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July 23, 2008

Tom Watson


SCOTT CROCKETT: Tom, thanks, as always, for coming in to join us. It's been a busy day for you, but let us welcome you to the Senior Open Championship. I know it's a tournament that's close to your heart and a country that's close to your heart. Give us your thoughts on being back in Scotland for the event this week.
TOM WATSON: Well, it's always nice to be back in Scotland, especially when the wind is not blowing. Last week, we had more than our share of wind, and today is a day I've rarely ever seen in Scotland where the wind is not blowing.
The golf course as we were talking good last week, if the wind doesn't blow, the golf course is very accessible here. You can shoot some good scores.
I played Royal Troon the last two days, and there are a few changes there. The 15th tee is back where it should be, to the right of the 14th green. Played this there last, I think the tee was left, it was a bad angle. Doesn't look like they are taking much pity on us old people though, as far as the length of the golf course is concerned.
It looks like they put the dots out where it's as far back as they were going to move the tees, and I think there are only a couple of tees where you look back and there's an extra tee back there, but all of the rest of them are where The Open Championship would be played. So we are going to play a pretty long and difficult golf course at Troon here.
SCOTT CROCKETT: You mentioned the wind, last week at Birkdale, you'll be hoping it's not a repeat of that this week.
TOM WATSON: We all like a little wind.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Maybe not as much.
TOM WATSON: Not as much as that. Those boys had a really tough time on the green Saturday and Sunday. Making a two-foot putt was a minor victory when you play in that wind because of all the wind and the way the ball is shaking and the way it can curve, you mis-hit and get the ball up in the air and it blows, and it blows two or three inches, two-foot putt, two or three inches, gone.
You look back at what Padraig said about his round, he said when I made those two putts on 10 and 11, it set up my round, because that was the most important thing for him to stay right there making those, a four and a 6-footer or something like that, when he made those two putts. A lot of people were having trouble with those putts.

Q. Has what Greg did last week made us reassess what you oldies are capable of?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think you're seeing it in the way that Jack won the Masters at 46, that was prior to the change in the equipment where the equipment goes farther. And I've said this quite a few times about my abilities to play against the kids and my ability to play against the kids is much easier, much greater, whatever term you want to use here on links golf courses than it is at Augusta National.
Augusta National is a huge golf course. It's out of my reach. I cannot play that golf course because of the distance required to hit the ball up to the top of the hills and the shots that I have to play into the green. You have to be a lot longer hitter than I am. Links golf is not that way. You look at how many times the driver was used last week by Padraig, for instance, I don't know, how many times did he take the driver out of his bag in the last round?
I can play when that happens. When you're required to hit the drive 280 to 300 just to compete, I can't play courses like that.

Q. Has perhaps that been a mistake of Augusta and the USGA that they have made their majors less inclusive?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think there's a place for it. Augusta has always been a golf course where you have to hit the ball a long way I think. Most of the part, pretty much have to hit the ball a long way to compete successfully there. It just gives you the advantage. Although, I correct myself, because you have Zach Johnson would doesn't hit the ball a long way winning.
It's just I think it is a mistake in one sense that length is such an important factor, but you have to give it to the tournaments to do that. You can't let the tournaments at Augusta just be drivers and pitching wedges and 9-irons, can't do that.
As far as the kids hitting the ball, they hit the ball 300 yards in the air, and that takes a 400-yard par 4 and makes it just a pitch and a putt. You have to go 500 yards. That's the way you see it.

Q. Do you like the idea of a triple-double success this week?
TOM WATSON: I know there's been some written about that. But winning here gives me an advantage of understanding the golf course and how it plays in the wind. If I can remember what happened back then, winning for a third time in a different venue would be nice, but I don't think about that.
I just think about the golf course and how it played before and I'm just here to play a golf tournament and try to remember where to aim the ball. Like yesterday in the Pro-Am, I was trying to learn how to hit the ball, learn where I hit the ball, and I said, you know, I kind of remember at No. 9, I used to putt it out over the Heather or over the Gorse over there for a reason, and it doesn't -- oh, now I remember why; hit in the bunker yesterday. Now I understand why.
No. 10, hitting the ball, where do you hit the ball at No. 10, a blind shot; where do you hit the ball at 11, the Railway Hole, what club do you hit off the Railway Hole? Those things are coming back, and formulating my game plan, and that's what I'm thinking about, not so much winning, a triple-double. That would be nice. Makes a good line. I understand where you're going there, but I'm pretty simple when it comes to that. I'm just trying to win a golf tournament.

Q. Is the buzz and excitement of a Major the same to you now as when you turned up at Carnoustie in 1975?
TOM WATSON: 75 at Carnoustie was kind of unexpected. I really didn't go over there with any great expectations, and maybe that was one of the reasons I won. Sort of like Padraig said about his sore wrist last week. I didn't really have much expectations going into it and didn't put very much pressure on myself because couldn't play the Wednesday practise round.
I was over at Carnoustie and I found something, my swing is working pretty well; hey, hope I can do pretty well here, and all of the sudden, there I was on Sunday morning somewhat, pretty close to the lead, a little far, and asking my good friend, Byron Nelson, I said, "What do I need to did to win today"?
He said, "Shoot even par today, you'll win." So that was my goal for the day, and I did.

