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February 3, 2010

Tom Watson


GORDON SIMPSON: A very warm welcome to the Emirates, Tom. It's taken 21 years to get you here, but you finally made it to Dubai, and it's been a very productive start to the year for you. You helped Jack (Nicklaus) to win the Wendy's Skins.
TOM WATSON: Well, he helped me. He helped me win the Wendy's Skins and I then managed to win the other one in Hawaii.
GORDON SIMPSON: Tell us about your start to the year, and then we'll talk about the tournament itself.
TOM WATSON: Yes, I've had a wonderful start to the year. The Skins Game this year was a lot better than the ones last year where we didn't win a single skin and got shut out. This year we won, I think 11 skins or something like that, and did okay. So we'll be invited back next year, being the defending champions.
It's an exhibition match but it's still a lot of fun to play. We beat the kids, Couples and Nick Price, they were the team to beat. We beat them.
And then the following week in Hawaii, I got off to a great start with a 63 the first round and kind of hung onto win and birdied the last two holes to beat Fred Couples. Fred and I played together in the last round, and I said he was the kid and I was the old guy. I was ten years his senior and we had a good contest.
Tom Lehman finished third and a fellow by the name of Michael Allen who has played well on the regular tour, or the Junior Tour as I call it; he finished tied for third, two. It was nice to win again.
I had not won for a couple years, and that's how I judge my year. I judge my year on if I win a golf tournament. Very simple. And if I win a golf tournament, it's been a success just a cut above. Even if I played lousy and I still won a golf tournament, that's what I'm out here to do is still beat everybody. That's when I get my jollies.
GORDON SIMPSON: What were your perceptions of Dubai before you came here? I understand you've only been here 36 hours.
TOM WATSON: Going over the Internet, you've seen pictures of Dubai before, and Dubai today, seeing pictures of the enormous building boom here in Dubai. I mean, pictures from 2002 to 2010, there's just nothing in 2002. And you people have probably been reporting here, except these kids right over here, have been reporting for a long time and have seen it on a year-to-year basis.
Obviously they had some financial issues here as far as the real estate is concerned, but it certainly amazed me. We planned on seeing some other parts of Dubai we had not seen before. Go to the desert, go to the racetrack and go see the Old Souk in Old Town. Looking forward to that.

Q. How does the course here, built in the desert, compare with your desert courses in America?
TOM WATSON: It's very similar. With the exception, this has a little bit more elevation to it. There's some uphill and downhill shots here. You really don't see it in the desert very much, except when you go to Palm Springs. You don't see much elevation in the part of the Palm Springs area, and I like that about this golf course.
The condition of the golf course is very similar, except the rough is deeper. The fairways are very narrow. Yesterday I drove the ball beautifully. Today I didn't drive the ball very well. But I'm glad I didn't, because it tells me I'd better stay in the fairway. This rough is very, very tough to get the ball to the green from this rough. Probably about a one-in-seven or one-in-eight chance to get the ball to the green if you hit the ball in the rough.

Q. Miss the fairway, you miss a shot, basically.
TOM WATSON: Well, you're going to have to get the ball up-and-down for par, if you can keep the next one in the fairway. That's the problem, because a lot of these fairways, they give you the normal room here, but once you get going to the green, it narrows up as you go to the green. Now you've got to worry about how you lay up out of the rough. The ball could come out doing some funny things out of the rough.
But the main thing to do is just don't put it in the rough in the first place.

Q. Does the heat worry you, or are you used to it in America?
TOM WATSON: No. It would in July here. (Laughter) But not now.
This feels good for the old bones, really good.

Q. I remember three words from you (at The Open) in July, you said, "One lousy putt." But for those three words, you would have been here as Open Champion, do you still lie awake thinking about that one lousy putt?
TOM WATSON: No, honestly I don't. Over the years, I've had lots of disappointments and that was another. I've had lots of victories to counter balance that. And if that was my only time to be in the spotlight, it probably would affect me, and I can say that. I've had enough -- I've had enough victories to counterbalance the hurt. But like said, it tore my guts out for a short period of time and then I got on with life.

