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July 21, 2010

Tom Watson


STEVE TODD: Tom, many thanks for joining us. Special place for you no doubt. Obviously last year you came to Sunningdale on the back of a very special week at Turnberry, but also, you come here with some special memories of St. Andrews last week. I wonder if you could just start by reflecting on a special couple of days there.
TOM WATSON: St. Andrews was -- I would have liked to have made the cut. I never like missing the cut. It's just always a disappointment when you are putting your game to the test and you don't make the last 36 holes. It still eats at me and I still feel that way.
But beyond that, with that said, it was a special week in several different ways. First of all, my friends and family all came over, thinking it was going to be my last Open Championship. They made bookings the previous year, and this was before I got the exemption to continue on in the Open. We had 20 to 30 people that were there. It was a hectic week, let's put it that way.
And to add to that, we had a nice ceremony and a very nice thing that the town of St. Andrews town gave me was the Doctorate of Law at St. Andrews, that was a special honour, with my idol, Arnold Palmer.
When I grew up, it was Arnold who was my hero and Jack was the villain. I said that in my words afterwards. I said, "You know, one of the reasons I probably beat Jack so many times is that he beat you." I had a wonderful time playing the golf course, except for the fact I didn't play very well. I still was fooled a couple of times on the golf course with the wind the way blew, and that's St. Andrews for you; at times you just get fooled still.
It was a pretty magical moment there at the end of the evening on Friday. It was getting dark and I hit my last drive on the 18th. The clubhouse is all lit up. It's pretty dark; lit up, and the sky behind it was beautiful, almost a turquoise blue with orange clouds in it. It was really a beautiful backdrop, and having the chance to say good-bye to the Old Course in an Open Championship, not necessarily my last competitive round on there since we are going to the Old Course in a few years for the Senior Open Championship. But for the kids' Open Championship, it was a wonderful moment there.
So the week, as I said, I would have liked to have made the cut, but the honours that I had and that I received for the week were an honour to basically play the golf course one more time in an Open Championship. That's a wonderful memory.
STEVE TODD: Just looking ahead to this week, 1975 was your first Open Championship here at Carnoustie.
TOM WATSON: I have some great memories here. It's funny how the memories, they are a little bit clearer 35 years ago than they are last week, or yesterday or 20 minutes ago.
But I remember so many things about coming up to Carnoustie. I made mention many times that we were not allowed to play the golf course the day we got up here; it was before the qualifiers. So we went down the road to Monifieth, played Monifieth Golf Club. And the first tee shot I hit there, couldn't find. I hit it right down the middle of the fairway. And looked for it and looked for it and couldn't find it. So I dropped one, hit to the green, John Mahaffey and Hubert Green were playing with me and they walked on. So I go ahead, it's got to be here somewhere walked 60 yard to the left over here, a little swale, just barely in the rough. There's a little bunker, it's about this big and my ball was in that bunker, and that was my first links shot, and I didn't particularly care for that, because I thought I hit it down the middle of the fairway and here it is, it ends up dead.
And then playing the Championship was pretty much like yesterday, and the first three rounds were windless, didn't have any wind at all and the last round turned windy. I had a special event happen to me, going to the first tee, I saw Byron Nelson and Chris Schenkel both doing ABC television, and I stopped by, because I had some time to kill. I practised over at Monifieth and came over to the course here and didn't practise here.
So I had time to kill, and I was nervous. I was, I don't know, three or four shots behind. I asked Byron, "Byron, do you have any advice for me?" Just flat out asked him for advice.
He said, "Tom, if you shoot even par today, you'll be right there. That will win the tournament today." He had a number in mind, because the wind had started blowing and was blowing -- it was blowing from the north -- sorry. Blowing there the south. The wind was due south. Made the 18th hole play downwind, just straight downwind, and he was right. The golf course played tough.
I still didn't par No. 16. I bogeyed that every day in five rounds. But I did finish with a birdie at 18, knowing that if I got to that score -- I think I was 9-under par, something like that, for the tournament, that might be good enough to tie. And it was. And I ended up with a playoff with Jack Newton.
And the wind changed 180 degrees the next day. It was from the north. And the last hole played a driver and a 2-iron in the playoff round. They were busy taking down the stands. It was raining and not too many people are out there following, but it was a special day. I remember chipping in at the 14th hole for eagle, we draw back to even, and the last hole, knocking the ball on the to it green with a 2-iron, previous day I hit 9-iron down there, and Sunday, the playoff day, I hit a 2-iron.
I was Open Champion, kind of unexpected, but I was playing pretty well and I had kind of found it practising the week before the tournament started, I started hitting the ball pretty straight and there was no rough in the golf course and the key here was just to keep it out of the bunkers.
My game plan was to keep it out of the bunkers and still is the game plan. It's a good fader's golf course I think, overall. I think overall, if you hit the ball left-to-right, it fits that with the -- for under general, just gentle conditions it fits a fader better than a guy who hooks the ball.

