US Open Greats: Watson, Nicklaus and Pebble Beach

by Jeff Skinner

It is here, the best week of the year in golf.  It’s U.S. Open week and it’s at Pebble Beach the home of some of the most dramatic U. S. Open finishes ever.  The 1982 U.S. Open is remembered for Tom Watson’s chip in at seventeen.  He was hoping to win his first Open but his friend and toughest opponent, Jack Nicklaus wasn’t going to hand it to him.

Nicklaus got in the groove early as he birdied five straight holes from the third to the seventh.  With that birdie at seven he took the lead but Watson playing behind him had yet to get warmed up.

When Watson stuck his tee shot at seven to a foot and a half it looked like a sure birdie.  He uncharacteristically missed it and settled for a par.  If Watson had made that putt who’s to say how the rest of the tournament would have gone.  As he went into seventeen he was tied with Nicklaus.  That extra birdie would have given him a one stroke cushion and maybe he plays the closing holes differently.

As it was, he buried his shot in the rough past the green on seventeen and that set the stage for one of the greatest and most memorable shots in golf.  It had all the requirements for an historic shot: big name players on a big stage with huge stakes on the line.  It doesn’t get any bigger than Nicklaus, Watson, Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open.  Watson was a master at getting his ball up and down from off the green and this instance was no different.  It was perfect and forever ingrained in golf history.

Watson didn’t stop there.  He was so pumped up he birdied eighteen for good measure and a two stroke win over his buddy Nicklaus.  As Nicklaus watched Watson steal his Open from him he had to be thinking that the kid is going to do it to me again.  That’s just what he said to him when they shook hands after Watson’s birdie, “You little SOB, you did it to me again.”


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