Q. Can you reflect on the enjoyment you went through and the heartache at the end, the tournament in general, coming at such a late stage in your career?
TOM WATSON: Well, going into the tournament, I've said it many times going into the tournament, it was a course in which I could compete. I had an advantage playing that golf course to be honest with you, because I competed on that golf course five times and most of the kids, this is their first time competing in the tournament. '94 was the last Championship there. The majority of the players had not played that course before in championship conditions. That was my sixth Championship playing.
So I had kind of a home-course advantage there, you might say. Plus I had won there three times, or twice, something like that. And winning a golf tournament gives you -- it gives you the attitude that you can win again, and you know the shots that it takes to win.
Going into the tournament, I was playing well. I was putting lousy. Tuesday's practise round I found a move with my putter and I started making everything and now life is really good. Wednesday's practise round was a very good practise round. The weatherman was right; the winds died. Thursday was a windless day and I got off to a good start, and I just went on from there.
The key to the Championship to me was the back nine on Friday. I got off to a bad start playing in strong cross-winds into the face going out, and hitting three or four bad shots cost me four or five, and I brought it back to a reasonable score to keep me in the tournament. In the last -- well, in the last ten holes, 11 holes, and that was the key to the tournament.
Now just one more thing, when the ball was in the air on 18, one of the things that I've written a lot of people who have written me. I said this to them: I said golf can be the most beautiful or the most cruel game, all in the same shot. And it was like that in that last shot.

Q. Nothing wrong with your memory then, Tom, eh?
TOM WATSON: I remember that shot very well.

Q. You said you rate your years by wins. How do you rate your chances of winning again here or another win here?
TOM WATSON: This one? I'm at a disadvantage here. Time change, first of all. I'm tired right now. I was wide awake at two o'clock this morning. It was great. I had a 7.30 tee off time. I was ready to go. But I had not played this golf course. Other players have played it -- Mark O'Meara has played it 12 times. They know the golf course. They know the breaks in the greens and they know the grain in the greens and they know how the wind is most likely to come off the ocean at 11 o'clock in the morning. They know how this course plays.
Like I said at Turnberry, I had a home-course advantage. And I'm at a disadvantage this week, not on the time and playing a brand new golf course.
I have to say, it's pretty straightforward how to play this golf course. You put the ball in the fairway, you have a chance. But there are always the -- just the idiosyncracies of the certain shots that you have to play to, say, the 15th green that maybe I just don't know and other players do know.

Q. Talking about youngsters having not played and you having played in certain places, how do you see the development of young, big hitters these days, compared to when you were in your prime? And where do you see golf going from there?
TOM WATSON: Honestly, I think the swings of today are better than they were at my age when I was a kid. I played with Rory McIlroy yesterday and for the first time, and he has a wonderful golf swing.
Back in my day, at 20 years old, you had a variety of golf swings, you had them going out of here, you had them shut at the top, you had them up here like this, you had all kind of different golf swings. Today the golf swing has evolved into where I think it should evolve to and it's a wonderful -- the proper turn back through the ball. There's not a lot of slide. They know -- they swing it the proper way. That's the way I would teach it to them. And that makes for better swings.
The equipment of today is a little bit easier to play with. You can miss-hit it a little bit more and still get the same distance much the ball gets straighter and it's definitely a better-ball to play in the wind than we played.
But all in all, I have to give the grade quite a bit higher to the kids of today as far as their ability to play the game.

Q. I think you said last year that you thought Rory was better at his age than Tiger was at the same age; do you still believe that?
TOM WATSON: I've never seen that. Because I've never seen him play.

Q. It was Mark O'Meara, that's right. How would you rate him in that context?
TOM WATSON: There's not enough information about Rory for me to make a judgment on that.

Q. Do you think that the change, the rule change regarding the grooves will make a major difference in terms of rolling back the effect of technology, and how are you adjusting to it yourself?
TOM WATSON: Well, it's strange you should say. In Hawaii, we played in bermudagrass. Bermudagrass, you hit some jumpers. You hit some real shooters. When it's in the air, you say, "Grow teeth." You want it to stop. You know it's not going to stop.
That's new, new/old stuff. But I've played it before and I think I adjusted to it pretty well in the sense where I played some shots that hit the right distance there in Hawaii. A couple of times I hit the ball in the rough and I played jumpers out of the rough. You know, I hit it the right distance. The key is I hit it the right distance and came down to the last hole where I was playing against Freddie. I was tied with him. I hit it in the right rough. Freddie was right in the middle of the fairway, and I had 147 to the hole. The greens were pretty firm and I just took a pitching wedge out and landed on the front edge of the green and rolled about 60 feet up, to about four feet from the hole.
Now the square grooves from last year, that ball would have ended up 30 feet short. But with the grooves I had, it rolled 60 feet.

