The fact was, Watson had won two Masters, and had won five British Opens, but he had never won a U.S. Open. And standing in his way this time was the greatest player the game had ever known, Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus, dont forget, had won the Open here 10 years earlier.
Starting the final round at Pebble Beach in 1982, Watson and Bill Rogers were tied for the lead with Nicklaus three back. The Golden Bear started with a couple of bogeys, but then hit his stride with five straight birdies. He overtook Watson, tied Rogers.
Rogers ran into trouble and was out of it by the ninth hole. Left to carry on were Nicklaus and Watson, who were tied again.
A couple of 20-footers ' one for par at No. 10 and one for birdie at No. 11 ' vaulted Watson into a two-stroke lead after Nicklaus three-putted the 11th. But Watson bogeyed the par-3 12th and Nicklaus birdied the 15th to knot it again. Nicklaus ended it with three straight pars, having just finished and standing on the 18th green while Watson played the par-3 17th.
Watson chose 2-iron from the 17th tee and it drifted left, into the wiry rough beside the green. The good thing was it was beside the cup. The bad thing was that it was downhill and the ball would never stop close.
Watson circled round sizing up the situation. Now he settled in, and gently lofted the ball. Straight up it went, then plopped down and rolled ' straight into the cup!
It was a birdie, erasing what looked like a certain bogey. It was also a one-shot lead for Watson. When he also birdied the next hole with a convincing 22-foot putt, he had won his first ' and only ' U.S. Open.
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