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April 22, 2010

Andy North

Tom Watson


DAVE SENKO: I'd like to welcome Tom Watson and Andy North, four-time winners of this event, three in the Raphael division, and one in the Legends division two years ago. Back again, but maybe just get us started, Tom, Andy, talk about coming back to play here at this event.
TOM WATSON: You're an announcer. You're used to it.
ANDY NORTH: Do we have to do like radio voice or TV voice? I think we look forward to this week probably as much as any week all year. The community has supported this event wonderfully.
Really a good golf course that can be very difficult when the wind gets blowing. And the city of Savannah, we enjoy taking the river taxi over every single night and eating way too much probably. It would be a really interesting thing here if you could weigh everybody when they got off the plane and when they got back on the plane at the end of the week. I think it would be quite dangerous. But it's a wonderful event. And this is the event that started our Tour, and we can't thank Liberty Mutual enough for all the things they've done that have kept this event going.
TOM WATSON: I concur. The history of the event is what makes it. The team championship, with the Sneads and the Bolts and the DeVicenzos and the Julius Boros and the Arnold Palmers and the guys that started this thing and kept it going right from the beginning. You know, you had some great contests. They were shooting lights out. Six-hole playoff that went after it. That started this event. It gave it credibility, and it showed that people still wanted to see good golf and they wanted to see the names play.
That's what our Tour is. Our Tour is a compilation of names, bottom line. We had the names. They may not be there -- they're not as good as the kids on the kids' Tour, but the names certainly are more recognizable, I think, and that's what keeps this going. And oh, by the way, there is some pretty good golf out here.
And I think you've seen that over the years with people like Trevino and Irwin and Arnold and now seems like Freddy dominating the Tour out here. There's stories every year coming out of this Tour. Every year there's a story and who's coming out. Who's coming out this year and who's going to see if they can be the young guy on the block, and oh, by the way, there's a name, and you recognize who he is and see if he can take over the reins of this Tour, and Freddy certainly has done that this year.
ANDY NORTH: I think one of the really cool things I can add a little bit more that one thing I try to do every year here is go out on Monday and Tuesday and watch some of the guys playing the Demaret division; Littler, January and Miller Barber and Player, Charles. It's great to see those guys. Jack Fleck, Jack's 89, I believe. He still swings the club better, I guarantee you, than most anybody in this room, which is pretty cool.
So that's such a special part of this whole event. You see some guys maybe one time a year, and unfortunately you may not see them next year, so that's really neat to be able to see some of these guys.

Q. Tom and Andy, you mentioned about the big names coming on Tour each year. Is it not only important that the big names play but also that they excel? Is it a two-part deal? And the second part of the question is do you almost maybe nudge some of the bigger names to play more events because of that importance? Some of the big names have not played a comprehensive schedule over the years.
ANDY NORTH: Well, I can answer that because I haven't played a comprehensive schedule, but that's the way I chose to play when I came out on the senior Tour, now the Champions. I have other things to do, but I still enjoy the competition.
And the schedule, the history of it is it started with one event, then two and then five, and then I think it was either seven or 11 and then it got to -- when Arnold decided to play every week and then Lee decided to play every week and they both played every week, and the sponsors lined up to get a tournament. With those two names it made your tournament, and we had 39 Senior Tour events, I think. Is that right? Well, we've already played a schedule like that back in our younger days. 39 events, that's great for the guys who want to play, but I just have chosen not to play that many. And I feel that the number of events is about where it should be right now. And the sponsors are serviced very well by the players as far as the names are concerned.
ANDY NORTH: You get too many events and it's hard to have the sponsor happy that he had a great field every week. The same problems we've had on the other Tour. Right now most of our top players play every single week, which I think is really, really good. I've been surprised how many events Freddy has played and committed to play, because he's playing quite a few on the other Tour. I know he's playing next week at Wachovia, the week after that at the TPC, and that's seven or eight weeks in a row for a guy who never used to play more than two in a row. So maybe he's lost his mind a little bit now that he's turned 50. I don't know.

