Another historic first for Tom Watson at the Masters | Sports News

By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Reporter

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Tom Watson didn’t think eight major championships, including two green jackets, would be enough to join the company of Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus on the first tee at Augusta National.

Even at 72, more than half a century after first walking Magnolia Lane as an amateur, Watson remains somewhat in awe of the legends he spent decades chasing.

“I’m looking at these old goats here, I can’t wear their shoes,” Watson said Thursday morning, shortly after joining Player and Nicklaus as honorary starters at the Masters for the first time. in the same field as these two players here.

Club chairman Fred Ridley disagreed. His invitation to Watson to become the 11th honorary starter since the tradition began in 1962 included the provision that the 72-year-old Watson could hit as long as he wanted.

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“Wow,” Watson said. “It meant a lot to me.”

Left to enter another phase of his life as a golfer. It’s a phase Watson, who won at Augusta in 1977 and again in 1981 and came close to scoring a stunner at the 2009 British Open at Turnberry aged 58 before finally losing to Stewart Cink in the playoffs, he he accepted it a long time ago.

“I guess it’s the culmination of some sort of process,” he said. “I had a pretty good career. Not like (Player and Nicklaus), but I had a pretty good career. Just kind of a highlight.

Watson took over the honor for Lee Elder, the first black Masters player who died last fall. Watson, with 72 next to his name on the flag bearer on the first tee, took a moment before he teeed off and reflected on how things came full circle.

He had made it a point from the time he made his Masters debut as a 20-year-old amateur in 1970 to find his way to the first tee box early Thursday morning over the years to catch men who have helped define the sport. Freddy McLeod and Jock Hutchison. Sam Snead and Byron Nelson. Gene Sarazen and Arnold Palmer. Player and Nicklaus. And now, Watson.

“I’m very honored to be a part of it,” Watson said.

Well, up to a point anyway. Watson couldn’t help but have a little fun when he, Player and Nicklaus were asked who made the longest drive.

“Oh come on,” said Watson, who is considerably younger than Nicklaus, 82, and Player, 86.

While Nicklaus admitted he was the shortest, in his estimation, “Gary and Tom were probably pretty close.”

An estimate that did not suit the rival who became a friend of Nicklaus.

“Oh, I won (Player) by 50 (meters)!” laughed Watson.

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