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Swan Song for Watson
Playing on a special exemption in the 110th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, 60-year-old Tom Watson acquitted himself well throughout the championship.
After opening with an uncharacteristic 7-over 78, the 1982 Open champion at Pebble rallied with an even-par 71 to make the cut, then shot rounds of 70 and 76 over the weekend.
Watson's stroll down the 18th hole was quite emotional. Not only was it likely his final Open at the fabled course alongside the Pacific Ocean, but it was Father's Day and his son Michael was his caddie, and the fans around the fairway and green gave the Hall-of-Famer a rousing ovation that he'll never forget.
Tears rolled down Watson's cheeks as he walked to the greenside bunker, where his third shot had landed. Watson popped the ball out of the trap and saw it roll to within 2 feet from the hole. Unfortunately, he missed the par putt, saying later the tears in his eyes blurred his vision. But after knocking his next shot into the cup, Watson took the ball out of the hole and threw it into the nearby Stillwater Cove to great applause.
Afterward, Watson met with reporters and discussed what Sunday meant to him.
Q. 10 years ago Jack missed a little short one-putt on 18. He said he was trying to putt through tears. But were you having a similar experience?
TOM WATSON: Exactly. Yeah. There were a lot of emotions going on there on 18 today. Even with my son on the bag and all the memories, great memories I've had here, a beautiful spot at 18, it's just looking at Stillwater Cove there and hit a good bunker shot. But I drew a blank on the putt and pushed it out there and made it coming back, fortunately, but yeah the emotions are pretty high. Very high.
TOM WATSON: It was. Yeah. I guess I just closed my eyes and hoped.
Q. You threw the ball into the water?
TOM WATSON: After a 76 you want to do that.
Q. Well, you did it back in'82, so I guess that was a tip of the cap to that moment?
TOM WATSON: It was. This Stillwater Cove, you give her her due. If she doesn't take it off the tee, give her a ball or two.
Q. You had the virtual tap in for the birdie, somehow that missed and then around and around for the par.
TOM WATSON: Yeah, it was just a lousy stroke on the short stroke. I wasn't thinking too much about make it. I was kind of thinking about the emotion of the situation, really honestly.
Q. Let's take a look at a birdie that you did make on the 4th. One of the highlights of what could be Tom Watson's last U.S. Open round?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I hit a little sand wedge in here and made a good left-to-right putt. Right there I was 1-under par for the day. It was a nice start. My son's back there smiling in the background.
Q. That was an emotional walk up 18. Here it is with your son Michael on the bag?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I started thinking about him on my bag and the tears started to flow a little bit, and everything else started to kind of rush in the old heart there and it was -- I made a nice bunker shot at 18 though didn't.
Q. Yeah, you did. To setup the birdie opportunity. This doesn't belong in my hands, does it belongs in yours? Does that look familiar to you?
TOM WATSON: That does look kind of familiar to me. That has to be that Wilson wedge that I chipped it in in 1982. Right there.
Q. On 17.
TOM WATSON: Kind of wore out the middle of it there, didn't I?
Q. Well, that is the difference between my club and yours. It's worn in only one area?
TOM WATSON: I thank David Graham for this. David gave me this right out of his garage. He had about 20 of them.
Q. Could you feel the electricity the first nine holes, little kids running around, going, there's Tom Watson
TOM WATSON: Yeah, who is that guy, yeah.
Q. We can't go there. We got to see Tom Watson. Your drives looked like they did 10 years ago?
TOM WATSON: Yeah, I played a pretty good front nine. I played well, with the exception of the drive at 9, I put the ball into play and did what I had to do. The back nine I didn't play very well.
Q. Did you feel the electricity from the crowd though?
TOM WATSON: I sure did. The crowd was just wonderful all day. It gave me a nice ovation just about every hole. There's a lots of sadness today. A lot of sadness. Yet it's based on a lot of memories and great memories that I've had here, and it very well may be my last time playing Pebble Beach in a championship of this caliber probably. Probably so.
Q. What are your playing plans, Tom?
TOM WATSON: The next one I've got four Majors now in a row. I've got the British Open, the British Senior Open, the U.S. Senior Open and the Tradition, which is a senior Major.