Q. Now that it's kind of settled in to home here in Savannah, what does this venue and this course kind of add to Liberty Mutual and what you guys have going here in Savannah?
TOM WATSON: Well, it's what Liberty Mutual adds to this event, what it brings to the table is the real answer to the question. Liberty Mutual has done everything that they could possibly do to make this event the first class event.
And the most important thing to me and Andy and the reason we played in the Raphael division is that we wanted to make a statement that this event should be a team championship, and common sense finally prevailed. It went back to where it originally was, and the players themselves are having just a great time doing it again. And for whatever reason they stopped it. But the right reason they've came back to the full and playing a team event. This is fun. We rely on each other.
ANDY NORTH: Some more than others.
TOM WATSON: No. We can rely on each other. That's what you have to do as a partner event. You have to ham-and-egg it. It's a play we don't play. We play but once a year. I certainly wish we could play it more than once a year. This is a blast to do this with your buddies. And that's what it is. Guys get together with their friends and they go out and have a good time playing, playing competition. It's different. And the public likes it. The TV likes it. It's a unique event.
ANDY NORTH: I think because of the venue, it gives Liberty Mutual a wonderful place to entertain a lot of their customers. I know they run a lot of people through here this week and the people have a great time. You can have wonderful golf courses set up in a spot because it doesn't do the sponsor any good because they can't get any of the customers to come there. They don't want to.
They got people lining up to come down here because the community is great and the food and all the stuff they've got going on. It's terrific. That's a very important part of having a successful event.

Q. Have the players come together and gone to the Tour and said let's have more of these team events? Have you guys reached out and maybe lodged your opinion on having some more team events?
TOM WATSON: I haven't done anything directly.
ANDY NORTH: We did for a while for this specifically. But you know, you play golf for 40 years and you play the same event every single week, it's nice to have some variety.
I mean I think our Tour should have much more variety than we already have, just to make it different, so the guys have fun coming out and playing. I mean if you look at the field this week, it's hands down the best field we have all year long because of the format.
TOM WATSON: I think oughta take -- for an event concept, I think we oughta take the top 30 players from the senior tour versus the top 30 kids, have an event on about a 7,000-yard golf course and see who could take it.
ANDY NORTH: That would be fun. I'm in.

Q. To follow up a little bit on what you were saying with the team event, there was one guy that was steadfastly against this going from a team event, and Hale Irwin took a couple years off. How good is it to see him come back and playing this week?
ANDY NORTH: You have to ask Hale. And like I said earlier, he dominated the Tour out here.
TOM WATSON: I think it's nice to have him back, and you look right down the list and there's -- the other night at the Pro Am party we were talking about the number of wins out of this field. There's almost 900 Tour wins and almost 900 Champion Tour wins. There's close to 100 major wins on each tour. That's pretty amazing. You look at the number of guys who have won multiple majors in this field versus the number of guys who have won multiple majors in Wachovia next week, it'll be ten times as many here than there. That's a pretty neat history. It's good for our business.

Q. Guys talked about it earlier this week in the Demaret division. Scores went really low. We're expecting the same thing this weekend. How nice is it knowing you're coming to a course where you can lay back and there's going to be some low scores? That's what the fans really like. They like seeing the birdies, the eagles. There was an albatross the other day, Geiberger had one. What's it like knowing you're coming to a course that has those type possibilities out there?
ANDY NORTH: Going low is what we're trying to do, and we're trying to get just little runs here and little runs there and put them together, ham-and-egg it, and that's what, you know, the people like to see birdies. And this course has deep rough, so you better drive the ball straight. It's no simple golf course. You add some of the coastal winds here, and it's kind of hard to put the ball in the fairway sometimes out there.
TOM WATSON: Greens are very firm this year.
ANDY NORTH: Greens are very hard this year. I suspect the scores will be going up a little bit this year because of the firmness of the greens and the deepness of the rough.

Q. Tom, obviously you're in the British. You're in the U.S. Open. You had a pretty good week at Augusta. Are you going to play at Greenbriar, Tour event there?
TOM WATSON: No, I'm not. There's one event out here that I can't miss, and guess which event that is and guess when it's played.

