Tom Watson

In his heyday, American, Tom Watson, was considered one of the best links players of all times and when you add the fact he was also regarded as one of the best bad-weather golfers of his era, then his five Open Championship crowns will not come as too much of a surprise!

The Watson & Nicklaus Rivalry

Watson is one of those players you can easily mention in the same breath as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros – he is one of the most accomplished golfers in the world, having bagged a very impressive eight majors in a career that has spanned over 30 years . In fact, Watson’s fierce, though friendly rivalry with Nicklaus was pivotal in increasing the popularity of the game in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Although it seems paltry compared to the performance record of the great Tiger Woods, Watson was the number one golfer in the world from 1978 through to 1982 and he did in fact dethrone Nicklaus to claim the number one sport. It was clearly poetic justice when Watson himself was toppled from the top of the world by another great performer of the fairways, the inimitable Seve Ballesteros!

Watson turned pro in 1971 but battled to make an impact on the tour in his initial years, failing dismally at the US Open at Winged Foot in 1974. He was clearly more than impressive overall though as the great Byron Nelson took him under his win and taught him a thing or two and before long Watson’s game had improved immeasurably!

Neck and Neck at Turnberry

It was the ongoing rivalry between Watson and the Golden Bear that will arguably be remembered for many years to come and one of the highlights of their toe-to-toe struggle to dominate was at the 1977 Open Championships at Turnberry.

After the first two rounds both players were one shot off the lead and both headed into the third day determined to claim the top spot on the leader board, and they did – they both carded a 65, which propelled them three shots clear of the rest of the field. In the final round Watson and Nicklaus were tied after 16 holes but the stress obviously got to the older man and Nicklaus missed an absolute sitter on the 17th to deny him a birdie – this effectively handed the Open Championship title to Watson on a platter, as he did not drop a shot!

Watson’s Wicked Wins and other Accolades

  • Masters – 1977 & 1981
  • US Open – 1982
  • Open Championship – 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983<
  • Vardon Trophy – 1977, 1978, 1979
  • PGA Player of the Year – 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984