One of the longest hitters on Tour, Watson was an outspoken critic of the PGA of America’s decision to re-institute the contest last year at Valhalla, stating, “I’m there to play golf, not to hit it far.”
While every other player in the field hit driver, Watson purposely pulled a 3-iron during the contest as a form of protest.
The PGA announced earlier this week that they will again hold the contest next week at Whistling Straits, measuring players’ drives on the 593-yard, par-5 second hole during Tuesday’s practice round. After a 66 in the second round at Firestone Country Club, Watson announced his intentions to play ball.
“Yes, I’m going to hit it,” Watson said. “It made big drama last year for no reason because I stated my opinion. It’s sad that my opinion is obviously wrong at everything I do, but yes, I’m going to hit the tee shot because I understand it means more to do that than worry about my opinion. My opinion means nothing, as long as my family’s happy.”
Watson will begin the third round in Akron in a tie for second, four shots behind Jim Furyk, and he did offer a caveat that might keep him out of next week’s contest.
“If I win this week, no, because I’m not playing any practice rounds,” he said. “Let’s go ahead and put it out there. No practice rounds if I win.”
The winner of the long drive contest receives a money clip inspired by the one Jack Nicklaus took home for winning the long drive contest at the 1963 PGA Championship, along with a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice. Louis Oosthuizen won last year with a 340-yard drive.