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May 22, 2012

Tom Watson


KELLY ELBIN:テつ Two‑time and reining Senior PGA Champion, Tom Watson, has joined us at the 73rd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid here at Benton Harbor, Michigan.テつ I'm sure you would like it to be under different circumstances.
TOM WATSON:テつ Yes, I would.
KELLY ELBIN:テつ You had unfortunately to withdraw from the championship on Saturday.テつ I know that pains you in many ways.テつ Could you talk a little about that?
TOM WATSON:テつ Sure. テつJust get this out of the way.テつ Here just about five weeks ago, I was on my farm and I was mowing for about six hours doing the thing you do on the farm, got off the tractor got a little pain in the shoulder, and about three days later that pain in the shoulder, I picked up a golf club and could barely hold on to the golf club with my right hand.
I was in Tampa at the time, and I withdrew from Tampa after playing actually the first round after shooting 43‑35.テつ That 35 was a miracle by the way.テつ Went home and saw the doc and took some pictures and he said:テつ It's classic, you've got a disk problem that put pressure on the nerve.テつ The nerve decided to shut down part of your arm, and happened to be my hand.テつ And he says it's going to take a while for it to get better.テつ That's five weeks ago.
The good news is it doesn't hurt me, but the ability to swing a golf club properly is not within the reach of me being able to play this golf course, that's for sure.
So on Saturday I called up David Charles and told him of my wishes to withdraw, and it does pain me not being able to play here.テつ I enjoyed the golf course here two summers ago when I was playing with Jack, and Arnold and Johnny Miller played with us.テつ I played actually very well that particular day.
I was kind of hoping to have the chance to have a go at this course again in the Senior PGA Championship.
So, that's where I am right now.テつ It's getting a little bit stronger.テつ I know that for a fact; golf ball, I have had occasion to hit a few golf balls and at least could I hook the ball sometimes.テつ Before, I couldn't hook the ball at all.テつ And so the strike distance is coming back.テつ Some of the things I couldn't do‑‑ I couldn't cut with a knife.テつ Couldn't put pressure down like this with a knife.テつ There are some funny things that happened but they are starting to come back.
As the doc said, it's going to take some time.テつ I don't know how much time it's going to take.テつ But I'm really sorry I can't play in this tournament.
KELLY ELBIN:テつ As you mentioned, you did have a chance to play a couple of years ago with some other legendary players.テつ General thoughts on the golf course that you played that day, and obviously as a first test this week for virtually the entire field.
TOM WATSON:テつ I think it's a very exacting golf course.テつ It requires, some golf courses, you feel like you can get away with a wayward shot or two.テつ But I didn't feel that way with this golf course.テつ There's some width to some of the fairways, but there's some fairways that you've got to drive it on a string and get the ball in play, and the greens, they play small.
I just took a look at the greens, the putting green out there, and it looks like‑‑ it looks like an Augusta National green out there.テつ It looks like it's a billiard table.テつ I saw putts rolling on it and they just didn't stop.テつ So it's going to be a real test, a real, real hard test.

Q.テつ Assess the field this week.
TOM WATSON:テつ It's a great field.テつ The players to watch, Michael Allen has been playing well this year.テつ He hits the ball very long and keeps it down under the wind.
If the wind does blow, it's supposed to warm up.テつ I don't know if the wind is going to blow with the heat.テつ But he's won this before, and he could certainly be a contender.テつ I wouldn't doubt that he's going to be right there.
Just pick 'em.テつ There's players that can really get it done, but again, you have to be precise.テつ You have to be really precise; exacting is what I call this golf course.テつ He who is playing well has an advantage, like most tournaments, but especially on this golf course.

Q.テつ Could you talk about last year and how special that was, and the trying conditions?
TOM WATSON:テつ We had very wet conditions, which seems like the case at Valhalla every time we play there, in the Senior PGA that is.
Winning a Major Championship is really all we are out here trying to do.テつ Winning is the most important thing; being able to be in contention to win is where I try to get with where I want to be when I go into a golf tournament.
And that week, it was strange when I played my practice round, and I was really not playing very well.テつ I asked a friend, I said, "What does my golf swing look like?
He says, "You're really way too right‑to‑left.テつ You're sticking up in the air up here," he said, "and you're not turning."テつ Once I started turning and keeping the club in line with my turn, things started to work out pretty good.
That's what you want in a tournament.テつ If you're feeling like your swing is not very good, and all of a sudden the light switch comes on, that frees you up, and it's off to the races after that.

