The first week of September has been very busy for U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. On Tuesday, he announced his captain’s picks for Gleneagles and Thursday, he celebrated a bit of a personal milestone. The eight-time major champion turned 65.
Many of the guys on the PGA Tour took time out to wish him a happy birthday:
In celebration of the captain’s 65th birthday, we decided to remember his legendary career. Here’s a look back at Watson’s nine greatest moments on the course:
9. Watson’s Last Hurrah with Bruce Edwards
The relationship between player and caddie can be a sacred one. Oftentimes, they end up becoming each other’s best friend. That was precisely the case with Watson and Edwards, his long-time caddie. They remained close friends all the way through Watson’s career, even when Edwards briefly left to loop for Greg Norman. In 2003, Edwards was diagnosed with ALS, which would eventually take him prematurely in 2004 at the age of 49. At the 2003 U.S. Open, less than a year before Edwards would succumb to his disease, the two men who had been together through so many amazing moments got the chance to author one more:
8. First Major – 1975 Open Championship
In July 1975, 25-year-old Tom Watson had a reputation for coming up short in major championships. The Open Championship that year was held at Carnoustie and Watson had his best chance to date to change that tune. After Jack Newton (among others) came back to Watson’s 9-under score after the final round on Saturday, the two found themselves in a Sunday 18-hole playoff. They battled back and forth all day, but Watson was able to prevail and win by a stroke for his first career major championship.
7. Six Champions Tour Majors
If dominating on the PGA Tour wasn’t enough, Watson proved he could do it on the senior circuit, as well. Since joining the Champions Tour in 1999, Watson has collected 14 wins and six major championships — good for third all time behind Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin.
6. Win at Colonial at Age 48
Tom Watson has defined the old saying, “age is just a number.” In 1998, Watson gave us a glimpse of things to come when he won the MasterCard Colonial at the age of 48. It ended up being Watson’s 39th and final win on the PGA Tour. In 1996 — nine years removed from his last win on tour — Watson won the Memorial at Murifield Village at 46. Since collecting his final win in ’98, the ageless wonder has finished inside the top 30 in a major seven times.
5. 1983 Open Championship – Eighth Major
Jack Nicklaus may be the greatest player of all time, but until Tiger Woods reigned, it’s hard to argue that any player dominated a particular period of time the way Watson did from 1977-1983. During that stretch, Watson won 30 times on tour — including seven major championships. He capped the epic run at the ’83 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, outlasting Hale Irwin and Andy Bean to collect his eighth career major title and his fifth Open Championship.
4. 1977 Masters Over Jack Nicklaus
Heading into the Masters in 1977, Watson had already won twice on the PGA Tour that season. In fact, he was already a major champion with five wins under his belt — but he’d never gone toe-to-toe with a legend. When he and Jack Nicklaus squared off on that Sunday at Augusta, Nicklaus was already a 14-time major champion. Nicklaus shot a final-round 66, but made bogey on 18 to open the door for Watson, who didn’t miss. He made birdie at 17 and par on 18 to win his first green jacket and the second major of his career.
3. 1977 Open Championship – Duel in the Sun
In 1977, Watson was already one of the best players in the game of golf. On Sunday at Turnberry that year, he again squared off against the greatest of all-time — Jack Nicklaus. After separating themselves from the field by three shots on Saturday, the two legends played out of their minds on Sunday, running away from the field by more than 10 shots on a picture-perfect afternoon in Scotland. Despite an unlikely birdie on 18 by Nicklaus, Watson held on to win by one stroke. It was the third major title of his career and second of the ’77 season.
2. 1982 U.S. Open Chip-In
In 1982, Watson was already a five-time major champion, but had only won the Masters and the Open Championship. At Pebble Beach, he looked to add the U.S. Open to his resume. Standing in his way — yet again — was that pesky Jack fellow. Watson had previously bested Nicklaus in three of his first five major wins and aimed to again play the foil to the Golden Bear. As Watson missed the green left at the par-3 17th hole on Sunday, he and Nicklaus were tied. With Jack watching from the clubhouse, Watson holed an improbable chip shot to take a one-stroke lead. He threw his hands in the air and ran around the green, turning back to point at his caddie, Bruce Edwards, in celebration. Watson would hold on and win his first — and only — U.S. Open title.
1. 2009 Open Championship
Despite the eight major championships, close to 40 wins on the PGA Tour and a lifetime full of accolades for his on-course performance and professionalism off it, the moment Watson will probably be remembered for most was a runner-up finish at the 2009 Open Championship. Watson played brilliantly all week long at Turnberry. He held a one-shot lead on the 18th tee but made bogey after his 8-iron approach went long. In the four-hole playoff with Stewart Cink that followed, the 59-year-old ran out of gas and Cink claimed his first and, to date, only major championship. Many say that had Watson won, it would’ve been the single greatest achievement in the history of sport. Win or not, it’s still pretty impressive.
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