Then came a third-round 70. Only five players shot lower scores on Saturday. Through three rounds he was in 16th place. On Sunday he was trying to get himself into the top 10, which would earn him a spot in next year's U.S. Open at Congressional. One of Watson's heroes is Sam Snead, "who could play golf, really play, through age 78," Watson has often said.
On Sunday, you know Watson was thinking of his father, Ray, who first brought him to Pebble as a teenager in the '60s. You know he was thinking about the trips he made to Pebble in the '70s, when he was studying psychology in college. You know he was thinking about Bruce and their U.S. Open win in '82. You know he was thinking about the many AT&T Pro-Ams he has played at Pebble with Sandy Tatum, the former USGA president, right through the '90s. You know he was thinking about the second-place finish he and Michael had as pro-am partners at the AT&T in 2007.
When Watson learned that the U.S. Open is returning to Pebble he said, "Twenty-nineteen at Pebble? That's cool." He'll be 69 then. Maybe he'll be back. "How long will I play? I hope it's a long time. I'm a golfer. That's what I am, plain and simple."
His friend Tatum, 89 years old now, followed Watson around last week. Heading back to his hotel on Saturday night, driving past Cypress Point, Tatum said, "Good thing Watson's not in the car—he'd want to play nine now." It was pitch-black.
When Watson and Michael—father and son, pro and am—came up 18 on Sunday afternoon, the top 10 dream was long over. Watson was holding back tears the last 200 yards as he closed with a par to a standing ovation. His Sunday 76 left him in 29th place. At age 60. And he didn't even play well. Amazing. He threw his ball into Stillwater Cove and came in and talked to the press, just as he always has.
Watson showed more emotion last week than he ever has in public. He's not going to spell out to you what he was feeling. You can figure that out for yourself. He knows what you know. That the passage of time is painful. That he and Jack will never go at it again. That his father is dead. That Bruce is dead. That Michael's all grown up. That holes 1 through 15 of his life are in the rearview mirror. That as a golfer he's not what he once was. "It's sad," he said. "I'm sad." Golf's wistful, and life is too. He wouldn't want it any other way. Would you?
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Relive all five of Tom Watson's U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach and his career at SI.com/vault
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