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Friday, June 18, 2010Tom Watson Media Center Interview
Tom Watson

Player Bio

BETH MURRISON: We're pleased to have Tom Watson with us in the media room here at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Tom shot an even-par 71 today, wonderful round. Could you talk a little bit about your round and give us some thoughts on your play today?

TOM WATSON: Well, thank you. A little bit better round yesterday, 78 yesterday, finished with a double bogey at 9. Scolded over the green like a hacker and ended up making double and ended up shooting 78.

Today, again, like yesterday I hit some shots that kind of not typical for me, kind of unforced errors where you hit the shot wrong, just bad shot. Comes up 30 yards short of the green or you pull it left of the green. It's just bad shots. I don't know what it was. It was just a little bit of a lull, maybe, right now, in my golf swing.

But I enjoyed my two rounds here. I may be around for the weekend, it depends on what the rest of the field does. If there's a 4‑under then this is probably going to be my last U.S. Open. Couldn't have happened at a better place, Pebble Beach, I'm somewhat sentimental about this place. There's a lot to this place for me. And it means a great deal to be able to play the U.S. Open but especially at Pebble Beach.

I'm very grateful for the USGA to extend me the invitation to play. They don't extend those invitations lightly. And it was a real joy to receive it, and I wish I had played a little bit better to deserve it.

BETH MURRISON: Well, we've certainly enjoyed having you here, and we're very happy that you've been playing.

Can I ask you to also talk a little bit about your emotions playing in front of the crowds here at Pebble Beach yesterday and today.

TOM WATSON: Well, the crowds were wonderful. They were very appreciative. There's quite a bit of applause and, yeah, come on, Tom, you can still do it, do one for the baby boomers, come on. You can do it for the old guys. Come on, you can win this thing.

And the way I was playing I was appreciative of the thoughts, but it certainly didn't sway the way I was playing. It was a pretty special time, though, to play Pebble again in the U.S. Open. This is the 5th time I've played in our U.S. Open and it's ‑‑ the golf course has changed. It has definitely changed from any other time I played it, with different directions of the fairways. I like those changes, maybe with the exception of 11. I think 11's fairway should be maybe a little more left.

But bringing the ocean into play, I think was a special thing they did here. I like that. It's going to make Pebble ‑‑ it's made Pebble a better golf course.

Q. Do you prefer the fact that you didn't know cut or no cut as you're walking up the last hole today? Is it better for you that you didn't just ‑‑

TOM WATSON: Well, I did know that I was ‑‑ I know the 10‑shot rule. So I did know what I had to do. I was still trying to do my job. And, heck, I almost made that first putt. It was the only solid putt I hit all day, was the first putt I hit on 18. It ran by about 4 feet. That's in my gag zone.

But I gagged it in. Here I am thinking maybe I've made the cut. By the 10‑shot rule. And I hope I have. I hope I have two more rounds here at Pebble.

Q. You were talking about the golf course and some of the changes. The greens have always been small, but they're playing very, very small. Do you like that about this course, or do you think they've almost gotten to the point where there's not quite enough hole locations for a championship like this?

TOM WATSON: No, there's plenty of hole locations. These greens are ‑‑ how old are you? Were you around in 1972 when we played this golf course?

Q. I was one.

TOM WATSON: You were one? These greens were dead on Tuesday. They were dead. Black and blue. They were harder than they are now in 1972.

They haven't changed. They haven't changed these. The only hole they've changed is No. 5. They've redone No. 7, I think, once since '72. But the greens are the same size as they've always been. You can't hit a shot and land it on the 12th green and stop it, unless you play the short tee like you did today. That's what they didn't do in 1972. And the rough off to the side of the fairways, it was like that (indicating) rather than the graduated rough that Mike Davis has put in.

But, no, this golf course ‑‑ the greens aren't any different. They're hard greens to putt, especially in the afternoon. But you have poa annua grass. In the afternoon there's certain parts of that poa annua gross faster than the other parts, you have the bentgrass in there.

