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March 27, 2008

Tom Watson


DAVE SENKO: Tom, thanks for joining us. Maybe just get us started a little bit.
TOM WATSON: That's right, doing a lot of spring cleaning. Been fighting the government, but that's about it. Actually I like spring cleaning a lot better than fighting the government. My land has been annexed by the city and we're trying to tell the county that it's a little bit premature to be annexing this much land. It's a fight that we're losing right now, but we've still got a few punches left somewhere.
That's been a lesson and an understanding how government works, how the power of politics works for certain people. It's been good. It's been a good educational experience. I've been enjoying it.
DAVE SENKO: Have you had a chance much to work on things with being at home, weather-wise?
TOM WATSON: Well, the only thing I've really been doing as far as my golf is concerned, I've been working out and I'm in good shape. I haven't hit too many balls. We've had a bad winter.
But I did change my putting setup and style, and I'm really looking forward to putting that to the test this week on these greens. I've gotten back to the way I used to set up to the ball, and it makes the ball roll better. I'm set up more behind it, getting up on the ball a little bit more, the ball is a little bit more in the middle of my stance, and so far it's proven very good.

Q. Not to pry but to pry, can you elaborate a little bit on the issues of the land? They want to build a shopping center or an airport?
TOM WATSON: No, it's the city of Overland Park, which has annexed 15 square miles -- I'm sorry, it was 15 square miles, but the commissioner has reduced it to eight and a half square miles, which is a lot of land. Most of it is agricultural land, and most of the residents want the country lifestyle and they think it's too soon to be annexing. There's always annexation, but it's not the time, and the commissioner feels that way unfortunately.
The annexation law in the state of Kansas is such that you don't have a vote on it. The people that are being annexed don't have a vote on it. It's part and parcel of suing right now the county commissioner for not doing it the right way procedurally from a legal standpoint.
They also have a bill that didn't get out of committee in the state of Kansas, House committee, that we're trying to do something with right now. Attach it to another bill, go forward with it.

Q. (Inaudible.)
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I think everybody ought to get involved with the political process somehow, and I've always wanted to somehow get involved with the political process in some manner. This has been a good manner. This has been a good understanding of trying to understand the law, trying to understand how our governmental officials work, the Board of County Commissioners, the House of Representatives in the state of Kansas, the Senate, how lobbyists work. It's a fascinating -- it's a game. It's a chess game when you come right down to it.
We seem like we're pawns in this versus the knights and the bishops.

Q. (Inaudible.)
TOM WATSON: No, absolutely not, not at all. I think everybody ought to get involved in supporting a candidate in an election to understand how the election process works. I think everybody ought to do that to understand our political system.
This is part and parcel of that. It's been an interesting process.

Q. I have a couple of Masters related questions for you if you don't mind --
TOM WATSON: Another political process (laughter).

Q. First, this has to do with Gary Player who's coming in here later. I guess it's 30 years since he won his last. You were involved in that one in 1978. Just curious what you remember from your standpoint. You were in the mix that day, came from behind and --
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I remember how I missed a short putt at 14 for -- I think I three-putted 14 from about six feet, hit it right in there real close and knocked it by about five feet and I missed it.
Then on 18, I made a mistake but unfortunately I learned from it. Off the tee I hooked it in the left trees, and I put it in the left trees and the right trees there with a chance to win the tournament or tie for the tournament. Both times I played the wrong shot. I played the wrong shot. I tried to cut the ball out of the left trees and I tried to hit the ball onto the green from the right trees to the flagstick position. I understand now that that was not my percentage play. I was trying to be a hero.
I do remember making bogey at the 18th hole. Gary won. That was a big disappointment. Lesson learned.

Q. Obviously you had a lot of good things happen there, too. Are there a couple that stand out, a memory that stands out from your victory?
TOM WATSON: At a Masters? Sure. '77 I was playing very well, so that was more of a pleasurable experience. But in '81 I wasn't playing particularly well, but I hit some critical shots to win.
I talked to Nick yesterday about a couple of -- an uphill bunker shot that I played at 17 in '81 and knocked it -- it was not an easy shot to get the right distance and get it close. You're always going to probably come up a little bit short there, but you don't want to go over the green. I hit it pin high to the right and made a good putt to save par to protect a one-shot lead. That was a shot I remember, and I had to get it done.
Of course playing '77 -- I made four birdies in a row on the front side there to really kind of separate me from the rest of the field and then made a couple bogeys, and here comes the Bear. It came down to Jack and me on the last few holes. We were tied all the way into the 17th. I made a birdie putt, and Jack made an error in judgment on 18 as he admitted. He heard the cheer and kind of changed his mind on what club he was going to hit.
Kind of like Colin Montgomerie did possibly at Winged Foot on the 18th hole, same thing. That element of doubt creeps in even though you think you've made the right decision. That element of doubt sometimes gets you.

Q. What is left that you want to get out of golf?
TOM WATSON: The competition is still there. I like coming out here and playing a tough golf course and competing against -- with the best field we have all year and then go to the Masters. I still enjoy that. The British Open, playing against the kids.

Q. We have a perception for what it's going to be like to be older, X years old. As it happens, are you surprised by maybe the fire that you still have, the passion for the game? I mean, 25 years ago would you have guessed you would feel like this and approach the game as you are?
TOM WATSON: 25 years ago before the Senior Tour I didn't expect to be playing professional golf at this age. So the Senior Tour has been -- as they say, it's the ultimate mulligan to be able to still compete. By competing out here, you still have a chance to kind of keep your game sharp and to play, as I said, The Masters and the British Open. I still have visions that I can do well, especially at the British Open.

