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July 17, 2009

Tom Watson


MALCOLM BOOTH: Let's go through your card.
TOM WATSON: 1, I hit pitching wedge, I made it from about 30 feet.
2nd, made bogey from the left rough, laid it up and missed from about 15 feet.
4th to the front bunker and I was out about 25 feet, and two-putted for bogey.
5, I three-putted from the back fringe. I missed a 10-foot second putt.
6, I put it in the left bunker, about 25 feet, two-putted, bogey.
7, I laid up in the -- I hit a terrible shot, laid up in the heavy rough, I had to chop it out. Pitched up about 12 feet and missed it.
9, I hit pitching wedge to about, oh, 25 feet and made it.
11, I hit a 7-iron to about 15 feet and made it.
16, I had a very awkward lie. My left foot was just almost in the bunker and I was on the downslope. The ball was in the front of my stance, and I hit a 7-iron and made a very good shot and made it from about 50 feet.
Probably just under 60 feet on the last hole after a 7-iron.
MALCOLM BOOTH: We're joined by five-time Open champion, Tom Watson. Shot level par, 70 today, for a two-round total of 135, 5-under par. Tom, congratulations on a fine day. You said yesterday you would take your chances in a howling gale, and you got trickier weather today. You must be very pleased with how you played.
TOM WATSON: Well, it was two nine holes, put it that way. The outgoing nine was not very spectacular, was pretty awful, as a matter of fact. Lady Turnberry took off her gloves today and she had some teeth, and she -- I knew the outgoing nine was going to be tough, and I hit some poor shots and ended up making five bogeys going out.
But I never gave up hope because I knew that the incoming nine was going to play, you know, a little bit easier going downwind. As it turned out I made two no-brainers from 60 feet at the 16th and the 18th holes and kind of solidified my thinking. My thinking was today going out if I could shoot around even par with that wind I'd be right there, and it came to pass.
I really felt -- I felt at 16, honestly when I was making my practise stroke there after hitting a shot from a really awkward lie, and making a solid hit on the ball from just short of the left bunker from the fairway there, I just had a feeling I was going to make that putt.
And at 18 I kind of had the same feeling. I said, If I can make it at 16, why can't I make it here at 18? And sure enough, it went in.
The one thing I'm doing very well, I'm putting the ball in the fairway. I'm not having too much trouble. I'm getting the ball in play off the tee. And that's what you have to do here. The players that are struggling are the people that are not finding the fairway. And that's what I'm doing very well.
My iron game is a little bit indifferent. My 3-wood on a couple of shots on the front nine -- I actually hit a pretty good 3-wood on No. 5 into the wind, maybe a little bit too much club, but I was -- really never lost faith in myself today. Even though I got to 4-over par, I really didn't.
And that was just kind of my game plan. I said, you're probably going to struggle going out, if you hit a few bad shots you're going to struggle, but wait for the turn, it would turn around. That's kind of the way links golf is. And they talk about patience, right? But you make a game plan, and fortunately it worked today with the help of a couple of 60-footers.

Q. And then when you holed your putt at 16, you seemed quite astonished because it was a very long putt. I don't know why, but the impression we had was this. And then I would like to know what did you think when you saw Matteo hole his putt at 16?
TOM WATSON: Well, it made me think of Matteo -- when I was playing at Jack Nicklaus at Augusta at the 16th hole. Jack made this putt, this big curling putt, and then I made it right on top of him. And I was a lot younger than Jack then. But now the tables were turned, and I thought the same thing. I said, well, he has a beautiful putting stroke.
I mean -- I remember when I was 16, there's no fear. From here to there is just in the heart every time. And when he made the putt it didn't surprise me. He's a beautiful putter, but he's also a great striker of the ball. And he knows how to hit the ball, and again, he putt the ball in play all the time. He rarely was out of play.
I was very impressed with him. In fact, I told him on the way down the 18th hole, I said, "Don't change anything, just keep enjoying the game and you'll get there."

Q. When you then sunk the putt on 18, the whole of the galleries went up with you and you looked so happy. How special did it feel to realise you were back up on top again?
TOM WATSON: Well, it was kind of spiritual. I said that kind of yesterday that the spirits are with me. They keep me kind of focused on the game plan and not getting really too frustrated after the front nine or after eight -- after seven holes.
And finishing the way I did, it just made me feel like my patience was rewarded, simply.

Q. I was just speaking with Sergio, and he said coming down the 8th fairway he gave you a pat of encouragement?
TOM WATSON: He did, "Come on old man."

