”In my toolbox, I have one of those tape measures and that tape measure used to extend out to 265 yards carry off the tee,” said Watson, the winner here in 1977 and 1981. “Now it doesn’t do that any more; it’s 250 yards off the tee.”
It was while making his farewell Open Championship appearance at St Andrews last summer that Watson, now 66, revealed that the end of the road had also come for him in this event. “When you see these kids play out here and see them carry the ball 280 and 290 yards off the tee, it’s time to say I can’t compete with them,” he added. “I haven’t been able to really honestly compete with them for several years.”
Watson once made 21 consecutive cuts in this event. He’s managed that just once in the last 13 years – in 2010. “I don’t want to keep taking up a spit and not even have a sniff of making the cut.”
Asked what his legacy in golf would be, Watson added: “You have to ask other people that. I just hope that when all is said and done that my peers say that Watson was a hell of a golfer. I just want to be remembered by my peers, the guys that know what it takes to be a championship golfer. I hope that also going throughout my career, that I’ve treated people the way they should be treated. Sometimes I haven’t. But most of the time I have, I think, and I think that’s important.”
According to the game’s greatest player, Watson is bowing out of the majors with legendary status. “I’d put him in one of the best five or six players that ever played the game,” said 18-time major winner and six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus.
“I remember the first time he looked at me like a kid with blinders on. He was going to get somewhere and it didn’t matter who was in his way. That’s the way he played.”