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July 16, 2009

Tom Watson


MARTIN PARK: Tom, well played today. Yesterday we had you in here for 45 minutes giving us a trip down memory lane. And today you did it with your clubs. Congratulations.
TOM WATSON: Thank you. It was a good day. Good day.
I have to kind of preface it by saying there's something slightly spiritual about today, from yesterday's point of view. I received a text, modern day text from Barbara Nicklaus. Barbara made the comment, she saw my caddie's picture and said he looked very good, tell him he looked very good. And she also wished me good luck. I texted her back and said, "You know, we really miss you over here." And I really meant it. It's not the same without Jack playing in the tournament.
And today was -- I think there was some spirituality out there today, just the serenity of it was pretty neat.
MARTIN PARK: Couldn't have asked for a better day to score, could you.
TOM WATSON: She was defenseless today. Obviously the golf course played with no wind, and it was an easy test, if you have an easy test in an Open Championship.
The wind is supposed to blow a little bit more tomorrow and blow a little bit on Saturday and stronger on Sunday, so she's going to bare her teeth a little bit.

Q. You were playing with a 16-year-old today. Can you remember --
TOM WATSON: That averaged the age out there (laughing).

Q. What were you doing in 1965 as a 16-year-old, Tom?
TOM WATSON: In 1965 as a 16-year-old I played in some summer events, the Western Amateur, the Trans-Mississippi, and tried to play in the national amateur, didn't get there at that time.
His eyes today were a dead giveaway what it's like to be out here at an Open Championship. He was definitely in awe of the place.
He kept it very simple. I really liked the way he played his game. Matteo, he's got a fine golf swing, a really, really good golf swing. I wish I had his putting stroke. His putting stroke is so pure, those three-footers just go right in the middle of the hole. Bang, in the middle of the hole. I remember that, vaguely, I remember that (laughter). I just vaguely remember how to do that.

Q. You were playing with two very talented young players, as has already been referenced. You finished five strokes or so ahead of them. I think you made no bogeys, as long as my eyes aren't getting too old. How important is that level of consistency on this course and on this setup?
TOM WATSON: Well, it was -- the course gave you some things today. It gave you some opportunities today with lack of wind. They put the flags in difficult positions. It was hard to get to a lot of the flags. But without the wind you still had some pretty good chances at it.
Yesterday and the day before, playing the practise rounds I felt very good about the way I was hitting the ball and the way I was putting the ball. And it was not much of a surprise for me to go out there and get under par. And of course I kept on getting under par.
But if you look at the rest of the field, everyone else is under par. I don't know how many scores are under par right now, but Turnberry is pretty defenseless right now.

Q. It's probably the 400th time you've heard this question or some incarnation of it. Can you try to describe for us the feeling that you get when you come over here to play, given eight British Open titles on the regular or senior circuits?
TOM WATSON: As I said yesterday, golf is part of the fabric of life over here, in Scotland in particular. And wherever you go -- Tiger's recognised, but I get recognised a few places here. In the States, they don't know who the heck I am. But over here -- I don't get a big head about it, but people come up, "Tom, Tom (in Scottish brogue), nice to meet you, Tom." And it's much appreciated. As I said earlier on, I did not like links golf. I did not like the way I was playing. I didn't like the way you had to play it along the ground, the luck of the bounces or the bad luck of the bounces, but I took it in stride finally and made a pretty good success of it.
But all in all I've always enjoyed the way it's played over here. It's played fast. It's played -- you go play a round of golf, you play in four hours over here, and they're going to kick you out of the club.
I play fast, though. I kind of blended right in with the Scots over here. I still can't understand their dialect very well. As I said yesterday, it's very hard. Again, today, there's a guy on the golf course today, said something to me, and I just didn't have a clue what he said (laughter). I just kind of smiled and just went (indicating). Could I say, I'm sorry, I just didn't understand you? That's the way it is.

Q. You mentioned the old lady at Turnberry being defenseless today. Do you think a tournament record is on. And the second part would be would you prefer the conditions to be benign or would you take a chance in a howling gale?
TOM WATSON: I'd take a chance in a howling gale, to answer the second part of your question first. And whether the tournament record is in jeopardy, it's anybody's guess. Obviously it depends on the weather. And I think we're due for some wind. I think we're due for a blow. I doubt if we get the record this week.

