Five questions with Tom Watson on eve of Open Championship
By Dan O'Neill
Tom Watson has won eight major championships, including five Open Championships. He nearly won a sixth Open in 2008, at age 59, losing in a playoff. More recently, at age 65, he had a share of the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Senior Open.
This week at St. Andrews, Watson will make his final appearance in the Open. We caught up with the Kansas City native recently in Sacramento, Calif., and asked him five questions:
Q: You gave the galleries in Sacramento a thrill by suggesting you might win your first U.S. Senior Open at the age of 65. Do you still get as big a thrill when you're in contention as everyone else does?
TW: "I do. To hit a shot under pressure that's really a good golf shot is why I'm out here. That's what I like to do. And when I get to the point where I, you know, I can't do it or I can't do it often enough to really satisfy myself, then I won't be out here."
Q: You have 71 professional wins, 39 on the PGA Tour, 14 on the Senior PGA Tour. You have been on leaderboards and dealt with the pressure of that over and over again in your career. Do you still have to battle nerves, or are you past that?
TW: "If you don't have nerves, you're lying. The guys out here, if you're playing in this competition, there's an element of pressure that affects you. The thing is, I played under this type of pressure all my life, learned how to deal with it early on in my career and finally kind of solved the problems of not being able to deal with the pressure. But pressure can affect you, make you go a little faster, walk a little faster, breathe a little shallower. Take a deep breath, walk a pace just a step slower. That's what I advise some of the kids today when they say, how do you play?"
Q: You played in 31 U.S. Opens, won in 1982 and had 11 top-10 finishes. This year, the USGA went to the Pacific Northwest in June and played the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, a links-style course that caused quite a lot of controversy. I know you didn't play, but what did you think of that championship.
TW: "A U.S. Open to me means heavy rough right off the fairway, around the greens, putting the premium on your accuracy, putting the ball on the fairway, hitting the greens. If you're off the fairways and off the greens, you have a real problem, and that's the U.S. Open to me. (Chambers Bay) was a links style golf course."
Q: This week, 21-year old Jordan Spieth will try to keep his major championship roll going at St. Andrews. Spieth could become the first player to win the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship since Ben Hogan in 1953. No one ever has won all four majors in one season. What do you think of Spieth's chances at the Open?
TW: "Jordan obviously has the game to win there. The main thing is to prepare properly there. St. Andrews is a very difficult golf course to understand, very difficult. There are several holes – like No. 12, that is a very hard hole to understand. There's other holes, No. 17. You've got to understand how to play 17. You've got to understand how to play Nos. 2 and 4 and know how the shot reacts at No. 5 – the long shot going into the green.
"You've got to know all these things. I think he said, if I'm not mistaken, he said he's going to really prepare hard there. He's going to do a lot of preparation there. He's an adult. He's mature. I like his fire ... I like his grit. I like the way he thinks."
Q: In addition to Spieth's story, this Open will be your last, as you say goodbye at St. Andrews. Your family will be there. Your son Michael will be on the bag. It will be a special event for you. Two-part question. Have you thought much about it and if so, do you think you have enough game to make it really special?
TW: "It's a little bit like death. It's the finality of it. It's over. You know it's going to be over. You just hope you go out screaming and kicking and doing everything you possibly can to do it well and make a good last showing. That's how I'm looking at it.
"If I can get my iron game in decent shape, and actually, it's got to be more than decent, it's got to be in good shape. (I'm) driving the ball well. If I get the iron game in good shape and I'm putting well, I give myself a fair chance to at least make the cut and to do well there."
This article was written by Dan O'Neill from St. Louis Post-Dispatch and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.