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April 16, 2014

Tom Watson


JOHN BUSH:テつ We'd like to welcome Mr. Tom Watson into the interview room at the RBC Heritage, making his 24th start on this tournament, a tournament that he won twice ‑‑ 1979 and 1982.
Tom, welcome back to Hilton Head.
TOM WATSON:テつ Thank you, John.テつ I remember the first time I came here, it was 1971.テつ I played in the‑‑ they had five spots to qualify for on Monday to get in the tournament.テつ It was a limited field.テつ And I missed qualifying by a shot.テつ I shot 72 on the Harbour Town course.テつ I played a heck of a round.テつ I couldn't believe I didn't qualify.テつ I played in the Sea Pines Open.テつ And I remember that weekend very well because it was the greatest collegiate football game ever played.テつ It was Thanksgiving, and Nebraska versus Oklahoma.テつ Oklahoma beat NebraskaI think 35‑31.
But that was my first year.テつ And I loved the golf course right from the beginning.テつ I still love it.テつ I put it in my top five golf courses.テつ And I consider this golf course, that this requires‑‑ it requires you to hit the ball the way you're supposed to hit the ball.テつ You have to move the ball left to right, right to left.テつ You have to work the ball into the greens, around some of the trees, over the trees.テつ It has a tremendous amount of character to it.テつ And I have always loved playing here.テつ I'm glad I've made the decision to play here again.
It's changed over the year just little bit.テつ The tees are a little bit longer.テつ I'm getting shorter (laughter).テつ And the greens are different; they're faster.テつ The greens we played were usually much slower.テつ And sometimes they didn't have a lot of grass on them.テつ But now they've got grass, but it's cut down about an eighth of an inch, and they're quick.
It's a little bit different golf course than I remember, because of the greens.テつ The greens reject the ball.テつ If you don't hit a really quality iron shot, a real quality iron shot, you're not going to get on the greens.テつ But it's very generous around the greens where I can pitch from.テつ You can get the ball up and down for pars, if you hit it in the right places.
I also go back, I remember playing a round with Gardner Dickinson.テつ Does anybody remember Gardner Dickinson?テつ A Ben Hogan protege, hat like this and cigarette like that.テつ I remember playing with him on a Saturday round here.テつ It was blowing about 25 miles an hour, and I went out and hit five greens and shot 15.テつ He hit 15 greens and shot 75.テつ He looked at me‑‑ he had that icy Hogan stare looking right through me after we finished that round, and the way I scrambled and got the ball up and down around the golf course.
My memory of the two times I played here, I had a big lead one time and got it in.テつ And the one time it was really cold, Mr. Fraser didn't like me to wear that beanie cap.テつ He wanted to promote the nice weather here, but it was cold.テつ I got in a playoff with Frank Conner, who was quite a really good tennis player, he played the Tour.テつ And we got into a three‑hole playoff, sudden‑death playoff.テつ And I ended upon 18 hit a driver, 2‑iron on the green, into that wind, and ended up winning.
But I remember Frank.テつ I was in a beanie cap and I had my rain suit on.テつ I was just trying to keep warm.テつ He was out there and shirt sleeps, just like this (indicating).
I've had a lot of great times here.テつ It's a great environment and great party tournament.テつ I've been known to be The Quarterdeck a few times.テつ But I remember just had a lot of great memories here.テつ A caddie that I had, Bruce Edwards.テつ They always stayed at a good friend, Billy Huff's house, the caddies, and everybody just had a wonderful time playing this golf course on this golf tournament.
A lot of good memories, I hope to make more this week.テつ I'm playing half decent, not full decent, but half decent.テつ So driving the ball well, and you certainly have to drive the ball well.テつ You can't hit it out of the pine straw too many times and do very well here.テつ My iron game is a little sketchy right now.テつ That's something that does concern me.

Q.テつ How difficult is it to transition from Augusta National to Harbour Town?テつ Two very different golf courses?
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, we're playing the same game.テつ But the golf courses are different.テつ But one thing that's similar about this golf course is that it does take accuracy.テつ You really have to be accurate with your approaches.テつ The greens are narrow.テつ You don't have any wide greens here.テつ You've got to put the ball‑‑ you don't have much leeway left and right, so you better be hitting it straight.
Same thing at Augusta.テつ Augusta has a little more distance and narrowness.テつ The greens are huge at Augusta but they play very small to small targets.テつ Here at least sometimes you can get away with a straight shot that will run up the green, Augusta you didn't have that.テつ But the width is very similar, the types of shots you have to play here.

