Tom Watson is a survivor among Masters’ oldies

Tom Watson couldn't match his opening round 67 Friday but he's still hanging near the leaders. (Tim Dominick/The Columbia, S.C., State)

Tom Watson couldn't match his opening round 67 Friday but he's still hanging near the leaders. (Tim Dominick/The Columbia, S.C., State)

AUGUSTA – Nineteen years ago, Ian Woosnam won the Masters, and with it a lifetime hall pass to Augusta National. Imagine if other sports treated its former champions like this tournament. The Chicago Cubs would be a World Series staple since 1908.

There’s a problem with this tradition. What it carries in charm, it often makes up for in utter humiliation. The old-guy thing loses its cuteness when a scorecard is covered with lime green numbers. After shooting a tournament-worst 20-over 164 over two days, Woosnam said, “This course, if you start missing a few shots, it just takes over.”

Asked to expound on that, Woosnam (52) raised his hands, formed two claws and said, “It’s like, ‘Right, I’m gonna really kill you. I’ll show you not to come back here!’ I’ve got to go now for a beer.”

Finally, an activity he hadn’t outgrown.

It was Day 2 at the Masters. The course swallowed the AARP whole. Fred Couples (50) followed his opening-round 66 with a 75. “As soon as I get home and lay down I’ll be fine,” he said. “But right now I’m tired and [ticked] off.”

Sandy Lyle (52) followed a 69 with an 86. He went from two bogeys on Thursday to five bogeys, four double bogeys and one triple bogey Friday. Then he made some crack about “playing with a square golf ball.” The good news: All of his organs remained intact.

Sandy Lyle followed his 69 in the first round with an 83 in the second round. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Sandy Lyle followed his 69 in the first round with an 83 in the second round. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Craig Stadler (56), a Masters champion 28 years ago, was consistent. He shot rounds of 79 and 78. But he found the positive in all of this: “Basic par now for me is a 79. I shot 1 under today. Got a 78 out of it. So I feel pretty good about myself.”

With that old-dude carnage (and humor) as a backdrop, it makes what Tom Watson is accomplishing in his 37th Masters that much more remarkable.

He couldn’t replicate his first-round 67. Like everyone else in the field, he battled stiffer winds and tougher pin placements. His putter: Not quite as steady. But even with Friday’s 74, he’s on the leaderboard at 3 under. At the age of 60.

Watson is only the third 60-something to make the Masters cut, behind Tommy Aaron (63 in 2000) and Gary Player (62 in 1998). The difference is, Watson can still see the leader. Aaron and Player were placed somewhere near Macon.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. When Watson nearly won the British Open last summer, he established himself as the new inspiration for everyone with a Tuesday seniors discount at IHOP.

“A lot of people made reference to the fact that, ‘I gave up on golf’ or, ‘I gave up on certain things in life,’ and, ‘Watson, I’m not giving up now. If you can do it, I can do it,’” he said.

Fred Couples' back started giving him trouble Friday. (AP photo)

Fred Couples' back gave him trouble in round two. (AP)

He didn’t love his round Friday, particularly after his day’s sixth bogey on the 18th. But he said, “It was special walking through the crowds in Augusta, very special for me, because I related to a lot of people in the crowd. They were all my age.”

Some, like Woosnam, are starting to wonder if its worth another trip back. Nobody wants to pull a Billy Casper. In 2005, at the age of 73, he shot a round of 34-over 106. The day included five consecutive shots in the water on the 16th hole, when he took a 14. He never turned in his scorecard so, technically, he just “withdrew.” He also never came back to the Masters.

Stadler’s not quite there, but he said, “Feel lousy, didn’t hit it very good and [I'm] a cripple. Not a very good combination around this place.”

Woosnam said he “felt like I was playing with a lead ball. Pffffft. You try to hit it harder and harder, and it just makes you worse. If you’re not playing well and you’re our age, you might as well just forget it. I always said if I shot in the 80s, I’m going to give it up. Next year, if I’m not playing well, I’ll just give the spot to someone else.”

Watson isn’t nearly there. He missed 11 of the past 12 Masters cuts before Friday. But it says something about the man that he isn’t 3 under and “disappointed.”