Q.テつ Before your injury, how did you feel physically and what kind of a workout schedule are you going through?テつ Do you have a personal trainer to keep yourself in shape and putting yourself in contention at this point in life?
TOM WATSON:テつ I don't work with a trainer now.テつ I have worked with a couple of different trainers in the past.テつ But I have kind of gleaned the type of exercises I work on; I work on stretching and aerobics, leg strengthening, flexibility.テつ There's a variety of things; abs, mid‑section.テつ And that is something that you have to do at my age, I tell ya.
But fortunately, I'm blessed.テつ Mom and Dad gave me great genes and I haven't been injured very often in my life and the times I have been injured, it's been in the neck or shoulder area.テつ Probably doesn't have anything to do with hitting a couple million golf balls over my lifetime.テつ Probably doesn't have anything to do with that.
But I have been pretty pain‑free and injury‑free for my life.テつ Prior to the injury, I wasn't going great guns with the golf swing at that time.テつ I have a long stretch of the summer, I'm playing five weeks in a row starting at The Players Championship, Constellation Energy up in Pittsburgh and then I go to the Greenbrier Classic to play against the kids; I'm Pro Emeritus there, and Jim Justice does a great job with that tournament.テつ
And then onward to play in the U.S. Senior Open, and then on to the U.K. to play in The Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St.Annes, and to a place that‑‑ what's the name of that place, Turnberry, is it?テつ A place that I've had pretty good success at, Turnberry.テつ So looking forward to that stretch.
Like I said, the injure see is something that the dock said is something that should take a while to get better.テつ I'm working out as we speak.テつ I haven't stopped working out.テつ Just the fact of getting the hand stronger.

Q.テつ The first two names on the Bourne trophy are Jock Hutchinson and Fred McCloud, who later in life were Honorary Starters at the Masters until their deaths in '76 and '77.テつ Did you have the opportunity to meet them and what were your impressions of them, and how does it feel to have your name on the same trophy as them?
TOM WATSON:テつ I didn't have the chance to meet Freddie or Jock.テつ But I do remember where they held the first Senior PGA.テつ Do you know where they held it?

