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July 20, 2011

Tom Watson


STEVE TODD: Many thanks for joining us, a pleasure to have you join us here at the Senior Open. Last time at Sunningdale, you had just come from Turnberry and another impressive in The Open last week, if you can just reflect on last week.
TOM WATSON: Last weeks was, first of all, I love to watch great ball-striking, and Darren Clarke did it. Saturday was just a great, great performance. After I finished there, I did some TV for ESPN and saw the way he finished. It was just -- he never missed a shot coming in. I was hitting the ball kind of all over the place and just kind of smoke and mirrors getting the job done, and he made it look so easy.
Every now and then, I've had that type of play under tough conditions but I marvelled at it again to see how good people can play under the toughest conditions, and Darren did that. He deserved to win. He didn't look like he was ever going to lose the golf tournament the way he was striking the ball. It was a great performance.
My performance, again, it was sporadic. I didn't hit the ball all that great but I put it in places where for the most part I could advance it. That's the chore in links golf is don't put it in the bunkers, don't put in the heavy grass; and put it in places where you can advance it and put it places where you're not a terrible angle to get it on the green and that's kind of what I did.
I putted well. That's kind of a luxury for me to say that. I putted well, because I had not been able to say that in a long time. That's what gives me some excitement about coming here this week is the putter. The putter is working pretty well, and I kind of can't -- again, before, it was: Geez, here we go again on the greens and missing short putts and things. And last week under the conditions, I made a lot of good putts, good strokes, and that was -- I had to the been able to do that for a long, long time, and so maybe, I hope this is not just a blip on the radar screen. I hope this is something that will last for a long time.

Q. Do you think you've found something that you had not found for a long time?
TOM WATSON: Something that I had not thought of for a while that I had been doing, that I did when I putted my best. And even though I had tried doing what I was doing, I didn't make enough of a move in the stroke to make it happen. So now it's happening, and I got some confirmation last week that it's working.
STEVE TODD: If you can talk about Walton Heath, you played there in The Ryder Cup, a pretty important Ryder Cup, and your memories of that event.
TOM WATSON: Well, Walton Heath, we had a wonderful team in '81. It was -- we won very handily. Last time our team ever won handily, 1981 until now, The European Team has handled us very handily a couple of two or three different times.
But I do remember my partner there. I played with Jack I think three rounds out of four, or maybe two rounds out of four and we won both our matches. I lost my singles match to Howard Clark.
I do remember the first match I played with Jack. We played alternate-shot, I believe, or maybe it was the second, I can't remember which one it was. But I put him in the heather five times. And that's the key ingredient here of what you can't do: The key of what you can't do is drive it in the heather here. This is heathland; it's heather. The rough is very penal if you drive it in the rough, and you just can't do it and have success here.
But I put my partner in the rough, in the heather, five times that day, and he got the ball on to the green four out of the five times. The other time was just off the green where I made an easy chip for par. That's how great a player he was from the rough.
So I do remember, that probably first and foremost. And the golf course itself, it's a driver's golf course. You have to drive the ball straight to win here. There will be some -- the greens are pretty receptive as far as the softness with all the rain, certainly compared to last week when the greens are rock hard. The driving is probably the most critical thing playing Walton Heath. You have to keep it out of the heather and out of the bunkers.

Q. Inaudible.
TOM WATSON: Questions like, that ask me when it happens. It hadn't happened yesterday. My intention, if I play good enough golf where I can advance the ball almost every time with my putting and the way it is, the way I hope it remains, I should have a pretty good tournament. I'm driving the ball a little bit sporadically right now, but I worked on it on the practise range today and hit the ball pretty well on the practise range.
It's nice not having to practise with a 20-mile-an-hour crosswind, a left-to-right crosswind; it's nice to be able to do that. It's nice to be able to back to some calm conditions.

Q. You've won the Senior PGA in the same state as you've won the PGA before, can you do it in the same country?
TOM WATSON: No, it was not in the same state. That was smoke and mirrors there. I made some good putts coming in. I made, on the last nine, I made a good putt at the 14th, the par 3, and the 15th, the par 4, I made two good putts to get me back into it. Hale made a couple mistakes and then there I was with David Eger.

Q. Your thoughts on the field this week?
TOM WATSON: There are a lot of players that can play. You've got a number to a lot of these players, they can still get it and still play: Look at Tom Lehman last week in The Open Championship.
Look at Bernhard Langer; he's coming back from an injury. He's a great champion. He's the type of player that he never gives an inch. He's a tough, tough competitor. You have several players like that that can get the job done.
I like -- there are a lot of people who can hit the ball straight enough to win this golf tournament, and I hope I'm one of them.

Q. Players that have won on the U.S. Champions Tour --
TOM WATSON: So what are you talking about, I'm old? (Laughter).

Q. Do the younger players have an advantage?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, sure they do. They have an advantage from a links standpoint. Length, I don't think length has that big a deal here. I think your accuracy is more important than length this week. The greens are going to be receptive and you'll be able to get the ball to stop on the greens. The key is to put the ball in the fairway and not in the bunkers. That's the No. 1 priority this week.

