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July 26, 2011

Tom Watson


JOHN BUSH: We welcome Tom Watson into the interview room here at the Greenbrier Classic. Tom, a place that you first saw in 1979, The Ryder Cup matches.
TOM WATSON: You know my history. You know, the Greenbrier is always to me, when I first saw it in 1979, I just like the way people treated you here. It was just a great place to come. The food was great and I was here to play in The Ryder Cup, my wife was expecting a baby, and she had the baby, my daughter, Meg, that week, and I left to be with her that week.
The team did very well without me. Larry Nelson in particular beat Seve five times: He was 5-0, and Seve was 0-5 but that was the last time Seve ever was beaten that badly. But that was how good Larry Nelson was at that time.
But after that, after The Ryder Cup and seeing it for the first time, I started bringing my sponsors down, people from Ram Golf, people that had sponsored me on the TOUR to play a couple days of friendly golf around here and I've done that every year since 1980. I played in some of the CSX outings that he had, the CSX Challenge they had for many years, when they owned the Greenbrier. Always played in rain it seemed like, first of June.
But I was asked to be the pro emeritus after Sam died. I said, well, I can't fill Sam's shoes, nobody can the way he swung the golf club and the number of stories he had. They were above board or below board stories, but Sam was just an I con. He's an icon to my dad, and when I grew up, my dad just thought that that was the swing to emulate. I never had a swing like Sam Snead but I always watched Sam practice when I had a chance on the TOUR.
Coming to the Greenbrier this year, I didn't play in the first Greenbrier Classic last year, because it conflicted with the U.S. Senior Open, as it does this year. I was conflicted again about coming here, and Jim gave me a call earlier in the year and asked if I would play and I said, "Sure, Jim. It's not a question I'll play. Without batting an eye."
And to his credit, after I won the Senior PGA, one of our majors on the Tour, Jim called me and said, "I don't want to put any pressure on you to play. If you want to play in the U.S. Senior Open, I know how much it means to you to play in that."
Very simply I said, "Jim, I made a commitment to you and I'm sticking to it so here I am."
JOHN BUSH: I enter in fine form, T-22 at the British Open and three last week at the Senior British. Talk about your experience over there.
TOM WATSON: It's a little cooler over there. A little rainier. And the wind really blue like hell, it really did. It was a tough two weeks to play, except for the last day at Walton Heath, we had a wonderful day on Sunday. One day out of 16 days ain't bad.

Q. What did you think of the renovations?
TOM WATSON: First, there's not going to be any 59s shot. The reason, I said at the press conference about a month ago, I went out and saw the greens, and the greens are a lot firmer. They are like this (knocking on wood table). The ball is not going to stop. It's going to take a lot of skill to get the ball close to the flag positions on these greens. It's like playing the links greens where they really are hard and they release. The ball really releases, with every club in your bag. It's going to be a tough go this year with getting your eyes close to the hole.
Last year, it was like shooting darts, throwing darts. Ball just hit, with every club in the bag, like this (indicating ball sticking).
They added tees, and I'm tired of playing these 500-yard par 4s. We don't have that on the Champions Tour. When you get -- when I get playing out of here with the kids, go up to see the sign on the tee: 495, 512, 500, and I said, okay, we are looking for the senior tees up there somewhere. They don't have them it. But we'll manage some way. The difficulty in this golf course for a guy like me is that the fairways are really soft. They are not running. And the greens or really hard and you have a big difference in transition to land the ball on the front edge and really release.
So I have to be very precise in my yardage this week and hit the ball the right distance.

Q. With the greens in the shape that they are in, being really hard, is pin placement going to be a big deal in the tournament?
TOM WATSON: Yes, where they put the flags, you'll not be able to fire at the flags. On the right side there, you might be able to. But old guys like me, I'm going to have to play a little bit farther left of that and try to land the ball shorter and let it roll up pin-high, take my chances with a 15- to 20-footer.

Q. Is there anyone that you see in the field that would favor them?
TOM WATSON: I like a high-ball hitter who hits it high. And that's going to be -- you look at Mickelson. He puts it straight up in the air. He can spin the ball. So you've got a guy like him that can stop the ball on the green.

Q. Was talking to some golfers earlier, about Tiger is not here, how much do you think his absence has hurt, or has it hurt golf, him not being back and playing at the level he's played at?
TOM WATSON: I think it's hurt the game because you had a lot of people with great expectations and now since he's not playing, there are people who don't tune in because Woods is not playing.