Q. After missing the cut, you come in here; how is the game, and are you ready to take revenge on these people for last week? You won the British Open 2005, the seniors?

Q. So you've been here before?
TOM WATSON: I've been here before. I've practised today and I don't know how my game is right now. I feel like I'm driving the ball well. My iron game is not right there, and I'm trying something a little bit different with my putting, and I hope that works. I hope that works when the heat turns on tomorrow. That's the status of my game.

Q. How did the course change or has it changed much since '75?
TOM WATSON: It really has. Length has been added to this golf course. I was really kind of surprised how long they have it set up as far as the maximum length they will go back on the tees. With the MasterCard standards at the backs of the tees, they won't go back any farther -- they won't go back on 18, of course, but they have them pretty far back in certain holes. Maybe I'm just complaining a little bit, but I think it's a little bit long for the old folks. (Laughter).

Q. Talking about the challenge of the 18th, the 18th at St. Andrews seemed to play particularly easy last week and some people think it's too easy. Do you feel that way, that the 18th has been outdated at St. Andrews now?
TOM WATSON: I don't think so. I think it's the charm of the golf course. St. Andrews, the Old Course, starts you off with a handshake on No. 1; yes, you have to carry the burn, and it finishes with a handshake, but that's just after playing 17. You need to average out a couple of holes there, and as 17 is so hard, 18 is as easy.

Q. Is that the same here, 12 and 14 play as easy par 5s, for what's to come, 15, 16, 17, 18?
TOM WATSON: That's right. 12, the way it's playing right now, it's playing as a par 4 here. And they have the tee back, as I was saying, it's 479 yards into the wind yesterday, and I hit a really good drive there. I did hit a 4-iron, but if the wind comes up anymore, I'm back there trying to fit it into a real narrow fairway. You have to hit driver there.
You have those two bunkers to the right and there's 25 yards of fairway. But these are the narrowest fairways in open golf, without question. You have to really drive the ball well here.
The other thing about Carnoustie is that it forces you to play through the bunkers. You can't carry over the bunkers, you can't lay up short of the bunkers because your shots are too long into the greens. There are certain holes you do lay up. You'll see people laying up on the front nine, several holes. But there are a number of tee balls where you have to play through the bunkers. You have to play by them, and it's narrow.
That's what makes Carnoustie so difficult. If you can negotiate that, if you can do that for four rounds and get in very few bunkers, you'll do well here. I played it -- I was with an amateur this morning and I played eight out of my first nine balls here in the Pro-Am were in the bunkers.

Q. Do you remember if you hit in many in '75?
TOM WATSON: I think I avoided them pretty well. I think I got into the 9th bunker one time. I know that. I tell you a hard tee shot here is 15, the dogleg left. You get the bunkers to the right and if you catch it downwind, you've got the gorse through the fairway there, and the fairway bounces from left-to-right and you have the high shoulder here. You can avoid bunkers there, but still, it's a really, really critical tee ball here, probably the one tee ball I think of most here at Carnoustie is the 15th.
And 16, you just try and get it up-and-down, because I never hit that green.
17 forces the lay up, unless you're playing into the south wind. Again, I remember playing in the final round there, the one that Byron gave me the advice, playing 17 was a driver and a 3-wood to that hole. It was a strong wind, and I hit a 3-wood about five feet and then missed it.

