home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


July 14, 2008

Tom Watson


MALCOLM BOOTH: Ladies and gentlemen, we've got five-time Open Champion Tom Watson with us.
TOM WATSON: First of all, let me apologize for being late for my 12:30 appointment. We got in this morning and unpacked and hit the bed and three hours later woke up. At my age you need naps.
MALCOLM BOOTH: In 1983 when you won for the fifth time you joined an elite list of players hitting that mark. Talk about your memories of Birkdale.
TOM WATSON: I have memories. It was a very equal week as far as the play is concerned. Everybody seemed like they had a chance to win. There were six or seven players on the last day that were either tied for the lead or in the lead, and I was one of them. And fortunately I pulled out ahead at the 16th hole and played 18 the way it should have been played with a driver and a 2-iron, and ended up being Open Champion.

Q. Knowing the golf course as you do, what do you think the champion will have to do to make their way around this year?
TOM WATSON: I haven't seen the golf course this year. I know they've added some length to it, 155 yards if memory serves me correctly. But the positioning of the bunkers and narrowing of the fairways, the changes in the 17th green I hear, they're all something I'm going to have to deal with, kind of a new course this year compared to what it was back in '98 when I played it last.

Q. Still the greatest 2-iron you've hit?
TOM WATSON: At the moment that was the greatest 2-iron I ever hit, that's right. It was nice seeing that ball come down right at the flag, but I never saw it land. The crowd just collapsed and -- I never saw the ball hit the ground, but I knew it was coming down right at the flag stick. My caddie said, "Quit hooking," and I said, "The wind will bring it back, left to right into my face." It came right back at the flag. Took me a while to find out how close it was, but when I got up there, I said I think I can get it down in two.

Q. Since the advances in equipment and balls since then, would it still require a driver and 2-iron to get to that green?
TOM WATSON: I doubt it. I doubt it. I don't know how far they're playing the hole. What does it say on the card, 460?

Q. 473.
TOM WATSON: Well, it's going to be in my driver and 2-iron range, I can assure you that.

Q. Given how hot Kenny Perry has been the past few years, what do you think of his decision not to play here?
TOM WATSON: Well, he made the Ryder Cup team. That's the main thing. He wanted to play the Ryder Cup in his home state, home area. He's certainly made good on his plan, if you will, to do that. And to not play here is really just a choice. We all have choices. I assume he'll play in the PGA, but I don't know what he's thinking, but he's certainly won three out of the last five times he's played.
With travel, playing different golf courses, playing courses -- the U.S. Open, as he said, that course just maybe didn't suit his game as well as some of the other courses they're playing. And the No. 1 goal was make the Ryder Cup team, so I have to commend him for that.

Q. But now that he's made the Ryder Cup team, does it surprise you that he wouldn't now come over here? He's sort of mathematically clinched that, I believe.
TOM WATSON: Well, I can't speak for him. I just can't do that.

Q. You missed last year's championship because of a family reason. Is it your intention to keep coming back as long as the exemption allows?
TOM WATSON: Well, yeah, it only lasts two more years, Turnberry and St. Andrews. I intend to play both places if everything works out there.

Q. How did you greet that news, that the exemption had been shortened?
TOM WATSON: Peter called me and said they had made that decision. I said, you know, I commend that decision. There are places that you have to have for the players that can really play and for the youngsters. I know that -- it didn't matter to me whether the older players played if they could still compete. But if they couldn't compete, I think they should have voluntarily moved over and not played in the tournament to let the younger players who can compete get in the tournament.
You know, that's the decision. That's their decision, and I think that's important, that they allow room for that.

Q. You alluded to the Ryder Cup a few moments ago in relation to Kenny Perry. Is too much being made of the Ryder Cup now? Is it becoming, I guess, almost too big?
TOM WATSON: (Laughing) well, I know it's very big over here. Talking to some of the players over here, it's in the papers every day and every week, the Ryder Cup is mentioned. It's not mentioned nearly as much in America as it is over here.
You know, they've asked me the question many times why the European team has been successful, and I say, you know, there's a very simple answer. They're a better team, a better 12 players. They played better. Very simple.
You can make excuses, but the real reason is that overall the 12 players played better than our 12 players.

