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March 5, 2009

Tom Watson


PHIL STAMBAUGH: We'd like to welcome Tom Watson into the interview room this afternoon. Tom, first time back at the Toshiba Classic since 2003. You made one start in the Wendy's, and then also played in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship there at Hualalai. You're back. Maybe give us a couple thoughts about your game right now and you came back here for the first time in a while.
TOM WATSON: Well, first of all, I apologize for being late. It's one of those senior moments, I guess. I'm apologizing like all the other people in politics apologizing right now, and baseball and all that stuff. Anyway, forget that.
No, one of the reasons I haven't played here -- but one of the reasons I like it here is the golf course. The golf course is very good test of golf. It has an exciting finish. The 15th and the 18th holes are par-5s, and you can make up some ground there.
With a little bit of wind it's not a very easy golf course. There's some tricks to this golf course as far as the breaks of the putts are concerned. You have a lot of greens that look pretty flat, but then all of a sudden you got a break in there that you don't see. That break comes from the hillside in which this is built. You really do have to be aware of that. That's one of the tricks of playing this golf course.
What I've been doing the last month or so, I've been working out. I've been traveling some. I've been watching my IRA go down, just like everybody else's. Basically just hanging out at the farm getting ready for the spring and preparing for what we have to do in the spring, which is quite a bit.
Looking forward to the tour again. I don't plan on playing for another month until the Masters, so this is a real quiet time for me. I have to say that I'm not tournament-ready right now. I hope I can get tournament-ready without making too many mistakes by the time it really counts. Mistakes are what killed me at Hualalai when I played over there. I made some stupid mistakes; one with the driver and quite a few with the putter.
I was watching Ben Crenshaw putt yesterday, and I was trying to get a little curious feedback. He was making about four out of five from 20 feet. I was watching the ball roll so purely. I worked on my putting yesterday for about two and a half hours out here. Wish I could say I got somewhere. You know how it goes sometimes. You just feel like you don't get anywhere.
At least I was on the green and working on my speed. So that's kind of where I am right now. I'm in good shape physically. Good after I had my hip operated on and replaced October 2nd last year. So I had, what's that make it? How many months now? Five months now.
It was in good shape after a couple months. A little stiff. By the time I was in Hawaii it was in very good shape. Now there's just to repercussions at all from the operation five months later, and I'm very grateful for that. I can sleep at night.

Q. So no affect on your game, appreciable affect from the surgery?
TOM WATSON: No, my hip motion is a little freer going through impact. I feel, honestly, a little loose through impact. Before it bound up, because the hip was just locked in the socket so I had something to hit against.
Now, if I want to make it -- if I can turn the hip a little bit more it feels a little loose down there. Some parts are a little loose, even though I feel no pain. Nothing like that. Going to have to get used to that.

Q. I remember Bo Jackson made a return to professional athletics after a hip replacement. It's not unprecedented.
TOM WATSON: Well, no. I'm very confident it's not going to change the way I have to swing at the golf ball.

Q. I noticed that this year you'll be 60.
TOM WATSON: Thanks for reminding me.

Q. No, you look great. Any thoughts on how long you're going to play on the tour?
TOM WATSON: Well, as long as I can play with -- as long as I can play with 'em. What that means is somewhat subjective, but it still means I'm sticking with it for a few more years and see how I compete against these guys out here.
My No. 1 enjoyment - in my career - is to put it to the test, compete, and hit the shot when it really counts. To come back and say, Yeah, I hit the shot. I hit the shot when it counted. I made the putt when it counted. That's why I'm out here.

Q. As you mentioned, it's been a while since you've been out here. What exactly brought you back to the Toshiba Classic and Newport Beach Country Club this year?
TOM WATSON: Honestly, the last few years I've want to stay at home to watch the spring happen. I haven't been at home on my farm to watch the spring happen all throughout my entire -- since I've had the farm.
So I just wanted the last few years to take that time to do that. I've always enjoyed this venue, and the golf course is a wonderful golf course. It challenges your driving and it challenges your approach play into the small greens. Unless you're Ben Crenshaw, it challenges your putting.