So you get a bunch of crowns out there. They look like backs of turtles, you're putting over backs of turtles. It didn't affect Ryo's putting stroke. He just drove it right in there. He reminded me of me when I was 18. Made everything. Drove it in the back of the hole and rattled it in. One hole he knocked it in from about four feet, it hit the back of the cup and kind of went up like that, the crowd went oh, like this, like he almost missed it. He just rammed it right in the middle of the back of the hole. I'm in there just trying to (indicating), trying to get it in the hole some way. He just reminds me of me.

Q. Did that thought actually occur to you when he was doing it?

TOM WATSON: Yeah, yeah. I love to watch him putt. I was trying to learn something from him. I'm always trying to learn from somebody that does something better than me. I learned from both Rory and especially Ryo. I watched their putting strokes judiciously out there, if you want to use the term. I'm trying to say, all right, how can I make my putting stroke like that, because that's the way I used to putt, just like that. It has something to do with fried nerves, I don't know.

Q. Just to follow up that theme, I was going to ask you about that, playing with ‑‑ Ryo said afterwards that you had told him that he will have a good future. For 18, assess his game and where he is, and what you think his potential is?

TOM WATSON: Well, they asked me several questions. His putting is excellent. I love it. That makes up for so many mistakes. He has great touch, you can tell that. He hits the ball very high. He hits the ball long enough. He can get it out there. That combination, high, great putting and great touch, you're going to win, not a question. He's got good technique.

Q. Phil turned 40 this week. Ernie was just in here, he's 40. Do you sense that we're at the end of an era and a new one coming in, with these young kids?

TOM WATSON: The kids are going to have to start winning, for you people to start talking go about it, changing of the guard. I remember when I was back in the '70s and in the middle '70s they called me a young lion. And I was with Lanny Wadkins and other guys. We were the young lions.

But you had to prove yourself. You can have all the potential in the world, but the results are the most important things. Wait for results. Wait for results. Yeah, you can predict.

I remember watching Ernie Els play, and I played with him at the International at Castle Pines. And I said, yeah, this guy will be there, for sure. And he was.

At a young age, you know, where there's no fear, that's great. Once you get to a certain age, a certain part of your career you get better, the older you get. You get shorter the older you get. I don't mean physically, because you still hit the ball the same distance.

But you get shorter because you play with a better risk/reward program or game plan when you play the golf course. And we'll see ‑‑ when you see how these kids do that.

Rory had a ‑‑ he hit some bad shots. He hit some bad shots and couldn't recover from them.

Ryo, he had two or three bad shots, but a lot fewer bad shots than Rory or I hit in the last two days.

Q. Is it conceivable that Ryo could actually win this thing, a 18 year old actually winning it?

TOM WATSON: Sure. Look at his position. Not a question. Look at the scores. He's even par for two rounds. Some guy here 28 years ago was even par for two rounds. He ended up winning the tournament at 6‑under. The golf course today was there for the taking. We played without the ‑‑ without the wind we had yesterday. We played in the morning round, it was a little bit more moisture that we could deal with and stop the ball a little quicker. So the greens did not play as small today as they did yesterday.

Q. Par‑72, though?

TOM WATSON: Par‑72, exactly.

Q. Until the last Open?

TOM WATSON: So I finished 2‑under, rather than 6‑under.

Q. It was mentioned that Phil and Ernie are around 40. But you played at a very high level for over 40 years. How proud are you of that fact?

TOM WATSON: Well, I made a swing change back in '94 that made my golf swing a lot more consistent. Golf became really fun again, after about nine years of it not being fun at all. And I was lucky to find that, that swing change. And ever since then, it was ‑‑ I'm just playing it out.

I was always a great fan of Sam Snead's golf swing. He could play until he was 78 years old. I mean flat play. He could get it out there, and he could play. But he's an anomaly. I don't have any delusions of myself, for me to play that long.

But there are a lot of memories that I have here. I've said that on Wednesday. The memories start at my very first round here in 1967. And through Art Bell and I played with my dad here. Imogene Coca and her husband King Donovan. Really. My dad and I booked a tee off time and we were paired with Imogene Coca and King Donovan. King Donovan had probably played golf about once in his life. Imogene was not a bad player, she could get it around. And it was a delightful round playing with my dad. I know I didn't break 80.

