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Ancient History
Gary Van Sickle
June 01, 1998
Tom Watson marked a new start at the by becoming the oldest winner of Colonial
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June 01, 1998

Ancient History

Tom Watson marked a new start at the by becoming the oldest winner of Colonial

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At the 6th, Watson ran in a 20-foot par-saving putt and couldn't stop smiling as he left the green. Then at the par-4 9th his drive found the edge of a fairway bunker. He was forced to stand outside the bunker and swipe at a ball a foot below his feet. He had 132 yards, into a gusting wind, over a pond to a front-right pin. Pass the instruction video, please. Watson put his ball 10 feet from the hole, made the putt, then finished with a 66 and a 15-under-par 265, two better than Furyk. "The whole tournament boiled down to that shot," said Watson, who ranked the stroke among his most memorable, along with the chip-in at 17 to win the '82 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the 213-yard two-iron into the wind at the 72nd hole at Birkdale in '83 and the 60-foot putt from off the 15th green at Turnberry that helped him beat Jack Nicklaus in their famous duel at the '77 British Open.

While Sunday was Watson's day, the first three rounds belonged to the 26-year-old Frazar, a round-faced rookie who had tied for second the week before at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic. Never heard of him? That's understandable. His high school team in suburban Dallas won two state titles, but the big shot was teammate Trip Kuehne. At Texas, Frazar was a three-time All-America but again was overshadowed, this time by Leonard, with whom he roomed during their freshman year. "I beat him in practice rounds, but he beat me in almost every tournament," says Frazar, who was 12 when he first played with Leonard.

As roommates, Frazar and Leonard were called the Odd Couple. The neat, well-organized Leonard was Felix to Frazar's Oscar. "He only got mad at me a couple of times, like when I had stuff hanging off the lamps," Frazar says. "We were different."

While Leonard focused solely on golf, Frazar enjoyed going to football games and hunting and fishing on the weekends. "Golf wasn't my thing; I wasn't obsessed with it," he says. "Don't get me wrong, I tried to do well for my coach and teammates. After a while, though, I lost interest in golf. I needed to get away."

After college Frazar got a job as a financial analyst in a Dallas realty office, then worked for a company owned by Mark Brooks, the Texas alum, Colonial member and '96 PGA champion. Frazar wore a suit and tie to the office, crunched numbers and played golf once a month. "Taking that year off was probably the best thing I could've done," Frazar says. "It made me realize how much I missed the game."

At the end of '96 Frazar entered Q school and earned a spot on the Nike tour. He finished 13th on its '97 money list to graduate to the big Tour, on which he made his debut at Pebble Beach. "I go to eat breakfast on Thursday and Kevin Costner is standing in front of me in line," Frazar says. "I grab my plate and bump into Bill Murray, who gives me a fake punch to the stomach. As I'm walking out, I almost run over Jack Lemmon. After I hit some balls, I get in the van to drive to the 1st tee when we hear, 'Hold on, hold on,' and Jack Nicklaus climbs in. In the matter of an hour-bang!—I've completely forgotten that I'm there to play golf."

Frazar was more focused at Colonial, shooting 64 on the first day. He's a long hitter with a tempo-based swing, putts well and has a lot of patience. That last attribute was sorely tested on Sunday as his swing quickened, and he gamely scrambled for pars, settling for a 71 and a fourth-place finish, five strokes behind Watson. "He has the game to compete like this week in and week out," says Randy Smith, his coach. Frazar has won $355,114 this season, and the $297,067 he has taken home over the last two weeks jumped him from 144th to 38th on the money list. "In two weeks I've gone from someone nobody ever heard of to somebody people were pulling for," he said. "That's special."

So, too, was Watson's victory. He had finished third here twice and fourth four times. Now his name will go on the Wall of Champions adjacent to the 1st tee, joining the likes of Hogan (a five-time winner), Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and Lee Trevino. "It's a great honor to have won here in the year of Hogan's passing," Watson said. "With all the great players who have won here, it's like the Masters."

Except the Colonial champion doesn't receive a green jacket, he gets a red plaid one. Watson wore it over his bright blue shirt to the winner's press conference. "I don't care what it looks like," he said, smiling a young man's smile. "I'm just glad to have it on."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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