Tom Watson on becoming an Honorary Starter for The Masters.

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Two-time Masters champion Tom Watson talks to Today’s Golfer about becoming an Honorary Starter for The Masters, how to play Augusta National and who will win in 2022.

Tom Watson loves Augusta. He won The Masters there in 1977 and 1981 during an eight-year spell that saw him win eight Majors.

The 72-year-old played The Masters 43 times, making his debut in 1970 and waving goodbye to the famous tournament in 2016, playing in 42 consecutive tournaments from 1975 until his goodbye.

Tom Watson addresses the patrons after winning his second Green Jacket in 1981.

From 1977 to 1991 he never failed to finish outside the top 15, and only missed the top 10 on two occasions during that spell. One of just 17 players to have won The Masters more than once, the two-time US Ryder Cup captain also has three runner-up finishes, and ranks fifth in the tournament’s scoring history with 72.74 (100 rounds or more).

THE MASTERS: Story of the Green Jacket

In 2022 Watson will join fellow legends of the game (and his close friends) Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an Honorary Starter, hitting the opening tee shots that signal the start of the year’s first men’s Major.

We sat down with one of the tournament’s all-time greats to find out what it means to him, who he’s backing to win at Augusta and discuss his Masters memories.

What does being made an Honorary Starter mean to you?

I’ve been kidding people that it now means I’m officially old! Seriously, it means a great deal to me, especially because Jack is such a close personal friend while Gary and I go way back.

The three of us have played the last three or four Par 3 tournaments together, so maybe it’s a natural progression of going to the 1st tee… and maybe they have waited until I was old enough.

Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are Honorary Starters at The Masters.

Are you excited or nervous?

I’ll be excited more than nervous. I’ve been on that 1st tee quite a few times when I was playing the tournament – I remember going there to see Byron (Nelson), Sam (Snead) as well as Arnold (Palmer) and Jack.

It’s a wonderful tradition of recognising the great players that have played there before.

THE MASTERS: How you can play Augusta

After winning your second Masters in 1981, you reckoned it was better second time around. Why did you say that?

I was probably caught up in the moment. To win any tournament means you’ve accomplished your goal and that was my focus then, whereas when I first got onto the Tour it was to see how good a golfer I could be. 

Tom Watson receives his Green Jacket from Seve Ballesteros after winning the 1981 Masters.

What do you remember most about your Masters debut in 1970?

I shot 77 in the 1st round and didn’t play particularly well. I had it going in the 2nd round and was under par going into 13 when I made a double bogey with a 6-iron in my hands! I missed the cut by three. 

The next time I played there was in 1975 and I was paired with Nicklaus in the final round when he won the tournament. I had a shot at winning that tournament – going into 16, I made a seven, while Jack was making that long putt for two to end up winning by a shot.

I was a very close observer to what Jack was doing and watched intently how he played the golf course. That helped me so much in the ensuing years.

THE MASTERS: Who is in this year’s field?

Tom Watson celebrates after holing the final putt to win his first Masters in 1977.

So where can’t you put your ball at Augusta National?

My good friend Bob Goalby, who sadly passed away in January, said if you hook it left off the 2nd tee you’re in the Delta ticket office – and you better get a ticket because you’re leaving on Friday because you’re going to miss the cut!

But the key shot of the whole tournament comes on the 12th tee: you have to play it correctly. When Tiger Woods won a couple of years ago he played his shot over the bunker, whereas all his competitors hit the ball in the water and made double bogey. He got it handed to him on a silver platter there.

What are Augusta’s best scoring holes?

At the outset, Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie said they were going to make the par 5s birdie holes,
but all the other holes are tough pars.

You look at Ray Floyd when he won in 1976. I believe he was 14-under on the par 5s and he won by eight shots. He played the par-5s remarkably well and that’s how the course is designed to play. 

Tom Watson thanks the patrons at the end of his final round at The Masters in 2016.

Did you work on anything specific on your game in your Masters build-up?

I worked on hooking my tee balls. On many holes (2, 5, 9, 10, 13), hooking your tee ball gives you an advantage as
far as distance is concerned. I practised that a lot on Monday. I particularly tried to hit a really hard hook on 13.

MASTERS: Champions Dinner – History and Menus

Do you think Bryson DeChambeau will need to change his grip-it-and-rip-it tactics to
win at Augusta?

The key thing is to get your ball in play. When Tiger won the 1997 Masters by 12 shots, he was just hitting wedges and sand wedges into the greens and that’s when they had to change the length of the course.

Tom Watson is backing Collin Morikawa or Jon Rahm to win The Masters.

Who would you put your money on for this year’s Green Jacket?

I like two players in particular… Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm.

READ NEXT: We reveal who will win The Masters!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Today's Golfer Digital Editor Rob Jerram

Rob Jerram is the Digital Editor of todaysgolfer.co.uk

He has been a journalist for more than 20 years, starting his career with Johnston Press where he covered local and regional news and sport in a variety of editorial roles across ten years.

Rob joined Bauer Media in 2010 and worked as the Senior Production Editor of Today’s Golfer and Golf World magazines for ten years before moving into the Digital Editor’s role in July 2020.

He has been playing golf for almost three decades and has been a member at Greetham Valley in Rutland for eight years, playing off a 12 handicap.

Rob uses a Ping G driverPing G 3-woodTaylorMade M5 5-woodTaylorMade P790 irons (4-PW), Ping Glide 2.0 Stealth wedges (52º, 56º, 60º), Evnroll ER2 putter, and TaylorMade Tour Response golf ball.

You can contact Rob here.

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