Editor’s Note: In the video above, Tom Watson comments on his course record 62 on Pinehurst No. 2 from the 1973 World Open. But it isn’t that magical round that gives him fond memories of Pinehurst.
By Alex Podlogar
At times, it poured rain. At times, the wind bucked up, swaying the pine trees around him and betraying the 60-degree temperature. Honestly, it wasn’t the most picturesque day for a golf group outing at Pinehurst.
But he stood there and leaned on a 7 iron, one foot crossed in front of the other. He watched amateurs strike tee shots at the par-3 17th hole on Pinehurst No. 2, some, certainly, better than others. That’s what happens when an 8-time major champion is watching you hit golf shots.
Gosh, it rained. But the rain pelted his shoulders and bounced squarely off of him, his figure almost cutting through the mist. The genial smile remained. He asked each person his or her name, including each of the caddies. He took his time, ambling slowly about the tee, sometimes to grab the U.S. Open trophy that was on display, holding it in a way so those around him could gather in close, not feel rushed and be allowed time to read the names engraved on it.
“I got lucky once when I chipped in at a U.S. Open,” he quipped.
Tom Watson was comfortable.
“Sorry we couldn’t have a better day of weather for you, Mr. Watson,” a gentlemen intoned, sincerely.
Watson was direct. Tom Watson is always direct.
“Are you kidding?” he replied, his lips creasing to reveal that famed gap-toothed smile. “This is great.”
The game was to try to beat the pro. Watson would share a lesson, some old Tour stories, then would play the tee shot at 17, playing that day at 173 yards, sopping wet. Air was heavy. Wind was blowing. Rain falling. And Watson is 68 years old now.
The group had 15 foursomes pour through, and so Watson hit 15 tee shots in total on the day. For the first half of the groups, he lofted searing high draws with a 7 iron. As the weather worsened, he went to a 6 iron, cracked it lower and started playing the contour of the green more. “Wind keeps changing,” he muttered under his breath to himself. He did what he had to do to make the shot.
Fifteen tee shots. Each about 10-15 minutes apart with the weather changing throughout. He held the green on each and every one of them. Four of them were inside 8 feet.
Watson was beaten just once, and the caddie had to step it off. From the green, the player raised his arms in triumph. Watson, watching the pacing closely, raised his back in congratulations.
“Well, one of them got me,” he said, waiting an extra beat.
“But just one.”
He smiled again. When rain falls and wind blows and the sun hides, it’s abundantly clear:
Tom Watson wears those five British Open championships well.