“Three-under rather than 5 under — I’ve got to do some 100 percent playing in the last two rounds to have a chance,” he said.

He will be paired Saturday with 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, who is exactly half his age: 30. Out of the way, kid.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on

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27 comments Add your comment

MN Possum

April 9th, 2010
9:00 pm

MN Possum

April 9th, 2010
9:01 pm

Fine article on a fine gentleman.

4 Jacks

April 9th, 2010
9:28 pm

Tom has always been a great and classy guy. Good article. Takes me back to his battles with Jack and others. That was when golf was really fun to watch. Good luck Tom, here’s hoping for a little magic in that putter for you this weekend.


April 9th, 2010
9:33 pm

Good article Jeff


April 9th, 2010
9:33 pm



April 9th, 2010
9:49 pm

I miss Furman!


April 9th, 2010
9:55 pm

Doug Ford must be 87 or 88. Perhaps he’ll come back next year. It’s part of the charm of the Toonament to allow the non-competitive champions to play (and it’s no harm to anyone). Let them go out early and finish before ESPN starts its coverage. Tiger will struggle to break 80 in 2040, but he won’t yet be the ceremonial starter. Perhaps by then Mickelson will be.


April 9th, 2010
10:04 pm

Good article Jeff. Nice to read about somebody other than he who shall not be named.

ole smoky

April 9th, 2010
11:40 pm

Too bad Watson & Couples didn’t get paired tomorrow… but you never know…. wait til Sunday

Reid Adair

April 9th, 2010
11:51 pm

Fantastic article, Jeff. Given the other examples and previous history, Tom Watson is certainly showing that he can still get it done.

Tom Watson Blogs | Tech News

April 10th, 2010
12:01 am

[...] Tom Watson is a survivor among Masters' oldies | Jeff SchultzTom Watson could not replicate his first-round 67 Friday but at 3-under he’s still has a chance to win the Masters at the age of 60. Read more [...]

[...] Tom Watson is a survivor among Masters' oldies | Jeff Schultz [...]

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 10th, 2010
5:49 am

I’m near Macon and looking for Gary Player. Aaron was sighted at Taco Bell drive thru in Griffin.

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 10th, 2010
5:50 am

Can we give Tom’s 30 something trophy wife any credit?


April 10th, 2010
6:56 am

Great article, but you didn’t mention how well Watson also did at the British Open last year.


April 10th, 2010
7:22 am

Finally a Masters article without the name Tiger in it.


April 10th, 2010
7:48 am

Keep the great masters articles coming. Love what you are writing. Tom Watson is simply remarkable doing what he’s doing at 60.


April 10th, 2010
8:34 am

Tom Watson And TV ratings go Hand In Hand

Mid Town Joe

April 10th, 2010
8:40 am

The course will be rediculous Sat and Sun. The oldies but goodies will no be around for long, though it was a great story. I’m liking Lee Westwood to win.

[...] Tom Watson is a survivor among Masters' oldies Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) – Apr 9th – 20:28 [...]

[...] Tom Watson is a survivor among Masters' oldies Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) – Apr 9th – 20:28 [...]


April 10th, 2010
12:58 pm

I would have pulled for Watson if he hadn’t chosen to make a political statement the other night while accepting some award or other. Guess he’s entitled to his opinion, but I’m also entitled to wish him poor luck. Not that it matters, but when he drops back a few dozen spots over the weekend, you can wonder if it’s the ‘bad karma’.

[...] ♦ Tom Watson is a survivor among Masters’ oldies [...]

[...] ♦ Tom Watson is a survivor among Masters’ oldies [...]

tom watson() « Hot News

April 12th, 2010
8:14 am

[...] Tom Watson is a survivor among Masters’ oldies | Jeff Schultz [...]

Pete Goetz

June 3rd, 2010
5:25 pm

Tom Watson epitomizes a GOLF GREAT !! I am 75 yrs old,play golf everyday and just today needed to look again at the best and most useful golf book I have ever read(and believe me I have read many over the last 60+ yrs of playing golf) It is “Getting up and down” by Tom Watson. Best and most practical golf advice Book ever written !! Get one !! Thanks Tom , you are and always will be my golf idol !!


August 31st, 2010
10:43 pm

thanx now i have the link whichchi flat irons i was looking for my research. .