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THE SENIOR OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY ROLEX


July 24, 2013


Tom Watson


SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND

PHIL STAMBAUGH:テつ We welcome Tom Watson, five‑time British Open Champion and three‑time Senior Open Championship winner.
Tom, you come back to familiar place and you have an opportunity to win a Senior Open and Open Championship for a third time at the same venue.テつ Just some thoughts about coming back to Royal Birkdale.
TOM WATSON:テつ It's great to be back, because it's another wonderful links golf course that's playing not quite as fierce as last's Open Championship at Muirfield but has a lot of characteristics of what you want in a links golf course.テつ It's fun to play this type of golf.
It's always the uncertainty about the game that's kind of headlined the way you play.テつ The uncertainly meaning that you never know what is going to happen to the ball until it stops rolling; if you can see it stop rolling, over a mound or something like that.テつ You never know the anticipation going over; where did that ball end up.テつ You have a lot of that in links golf, and Birkdale is no different than that.
It's a wonderful golf course, as I've said many times; it's in my top golf courses over here that we play.テつ There's not a question that it has every element that a links golf course should have and a championship links golf course should have.
One thing, they are playing the tees back where we played The Open Championship back in 2008 for us old guys.テつ This is called the Senior British Open.テつ Has anybody figured it out yet?テつ I don't get it.
But my game is somewhat sketchy right now.テつ I actually played pretty well today.テつ It was nice to play well and putt well, but you know, you never know, you never know.テつ There's ways to play the golf course and they are starting to come back.
When I was a kid playing here, I had a game plan, just a solid game plan; the older I get, I kind of forget what I'm supposed to do.テつ Honestly, I get out there and yeah, it comes back maybe on Friday's round or Saturday's round.テつ Sometimes that's it but too late after you've missed‑‑ yeah, now I know why, now I remember, you're not supposed to hit it there.テつ I have great fondness for this golf course.
Go back to 1983 Open Championship here playing, I remember very well the last three holes I was tied for the lead and one behind, tied for the lead, and played the 15th hole, didn't make birdie on the par5 there.
Then 16, I hit a shot, good shot playing into the wind.テつ I hit it about 25 feet beyond the hole.テつ I had not made a putt all day, and I made that putt.テつ I said, well, look at here, now I've got a one‑shot lead; and playing 17, if I can just keep it in play off the tee at 17, I had a chance.テつ I knocked it in the fairway, short of the green, chipped up short and missed a makeable birdie putt.
Now I have to play the 18th hole into a strong crosswind and make par to win.テつ But I hit two consecutive shots that I'll always remember, the drive, hit a solid cut driver and then I hit 2‑iron that, as I've said many times, is the best 2‑iron I've ever hit, really, at any time.テつ It was just solid and ball came right down at the flag, which I never saw, and the crowd just collapsed.テつ The ball, as soon as I hit it, they ran and just I couldn't see.
So I had to wait to find out how far that putt was from the hole, and I knew it was on the green.テつ They gave me a good cheer but it wasn't one of those cheers like Turnberry where I hit it really close, and that was a really big cheer.
Is it 30 feet?テつ 15 feet?テつ 40 feet.テつ Somehow I was walking up there, get close you have so I can gag it in there in two and get out of here.テつ And that's what happened, 15 feet short.テつ I hit the putt in the neck, but it was good I hit it in the neck because I left it about this far short and made the putt for the victory.
That 2‑iron always will live in my memory as one of the shots of my career that I'm proud of most.

Q.テつ Colin was in here awhile ago and recognised the strength of the Champions Tour, said it was an eye‑opener, but that wouldn't surprise you, I don't think, because the strength is very high.
TOM WATSON:テつ It is.テつ You look at last week, the opening round of The Open Championship, you had Mark O'Meara and Tom Lehman, Mark shot 66 and Lehman shot 67 right off the bat.テつ Granted, they didn't finish well, but we are like quarter horses, we are good for short, fast runs.テつ The thoroughbreds, those are the ones that can run the long way.テつ We recognise that but we still have it in for the short runs, we can get it done it.
This course, again, I said where they have the tees, where we are playing, we are playing the golf course back where the kids played during The Open Championship.テつ See, they are having The Open here in 2017.テつ So be interesting to see what they do if they lengthen the course even more.
It's a great golf course.テつ It takes‑‑ with the wind, there's some blindness and there's some shots that you have difficulty kind of figuring out just by looking at them.
So that's that uncertainty; that uncertainty that always comes with playing links golf, the uncertainty.テつ That's what I hated about the game when I first played links golf, but now I thoroughly love it, because it challenges the ego and challenges your efforts.テつ I think that is the total package.

