June 20, 2010 in Sports

Watson has happy history

Gary D’Amato Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Tom Watson’s father brought him to the Pebble Beach Golf Links for the first time when he was 17 years old.

Five years later, he played at Pebble in his first U.S. Open.

In 1982, he won the U.S. Open at Pebble with one of the greatest shots in golf history, a chip-in from behind the green on the 71st hole that allowed him to edge Jack Nicklaus.

Now 60, Watson is playing in his 31st U.S. Open. He’s the only man who has played in all five at Pebble Beach.

And he’s having the time of his life.

With son Michael carrying his bag, Watson shot a 1-under-par 70 in the third round Saturday and was at 6-over 219 through 54 holes.

“You know, it does complete the circle,” he said. “Winning here in ’82 and calling my dad on Father’s Day, and then having my son caddie for me here when I’m 60 years old. That’s pretty special. It’s a special, special one.”

Ever the competitor, Watson was kicking himself for bogeying the 17th hole and missing a short birdie putt on No. 18.

“It was kind of a disappointing finish because I bogeyed 17 and missed the birdie at 18,” he said. “But all in all, I’m very happy with shooting 70 here at Pebble Beach.”

Watson bettered his career third-round scoring average at the U.S. Open by more than two strokes (72.33). His 219 total is 10 strokes lower than the 229 he posted for 54 holes as a 22-year-old in 1972.

Last year, Watson nearly pulled off a victory for the ages – and aged – when he lost a playoff to Stewart Cink at the British Open.

He said he was looking forward to playing at St. Andrews next month.

Tiger flap

Tiger Woods was wrong to criticize the Pebble Beach greens as “awful,” USGA executive director David Fay said.

Woods failed to make a single birdie in his first round of 74. He said in a television interview, and later to reporters, that the greens were “just awful.”

Fay couldn’t resist making a comparison between Woods and Phil Mickelson, who shot 75 in the first round.

“I think two players used the word awful on Thursday,” Fay said. “Phil said he putted awful. Tiger said the greens were awful.”

It was veiled, but blunt, criticism of a three-time U.S. Open champion, who had not been to Pebble Beach in eight years.

“As far as the greens are concerned, he’s wrong,” Fay said. “That old statement that you’re entitled to your opinion? He is entitled to his opinion, but he’s off on his facts. These putting surfaces have never been better.”

“Well, a lot of players thought the same, they just didn’t say it,” Woods said Saturday evening.

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