Watson Returns to Pebble Beach One Last Time

By Associated PressFebruary 8, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Tom Watson has a history with Pebble Beach that spans 40 years.
He remembers playing for the first time in 1967 as a teenager. He came back when he was at Stanford, smart enough to befriend the starter and get sent out early without having to pay the $10 greens fee, not quite as much as the $425 it costs now, although Watson will tell you that it was a lot of money back then.
He teed it up 27 times in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, winning in 1978 and 1979. He has played the last three years at Pebble in the Champions Tour event. And there was that magical summer in 1982 when he chipped in for birdie from the back of the 17th hole in the final round to break Jack Nicklaus' heart and win his only U.S. Open.
'There's quite a bit of history between this area and myself,' he said Wednesday.
And if that's not enough, Watson would recommend a trip to the first tee to look at the brass awards.
'You will see that there's 1941, a guy by the name of Ray Watson and Leonard Dodson,' he said. 'Ray Watson happened to be my father, and he and Leonard won the pro-am division in 1941 at Rancho Santa Fe, a long time ago.
'I had a good run in this area,' he said. 'It's nice to be back.'
Watson, 57, is back one last time at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, with no realistic chance of winning. He was on the practice range the other day next to kids old enough to be his son, hitting shots with which he is not familiar -- high and long.
Asked about his game, Watson replied, 'What's the right term ... insufficient?'
But he is back for a reason.
Watson asked tournament director Ollie Nutt last year if he could play with Michael, his 24-year-old son, completing three generations at Pebble Beach.
'Michael was out on his own, out of school, and he was established in a job, and it was time for us to play in the event,' Watson said. 'And I know a lot of professionals have brought their sons here, and it's just the right time. I didn't want to wait too many more years.'
There was a time when Watson ruled golf. He is an eight-time major champion with 39 victories on the PGA Tour, the last of them at age 48 when he captured the Colonial. He has won eight times against the seniors, including the Senior PGA Championship, which is the one regular major that kept him from the Grand Slam.
No birdie was more memorable than a Sunday afternoon in June on the 17th hole.
In another intense duel with Nicklaus, Watson hooked a 2-iron on the par-3 framed by the Pacific Ocean into gnarly grass behind the green, a fast chip that would be difficult to get close. He knew as much walking off the tee, telling his caddie, 'That's dead,' and whispering a prayer to the golf gods for a decent lie.
'And I looked at the lie and said, 'Whoa.' A little talk there was answered, because the ball was not just down in the real heavy stuff, at least I could do something with the ball,' he said. 'And it came out just the way I wanted to. Came out soft, high and short, and ended up going in the hole. Broke Jack's heart.'
A few years later, he was in the lodge with some buddies eating dinner and drinking champagne, when someone came up with the idea of reliving the chip-in. It was dark. They weren't completely stable. And he skulled it across the green.
During a practice round Monday, Watson and his son reached the 17th and Michael asked him about the chip. Watson showed him the spot, then set a ball down on the green where the hole was cut that final round.
'He almost hit it three times,' Tom Watson said of his son.
Watson isn't the only 50-and-older player in the field. Peter Jacobsen is playing the PGA Tour for the first time since hip replacement surgery, and he probably wouldn't play this circuit except for the lure of Pebble Beach.
The scenery is among the best in America. The weather is another story.
After six years of the sunshine that makes Pebble so appealing to the rest of the country -- one week after the Super Bowl, with much of the country seeking shelter from snow and cold -- the old 'Crosby' weather might be making a comeback.
It was gray and misting on Wednesday, and that might be the best weather of the week. The chance of rain is 60 percent, although the course was dry enough that it should be able to handle any downpours.
What makes Pebble Beach so special to Jacobsen is celebrities in the field, along with corporate CEOs that he believes blends the amateur aspect of golf with entertainment value and corporate sponsorship.
'These are the kind of events that define the PGA Tour, and I want to be a part of that any time I possible can,' he said.
The tournament is missing its defending champion, Arron Oberholser, who is recovering from a back injury that probably will keep him out until the Florida swing.
Even without Tiger Woods, who hasn't played here since 2001, the field is not lacking. Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson are among five of the top 10 players in the world rankings.
The cut is made after three rounds because of the rotation at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills, and the top 25 pro-am teams get to play the final round. Watson will allow himself the thought of being there.
'Maybe through some treachery and my old-age wisdom, I can make a few birdies at the right time, and have my son Michael made some birdies,' he said. 'Maybe we'll make it to Sunday and see what happens.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach
  • TV Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

    By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

    “The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

    Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

    Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

    A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

    "Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told GolfChannel.com in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

    Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

    He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

    Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

    “It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

    "The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

    In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Web.com Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

    “I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

    The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

    Getty Images

    Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

    Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

    Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

    “Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

    The problem was an expired visa.

    Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

    No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

    His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

    One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

    His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

    “Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

    He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

    “It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

    Getty Images

    'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

    Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

    “The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

    The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

    “That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

    Getty Images

    Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

    “They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

    “The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”