What a Year for Watson

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Editor's Note: This is part of a series of articles highlighting the top stories of 2003. Check back through the end of the year to see the rest of the list.
 
2003 Stories of the YearDuring a spectacular career that saw him win 39 PGA Tour titles, eight major championships, numerous player of the year awards and money titles, and the applause of millions worldwide, it would seem impossible for Tom Watson, now at 54 years of age, to have a year that could top any of those from his prime.
 
But somehow he did. Make that, they did.
 
Tom and his good friend and trusted caddie Bruce Edwards had a year to remember.
 
Though perhaps best known for his dramatic chip in at the 17th hole in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach to beat Jack Nicklaus, Watson might soon become known more for his chip in to fight the deadly ALS disease that is slowly taking the life of his longtime caddie Edwards.
 
Edwards, who first worked with Watson some thirty years ago was asked this year to name his best ever moment as a caddie. It wasnt, of course, a certain shot or victory, but something much simpler.
 
The day I walked up to Tom and said, Hi, I'm going to be out here, can I caddie for you? And he said, Well, I'll let you caddie for me this week, and we'll take it from there, and here we are 30 years later, recalled Edwards. Meeting him, working for him, that's been the best thing in my life, without a doubt, without a doubt.'
 
'He is the best thing that ever happened to me, and I told somebody on Thursday that if someone said to me we can do this all over again, you're going to get ALS down the road, would you do it? I'd say you bet, every time. I've been really lucky.
 
Watson, who has often spoken about the special bond between the two, is becoming, understandably, saddened by the effects the disease is having on his pal.
 
Trust in all things, said Tom on their relationship. As I said at his wedding, he doesn't have a mean bone in his body.
 
'He loves the Tour, loves his family out here. It's sad. It's sad to see him withdraw because he can't talk, and that's what's happening.
 
And fittingly, in the year that the Senior Tour officially changed its name to The Champions Tour, it was a vintage Watson who garnered the tours player of the year award. A champion, indeed.
 
On statistics alone the award would have been his, but his association with Edwards and their sudden and unfortunte involvement with ALS made the choice sentimentally speaking, an easy and wise one.
 
On the stats side, Tom Terrific captured two Champions Tour majors ' the Senior British Open and Jeld-Wen Tradition ' had the lowest scoring average on tour, finished atop the money list and won the season-long Charles Schwab points race.
 
He also had strong showings playing alongside the younger set, first at the U.S. Open where he finished tied for 28th and then at the Open Championship in Scotland where he tied for 18th.
 
At one point during this glorious season, Waston teed it up in seven straight majors between the Champions Tour and the PGA Tour and in nine overall.
 
But it was upon receiving the $1 million bonus for winning the Charles Schwab Cup, that Watson scored best ' he immediately donated the entire prize to charity, much of it going to fight the disease that Edwards had been diagnosed with earlier in the year.
 
'As great as Tom's achievements were on the golf course, he outdid himself off it, displaying dedication and compassion for a very good friend who happens to be his caddie,' said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. 'He is a shining example of what is truly good about our sport. The entire PGA Tour family is proud to be associated with Tom Watson.'
 
Watson was also named by the PGA the recipient of the 2003 Payne Stewart Award, which is presented annually to a player sharing Stewart's respect for the traditions of the game, his commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support and his professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct.
 
For golf fans, though, nothing could beat what transpired on a sunny Thursday afternoon at the above-mentioned U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. An opening round 5-under 65 left the crowd, the announcers, and even Tom and Bruce a little emotional.
 
His round included a holed 6-iron approach at the par-4 12th for eagle, and a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 7th that hung on the lip before falling into the cup, causing Watson to leap into the air, part surprise and part Im having the time of my life.
 
''You can only imagine,'' Watson said after the round. ''Put yourself in Bruce's situation and my situation, what it means to do well at this late stage in your life, playing in the tournament you want to win the most.
 
There are a lot of memories about the Open. I think first and foremost are the feelings and emotions that we had on the first day when I shot 65, we meaning Bruce and I, the magical moments of leading the U.S. Open, which caused really an outpouring of emotion from not only each other but from people around us, the players, the galleries, people from TV, you people. It's been heartwarming. I hope it translates into some action. That's what I hope it does.
 
Edwards, too, felt the love.
 
They were wonderful, they really were. All week long they were yelling my name, made me feel really good. It showed that people are really deep down nice and genuine and caring, and you can't ask for more than that in my opinion.
 
That day left two old friends, and a golfing nation, a little misty-eyed and showed the world that they still, if only for a day, were the best golfing combo in the world.

Editors Note: To learn more about ALS or to find out how to donate, visit www.driving4life.org
 
Related Links:
  • No. 1: Sorenstam's Season Transcends Wins
  • No. 2: Tiger Goes Majorless in 2003
  • No. 3: What a Year for Watson
  • No. 4: Player of Year Down to the Wire
  • No. 5: Elders Knock Kids Off Tour Perch