Q. Two guys, you and Mark, who are on the other side of 50, and Calcavecchia just about there. I'm wondering where is all this youth coming from. Is it the fact that you've all won Opens and know how to play the courses?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I really do think that's the fact. Links golf is not played very much. As somebody said back in that room yesterday, there's 160 links golf courses in the world, and 159 of them are here. And the pros don't play links golf except in The Open Championships or the Senior Open Championships.
We have an advantage. The older guys have an advantage. We've played under these conditions and we kind of get a feel for it. And that feel is worth its weight in gold when you're playing.

Q. I'm not sure what's more impressive today, if it's your score or someone of your age can actually send text messages (laughter).
TOM WATSON: Don't ask me to Twit or Tweet. I don't Tweet.

Q. Does having such a good round on day one, seriously, does it reenergise you enough to think that even at your age you could stay the distance and give this a real go?
TOM WATSON: Yes, it does, in answer -- the quick answer is yes, the answer -- how am I going to predict how I'm going to do? I haven't been playing very much.
I've been -- actually what I have been doing, I've been putting together an instructional DVD that I'm going to finally put together in the fall. I'm going to shoot that. And that's kind of really got me thinking about my golf swing. And it's helped me -- I think it's helped me kind of solidify what am I -- what are the important things about the golf swing that I want to teach you. And that's how I teach myself. And that's how I go back to myself. When I'm having a problem, I'll go back to a certain thing about my shoulder plane or spine angle or the ball position. And these are the things that I'm going to put down in the video that make it -- I think it's helped me.

Q. Do you come away from a round like that with a real zip?
TOM WATSON: I think I do have a real zip. 65 is the way to start it. Will I be able to handle the pressure? I don't know. I don't know. Whether I'm in the hunt, who knows. The light switch may go on and I may play without too much pressure or the pressure may be too much to handle. But I've been there before.
On certain days it's easier to deal with the pressures, other days it's not. It's just the way it's always been with me.

Q. You shot a 64 in your last competitive round here in '03 in the Seniors, so --
TOM WATSON: I've got a good two-round total, don't I?

Q. Is there any link between the two, in terms of how the course played?
TOM WATSON: No, the wind was blowing like the dickens in that last round. I played a real good round that last round in 2003. But I don't -- the golf course, it fits me if I'm playing -- there's certain shots on the golf course that I remember how to play. And I see some of the kids, they're not playing the shot the way I would play it. They takes some of the element of risk out of play. That's the way I think I'm playing, if I can do it.
So how am I going to do? That's what you all want to know. How am I going to do the next three rounds? Well, I don't know. I don't have a clue what I'm going to do. I wish I could tell you. I wish I could tell you that I'm going to break The Open record and shoot 262, but we'll just see where it comes to.

Q. I just wondered if there was a moment in today's round or a shot where you thought, oh, my goodness, I've really got something going and this could be a really good day.
TOM WATSON: Not really. Actually it was maybe it was I started off with a birdie on the first hole. I started off, hit a 9-iron in there about eight feet and made the putt. I said, well, this is just a continuation of the feeling I was having in the practise round. I'm hitting the ball right at the hole and I'm making a few putts. With the wind down today, let's take advantage of the old girl and get off to a running start, which I did.

Q. When you won your U.S. Open at Pebble, did you feel like you were playing links golf that week?
TOM WATSON: No, Pebble is not a links golf course, no. You still have to land the ball on the greens. You don't bounce the ball on the greens at Pebble. You bounce the ball onto the greens here.
Like 18, for instance. I hit it in the right rough. I have a flier lie, and I hit a 7-iron and it bounced right up there.
And the same thing at No. 9; hit in the right rough at No. 9 and you've got the ball bouncing up there. It wouldn't have happened at Pebble.

Q. A different sort of thing, you've played some really inspired golf, even beyond your prime, that first round at Olympia Fields when Bruce was on his last legs. And then when Mike was playing with you at Pebble Beach one year, not that many years ago, you played really well, and I think you won the Outback event shortly after that. And then a really inspired around here. Do you feel the inspiration inside of you?
TOM WATSON: I do. I do. I feel inspired playing here. A lot of it has to do with just the -- being in the presence here at Turnberry again, just a culmination of a lot of things that have gone on already. Again, I feel that -- I feel that I'm playing well enough to win the golf tournament. It doesn't feel a whole lot out of the ordinary from 32 years ago except that I don't have the confidence in my putting as I had 32 years ago. But, again, a few of them might go in.