Q.テつ We can't stop thinking about the Ryder Cup.テつ If Tiger Woods only played in one more tournament the rest of the year, because of his injury, would you consider picking him?
TOM WATSON:テつ One more tournament?テつ I'm not going to answer that.テつ Tiger I hope just basically gets well and starts playing well again.テつ If he gets well and is playing well, I'll pick him.テつ But one more tournament, I don't know.テつ I can't answer that.テつテつ

Q.テつ Obviously you want to play well while you're here, how much of this week, too, is kind of a fact‑finding mission, and meeting some of the younger guys that you don't interact with?
TOM WATSON:テつ I get to play with Jordan Spieth tomorrow.テつ We've tried to get together and play a couple of venues and just didn't work out.テつ And so I'll get to be with him up close and personal next two rounds and get a chance to see how he plays and that'sgood.テつ I played nine holes with Patrick Reed.テつ And I am, I'm watching.
You look at the list.テつ There are people on the list that I'll be really bearing down and watching them play when I'm not in the tournament.テつ I'll watch them play on TV.テつ But I'll be around them personally from now until the Ryder Cup.テつ I'll be at the Memorial Tournament, I'll be at the Greenbrier.テつ I'll be at the Open Championship.テつ I'll be at the PGA, and so I was with them last week.テつ I had a chance to play with Jimmy Walker last week.テつ Man, does he have a good game.
So I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing as Ryder Cup captain and getting to know the players, getting to watch them.テつ And also getting to know what other people think about the players, such as the caddies, and other players think about them.テつ There's a lot of things that go into choosing the three picks that I have at my disposal.テつ And I'm going to try to get as much relevant information as possible.

Q.テつ Jordan was just in here, I wonder if you can share your impressions on him.テつ Even though you haven't had a chance to play with him, you've followed him for sure.テつテつ
TOM WATSON:テつ I like the way he's played the game.テつ He's got a passion and‑‑ I have to laugh, sometimes he gets up there and he hits a bad shot, and "that's real close," about 40 yards off the line, that's exactly what I would say, "that's real close", just muttering to yourself.
But I remember when I was a kid and playing the game.テつ He makes me relive some of the memories that I had when I was his age playing the game out here.
He's done very well.テつ He's mature, as he talks with you, he's very mature and he has a good sense of who he is and I like that about him.

Q.テつ When you won here I believe the winner's purse was $54,000.テつ Do you feel like you were born too soon?
TOM WATSON:テつ I don't regret anything that I made from that standpoint.テつ I don't regret the past.テつ I don't look to the future.テつ I'm trying to live day by day, the old clichテδゥ.テつ The main thing, I hope I wake up and I'm not hurting, that's the bottom line.テつ My age, 64, the aches and pains, you know, you're starting to wear out.テつ The hip, the back a little bit.テつ There's just different things that you wake‑‑ I hope I wake up and I'm in good shape.

Q.テつ One more thing:テつ Normally next week you'd be playing in Savannah at the Liberty Mutual Tournament, which you did very well in.テつ You enjoyed a lot.テつ Can you talk about missing that tournament this year, because they pulled their sponsorship.テつ What happened there?
TOM WATSON:テつ Actually they had a complete turnaround.テつ They have contracted with Johnny Morris of Bass Pro.テつ And we go down to my neck of the woods, which is Branson, Missouri.テつ We have a very unique format:テつ We're playing not only the best ball, we're playing alternate shot in the format, but we're also playing a par‑3 course, two out of the three days.テつ We'll play nine holes‑‑ the nine hole par‑3 course, we'll play nine, another nine, same course, different tees, different flag positions on Friday and Sunday.テつ And I've been down there, done some work down there for Johnny.テつ And I built a Himalayas green, putting green.テつ It's an acre in size.テつ It has 18 feet elevation fall on the green.テつ Just imagine trying to putt that thing.
But, anyway, he's got a really wonderful facility there.テつ And it's going to be fun to be able to play in southern Missouri.テつ They have a lot of history there.

Q.テつ Any interesting stories or thoughts about your nine holes with Patrick Reed?
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, Patrick is looking for a driver.テつ He said he crushed the face of his driver a couple of weeks ago, and he's looking for a driver.テつ He had the people out there with clubs, carrying clubs.テつ He's trying different clubs out there.テつ Looked like he found one that worked pretty well for him.テつ He has a solid golf swing, great grip, good fundamentals.テつ I like what I see.

Q.テつ Obviously over the last 30 years or so the Ryder Cup has become a tremendous premier event, fan favorite, people can't miss it.テつ When some of the young American golfers were growing up and learning about the game, have you noticed that enthusiasm to be part of an American team that goes and wins the Ryder Cup?
TOM WATSON:テつ There is enthusiasm there, I can assure you.テつ The players that I've talked to, they know‑‑ obviously they know why I'm talking to them.テつ I'm an old guy, but I'm the Ryder Cup captain.テつ They know why I'm talking to them.テつ I kind of let them carry the conversation about the Ryder Cup.
I had a good conversation with Bubba Watson at the Masters last week.テつ We had a chance to sit down and talk.テつ In the vernacular, he's stoked for it.テつ He wants to make it right.テつ I hope all the players want to make it right because of what happened in 2012.テつ I think that's a great impetus for our team.テつ We did it to them in '99 with Ben Crenshaw as the captain, and I think it was '99 in Brookline, where we came back from four points behind, they came back from five behind.
The problem with the Ryder Cup is you have to wait two years to play it again.テつ With a bad week you could get right back in the saddle the next week.テつ But the Ryder Cup takes you two years to get back in the saddle again.

