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Forty years after winning 1981 Masters, Tom Watson recalls accomplishing what few golfers have pulled off


Tom Watson is congratulated after the green jacket presentation at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 1981.

Tom Watson is congratulated after the inexperienced jacket presentation at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 1981.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — When Tom Watson gained the 1977 Masters, the one bogey on Sunday was that his inexperienced jacket was too huge. About six sizes too giant by his estimation. In 1981, he donned a 44 lengthy after amassing his second Masters title, fending off challenges from runners-up Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus.

“They got it right this time,” Watson stated. “It didn’t matter. I didn’t care whether it was a 44 long or a 56 long, I didn’t care, as long as I had that green jacket on.”

Watson had established himself as arguably the very best participant within the recreation, winner of 4 main championships thus far, however he hadn’t gained but that season heading into the forty fifth Masters.

Tom Watson watches the ball in play at Augusta National during Sunday's final round in the 1981 Masters.

Tom Watson watches the ball in play at Augusta National throughout Sunday’s closing spherical within the 1981 Masters.

That week, Watson benefited from time spent with two-time Masters champion Byron Nelson, his mentor, buddy and father determine, together with throughout the Par-3 Contest. At the second gap, Watson caught his tee shot tight, which led to this memorable change.

“I needled him, and I said, ‘Top that, Nelson.’ And he said, ‘There’s room inside that.’ He proceeded to hit the shot and hit the flagstick,” Watson recalled as he checked out a just lately unearthed picture from the Augusta Chronicle archives of himself and Nelson strolling the fairways of the nine-hole quick course.

Watson additionally persuaded Nelson to play the again 9 of the massive course with him and former U.S. Open champion Andy North throughout a follow spherical, and Nelson wowed them along with his ballstriking, particularly at No. 14.

“He ran that 3‑wood right up that slope to about 10 feet from the hole. Andy and I were just shaking our heads. This guy is the real deal,” Watson stated.

It was Nelson who taught Watson easy methods to deal with main championship stress after some Sunday failures early in his profession. He observed Watson walked too shortly and rushed his decision-making. Walking a beat slower had a number of advantages together with a smoother rhythm to Watson’s swing. Nelson dispelled different morsels of knowledge, together with this one which wedged into Watson’s head for all these years.

“He said, ‘I always wanted to be a little bit unsure about my golf swing or the way I was playing because that made me sharp and focused,’ ” Watson stated.

A targeted Watson opened with rounds of 71-68 to path Nicklaus, who shot 65 on Friday, by 4 strokes, however held a one-stroke 54-hole lead at 7-under 209 after Nicklaus ballooned to 75 on Saturday.

Tom Watson is joined by Byron Nelson during the 1981 Masters Par-3 Contest at Augusta National on April 8, 1981.

Tom Watson is joined by Byron Nelson throughout the 1981 Masters Par-3 Contest at Augusta National on April 8, 1981.

In an attention-grabbing twist, the sport’s two heavyweights weren’t paired collectively within the closing spherical because the Masters opted to ship off the primary and third-leading scorers in a twosome, then the second and fourth, and so forth down the road. “You have to be kidding,” Nicklaus stated when he heard that Watson would play the ultimate spherical with Masters debutante Greg Norman, and he with John Mahaffey.

The different scorching matter was the pace of the greens, transformed from Bermuda to bent grass that 12 months. On Thursday, Nicklaus complained that the opening places have been “hanging from cliffs and standing on knobs.” Later, he famous that should you weren’t cautious you would putt off the inexperienced as Watson found the laborious method on Sunday on the ninth inexperienced.

Tom Watson lining up a putt at Augusta National on Friday, April 10, 1981.

Tom Watson lining up a putt at Augusta National on Friday, April 10, 1981.

Tom Watson makes a putt at Augusta National on Friday, April 10, 1981.

Tom Watson makes a putt at Augusta National on Friday, April 10, 1981.

Tom Watson hands off his ball to his caddie at Augusta National on Friday, April 10, 1981.

Tom Watson palms off his ball to his caddie at Augusta National on Friday, April 10, 1981.

“I hit the putt and I said, ‘Oh, no!’ ” Watson recounted. “So, I started walking off the putt, went to my back pocket and put on my glove because I knew that ball was going to roll off the green.”

Watson chipped shut and salvaged bogey because the chase for the inexperienced jacket tightened up. Johnny Miller birdied three of the final six holes to shoot 68, tying for the bottom rating of the day, and waited 90 minutes to see if his clubhouse-leading rating of 6-under 282 would maintain up.

“I kind of felt like I wasn’t going to be able to catch him,” stated Miller, who began the ultimate spherical 5 strokes again. “He was tough to beat with how good he was with the putter. At that point, I thought he was the best putter I’d ever seen. It was just surreal how aggressive he was.”

Watson confirmed his placing contact with a clutch 15-foot par putt at No. 5, and his aggressive nature at No. 12, ramming his birdie putt 8 toes previous the opening earlier than canning the comebacker.

“All I care about at 12 is don’t hit it in the water,” Watson stated of Rae’s Creek that fronts the inexperienced on the par 3. “That’s the key shot of the whole tournament.”

Tom Watson reacts to his putt during the final round of the 1981 Masters.

Tom Watson reacts to his putt throughout the closing spherical of the 1981 Masters.

One gap later on the par 5, Watson rinsed a 4-iron on his second shot in Rae’s Creek, however pitched to 4 toes and saved par. With Miller and Nicklaus on his tail, Watson hit arguably the tournament-defining shot, lofting a 4-wood to the par-5 fifteenth gap that stopped 40 toes from the opening. After an aggressive eagle bid, Watson lined up his 4-foot birdie putt as Nicklaus poured in a 25-foot birdie putt at 16 to climb momentarily inside a stroke. The roar of the patrons didn’t have an effect on Watson, who sank the putt to stretch his result in two.

Watson’s quick recreation was examined yet one more time earlier than he may slip into his second inexperienced jacket. Watson’s second shot at 17 caught the entrance bunker, the identical spot from which he’d made double bogey the day earlier than. Forty years later, he referred to as it probably the most nerve-wracking second of the week. He splashed to 4 toes for one more par.

“It was slightly on the upslope,” Watson remembered. “Didn’t make a hard swing, just released it, let the ball flop out there without too much spin to it, and just kind of roll-up by the hole.”

That’s when Watson knew the inexperienced jacket would belong to him once more and he may get pleasure from a sluggish victory stroll to his final-round 1-under 71. At the time, Watson stated of winning the Masters, “It’s better the second time.”

What made returning to the winner’s circle sweeter?

“To do it not once but twice, you feel like you have accomplished something that very few people have ever done,” Watson defined. “That’s what I was out there to do was to prove to myself that I could win under the most pressure‑filled situations and in the most important tournaments.”

This article initially appeared on USA TODAY: Tom Watson’s 1981 Masters win brings back memories of Byron Nelson

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