Q. Would you tell us about your start the first three holes and what it did for you?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I started off, birdied -- I birdied No. 1 and had a good birdie putt at 2 and I birdied 3.
At 1 a hit a 9-iron. I hit it about eight feet.
2, I hit a 6-iron to about 12 feet and missed it.
3, I had a 4-iron to I'd say about 20 feet and made that.

Q. What did that do for you?
TOM WATSON: Well, again, it was just a continuation of my practise rounds. I was still playing just like I was in the practise round. Sometimes when you get my age, you just don't know how you're going to wake up. You just don't know. And that golf swing might be there, it might not be there. But fortunately most of the time it's there. It just continued on. I played a lot of quality shots after that.

Q. Two things, please; can you help me? Do you remember the time when you went so close here and went down and played the short course afterwards?
TOM WATSON: I do, yeah.

Q. And secondly, I remember you vividly saying on occasions and looking at these hands of yours and saying, and it's a phrase I associate very clearly with you, "my hammer mitts." Do you remember when you first started calling them that?
TOM WATSON: Well, that was a term my good friend and teacher Stan Thirsk used. When you missed the putt you had hammer mitts. You had no touch and no feel. In '94 that's what happened. I was playing so well from tee to green and I just absolutely struggled on the greens.
And I have to say that that was about the most disappointing tournament I've ever had, professional tournament, when I really, really felt that I could win that tournament from day one. The putter totally let me down.
Yeah, after on Sunday we went and had dinner with Jack and Barbara, and after dinner and a couple of bottles of wine we went down and played the little par-3 course at about 11:00 at night. And here comes the security man when we were just about ready to finish. And I said, "Jack, you go talk to him. I'm not going to talk to him." And the guy, he starts walking up very sternly, he's going to run us off the course, and, "Oh (laughter), Mr. Nicklaus. Carry on, please."

Q. Who actually won the match when between you and Jack?
TOM WATSON: It was -- you know what, there was no contest. We were just out there having some fun.

Q. You said on 18 you bounced the ball in. We saw you bounced the ball in. What was the yardage there? And does the yardage book a bit of a luxury or redundant on these golf courses?
TOM WATSON: I had over 200 yards and hit 7-iron. The most important thing about doing it well is hitting it the right weight. Just hitting it the right distance. Can you judge how far to hit. If you're short and long all the time, either you're not hitting the ball solidly or you don't have the feel for it. And that shot came out the way I wanted it to and expected it to. I made the swing to make it do that, and here it is.

Q. Are you consulting the yardage book perhaps less over here than you would --
TOM WATSON: Yeah, you use the yardage book to a certain degree, but then you have to factor in how far the ball is going to roll. And the older you get, the more the ball comes in, a little bit more level with the ground and more roll. And that makes those tight flag positions, like at 14 and 13, places like that, pretty hard to get to. Nice to hit that ball up there, cut it up there in the air like Tiger.

Q. Sergio said that -- he said the quality of shots that he hit was awesome to watch. Do you feel like you're hitting it that good?
TOM WATSON: Well, I'm hitting it well. I hit a lot of good shots. Every now and then I can get it going. And I've proved it on our Champions Tour, Senior Tour, and been able to do it. I got it going pretty well last year at Birkdale, kind of finished really weakly on the second round. But I had it going the first round in really tough conditions.
It's fun to hit the ball solid. As I said, the reason I'm out here is to hit quality shots when the pressure is on. That's the reason I'm still out here. I love to compete and I still like to hit a shot when it really counts.
Like the 7-iron on 18. It came out, I hit it flush, and I wanted to finish not weakly, but I wanted to finish strongly. I had a birdie putt, I ran it by about six feet and made it, but it put me in position where I hit a quality shot when it counted.

Q. The other thing was, you stepped up to those two putts both at 17 and 18, the one for par at 18 and the one for birdie at 17, and put a good stroke on them.
TOM WATSON: I don't know if it was a good stroke, but it went in. (Laughter.)