Q. You're happy with the change?
TOM WATSON: Yes, I am happy. I'm happy with it, because it does put an emphasis on putting the ball in the fairway when you have light rough conditions.
Now, here, it doesn't make any difference, because this is heavy, heavy, heavy lush fescue rough here. You want it to jump out and it won't jump. My dad called it the wet mop shot. Every time you hit a shot out of that rough, it sounds like you get hit in the face with a wet mop, fwap! You here that fwap any time your club gets stuck in that grass out there.

Q. As a follow-up to that question, Phil Mickelson using a 20-year-old club, and Padraig Harrington said last night in the States that he would consider using one, as well. What are your opinions on that? Do you feel that's against the spirit of the game?
TOM WATSON: You said it. Exactly. I couldn't say it any better. Why would they want to do that? Come on.

Q. Two great players?
TOM WATSON: Yep. It doesn't make any sense to me. It doesn't make any sense at all.

Q. Would you look for Tim Finchem, who is speaking this evening, and going to try to -- I would suspect, encourage players not to do it but PING have put out a statement that they do not expect the local rules to be brought in by the PGA TOUR preventing the PGA TOUR from --
TOM WATSON: We'll just see how it plays out. But I don't think it looks good for players to use it to be honest with you. I just don't think it's the right thing to do. But that's my humble opinion.

Q. Going back to the grooves and the changes and saying that the new groove rulings are introducing more skill, basically, would you like to see that through the driver, through the ball, etc.?
TOM WATSON: If I were Commissioner, if I were Commissioner, this is what I would do. They have already done the grooves. No. 2 I would get rid of this big broom putter like this (indicating putter resting under chin). That's not a stroke. All right.
I'd reduce the size of the driver from 460 to 240. Gets that sweet spot a little smaller in there. You mis-hit it, you mis-hit it, it's going to go 20 or 30 yards shorter rather than four yards short. And then I would reduce the ball ten per cent how far it goes.

Q. Bring the skill back into golf?
TOM WATSON: Well, no, it makes the golf -- it keeps golf courses from being $10 million golf courses, if they have five tees -- you have 18 tees, that costs a bunch of money. You have to extend a golf course out, playable for the poor player to the professional, because you have to make it 7,600 yards. You've got to putt too many tees in. And it's hard to design a golf course for that. I mean, the golf ball goes too far.
In 1993 to 2001, the ball went -- and this is USGA, this is from their statistics, the ball increased 26 yards at 109-mile swing speed. That's what old Iron Byron swung the club at, 109 miles an hour. Increased 26 yards. And then more from 2001. And from 2005, we are starting to level out.
There's 30 yards, 14 drives, 30 yards, 420 yards; play an old 7,000-yard golf course now, golf course has got to be 7,420. You add a little bit more for the irons, too. So you've got to add 500 yards to the golf course.
That's what they did at Augusta. Now, I can't play Augusta, because the way that golf course is designed, I have to hit the ball -- you hit the ball on the upslopes, my ball sticks in the upslopes where a guy like Fred Couples or Mickelson or woods or these guys, they can fly it up on top, hit it on the plateau, the ball takes off. I'm hitting the ball on 17 and 14 right in the -- stuck right there. And I'm hitting a 4-iron into the green on 17 that's designed for a 9-iron, and I can't play four 4-irons into 17 and come away with four pars, I promise you.

Q. Do you think there's any chance of that happening, any of these?
TOM WATSON: No. 100 per cent chance of it not happening. (Laughter).
GORDON SIMPSON: That wasn't your job application for Commissioner, was it?
TOM WATSON: No, they don't want to hear it from me.
It wouldn't affect the game that much, it really wouldn't. But we made the game too easy by allowing that to happen, and actually the manufacturers have done it within the rules of the game. It's really the USGA's and the R&A's responsibility that, if you look back on it; that they didn't foresee the golf ball doing what it did, and yet conform to their rules.

