He has one more to go after this week ' the JELD-WEN Tradition on the Champions Tour. But that is two weeks away. For the moment he is concentrating on the PGA Championship ' even though he is playing against the kids. That fact hasnt bothered Watson this year. He finished in a tie for 28th in one regular-tour major this year, the U.S. Open; and tied for 18th in another, the British Open.
It was no decision, said Watson. It was just the way the cards fell.
Really, the only issue here was one of the tournaments in the middle part that I didn't play last year that I decided to play this year. I didn't play a lot of tournaments the first three or four months of the year. I had two really long breaks there, a couple three-week breaks and a couple two-week breaks, until the first of June, and then I knew the summer was going to be a very, very busy summer.
I didn't know how busy. I didn't know I was going to be in the U.S. Open or the PGA. So that certainly changed a lot of what happened this summer.
Actually, the results of the U.S. Open and the British Open are the best they have been since long before he became eligible for the Champions Tour. In 1994, he finished in a tie for sixth at the U.S. Open and a tie for ninth in the PGA. Of course, he was 43 then, and 53 now.
Quite simply, he has improved substantially the past year or so. He won the Senior British Open this year, the week after his tie for 18th at the regular British Open. And he finished second at the U.S. Senior Open and the Ford Senior Players Championship.
Why do you get better as you get older? he asked rhetorically. Very simply, you eliminate the things that don't work and you find your fundamental rhythm. If I had really worked on my rhythm a little bit more than my swing as a youngster, I think I would have been a better player.
But obviously, just like any kid, I wanted to hit the ball as far as I could and that's how it developed into a fast swing. I'm not looking back on it because I feel that that change I made 12 years ago was the right thing to do. Just like playing golf, the money we made 30 years ago versus the money we're making now. I don't look back on it and wish I was there.
Of course, the main reason for Watsons improved play is probably his improved putting. For the longest time after he turned professional, he was one of the games most brilliant putters. The past 10 years, he has gone downhill to where he acknowledged his woes repeatedly. But this year, almost magically, he rediscovered the old magic.
As your putter goes, so does your game and so does your attitude, he said. He currently stands sixth on the Champions Tour putting statistics, so obviously his attitude is very good.
As much as this season has been about Tom Watson, however, it has been just as much about his caddie, Bruce Edwards. Edwards was diagnosed with Lou Gehrigs Disease (ALS) this year, and the diagnosis hit Watson with a full body blow. Watson has been doing everything possible to raise charitable donations to combat the disease.
As far as Bruce's condition is concerned, he's basically holding in there, getting a little bit worse as far as his disease is concerned, as is the path of the disease, Watson said. It (ALS) takes you down slowly but surely, and he's trying this week ' he's in the Bahamas trying a therapy that's supposed to arrest the deterioration of his motor neurons. That can be encouraging.
But what was really encouraging, this past week it was publicized that a new way of getting an insulin-like growth factor directly to the spinal cord, to be technical about it, has been achieved in mouse studies, and that would be the biggest jump in the treatment for ALS that we have seen in basically the history of and the treatment of it. So we are getting closer there.
In fact, Edwards condition has propelled Watson to new heights this year as he tries desperately to win for his longtime caddie.
When you have somebody that is close to you like Bruce, that becomes a priority in your life rather than just about anything else, Watson began. I think that his spirit of being able to deal with it has been wonderful.
As you said right from the beginning, he's just going to carry on and try to do the things that Bruce and that Marcia, his wife, have designated for him to do. The one good thing about it from a spiritual standpoint, he has hope that the things he is doing are going to make him well.
The history of this disease says you can't believe in that, but just to see him believe in that, gives me hope. And the golf ' the golf is just a sidelight of it, of what I do. When I'm out on the golf course, yeah, I get upset when I don't play well, but not as upset as before. And that's how it's affected me.
Watson, incidentally got a beautiful surprise this week. He has played a couple of practice rounds with a new caddie. But as he was walking along the fairways Tuesday, suddenly a man appeared who wanted to tell Watson something.
He said, Tom, I'd like to give this for Bruce,' Watson recalled.
Then the gentleman pressed an envelope containing a $1,000 check into Watsons hands.