By the time he reached the fifth hole on Thursday, Tom Watson had bogeyed three straight. Not even the birdie he got there could turn things around as the 60-year-old finished with a 73.
"I got off to a sluggish start ... and never really got going after that," Watson said. "I had some makeable putts. Got a birdie at five but didn't really get the ball in the hole as well as I could have and didn't hit the ball as well as I should have.
"So it was a difficult day for me."
But Watson said he didn't feel any more pressure this week given his Cinderfella run to the playoff at Turnberry in 2009. "I am just not playing quite as well as I was this time last year," the five-time Open champ said simply.
With surprisingly sunny skies and virtually no wind, Watson knew the Old Course was going to be at its most generous on Thursday. But the next three days should prove the equalizer.
"It was there for the taking but what is going to happen is that the wind will start this afternoon and then it's going to blow hard tomorrow and the next three days," Watson said. "What she gave away this morning, she will take away the next three days and it will be a wonderful test of golf." -- Helen Ross
The Old Course is definitely at her most generous today. There are 58 players on the storied links right now and only 10 are over par for the day.
Some of the names are surprising. Two-time British Open champion Padraig Harrington is 2 over through three holes, as is the sentimental favorite, Tom Watson, who has won five Claret Jugs but never at St. Andrews.
Tim Clark, who won his first PGA TOUR event earlier this year at THE PLAYERS has played seven holes and is also 2 over. So is the 2001 Open champion, David Duval, who has just made the turn. – Helen Ross
It didn’t hit him until his approach at the 18th found the bunker. Then, and only then, did Tom Watson allow the moment to sink in.
Father’s Day. His son Michael on the bag. At Pebble Beach.
For the last time at a U.S. Open.
Watson choked back the tears as he took in the beauty of the waves lapping at the beach in Stillwater Cove. As he and Michael made that walk to the green. As the crowds welcomed a special player to a very special place for what’s likely the final time.
“It was overwhelming today coming up the 18 th hole,’’ said Watson, who closed with a par, a 76 and an 11-over-par 295.
Yes, it was. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and winning here with longtime friend Sandy Tatum. The 1982 U.S. Open. Really all the U.S. Opens here. The 1977 PGA too. His dad winning the Crosby Clambake in the California Desert at Rancho Santa Fe.
Like he said, a special place. History.
And at 60, his last chance to place this course in a major.
“I owe a lot of ‑‑ probably most of what I have to my dad as far as my ability to play golf,’’ Watson said. “My love for the game, my passion for the game, my ability to play the game, that came from my dad.’’
His dad always said Pebble had the three best par-4s in a row – the eighth, ninth and 10 th.
“They call them the Cliffs of Doom now,’’ Watson said. “I think that's a little bit over the top, but they're just three beautiful par‑4s. I didn't play them too well today.
“But I did make a birdie at 9, and I did make a birdie at 8 today; and so I birdied 9 ones and 8 ones in the eight attempts at those holes. So pretty happy with that. ‘’
Pretty happy, period, to be the only player to have played in all five U.S. Opens here. Watson, who was given a special exemption this year, made the cut in all but one – 1992 – and hit the shot heard round the world in 1982 when he chipped in at the 17 th to win his first major.
He had a chance to finish with a birdie. Marvelous bunker shot. Not so marvelous birdie attempt. But the par putt swirled around the hole and fell in.
“I drew a blank on the putt,’’ he said, “and pushed it out there and made it coming back.’’
Watson more than held his own this week. He held his head as high as he at Turnberry last year when he came within one hole of becoming the oldest man to win a major. Instead, he lost the lead on the 72 nd hole and lost a playoff to Stewart Cink.
The crowds gave him an ovation on almost every hole. Their smiles and cheers reminded him of what he’ll miss.
“There's a lots of sadness today,’’ he said. “A lot of sadness. Yet it's based on a lot of memories and great memories that I've had here, and it very well may be my last time playing Pebble Beach in a championship of this caliber probably.’’
Now that this major is done, Watson’s schedule calls for four more in a row – the British Open, at St. Andrews, the British Senior Open, the U.S. Senior Open and the Tradition. And he said he needs to get his game in gear.
“I need to start playing a little bit better than I am right now,’’ he said. “I just am a little bit off, and I just didn't have good control this entire week even though I shot a couple good middle rounds. It was done somewhat with smoke and mirrors and a lot of experience playing Pebble Beach.
“I didn't hit the ball with the irons and put it in play enough times off the tee on the back nine, and it cost me. It cost me a lot of shots. ‘’
He wasn’t alone. Tiger Woods. Phil Mickelson. Ernie Els. Dustin Johnson. The list goes on.
And no one knows the pressures of an Open as well as Watson. Especially here.
“It really is everything is on the line, the pressure's as high as it's going to get and you're playing a very, very difficult golf course,’’ he said. “Can you handle it? Can you handle it?