Q.テつ You touched on what I wanted to ask you just there, because you mentioned the uncertainty of the bounce, the uncertainty of the roll.テつ I wonder how long it took you to come to terms and learn the patience to deal with that, and are there some players who never come to terms with it?
TOM WATSON:テつ In my case, it took four years from playing The Open Championship.テつ At Lytham and St. Annes, the year that Seve won, I wasn't playing well and striking it poorly and on my pity pot and complaining about the links golf and the luck of the bounce and you can't go through the air, you've got to bounce it on uneven ground and take your chances.テつ I didn't like that.
I played the 17th hole, par 5, into the wind the first day on Thursday.テつ I hit a driver, 3‑wood and 5‑iron, all of them very well.テつ Hit three good shots in a row.テつ Next day, I hit a driver, 9‑iron.テつ That was amazing, to me.テつ Just told me, I said, you know, you've got to learn how to deal with this, because a 9‑iron is a 210‑yard 9‑iron, and I had to land it 200 yards short of the green and I had to land it in valleys like this.テつ So just have to take my chances and I hit the 9‑iron‑‑ I hit it pin‑high.テつ I said, a‑ha, this is it.
Sometimes you get it; sometimes you get the breaks, sometimes you don't.テつ That's when I had a change of mind, right then and there.テつ This hole played a driver, 3‑wood and 5‑iron, the previous day and a driver 9‑iron; this is kind of cool, really, if you look at it.テつ You don't have that in American golf, you just don't.

Q.テつ I believe your journey to Muirfield included a trip to Gleneagles; your impression of the course Jack built?
TOM WATSON:テつ We were really looking at the logistics of the hotel, the rooms that the players are going to use for the week.テつ That was really pretty much what I went up there for, just to make sure that the players will be comfortable. テつIt's a wonderful hotel.テつ The food is tremendous.テつ It's great.テつ But certain things; which 12 rooms are you going to have for the players, mundane sort of stuff, but it's important.テつ You know, where is the team room going to be and how do we get from the sleeping rooms to the team room, all this mundane stuff.
Day before yesterday, just we took a tour of the golf course with the pro and went around the golf course to see it.テつ A lot of drainage has just been completed and lines to the fairways and things like that.テつ They have been pouring sand into the fairways, 5,000 tons of sand, and more on the way before The Ryder Cup.テつ The greens are in very good shape, and there were some very challenging holes on there, but I feel there are a lot of holes that you can make a lot of birdies there.
But, with that said, you've got The Ryder Cup pressure and you've got the wind and you've got the weather that can happen in September there.テつ It was funny, because I was up there, going around with a couple of people from the golf course there, and I said, "You wouldn't mind getting me the pins for the Johnnie Walker Classic for the last five years, would you."
They said, "Yes, I would mind."テつ (Laughter), "You're not getting them, you're not getting them."テつ (Laughing).テつ They are good.
I also had a good dinner with Paul McGinley on the Monday of the Championship, and we talked about certain things.テつ We are on the same page about the way the matches will be played.テつ The spirit of the match is obviously going to be competitive, but the fairness of it‑‑ I would say you've already beaten us to the punch here, because a few of your players will have played this course under competition for a number of years, played the I don't know I walker classic.
Although I don't know how many of the Ryder Cuppers will have played the course under competition, but a lot more than our American players.テつ That does give you an advantage from that standpoint, and they can help the other players on their team who haven't played the course understand the golf course; whereas, we can't really do that.
So, you know, I kidded Paul about that.テつ He just kind of smiled, said, "Well, it is a home match you know."テつテつ Paul, he's a fine man, and I like his company.テつ I like the way he handles himself, and like I said, he's a good man and he's done a lot with The Ryder Cup.テつ He's been an assistant captain and played on the team and knows what it's all about, like I do.
I hope that we have a good match and I hope the outcome is a little bit different this time.

Q.テつ You described your game at the moment as patchy.テつ Is the pressure and commitment and enjoyment as great as it was?
TOM WATSON:テつ It is.テつ It is.テつ I still get frustrated‑‑ if I stopped getting frustrated, I'm out of here.テつ The frustration, that's part of the game.テつ Everybody plays the game gets frustrated, but my frustration is tempered with the fact that I know I can do it still.テつ I still can do it and play good golf, good championship golf.
When I get to that frustration level where I don't believe that I can play that championship golf anymore, then I'm out of here.

Q.テつ Did you get any good tips from Colin yesterday?テつ Obviously he knows Gleneagles very well.
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, he lives four miles from there.テつ You think he would share anything about Gleneagles to me?

Q.テつ You don't think so?
TOM WATSON:テつ He didn't even mention it.テつ We were talking about other things.テつ We weren't talking about The Ryder Cup‑‑ no, I didn't.
We had a nice time yesterday playing in the Pro‑Am.テつ He played very well, by the way.テつ He's playing very well.テつ I'd put a few quid on him this week.

Q.テつ On Muirfield, I did walk with you and Freddie there, how did you find Muirfield playing this year, because you've played it other years, too.テつ Some people said it was really too fiery.
TOM WATSON:テつ No, I think a few of the pins were in the wrong positions the first couple of days.テつ But the last two days, they were fine.テつ It played just the way it should.テつ And it sped up tremendously from the morning to the afternoon on both Thursday and Friday.テつ The R&A didn't change their procedure to be fair to the afternoon groups the first day to be fiery so they could have the greens like they had them on the opening day.テつ The course played consistently the first two days with the greens speeding up a lot.
But the last two days, just by watching it, the golf course was perfect.テつ It was just‑‑ what I loved about it was the wind changed direction and the cut, which was going to be 3‑over par, something like that, after the first day, went to 8‑over par.
When you change directions, the players had not played that wind direction, and it happens to be the toughest direction for Muirfield; the scores went up.テつ I couldn't deal with them.テつ My game couldn't deal with it, unfortunately.

