Meanwhile, Bean said, "If Denis is going to beat me this week, he's going to have to play some because I'm going to be tough." Professional wrestling can't be this much fun.
What happened is that Denis finished tied for 40th, to earn $1,051.33, while Bean finished tied for fifth, good for $11,400. When the dust cleared Denis was still two points behind Tom, with the Disney World and Pensacola tournaments remaining, and Tom was not scheduled to play in either one.
That Denis Watson could even be in such a position is a monumental upset. Though he showed sporadic promise when he joined the tour in 1981, illness, injury and misfortune dropped him to doleful 87th-, 74th- and 88th-place finishes in earnings for '81, '82 and '83, respectively, and he hadn't a single tournament victory. Watson, it turns out, is allergic to grass and trees—no small problem for a golfer—as well as a long list of foods. Often he would feel enervated. Last season, after a siege of sneezing and congestion, not to mention an emotionally draining divorce following a year of marriage, he underwent a complete remodeling. Today he takes a modular approach to golf. His swing, now regarded as one of the tour's finest, is only one component of his game which he keeps finely honed. He works on everything, from his psyche to physical fitness. He jogs, he does aerobic exercises, he lifts weights, he takes vitamins and he follows a careful diet. He's on a first-name basis with doctors across the country, and his initial stop at every tournament town is a supermarket, where he buys bottled water and—shades of Gary Player—a cache of fruits and nuts.
Watson is a proponent of rolfing—a method of deep muscle manipulation—and he claims, "My body has been completely realigned. I even walk differently." Michael Ogilvie, his rolfer, says Watson is an inch taller than he was a year ago. Ogilvie also says, "Denis now has a matched pair of feet," which has helped his balance. Matched feet do that, and they also make buying shoes easier.
Watson works with a sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, an associate professor at the University of Virginia, who Watson admits has become "my guru." Rotella has improved Watson's concentration and taught him how to relax under pressure.
"A lot of people think I'm crazy," says Watson. "But I know this stuff works. Just look at what it's done for me." After Watson made five birdies in six holes in Las Vegas a month ago, his caddy, Bruce Edwards, who, ironically enough, regularly totes Tom's bag, told Denis, "If you ever find out how good you are, you'll beat these guys every week."
But at the Southern Open, Watson was not his usual consistent self. His gallery was a little off, too. Often it included only Sandy Demby, an Atlantan who had bet $50 on him in Las Vegas and won $1,000 at 20-1 odds and thus felt she owed him some allegiance.
Watson opened with a 32 on his first nine on Thursday but bogeyed four of the last five holes and wound up with a 72. A 70 on Friday left him right at the 36-hole cut score of 142, two over par. "Two over?" said golf fan Rubin on the phone from Kansas City. "I thought even par would make the cut." Rubin is well aware that if Tom plays in either of the tour's last two events he risks bruising his eighth-place scoring average of 70.97, another way Tom might slip below Denis in the Player of the Year race.
Meanwhile, with his finish Sunday, Bean raised a new possibility. If he should overtake Tom Watson in the money standings, that would be another permutation that could realign Jupiter and make Denis Watson the Player of the Year. The formula thickens.