Watson’s defining bunker shot to win the 1998 Charles Schwab Challenge
May 22, 2020
By Chris Richards, PGATOUR.COM
- May 22, 2020
Tom Watson’s defining bunker shot to win in 1998
Just like there are no pictures on a scorecard, there aren’t pictures in record books, either. But if there were, Tom Watson standing on the edge of a fairway bunker is the image that defines his 39th and final PGA TOUR victory at the 1998 Charles Schwab Challenge.
Tied for the lead through eight holes on Sunday, Watson’s tee shot found the fairway bunker on Colonial Country Club’s par-4 ninth. It would be difficult to place the ball in a more unenviable position – he stood outside the bunker, the ball was several inches below his feet, the Texas wind was blowing left-to-right, and a pond guarded the front-right hole location, 132 yards away.
Nearly any other player would be staring at a bogey-5. But one of the game’s best ball-strikers showed why he’s also one of the game’s best champions.
“There was no thought of laying up at all. The discussion was whether to hit an 8- or a 9-iron,” Watson said of his discussion with caddie Bruce Edwards. “We decided on the 8 because of the reduced swing speed from the awkward stance.”
The result: a high fade that finished 10 feet from the hole. He rolled in the birdie putt and took a one-shot lead over his playing partner, Jim Furyk. Watson added a birdie on No. 11 and finished with a bogey-free 66 to win at the age of 48.
“The whole tournament boiled down to that shot,” Watson said after the win in 1998. “I was just trying to make contact and not hit it fat. I caught it flush, in the back of the ball. I was worried before I struck it. Not after, though.”
At the time, Furyk was 28 years old and a two-time winner on TOUR. He has since added 15 more wins, a U.S. Open title and a FedExCup crown, and now that he’s 50 years old, he’s experiencing a role that’s similar to the one Watson played 22 years ago.
“Being 50 and having competed against Tom Watson, and now competing against young players on TOUR that are 21, 22, 23 years old, I’m bridging a massive gap,” Furyk said Tuesday. “It’s kind of cool to say that I was able to have one battle – albeit I lost – with Tom Watson.”