Tom Watson’s major championships: British Open, U.S. Open, Masters

August 5, 2009

Tom Watson claimed eight majors including five British Opens between 1975 and 1983, out-dueling Jack Nicklaus in several memorable showdowns. Watson woke up the echoes with a memorable charge at the 2009 British Open, where he came within a
whisker of winning another claret jug. He played on four Ryder Cup teams and was the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year six times.

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1975 British Open: Tom Watson was known for blowing up under pressure. At Carnoustie he didn’t, beating Australia’s Newt the Beaut in a playoff

By Dan Jenkins
In a playoff for the British Open that was so thrilling even the most hardened of souls felt like dancing around the burns and bunkers, young Tom Watson finally became a champion, a new person and one hellacious player. After a lot of slightly baroque things had happened on the becalmed, de-roughed and tranquilized beast of Carnoustie, it all came down to a Sunday match between the 25-year-old Watson, who admits he possibly thinks too much, and an equally young Australian, Jack Newton, who admits he drinks too much. And Watson, as they might say of him across the sea, was cast-iron tough in his cheeky little cap — and just when he had to be. Complete article

1977 British Open: It was the best two rounds of golf ever played, Watson and Nicklaus battling head to head in the British Open until youth overtook age on the next to last hole

By Dan Jenkins
Go ahead and mark it as the end of an era in professional golf if you’re absolutely sure that Jack Nicklaus has been yipped into the sunset years of his career by the steel and nerve and immense talent of Tom Watson. You could argue that way now, in these hours after Tom Watson has become the new king of the sport in a kingly land; when Watson has already become the Player of the Year, not to mention the future; when he has done it in the most memorable way in the annals of golf; and when he has done it for the second time in this season to the greatest player who ever wore a slipover shirt — Jack Nicklaus. Complete article

1980 British Open: With a record 271, Tom Watson made his third British Open win look so easy ancient Muirfield may never be the same

By Dan Jenkins
Historians of the golfing world on both sides of the Atlantic are no doubt still quivering at what Tom Watson did to another shrine of the game last week when he completely leveled the dunes and shaved the heather of wonderful old Muirfield, hard by Vardon Road in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland. A little more of this and the antique sporting event that is the British Open will have to be subtitled the Watson Charity Classic. In the most complete victory he has yet achieved over a world-class field and in the most confident and matter-of-fact way, Watson swept away both his competition and a treasured golf course’s reputation in winning his third British Open, each of them, oddly, in Scotland, in only six tries. En route he produced a score to rattle the foundation of the Royal and Ancient heaquarters in St. Andrews. Complete article

1982 British Open: Tom Watson’s latest British Open win, at Troon, came thanks to a young American who faded and a South African who folded

By Dan Jenkins
For three days in Scotland last week the 111-year-old British Open Golf Championship belonged to Bobby Clampett, a 22-year-old American pro out of the Yellow Pages. Then, for much of Sunday’s final round, it belonged to Nicky Price — ah, how fleeting the fame of Price — a South African who was about as obscure as a kudu in a clump of thorn trees. Finally, however, order was restored and the title wound up in the hands of Tom Watson for the fourth time in eight years. It should have been gift-wrapped and accompanied by a singing telegram. Watson started winning this Open at Royal Troon on the west coast of Scotland, hard by the Firth of Clyde, because Clampett shot about a million in the last two rounds after firing very low area codes on Thursday and Friday — actually he soared from 67-66 to 78-77. And eventually Watson did win it because Price, having made three straight birdies, went to the 13th tee in the last round with a three-stroke lead and proceeded to slash and gouge his way out of the championship over the next five holes. Complete article

1983 British Open: Playing perfectly under pressure, Tom Watson shook himself loose from an army of challengers to win his fifth British Open

