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July 28, 2009
PETE KOWALSKI: Good afternoon. We'd like to welcome Tom Watson to the 2009 U.S. Senior Open. It's been quite a run for you over the last several weeks.
Give us a little feeling of how you're feeling and your approach to the U.S. Senior Open.
TOM WATSON: Well, I'm feeling, as I said to Dave over here, you don't eat Chinese food in the U.K. Didn't quite agree with me, and I'm kind of down in the dumps right now. My body is, put it that way.
Other than that, I have to say the outpouring of communications I got from people all around the world was humbling. It was warm-hearted. Just the outpouring of support was just extra special. That's what I took away from it.
You know, you can always look back and say, What if? But I've been around the game long enough to know that what ifs never get it. They never get it at all. I still like my friend Yogi Berra. He said, It ain't over till it's over. And it wasn't over till it was over.
Last week was a good week from a ball-striking standpoint, but didn't get the putter working very well. I had nine three-putts. It was a miserable time on the greens.
I made an adjustment on the last day, and looking forward to putting that adjustment into play this week. See if I can get my short stroke to work along the lines it should be working on instead of going inside so much. That's been my Achilles heel the last, oh, ten or fifteen years.
So took out of the last couple weeks, you know, golf is a cruel game. It can lift you up to the highest highs and take you to the lowest lows. But if you put it in perspective, it really is just a game. That's cliche, but it really is just a game compared to what everybody else is doing.
With that, I open up to any questions you would like to have.
Q. Could you just speak to the mental and physical challenges that or a golfer would face playing back to back majors on different continents, or in your case, back to back to back majors?
TOM WATSON: Well, the biggest concern I have is preparedness. It's gonna be difficult for me to be properly prepared for this tournament. I'm sick today and not going to play. Tomorrow I hope to play a practice round. So I will only have one practice round, and I don't like to have just one practice round going into a golf tournament.
Puts me on the defensive. I will not have formulated much of a game plan. Even though I played here -- what year was the PGA here, '94?
PETE KOWALSKI: '91.
TOM WATSON: Played here in '91. I still have to relearn the golf course. At my age, you forget everything. I'm sure I'll remember some of the holes, but there will be a lot of it I'm gonna have to relearn. That's gonna be the biggest challenge for me.
Q. In addition to yourself, of course Greg Norman competed at the British Open last year. I was going through a list of players who have been in contention in regular tour events this year from Lauren Roberts, Tom Lehman, Larry Mize, Fred Funk, Sandy Lyle, at the Masters. I'm wondering what maybe you could attribute some of that to? You know your own experience, but some of these other guys seem to find a way to still play golf even though the game may have changed with the length and so forth.
TOM WATSON: You know, I half wonder whether that's not the equipment. It makes it easier for the game to be played. It's taken the field and compressed the fields. You know, if I were playing with the Balata ball and Persimmon woods, my swing speed would not -- the 43 and a half inch persimmon driver, I probably couldn't hit the ball 235 or 40 yards in the air with a driver at this time.
But I can still carry it 250 in the air easy with a driver right now. That's when I was in my heyday and had all my strength. The persimmon club and the Balata ball, I was one of the longest out here and could hit it 250 in the air.
Like I said, there are certain courses I can play on and certain courses I can't play on. So those courses I can play on I think are the ones where you're not hitting your approach shots with woods into the greens.
Although, I counted up how many times I hit my hybrid 2-iron, my 18 degree at the British Open. I hit it 25 times. I hit it 25 times. Should be on an advertisement with that.
Q. I wonder, did you hit the ball even better last week than at the British?
TOM WATSON: Yes.
Q. The last two weeks have you hit it as well as in the '70s, '80s, ever?
TOM WATSON: No. I had a stretch in the '77 where I really hit the ball really well for a period of months. I had a stretch in '94, '95, '96, '97, '98 where I really hit the ball well for years. When I learned the secret to my golf swing -- I finally learned how to swing it in '92 -- golf became easy for me.
Like Jack said to me, Tom, you'll be a better player. You'll play better when you get older. You'll swing the club better when you get older. And he was right.
Q. Would you expect the ball-striking to still be there? You've addressed your physical situation. Mentally, emotionally, where are you there?
TOM WATSON: Mentally and emotionally I'm fine. I mean, I've always been able to take a defeat or disappointment and make lemonade out of it. Bobby Jones said it right. He said very simply, You you never learn in victory, you only learn in defeat.
I learned it wasn't over until it was over. I hit two perfect shots at 18 and I still had to finish. I didn't do a very good job of finishing.
Q. Are you to the point where you're feeling bad enough and taking IVs?
TOM WATSON: No. It's like a screen door in a submarine, though.
Q. Care to elaborate on that?
TOM WATSON: No, I think -- don't you get the picture?
Q. My other question, given what's happened over the last couple weeks, I would say that there's probably no better place where you're gonna get a warm reception from your peers than this tournament. Have you heard from any of the guys here?
