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Tom Watson | Talks Passion, Links Golf, and The Open

Tom Watson | Talks Passion, Links Golf, and The Open

A Candid Conversation with Tom Watson

Eight-time major championship winner, Tom Watson, speaks openly with Erik about his illustrious career. Watson, who raised the Claret Jug five times, surprises Erik by explaining his struggles with accepting the difficulties of links golf. Throughout their conversation, Erik and Tom discuss passion towards the game, unfairness in golf, memories from the Open Championship, his friendly rivalry with Jack Nicklaus, and the moment Tom knew he could compete with the best players on tour. 


  • [0:04]: My career started when I was six years old, with my dad giving me my first lesson.
  • [0:43]: Just being around golfers has enriched my career, and made me understand what the game of golf is all about.
  • [0:53]: The game of golf is all about passion.
  • [1:17]: I’ve played golf all my life, I am a golfer. It defines me in a lot of ways, and I’m very grateful to be able to play a game for a living.

Links Golf

  • [1:55]: The first thing people think about when they come play golf on links golf courses over here is the weather (on Americans golfing in the UK)
  • [2:40]: The true definition of links golf is ‘bounce’
  • [2:46]: The key for success in links golf is hitting the ball the right distance.
  • [3:20]: Going downwind is the hardest wind to judge how far the ball is going to go.

Golf is Unfair

  • [4:32]: You never can leave a golf ball
  • [5:01]: The bottom line is golf is not a fair game. 
  • [5:03]: I struggled with accepting links golf and the bad bounces for several years until I finally said, ‘Enough of this pity-pot stuff, and whining. You better get with it and just accept your fate and play on.’
  • [5:49]: It’s an unfair game, it’s very simple. You hit a good shot, and you get a bad break. You hit a bad shot, you get a good break. (on the role of fairness in golf)-
  • [7:38]: If I get the ball up and down, I win the Open Championship at an advanced age, but… I accepted it. It was hard to accept, but that’s just the way the game is. (On learning to accept your fate)

Playing Conditions

  • [8:42]: To understand the game fully, you have to realize that when you play a round of golf your par changes depending on the conditions. (On dealing with disappointment as a golfer)
  • [9:16]: Difficult conditions take away from what perfect conditions give you.
  • [9:48]: The more you play the game, you understand that your par level changes as the conditions change.
  • [10:58]: The game itself has changed because the ball has changed. The ball goes straighter and farther, and that’s the biggest change in the game.
  • [11:38]: Bottom line, the game still is, ‘you tee the ball up and you try to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes as possible.’ That hasn’t changed. It didn’t change from 1860 when the first Open Championship was played at the 12 hole golf course at old Prestwick. Hasn’t changed since then, it’s still the same game.
  • [12:05]: Anytime you can be on a golf course. (On perfect golf weather)
  • [13:08]: The one thing about an Open Championship that’s different than any place else, is the crowd reactions to shots. I think the crowds are a little more knowledgeable here about the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.
  • [14:22]: One thing about what was said about here is that golf is a fabric. It’s part of the fabric of life for everybody over here. People who don’t even play the game understand that it’s an important element of their culture.
  • [14:54]: People in the UK have a great passion for the game.

Open Championship Experience

  • [15:29]: I think friendly was respectful. Jack always had a great respect for his fellow competitors. He wanted to beat you as hard as anybody else (On his friendly rivalry with Jack Nicklaus)
  • [15:44]: When he came off the last green at Turnberry, he had me by the shoulder like that and said, ‘Tom, I gave you my best shot, but it wasn’t good enough. I’m really happy for you.’ And when he said that, I knew I kind of arrived. 
  • [16:48]: You have to deal with the frustrations, and the roadblocks, and the bad bounces, and the bad lies in the bunkers. Yet people continue to play the game.
  • [17:09]: Your best score, you remember that probably shot for shot. That’s why you keep on playing the game. You never surrender.
  • [17:53]: I’ve come close to surrendering and hated the game when things weren’t going well. I practiced my butt off and things were getting worse. And finally, I made an out of the box change in my golf swing and all of the sudden, ‘Wow, this game is easier.’ 
  • [18:57]: Now it’s getting tougher. It’s getting tougher now the older I get, but you have to persevere. You have to persevere in this game.
  • [19:18]: You can’t go out every time and get the type of results you are looking for. You have to deal with the failures. That’s what strengthens your character, and strengthens your golf game, is dealing with the failures and trying to figure out why you failed.
  • [19:45]: When you stop wanting to improve and just enjoy the game, that’s okay, but that’s not a part of my personality. Every time I hit a shot, I want to know why I missed it. If I hit a good one, I enjoy the moment.
  • [20:36]: Anytime you are playing the game, you are going to be dealing with frustration and failure. (On having swing trouble as a world renowned golfer) 
  • [20:44]: The great golfers, they have a certain amount of talent, and skill, and practice ethic that they can figure out how to score. 
  • [20:56]: One of the things that defined the way I played the game is I was able to score when I wasn’t playing too well. That’s the first thing I had to learn when I came out on the tour.
  • [21:18]: The true discovery is golf’s not a perfect game.
  • [21:34]: He was all over the place, but he could get the ball up and down out of the ball washer. And I could do the same thing. (On the effective play style of Seve Ballesteros) 
  • [27:00]: True links golf, is played on links land. The link between the sea and the air of the land. There’s really only a handful of courses around the world that are true links golf courses, less than 300.
  • [27:27]: You gotta be a great putter, number one. If you make putts, you’re gonna win. If you don’t make putts, you’re probably not gonna win. (On the most important aspect of golf)
  • [27:47]: Failing at Medinah in 1975 in the US Open I cried hard… after stinking up the joint the last couple of rounds when I had a chance to win the tournament I wanted to win the most: the US Open.
  • [29:34]: Only in this game of golf would this happen. That crowd went silent in three seconds, it was unbelievable. From a jet engine roar to absolute dead silence in three seconds. 
  • [29:48]: Now that’s what the game is all about. The respect for people who play the game, the respect for playing the game the way it should be played. The respect from Jack Nicklaus to say, ‘Give him his due. Let him putt this putt in silence’ 
  • [30:24]: I felt that maybe I can play with the big boys. I play with them, I can beat the best. 
  • [30:30]: That was my goal as a kid, to be the best, and that’s why I’m here today.
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