What they said: Tom Watson

July 04, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE: The Greenbrier Classic transcripts archive

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome World Golf Hall of Fame member Tom Watson. Tom, thanks for joining us for a few minutes here at the 2012 Greenbrier Classic. Always a pleasure to have you chat with us for a few minutes. We'll just turn it over to you for some opening comments, obviously a place incredibly near and dear to your heart here at the Greenbrier.


MODERATOR: So with that, we'll just have you make a few opening comments on being here this week.

TOM WATSON: Well, I started my ?? started my relationship with the Greenbrier, as I said, in 1979 when I was on the Ryder Cup team. I didn't play on the team that week because my wife had a baby and I left here. Mr. Justice's father sent me on his plane back to Kansas City, rushed me on his plane so I could be there for the birth of my baby, Meg, who was born at 12:00, got there about 11, and it was a wonderful experience from that standpoint. Then Mark Hayes took my spot. Mark was first alternate on the team.

But in those three days that I spent here, I really grew to really love this place. It's just kind of me. I enjoy the hospitality, the low?key way people treated you and of course the food.

So I started over the years to invite all my sponsors for two or three days of golf, and the place I chose was The Greenbrier. I've been coming to The Greenbrier ever since 1979, every year I've come here and there a few years back Sam passed people here at the Greenbrier came to me and said, We know you love this place, Tom. Would you consider the pro emeritus spot that Sam held here?

I said, Well, first of all, I never could carry Sam's shoes in that spot, but if you really want me, I would be happy to. I love this place and that's the history of me and The Greenbrier. And the banana cream pie.

MODERATOR: Okay. Well, with that, we'll open it up for a few questions, and if you wouldn't mind just raising your hands so we can pass the microphones.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TOM WATSON: Well, last week was the first time I've played for, I guess, since the Masters. I hurt my hand and it took a while for it to recover. It's in good shape now and I'm getting my legs right now. I'm playing hit and miss: Miss and hit, hit and miss, hit and hit, miss and miss. I'm playing not very consistently, but I'm driving the ball pretty well. The iron play is a little sketchy. I've hit a few good irons, that's where I'm missing a lot.

You know, the golf course is a little different this year. I played this morning; the greens are softer this morning than I remember them last year. The key to this golf course is how hard the greens are. The greens get really ?? they get just like this table and it requires some great shot?making, some judgment of how far can I hit it up toward the hole without it going too far. For a shorter hitter like me, I have to play kind of toward the fronts of the greens and let the balls release into the greens, so that's my game plan.

Q. Tom, obviously the field this year is bigger and better than ever and led by Tiger Woods. If you could comment about him being here this year.

TOM WATSON: Well, he's obviously playing very well right now. It's a course that I think you do have to drive the ball pretty straight here, but the rough is not that damaging. Length is a big advantage, very big advantage. On holes like No. 2, I'm back there hitting, you know, a very long club into a green designed for a wedge. The longer hitters last year, they were hitting 7? and 8?irons into that hole, maybe a 9?iron. That's a big advantage. So length of this I think is a very big advantage in particular this week on this golf course.

Q. Tom, I want to ask about Sam's record. Obviously Tiger approaching now, short of it. Two?part question. What do you think the record says about Sam's career and obviously Tiger now being within 8 of that?

And then secondly, why do you think it maybe doesn't get as much attention as it should with obviously the focus being so much on Jack's record and the 18 majors of Tiger.

TOM WATSON: Well, I think the major ?? you answered your own question. The major championship record is the one that people look at. Second to that is how many tournaments have you won. The official tournaments, 84 tournaments for Sam, 83? Sam said he won 135. I wouldn't sell him too short on that particular number because there are a lot of tournaments that a lot of the players played in that weren't official, like this.

So Sam's record of winning for so many years ?? I've played ?? I came out here ?? my dad's hero was Sam Snead. He loved his golf swing, just the majestic rhythm and the power of Sam's golf swing. My dad loved it. My dad had a similar type of rhythm in his golf swing. I was fast, long, and dad always said shorten up your golf swing, shorten up.