Q. That's gotta be Kansas City somewhere.
TOM WATSON: No. No. It's the U. S. Senior Open, and it's played out at the Greenbriar Classic, and when they played the announcement. I was there when they made the announcement at the Greenbriar Classic, and I was very apologetic to Jim. And I said, you know, Jim, there's only one event I gotta play out here, and that's our U.S. Senior Open; and it's the same week.

Q. And is there any particular reason you can pinpoint, starting back at last year's British to how well you played in Augusta, is there anything you're doing better in this little resurgence?
TOM WATSON: No. No. What happened at the British Open, last year going into it, I wasn't putting very well, and then I got an adjustment with my putter and everything went in. Tuesday and Wednesday practice round I was ready. It was a course in which I could play. I mean I could compete on that golf course, albeit I hit 25 hybrid 2-irons on that golf course over the period of a week. I counted them up. Hit it 25 times. Wasn't short, that golf course. Didn't play short. But I still felt I could compete on that.
It's basically all it has to do with how well I putt and if I don't make too many mistakes with the putter, and that's kind of why I guess I'm here.

Q. And just one more thing. You were eligible to compete The Players Championship. How much thought did you give to -- I know you're not going to go there.
TOM WATSON: About a second.

Q. Is that all?
TOM WATSON: About a second. Yeah. No, Jack Nicklaus said about Augusta, "that's a young man's golf course." They've lengthened it too much. I remember playing the golf course, but that's where I want it to stay, in my memories.

Q. You say you wouldn't be surprised to see scores go up this year. Given some of the numbers Fred Couples has put up on some other golf courses, you guys were the last ones to shoot 59 here, do you still think 59 or something in the 50s is reachable?
TOM WATSON: Oh, sure. Yeah. Darn right. You got people -- you got golfers who can flat get it out here and they can put the low numbers up.
The golf course, if we don't get a lot of wind. If we get some wind, it's a tough golf course and you're not going to see the 59. If we get a calm day, you're going to see some low scores.
ANDY NORTH: Freddy realistically had a great chance to win the Masters with nine holes to go. Other than the poor shot he hit at 12, he played beautifully and people think just because you're 50 doesn't mean you can't hit it very far. Go watch Freddy play a little bit. He's hitting it 8 miles right now. I guarantee he's hitting it as far now as he ever has.
TOM WATSON: I'm envious. Playing with him in the Skins game and then again at Hualalai, Mitsubishi, he was outdriving me 40 yards easy.

Q. Guys, the golf is great to watch. One of the fun things, too, is hearing the stories about your careers and everything else. Are there certain moments, one moment in particular, anything through all the golf you've played that stands out as your most favorite, biggest moment you've ever had in professional golf?
ANDY NORTH: Man, that's hard to answer. All the kids would tell you we haven't had it yet. But maybe we have. (Laughs). Yeah. I don't know. We're just all very fortunate to have been able to do something we've loved to do for 50 years now. It's nice to be able to come out here and have a chance to compete, and stories are stories. We're still trying to figure out how to play well this week, so we'll see what happens.
TOM WATSON: Let me answer that question by asking a question. Is it any better to be able to play a game for a living and make some money at it? We're playing a game, and we've shown we've been pretty good at it, but we get paid to do it, being paid to play a game. How about being paid to play World Warcraft for these kids.
No, it's just -- we're playing a game, and yeah, we do get upset with ourselves, make fools of ourselves sometimes, but all in all the game's a great game that we play. It's got a lot of class and it's a game that it teaches you a lot of things about yourself.

Q. Gentlemen, Ken Green was in here yesterday to kind of share his story and what he's gone through. He's back out here now. Have you had a chance to see him out here and what do you think it means to him and his recovery to be out here playing again and among his colleagues?
TOM WATSON: Well, first of all, you know, what Ken's gone through has been unbelievable, the fact that he can come out here and have a chance to compete again I think is really cool. I would think that, you know, without having talked to him in depth about this, I would suspect that he's pretty excited about being here this week.
I would think he's pretty excited about seeing a lot of guys he hasn't seen for a while, and I think that's the beauty of this event is that, you know, you're here. You get a chance to compete. Maybe it's your only time of the year, in my case, once or twice a year, it is really neat to see people, and getting out on the boat and going across, you see more players this week on that boat trip than you do the rest of the year combined. And you talk to more, because even if you're a great friend of somebody, depending on the pairings and stuff, you may not see a person that entire week.
So I would think that he's pretty darn fired up. I would suspect he's going to be pretty nervous come tomorrow morning, and the fact that he and Mike Reid are going out there. They're good friends. They've done this before, this is pretty special.

