PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Tom Watson just wasn't himself these first two days at Pebble Beach GL. He's fortunate that he has another two days to find himself in what is likely to be his final U.S. Open.
With a four-foot putt for par on the picturesque 18th hole Friday afternoon, Watson carded an even-par 71 and made the cut on the number at 7-over-par 149 thanks to the 10-shot rule. "He won't ever quit, not until the last shot," said Watson's wife, Hillary, trying to hold back some tears.
Since last year's British Open at Turnberry, her husband has been holding back the years. His performance Friday, with swollen galleries cheering him at every turn, was just another example that at age 60, Watson still possesses enough skill and soul to remain a viable competitor - even when he didn't feel in top form.
"I wanted to get to two under - and I did - but then I gave it away," said Watson, the only man to play in all five U.S. Opens at Pebble and who won the '82 edition here. "I just never felt comfortable, for whatever reason. I made too many unforced errors out there."
Nevertheless, Watson made the cut in the U.S. Open for the 25th time in his career out of 31 appearances, this start made possible via a special exemption after having not competed in the Open since 2003. He enjoyed the reception he received from the galleries - much more than his golf.
"Oh, it was very warm ... a wonderful reception," said Watson, who was concentrating more on making the cut than any nostalgia. "This very well could be my last U.S. Open. And I certainly appreciate the USGA's invitation. I'm very grateful for it. It was a very nice thing for them to do for an old guy like me. I wish I had played a little bit better."
He played remarkably well, as well as could be expected for the oldest player in the field taking on what has proven to be a pernicious course setup. And he trails only Sam Snead as the second-oldest player to make the cut in the U.S. Open.
Watson was thinking of Snead when he was asked about his own longevity.
"I made a swing change back in '94 that made my golf swing a lot more consistent. Golf became really fun again, after about nine years of it not being fun at all," Watson said. "I was lucky to find that, that swing change. And ever since then ... I'm just playing it out. I was always a great fan of Sam Snead's golf swing. He could play until he was 78 years old. I mean flat play. But he's an anomaly. I don't have any delusions of myself, for me to play that long."
But at least he can say he has two more rounds in his favorite tournament.
-- Dave Shedloski