Q.テつ What is it about being a Ryder Cup captain today that you know that you perhaps didn't know in 1993, the last time you were captain?
TOM WATSON:テつ There's really nothing new.テつ There's just more to do, let's put it that way.テつ There's more press.テつ There's more‑‑ basically there's just more publicity that goes along with it.テつ And that's how big the event has become.テつ When I was captain in '93 I don't recall having more than‑‑ I mean at the outside, half a dozen press conferences about the Ryder Cup.テつ And I've had several dozen already about the Ryder Cup.テつ And that's the difference.
But the same things that go into it, you've got to do the mundane things, you've got to pick out the uniforms, and you have to figure out the rooms and things like that.テつ Last year for the year‑to‑go event you take a look at the hotel, look at the set‑up, all the logistics and things like that were explained to me.テつ So I could get a good handle on that, so I can tell the players.テつ And so I'll know the facility.
I didn't do that when I was captain.テつ I didn't go over to The Belfry early.テつ I showed up like all the other players, players that hadn't played it before.テつ I was new.テつ That's the difference.テつ But what goes into it as far as being a captain is the same things.テつ You are looking for players that are playing the best.テつ You're looking for players that have heart and have guts, that's what you're looking for.テつ That's what I'm looking for.

Q.テつ Captains describe different styles or personalities.テつ Freddie has a way in The Presidents Cup, Davis and Paul Azinger in previous Ryder Cups.テつ How would you describe your captaining style, is it old school or just what?
TOM WATSON:テつ Well, I've said it a ton of times, I'm a stage manager.テつ I set the stage for the players.テつ Trying to create everything on the stage that they can go out and perform, do their act.テつ And I expect them to come prepared.テつ I expect them‑‑ I don't think there's any question that they'll be coming prepared.テつ With what happened in 2012, there will be several players who were on that 2012 team and they'll want to get even.テつ They don't want that to happen again.テつ As I said, it's going to be a great impetus for the players who played in 2012 to be there.
I'm enjoying the ride.テつ I'm enjoying what I'm doing.テつ I'm enjoying getting to know some people I haven't known before who play the game that I play, who are what I call inside the curtain.テつ It's sumo wrestling term that means you were there.テつ People outside the curtain, they don't know what you're doing, but inside the curtain they know.
And people questioned me at the beginning, am I too old as the Ryder Cup captain?テつ And I said, let's put it this way, these players know that I've been there before.テつ They know that I've played on the team.テつ I've been the captain of the team, and I know what they're going through.テつ Age doesn't have any relevance at all, none.テつ I can relate to the players through the game, who how the game is played, how they're playing.テつ That's what we're going to be talking about.
So that's what I give to it.テつ And I may give to it a little bit of a push from the standpoint of my record over in Scotland.テつ I don't have any thoughts that the crowds are going to be less partisan, but maybe the cheers aren't going to be quite as loud when we miss a putt as they used to be.

Q.テつ Could I ask you a two parter.テつ First of all, knowing what you know, at what point in this season will you become conscious of form?テつ And secondly, are you conscious of pressurizing players, prospective Ryder Cup players, when you're actually playing with them, your presence?
TOM WATSON:テつ First of all, the form, I'm already looking at form.テつ The PGA TOUR has great statistics as far as how the players‑‑ all the statistics from how far they carry the driver, club head speed, are they biased left to right, and all kinds of different things.テつ The statistics today are a lot different than they were in 1993.テつ So I can use those stats.テつ They give me a basis of understanding.テつ Like I said, I'm going to take all relevant information.テつ And say if this player is a great putter, versus this player who is an average putter.テつ If I have to weigh the two, I want to go with the guy that can make putts.
But on the other hand, your second question, can that guy make putts under the gun?テつ Can he make that 5‑footer when he has to every time?テつ He just doesn't miss.テつ That's the type of player that I want.
So all that information is forthcoming.テつ I'm already starting to get it on a biweekly basis.テつ The PGA has set it up so I can get it, and the top 30 players on the list.テつ And I'll be able to see‑‑ I want to see the trends.テつ I want to see how it trends, I want to see how the players are trending.
When I was Ryder Cup captain in '93, we had two picks.テつ I had two picks.テつ The players from 11th through 17th, these players played cruddy throughout the summer.テつ They were missing cuts.テつ They were finishing 56th.テつ And now what am I going to do?テつ I want players that are going in there having a good run.テつ I don't want them to be falling back.
So I made the executive decision to go with some experience, as I know they were tough, that's Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins who were 18th and 21st respectively on the point list.テつ I went deep.
I'm not sure how it's going to play out.テつ It's too early to tell.テつ But those are the decisions that you have to make.テつ And sure, you're not going to make perfect decisions.テつ Just like you can't hit perfect golf shots all the time.テつ I'm going to make the best decisions I can at the time I make the decision.テつ And with help from Andy and Raymond.
JOHN BUSH:テつ Good stuff.テつ Tom Watson, thank you, sir.
TOM WATSON:テつ Thank you.

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