Q. Another good week for amateurs last week, playing with these kids, do you see something different from when you were an amateur?
TOM WATSON: An amateur won the Nationwide Tour event, right? Finish third and ninth.

Q. Is there something different between amateurs nowadays than when you were competing?
TOM WATSON: No, the Amateurs of today are pros. They are not amateurs. They are pros. They play a lot of competition, and they have the trainers like the pros do. They have the coaches like the pros do. They have the video equipment like the pros do. What do you call them Ainos, amateur in name only, I guess.
When I played in college golf, we had, let's see, how many tournaments did we play at Stanford? We only played in the spring quarter, and we played high schools, we played junior colleges, and dual matches. I don't know how many tournaments we had, but we had five or six tournaments we played in, but that was about it. One year it was called off because we didn't have the money. Guess what our budget was for Stanford golf team when I was there? Guess. Come on. Throw it out. 8,000. That was our budget. That was our budget.

Q. Were you on a scholarship?
TOM WATSON: I didn't get a scholarship, no, did not. Usually in the summer I played about four events. I played in the national amateur, I played the Missouri Amateur. I played in the Western Amateur and the Trans Mississippi. That's essentially what I played in summer golf.

Q. Getting back to the course conditions, you're talking about the soft fairways, now it did rain earlier this week?

Q. What happens to those fairways?
TOM WATSON: I hope they get a little bit firmer. It will shorten the golf course up for us, because the ball was plugging in the fairways today and it got some mud on it. I had several drives that the ball mark was right by the ball. Two of them, the ball backed up.

Q. Just evaluate the future of this tournament, to get a name like Mickelson here this year, change the date next year, Fourth of July, how big can this tournament get, and what's the feeling of it?
TOM WATSON: Well, from a pro's standpoint, the word's out, from the standpoint of what a great place to come and bring your families. And believe me, it's a big deal. It's a big deal. You'll see a lot of families here, so lots of things to do here at the Greenbrier. I said that from the beginning. They said, are they going to get a field here.
I said, "Well, maybe not the first year, but once the players play here, they are going to start talking about that Greenbrier is a great place." All of the things you can do are here, and just stay right on campus so to speak.
You know, what one of the things about -- one of the things Mr. Justice has done here, he's trying his darnedest to get the Greenbrier back that fifth star that they lost. And I asked him, I said, "Jim, what in the hell are putting all this money in for."
He said, "Tom, I want to see these people that have jobs here still have jobs here. I want to make the Greenbrier the No. 1 place in West Virginia. And I'm a West Virginia boy and I want this to happen."
And what he's doing with the tournaments, the casino, he's put a lot of cash in, and he's getting notoriety for the hotel and the Greenbrier and what a great place it is. That type of goodwill and publicity is wonderful for our resort here.

Q. We talked about it a month ago at Media Day. Exactly what was it when you weighed all the pros and cons from both tour stops that you picked this?
TOM WATSON: There wasn't any question whether I was going to play this year -- I felt bad about not playing here the first year. I played in the U.S. soon I don't remember open but I had not played the Greenbrier classic and I am the pro emeritus here. I felt like I let Jim down. And when he called to ask me if I would play, I said, "You got it, Jim." I said I was intending on playing anyway, probably before I called you.

Q. What was it like being here competing --
TOM WATSON: Well, I've already won 50 bucks from the kids, that's a good start. Hopefully win a lot more from the kids.
I tee it up like the rest of them here. It's a new golf course for me, honestly. I played it before. As I said, I played here every year, and but I had not played it from these tees. These tees are back there, the 495-yard, 500-yard par 4s. I have not played these holes that long. 13 up the hill, 495. That's all you want.

Q. Since you brought it up, who did you play with today?
TOM WATSON: I played with two kids, Garrett and Lee Janzen, and we played -- Lee and I, the old guys took on the kids today. I made a few birdies early and Lee made a few birdies late and that was the story.
JOHN BUSH: Tom we appreciate you coming in, you're playing with Phil Mickelson and you both have 39 PGA TOUR victories. We appreciate your time and play well this week.
TOM WATSON: I've never played with Phil before in a regular tournament. He may remember; I don't remember. He's a magician, that guy, he's an absolute magician.
JOHN BUSH: Appreciate your time.

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