Q.テつ The Masters.
TOM WATSON:テつ Augusta is right.テつ Little known fact that that's where they first started the Senior PGA.テつ I think it was 1937.
I didn't have the chance to meet them, but one of the things that we'll see tonight‑‑ I'm here to host the past Champions Dinner, the Champions Dinner.テつ And they will show a film of the champions that have won the Senior PGA Championship and Freddie and Jock are in the film, and there are actual film clips of them.テつ It's always interesting to see the name players that I would remember, that are not so‑called Tour stars, but named club professional stars who actually played the Tour.
The Tour was really‑‑ The Great Triumvirate, to digress a little bit.テつ It's the story of the three greats, Snead, Hogan and Nelson, and it starts and tells the story about how the Tour actually was operated and how it was back in the 30s and the 40s.テつ Back in those days, the club professionals, they were the stars.テつ When you made a name for yourself playing in these winter tour and that kind of led up to the Augusta National Invitational, which was later changed to the Masters, you made a name for yourself.テつ And, oh, by the way, these clubs started to say, we want this guy in our club to help give our club a better image.テつ Byron Nelson went to Inverness.テつ Ben Hogan went where Henry Picard left, Hershey Country Club.テつ And Snead of course was at the Greenbrier for so many years and was the Pro Emeritus there.テつテつ So that was one of the things they hung their hats on.
As the story goes, Byron Nelson really relished being club professional and helping players of all capabilities play and learn how to play the game and play games with the good players there.テつ Frank Stranahan was always remembered as one of the great amateurs back in those days.
We are digressing now, because this is part of the history‑‑ Byron was telling me these stories about Frank and actually there was a great story about Frank.テつ Frank was the son of the man who owned Champion Spark Plugs, had a lot of wealth and he was a little bit cocky.テつ He was a really good player and started making noises‑‑ and this is Byron talking to me.テつ He's making noises, and he was a better player than Byron Nelson.
And a couple of the members came up to by reason one day in the pro shop and said‑‑ Byron, he's a club pro, he's in the pro shop and selling FootJoy shoes and umbrellas and things like that.テつ He relished doing that.テつ And the member said to him, said, "Byron, Stranahan thinks he's a better player than you.テつ He's been going around the club telling everybody."テつテつ
Byron said, "I haven't heard about that."テつテつ
So next time Stranahan walked into the pro shop, Byron, being kind of the competitive man he was said, "Stranahan, you and me, first tee, right now.テつ Let's see who's the best.テつ All putts have to be holed."
Well, Byron went out and shot 63, and never heard another sound about how Frank Stranahan was the better player than he was.テつ Byron is telling this story.
But anyway, getting back to the point, The PGA of America is an organization of club professionals, and back in the old days, they made a living being a club professional and they loved to follow the sun of the Tour, play golf on the Tour, and that was their dream.
I had that dream as a kid, because the pros in Kansas City, mainly Stan Thirsk and then was Irwin Sharlow (ph) and Joe Louis, these pros were tour players.テつ They went out and played the winter tour when the clubs were closed in Kansas City they came back telling stories about how the Tour was and stories about the great players on the Tour that they played with.テつ And Stan, he competed pretty successfully out there.テつ So I always looked up to Stan, and we had a lot of great times together.
That was part of growing up with me; the club professional stories and how they played the Tour, and then it changed.テつ When Arnold Palmer came along, the Tour simply changed.テつ All of The Great Triumvirate, not only Nelson, Snead and Hogan, but the Great Triumvirate that really brought the commercialization of golf into play was Arnold Palmer, Mark McCormack and television.テつ They started televising these tournaments and a lot more exposure and Arnold Palmer was the guy that came up there‑‑ who else, what happened?テつ Jack Nicklaus came along and he started beating the crud out of Arnold Palmer and then they had that rivalry right there and it was just ideal for tournament sponsors to get involved with golf and put more money in the game, and that was the first really, really big push in the game of golf and as a result, more golfers decided to concentrate on playing tour golf rather than trying to be a club professional.テつ And that was kind of the breaking point in the history of American golf.
KELLY ELBIN:テつ Not sure if you're aware but Sam Snead would have turned one hundred this coming Sunday.テつ Your recollections of time spent with Sam, please.
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, there are a lot of stories that I can't repeat right here, that's for sure.テつ But Sam was a character.テつ I've always enjoyed kind of being in his company.テつ He was a little bit‑‑ he was almost a little bit on edge as far as letting you inside.テつ But I got inside him a few times and it was fun to listen to him talk about things.
One of the things that I benefitted from as a young professional, was to be able to watch him play or watch him practice.テつ His rhythm helped me, physically helped my rhythm, just by watching that, and he kept his head.テつ And by the way, it didn't hurt for him to be my dad's idol.テつ My dad idolized Sam's golf swing; it was just a natural golf swing.テつ Sam said he learned to swing the golf club as a kid, that a lot of it was when he saw Bobby Jones swing the golf club, he watched the power of Bobby Jones' swing and tried to imitate that.テつ At least that's the story.
But he was‑‑ actually all three of them are going to be a hundred this year.テつ They all had birthdays in 1912.テつ That's when Hogan and Snead and Nelson.
Fortunately, I had a lot of experiences with Byron.テつ I spent a lot of time with him at his ranch, and when he was going through a tough time.テつ His wife, Louise, had a stroke and for two years was basically just couldn't do anything.テつ She passed and then it was a wonderful story, because playing the PGA in Byron's kind of home course there at Inverness, I played a practice round in the PGA Championship, and on the tee was one of Byron's best friends, he was in the umbrella business, Walsh I think was his last name‑‑ Bud Walsh.
I see Byron coming up there and he's got this sheepish grin on his face like this, and I knew that he had been seeing a woman for just‑‑ kind of a short period of time, and Byron comes up in his own particular way, he was always pretty funny the way he did things, and he said, "Tom, I've got something I've got to tell you."テつテつ
And before he could tell me, I said, "You're getting married."テつテつ
And he said, "Yes, I am."テつテつテつ And to see him go through those years not leaving Louise's side, literally, those two years, and then to have him have the opportunity to find somebody else in his life, that was a very special time.テつ