Q. You also mentioned about Augusta and the Masters. Has the Masters gotten too hard in the state it is right now with what they've done to the course?
TOM WATSON: For me it has, yes. It has gotten too hard for me. In particular the 7th hole and the 17th holes are too hard for old folks like me. I can't carry the ball far enough with the driver on 17 to have a fair shot into the green. Although I did birdie it last year with a 4-iron in my hand. I was pretty proud of that. It just barely carried over the right front bunker and rolled up to the back part of the green. Unfortunately that's where the pin was. If the pin was anywhere in the front there I had no chance to get the ball close to the hole. Unless I make a Crenshaw putt. Getting back to Ben. He's impressive.
But, no, I've had my opportunities to play fairly well there. But, still, you try to categorize the golf course as a bomber's course. They have really made it long enough to be commeasured with the distances that the players are hitting it.
But you look at Mike Weir, Zach Johnson, they're not long hitters. I think they're less than -- I don't know, but you might check. My math may be off a little bit, but they're in the top 10 or 20 or 30 percent of the longer hitters out there.
You have to play certain holes well there and not make the mistakes that jump up and bite you with a double bogey. That's the problem with Augusta. That's the way it's always has been.
But it doesn't have the freedom to play it anymore. Everybody has to kind of play it the same anymore. The narrowness of the golf course, where you put the bunkers, everybody has to play the same shot. Before, there was a variety of shots you could play. You could spray the ball off the tee more.
But when you hit it off to the wrong angle over there before the golf ball got long, you still had a really tough angle in there. You had to really play a heck of a shot just to get it on the green.
But what happened when Tiger was hitting 9-irons, wedges, and sand wedges to all the par-4s, they said, Well, we got to do something. And rightfully so they had to do something. And it's not just Tiger that hits short clubs to the par-4s. There's quite a few others, too.
But as a result, they also narrowed it up. I have to play every shot -- everybody has to play the same shot. It's not the variety of shots you saw before.

Q. There are fewer and fewer traditional tree-lined courses you play on tour. This is one of them. Do you and some of the players make your schedules around which courses you like?
TOM WATSON: I do. I do, and it's maybe unfair for the whole tour. I have favorites. I kind of like to play courses I like. I grew up on a tree-lined course and still play it. It's fun to play the courses that still have that vertical hazard to it. You have that vertical hazard, it adds a dimension to the golf course that new courses don't have.
I grew up playing the Kansas City Country Club. It was built in 1926. There was very few trees on the course at that time. Over the years, the trees have grown up. Now, the ladies of the club came to me very angry because we were cutting down trees.
We made the real big mistake of cutting down probably -- a real specimen tree that had grown in the way. There was no way we could have saved it or trimmed it. It was a beautiful burrow. Just absolutely gorgeous tree. We had it cut down.
But it also coincided with the annual meeting of the Westport Garden Club. It was being cut down in chunks at noon that day. Here come the ladies driving up the driveway, and they're watching chunks of this tree come down. That didn't help the situation very much about doing what we needed to do in the golf course.
But, you know, that's another thing. You look at courses like Oakmont. I didn't personally see Oakmont, but I thought it was a mistake to take the trees down, all the trees. That was probably not the right thing to do. Those trees were planted for reasons, and there was some good reasons. Maybe some of the reasons the trees got in the way and shouldn't be there.
But like anything that's living, it has changes to it. You shouldn't just say, Well, we have to go back to the way it was born. I think it lost some of its character when we took the trees down there.

Q. What was your reaction or emotions after the surgery?
TOM WATSON: Well, it was a foregone conclusion, first of all, that I was going to have to have it done. The doctors, over the years of the hip getting tighter and tighter and more and more painful, have said, You're going to have to have it done. Just tell us when. You'll know.
I knew when I was really having trouble sleeping. Really didn't have much pain on the golf course at all. A little stiff. Last year I think I was compromised playing four or five tournaments with it last year just on the golf course. The other tournaments I didn't have problems with it. But just sleeping at night.

Q. Couldn't get to sleep?
TOM WATSON: I would wake up with pain. The pain would keep me a wake. It was hard. Any time I moved the wrong way or slept on my back it was not very good. Instead of taking more Advil and Aleve, I said, Heck with that, and save my liver and get it done.

Q. What do you think it's going to take to get tournament-ready?
TOM WATSON: Confidence in my putting stroke. Bottom line. Right now I don't have enough confidence in my putting stroke. That's absolutely -- when you get up there to putt and you're thinking about missing it rather than making your shot, you're done. Toast. Stick a fork in you. All the cliches.

End of FastScripts

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