Q. Is it a danger, though, Tom, that perhaps it could overshadow other major golf events?
TOM WATSON: I don't think so, but there is a danger of having too many major golf events.

Q. Naps aside, does coming back over here kind of turn you back --
TOM WATSON: Naps aside (laughing).

Q. -- young again, competing on courses that you love, a championship that you love, against the younger players? And part B, could you also reflect on just the magnitude of five championships?
TOM WATSON: Well, it didn't make me feel young again. Nothing will make you feel young again, especially seeing kids out there playing who weren't even born when you won the championship here.
But that's the beauty of the game; you can still play late in your competitive life. I feel as if I could compete here. I have played half-decently in the Open Championships the last few years, better than I can at The Masters. Augusta is really -- the way they've designed that course has taken me out of the loop there. I'd have to be more than perfect to compete there, and then I still couldn't compete, still can't compete.
But here, on some of these courses I can still compete.
The magnitude of five championships, you know, I've never really given a second thought to it, honestly. I took each championship as it played out. As I said earlier this year, I kind of live in the now and not in the past or in the future, and that -- it's nice to reflect back on it. It's wonderful to have some good memories from it, and I can't remember half of them, that's the problem (laughing).
Playing links golf has always been -- not always, but since about 1980 has always been a great pleasure to me. I've enjoyed the feel of the golf, the feel of the golf courses, the feel of the crowds, the history of the game that is known through the UK here. People understand the history of it.
The crowds here are more knowledgeable usually than our crowds back in the States. The golf is more the fabric of life here. That makes me feel good. You feel like you're in an environment in which you're very welcomed.

Q. As a former Ryder Cup skipper, are you surprised at Tiger's decision to refuse the vice captaincy?
TOM WATSON: I didn't know that.

Q. Apparently that was his decision a few days ago. Do you think he's missing out on a great opportunity?
TOM WATSON: Again, I can't speak for him (smiling).

Q. You mentioned at the Ryder Cup you thought Europe had been performing better than the Americans recently. Can you see anything that would change in this year's Ryder Cup? Do you see any changes ahead for the American team, or do you think the status quo will remain and that Europe will continue to dominate?
TOM WATSON: Well, something has got to change for the Americans to compete, and that is our players have to be in better shape, better form when the Ryder Cup comes along. And they haven't been in good form. I think if you look at the quality of players we have had in the Ryder Cup, from Tiger on down, Tiger hasn't won a lot and Phil hasn't won very much at all. Those are two pretty good players. Then you add the rest of the mix to it, you know, you need an inspiration. And our team hasn't had that inspiration. They've had very few inspirations, frankly, in the last 20 years.
The Ryder Cup is -- when I first played in the Ryder Cup, it was a foregone conclusion that the yanks were going to win, and not too long after that when they added the Europeans to it, it was a ballgame, it was a real contest. That's what it needed, and I'm glad it happened and we were soundly beaten in '85 and then in '87. It wasn't a wake-up call, it was just kind of -- it was something that we couldn't take for granted. We've been falling behind the curve ever since. We've been lucky to win, what is it, one Ryder Cup in the last 20 years? Or two? What is it?

Q. Two. You've won one in five, I think.
TOM WATSON: Come on, you guys are the experts. Brookline, okay, so three. Pick a number (laughter).
But really, it's the circle of life. The Americans, I think, this year, if you look at the players that are going to be on the team, when I was -- let me reflect back on when I was captain. I had a hard time picking two young players who were playing well. I couldn't do it. They were all playing poorly. They just hadn't played well for three or four months.
And the people between 11th and 20, in that range, I had two picks. So I went for experience. I went for experience in Ray Floyd and Lanny Wadkins. Ray won a few points and Lanny won a point and a half or something like that, and that was good. They were inspirational for our team.
But I had a problem picking somebody who was playing well. You want somebody who's playing great to come in on that team, who's really up. And that was -- for my two picks, there was nobody right there that seemed really on the rise.
Right now you have Anthony Kim, of course Kenny Perry, those are two names right there from the American side. I'd like to see Kim make it. I think he probably should make it. So we've got some real young blood in Anthony Kim, and Kenny has been around a lot and he's certainly playing very well right now, but the key is playing well right in September. That's the key.
You know how golf is. It can turn on you in a New York minute.