Q. This is for Andy. Couple of questions. Gary asked Tom about his resurgence. Is Tom just a freak of nature? I mean that in the best sense. How do you explain it?
ANDY NORTH: Well, there's a couple of things that I think I know this guy well enough to say, the fact that the new hip has had a big -- you know, and whenever you have an operation, you think you're feeling pretty -- you know, like gees, there's no pain, it's not bad two months, three months afterwards. It takes a long time, and I think by mid summer last year he'll tell you it was feeling a whole lot better than it was in March or February.
And it's enabled him to swing the club freely again, which he -- you know, he'll tell you that it didn't bother him at all, but it did. And the fact that there's no more competitive of a person. You look into his eyes when you ask him some of these questions, he's ready to go get it, which is fun.
I think I'm reasonably competitive in different ways. And to have a partner that you know is going to be there fighting his guts out for you every single hole is pretty special, and what he's been able to do physically, Tom is as strong as he's been over the last 20 or 30 years. He's able to swing the club as well or better now than he did 25, 30 years ago.
I tell a lot of the younger guys, if this guy would have hit the ball in his late 20s and early 30s like he has in his 50s, he'd have won 20 tournaments a year. Guys say, ah, come on. Trust me. He'd have set records that Tiger Woods and them would have never seen. It would've been nice if he could have figured out what he wanted to do with his golf swing at 30 instead of 45. But at least he figured it out. Most of us never figure it out.
But freak of nature. I mean Tom's physical nature is a lot like Sam Snead. He's got great flexibility still. He's got great strength, and I wouldn't be surprised if he still plays terrific golf another five or six years.

Q. Would you handicap a field in the Legends division? Who are some teams you're watching?
ANDY NORTH: I think if you go through the list, there are some incredible teams this year. Obviously the defending champions, Langer and Lehman. Of course, you got Freddy and Jay. And those have to be your top two picks. I think there's 10 or 15 teams that could win.
And the quality of play that some of these guys are continuing is pretty remarkable, and in a team thing, you know, you get it going pretty well or one guy gets it going and it's amazing. You can run off a streak of 8, 9, 10 birdies in a row or you can run off 7 or 8 pars in a row and still hit pretty decent shots. You just don't make a putt here or putt there. It's such a fine line between really shooting a good score, the 61s and 2s and a 66 here. It's a little bit of luck and holing a putt at the right time. I think half the field in our division has a really good opportunity to win.

Q. Tom, did you get a sense in Hawaii playing with Freddy in that first event that he's really embraced the saying that he's going to do what he's done in the last couple of months out on this tour?
TOM WATSON: I felt that Freddy because of his length was going to have the chance of running the tables, and he's done it. And you know, the other thing is the four-footers are going in, as he admits. When those four-footers go in, life is easy. Life is good.
ANDY NORTH: Freddy actually mentioned after that week that he hasn't figured out how much he wanted to play. And he had so much fun seeing guys that he had played against for 20 years that, you know, he'd go in the practice round and laugh. It wasn't all just three teachers and people telling him what to do. It was guys going out and having some fun playing.
And he went to dinner with people. He had such a ball that I think that really changed his attitude about how much he's going to play out here, which is great for us.