By Dan Jenkins
Tom Watson keeps thinking up different ways to win the British Open. Last Sunday, on the rowdy Lancashire coast of England, he did it for the fifth time by waiting until almost the last minute and then playing what may have been the single best hole of his trophy-littered life. At that juncture Watson faced Royal Birkdale’s toughest hole, the 18th, a 473-yard par 4 that looked as if it stretched from a towering sandhill to the Entebbe air terminal. Near that faraway green Hale Irwin, who had whiffed a two-inch putt the day before, was waiting with Andy Bean; the two of them were resting their hopes for an 18-hole Monday playoff on Watson stumbling to a bogey right here. They were in, Watson was out, and a lot of real estate lay between them and him. But, ho-hum, this was the British Open, the championship that simply brings out the best in Watson. The only thing he was going to whiff was a pork pie, maybe. Complete article

1977 Masters: Tom Watson might well have reflected on his notorious final-round collapses as he gazed across Augusta’s serene waters and saw just ahead Jack Nicklaus, bent on birdies, but Watson silenced doubters with his plucky win

By Dan Jenkins
So this time they put you on the revered hills of Augusta, fly the weather in from heaven and hire William Shakespeare to do the script, which calls for you to play golf directly behind The Man, Jack Nicklaus, where you have to watch him make seven birdies and stoop over so often removing the ball from the cup you get to thinking he’s three feet tall. You’re Tom Watson, and your reputation is that of a young guy who goes out for the last 18 holes of a tournament in a deep-sea diving helmet with a hara-kiri sword strapped to your waist. The wonderful old Masters. It always comes up with something different. But what was most different last Sunday was Tom Watson himself. He was just about the guttiest golfer anyone had ever seen. He was under the most excruciating pressure from the first tee shot to the next-to-last putt. On every hole and standing over every single shot he was the Tom Watson who was supposed to think up a hook, a slice, a shank, anything outrageous, to take himself out of things. But for four long, thrilling hours all he did was fire a round of golf so unexpectedly brilliant that he not only won the Masters for the second major championship of his career, he also scored a clean knockout over Jack Nicklaus. Complete article

1981 Masters: Tom Watson had his troubles — notably with the trap at the 17th hole — but when it counted, he clung grimly to a slim lead and held off Jack Nicklaus to win his second Masters

By Dan Jenkins
After all of the excitement and insanity of a highly unusual Masters that looked both old and new at the same time, Tom Watson brought it to a calm conclusion last Sunday on the Augusta National course by taking us on a tour of his golf bag over the late and crucial holes, those holes that make the best calendar art and are slowly etching Watson into the history of the Old South alongside generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Nicklaus. When it came down to winning his second Masters and his fifth major championship, Watson hit a variety of shots as beautifully as any human can hit them. This was the only way he could stave off the challenges of Jack Nicklaus, his co-star in the drama, and Johnny Miller, the best supporting player. Nobody gave Watson this Masters, as bizarre as some of its moments were. In the final hour he held on to a threadbare lead by playing brilliantly over water, out of sand and across a new set of greens that were slicker than the top of Sam Snead’s head. Complete article

1982 U.S. Open: A 1,000 to 1 shot. That’s how runner-up Jack Nicklaus rated the chip that won the U.S. Open for Tom Watson at Pebble Beach’s 17th: rough to green and in the cup

By Dan Jenkins
From where Tom Watson was on the 71st hole of the U.S. Open golf championship Sunday at Pebble Beach — in the garbage, on a downslope, looking at a slick green — you don’t simply chip the ball into the cup for a birdie to beat Jack Nicklaus, who is already in the scorer’s tent with a total good enough to win. First, you throw up. Well, that’s wrong, of course. If you’re Watson, by now you’re accustomed to beating Nicklaus in major tournaments because you’ve done it before at the Masters and in the British Open, so you lay open the blade of a sand wedge and plop the lob-chip shot softly onto the putting surface and then watch the flagstick get in the way of the ball to keep it from running all the way to the Lodge. Of the many dramatic and championship-twisting shots that were struck and misstruck all last week on the Monterey Peninsula, and in all of the 81 Opens that came before this one, Watson’s chip-in at the 17th on Sunday will be remembered for as long as men sew leather patches on the elbows of their tweed jackets.Complete article

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