“I mean I've been in positions, and I couldn't handle it. Fortunately, I was in the position one time when I could handle it. And it was ‑‑ it's what we're out here for. It's what we're out here to play golf for is to play in championships such as the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.’’
He smiled through the questions. Pausing every so often to compose himself a bit. You had the feeling the tears would flow later. In private.
But in typical Watson fashion, he finished the round off by tossing his golf ball into the ocean. Just like he did in 1982.
“What you do, you give the ocean its due because you never know when it's going to take it from you,’’ Watson said.
“I've hit it into that ocean off the tee a few times, and throwing the ball in the ocean is kind of a thank you for not taking it one more time.’’ -- Melanie Hauser
Tom Watson, the only golfer to play in all five U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach, said the leaders are going to be challenged on the greens late in the day.
"These greens are like putting over a herd of turtles," Watson said after shooting a 1-under 70.
"The greens are going to be tougher. The backs of those turtles get higher and higher. And the winds will come up and it will dry out the lower parts of these greens. The higher parts will rise up and ... it will get more bumpy."
Added Brandt Snedeker, another early finisher: "The greens are definitely growing with this sunlight. It's going to be fun this afternoon with these guys. It's going to be a hard day for them.
"The greens are starting to grow. They're going to get bumpy. They've got some borderline pins out there, I should say to be politically correct. But they're going to be playing really, really tough this afternoon."
Tom Watson, the 60-year-old who's the only player to participate in all five U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach, carded his best round of the tournament, a 1-under 70 that leaves him at 6 over for the tournament.
Watson, who made the cut on the number Friday, had his best stretch of the week on Saturday when he birdied the drivable par-4 fourth to begin a string of four birdies in nine holes. At that point, he was 3 under for his round.
But he dropped a couple of shots coming in, including a bogey at the 17th when he hit a poor chip from just off the green. He then missed a makeable birdie putt at the 18th.
"I flubbed the chip," Watson said about his shot at the 17th. "I had a chip that was in the loose fescue grass around there. It's unpredictable and I tried to hit and expose a shot and it went about a foot.
"... It was kind of a disappointing finish because I bogeyed 17 and missed the birdie at 18. But all in all, I'm very happy with shooting 70 here at Pebble Beach."
TOM WATSON'S ROUND 3 STATISTICS
|Driving distance||Fairways hit||Greens in regulation||Putts needed||Sand saves|
|289.5 yards||9 of 14||12 of 18||30||0 of 1|
The 54-hole leader/co-leader has won 48 times, most recently Tiger Woods in 2008.
The third-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win 11 of 24 stroke-play events on the PGA TOUR this season, most recently Jason Day at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Third-round leads of the previous four U.S. Opens hosted at Pebble Beach Golf Links:
|2000||Tiger Woods||8-under 205||10 over Ernie Els|
|1992||Gil Morgan||4-under 212||1 over three players|
|1982||Bill Rogers, Tom Watson||4-under 212||2 over four players|
|1972||Jack Nicklaus||Even par 216||1 over three players|
There are a smattering of low-ish numbers here in the third round -- nine players currently on the course are under par. But others, like Mike Weir, are going the opposite direction. Weir has more bogeys (6) than pars (5) right now and nearly as many double bogeys with three of them through 14 holes. Throw in an eagle from the fairway on the par-4 fourth and it all adds up to Weir being 10 over through 15 holes. That opening-round 70 suddenly seems like a long, long time ago.
Tom Watson, on the other hand, is 3 under through 12 holes with our birdies and just one bogey. The man is simply ageless. Even at 60 years old and 4 over for the week, he’s not entirely out of it just yet. One big reason Watson is hanging around for the weekend: He’s hitting nearly 73 percent of his fairways. He’s also making some putts with a putting average of 1.71. -- Brian Wacker
Did you know that the previous four U.S. Open winners at Pebble Beach also won an AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am?
Jack Nicklaus, who won the 1972 Open here, won the the AT&T in 1967, 1972 and 1973. Tom Watson, the 1982 winner, won the AT&T in 1977 and 1978. Tom Kite, the '92 champ, won the AT&T in 1983, while Tiger Woods ('00) won the AT&T earlier in 2000.
Of the current top 10 only Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson have won an AT&T (1998, 2005 and 2007). - - Melanie Hauser
Tom Watson is one of four Champions Tour members in the field this week -- Fred Funk (4 over through two rounds), Tom Lehman (8 over) and David Frost (3 over; through eight holes today) are the others -- and it looks like he’ll be one of two who will make the cut, so long as it stays at 7 over.
If Watson makes the cut this week, he’ll be the second-oldest to do so at the U.S. Open. Sam Snead was 61 when he finished T29 in 1973. Prior to this week, here’s a look at the oldest players to make the cut at the U.S. Open:
|Sam Snead||61||T29 in 1973|
|Jack Nicklaus||58||T43 in 1998|
|Sam Snead||57||T38 in 1969|
|Dutch Harrison||57||T16 in 1967|
|Jack Nicklaus||57||T52 in 1997|