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Watson and Langer at Magna GC

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On Monday morning, I had the good fortune to spend some time up at Magna GC in Aurora, Ont. for Golf Town’s Invitational event benefiting prostate cancer research.

Last year, David Toms and Sergio Garcia came up for an event draped in TaylorMade. This year the focus was on Adams Golf, and therefore eight-time major winner Tom Watson and two-time major winner Bernard Langer both came up for the event.

Now frankly these sorts of interviews are always sort of tough. After all, the players who attend aren’t there for their news value — and in the case of Watson and Langer, they are largely at Magna for their nostalgia and past greatness. Don’t get me wrong, both are tremendous players — it is just tough making them relevant to current events.

Which, thankfully, doesn’t mean they were no questions that were of any value, though it was slow going to start. Sitting in a room surrounded by people eating breakfast isn’t the best way to conduct a press conference, especially when there were only a handful of press in the room. Watson deftly handled a couple of questions about Adams Golf; Langer offered a precise, if not particularly colourful account of his use of the equipment. In other words it was yawnsville.

Then Watson decided to take the presser in another direction, raising the question of why the Americans don’t win the Ryder Cup. He said flatly that it was because the Europeans were better players. I said that wasn’t the case when you looked at the world rankings. He responded that the world rankings were political and didn’t necessarily reflect the reality of the level of play. Langer, for his part, said the Europeans played with more emotion and more as a team.

Watson also talked about Tiger Woods.

“At the Masters I thought he swung terribly,” Watson said. “He was upright at impact and his body was straight up and down. He hit the ball terribly. And what did he do? Finished second.”

Watson indicated that if you were watching closely, it was clear something was wrong with Woods. But when posed with the question of Woods’ chances at the US Open next week, Langer seemed convinced Woods would be on form.

“Obviously it is not the right way to prepare for a major,” said Langer. “But I’ll guarantee you Tiger has been practicing. He’s been chipping and putting and hitting shots from 100 yards. I’ve never seen anyone in the history of golf who practiced so hard.”

After the press conference Langer and Watson spent about an hour putting on a clinic and then played a nine hole exhibition that was only intriguing when Watson caught a hybrid heavy on the par-5 12th from 220, left his bunker shot, well, in the bunker and made bogey. Langer made birdie and that was the difference. In fact, Watson didn’t seem to be on form for most of the round, but still managed to stay even par over nine holes.

Finally, the spectators at the tournament had the chance to take to the course and play 18. Langer joined each group for a single hole and Watson provided my group with a chipping lesson. Big hitting Hugh Burrill played catcher as Watson lofted little chips to him, and then demonstrated how to hit a short lofted chip to a tight pin. I’ll give Watson this — he was friendly and spirited and that made him intriguing. He’d be a good one to sit down with for a long interview as he’s not short on opinion.

I caught him in the clubhouse afterwards and spoke briefly about golf design. He said he believed six hole loops would be a good bet for the time issues facing the game, but that owners wouldn’t buy into the notion.

“That’s what I’d build if they’d let me,” he said.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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