Q. Is the buzz now as great as it was when you were at your peak?
TOM WATSON: Well, I look at golf a little bit differently now. I don't prepare for a golf tournament nearly as much as I used to. I'll get my body in shape, hit some balls, but as far as playing a lot, I don't play a full schedule. I play about a half schedule. I try to get myself in really good shape before I play in a tournament, and that is working out. Try and get the body stretched out and make sure that I'm supple and that's probably most important thing. Once I get to a tournament, then I'm concentrating on hitting the best shots I can.
What really gets me, what I really have -- I have said it a bunch of times, why I'm still out here, is I want to hit a quality shot at the right time, and that means winning and competing on that basis. I failed a couple times -- I've failed more times than not on the Senior Tour in doing that probably. But I've been successful out here a few times, but I still could get there.
When I can't get there, you won't see me.

Q. How do you rate the level of competition this week?
TOM WATSON: Level of competition? Well, you can say that the man who almost won The Open Championship is playing here this week, so the level of competition is very high.
You have Bernhard Langer, who is a wonderful player. You've got some people; Andy Bean is probably the dark horse. Andy can really play. He's played well over here over the years, Andy, in Open Championships. There's a name you might want to put a few quid on. Secret's out now. No, I didn't bet on him. (Laughter).

Q. Is the ageing process frustrating to you or do you just accept it?
TOM WATSON: I accept the aging process very simply because we can still compete out here. We can still compete on the Champions Tour.
If we had to compete against the kids, probably it would be more frustrating. But since the advent of the Senior Tour, now the Champions Tour, we can still be out here and compete and the aging process is a lot easier to accept.
You know, I don't hit the ball with as much speed as I used to. I can't hit the ball out of the rough like I used to. I'm shanking the ball more than I used to and I'm trying to hit little pitch shots with an open face. It doesn't surprise me when I shank it. I hit three shanks last year and I think I've had one shank this year. I never had a shank before -- actually, I did.
I was playing with Gary Player and I had a shank at the Canadian Open. I hit right over here, beautiful high shank over here into the adjoining fairway and then I hit a pitching wedge up on the green and made about a 20-footer for par. But those things happen. You hit a lot stranger shots the older you get. You don't hit it quite as far.
But I can accept that. I think I understand. It's life in the present. You don't look back in the past. People ask me, do you ever look at your tapes of your old championships; no, I don't do that. What do you expect about the future? Well, most important thing is what's happening today, and you plan your schedule, but you basically just plan events in the near term. You don't really look that far in advance. You never know whether you're going to wake up alive or dead one day at this age.

Q. Inaudible?
TOM WATSON: That would be interesting.

Q. Would you argue that that's the attraction of senior golf for people that they can see players with craft and guile and possessing the ability to hit shots that many younger players can't these days?
TOM WATSON: Given the conditions last week, you saw the people that had that craft use it and use it successfully. They knew how to hit the ball down. They knew how to chip a 5-iron, how to chip a 7-iron, to play those types of shots. Understand, the wind was a big factor last week; that I kept on harping on when I was up in the booth, and that's the hardest thing to understand.
Even the pros under-play the wind when the wind blows that hard. But that craft comes with experience, and that's where playing these links golf courses, you come prepared with your experience, you can compete, if you're on. I played half my Open Championships not on. It's very hard to compete when you're not on. Even though you may understand the wind, your distance control is awful. You can't hit the ball the right distance when you're off, and that's where you really -- that's where you fail.

Q. How did you rate your opening round last week?
TOM WATSON: I played a good opening round. I played a better second round actually from tee-to-green. I played a very good second round. The short putts were the same old stuff. The short stroke went straight inside and I had real problems with it. But that's been commonplace for the last ten years. It's just my own failings; when the heat is on, the putter stroke goes inside. That's something I haven't been able to figure out, make it go straight back. Longer putts, it's not a problem. So, just deal with it.

Q. Sorry to harp on about this but where did you have your shank this year?
TOM WATSON: I have a tournament I started in Kansas City called the Watson Challenge and it's just for the players in the eight-county area in Kansas City. I was playing in the second round, a three-round medal play. And I was playing the 17th hole, a par 5 into a strong wind and laid up short of the green and I hit it just in the rough and had a sand wedge and was just trying to hit about a 60-yard sand wedge, take the swing, and there it is, pitch out to Leroy right over here.
My son was on the bag and I look at him; you shanked it. I said, come on, let's go. We go over there, I would take a look at the shot, and fortunately it didn't get into really bad trouble, but still in the rough way over here.
So I walked up to the green and I had a little pitch up and I had to go down like this into the wind so I said I'm just going to go the sand wedge up in the air and knocked it to about six feet and made it for par. Easy par. Driver, 5-iron, shank, sand wedge, putt. That's the way you write it down on the card right there, but it still only count five. (Laughter).
I had a shank last year, at Minneapolis I think. I was in the hazard and the ball was above my feet and I was trying to hit a shot, laid open the face and fortunately, again, it was in the hazard, but I shanked it out of the hazard. At least I got it out. Got it over here and I got that ball up-and-down for par.
So I haven't made any "others," as they call it on the card, with the shanks, but who knows when it's going to happen. They say full-shank 5-irons, or something like that, short shots. Of course you guys never shank it, right? You never shank it. (Laughter).
SCOTT CROCKETT: Tom, thank you very much.

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