But there are lots of memories here. Playing golf with Sandy Tatum here, and my dad's best friend, Bob Willis. And we played ‑‑ I don't think we played any matches at Pebble Beach. We played at Spyglass when I was in Stanford. But that goes way back.

And all the people from here. I saw Van Linge's house here, Chuck Van Linge, which was a big part of Bay Area golf. The memories, they keep coming back and coming back. It's been a very special place for me, very wonderful place for me.

Q. How much did it cost you when you first came here?

TOM WATSON: 15 bucks.

Q. You mentioned there were different conditions out there on the course today as opposed to yesterday. Did that give you a different approach to this round, round 2, on Friday?

TOM WATSON: Yes, it did. And take what it gives you. I hit shorter shots into the greens on the back nine, for instance. It made the front nine play alternatives longer, the back nine play a little shorter. And it's the wind. When you have the wind here at Pebble, you know, it was very benign out there. You can take Pebble.

Like Johnny Miller said, there are six birdie holes out there. You don't have six birdie holes in most U.S. Open contests or courses, you just don't have six birdie holes. You maybe have two. But here you've got six, legitimate birdie holes. And you have to play 17.

Q. In two sentences or less, what was that swing change you made in 1994?

TOM WATSON: It's called the secret. It's in my DVD, Lessons of a Lifetime. For $49.95, you can buy it on tomwatson.com (laughter). Is that two sentences or less? No, it just had to do with my shoulder plane, I changed that, into the impact area.

Q. How do you play 17 now?

TOM WATSON: Not well. 17 is ‑‑ I can't hit the ball high enough as I used to, to have it come down soft. When I won here in '82, I put that ball straight up in the air and I made three birdies on the hole, obviously the chip in, and that wasn't a very good shot when I hit it in there.

I hit the shots, I hit it high and softly to that green. And I could do that. 2‑irons and 3‑irons. And I birdied the hole when it was on the right‑hand side. I birdied it once on the left. I made mother par there, and I chipped it in.

But back in those days I could hit that ball up there, like Ryo and Rory did the same thing, hit the ball way up in the air. That's what you have to do. I was watching the guys in front of me. They're playing these 4‑irons, they're launching at this attitude, right here (indicating)and mine's about right there (indicating). It just doesn't come down soft enough to hold the green.

That's the smallest green to hit that length of shot that we play in ‑‑ well, I have to say any golf. I mean that green is much smaller than the postage stamp at Troon, much smaller than that green. It's a tine, tiny little bowl thing, like this. You land it short, you hit it on the downslope and it goes right on over the bowl. And it's a tough a shot as you want, just to get it on the surface there is a major achievement.

Q. U.S. Open always coincides with Father's Day, and you mentioned your dad. Does the advice he gave you at Pebble Beach still hold up? What impact did he make on your golf?

TOM WATSON: Well, he didn't have any advice about Pebble Beach, but he did tell me about Pebble, because he went to Stanford. He went to Stanford senior year in college and the first two years of law school, and then he was drafted in World War II into the Army. He always said about Pebble Beach, they have the three best par‑4s in a row in the world on 8, 9 and 10, three toughest, 8, 9 and 10.

And I beg anybody to challenge the three toughest holes like that, the type of danger you have to play with, playing those three holes in a row.

Q. Any impact he had on you?

TOM WATSON: He had a tremendous impact on me. I talk about him all the time. He taught me the game. He was a great player in his own stead. He played in the National Amateur a couple of times. He loved the game with a passion, absolute passion. I grew to love the game because my dad loved the game. Not unlike a lot of the players out here whose dad's started in the game.

I was lucky, I had a dad that could really play and knew how to swing the golf club and make the ball curve. He taught me that when I was a kid. When I was six he taught me how to swing the golf club. And then he said, all right, here's how you hook it, and here's how you slice it, right from the beginning.
And now the kids today want to just get up there and hit it. You have to learn how to do this and that. And that was a great benefit to me. That made me the player I am today.

Q. You've been around a long time, what's your feeling if ‑‑ last time we were here ten years ago, Tiger wins by 15. Obviously now, not quite the same player, not the same performance, what's your feeling about where he is in his career track and whether ‑‑ and Johnny Miller said next week, maybe we've seen the best of him, how do you feel and where do you think he's going?

