Watson Pebble Forever Linked in Lore

By Golf Channel NewsroomAugust 31, 2004, 4:00 pm
Tom Watson is returning to the place where so much history has followed him. He is at Pebble Beach this week for the First Tee Open, back to a course that he has played a hundred times.
Watson went to college up the road at Stanford and regularly played Pebble as a young man. And in 1982, he chipped in a difficult shot on the 17th hole to win his only U.S. Open. Amongst these are an indescribable amount of memories for the 53-year-old.
I think what defines this golf course is the beauty, he says. I think everybody who thinks about Pebble Beach, the first thing they think about is not that it's a par-72 golf course. They think about the beauty of this place, because that is what this place represents. It's a beautiful golf course.
The area here is - has always had a rich golf history. But only until recently has the Open been played here, starting in '82. But I think that's the element that everybody who plays here, who writes about this place, they understand it and that's the first thought that comes to mind. That's what makes it special.
The Champions Tour members will play with amateurs and youth mostly from the First Tee in the three-day competition. There will be three competitions ' one with the professionals alone, one with the pros and the youth, and one with the pros, youths and amateurs.
Twenty juniors have been selected to play with the elders, representing every area of the country. Those who were selected had to survive a qualifying tournament, but that is not all. They also were judged on personal interviews, essays and decorum. Golf proficiency only comprised 30 percent of each participant's numeric score.
The selection process was devised, in part, to protect the amateur status of The First Tee youths who travel to Pebble Beach. Sponsorship support helps defray travel costs and players could not accept such assistance if their tournament qualifications were based strictly on their play.
Watson wishes a program such as this had been in place when he was a youth. It wasnt, of course. But one memory he will always have is that little chip on 17, from deep rough behind the green to a downward slope. The green has changed somewhat and so has the rough in the 22 years since he won the Open.
I've hit the shot a few times, both in the light and the dark, recalling various attempts to replicate the moment ' and the few times hes tried it after the course had officially closed for the day. We won't go into that, he grinned.
But it was a fresh-faced young man from Kansas City who first laid eyes on the course.
The first time I played Pebble - I came out here from Stanford in 1967, spring of 1967; had a chance to play Pebble then, he said. I don't recall - I think I shot 79 or 80 or 81, something like that, when I first played it. It was everything I thought about.
I remember when Pebble got snowed out. I remember them saying, Today's round has been canceled because of snow. Watching the tournament here all the years, with Bing Crosby, I wanted to play the golf course. It's a beautiful, beautiful golf course.
And Pebble Beach will always be a difficult course, simply because the skimpiness of the size of its greens.
That's the key element in this golf course is how small the greens play, said Watson. They're just tiny. And when you have conditions like they did in the '92 U.S. Open when the golf course got away from them, in the last round, the greens became concrete, then they go from needing a dinner plate to a coffee cup saucer.
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