As Watson recalls, it was ‘a glorious day, light breezes. We came around the bend of the town, past the cemetery, and theres the parking lot up ahead, chock-o-block with cars, and theres the course beyond it, teeming with people. The whole town, it seemed. It was quite a celebration, is what it was. At the 15th tee, the par 3, we stopped and had a toast. Some Irish whiskey. And I proceeded to hit a 1-iron about two feet from the hole. Ill never forget that sound.’
I always rooted for Watson. As a young lad, I couldn’t have identified why I chose him over Nicklaus or all the other greats of that era. I was just always a Watson guy. I never understood why my dearly departed grandmother – as great a fan of the game as I will ever know – had such a dislike for the man.
I think about his greatest moments in his prime: the Dual in the Sun; Pebble Beach. I think about his loss to Scott Simpson at The Olympic Club in ’87.
I also think about his magical opening round in the ’03 US Open at Olympia Fields. A 65 that left him with a share of the lead was a sidelight. The story was the connection between Watson and the man on his bag, Bruce Edwards, in the midst of a struggle against the disease ALS, which would claim his life less than a year later. The story was the connection of these two men, and the poignancy of their achieving another great moment together.
I think about the miraculous Open Championship of ’09 at Turnberry. The man hit as pure an 8-iron as could be struck, culminating 72 holes of magic. 59 years old and the ball flying surely toward history. Except, he did not win.
To my mind, the way Watson carried himself, not only in defeat, but in the incredible 72 hours before the final act, epitomized the very best in grace and class.
No man is without flaws. I do not care to probe for this man’s flaws. I Celebrate the best in him. Greatest golfer ever? No. A grand gentleman? No doubt.
If anyone can lead these boys to haul the Cup back Stateside, I’d back Watson.