Tom Watson's entire press conference is worth a read, but just a few highlights. Gosh it's nice to read someone who isn't worried about upsetting a manufacturer.
MARTIN PARK: What kind of changes have you seen over the years since you've been coming back here?
TOM WATSON: Well, the changes are directly related to the equipment.
I know he's told this tale before, but I still think it's interesting:
I didn't fall in love with links golf, though, until really 1979, honestly. The luck of the bounce and the sideway bounces, I didn't like that. I didn't like it at all, even though I won two Opens before I I told myself in '79 at Royal Lytham, I said, You can't fight this. If you're going to fight this, you're never going to truly be a great success out here at it.
And I took it and I said, Well, you know, you've got to roll with the punches, as they say in boxing. And that's what I did. I didn't play very well in '79, but at least I rolled with the punches finally, and in '80, '82 and '83 I won.
And this is beautiful:
Q. In what ways do you think today's equipment has made it easier to play links golf compared to the 1970s?
TOM WATSON: Just a distance factor, the straightness of the ball. The ball goes through the wind better, just that, which is a lot. If I were commissioner for a day or if were commissioner for ten years, I would do three things; I would roll the golf ball back 10 percent. The golf ball, we've exceeded the distance it should be going. I'd get rid of square grooves, and they're going to do that in the States. And the other thing is I would reduce the size of the head of the driver, say you can't have it 460; you can have it 240 or 250, and that's it.
Has anybody here taken an old persimmon head driver and hit it recently? I couldn't hit the sweet spot if it saved my butt. No way I could hit the sweet spot. They have that big old thing about like that (indicating), and you swing it as hard as you can, and if you mishit it off center it still goes out there. It makes you sloppy. The bigheaded clubs make you a little sloppy.
That's what I would do. But is it going to be done? No. Square grooves, yes. But rolling back the golf ball, probably not. And the bigheaded driver, probably not.
I was intrigued by this because he's actually reminding us that there are ways in which the old grooves made the game a little easier...sometimes.
Q. You referenced square grooves. Greg Norman came in before, and he said that he's looking forward to this tournament, but he's really looking to next year because the square groove rule will be in place, that essentially it will level the playing field. I don't know how much thought you've given to that.
TOM WATSON: It's going to be interesting to see how the square grooves work. I was playing with Brent Snedeker today, and he said, Out of the rough I couldn't hit the ball very far. In fact, I hit it shorter out of the rough from what used to be a flatter lie, with the square grooves. I hit it shorter with a wedge and 9iron, in particular, than off a normal lie. You would think just the opposite; you'd still hit the ball farther.
And now he's playing with the nonsquare grooves and he's hitting the ball kind of the way he thought well, he used to. You get that extra distance from the rough. And a lot of times that was to an advantage.
I remember when square grooves came out, you had an advantage. You hit the ball a little bit in the rough right there you had 178 yards uphill into the wind, you could hit that little flier up there and it was a lot easier shot. You'd say a 6iron flier uphill and it was like a 4iron from the fairway uphill. And that's how we used to have to play.
So there's some guesswork, but we knew it was going to happen. We didn't know how much it was going to happen. It could go you could hit a jumper that went 10 yards farther, you could hit a jumper that goes 30 or 40 yards farther. And how does it know? You don't know.
Q. I presume it's health reasons that caused you to play this championship intermittently in the past few years. Have you given any thought to how much longer you might play as a past champion?
TOM WATSON: I'm restricted to age 60, which comes up in September, so I'll be playing St. Andrews. That will be my last Open Championship, unless I play well at St. Andrews or play well here and maybe have a sixth championship under my belt after Sunday. Now, that would be a story, wouldn't it? (Laughter.) You almost had that story last year with Greg Norman.
So I'm restricted by the rules of the R&A that I can't play anymore after 60 if I don't qualify.
Gee, you don't think he's just a tad sour about the whole age limit thing? As he should be.