Surely today will be the last dance for Tom Watson, his final round in a U.S. Open, the tournament that to him is the most important of any, this time being played on the course that to him is the most important of them all.
“If this is my last U.S. Open,” said Watson, “it couldn’t have happened at a better place, Pebble Beach. I’m somewhat sentimental about this place. There’s a lot to this place for me. It means a great deal to play the U.S. Open, but especially at Pebble Beach.”
Especially at Pebble Beach, where Watson, as a Stanford student in the late 1960s, was given early-morning playing privileges by the caddy master, Ray Parga.
Especially at Pebble Beach, where Watson, partnering the elegant Sandy Tatum, the attorney, another Stanford grad and a onetime president of the U.S. Golf Association, won the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am in 1977 and 1978.
Especially at Pebble Beach, where, with that historic chip-in birdie on the 71st hole, the brutal par-3 17th, a maze of sand and pain, Watson won the 1982 U.S. Open.
Who said there are no second acts in American lives (Actually, it was F. Scott Fitzgerald, but the question rhetorical)? Last year, at age 59, Watson came within a shot of winning the British Open, which went to a playoff that Stewart Cink survived. This year, at age 60, Watson tied for 17th in the Masters and made the cut in the U.S. Open.
Watson is the only golfer to have played in all five Opens at Pebble, 1972, ’82, ’92, ’00 and now ’10. He is very much a part of history, and the fans acknowledged as much.
“The crowds were wonderful,” said Watson, as he plodded through morning fog on the bluffs above Carmel Bay. “A lot of ‘You can still do it. One for the baby boomers. You can do it for the old guys. Come on you can win this thing.’”
He won’t win this thing, this 2010 Open, but he won a great many more hearts Saturday.
After a 2-under 33 on the front nine, Watson putted like a, well, a 60-year-old, but still came in with a 1-over 37. His 1-under 70 produced a 54-hole total of 78-71-70—219, 6-over.
“Kind of a disappointing finish,” said Watson, the second-oldest, behind 61-year-old Sam Snead in 1973 ever to make an Open cut. “I bogeyed 17 and missed a birdie on 18, but all in all, I’m satisfied.
“I can’t hit the ball was long as the kids, but I can still get around.”
As well as some and better than many.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.