Q. Any particular plans as far as a practice and making ready for the British Open again after what happened last year?
TOM WATSON: I need to start playing a little bit better than I am right now. I just am a little bit off, and I just didn't have good control this entire week even though I shot a couple good middle rounds. It was done somewhat with smoke and mirrors and a lot of experience playing Pebble Beach. And if I had -- I didn't hit the ball with the irons and put it in play enough times off the tee on the back nine, and it cost me. It cost me a lot of shots.
Q. You shot, your final ball into the ocean, your son said it was fitting. How did you come up with that and just kind of how was it fitting?
TOM WATSON: Well, I threw the ball in the ocean after I won the U.S. Open in 1982. And what you do, you give the ocean its due because you never know when it's going to take it from you. I've hit it into that ocean off the tee a few times, and throwing the ball in the ocean is kind of a thank you for not taking it one more time.
Q. Tom there, are quite a few golfers in the last few groups who are having very tough, difficult rounds and I was wondering?
TOM WATSON: What's new at Pebble Beach?
Q. As someone whose been in that position many times, how do you explain it and are you surprised to see the scores?
TOM WATSON: I'm not surprised to seat scores at all. This golf course is playing fast and fiery, but it's not playing unfair. It's a difficult golf course. You've got to play certain shots and you have to putt the ball very well. The key shots you have to play -- you have to play the approach to 14. You have to play the shot into 17 and make sure that you're not short sided on 17 like somebody did 28 years ago. (Laughter.)
Q. You're walking with your son and the memories of you and your dad at this particular property. Was it overwhelming, and in particular, what was the first thing that you learned from your father about this particular golf course?
TOM WATSON: Well, it was overwhelming today coming up the 18th hole. Just after I hit my 3-wood into the bunker it started to hit me. It's Father's Day, with your son on the bag, that's when it started hitting me. And the memories started to hit me again, and it's just a wonderful feeling to be here at Pebble Beach. I owe a lot of -- probably most of what I have to my dad as far as my ability to play golf. My love for the game, my passion for the game, my ability to play the game, that came from my dad. A long time ago he and Leonard Dodson won the Crosby Clambake here. Actually it wasn't hear, but it was -- he won the Crosby Clambake at Rancho Sante Fe. That's a long time ago.
So there's some history there. But the one thing he did say about this golf course, I mean he always said, he said it has the three best par-4s in a row in the world and 8, 9 and 10, they call them the Cliffs of Doom now. I think that's a little bit over the top, but they're just three beautiful par-4s. I didn't play them too well today. But I did make a birdie at 9, and I did make a birdie at 8 today; and so I birdied 9 ones and 8 ones in the eight attempts at those holes. So pretty happy with that.
Q. What's it like to have Sandy Tatum follow you around at almost 90?
TOM WATSON: Well, he's right behind you. He can't hear that question, by the way. (Laughter.) No it's wonderful to have Sandy here. We have a lot of history here. I won the Crosby here when he was my partner and he took me to see some golf courses and we played some wonderful links golf courses in 1981, starting at Ballybunion and Royal Dornoch and Old Prestwick. And Troon, which I hadn't played before; and we had a wonderful time there and there's some, there was some wonderful memories, a lot of wonderful memories playing with Mr. Tatum over the years. We have done a lot of things together. We have helped some kids learn how to play the game and in our respective cities and here and in the Bay Area, and it's always been a pleasure to be in his company. Can't understand a word he says though. (Laughter.) I need a dictionary.
Q. There was at least an hour period where the groups were going crazy out there with Dustin's problems and so forth, but is that another example of the U.S. Open of one of those wild Sundays, as one of the wildest days in sports; is that how you see it?
TOM WATSON: It really is everything is on the line, the pressure's as high as it's going to get and you're playing a very, very difficult golf course. Can you handle it? Can you handle it? I mean I've been in positions, and I couldn't handle it. Fortunately, I was in the position one time when I could handle it. And it was -- it's what we're out here for. It's what we're out here to play golf for is to play in championships such as the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.