Tom Watson was more interested in honoring a longtime relationship than competing in one of the biggest senior events of the year.
Watson is the pro emeritus at The Greenbrier, and when the West Virginia resort became host of a PGA Tour event last year, he couldn’t play because it was the same week as the U.S. Senior Open. Watson told Greenbrier owner Jim Justice he would play this year -- before the 61-year-old won the Senior PGA Championship.
“To his credit, after I won the Senior PGA, Jim called me and said, `I don’t want to put any pressure on you to play. If you want to play in the U.S. Senior Open, I know how much it means to you to play in that,”’ Watson said Tuesday. “Very simply I said, `Jim, I made a commitment to you and I’m sticking to it.’ So here I am.”
Watson has a long history with the Greenbrier, starting with peculiar circumstances.
He was part of the 1979 Ryder Cup team at the Greenbrier, and his ex-wife went into labor at home in Kansas City, Mo. Justice’s father used a company plane to fly him home for the birth of his daughter, Meg.
Watson saw enough of the place to fall in love with it. He started bringing his sponsors to the Greenbrier and has done that for the past 30 years. Then, he was asked to replace Sam Snead as the pro emeritus.
Justice said it “means volumes” for Watson to be playing, especially considering what he is giving up this week.
“Tom Watson told us he would be here and that was the end of that,” Justice said.
Watson will play the first two rounds with Phil Mickelson. They have combined for 78 wins and 12 majors.