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July 21, 2009

Tom Watson


STEVE TODD: Tom, thanks a lot for coming in. I think we were all captivated by your performance at the weekend. If you could make a start just by summing up your feelings now, you've had a couple of days to reflect on it, and also take us through the last couple of days, what you've done since arriving in Sunningdale.
TOM WATSON: Sure. Well, my feelings still, they are bittersweet, I have to say. I'm kind of over the sleepless first night. On Sunday night, I didn't get much sleep that night. Last night, I got a very good sleep.
So just like I've always kind of lived my life out here on the Tour, after a disappointment, it's onward to the next week, and forget what you did in the past, except to where it might help you play better golf.
I do have to say that in the last two days, my computer now no longer has enough memory to operate with all of the e-mails that I have received. After this is over, I'm going to go and call my it guy at the Tour and ask him, how do I get rid of a lot of the things that are scored in there so I can receive the e-mails that I received.
I received contacts, my wife has received contacts from people all over the world, from way back in our lives, and it's been a remarkable couple of days of reliving some memories and talking to friends and old acquaintances.
There is still quite a vacuum in the stomach, but it is not due to -- I'm not crying, but I've been affected by it to a certain degree. But this, too, shall pass. Honestly it's not the most important thing in life.
And what puts it in perspective is very frankly, a series of contacts from people I met when I went to Iraq a couple of years ago. I went on a USO tour, and these people I met both at Walter Reed Hospital, Bethesda Naval Hospital and over in Iraq, many of them have contacted me and said: "Congratulations, and, oh, by the way, when you're in a neck-high bunker and you have a 4-footer, just remember, it's just a game." I give them credit for keeping me on the straight and level here and not getting too disappointed about what happened on Sunday.
The joy of it has been some of the tears from my son and my friends, being able to kind of soothe them to a certain degree and say, you know, I did what I was trying to do, and it just didn't work out.
And you look back in perspective of the rounds and how they went, that 8-iron that I hit at 18 will always live with me, saying, you know, I hit the shot that I wanted to hit, I really did. And I asked my friend, Andy North with whom I flew on the plane down from Glasgow yesterday who is a commentator, followed me around yesterday and I said, "Andy, exactly where did that ball land on the green?"
He said: Tom, it landed one foot on to the surface, over the knob, one foot on the surface." So it had the whole length of the green to stop. That's where I was trying to hit it. I was trying to hit it 164 yards, right there. It just didn't stop.
And I look at that shot, I hit it perfectly, and didn't get the break. But I looked at a shot at 13 on Friday where I hit a hybrid off the tee and I pushed it, and good thing I did push it, because if I hit it where I aimed it, it would have been in one of those pot bunkers.
You know, that's what happens. That's the game of golf. It's not a perfect game. I put it in perspective like that to my son who was really distraught. I think it helped soothe him some. And maybe it was a little bit of a catharsis to me, too.
STEVE TODD: Looking ahead to this week, different type of challenge, different course, you've won three times in alternate years; can you carry on the sequence this year?
TOM WATSON: Well, the sequence would be nice, wouldn't it, in each of the odd years.
I played two practise rounds. I came here after two hours of sleep and flying down from Glasgow and played a practise round yesterday, all 18. I was pretty worn out. But I wanted to get out there and get to see the golf course and play it again.
I remember it from 24 years ago. I played here with the Court of St. James here [] who was won of my original sponsors on the golf tour, Charles Price. He invited me when I was in London here to play the course and I played with him. I remember the course was playing a little faster. It was more bouncy. I guess they have had some periods of rain here and the golf course has softened up, and, in fact, today's greens, from yesterday's greens, the greens were much slower today than they were yesterday.
Got a chance to play it again today in the Pro-Am, and so I've had two good days to get adjusted to the golf course. Actually I had Andy North follow me for about nine holes who covered the ladies British Open here, and he was giving me some ideas about how to play the golf course from watching the ladies play. So it's all good information.
When you get to my age, you are not quite as aware when you're walking on the golf course of what you're seeing. When you're a kid, you see everything. Today I played a little bit more by yardage, and "what's the yardage, Ox, is it to the front edge or the back edge," rather than looking at all the surrounds, what happens when the ball hits on the right front of green or what's the best place to be. It's more of a simplified game for me now. But sometimes that gets me into trouble, so it's good to have a little bit broader perspective how to play the golf course from Andy, and he gave me that today.
STEVE TODD: And was Paul McGinley watching, as well?
TOM WATSON: Paul was watching. I asked Paul a few times about how he played the golf course, and he gave me some hints on what to do here.