Q.テつ Phil was saying on Sunday winning The Open Championship was his greatest achievement; similar to yourself, he had to learn how to play links golf.テつ Now that he's had that greatest achievement, do you think that perhaps the only question mark is over his Ryder Cup record.テつ Do you think that's something that he'll make as his next goal?
TOM WATSON:テつ Yeah, I hope he goes 5‑0 with me or 4‑0 with me.テつ Sounds like‑‑ looks like he's going to be on The Ryder Cup.テつ It's interesting to see the points right now, the way they pan out.テつ We've only had three tournaments where the points in The Ryder Cup have been accumulating.テつ We essentially have the same team as we had last fall.
But Phil, I have to say this about Phil.テつ I watched the last nine holes, and I was really impressed.テつ I thought that the way he played‑‑ I have to go back to when I watched Pテδ。draig Harrington win here in the strong winds here, 2008.テつ I thought that was a magnificent performance that he performed on the last round here with the winds a lot stronger than they were at Muirfield.テつ But Phil did the same thing in winning at Muirfield‑‑ or did I say Birkdale.テつ Pテδ。draig did it at Birkdale.

Q.テつ Can you put your finger on why Phil's record would not be up to the high standard he has set, particularly he in fourballs and foursomes?テつ Can you see any reason why that would be?
TOM WATSON:テつ No, he just has not been very successful.テつテつ If and when he's on the team, I hope he turns it around.
All I want as a captain‑‑ the perfect storm would be the players all come in playing great.テつ You're never going to get all of them playing great; at the top.テつ You want them to come in with that so they have a little cushion when the pressure kicks in.テつ The cushion gives you a little bit of doubt‑‑テつ the pressure gives you a little bit of doubt.テつ That's why it's nice to come in there playing well.テつ That's what I hope these guys will be doing.

Q.テつ When you're on the links‑‑ are you thinking ‑‑ (Inaudible.)
TOM WATSON:テつ Thinking of the information?テつ Do I think my way through the greens?
I'm trying to think my way through the information‑‑ as I'm walking up to the green I'm trying to figure out how that ball is going to react if I have to land it short of the green if I have to get it on the green.テつ So I'm thinking all the time about that.

Q.テつ (Inaudible.).
TOM WATSON:テつ Absorb it?テつ Not in my subconscious.テつ I'm trying to consciously determine what that ball is going to be doing.テつ Then you have to add the wind; what's the wind going to do.テつ And that's where maybe your subconscious comes into play.
I know that when you're playing a shot, I know that this happens on the green, but I know that I'm going to have to play more wind here and I'm going have to play a longer shot into there than normal.テつ That's the type of thing that when you're playing links golf, that you have to do.
It's fun when you make the right decision and your shot comes out the way you planned it.テつ Because when your shot comes out the way you planned it on links golf, I don't care if it's no wind; you feel really good, because you have conquered the game of golf at its toughest honestly.

Q.テつ I apologise for not knowing this in advance.テつ Your exemption, when does it run out for The Open?
TOM WATSON:テつ Runs out next year, Hoylake.

Q.テつ And that will be your last Open?
TOM WATSON:テつ That's my last exemption.テつ If I should finish in the Top‑10 next year, that gives another five years for the old guy.

Q.テつ Can I ask you about Lee Westwood and his quest to try to win his first major at the age of 40, what your thoughts are.
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, he still struggles, doesn't he.テつ I'm sure it's very frustrating to him.
My advice to him is keep putting yourself right there and it's going to happen some day.テつ He's too good a player for it not to happen.テつ He's a good player.

Q.テつ Were you instrumental in getting Phil to understand and liking to play links‑style golf now?
TOM WATSON:テつ No.

Q.テつ Because the last few years we've seen a big change in his attitude.
TOM WATSON:テつ No, I have not been instrumental at all.テつ But I tell you, I have great admiration for what Phil does.テつ He comes over here and plays links golf before the tournament.テつ He wanted to win The Open Championship; of course, six times runner‑up in the U.S. Open, but he wants to have all of them.
What he's done over here, he's come over here and played The Scottish Open many times to get used to the links conditions.テつ I think that's‑‑ I can't do that now the way the Senior Tour and the regular British Open comes.テつ We have our U.S. Senior Open the week before.
But I always came over the week before to get used to links golf; to get a feel for the way the ball bounces, how far it was going, the wind, the firmness of the greens.テつ When you come over here and you have not played links golf in the last year, you're at a disadvantage, you are.テつ You have to understand and you have to get a feel; you have to get a feel for the courses.テつ To do that, you have to come over early.テつ I suggested that to kids, and a lot of them have taken me up on that.テつ Or they come over early and get used to the bounce and winds.
PHIL STAMBAUGH:テつ Tom, good luck this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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