Tom Watson on Augusta’s hardest shot, one course tweak he’d make and his 2021 Masters pick

Decades later, Tom Watson's Masters history resonates as strongly as it ever has.

Cliff Endsley/Courtesy Callaway Golf

He is a two-time Masters champion and owner of one of golf’s most envious swings. He is Tom Watson, and in addition to earning a seat at the Champion’s dinner, is always willing to regale his history (and legacy) at the game’s most famed event.

Today, he sits down to answer 20 questions, providing golf fans with not only his deep reverence for Augusta National, but also a heavy dose of Masters history.

1. What do you remember about your first round at Augusta National?

I played with Doug Ford, 1970, as an amateur, and [on the first hole] I hooked my ball into the left trees.

I couldn’t see the green from where I was, so I had to walk up about 40 or 50 yards to get a line to the pin. I walked back in line with the pin, but then I lost my line so I had to walk up there again. Doug Ford was already waiting for me on the back of the green. Doug was a very fast player. 

2. There’s a saying: Augusta picks its winners. What does that mean to you? 

Well, it doesn’t mean anything to me. 

3. Other than your own, what was the most exciting Masters win? 

When I was a boy, I watched Arnold Palmer win his four Masters, and each one was absolutely, totally exciting to me. He was my hero. He was the King. I wanted him to win and he won. He just loved playing Augusta, and he played with great passion. It was really special. 

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4. You got the better of Jack Nicklaus in both of your Masters wins. Were those more gratifying than besting him at the Open at Pebble in ’82?

I can’t compare the two at all. Anytime you beat the best in the game it’s special, because that’s what you’re trying to do. And if you can come down head-to-head with the best in the game, that’s the dream come true for me. 

5. What do you most look forward to Masters week? 

First and foremost, playing the tournament. But I always enjoy the Champions Dinner and getting together with the generations of Masters winners. It’s a pleasure. 

6. Who has served the best Champions dinner?

I can’t really say, but the food is always good, especially the corn bread and olives. Graber olives. You can buy them in the can! They’re great. G-R-A-B-E-R. 

7. It’s been five years since you played your last Masters. What do you miss the most about competing at Augusta? 

The excitement of teeing off on the first hole and trying to face the challenge of the course, and to beat the course the best I can. That’s me in a nutshell. 

8. If you could change one thing about the course, what would it be?

[Long pause] Well, I thought a couple of the hazard lines were not marked properly, like the cross hazard left of 13. They kind of went overboard. But you don’t call ’em hazards anymore, you call ’em penalty areas.

9. If you could change one thing about the tournament itself, what would it be?

I wouldn’t.

10. What part of your game did you focus on most leading up to the Masters? 

Trying to hit a draw with the driver, making the ball work right to left. On holes like 9, 10, 13 — you have to do that to make the course play shorter.

11. Did you make any gear tweaks specifically for Augusta?

I tweaked my swing, not my gear. I’d pull my right foot back and take the club a little bit more to the inside and rotate a little bit stronger going through the impact area — the old standby lesson on how to draw the ball.

12. Do you still have any of your Masters-winning clubs, and, if so, where do you keep them? 

I do. I have a driver that I won the Masters with, sets of irons I won with. I keep them stored away in my house. 

13. You’re a photography buff. If you could shoot the course, where would you go first?

The 11th and 12th greens, surrounded by the azaleas. That’s where I’d go.

14. Do you have a favorite restaurant in Augusta? 

Well, we ate in a lot of ’em. The last few years we would go to TBonz and have a steak dinner. It was a lot of fun. 

15. What is the hardest shot on the course?

The most dangerous is the tee shot at No. 12. Play that properly or else you lose the tournament. We sure have seen that recently. 

16. What is the easiest shot on the course?

I never really took any shot there as an easy shot.

17. What’s the lowest number you think you could post on the course today, in tournament conditions, if you had everything going?

I’d be hard-pressed to shoot 75 from the back tees. It’s a long golf course from back there. Way too long for me.

18. The winner of the 2021 Masters will be …?

I think I’d put it on Justin Thomas. He hits the ball high and hits it a long way. He’s got all the shots you need to play there. He’s due to win that club tournament.

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19. Will we see you there this year?

Well, it depends on whether they have crowds or not. If they don’t allow crowds, then you’re probably not going to see me. If they don’t have the Par 3 tournament, I don’t think I’ll be there.

20. What’s the most unusual place you have worn your green jacket? 

Never worn it outside of the club. 

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Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.