Golf Digest editors picks

My Shot: Tom Watson

Continued (page 2 of 2)

Growing up in Kansas City, I have a healthy respect for lightning. A policeman friend of mine told me about encountering a lightning victim whose body inside was turned into something like Jell-O. At the 1975 U.S. Open at Medinah I saw a flash of lightning and then heard the rumble of thunder within five seconds, which meant the lightning was less than a mile away. Nobody moved, but I said, "That's it. I'm invoking the lightning rule. I'm walking in." I was in the clubhouse for 20 minutes when P.J. Boatwright, the USGA's executive director, came in and said, "I need to talk to you." He had a problem, I think, with my walking in. I told him about the lightning, but P.J. seemed dubious. He said, "Let's go outside and just see about this lightning." We no sooner had stepped out the door when lightning struck right in front of us. The flash and boom were almost simultaneous. I didn't have to say another word, and the look on P.J.'s face told me he got the message.

Tom Watson

Never saw a sport psychologist. Nothing wrong with them if they can help a guy deal with pressure. I never saw the need for one.

Many players on the senior tour wear magnets and copper bracelets, take herbal remedies and alternative medicines. Me, I'm a Vioxx and Advil guy. Nothing against that other stuff, but I'm from Missouri, the Show-Me State. When I see unequivocal proof that magnets work, I might give them a try.

Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson have something very much in common: We don't look particularly good in clothes. When you have short legs and an average-size torso, you tend to look a little squatty. I try to look presentable, but my body's not conducive to looking like a model.

If you think of yourself as unlucky, you'll have bad luck. There's no scientific explanation for it, but it's a cold, hard truth in golf. That's one reason why bad bounces never bothered me as much as they did some people. The second you start thinking of yourself as a victim, you've had it.

Years ago the thinking was that we'd never see a really good tall golfer because of the problems they would supposedly have with leverage. I changed my mind about that after having lunch with Ben Hogan in 1985. I asked Mr. Hogan if the tall golfer stood a chance, and he said, "By all means." He was emphatic, and it so happens that most of the best players today—Woods, Els, Mickelson and so on—are all over six feet tall. The day may come when we see someone 6-feet-8 or even taller come along and just dominate. I wouldn't bet against it.

It's enough to say I'm religious. What church I go to is none of your business.

I don't need to go into detail as to why I quit drinking, other than to say it was becoming similar to driving a car way too fast. You can drive fast and get away with it, but the fact is, you're putting yourself in danger. So I just quit.

My favorite movie of all time is "Charly." Cliff Robertson plays a man who is mentally handicapped. It was sad and funny, heartbreaking but uplifting. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a close second.

I have lots of trophies and things, but my most prized possession is a dowry trunk that Byron Nelson made for my daughter, Meg. It's a beautiful piece of furniture, and to think Byron made it with his own hands makes it very special. Like I said, Meg has the dowry trunk. But it's still the most precious thing anyone ever gave me.

A good conversationalist has the ability to say the right thing at the right time. He also recognizes the wrong thing to say and the wrong time to say it. I'm pretty good at saying the right thing, but I have a knack for saying the wrong thing. It stems from trying to be honest. Honesty can just be too painful.

If I could choose one player to win a Ryder Cup singles match for me, I'd take Larry Nelson. That surprises you, but Larry had a great record [9-3-1 in three Ryder Cups] and more than that, he was fearless. Larry saw some fighting in Vietnam, and that may explain why he couldn't be intimidated.

Everybody has choked. In the 1974 U.S. Open, I kept hitting the ball right to right. My nerves wouldn't allow me to adjust. That's what choking is—being so nervous you can't find a swing or a putting stroke you can trust, and gaining momentum from it. Byron gave me the best cure for it. Walk slowly, talk slowly, deliberately do everything more slowly than you normally do. It has a way of settling you down.

As a young man I enjoyed being around older people more than younger ones. I thought they had so much more to offer. I don't hang around older people as often these days. They're getting harder to find. Remember, I'm 54.

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July 28, 2014

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