by Jeff Skinner
Each year Jack Nicklaus and his Memorial Tournament honor an individual for their life contributions to the game of golf. This year’s honoree is Jack’s long time friend and rival Tom Watson. Together they gave us some of the greatest memories in the history of the game.
Larry Dorman calls them the “golf’s last true rivalry” and indeed he is right. No rivalry today comes close to Jack & Tom. Whether you’re considering the sheer volume of major championships or the depth of their character there are few challengers to Nicklaus and Watson.
From The Memorial’s capsule on Watson:In a career filled with highlights, two of his most memorable major championship victories came in tightly fought head-to-head battles with Nicklaus. In 1977 at Turnberry, Scotland, Watson bested Nicklaus in the famous “Duel in the Sun.” The two men were paired together for the final 36 holes, and Watson edged Nicklaus by shooting 65-65 to the Golden Bear’s 65-66 to win by one stroke. Watson clipped Nicklaus yet again in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. With Nicklaus the leader in the clubhouse, Watson orchestrated one of the most memorable shots in major championship history by chipping in for birdie from ankle-high rough on the par-3 17th hole en route to his only national title.
Throughout his career, Watson has been a respected sportsman and ambassador for the sport. He received the USGA’s prestigious Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship in 1987, and he was elected to the PGA World Golf Hall of Fame the following year. In recognition of his role not only as a champion, but also as an ambassador and devoted caretaker of the game of golf, Watson was selected to the Memorial Tournament’s Captains Club in 2009.