Q. It looked like a good stroke to me.
TOM WATSON: Well, it was a decent stroke, let's put it that way.

Q. You've partly answered this, but shooting a 65 at your age here, is it knowledge and wisdom and experience as much as skill that got you that score? In other words, did you know how to do some shots that the younger guys beside you didn't know how to do on this course?
TOM WATSON: Yes, there is some certain shots out here that the kids are unfamiliar with, that people that haven't played before, are unfamiliar with. That's what I said, you play links golf, you get familiar with the types of shots you have to play. And I've played this course, what, in six championships now? Two Seniors and three Opens. This is my fourth one. So this is the sixth championship. You get to know the golf course.
I've always felt that one of the reasons the Ryder Cup has gone to the European side is that the Ryder Cup team plays at golf courses where they play a regular tournament. When you play a regular tournament at a golf course every year, you get familiar with it. You get the Yanks coming over there, they play three practise rounds, you expect them to be able to figure that thing out as well as the people that have played it 100 times or 50 times? No. And the same goes true with playing links golf at links golf courses.
I remember at Muirfield here a couple of years ago when I won, the 12th tee, for instance, you've got a big crosswind at 12 and a big crosswind at 11 and at 10. And you just don't play enough break on the tee ball if you haven't played it before. You don't hang it out in the right rough over there at 12. You don't hang it in the left rough at 10. And that's experience. Experience wins.

Q. Mr. Watson, you talked about heading into this tournament and how this round was a continuation of the solid ball-striking that you had in the practise rounds. Could you discuss for us the last time you had that sensation heading into a championship and what happened?
TOM WATSON: Don't ask memory questions, please (laughter). I don't know. You're really taxing me now. Again, I was playing very well at Muirfield when I won the Senior Open Championship here. I really felt I had it under control that week, practise rounds and during the tournament. So it wasn't too far off there. I hope that answers your question.

Q. How long do you think it's going to take you to start shooting under your age?
TOM WATSON: Well, I know one thing, I won't be like Sam Snead. Sam Snead broke his age every year from 59 on.

Q. Two things. Number one, I wanted to clarify when you received and sent those text messages. Also, years ago Jack --
TOM WATSON: Yesterday afternoon.

Q. Also, years ago, Jack said something about not wanting to be a ceremonial golfer, and I wonder how you feel about that.
TOM WATSON: I concur with Jack, I don't want to be a ceremonial golfer. When Peter Dawson called me to tell me about the 60-year age limit for the tournament, I said, Peter, I think that's a sensible decision. I think there's a certain age limit; you've got to let the younger kids play.
But anyway, getting back to the text, I received it from Barbara yesterday and texted her back yesterday afternoon.

Q. After today does the sensible decision seem as sensible, that next year is your expiration date?
TOM WATSON: Well, who knows? I still feel as if I can compete against the kids; I've said that. Being a ceremonial golfer is when you feel like you can't compete. I'm a ceremonial golfer at Augusta, I can tell you that. I admit to that. I was just too hardheaded to give it up. I can still beat this golf course somehow.

Q. This is a bit of a memory question, I'm afraid. What are the most amazing things you've witnessed in sport, and where would you place you winning this week amongst them?
TOM WATSON: The most amazing thing in golf was the Tiger Woods victory at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when he won by 15 shots. That is far and away the most sensational thing that's happened in golf to me.
Your second question -- see, I have a bad memory.

Q. How amazing would it be for you to win this in comparison?
TOM WATSON: How amazing would it? It would be amazing. You can put all kinds of superlative adjectives and all sorts of things to it. It would be amazing. I don't think about it. It's one of those things that it will happen if it happens. And then you ask me the question and I'll tell you what it would be, what I'm feeling at the moment. I can't tell you. I can't speculate what it's going to feel like because I haven't done it yet.

Q. Just to help you with your memory, but the last time you led a major championship you were 53 years old at Olympia Fields in 2003, and that was with Bruce Edwards. And that was pretty special.

Q. Does this have any more special meaning being 59?
TOM WATSON: Well, it does in a certain way because I have to admit that I do remember and do -- I maybe play off some of the memories of '77 here, and that helps me. Whenever you play a golf course and you have success there, you hit quality shots and -- I can remember every darn shot I hit in '77, the last round. And it's of record that Jack couldn't remember any of them, of his (laughter).
But that helps you. I can stand up there on the 15th hole and say I cut this 4-iron in there against a crosswind and held it right in the middle of the green. I know that helps me. When you play a golf course where you played cruddy, you don't remember the duckhook in the left rough on the 13th hole, no. You want to forget that one. And it does help you. And the memories do help.
MARTIN PARK: Tom, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts

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