Q Has that taken a bit of the fun and excitement out of an event like the Masters? The last few years don't seem to have the same amount of cheers echoing around the course.
TOM WATSON: They sure did two years ago take it out. Not a single score under par for 71 holes. But you know, they had a triple storm. It was the perfect storm there: It was cold, it was dry and the wind blew from the northwest, which is the toughest wind at Augusta.

Q. Is there a fear that by changing the grooves and sort of impeding technology that way you might actually reduce impact of the game as a spectacle, if you know what I mean, because guys instead of going for it now will perhaps reign back a little bit and avoid the rough and so instead of, let's say at 17, going for the green with a driver, they could just go 5-iron and wedge and whatever; is that good for the game?
TOM WATSON: Well, the rough is too tough here to go for a drive at 17 now. If you could get a lie 20 yards from the green you might not be able to get it on the green there. The rough is too tough. If you had lighter rough, go ahead and give it a go.
But no, I don't think so. The players are going to be able to adjust to it. You know, you look at the players, how they have adjusted to the distance on golf courses, and they will adjust to the less-spiny grooves. They will adjust to that and they will just keep on shooting pretty good scores.

Q. They might use a softer ball.
TOM WATSON: I don't think how many players have gone to the softer ball. Do you? Anybody done a survey of how many players have actually changed to the new, softer balls that Callaway and Titleist and these guys have?

Q. Ernie Els.
TOM WATSON: I haven't changed. I haven't changed. I still want some feedback on how I'm using the old ball, because at least I know how I used the old ball and then once I play a little bit, then I'll change, if I need to.

Q. In recent years, Tiger has been the big attraction here; here has been one of his ports of call. You're helping to fly the American flag in his absence. Have you any thoughts on what lies ahead for the current world No. 1 and when he might return?
TOM WATSON: Well, I've said this and I'll let the cat out of the bag. But one of the things that it is not a question of what Tiger what he has to do. He has to take ownership of what he's done. He must get his personal life in order. I think that's what he's trying to do. I don't know.
And when he comes back, he has to show some humility to the public in the sense that if I were him, I'd come back and I would -- I wouldn't be at a golf tournament where I come out in public first. I would come out and I would do an interview with somebody and say, you know what, I screwed up. And I admit it. And I'm going to try to change, I am trying to change; I want my wife and family back; I have to earn her trust back. I mean, that's what you -- if you're in the same situation, you want that to happen, that's what you're going to have to do.

Q. When do you think this is going to happen?
TOM WATSON: I don't have a clue. It may not happen for the year, who knows.

Q. What do you think the difficulty is to Tiger, because he is such a private person, or has appeared to be; that is the biggest step he's got to do, it's not what he's got to do, it's finding the thing to do it, do you know what I mean?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, it's going to be interesting to see how he handles his return to public life. It's going to be interesting.
And I wish him the best. He messed up. He knows he messed up. The world knows he messed up. And you know, he has to take ownership in that.

Q. As a statesman within the game yourself, how would you regard his on-course demeanor over the last couple of years?
TOM WATSON: I said that, too. I feel that he has not carried the same stature as the other great players that have come along like Jack or Arnold, Byron Nelsons, the Hogans, the players in the sense that there was language and club throwing on the golf course. You can grant somebody, a young person that, that has not been out here for a while, but I think he needs to clean up his act there and show the respect for the game that the people before him have shown.

Q. You mentioned last year playing at Turnberry -- are you excited about where the majors are this year, St. Andrews and Pebble Beach?
TOM WATSON: I am, yes. St. Andrews, if I can play No. 2 and No. 12 half-decently at St. Andrews, that will be all right. 4 is the hole I have a problem with, too, because I can't hit it far enough to get over the dune there with all the rough if I'm playing into the wind. It's a big, big carry. In the old days with the shorter tee -- they moved the tee back a little bit. And now, where do I hit it?
They have increased the fairway to the right there that apparently used to be about 70 yards wide, now I think it's ten yards wide. Can't hit it there four days. May have to go over to No. 14 fairway somewhere and take a 3-wood at a bad angle into the green, who knows but that's St. Andrews for you.

Q. They have this champions event the day before?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I've played in that before. That's a fun event. That's a fun event. Get all the old guys there. Hope that Seve makes it back for that, I understand he's struggling still but hope that he can get his strength up and get him out there, would love to see him out there and play.
GORDON SIMPSON: It's a pleasure to have you here. Enjoy the rest of the week.

End of FastScripts

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