The Watson glory days
Watson's Outback win reminiscent of PGA Tour days.
By BOB HARIG
Published February 20, 2007
Tom Watson's popular Champions Tour victory at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am on Sunday served as a reminder of the type of player he was on the PGA Tour. From 1977-80, he won the PGA Tour money title each season and captured 22 tournaments. He added 11 more tournament titles through 1984. Watson won eight major titles and 39 times overall. The 1982 U.S. Open came at Pebble Beach, where he chipped in from off the green at the 71st hole to defeat Jack Nicklaus. In fact, Nicklaus was on the short end of several Watson majors, including the 1977 and 1981 Masters. But the British Open is where Watson made his mark. Playing in the elements - as he had to do at the TPC Tampa Bay over the weekend - became his hallmark. A look at Watson's five British Open titles:
It is a shame that Tiger Woods chose to skip his hometown event, the Nissan Open, during a year in which it offered such a compelling leaderboard, allowing us to only dream what it might have been like if he were in Southern California perhaps battling against Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Charles Howell on Sunday.
But let's not go so far as to suggest that Woods was skipping the tournament to duck the competition with the hopes of keeping alive his PGA Tour winning streak. Think for a moment how absurd that sounds.
And yet, those are some of the rumblings that were heard last week as Woods elected to skip a tournament he has played nine times without a victory while waiting for this week's Match Play Championship, a World Golf Championship event.
Truth be told, Woods probably couldn't care less about the streak, which stands at seven in a row dating back to last year's British Open. He freely acknowledges that it is only a PGA Tour streak, that he has not finished first at stroke-play events in China, Japan and Dubai. His concern is preparing for the Masters.
And remember that Woods has done most of his damage against the best fields: 12 of his 55 PGA Tour titles have come in major championships, with another 12 in World Golf Championship events.
The PODS Championship, the PGA Tour event at Innisbrook on March 8-11, has received a commitment from Spain's Sergio Garcia, his first appearance in the event. Garcia, 27, has six PGA Tour titles. Howell, who defeated Mickelson on Sunday in a playoff at the Nissan Open, is committed, as are Paul Goydos, Charley Hoffman and Aaron Baddeley, other tournament winners this year. Vijay Singh, who won the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, is expected. For ticket information, see the Ticket window on this page.Bob Harig can be reached at (727) 893-8806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watson became just the third American, following Ben Hogan and Tony Lema, to win the British Open in his first attempt. A final-round 72 put him in a playoff with Australia's Jack Newton, which Watson won the next day 71-72. Nicklaus and Johnny Miller missed the playoff by one stroke.
Watson found himself in a battle with Lee Trevino and Ben Crenshaw through two rounds but pulled away with a third-round 64. A final-round 69 gave him a four-shot victory over Trevino, his third Open and fourth major championship.
A month after chipping in at Pebble Beach, Watson was two shots behind upstart Nick Price heading into the final round. A 70 helped him overtake Price and hold off Englishman Peter Oosterhuis by a shot. A young Nick Faldo finished two back. Watson now had four British Opens, all on different Scottish links.
An opening round 67 put Watson on his way, and he held off a final-round charge by Andy Bean and Hale Irwin - who whiffed a putt late in the round - to win the Open for the first and only time "south of the border" in England. The following year at St. Andrews, Watson had a chance to win three in a row and was tied with Seve Ballesteros for the lead with two holes to play. But a bogey at the famous "Road Hole" doomed Watson to second, and he never won another major.
Considered one of the best major championships ever and dubbed the "Duel in the Sun," Watson played with Nicklaus in the final two rounds and shot 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66. A long birdie putt on the final green by Nicklaus forced Watson to make his short birdie for the victory. How great was the golf between the two? The third-place finisher, Hubert Green, was 10 back of Nicklaus.