Q.テつ Knowing that he was successful late in his career, how much, when you think about where you're at now, do you think about what he applied to make him play so well at the late stage of his career to where you are now?
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, I can't carry Sam's shoes.テつ I've had a few good tournaments later on in my life, but you know, Sam played well‑‑ I mean, he played really well into his late 60s.テつ I think he led a Tour event when he was 67 years old.テつ I may be wrong with that.テつ I think he led the tournament up in quad cities‑‑
KELLY ELBIN:テつ He finished Top‑5 in the '75 Championship at Tanglewood.
TOM WATSON:テつ He could really, really play.テつ Those three people‑‑ I never had a chance to play golf or watch Ben Hogan swing the golf club, but I saw pictures of his swing before he changed his grip.テつ And in his book, the Great Triumvirate, I didn't realize that Henry Picard, he was kind of a grand old man back then, and he gave Hogan the lesson that changed Hogan's career.テつ And that was a grip change.
He said, "You cannot fade the ball if you have your left hand in the full Harley position."テつ You know what that is?テつ (Making vrooom, vrooom revving up sound).テつ Like this where the left hand is so far over that the clubface is always going to turn over dead left.テつ He said that you have to weaken the grip, and that's what Hogan did.
Literally within about a month, Hogan was driving the ball in every fairway.テつ And that was‑‑ it's kind of like me in my career.
I didn't learn how to swing the golf club until I was late in my career, '94, I made a change in the way I downswing that made the golf swing easy for me.テつ Made it easy. テつThat particular change for Hogan made it easy for him to hit the ball straight.テつ And of course, you have to do a little practicing with it and Hogan, he was the best at that.
But those three guys, really, they are probably the best three players at any one time in the American professional game.テつ That was quite an era.

Q.テつ Spoke to you 2 1/2 weeks ago and you were still hoping to play here.テつ When did you realize that you were not healing quick enough?
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, I had to go with what the doctor said and he said, Tom, you're not going to really see any relief for six weeks to two months.テつ And this is five weeks yesterday.テつ I got off the mower, and on Saturday, I hit some balls.テつ I did a Clinic for some juniors in Kansas City there, and it was the first time that I could actually make the ball work right‑to‑left and hook the ball.テつ And that's something that I had not been able to do at all.
So I know it's getting better.テつ I can cut something now a little bit easier.

Q.テつ You talked about on your schedule where you're going to be playing with the kids.テつ Knowing what Fred Couples is doing at the Masters, do you still foresee a 50‑and‑over‑type winning major with the young kids?
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, there's always that probability.テつ It's not a question; there's a probability it's going to happen.テつ The odds are highly against it but the way the players keep themselves in good shape today, I don't see a problem.
One of the things that kept me‑‑ the main thing that's kept me active is the Champions Tour.テつ And without the Champions Tour, I couldn't play competitive golf.テつ I could play maybe occasionally against the kids but I couldn't play competitive golf on the level that I do and keep sharp that way.
I don't care if you're playing a Champions Tour event, or for me, a Champions Tour event or a kids' event.テつ I'm going to prepare for it the exact same way, I'm going to play it the same exact way as I always have.
If one keeps themselves in good shape and can putt‑‑ the bottom line, to win, you have to putt well; bottom line.テつ If you don't putt well, you're not going to win.テつ Bottom line.テつ I lost my putting touch over a period of years, and I found my golf swing but then I didn't putt like I did as I kid.テつ If I had those two in combination, it would have been fun to see what I could have done.

Q.テつ You talked earlier about your experience in playing the Skins Game a couple of years ago and how well you did that day; wondering what other golfing memories do you have of the State of Michigan?テつ Have there been other memorable experiences here?
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, 40 years of them.テつ I was lucky enough, my mom and dad, to get out of the summer heat, they found a place up in Michigan.テつ We went up there every summer.
The story is there was‑‑ another good story.テつ Woody Heartland, he was a bait shop owner in Boyne City, Michigan.テつ Woody tells the story, he was fishing for minnows and he tells the story, he's going up there in the shallows and he sees this body laying on the ground over there.テつ He gets out of the boat and goes up there, and the guy is not dead, he's breathing, but he's just passed out stone drunk.テつ That was Hemmingway.
He said he sat with him for about an hour.テつ He was lucid, didn't know where the heck he was, but he was just stone cold drunk.テつ But we had some‑‑ there was a nine‑hole golf course up there Wild Lake Country Club (ph) , and we played‑‑ as kids, we just went around and around and around.テつ And we got lucky, we got to play Belvedere, and there was a course called Bay View, a short course, and there was Harbor Springs, and there was a couple other courses there.テつ And in the summer, it was about golf and boating and things like that.テつ It was a great place to be as a kid.テつ Great place to be.
KELLY ELBIN:テつ Tom Watson, thank you very much for the memories and joining us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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