Q. Turnberry obviously took a lot out of you emotionally and physically. Was there ever a second where you said, okay, I need a week off now?

Q. You come down, played 36 holes --
TOM WATSON: No. No. This is nine days in a row, nine rounds in a row for me. That's a lot for old folks (smiling). I'm going to take a break tomorrow.

Q. What are your plans after Sunningdale?
TOM WATSON: I'm heading right directly back to the States to play in the U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick next week.

Q. Are you eligible to play in the PGA?
TOM WATSON: Rumour has it that I am. I don't think I'll be able to.

Q. I saw that you soared all of these places in the rankings. You are now 105. If you were to go into the PGA and get into the Top-10 --
TOM WATSON: Phil, do you know what qualifications last week's second place finish gave me?
PHIL STAMBAUGH: I'm pretty sure it gets you in the PGA Championship.
TOM WATSON: What week is that actually, do you know? I've got a full schedule coming up.

Q. It would be nice if you could win that. It would complete the four majors that you've won.
TOM WATSON: (Chuckling) Right now I wouldn't hold my breath that I'm going to be playing the PGA.

Q. Given that your scores at the end of three rounds, at the end of four rounds, are you surprised that all of the young blood playing with new and modern balls didn't do better that than?
TOM WATSON: Not on links golf. Links golf is a different type of golf. If you're just a little bit off, you're going to struggle, big time, and you're going to make some errors, and you are going to have a gallery and the search parties out there helping you.
Over the week, I hit one ball in the heavy rough, and it unfortunately hit a woman and then it popped right where she was standing. I had a perfect lie. That's the only time I would have been in the deep stuff; with the exception of the playoff where I put it in the deep stuff at 17 and off the right at 18. So that was twice I put it in the deep stuff.
I put it in the fairway bunkers I think twice. So I kept it in play. And that's the No. 1 thing. How you get it in lay with all those crosswinds. Playing that golf course for the sixth Championship kind of put me at an advantage over the players that had not played it.

Q. You've been paired with Greg Norman for the first two days. Year before, he had a fantastic Open like yourself, and maybe see how much The Seniors Tour is helping your game to win majors, when you see what yourself and Greg have done.
TOM WATSON: Oh, sure. Our Champions Tour, the Senior Tour, has kept me active in the game where I still compete. That's why I'm out here. I'm out here to compete and hit the shot that means something, and it still means something. It's not friendly golf; it's the shot that means something. You only do that in competition.
And playing with Greg, I played with Greg in a practise round last week, and you know, I was commentating when he was making his run for The Open Championship last year at Birkdale, and was pulling for him.
But you know, this is great for our Senior Tour, our Champions Tour. It's wonderful for it.
You know, golf has a broad, broad span of popularity from the kids who watch Anthony Kim and now this young Mateo Manassero from Italy, 16-year-old, he was out there trying to get Tiger Woods' autograph on a bag for his mom. They are watching Tiger. The older folks may be watching Greg Norman and Tom Watson and Fred Couples when he comes out on the Senior Tour. That's their generation. That spans -- it's a great span there.
You know, when you're watching the other sports, really most of the other sports are all young sports. The older generations have a hard time maybe relating to the newer kids coming along there.
But the Senior Tour, you still have the golfers still playing and competing, and you can go there and watch them play. And every now and then, we'll play against the kids like we do at the Masters and Open Championship and get to see them again. That's why we play the greatest game there is.

Q. What time did you finally get to sleep on Sunday night, and were you trying to fall asleep or were you sitting up?
TOM WATSON: No, I was in bed. And it was dark when I went to sleep and it was dark when I woke up. If you know the Scottish summers, you have about three hours of dark.

Q. Last week the good luck message from the Nicklaus's almost worked for you. Are you likely to make contact with them before this one to see if you can get some help?
TOM WATSON: No, I had a nice conversation with Jack, he called me on Sunday night, and Barbara. We had a nice conversation. Jack said, he said, "Watson, that's the first time I ever sat down and watched all 18 holes of any golf tournament, any golf tournament." He said he couldn't have played the 18th hole any better. It was just -- it wasn't there. And he said, "You played the right shot with the putter." And he said, "That's the right shot."
That soothed me a little bit. Good friend.

Q. Can the fact that you played it so well mean that there is now no self-recrimination, just disappointment?
TOM WATSON: No, there's no self-recrimination; there can't be. I tried my best on every shot, and sometimes you make the right judgments and sometimes you don't. If I hit a 9-iron on the last hole, I may hit it three inches fat and come up 20 yards short, who h who knows. I hit the shot I wanted to, in the air.

