Faxon on DC: Watson biggest Masters surprise

April 09, 2010 - 6:44 am
Brad Faxon checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to talk about the first round of the Masters. Faxon said the most surprising story from Thursday's first round was seeing Tom Watson's name up near the top of the leaderboard. "You really haven't seen much from Tom Watson other than his great British Open last year," Faxon said of Watson. "He did win his first Champions Tour event but you don't see his name as often, and you don't expect a 60-year-old guy with a new hip to be leading a major championship." Tiger Woods also had himself a productive first day on the course, firing a 4-under 68, and Faxon said it was probably nice for Tiger to just get out and focus on golf. "I have to believe that first tee shot was one of the most comforting things he's done in a long time," he said. "He gets up there and the crowd was appreciative. They were not too loud, but where you want them to be, and he hit a perfect little fade tee shot that traditionally has given him a lot of trouble." Read the transcript below. To listen to the interview, click here.
Who surprised you more: Fred Couples, Tom Watson or Tiger Woods?
Without a doubt Tom Watson's 67, without a doubt. It's kind of like having Butler in the [NCAA basketball] pool. Who are you rooting for: Watson, Couples or Phil Mickelson? I don't know if you believe or not but my prediction at the beginning of the week was Mickelson. I've said it for about a week that something was going to happen and it would be good for Phil. Mickelson's comments were, "Hey, Fred Couples, who has been doing so well on the Champions Tour with his three wins and his only non-win was a second place finish to Tom Watson, that winning breeds winning," and Couples would be a guy he would look to see at the top of the leaderboard. How can Jim Furyk shoot and 80 and Tom Watson shoot 67? That's why we love golf. There is no sense to it. Furyk would have been a guy who would have been around par or a couple under at worst. He's always been the steadiest player that we have and he won a couple weeks ago. You really haven't seen much from Tom Watson other than his great British Open last year. He did win his first Champions Tour event but you don't see his name as often and you don't expect a 60-year-old guy with a new hip to be leading a major championship. You would want to be the best putter at Augusta, is that right? There's no doubt about it. There was a stat that last year's leader in greens in regulation was Nick Watney. He hit 55 out of the 72 greens in regulation, which is very good. If you hit 15 greens anywhere it's a great round, if you do it at the Masters it's really unbelievable. At the Masters putting is more important than anywhere else because of the long lag puts you have, the amount of break you have to play. When I play with amateurs around the country and you play at a course that has fast greens they always want to know compared to Augusta National how are these greens speeds, are these the same? There is really nothing close. I've played fast greens before. The combination of the slope, speed and then the nerves is really hard to explain. So you have to hit the green and hit the green in the right spot. Absolutely. The beauty of the golf course in the original design that Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie came up with was the fairways used to be very wide. There was one cut. There was no rough, one height of rough and where you drove it on the fairway was important. You could bail out to the easy side on the hole but the iron shot in would be difficult. It was important that you hit it to the correct side of the fairway, now that really doesn't matter because the fairways are so tight now that you don't have the luxury of driving it anywhere you want. Did Tiger do anything that surprised you or amazed you? I have to believe that first tee shot was one of the most comforting things he's done in a long time. To get up there and if you watched him walk from the practice putting green to the first tee there were more people around that putting green than I've ever seen before. That was packed. It was wall to wall people from the first tee to the putting green. He gets up there and the crowd was appreciative. They were not too loud but where you want them to be and he hit a perfect little fade tee shot that traditionally has given him a lot of trouble. Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi looked comfortable and look like they could have a good four days down there. I think you are right but that pairing was great for all of them. Kuchar is a really nice guy to play with. He never gets too excited. He can laugh off a bad shot with the best of them and he's certainly plenty long. I'm pretty sure Tiger his first into the green there. I think K.J. and Kuchar both hit it out there with him. It had to be comfortable for all of them. They are all excited to be out there playing. That last few groups on Thursday is traditionally the hardest because the course is dried out a little bit. The wind was whipping, it was 15 to 20 m.p.h winds out there. When you play 10 and 11, even though they are downhill, into the wind they are over 500 yard par 4s, those aren't easy. Did you notice a good portion of the gallery not applauding for Tiger? I kind of noticed that. I can't say I didn't expect that either. I'm sure there a lot of people that are not sure how they want to welcome Tiger back. I thought it was fantastic to watch and I wish that CBS had shown the whole front nine rather than just a shot here or there. It was amazing to see some of the people that just clapped for a second or wouldn't clap at all. They can't really go nuts at the Masters they wouldn't let that happen. Does it surprise you that someone say something negative toward Tiger? I'm not so sure he'd tell you the truth either. He made some comments in his press conference that he didn't see any of the planes overhead. I don't know. It wasn't like he was looking down. If he saw that Bootyism plane, if that's the truth, then he has to laugh at that. I don't believe he did not look up once. If someone spoke up would they get booted out? In a heartbeat. For something like, "You should be ashamed of yourself Tiger." Absolutely, gone. As fast as you can get them out. Would that happen at the Houston Open or some place else? They'd laugh at the Houston Open. The Masters is the only one who have complete control over everything. If you walk to fast they tell you to slow down. It's very different. Is it a foregone conclusion that Couples, Phil, Tiger and Watson are going to make the cut? If it rained a little bit the greens are going to stay softer. Jim Mackay, Phil Mickelson's caddy, called me on Wednesday night and he thinks its the first time the course is set up where he thinks they want to have low scores. The fairways were a little bit longer, which made chipping a little bit easier. You could still see the ball rolling a long way when it hit the ground. Mickelson in his press conference said that all the tees were up and there were maybe one or two ridiculous pin placements. But every one was up and the pin was attackable, every hole was birdieable. I think the Masters really wanted to see some low scores and I always say they have this magic dust where they can do something to add two or three shots to the round. Mickelson seems to be the favorite based on how he putted yesterday. He did something on the back 9 on Houston that seemed to click for him. It's amazing what 9 holes of golf can do for your confidence. Plus I also believe that a lot of guys like Phil and [Ernie] Els who played in Houston really had their minds in a different place. They were working on their game trying to get ready for the Masters even though they were in Houston. It would be very hard to pick one guy that is going to play great and you see a great looking leaderboard up and down. Anthony Kim who won last week he shot 4-under. Trevor Immelman, Adam Scott. Everybody in the world wants to see Couples and Watson play great and be there Sunday afternoon. Were you the guy to give Mickelson the putting advice? I told him a few of those things at Doral and he's been working with Dave Stockton and Stockton has really helped him out. Phil loves what he's told him. We saw Phil with a very wide stance and it looked Kenny Perry like. It didn't look Phil like, it was kind of unathletic. Sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what is right for you. I always think it's the tournament that makes you all of a sudden do better. You kind of forget all the little things and you know you got to score well that week and this is where you got to do it. Twelve major champions are under par, so it's not a slam dunk for Tiger, is it? Not at all. At the Masters, typically the tournaments we play is low 60 or low 70. The Masters is a low 44, but they also have a 10 shot rule. So anybody within 10 shots of the leader is going to make this cut. If you went to 10 shots of the lead right now and the 4-overs would make it, then 82 guys would make the cut. That filters out a little bit. We don't want to see 82 guys make the cut. Is that Michael Campbell at the bottom of the leader board, the Campbell that won the U.S. Open? It is. I saw him at Bay Hill and the first thing my wife said to me was, "How did he get in this tournament." He won a major championship and a major champion gets five years exemption and maybe even 10.