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May 18, 2010

Tom Watson


JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Tom Watson to the 2010 HP Byron Nelson. Mr. Watson is an honored guest of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas and will be receiving the Byron Nelson Prize today at the opening ceremony. He joins Tom Lehman, Ken Venturi and Arnold Palmer. First of all. Welcome back to the HP Byron Nelson, and secondly, let's get some thoughts on your name being added to a prize that is named after one of your heroes.
TOM WATSON: You're right. Being one of the great players, my dad talked about Hogan, Sneed, and Byron Nelson, and oh by the way, he won 18 tournaments in one year, so I learned history from my father and Byron was part of that history.
And having the opportunity to become a friend, stay at his house and learn something about my golf swing from him but more importantly about how to be as a person, that's what I'm very grateful for, and I got in the right profession, I guess, because I had a chance to meet up with one of the greats who was greater off the golf course than he was on.
JOHN BUSH: The Salesmanship Club of Dallas is making a $100,000, contribution to the three charities that you've chosen: Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics, the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research, and also the First Tee Scholarship Program of Greater Kansas City, three programs that are near and dear to your heart.
TOM WATSON: As the Salesmanship Club does for its community and its young people who need a hand up, you need to help those who can't help themselves, and one of the things I was involved with earlier on in Kansas City was Children's Mercy Hospitals. They take any child whether they can pay for it or not into their hospital and treat them.
The other is the First Tee of Greater Kansas City. You have a First Tee here in Dallas. We have a very good program in Kansas City. I'm part of the organizers and the runnings of the whole operation, and it's something -- we service about 2500 kids over the period of a year. It gets kids involved in the game and in the nine core values. It's very important.
Lastly, the other thing near and dear to my heart is trying to find a cure for ALS which killed my caddy, Bruce Edwards. He was a good friend; I learned a lot from Bruce, and he passed away early in life because of this disease where there is still no cure. I was just with people yesterday, ironically it was a man from Kansas City, he's in his early 50s, his name is Bruce Edwards.
JOHN BUSH: Specifically about this tournament, Tom, just a phenomenal record, 28 starts, you finished in the top-10 in half of those, four wins. Talk about your recollections of playing here.
TOM WATSON: Well, I had a good guy over my shoulder looking at me and hoping that I was going to do well here in the name of Lord Byron Nelson. I think it gave me a psychological advantage stepping up to the tee with the rest of the players, "There's Watson and Byron. We've got to beat both of them this week." So I had a great run there in the 70s here at the Byron Nelson Classic, playing at Preston Trails. I always look forward to coming down here to play and be with Byron.
One of my favorite times was doing a junior clinic with Byron, at Preston Trails before we left there to come over here, and I had a bunch of kids out there, and I wasn't particularly hitting the ball that well but I got to the point where I was hitting my driver and Byron was in the back and kids were in the front and I said, "Kids, I'm going to give you a great treat right now. I'm going to introduce the man whose name this tournament is about, and his name is Byron Nelson. Byron, would you come up here?"
And I introduced him, and I said "Byron, I'm putting you on the spot. Anybody can hit the ball off a tee, right, kids?" And they said "Yeah, anybody can hit off a tee."
"I'm going to ask Byron to hit a driver off the ground." I knew he was one of the best at that. I said, "I'm going to give you three golf balls. You're going to hit a hook, a slice and a straight ball," and he took my driver, you know, he didn't have his golf shoes on, he got out there and I said, "All right, first one, a little bit of a draw," so he hit this draw right off the deck. Next one, a little fade like this off the deck, then, okay, a straight one.
I said, "Byron, this is easy for you because no one hit the ball as straight as you do," and he pipelined it, and he had a sheep issue grin on his face and he said, "What do you think about that, Watson?" And I said, "There you go, kids, never see anything better than that."
That reminds me of what Jack Nicholas said about Byron. He watched a clinic given by Byron Nelson back in the 60s or maybe late 50s, and he said he watched his clinic and to this day when Jack was telling me this story he said he never saw a man hit the ball so straight. He said there was the caddy out there shagging balls, back in the days when you did shag balls, and he was at the end of the driving range there, and he said that this caddy just didn't move.
Byron was hitting 1-irons, drivers, and one hop, hit, one hop, hit, like this. He shook his head and he said there was nobody he saw hit the ball better than that.

Q. You were going for four straight here. What do you remember about the final holes of that tournament and then the last hole and how that ended?
TOM WATSON: I remember I had the duck hooks. It was all smoke and mirrors. I was hitting the ball right to left and there were -- I 3-putted the playoff hole with Bruce Lietzke to lose to him, but I was happy to be in the playoff there.
I do remember struggling during that tournament but still somehow got the job done.

Q. Obviously your performances at the British Open and the Masters were incredible. I would assume quite a few players your age when they get into those tournaments they're just hoping that they don't embarrass themselves, all right? But you get out there and you're a force. What gave you the belief that at your age you could go out there and not just compete but come really close to winning?
TOM WATSON: First of all, I can play the golf course. It wasn't too long, Turnberry we're talking about. Number two, I was playing well, going into it not putting well. Tuesday's practice round turned it around, I made an adjustment in my putting stroke and I started making everything. Now I'm playing well and making everything and playing on a golf course in which I could compete.
And by the way, this is the sixth time I played this in the Major Championship and the rest of the kids this is their first time, and there are holes in that golf course, 8, 15 and 16, that if you didn't have knowledge about the wind you were going to make bogeys, and I took advantage of that.

Q. Tom, do the fellows today on TOUR, do you think they know the significance of Byron's accomplishments and what he did?
TOM WATSON: I don't know about them, but I certainly do. And I was taught that as a kid and, you know, again, do people recognize the significance of World War II? Do they understand that? I'm sure certain numbers of them do, but certainly probably -- it's too far removed from the history, and the same thing with anybody, really.
One of the things we do here at the Byron Nelson, we try to pass down his legacy, what he did. And it's simple to say Byron Nelson, winner of 11 straight tournaments, and 18 tournaments in one year to get the attention of anybody, including the kids who have never read any history on golf at all.
11 tournaments in a row gets their attention.

Q. What's your plans for the rest of this season? Obviously you're going to be at Pebble Beach.
TOM WATSON: My plans for the rest of the year -- next six tournaments are all majors. Senior PGA, U.S. Open, British Open, British Senior Open, U. S. Senior Open and the Tradition, all majors. What are you doing for the rest of the summer? I'm playing six majors in a row.

Q. Did you think you would ever have a chance to say that?
TOM WATSON: No, no. Let's see, I think that's the most I've ever played in a row.

Q. Tom, can you talk about -- I saw the Open guys changed their qualification criteria based on your play last year which allows you to play the event a few more years. Talk about what that means to you.
TOM WATSON: They changed the exemption policy for old guys like me, for past champions who ended up finishing in the top 10 or better, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be able to play further on into my life. I just hope that my body and my golf game continues to be good.
I will not tee it up if I can't compete. I'm not going to -- I remember Bobby Lock in 1976, I had a chance to meet him on the practice tee and it was well beyond his years, it seemed like. But with interest I was watching him. He didn't fair too poorly, but I don't want to go out like that. I want to -- when I shot 83 at Augusta last year I was embarrassed. I don't want to go out like that.
JOHN BUSH: Mr. Watson thank you for spending time here.

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