Q. And you said, "Today I feel like an old man and played like an old man." What gave you the spring back in your step and how confident are you you'll feel youthful enough tomorrow?
TOM WATSON: Well, that was nice of Sergio to give me a little pep-talk there, "Come on, old man." (Laughter.) No, it was. He was making a joke of it, but I said, "Well, I feel like an old man." I played two really good shots at No. 8 and then I played two good shots at No. 9 and made a putt, turned my round around. It turned my round around when I made the putt at 9.
I said, Now we're playing downwind. I played 10 into the crosswind and then I'm going to -- I might make a few birdies out there. So, you know, there's always a bunch of give and take in a round of golf. And it would be easy if you were hitting every shot the way you wanted to. I didn't do that today.

Q. I wondered whether from 7 where I'm sure you were disappointed with the layup --
TOM WATSON: Yeah, that was awful.

Q. Between that moment and getting to the 9th tee, when the direction of the course changes whether you said anything to yourself to try and say, right this is the moment we turn it round?
TOM WATSON: Well, no, it was just when I laid up with a -- I chunked a 5-iron off to the right trying to lay up, trying to hit a low shot, I just said, That's enough. And I had a real good drive at 8, I turned it off the bunkers, and a real good second shot with a 2 hybrid. And you know, that got me back on track.
And then 9, it was kind of one of those things that it's a -- it just repeated No. 8 is what it did. I made a good swing at the tee ball at 9, made a good shot from the light rough there, and ended up hitting to the right distance. I did that several times today. I hit the ball to the right distance today. It wasn't necessarily right at the hole, but I was pin-high a lot today. So I still have that feel that I can get it to the right distance.
And I think a lot of that has to do with playing links golf a lot and also playing Turnberry a lot. It helps.

Q. Speaking to that, Marino is tied with you and he's never played links golf. He's never been to Turnberry before. What does that say, that yourself with all the experience, more than anyone at this course perhaps, and a guy that's never played here?
TOM WATSON: Well, I never played links golf before I played Carnoustie in 1975, and it turned out pretty good for me there.
But, you know, if you put -- if you can find the way to put the ball in play off the tee, that's the first thing you do in links golf. You know, how do you put the ball in play? Now, you can try to lay up short of all the bunkers, and if you're not on the rest of your game you're going to struggle. You're going to have to take some risk and put the ball into certain places where you're going to have to challenge -- you're going to have to take a few challenges on the golf course.
But that gives you good feedback, when you make those -- when you play that challenging shot and you're a success, that gives you the feedback that I'm on this week. Like I said a couple of days ago, that's why I'm out here, to try to play those types of shots, play the challenging shots and still play them successfully, plus make a couple no-brainers. That always helps.

Q. I know you said earlier in the week you feel good about your game and you wouldn't be here if you didn't think you could win. But now that you're halfway there, do you allow yourself to think about winning this thing and what it would mean to you? And secondly as a follow, could you appreciate if you stepped away from it what kind of story it would be if you bring this home in two days?
TOM WATSON: No, just like Greg Norman last year, he had kind of the same situation. Greg was thinking just one -- you stay in the present. You stay in one shot at a time, the old cliché. I don't think that way. I never have thought that way.

Q. Tiger hasn't finished out of the top 10 in a stroke-play event in two years. And when we walked in here he was on the verge of missing the cut here. I don't know how it's going to go down, but it looks like he might. Just curious if you're surprised by that, given how well he's played and how well he's played this year since he's come back?
TOM WATSON: Well, that is surprising. It seems like he's been playing awfully well this year. Links golf is -- I've played it when I'm not playing very well, and it's a struggle. You add a little wind to it like we had today and it's more of a struggle. How do you get the ball in play? And when you're not very confident about where you're hitting it and you start hitting it sideways a few times, then it -- it gets to you. I don't care how good you are, it gets to you.

Q. In two years they're throwing you out of this tournament.
TOM WATSON: That's right.

Q. And you're leading.

Q. Do you find that crazy?
TOM WATSON: Talk to Peter. (Laughter.)

Q. So you'd like to see the rule changed?
TOM WATSON: Why don't you talk to Peter about it. (Laughter.)

Q. You've said a couple of times that the spirits are with me, and not to get too mystical, but what exactly does that mean? How do you feel that? And is it something that's tangible for you?
TOM WATSON: Well, the memories. I guess the memories are with me, all the wonderful memories I've had playing links golf. You know, walking down the fairways, walking up onto the greens, people showing their respect for me, showing my respect for them. And it's been since 1975, 34 years I've played links golf. And it's a fabric of my life, I can tell you that.
To be able to be doing what I'm doing out here, making a few lucky putts here and there and still feeling like I have a chance to win, that's pretty cool at age 59. That's why it's kind of spiritual.

