Watson impresses before hitting a shot
PEBBLE BEACH -- It's unclear whether Tom Watson would prefer to be this U.S. Open's resident wise man, or just another player vying for the season's second major championship.
At least in Watson's case, he's capable of being both. While at age 60 he's the oldest player in the Open field, he's also a player coming off top 20s in each of his last two majors, most notably including his magical runner-up finish at last year's British Open at Turnberry.
So when Watson addressed the media the day before the opening round, when he will tee off alongside upstarts Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa, it was in this dual role as nostalgic former champion, and potential contender. Below are some of the highlights of Watson's remarks.
*On whether he thinks he can contend 28 years after his memorable Open win at Pebble Beach:
"Well, I still feel like as if I can play the golf course. I'm out there and I'm still trying to figure it out, figuring out all these lies, these unpredictable lies around the green and the rough. And trying to figure out the new lines and where you have to hit the ball off the tee.
"And I'm preparing just as Nicklaus said, "I won golf tournaments by out preparing other people. I prepared better. I knew the yardages, I knew the distances, I played the golf courses a bunch of times and I just I had the advantage..."
"And the nostalgia, I guess it comes when we get to the 17th tee or 17th green and the 18th tee, and everybody wants to take a picture. It kind of reminds me of what happened, what occurred here before. It's pretty sweet. It's pretty nice."
On his advice for young golfers competing in their first Open:
"Try to keep it simple. You don't want a lot of extraneous, negative thoughts to go through your mind. You trust your golf swing. I had a hard time trusting my golf swing back in the early days, because I didn't get it."
*On how long he can remain competitive at the highest level:
"It's anybody's guess. I don't know. I still feel my body is still in pretty good shape and I'm hitting the ball pretty well, putting the ball pretty well. I'm happy to be able to say that, I'm putting the ball pretty well.
"I don't know, it could be a year, could be three years, could be six years. I hope it's a long time because that's what I am. I'm a golfer, plain and simple, a golfer. That's what I do. That's what I am. And when I can't do it anymore on a competitive level it's going to be a sad day."
On whether he is the best player in history to compete at an advanced age:
"(Sam) Snead was so far superior to me. Sam played such better golf. No, I was always in awe of Sam. He could play until he was 78 years old. He could play. And I don't think that's in the cards for me."
*On how much he revisits the events of last summer at Turnberry:
"Do I go back to the British Open? No. I get reminded of it a lot. People are very nice and they say something special. But I'm going to let the cat out of the bag, all right, to you and you only, there was a question whether I should have hit an 8-iron or 9-iron the last hole. 187 yards, had the wind at my back.
"When I hit the shot I kind of faintly remember a pretty good gust of wind. My friend Andy North, who was at the left of the green, when I asked him, I couldn't see where the ball landed, I just wanted to know, where did the ball land? Did it land in the middle of the green? Did it land ten yards on the green? And Andy said, 'No, it landed about a foot on the surface.' He said, 'Watson, when that ball hit, I was buffeted by a gust of wind, it was a lot stronger than the normal wind....Maybe I had the right club, but I had the wrong conditions. Maybe I should have hit a 9-iron and guessed that maybe I was going to have a gust of wind, who knows.
"But not using it as an excuse, I'm just going to tell you what happened. And what I've heard over the period of a year. Does it bother me? No. It would have been nice like I said, it would have been a hell of a story. But Stewart Cink, he did what he had to do, he birdied the last hole and he didn't miss a shot in the playoff. You have to give him all the credit. I just finished second."
--* Sam Weinman