We missed you last week. While you were off at Hilton Head, playing against the kids, we were out here in Arizona, near Carefree, playing the Tradition. It's one of our Senior majors, you know. But of course you do: You lost in a six-hole playoff to Tom Kite here last year.
You're free to play anywhere you like. That's what's great about this country. But my feeling is that the Senior tour needs you playing in our majors to make them major. Maybe you heard what I said in the press tent after my opening round (a little 66). I said, " Tom Watson is off in Hilton Head this week because he thinks he can still beat those guys. He didn't consider this a major. I don't mean to knock Tom, but I think it is. We need majors out here. We need something to point to."
I know you won at Hilton Head twice. I know it's a short trip from Augusta to Hilton Head, probably nostalgic for you. I won once at Hilton Head, too. I'd like to go back. But I've come to realize something: The people on this tour—the guys we're playing with, the spectators—these are my people. Maybe that's hard for you to accept. Playing out here, it's not about nostalgia. It's about accepting reality.
You know what the guys out here talk about out on the range? Baseball, Tom. Like, "Who's starting for the Bosox tonight?" We are your people, Tom. We speak your language. Any of those kids know who George Brett is anyhow?
Hey, I got a question: They still got all those good-looking girls hanging out at the Hilton Head lighthouse on the Friday night of the tournament? Remember what that scene was like, back in the '70s? Kind of gets my blood going, just thinking about it. I'm joking. I'm a grandfather now. (Your daughter is, what, in her junior year of college?) Friday night here, I was at our Bible-study meeting.
The best night was Tuesday, when they had the dinner for major winners, Senior and regular. You've been going to dinners like that for years, of course, at Augusta. But it was a new thing for me, one of the fringe benefits of winning the Senior PGA last year, my first major. They gave me a special blue blazer. I said to my wife, "I'm in the club now." It was neat, sitting with Tommy Aaron and Bob Goalby and Don January and Gene Littler, hearing the old war stories. The wives had a dinner, too.
The Tradition, the Senior PGA, the U.S. Senior Open, the Senior Players—those are our big four. (You have enough game to win all four, but you have to win your first one first.) They were officially designated as majors by some Senior tour committee more than a decade ago, long before you or I turned 50. Now maybe you feel no committee can officially anoint a tournament a major. I know you must think that designating majors is a pretty contrived thing. I hear you on that.
Still, this is the hand we were dealt and all we can do is make the best of it. I know how much you admire Mickey Wright. I'm sure you know she played all sorts of LPGA events she didn't feel like playing, to support her tour when it was finding its legs. Well, our legs are a little wobbly now. We need you, Tom. Nicklaus was here. (He designed the course.) Arnold wasn't. Lanny was here. Trevino wasn't. Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Larry Nelson, Gary Player, they were all here. How many majors did those guys win? You would've had to beat more than your Doug Tewells and your Mike McCulloughs to win the thing, you know.
Jack is something. I heard he played horribly coming in on Friday, then went to the range with Jim Flick and they really got in the dirt, worked up a big old sweat. It was great for the fans, because they're standing like 10 feet from those two, the best player in the history of the game and his teacher, and they're hearing every little intimate thing they're saying. At one point Jack—and you know the voice—gets his club face in a position he really likes, and he says to Flick, "Now that reminds me of a golfer I used to know." Guy is what, 61? No quit in the man. He was three under on the weekend. I'm sure you can relate. I've heard about some of those marathon sessions you had over the winter in Florida.
I've been working with Flick for a year and some, and he has really helped, especially with my putting. He said I was putting too much with the shoulders, told me I was too rigid, not relaxed enough through my forearms. You know, I could always hit the ball pretty straight. People used to say to me, "The way you hit the ball, you should be able to win a U.S. Open." But my putting game wasn't there. Now I've made nearly $2 million in the last 15 months. It's all about putting. I don't need to tell you that.