Watson Completes Heavy-Hearted Round

By Sports NetworkApril 8, 2004, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tom Watson knew the day was coming, but why did it have to be the first day of the Masters? Just after arriving at the course on Thursday for the opening round of the Masters, Watson learned of the death of longtime friend and caddie, Bruce Edwards.
'Hilary and I looked at each other and we said, well that's just typical,' Watson commented. 'He wanted to die on the first day of the Masters, his favorite tournament.'
Watson received a cell phone call from Marsha, Edwards' wife, but the call broke up. As Watson was dressing in the Champions locker room, a doorman told Watson that his wife was at the door.
'I knew exactly what it meant,' said Watson, who won this event in 1977 and 1981.
Edwards, who was 49, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in January 2003. He caddied for Watson until the UBS Cup in December.
Watson finished second at the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship last year, but won the season-long Charles Schwab Cup crown and immediately donated the $1 million prize to ALS research in honor of his friend.
After completing his first round at Augusta, Watson choked back tears throughout his post-round press conference.
'I think he is not with us in body anymore, but I can tell you he's with us in spirit,' said Watson. 'The spirit of Bruce Edwards, if you ever ran across him, you knew what a genuine person he was and what a wonderful way he had with his words.'
Watson thrilled the crowds at the 2003 U.S. Open with an opening-round 65. However, the better he played the more people began rooting for his caddie, Bruce.
After holing his final par putt, Watson and Edwards shared tears and a hug on the ninth green. As the duo walked off the green, the crowd roared its approval, chanting Bruce's name all the while.
'He will be missed. He will be missed,' said Watson. 'I feel for his mom and dad. I feel for Marsha.'
On Wednesday evening, Edwards was awarded the Ben Hogan Award, which is given to someone who continues to be active in golf despite a serious illness or injury.
'No long faces tonight,' said Watson at Wednesday's ceremony. 'Let's celebrate his wonderful heart. There's not a mean bone in his body. I want to thank Bruce for always being there in such good spirits, even though he is dying. That's why we love him.'
Watson struggled through his opening hole with a bogey on Thursday, but bounced back to birdie the third. He later bogeyed the fifth and seventh. Around the turn, he posted a birdie and two bogeys, but none of it mattered. All he could think about was the man some called 'the Arnold Palmer of caddies.'
'He's a genuine guy, a great sports fan, loved all sports,' Watson said. 'He certainly did his job with aplomb and respect for the game, and that made him. I'm relying on his spirit to take care of me this week.'
Former PGA Tour player Jeff Julian also was stricken with ALS. He is still fighting the disease, but the outlook for him is not good either.
'Damn this disease! Damn it,' Watson shouted at his press conference. 'They are going to find a cure.'
Ben Crenshaw, a two-time winner here, had this to say about Edwards: 'He was a real professional and one of the most positive human beings I have ever been around. He was selected as our co-captain, caddie pick, at the 1999 Ryder Cup for his positive outlook. It's not fair.'
Watson won two majors last year on the Champions Tour, the Senior British Open and the Tradition. Edwards was unable to made the trip across the pond to the Senior British, but was on the bag at the Tradition. Watson knows he will grieve, but that is what people do when they lose someone close to them.
'Yes, we have grief and I'm sure I'll cry,' Watson said. 'I'll cry a lot before it's over, that's the way I look at it.'
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    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?