When I first came out here on the Tour, whenever Sam played, and he played, he played a number of events, I would always make an effort to go watch him practice. I'd stopped practicing to go over and watch him. We became pretty good acquaintances, didn't play any practice rounds with him but played a few rounds of golf with him, but any time he played, or any time he practiced especially, I would watch him practice because it helped me, it helped my golf swing whenever I watched him. One particular ?? I played with him at Riviera at the Los Angeles Open and it was the fourth round, the 4th hole, I was playing a McGregor No. 4, I hit a 4 wood in the hole to go 4?under. I remember that.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TOM WATSON: He said, Good shot, kid.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TOM WATSON: Well, they're two separate animals. The importance you put on the majors make that record probably the most important record, but the way I look at it, how many times have you won and have you won majors. The first thing is how many tournaments have you won. If I'm assessing somebody's career, it's hard to assess the young kids' career right now because they haven't won a lot. Like Jack said about Rory McIlroy, he said wait five years and then we'll have this conversation again, is he the next great player.

It's how many tournaments you win. Look at the majors, the last nine majors won by first?timers. It's quite something. Golf goes through cycles. You had the dominance of Woods for all these years, the resurgence of Woods now. There are lots of stories. Golf is ?? when I look back at somebody's record, I'll say, first of all, how many tournaments did they win. That's number one. Did they win more than 20 tournaments. Then I'll say how many majors did they win, did they win more than three or four majors? Then that puts them up in the great category.

Q. You mentioned a club used for approach shots or your fairway iron makes a difference on this course, some of the longer hitters have an advantage??

TOM WATSON: They do, they always do, but ??

Q. A significance advantage??

TOM WATSON: Yes, because of the firmness of the greens. You get back to like this, the greens, if you're going in with a long club, even if you get to the front edge it'll roll over the back or you really can't get the ball very close. It's just the bottom line.

Q. Do you think they'll get softer year by year??

TOM WATSON: That's kind of the indication, but still I like them firm. That's the way a ?? that's the way a golf tournament should be. It should have firm, firm greens because that's the only defense a golf course has against players of this caliber. The firmness of the greens, that's the only difference. You can add some rough, and actually the rough is pretty sparse in most places. You can get the ball ?? you can get the club on the ball. You can't spin it as well. Again, these greens, you've got to put some spin on it to stop the ball on these greens and you're not going to do it out of the rough very easily.

Q. Are the landing areas pretty sizable here??

TOM WATSON: Yeah, they're big enough where you should be hitting most of the fairways.

Q. Can you talk about this event and how it's progressed? You were here when they announced they were getting it just a few short years ago and where it is today?

TOM WATSON: Well, I think the secret's out about The Greenbrier. What do I hear everybody saying? I can't wait to go through the bunker, I can't wait to go to the falconry exhibit and see the different things. And oh, by the way they've got some pretty low line entertainment for the next three nights, right? Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

It's the most special tournament on the Tour as far as how they treat you. You give the credit to Jim's vision. Mr. Justice's vision has been this way from the very get?go. He wanted a tournament, PGA tournament. He wanted to have the best of class tournament, which it is, to showcase The Greenbrier, to show people that didn't know about the Greenbrier what it's like. If you've been around The Greenbrier, it's a wonderful place to be, hang out, from the way people treat you, most importantly, to the great food to all of the facilities they have. Jim's vision was to, let's get some publicity, let's showcase this on the PGA TOUR and he's done a wonderful job with that.

Q. When you mentioned being the pro emeritus and following in the footsteps of ?? ??

TOM WATSON: Makes you feel old, emeritus.

Q. But following in Sam Snead's footsteps, this is an event though that you come out and play. How important is it to not only just have the title but to actually play in the tournament and be a face of the tournament??