Q. What special memories do you have here?
TOM WATSON: Special memories, I remember playing with Jack here as a partner and having the thrill of winning a Ryder Cup here, from a Walton Heath standpoint.
The Senior Open Championships, I've had great memories playing Royal Aberdeen. I remember those four days there, in a high of 55 and wind is blowing 25 every day, and from the North Sea. It was tough; a tough golf course.
At Turnberry winning again, he should have won the golf tournament, Carl Mason there.
At Muirfield, I remember coming to the last hole and driving it in that bunker and making it very difficult. I shouldn't have made it that difficult.
But a lot of good memories here and hope to make some more.

Q. What were your thoughts on McIlroy after his round, what he said?
TOM WATSON: He sounded like I did. Honestly. He sounded like I did when I was his age playing links golf. I did not like links golf. I did not like the bounce. I did not like the firmness of the greens, and the wind so much, and I didn't like the uncertainty.
That's the thing about links golf; it's the uncertainty. I was an American player. I played through the air. When I hit a shot the way I thought it should go, it should stop. In American golf, it stops where you want it. Links golf, it doesn't stop where you want it. You've got to learn to deal with that.
And I didn't like that. I did not like that at all. So I have a certain amount of empathy for Rory. He'll change. He'll get to a point where he'll understand the difficulties in the way that you have to manage yourself on links golf courses. He grew up around links golf courses, but conditions were very tough and when you're not really on with your game, it certainly exposes your weaknesses.

Q. How many times did you it take you before you learned to like links golf courses --
TOM WATSON: Four. Just so happened I won two of them.

Q. Inaudible?
TOM WATSON: I don't know what he said -- I just know what he said was that he was looking forward to getting back to some calmer conditions. And when you're on the practise range there, I made reference to the practise range. You're practising at the practise range with a 20-mile-an-hour crosswind. You can't do anything with your golf game with that. You can practise that one shot.
But that's -- what happens when it's blowing 20 miles an hour from the other direction, you can't really practise that shot. So what I'm saying, to really get your game in shape, it's hard to do that with that type of practising.

Q. Inaudible.
TOM WATSON: I can't respond to that. As I said, I can empathise with his dislike of links golf because that's the way I felt when I first played it, and there are a lot of players like that.
Bobby Jones said he did not like St. Andrews when he first saw St. Andrews. Didn't like it at all. Didn't like the way it played. It takes American golfers awhile to adjust to links golf, or any golfer who has not played links golf. There are very few true links golf courses in this world, and it just happens that The Open Championship is played on one every year. And once you play year-in and year-out, you finally kind of get with it and you say, well, yeah, this is the way you play the game over here.

Q. Inaudible.
TOM WATSON: Yes, we were. We were playing with fescues trying to get it to play firm. Didn't like the look of it. They couldn't grow it. So therefore, they went back to the soft conditions. We prepared the golf courses for that with the decomposed granite under subsurface in the sand and it would be prepared for it, but we didn't like the look of it.
See I didn't like the look of it. Sandwich had the dry spell; it was sparser, it had weeds growing up, all kind of different things, just rough areas where the grass didn't grow. It's hard to grow grass on that type of sand, it's very hard to do and when it gets stretched out, it takes a long time for it to come back. In the spring, you had nothing but hot weather and dry spells, nothing, and the golf course looked it. And if you took a typical American looking at it, this is not very pretty, this is kind of scruffy, and I don't -- that's the game. That's what links golf is all about.

Q. Inaudible.
TOM WATSON: Carpets, exactly. You can do more to hone your game playing on carpets. You're hitting with no wind. You can hone your game better than the hard, firm conditions that you have here, because you have to. You have to play the bounce in here.
I was playing with Henrik Stenson in the first two rounds on Friday, the third hole, par 5, I hit it down the fairway. He hits, I thought a good drive, it ended up in the rough to the left. And he had to hit before me. I hit a 5-iron on the green from 238 yards, and he's over there and he walks over, he hits a shot way up and knocks it five feet from the hole. He gets on to the green and kind of shakes his head and says, how do you judge a 242-yard 8-iron?
Again, it gets back to, you have to play it, and you have to understand that links golf is different than all other golf we play. And some people just never like it. I know some players who just, "I don't like links golf."

Q. Are you coming in here with --
TOM WATSON: I only played it once in Pacific Dunes (ph) and the conditions were firm, and that's what I liked, yeah. It had that feel to it and I think you could consider that a links golf course, yes, I can. Again, you look at the true links, there's less than 250 of them in the world.

Q. (Inaudible.).
TOM WATSON: It's got a great finish to it. From 13, 14, 15 and 16, those are good par 4s. You've got to play those par 4s well. And on 18, you've got some issues with the bunkers and the heather at 18, even though it plays short. 17, you have to be careful there. You have to be careful, the ball can get through the green very easy on 17.
Some of the thoughts I had playing in Ryder Cup in '81 have started to come back. Honestly, I didn't remember much of the golf course on Monday when I first played it, but they are slowly seeping through this mush in here: Oh, I remember -- yeah, I remember; yeah, I remember; they are starting to come back. It's good that it is.

Q. Inaudible.
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I do. I took the day off today, just hit some balls and practised my short game a little bit today, a day off links. But I played a practise round on Monday and played in the Pro-Am yesterday. I feel as if I've got a pretty good handle on the golf course.
The golf course is pretty straightforward as far as knowing what to do. The bunkers and the heather are right there in front of you. They say, come here, come here? You say no -- yeah, that's right, exactly. The sirens of Walton Heath.
STEVE TODD: Thank you very much.

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