Q. Speaking to that, as well as he's played this year on both tours, I mean what do you think the transition is like for somebody hitting the ball as well as he is to say, okay, I'm going to be out here on the Champions Tour?
TOM WATSON: There's no transition. He's come out on our Tour and he's dominated our Tour and he's played well on the other Tour. If you're playing well, you're playing well. It doesn't matter where you're playing, if you're playing in competition.
That's what I've said about the reason I'm still out here and have done well in some of the kids' major championships is that I still have the ability, the opportunity to compete. If I didn't have the -- 38 years ago or whatever, in 1978 when the kids -- we only had the kids Tour and the Champions Tour or the Senior Tour just started, you had no recourse after you -- if you couldn't get it, you had to do something else. There was no competition for you.
But now, with our Champions Tour I've got competition. I can stay sharp playing the competition. And that's all it takes. And Freddy will be -- he'll be going back and forth, and you never want that feeling making those four-footers ever to run out. You don't even want to talk about it. It's just working. Stay away from it. It's working. And you'll be successful as long as it stays working.
ANDY NORTH: It's just shooting numbers. It's shooting scores. If you can go shoot a score, it doesn't matter who you're playing against. You don't have to arm wrestle. You don't have to run them in a sprint. It's can you figure out how to shoot a 68 or 69.

Q. Golf has this unique aspect with a bond between a father and son in the sense that both of you can get inside the ropes, you and Michael, Kenny and his son, Perry have done that. And then you even have the competitive aspect of Bobby and David Duval won on the same day. And now this years Players Championship Jay and Bill are going to play as father-son in that. You see examples in other sports like Ken Griffey and his dad played in the same game, and he even got a homerun, but that's really kind of scattered. In golf the situations are really multiple. Is it one more neat aspect of golf, that father-son bond, not only can you teach your kid the game, but you can wake up one day and you're competing against him in the same tournament or he's caddying for you?
TOM WATSON: You're competing against your dad. I did that when I was a kid. I'll never forget the day I first beat him. And that was a pretty special day. But I -- having my son caddy for me is a little bit different in my situation. I think it inspired me to do well at the Masters. I know it did.
To have him inside the ropes, and I wanted to show him that the old man could still get it. And he just gave me just a little bit of a boost. He said, "come on, dad. Show me you can still play this golf course." So that's what I tried to do, and it was a special bond.

Q. And different types of father-son bonds in golf. It's something that's always going to be there in the sport.
TOM WATSON: Well, that's the way golf is taught these days, and it's been taught these days that way for a long time. Most of the players on the Tour have been taught by their fathers. That's the first teacher, their father started them in the game. It wasn't a friend. It wasn't a golf professional somewhere. It was their dads. They took them out, they said, all right. Let's go. Here's your club and see if you can hit it.
My dad was a great player, a good amateur player, even a great player, scratch handicap. He loved the game. And he taught me how to put the hands on it properly, taught me how to stand up on it, held my head, he said, swing, keep your head still.
Sort of like Jack Grout with Jack Nicklaus. You've seen that picture of Jack with Jack Nicklaus. That's what he did. He held his head like this, all right, keep it still.
Then after I kept my head still, he said, all right. Here's how you hook it, here's how you slice it. Hook it, you pull that right foot back and you go like this; you slice it, you open your stance up there and take it on the outside, hold on with last three fingers of your left hand and you can slice it. He taught me that at six. That was fun. But I had a dad that knew how to play.
I suggest people who don't who have kids who are not very good players themselves. Dads are good for going out and getting kids interested because of the bond, but gotta have somebody in there that can really swing the golf club because kids with really mimic. They can look at a swing and they can mimic that swing. If you have a lousy swing, you say now don't swing like me, son. Swing like this guy. When they still can listen to you.
ANDY NORTH: That's a whole 'nother story.

Q. Tom, I was just going to ask you to elaborate on something you mentioned earlier. Why did you think that Fred's advantage in length would be such an advantage out here where it hasn't always translated on the other Tour, the kids Tour as you say?
TOM WATSON: Well, because there's so many other players on the kids Tour that hit the ball as far as Fred.

Q. Well, I don't mean necessarily for him. I mean over the years the longest guys haven't necessarily dominated.
TOM WATSON: Well, you have to have the full package. There's not a question you have to have the full package, but length is -- if you ask any golfer on our Tour what they would like, I'd say 90 percent of them would say I'd like to hit the ball longer.
DAVE SENKO: Any more questions? Okay. Thanks, appreciate it.

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