Q. In terms of fondness, where does Carnoustie rate of all of those courses that are used in The Open rota?
TOM WATSON: It rates maybe the highest in difficulty. I've always enjoyed a difficult golf course, and testing -- driving the ball between bunkers, I like that test a lot. There's so much variety in this golf course as far as where they can put the flags on certain greens. They have some very flat greens, but the edges on some parts of the greens of the flat greens, they turn ugly. They turn like you don't want to be here, and you have the fifth green, which you've got the real flat front and then it goes up and it's just a real small shelf over that collection. That's a tough shot and especially playing into the wind like I was yesterday.

Q. I saw you the back of the 18th green Sunday, with Louis, was the Claret Jug handed to sort of a worthy champion do you think in Louis?
TOM WATSON: I was more than impressed with Oosthuizen. I only saw his swing for the first time on Saturday. That's the first time I saw his swing. First swing he made, I said, "That's really good. "
And then I saw shortly afterward about an hour later on ESPN where I was, working, I saw it in slow motion and I said, "This guy is really good." It's an economy of motion and he can turn it loose from the position he has at the backswing.
And then I watched it more and more, and I realise he hits a little bit Ernie Els in that follow-through in the finish of his hands in the follow through with Ernie. You know, he's learned from a great player. I tried to learn from watching the great players. Nicklaus, I copied my swing after Nicklaus, but I always seemed to swing better when I watched Sam Snead swing at the ball with his rhythm and his turn. You watch Ernie Els swing at the ball, it's the same thing. It should make you a better swinger, because it shows you the proper turn in there. Jack and I were up here, pulling down the well handle up here.
So I was very impressed with him. And the other thing is that I didn't see any fear. I didn't see any fear. You know, you can see fear in guys in their play. We all get nervous. But you didn't see any fear. And sometimes you can mask it. But maybe it was real, who knows, with this young man.
I like what Retief Goosen said. He said that he's a fine swinger of the golf club, but more importantly, he's got a man's head on his shoulders, which I think says -- I don't know him, but he looks like he's very well grounded.

Q. You referred to it as the "kids' Open Championship," you came close to winning it, Norman came close to winning it and last week four seniors made the cut; do you still hold firm to your belief that shortly somewhere down the road a senior could win a regular major, as it were?
TOM WATSON: I think so. It can happen. There's not a question that it can happen. We're still competitive. And I say, I give most of the credit to the fact that we still play competitive golf on the Champions Tour. If we didn't have the Champions Tour, there would be no way.

Q. The guys are still hungry?
TOM WATSON: Well, no, they still hone their games. They still have their games honed. They still keep it honed for competitive golf, and that's really important. In the old days, when you turn 50, there was no Senior Tour; what did you do? Hey, you went back and you got a job at a golf shop somewhere and continued on.
But you lost the competition. You didn't play the competition that you did before and that you need to play and to stay current, if you will, keep it honed down there to be able to play against the best.

Q. You last week was only the second time in 50 years that an American had not finished in the top six in an Open. Is that a testament to people like yourself; that there's been such a good record, or is that a reflection that American golf isn't quite so strong at the moment?
TOM WATSON: You can take any snapshot of any year of any tournament and you can add a question like that. Are Americans finished? No. Have the Americans over-dominated? No.
There's a time and place. To answer the question is impossible, but the fact of the matter is that right now there seems to be a predominance of European players winning golf tournaments in America; and how they did in The Open Championship, you have to go with trends. And the trend is that right now that the Europeans look like they are in a pretty good position in The Ryder Cup, especially playing a golf course that they know and the Americans don't.
Captain Pavin has his work cut out for him, but the most important thing is how are the players playing when they come into The Ryder Cup. If they are all playing well -- if our players are playing well and the Europeans aren't playing so well, we are going to win. But the course knowledge is to the advantage of The European Team.

Q. One thing you said was -- in answer to the other question, was about hunger, playing on The Seniors Tour. If the hunger isn't there, what is the main motivational driving force that creates that competition?
TOM WATSON: The love for the game and the love for competition. I play for the competition. I like to compete and beat people. That's what I like to do.
It just so that happens that I do it with sticks and balls, and I hope that I can do it again this week.
STEVE TODD: Thanks for your time.

End of FastScripts

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