Q. You can't have many regrets in your Open Championship, but if St. Andrews in 2010 does turn out to be your last one, is there a regret that you didn't win there? Is that maybe the one gap in your CV when you look at it?
TOM WATSON: Not really. I had my opportunities, both in '78 and '84 to play well and win there. I took one away from Nick Price, you might say, at Troon in '82. So it all balances out honestly, like the bounces.

Q. And if the 2-iron here was your favourite, presumably the 2-iron on the 17th on the old course would be one you'd hit again?
TOM WATSON: I just tried to hit an heroic shot to put the ball up in the air and land the ball on the green there. It wasn't the right shot to play.

Q. At The Masters, Brandt Snedeker talked about how much he enjoyed playing with you and how he grew up admiring you. I was curious about the evolution of your friendship with him and how much you've talked to him about playing over here and how to adjust your game to the Open.
TOM WATSON: Brandt and I are going to find out. I saw him today when I drove in here. We're going to play a practise round on Wednesday in the afternoon. I called him after The Masters and talked to him a little bit about some of the shots he played. Just like Ken Venturi aside and Byron Nelson took me aside and said, Here's the way you play this golf course. I said, what are you thinking about when you're on certain holes and certain shots? Then I added my two cents' worth in.

Q. How good is he?
TOM WATSON: Well, he's got a lot of talent. He's got his head screwed on right, as we say. And he's -- we'll just have to see. He's young.

Q. You talked about the U.S. team needing inspirations for the Ryder Cup, and you say they haven't had that inspiration. How is it that Tiger Woods, perhaps one of the most inspiring golfers there's ever been, has not fulfilled that role?
TOM WATSON: I haven't been on the team to know why that hasn't happened. But it's awfully hard to be inspired when you're looking at a two-point, then a four-point and then a six-point deficit every time you tee it up after the first day. That's happened too many times.
Inspiration comes from performance, and our performers haven't performed.

Q. You're playing here with somebody who also played a very famous shot in the history of Birkdale. Have you come across Justin Rose much before or seen him?
TOM WATSON: I haven't, not too much. I certainly have seen the progression of his golf game and his golf swing. He has a marvelous golf swing. He just needs to get into competition and win more. So that's the thing about Tiger; Tiger really kind of suppresses that in everybody because he wins so much. You're winning the important tournaments and you're in contention and you don't win, you can't learn how to win when Tiger is winning. You can learn how to finish second.

Q. Kind of along that subject, as well, do you think the feeling here without Tiger here, some players maybe think they need to take advantage of this opportunity with him not in the field? And do you think it lessens at all kind of the feeling around this tournament that he's not here this week?
TOM WATSON: I think so. There's not a question that when you look up the leaderboard you're not looking for Tiger Woods' name. The bottom line is that -- who's going to win, and it's -- now it's kind of an open -- now you go back to before Tiger. You've got Greg Norman here, you've got Ernie Els, you've got some of the older names, you've got some of the younger names, Fisher and some of the young studs.
As Tim Finchem said when he was asked about Tiger's hiatus away from the Tour because of his injury, he said, "It's time for the other players now to step up, see who's got it." And we'll see.
But again, getting back to your comment about winning, winning is hard to do with Tiger around. What's he done, won 30 per cent of the major championships he's played in? That's pretty good (smiling). That's pretty good.

Q. Is the feeling diminished with him not here? I know you just got here, but do you think it'll be that way in a way?
TOM WATSON: I'm sure it'll be diminished some when the top player isn't there, just like in anything, any sport.

Q. An earlier comment you made, a danger of having too many major events?
TOM WATSON: I think golf has gotten to the point where instead of four majors you've got -- you add the Ryder Cup, The Presidents Cup, the FedEx, you've got THE PLAYERS Championship, you've got -- all of a sudden you've got a level of all those championships, and then what happens to the other tournaments? You've got second-tier tournaments, and that's the danger I see. The danger is that only those tournaments are going to be attended by the best players and the other tournaments are going to suffer from it.

Q. And that's not healthy for the --
TOM WATSON: I don't think so, no.

Q. Just returning to Tiger for a second, do you give any credence to the view there should be a sort of asterisk set against the champion this year because Tiger is not playing?
TOM WATSON: I think that's foolish. That's a foolish thought.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Tom Watson, thanks very much.

End of FastScripts

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297