TOM WATSON: I don't treat this tournament any different than any other tournament I play in. I'm here to compete the best that I can compete. Yes, I've played the golf course more than most of the players have, so I have a little bit of an inside knowledge to it. But I'm here to compete and I want to do ?? I want to do absolutely my best and get there and have a chance to win the tournament. This course doesn't favor my game because of its length, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I might be able to get around some of the long holes and make it up on some of the shorter holes.

Q. Jim Justice's dad, how did you ?? what was the tie with him flying you back during the birth of your child? Did you know him at the time?

TOM WATSON: When I came to the tournament, prior to coming to the tournament, I told the PGA running Ryder Cup that there was the chance that I would have to withdraw from the tournament and is there a possibility to be able to get some quick transportation back in case my wife had the baby that week, which she did. And the tournament ?? the PGA went through Jim Serle, who is here, and Jim contacted Mr. Justice, who said sure, be happy to.

Q. And also I want to get your opinion, because a lot of people are thinking we know how good Tiger is; is he the best right now or does it matter??

TOM WATSON: Well, he was the best last week, that's all that matters. It doesn't make any difference on the first tee this week because everybody starts even on the first tee this week.

Q. Did you give him the skinny on the course or talk to him??

TOM WATSON: I haven't seen him yet, no.

Q. Tom, back to your round and obviously your play, what are you hoping to accomplish here to make it to Saturday to contend in this tournament? How do you do that? You talk about tricks up your sleeve. A bunker shot comes to mind last year that was pretty nice.

TOM WATSON: Well, there are holes here that I really have to struggle to make pars. 2 is one. When they have the back pin at No. 3, I've got a new trick for that. The 8th hole, the Redan hole, there's a shot that I've got another trick up my sleeve for that one, see if it works, but these work four days on those holes. The other holes I probably could manage okay. Getting off that start, it's a tough start for me here with 2 and 3 and then 6 is another tough one for me. Can't get it quite far enough down in there to get the right elevation coming into that green. Last year that green was just like a rock, it was really hard to stop.

Q. It seemed like you learned something from Thursday to Friday.

TOM WATSON: Yeah, I did. There's places you try to land the ball. Like 15th green for me, the players, I played with K.J. Choi and Gary Christian and Danny Lee today. Both Gary and Danny hit it over that green. Well, that's the first time they played it. I told them before they hit the shot, you're really just trying to land it on there, try to land it about seven yards on the front edge of the green, that's all you want to do. No, they have to land it 15 yards on the green and where does it go? It goes right over. Well, they didn't listen to the old pro.

MODERATOR: We've got time for a couple more right here and then in the back.

Q. Two part. First, how often did you interact with Sam Snead over the years, particularly when you became more established and he moved on from the Tour??

And second of all, assess how the course looks after all the trees went down, all the damage.

TOM WATSON: Well, I interacted with Sam every year at the Masters champions dinner. He was there and he was always in Sam's form. He had a thousand jokes, a lot of them you couldn't ?? you couldn't say in mixed company, but he had a lot of jokes. But he always played ?? he always played a practice round there. Whether he played in the tournament or not, he went out there and played with some of the other guys like Ford and Gay Brewer and people like that. Again, he'd be on the practice range and I would watch him, I would just go over and watch him and he helped me just by watching him.

The golf course, I got in on Sunday evening, went around with Hill Herrick, the pro here. Hill took me around the entire 18 holes of The Old White. It didn't look like anything had happened. He said, Tom, you wouldn't believe it Friday. Michael, the official photographer here at The Greenbrier, one of the official photographers, he said, I've got pictures to show you this week of what it was like, the damage. There was 500 people out there. Jamie was out, the pro here was out with a leaf blower for 12 hours, he said, in the fairways just blowing the stuff off to the side where they came in and vacuumed it. Just the amount of time and manpower it took to clean it up was amazing, absolutely amazing. Sunday it looked like it always has looked. Had a couple trees knocked down. The saddest one knocked down to me was the oak on No. 1 off the tee, just absolutely majestic oak on the left side in the rough there that really beautifully framed the hole and it's gone.

MODERATOR: Well, Tom, we appreciate your time as always and best of luck this week.

TOM WATSON: Thank you.