May 26, 2004
Note: The news conference was moderated by Julius Mason, the Director of Public Relations and Media Relations of the PGA of America
JULIUS MASON: Tom Watson, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 65th Senior PGA Championship another individual very familiar with Valhalla, having play in the '96 and 2000 PGA Championship. He's also the 2001 winner of this event. Tom, welcome to Valhalla, some opening thoughts and we'll go to Q and A, please.
TOM WATSON: Sure. I played here twice. I played here both PGA Championship, I play very well in 2000. And Tiger won. The golf course is a demanding golf course. You got to drive the ball better than on most Nicklaus golf courses here. He, the issue here is not so much the rough, it's the approach shots into the greens. And obviously putting the ball in the fairway is No. 1. Not as important as it was last week where we played up in real, real severe rough last week. But the greens here are just, there are lots of bowls in these greens. And you have to stay away from the bowls. Greens are narrow from left-to-right, so the accuracy is paramount. And you add the factor if we have any wind, that will make the golf course play tough. The state of my game is, right now, is average, I'm not playing particularly well, and I've been trying to fine a solution, the solution is not readily apparent, it's there somewhere, but it's not found yet. So those are my opening comments. Do you have any questions, I would be glad to entertain them.
Q. When you come into a Major tournament like this, do you have any way of knowing whether, how well you're playing and whether you can be contending to win?
TOM WATSON: Oh, sure.
Q. And how important is it, if you have feel bad going into it and succeed and do you ever feel really great and then not do as well?
TOM WATSON: Most of the time you get what you think you're going to get, unless — if you're going into a tournament playing well, normally you will succeed to a certain level. If you're going in there playing poorly, that's when you have to find something, you better change something to make it work. And if that change doesn't work, then you look on to the next week. I have come into this tournament, in 2000, for instance, I came in this tournament playing very well. And I knew that I was playing well and it was easy. Right now it's a struggle. I'm not hitting the ball where I want to and I'm not putting the ball where I want it to, and so there's not — there's — last week was, the issue last week was to put the ball in the fairway, which I did and it was a short enough golf course where I could deal putting the ball on the greens. These greens with my iron game the way it is, I'm going to have a hard time if, unless I find something on the practice tee after this press conference that's going to make me hit the ball straighter.
Q. Talk about on this TOUR a lot of guys talking about Jay Haas coming in this week being sort of a favorite. But how hard is it to pick? There's so many guys playing good it's almost impossible for us to look and say, well, he's a favorite. Talk about it from a player's standpoint and all the guys out here who can still play?
TOM WATSON: Well, you look at individual players and I always look at Hale Irwin as the guy to beat out here. He hits the ball very straight. This course is a fader's golf course. Hale fades the ball. Obviously Jay is, he's probably the odds on favorite to win here because he's played very well over the last few years. He played the PGA here the two years it's been played. So he knows the golf course. And you got to give him the edge. But Hale's going to be a tough man to beat. People that fade the ball are going to be the ones to beat. I think this sets up for a fader, this golf course. It's not unusual for a Jack Nicklaus golf course to be a fading golf course.
Q. Is there any advantage for Fuzzy playing here, it's in his backyard and the gallery , if he does well, will get behind him, or is crowd support?
TOM WATSON: Any time you have, you play close to home it's, you certainly have a lot of local support. But it's an individual sport, you're not — that outside support helps to a degree, but if you're not playing well, it it's not going to help you.
Q. Talk about since 2000 they have made some changes on the course, your thoughts on some, on if it has changed that much, especially No. 2 now. That's probably the biggest change.
TOM WATSON: Yeah. The golf course has some changes. I think for the better. For instance, their greens, the little part of the green there to the left there, the back left has been softened and enlarged, so that there is a pin position back there. They used it in the '94 or '96? It was '94 or '96 PGA here.
Q. '96 and 2000?
TOM WATSON: '96 PGA. And they put the pin back there and there was just no room back there to get the ball there. But now those are the little things that they have done to make this golf course better. They added a few bunkers. I do have a problem with No. 2 being a par-4 rather than a par-5. I think it makes a better par-5 than a par-4. The green sets up better for it. I think it's a fun shot to play into that green with a wood or a long iron. And now I think the driving area right there is maybe a little bit too confined for where you need to put the ball as a par-4.
Q. Of the people who playing there's 7 who played here in the PGA twice, is that correct? Can you add or pick up a stroke here or there just because of your knowledge of the course and what you knee to do to manage your game on this course?
TOM WATSON: I don't know what you can pick up, but it certainly is an advantage to play the golf course twice under tournament conditions. There's not a question. Those people have an edge. So it sound like you're a handicapper.
Q. How many guys realistically coming in this have a chance to win?
TOM WATSON: I don't know. That's impossible to say. When you're handicapping a tournament, you hit the nail on the head there. The 7 guys who played here twice have a slight edge. Because they have played the golf course, they know some of the winds that you can come up here. And I remember yesterday — we had some wind yesterday and the wind for instance at the 12th hole off the tee, if you wait a second you can hit the ball with no wind there. Even though the wind's in your face. It's just one of those things you remember from playing it. And people who haven't played it before they think you just got to go ahead and hit it.
Q. Did you just give up one of your advantages by saying that?
TOM WATSON: Well, let them try to wait. That's just a for instance.
JULIUS MASON: In '96 folks just as a reminder Tom finished tied for 17th. In 2000 he finish tied for 9th and he shot a 65 in the third round. One of the lowest round of the entire tournament. Questions in the front row over here, please.
Q. How important is it for players in this TOUR to working out, staying fit, and has it become more important I guess when your body gets a little older to maintain that fitness and stretching and that sort of thing?
TOM WATSON: Well, you got to do what you got to do to compete. And the younger TOUR, if you saw Golf Digest you got all those naked guys in there with balls in front of their, you know, things.
And they look at their bodies and there's not very much flab on their bodies. So they're doing it why? Why are they doing that? Because the guy who is beating their butts has been doing it for a long time. And he does it to the Nth degree. So to compete with him they got to do it. It's like the baseball, it's like the minor league and college baseball players doing steroids because they got to compete with the guys in professional baseball who are doing all the steroids. You got to work out and you got to do it and you got to be strong. I played with a kid on Monday in the benefit for Joe McGough in Kansas City, he's been working out, he's going to go to OU, he's a freshman in high school or a freshman in college. He is cut. He's strong. He's a kid. He's a small kid, he's five eight. But he's really, really strong. And he had speed. Five eight kid 20 years ago wouldn't have had that speed because he wouldn't have worked out. And why? Top guy's doing it.
Q. Is that the same on this TOUR do you think as it is on the PGA TOUR?
TOM WATSON: Yeah. You look at the guy who wins everything out here is Hale Irwin. And he's, he works out. He works out a lot. If you're going to compete out here you got to keep in shape.
JULIUS MASON: Questions? Thanks very much for coming down today, Tom.
TOM WATSON: Okay. Thank you.
JULIUS MASON: Good luck.
TOM WATSON: Thanks.
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