Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fave Sports Moments II

Tom Watson - 1982 - chip in at the 17th, final round, US Open at Pebble Beach

As a young man with much interest in golf at the time, watching live this day brought another moment where one player inspired many with a display of guts, guile, and faith despite playing a ragged-edged final round of Major Championship golf.

Nicklaus started the final day mid-pack, but with birdies on 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 and finished his round in 69 and took the clubhouse lead while Watson had 3 holes remaining. Watson's back 9 was something to behold, both for the terrible predicaments he was getting into every hole and for the amazing plays and putts to save pars and bogeys. The par 4 16th which empties near Carmel Bay on the Pacific Ocean gave Watson trouble as he made a miracle bogey after pitching sideways from a fairway bunker, barely making the green in 3, and two-putting from over 60 feet on a treacherous, multiple-breaking green.

The 17th is the first of the course's two famous finishing holes - a 200 yard par 3 with a devilishly narrow green that hugs the ocean and is battered by coastal winds. Watson's 2-iron was slightly left and deep of the pin in the thick Open rough. A misplay from here would've almost guaranteed bogey or worse, making his shrinking lead totally evaporate. His caddy was reported to have said, "Get it close", to which Watson replied, "Get it close? Hell, I'm going to make it." A few tense moments later, his chopping stroke found the ball which pitched forward from the fringe and then quickly curled to the right and into the hole like a scared rabbit.

The crowd roar deafened the TV microphones and he promptly stepped to the 18th and birdied that famous par 5 which follows the coastline. He beat Nicklaus by 2 that day, but with his gutsy display, won the hearts of many who still weren't yet ready to see Nicklaus begin to fade from prominence.

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