TOM WATSON: I have. Just walking it, meeting my peers, they have come up and very warmly said, Congratulations. We're pulling for you. It's pretty cool.
Q. You talked about your swing and figuring it out. I think you had mentioned before about your shoulders.
TOM WATSON: Yeah, shoulder plane.
Q. Yeah. Could you elaborate on that a little bit, exactly what that adjustment was?
TOM WATSON: Well, it basically is your shoulder plane is the same on the backswing as on the follow through. You know, I place the ball a little bit further back on the stance. I got my right shoulder a little higher. Yeah, not so much tilt, that's right.
I've been working on an instructional video with Terry Jastrow. He used to be with ABC Sports. He did Phil Mickelson's Secrets on the Short Game video. We had a real -- gonna produce it in September and be out next year sometime.
But it's been fun to do that. Going to be called Lessons of a Lifetime. I just feel I learned the game from people: watching and people teaching me or by observation.
I think all the players -- in fact, when I came out on the tour, that's the one thing that every pro told me to do, was one thing you do, you play or watch the best players play.
Now we get video. We got video and you can video your swing and match it with Tiger or whoever you want to match it with. You can really see where you are in relationship. That's a huge jump in instruction. Really a big jump.
You still have to have the feel for it. This video is gonna kind of go back and relate some of the things that I learn from Byron and Sam and Arnold and Jack and Lee and some of the modern players, too.
I'm always trying to learn. I watch players swing at it, and the first thing I always do is look at the grip. Do they have a good grip on the golf club? That's where I come from. If they don't have a good grip, they're fighting it.
Q. (No microphone.)
TOM WATSON: Haven't done that yet, but, you know, I think I was told by Golf Digest that Jack is gonna do a critique of my old swing versus my swing now for the Golf Digest coming up. He should know.
Q. You talked about your disadvantage being under the weather and one practice round in. In relationship with your caddie, how does that come to assistance?
TOM WATSON: I'm gonna rely on him a lot as far as knowing the golf course for me. I suspect I'll remember the golf course, but not after one round as much as after two or three rounds.
As I said last week, I'll probably play somewhat conservatively opening it up, you know, not knowing the golf course so well, and watch my fellow players play.
Q. Neil Oxman has kind of an interesting story himself in that when he's not caddying for you he's a political consultant. How does that work for you? And I understand your politically ideology is different.
TOM WATSON: There is a little ideological difference between us. It's always a spirited conversation, let's put it that way.
Q. (No microphone.)
TOM WATSON: Neil an is a realist. He's from the other side of the political spectrum than I am. He's a realist. He should be running for office is what he should be doing.
Q. You've won three Senior British and the Senior PGA. Would this one the one you most want?
TOM WATSON: Yes, it is, without a doubt. This U.S. Senior Open is the one I want to win the most. I've been pretty close a couple times. Couple times I've been right there, and sure would like to have this one.
Q. Just going back to your challenge of preparing for this week, does having to do so three weeks in a row for 12 rounds of majors, is that even a little more complicated than three other weeks in a row on the regular tour stops?
TOM WATSON: It wouldn't be so difficult if the USGA and the R&A got together and maybe had a week in between.
No, I'm looking at my USGA friend here when I said that. You know, with the travel schedule, that puts a burden on your body. It does. For instance I go over to the British Open and I go five days in advance of the first rounds. That's a minimum amount of time that I like to spend to get my body used to the time change.
Been over there for two weeks, and now I've got the late afternoon times here, afternoon time is gonna be somewhat of a challenge for me as far as my body is concerned.
Q. How about mentally?
TOM WATSON: You know, mentally, it's never been a problem. Never ever been a problem. I've always drawn from the way I'm playing as far as my mental frame of mind, what my frame of mind is. Right now I'm playing well, so mentally I feel like I can do it.
Q. How do you feel coming from a couple weeks on the links straight into a USGA set up?
TOM WATSON: Well, it takes driving the ball in the fairway. I've been doing that awfully well. Driving the ball in the fairway so you're not hitting it out of that rough.
Q. Have they been able to unclog your e-mail system? And how did you meet Leroy Petrie. At Walter Reed, or...
TOM WATSON: I met him at David Faraday's IED event at Chevy Chase Club about a month ago. I played with him in a round of golf. He didn't have a right arm, and another gentlemen I played with didn't have a left arm. Another guy didn't have -- he had some difficulty with his feet. There was a guy walking around had been blown up 25 times.
That's what I mean when I say that golf is a game. Those guys are playing for real.
Q. So your e-mail is functioning?
TOM WATSON: I've -- Jerry mannered my e-mail so it's functioning now. It's working okay. But it's -- they're gonna to have get it out of there and reprogram it. But I've got a system where it's bypassed the main Outlook Express.
PETE KOWALSKI: Tom, thanks for joining us so much for taking the time. Good luck this week.
TOM WATSON: Thank you very much.
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