it out sideways and got it up around the green somewhere and 2-putted the fringe and that was it.
STEVEN FRANKLIN: You said it was important to make amends for the U.S. Senior Open and you must be delighted to have done that.
TOM WATSON: That's what I said when I walked in here, yeah. It is important to be able to get it done when you have to. It didn't look like it on 18 but I did put it in the wrong place. It was just a stupid shot and next time I'm going to cut the ball off that tee rather than try to hit just a nice little soft draw.

Q. When you said in 1980 that the same thing happened at 11, what did you mean?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, 11, I made a birdie in 11 both in eight in the final round and this year in the final round, and that probably gave me a lot of breathing room. In '80 it gave me a lot of breathing room, I think I had a five-shot lead or a four-shot lead, and here it gave me a three-shot lead. It was a big deal.

Q. Just off the green on 18, it didn't look all that easy a putt.
TOM WATSON: Well, I had to go through the grass there, but you know this grass over here. It's not very sticky. If you have to try to putt that through Augusta's grass, it would be tough and to judge how hard to hit it and you have to hit it hard; it goes fast downwind.
I had a very good feel with the putter all week. My old mentor Stan Thirsk, and my new putting mentor, Jon Helmker from Kansas City Country Club, they got ahold of me and moved the ball back in my stance before I came over here and started hitting the ball solidly. When you hit the ball solidly, you're going to make some putts.

Q. What did you say his name was?
TOM WATSON: Stan Thirsk and Jon Helmker. They both -- I've been working with Jon. And of course I've worked with Stan since 1961, a great friend and mentor.

Q. Padraig said last week that his double-bogey was the best 6 of his career. When you played your fourth shot, did that end up being one of the best of your career?
TOM WATSON: It turned out to be, yes, it certainly did. You're playing match play there, I know the two guys I have to beat I'm playing with, and after leaving the ball in the bunker I'm saying, okay, I've got to make six. Somehow, I've got to make six. And then to make three; my fourth short was not particularly good, but had the right weight to it and ended up in a place in which I could get down in two.
You're right, it wasn't that easy a putt, but I just had good feel. I had good feel all day.
First round was the poorest round of putting, and the last three rounds, I putted very well through the tournament. It's a good feeling to have a putter in your hands that doesn't feel like a snake charmer.

Q. Following on from what you said, how tough would it have been had one of the other two guys made a three in the playoff, and having had your three-shot lead blown away in the last hole?
TOM WATSON: It wouldn't have been tough at all because I was always prepared for it, just like I was prepared in '77 at the British Open at the last hole at turn bury and seeing how Jack prepared to make that putt. I had to make this putt right here, I know I have to make it, and I expected Jack to make his, which he did. And I expected those two guys, each time they putted, to make it.
I was prepared to go in the playoff.

Q. Can I also ask you just what you said earlier about you loving the weather conditions here; how were conditions as a boy growing up in Kansas?
TOM WATSON: It's not as blowy. Kansas can blow, but we played an a tree golf course where you didn't feel the wind like you feel the wind out here. I was never a good wind player, but I was a good up-and-downer. I could get the ball up-and-down, and I was a great putter.
People asked me why I played so well on links golf. Two things: I got the ball up-and-down very well; but No. 2 I think I always had pretty good weight. You know, the weight of my shots, I could get the ball the right distance, bouncing them on the ground. I didn't like playing that type of golf earlier on. Not until three or four years down the road after I won a couple of Opens did I start liking the game on links courses. I still like -- I grew up in the real high shots on American courses, stop the ball quickly.
I fought it. I fought it the first three or four years, and I finally said: Why am I fighting this? That's stupid to fight it. Why don't you just go with it and play the game the way it's supposed to be played here, along the ground, bump it and you have some good breaks, you have some bad breaks.

Q. Next year it's at Troon obviously, and do you fancy making it No. 8 in Scotland?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, Troon, I remember -- you know, I played Troon here last here. I played with the good doctor Ian Hay (ph), he's my doc and we played there, I think I shot about 80, something like that. I kept on hitting in the gorse. I played in the short tees, had the driver out. I was hitting a little crooked. In fact, it came down to the last on -- it came down to a couple of holes on the back side, and I ran out of balls. But I found one in the rough. (Laughter) I did. I found a ball in the rough, and played with that all the way in. Ran out of golf balls -- now, you've never done that, have you? (Laughter).

Q. You said earlier in the week that this was a proving ground for you after what's happened at the U.S. Senior Open.
TOM WATSON: Somewhat it is, yeah.

Q. Can you reflect a bit?
TOM WATSON: I sure can. It was really disappointing, the Senior Open, but as -- the custom in my career, when I've had some bad tournaments where I lost the lead or lost something, traditionally I've come back and I've come back very quickly. I guess that's just part of my personality. I hate failure. And I just want to get back to even, if you want to know the truth. And winning this tournament was getting back to even.

Q. You missed the British Open this year because of your daughter's wedding --
TOM WATSON: Which one would you choose?

Q. Will you come back next year?
TOM WATSON: To Birkdale, yes. I'll be playing next year at Birkdale. I love Birkdale. It's a favourite course of mine.
STEVEN FRANKLIN: We look forward to seeing you back at Birkdale, and many congratulations.

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