By Stephanie Wei
Doffing his cap to the gallery, a misty-eyed Tom Watson made his way
up to the 17th green for probably the last time at a US Open. Next to
him was his son, Michael, who was carrying his bag on Father’s Day. To
their right, the crowd lining the fairway to the fans sitting in the
grandstands had broken out in a warm standing ovation. At the foot of
the stands, I clapped while I tried to soak in the moment and looked on
in awe of Watson, particularly the memories he shared with the 17th hole
at Pebble Beach on US Open Sundays.
It was here that Watson chipped in from the thick rough left of the
green to a difficult back left pin placement to clinch victory at the
’82 championship by a shot over Jack Nicklaus. On this Sunday — 28 years
later — the flag was in a similar spot, where Watson knocked his second
shot from the bunker to tap-in range to save par.
As he and playing partner Edoardo Molinari and their caddies were
walking off the green, they stopped while Watson gestured toward
something in the direction of the pin — perhaps he was explaining the
hour glass shape of the green or maybe he was recalling his incredible
shot in ’82. Who knows, but I’ve been kicking myself because I forgot to
ask him when he spoke to reporters later.
After hitting a beautiful drive down the middle on 18, he tipped his
cap and smiled at the fans all the way down the fairway. “Tommy!” and
“Tom!” cheers roared the entire time.
I could feel the chills going down my spine and I started to get a
little choked up. There’s something about these sentimental moments in
sports that make me very emotional (I mean, I cried for nearly a week
after Watson lost the British Open. And yes, I admit to it.).
His second shot on the par 5 flew into the bunker just short and
right of the green. He looked down at the ground in disappointment after
he realized the ball didn’t end up where he wanted.
As Watson walked up to the 18th green the hole-long standing ovation
continued. By the time he reached the green, tears were running down
his face. But he managed to hit another beautiful shot from the sand for
the second hole in a row, knocking it to about three feet for birdie.
Unable to see through his watery eyes, he missed the putt, but made
the comeback for par.
“There were a lot of emotions going on there on 18 today,” Watson
said. “Even with my son on the bag and all the memories, great
memories I’ve had here.”
Surrounded by a handful of reporters behind the 18th green (including
yours truly), Michael was also fighting the emotions when asked about
the putt. With his eyes hidden behind dark shades, he took a second to
collect himself and quietly said, “He missed. He missed..it was tough in