Q. When you maybe watched some TV this morning and saw so many of the leaders, fellow leaders, falling off the tree there --
TOM WATSON: That didn't surprise me at all. I knew that was going to happen. And it did it to me, too.

Q. Did that maybe fashion the way that you thought about your round, about the business of holding on?
TOM WATSON: Actually frankly I didn't really watch the leaderboard this morning or watch TV at all this morning. Honestly, I didn't. I just knew what the golf course was going to give me today, and it wasn't going to be very much on the outgoing nine.

Q. What did you do?
TOM WATSON: What did I do this morning? Well, I answered about 100 e-mails and I read some things that -- not about golf. I just did some reading. Climate change, I read about climate change. (Laughter.) All right? It's a popular subject, very popular subject.

Q. On one of the greatest stages of the game we had Mr. Norman leading last year at the age of 53, and we thought that was one of the greatest stories in the game. And now one year later we have --
TOM WATSON: Another old fart. (Laughter.)

Q. -- a 59-year-old Mr. Watson leading the tournament. What do you think it says for the game of golf?
TOM WATSON: I think it's very clear what it says for the game of golf. It means that the game of golf is long-lived. We've always said that you play this a game of a lifetime, and that's not a cliché. You start at any age, and you can continue to play this game for a long, long time.
The man who was most impressive to me in his later years was Sam Snead. Byron was pretty close. Byron had some back problems. Byron Nelson had some back problems. I was around Byron a lot, and he could really play.
But he got really short in his 70s. Sam Snead could still hit the ball a long way in his 70s. And so yes, he was an exception, but, you know, the game of golf can allow you to play for a long period of time. You don't have to hang up the clubs.
One of the reasons I'm out here is because of the Champions Tour. I still am competitive. I still play competition. And I enjoy it and I enjoy playing competition. And it's for the reasons I've said -- I've stated before. That keeps me active. That keeps me sharp. So it doesn't surprise me that people in their 50s can still compete against the kids.

Q. It's clear that, as you say, that people of your age and Greg's can compete with the kids physically, yet nobody has won this thing over 44 years of age since 1967. What is the gap that has to be bridged that hasn't been bridged as yet? You're doing it physically, but there's something there that isn't happening, obviously; otherwise somebody would have won it by now, of your vintage?
TOM WATSON: I wish I could answer that, and I hope I can break the streak here pretty quick.

Q. Is it a mental thing?
TOM WATSON: Is it mental? I think it has to do with -- there are some physical parts of it. My putting is not very strong now. I'm watching Matteo make it from here every time right in the middle of the hole. I struggle from here to there. And when the heat's on, it's more of a struggle, but I can still kind of get the job done. Kind of doesn't get it sometimes when you're trying to win The Open Championship. (Laughter.)

Q. That kick you did at 18 after the putt dropped wasn't quite like Snead, but it wasn't bad. What do you call that? What would that be?
TOM WATSON: That was my Scottish jig.

Q. You talked about this being the fabric of your life. If in a couple of years you're not doing this, what will it mean -- what will that take away from you?
TOM WATSON: I'll still come over here and play. I still have some years left to play, and I'll bring my friends and my son over here to play and -- there's some courses I haven't played yet I need to play before I go, before they plant me.

Q. Any one particularly?
TOM WATSON: There are a bunch. There are a bunch.

Q. You said after eight holes that you felt like an old man. How do you feel physically right now?
TOM WATSON: Physically? I'm feeling in great shape, really. No aches or pains, fortunately. For 59 years old, that's pretty remarkable.
I had my left hip replaced last October and it was very successful, no repercussions from that, and it made me sleep better. I don't think it changed my swing very much. It did allow me a little bit more rotation with my hips, but not too much change in my golf swing. So physically I'm in good shape.
Mentally I'm in a good place right now. You're always in a good place after you make a 60-footer at the 18th hole to tie for The Open Championship lead. (Laughter.)

Q. So you're in your own suite at the hotel. Do you get a discount, and what's it like in there?
TOM WATSON: Oh, come on, Rick. I'm paying the full bore. Full bore, yes, I am. Come on, get outta here.

Q. What is it like in there? Are there pictures of you in there?
TOM WATSON: No, there's not, no. You see, what happens they split the suite up and Vijay has the big part of the suite, and I've just got a room. He pays the big money. He can afford it. (Laughter.)
MALCOLM BOOTH: Tom, thank you very much for joining us.

End of FastScripts

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