Q. You talked about, it's not fun, this is serious, you're out there winning. There's a saying by one famous golfer, the seniors smell the roses, but you're out there.
TOM WATSON: Yeah, but it's still competition. It reminds me of when I was a kid, when I went out and played when I was nine years old, eight years old, playing in a competition, I still get the same out of it, I still get the same joy out of it. I still get the same pressure out of it. There's honest to God pressure.
But Saturday, I have to say, was about the most serene I've ever been on a golf course. It was just easy. When I finished a practise round, I had not had a practise session like that for ages. Hit every shot the way I wanted to. Club felt great in the hands. And so the day just started off so well.
It was a little bit tougher on Sunday for me, I have to admit, but it wasn't great pressure. It was just a constant drone of pressure. It was all right and it's pretty easy to deal with. And I thought I dealt with it well.

Q. Do you have anymore comments to make on the age policy?
TOM WATSON: Comments on the age policy?

Q. For the R&A.
TOM WATSON: For the R&A? I talked to Peter Dawson and he said, "Tom, we changed it. You've got a ten-year exemption if you win the tournament."
I said, "Well, that's one way of doing it." I still concurred with it. 60 is okay. When he called me last year to say that he changed perfect 65 to 60, I said exactly this: "I concur with you." It's sensible, you have to give the young kids a chance to play, and that's the whole reason behind it. Get the old fogeys out of there, and give the young kids a chance to get in there and shine.

Q. I'm sure the young kids would like to see you back again.
TOM WATSON: Well, we'll see. Maybe they don't.

Q. Is there any possibility, Bruce Vaughn earlier mentioned the fact that your 8-iron shot at the last didn't finish up against the collar, was that pretty darned unlucky, as well?
TOM WATSON: Well, that's the vagarities of links golf. How does one ball hit so solidly, hits on the very front edge of the green, and hits maybe a little harder spot. Andy said that there was a wind gust right at that moment, and maybe it just -- that's just part of links golf. It's not a perfect game.
I hit what I thought was the perfect shot right at the perfect moment, and it didn't turn out right.

Q. You mentioned how things were put into perspective by your trip to Iraq, what actually did you do out there? What was the purpose there?
TOM WATSON: The purpose was to go there and tell the troops that we support them, make them laugh, show them how to play golf, sign autographs, talk about what's going on in the States, give them a touch of home, let them get to know us, let us get to know them and just say thanks, thanks for what you're doing.

Q. Going back to the age thing, Gary Player is here this week. Do you envisage playing in these events when you're his age?
TOM WATSON: At 73, playing in the Senior Tour? I frankly said when I was 40, I said, "I'll never play golf after I'm 50."

Q. And here you are 59.
TOM WATSON: And here I am almost 60. And Nicklaus last at me when I said that, I said, "Yeah, look at me. I said the same thing, and I still play."
It's just too much in your blood. It just is. The competition is too much there. And we have the only game where you can continue. Why not take advantage of it and do it.

Q. You mentioned how the messages you had had from Iraq and from Bethesda helped you put what had happened in the last few days into perspective. I was wondering if you had any particular examples of messages that uplifted you.
TOM WATSON: There was one message from a young man by the name of Petry, Leroy Petry, who is up for the Congressional Medal of Honor, who saved a bunch of lives by taking a pretty direct hit from a grenade that he was trying to throw, and it went off right by his hand. That's perspective.

Q. Sam Torrance was in earlier saying that what you did at Turnberry was up there with the great sporting achievements of all time. Did you get a sense of that then, or is that how you feel about it now?
TOM WATSON: No. It's overblown I think. I'm just trying -- I was just trying to win a golf tournament that I thought I could win, honestly. It wasn't anything more or less than that.
You may think that 59-year-olds shouldn't be there, but I've said it a bunch of times about Sam Snead: Sam Snead could play great golf when he was in his 70s. He could flat play. His putter wasn't very good, but boy, could he play. And there's no sense why players of today won't be able to play, the young kids of today can't play well into their later life.
Fitness regimens, in my case, genes, my mom and dad were flexible, and they were in good shape for well into their 70s. I came from good genes there.
So I could foresee, if people, if the golfers of today continue, they will weed out the ones that don't want to play and what-have-you. But as I said, it's in your blood, and if you can still hit it, and there are certain courses that you can play and that you can compete on and do well. Not all of them, but there are certain ones. And Turnberry was one for me.
STEVE TODD: Tom, thanks very much for coming in. All the best for this week.

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