by Jeff Skinner
At first I found it odd that Tom Watson was taking a pass on The U.S. Senior Open this week. After all, he has already claimed one major this year (Senior PGA Championship) and he is coming off a T3 at the Senior Open Championship. It would appear that his game was on form and maybe another major championship was in his reach.
Then I realized this week is The Greenbrier Classic. Tom has been the “Golf Professional Emeritus” at The Greenbrier since 2005 and has a strong relationship with its owner, Jim Justice. Last season he skipped the Greenbrier to play the U.S. Senior Open but this year he is doing the reverse.
Early this season Justice asked Watson if he would consider playing The Greenbrier and Watson committed to the tournament. “There wasn’t any question whether I was going to play this year — I felt bad about not playing here the first year … I felt like I let Jim down. And when he called to ask me if I would play, I said, ‘You got it, Jim.’ I said ‘I was intending on playing anyway, probably before I called you.’ ”
After Watson won the Senior PGA he got another call from Justice, telling him he would understand if he wanted to change his mind since he already had a major under his belt. True to his word, Watson told him he was committed to The Greenbrier and to Justice. “Jim, I made a commitment to you and I’m sticking to it.”
Watson is teamed with Phil Mickelson and “Mr. 59” Stuart Appleby for the first two rounds and that’s a grouping that’s tough to beat.