TOM WATSON: It's anybody's guess. I don't know where woods is going to be the rest of the tournament here or in the future. Obviously, he has some issues he has to deal with. That's his own private ‑‑ that's his own private thing he has to deal with.

As far as his golf's concerned, he's a great talent. All the players I've ever seen have always had some sort of lull in their careers. Jack had a lull in his career. Arnold basically ‑‑ after seven years, Arnold was kind of done. Same way with me. I won late because I learned the secret. And $49.95, Lessons of a Lifetime ‑‑ just kidding.

But I learned ‑‑ played my best golf later if my life. And so it goes through cycles. And there are a lot of things, like Dan Jenkins said, only thing that can stop you is an injury or a marriage issue. Dan wrote that. And it's pretty simple stuff, really. He talks about complete silence. It's hard to have complete silence when things are going on in your mind.

Q. You've played Pebble Beach, obviously, a lot of times. In conditions like this, do you add like half a club more for the damp and the cold and the fog?

TOM WATSON: I should have listened for my son, my caddie, in the last hole. I said what club do you think, I'm thinking 8‑iron. He said, no, dad, a 7‑iron. I hit it really well, came up 15 yards short. It was a 7‑iron, just like my son said.

And the damp air, the ball goes really short, it really does. And again it's the ego taking over. It's an adjustment based on experience, but still the ego sometimes gets in your way, it really does. There's a lot of local shots, local knowledge in some shots. The shot into 16. How hard do you hit that shot? You're sitting up at the top of the hill, hitting downhill, and you're going into that green, and you the yardage, 140 yards. It's just a 9‑iron. Well, they're coming up short in that heavy stuff short. That's local knowledge. You know you have to hit the ball hard there. I made that mistake yesterday.

Q. I had a question, we have, if you look at the leaderboard, there seem to be quite a few of the international players that are up there?

TOM WATSON: What's new?

Q. Yeah, what's happened to the Americans, or what is your take on why they are doing so well?

TOM WATSON: Well, the bottom line is this is a world game. The types of players that we find from all over the world are ‑‑ they shine. There are a lot of different countries playing golf besides the United States out there now. And back in the days when ‑‑ we kind of dominated the world scene for a while. There are still international players like Bobby Locke and Peter Thompson, people like that. Bobby Locke is a great story, when he came over to the United States, I don't know how many tournaments he won, but then they kicked him off for missing a Pro Am. Just somewhat provincial with Bobby. They didn't want him winning all the tournaments.

Lloyd Mangrum made a lot of money on Bobby Locke, a lot of money. But I just ‑‑ I think the European players, the international players, they get it as far as the fundamentals of the golf swing is concerned. And that's something that I contend that sometimes we're a little weak on in American golf, trying to hit the ball far. We have our grip too weak, or our golf swings aren't level.

Again, that's something I didn't have a very good golf swing until back in 1994 when I made the change, when I really became a consistent player. I hope that answers your question.

Q. You got beautiful receptions at 17 and 18. Are you getting more gallery love than maybe you did in your prime, and what does it mean to you?

TOM WATSON: Well, I think last year's Open Championship had something to do with it. It made the baby boomers pull for someone their own age and say, hey, this guy can still do it. And so I've been getting a lot of ‑‑ I still get a lot of comment about last year's Open Championship, a lot of wonderful things said to me. It has been a good run. It's been a lot of fun having the opportunity to play at a reasonably good level late in my life, late in my career.

I don't pretend I'm going to go out there and win the U.S. Open Championship. Coming in here, I was playing awfully well. Practice rounds kind of ‑‑ I just didn't get it quite enough in the practice rounds, and then yesterday started in warm up session, it got a little worse. It was kind of the opposite flow into The Open Championship last year, where I was playing well, I got better and I teed it up with all that confidence and everything, including the putting. I just hope I have just a few more of those left. If I don't, I've had my share, more than my share.

BETH MURRISON: Tom, thank you so much. We really would like to thank you for being so gracious and generous with us. We hope you're here this weekend.

TOM WATSON: I hope so, too. Pull for 3‑under, will you, 3‑under.

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