Q. (Inaudible.)
TOM WATSON: Sure. I don't have the fire as much now all the time to be the -- to practice every day, to keep my game as sharp as I'd like to, but I go through stretches where I do have that fire, where I do get my game in shape. Like right now, this is the beginning stretch of five weeks in a row for me. The swing is starting to come around. I hit some balls yesterday, and the adjustments that I made were the right adjustments. Kind of like booting up your computer, you kind of let everything fall in place and see if it's running properly and make adjustments from there.
That's what I'm doing right now. And by -- I hope by -- I'll have some real good feedback today in the Pro-Am, and then Friday, Saturday, Sunday for the competition I'll ramp it up and see how that comes, and then there's Cap Cana next week and then The Masters the following week, to Tampa defending the following week, and then a fun week in Savannah to play with my friend Andy North in the Liberty Mutual Legends. That stretch right now, the fire is there right now.

Q. (Inaudible.)
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I do, sure. I haven't won the U.S. Senior Open.

Q. (Inaudible.)
TOM WATSON: Sure, yeah. Pretty simple to say. I've heard Trevino say it and I've heard other players say it at older ages, but you lose that anger of your failures, and what are you doing out here?

Q. Do you expect there to be someone to come along to challenge Tiger sort of like you did Jack?
TOM WATSON: No, not in my lifetime. I don't think so. He's far and away -- he's surpassed Jack, I think. I think Jack has admitted it, too. He's dominated golf like nobody has ever dominated the game. You're seeing it right now in the middle of it, and he still has how many years left. You can't predict what's going to happen, but the pace he's set and continues to set is -- it's unmatchable.
I used to say that about Nicklaus' championship record, will anybody ever surpass it, and I remember a few people say, well, the competition is so tough, nobody will ever get to there. Well, you were wrong.
I always said it's improbable that somebody is going to match but not impossible. To win four major championships in a year, it's not impossible but it's improbable. Well, Tiger has proved that improbable wasn't the right term, and it is possible.

Q. Did you ever start a year thinking, I can win all four of the majors this year?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I had dreams of that. I did, yeah. Just get it done.

Q. What year did you think you had your best chance?
TOM WATSON: I thought '80 was -- basically '80 was my best year. That was the year that I thought maybe everything would fall into place.

Q. Since we got you rolling on Tiger, everybody sees the physical ability he's got, the shots, the results of the shots, but how much of his success do you think is that he is mentally maybe a little tougher than a lot of people?
TOM WATSON: It goes down to a ping-pong match between him and Mickelson. He wins the first, Mickelson wins the second, Mickelson wins the tie break. You know, he doesn't want to give an inch in anything, and that's the interesting thing he has.
He was trained by his dad when he was a young kid, and that along with all the talent, like I said, Byron Nelson, 16 years old when he watched him play, he said, I can't say this about any other 16 year old, that he has no faults. He was still raw.

Q. His dad would jingle the change in his pocket to toughen him up and things like that. Would you say that worked?
TOM WATSON: Well, you'd have to ask him. It looks like it worked, yeah.

Q. You can learn --
TOM WATSON: Yeah, competitive, sure. You add the race issue into it, you have to be thick-skinned when it comes to that, too. I'm sure that toughened him up, as well.

Q. You mentioned earlier looking forward to competing in the Masters, the British Open. It sort of didn't get a lot of attention but the British Open changed their age criteria going forward, and it really seems to affect you the most.
TOM WATSON: Yeah, it does. They called me and released the fact that they made that change. You know, that's a necessary change. I don't want to take up a spot of some kid as I was when I was 26 years old playing my first Open Championship. You've got to make room for the future. You've got to let go of the past.
Augusta hasn't done that, and they tried to do it, and it would have been the sensible thing to do at Augusta. But there was too much lobbying against it, getting back to our politics.

Q. That would mean you'd get to play at St. Andrews in 2010?
TOM WATSON: That's right.

Q. That will be your last one?
TOM WATSON: That's right. We're going to have a heck of a party.

Q. Talk about the course we're on right now. What does it take to be successful at this course? What does it take to succeed playing the Ocean Course?
TOM WATSON: Well, you'd better be on, first of all. You'd better be on with every facet of your game. It's a very difficult course. The rough this year is much more challenging driving. You've got to put the ball in the fairway. The greens are quick, and with any sort of wind it's very hard -- it's very hard to chip to these greens with the wind. The greens are mostly perched up so you're faced with an uphill shot to get to the greens most of the time.
What I like about the course is the variety. There's just a lot of variety at this golf course. My favorite hole on the golf course is 15. I love the way the green sits up there. Talk about a linksey green, that's a linksey green, I like that. You've got to play it right. They give you enough room to do everything on the hole, the wind is a major factor. When there's no wind you still have the issue of your uphill shot.
But the golf course is -- the 18th hole, if I were to change anything, I'd change the access of the 18th green. I think the access is too much right to left. It should be a little bit more straight on to give yourself a chance to get on the green. Right now you really have to thread the needle to get on that green. Just to stay on that green you've got to thread the needle very, very precisely.

Q. There's a course right down the road from you that's going to host the PGA TOUR later this year.
TOM WATSON: Yeah, they're trying to get me to come play it.

Q. Any chance of that?
TOM WATSON: I don't think so, but the one thing about the course, the Conservatory, our grass is Paspalum, and you can't really grow Paspalum rough, so there won't be any rough. But to deal with that we added a lot of length to the golf course. So if they want to play it at 7,700 yards at sea level they can do that. The greens are big and contoured.
It's a beautiful course. Bobby spared no change in making it a beautiful golf course. He built a golf course and he added the beauty around it. It'll be a good experience.
DAVE SENKO: Thank you.

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