Nicklaus, Watson rivalry cemented by friendship, respect

By John FeinsteinMay 31, 2012, 10:14 pm

On the second day of the 1991 Masters, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus were paired in the final group. By the end of a long, rainy afternoon, Watson was on his way to a second straight 68 and the lead in the tournament. Nicklaus was en route to shooting 72.

Even in the gloaming, with the rain coming down steadily, the 18th green was ringed by spectators as the two men made their way up the final fairway. As always, Watson walked briskly while Nicklaus moved at a slower pace. There’s a spot at the top of the hill where applause for the players always begins. Those who have played at Augusta National often enough know exactly where that spot is and almost always take off their caps to acknowledge the applause just as it begins to build.

A few steps short of that spot, Watson stopped. He waited until Nicklaus, a quizzical look on his face, chugged up beside him.

“What are you doing?” Nicklaus asked.

“Waiting for you,” Watson said. “You walk up on the green first.”

Nicklaus shook his head. “Oh no,” he said. “You go first, you’re leading the golf tournament.”

 “Doesn’t matter,” Watson said firmly. “You’re going first. YOU’RE Jack Nicklaus.”

Finally, they put their arms around one another and compromised: They walked onto the green together.

Which was exactly as it should have been. The argument can be made that, among all the great rivalries in sports, there never has been one where those involved respected one another more than Watson and Nicklaus.

More often than not, rivals – teams or individuals – don’t truly understand how important their most feared opponent was until after they’re no longer competing against one another.

Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer privately sniped at one another for years until they became friends as they approached their golfing dotage. John McEnroe always wanted to be more like Bjorn Borg and Borg always wanted to be more like McEnroe but the two men remained baffled by one another long after each had retired. To this day fans of Duke and North Carolina fail to understand how much each means to the other.

Watson and Nicklaus got it almost from the beginning. Sure, there was the moment at the 1977 Masters when Watson thought Nicklaus was pointing back at him after making a birdie putt on Sunday to take the lead, but that was a moment in the cauldron of a major championship that passed quickly.

Watson always knew he wanted to emulate Nicklaus, not just as a player, but as a champion. No one ever competed harder than Nicklaus, no one ever wanted to win more than Nicklaus. No one ever BELIEVED he was going to win more than Nicklaus. Watson became all those things. Some of it was just who he was but some of it was also watching Nicklaus from up close in victory and defeat.

As dramatic as Watson’s 1977 victory over Nicklaus at Turnberry was, no win meant more to him than his U.S. Open victory in 1982 at Pebble Beach. His chip-in on the 17th hole on Sunday is as famous as any shot in golf history and the fact that it was his national championship made it that much more significant. After all, as a boy he hadn’t played “name the Masters champion” or “name the British Open or PGA champion” with his father. It was always – always – “name the U.S. Open champion.”

But what makes that memory so extraordinary for Watson is Nicklaus. It wasn’t just that he beat the man he considered the best to ever play the game in the championship he most wanted to win by finishing birdie-birdie, it was the reaction of that man when he walked off the 18th green.

“You did it to me again, you little SOB,” Nicklaus whispered in Watson’s ear. “I couldn’t be more proud of you.”

That reaction to a crushing defeat is what sets a champion apart from a great player. The same could be said of Watson after he came so agonizingly close to making history by winning the British Open at the age of 59 three years ago. “Hey fellas,” he said as truly dejected members of the media trudged into the interview room. “This isn’t a funeral, you know.”

It was that line that Nicklaus chose to quote Wednesday when he honored his old friend at the Memorial Tournament. The two have become extremely close in recent years, talking often. Nicklaus, who says he rarely watches golf on television, sat riveted along with everyone else on that Sunday in 2009 when Watson almost did the impossible at the site of his historic duel with Nicklaus 32 years earlier.

“Broke my heart,” Nicklaus said a few days later. “I really thought Tom was going to do it.”

They chat, they tease, they consult, they console. In 2007, the day after Tiger Woods won the PGA in a runaway for his 13th major title, Watson called Nicklaus.

“Did you watch the kid yesterday?” Watson asked.

'For a little while,” Nicklaus said.

“He’s pretty good,” Watson said, needling just a little bit.

“Tom,” Nicklaus answered, “I think he may be the greatest player of all time.”

He might be. He still might surpass Nicklaus’ total of 18 major titles.

But one thing is certain: Neither Woods nor anyone else is likely to have a rivalry – or a friendship – quite like Watson and Nicklaus. They’re linked forever, whether it is dueling in the sun in Scotland or on a windy links off Monterey Bay. Or walking arm-in-arm through the rain at Augusta.

Those memories are indelible in the minds of both men. And in the minds of all of those lucky enough to have witnessed them.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.