Tom Watson Bids Emotional Final Farewell To Augusta As He Completes His Final Masters

Legendary golfer Tom Watson bid an emotional farewell to Augusta on Friday, as he completed his 43rd — and final — Masters tournament.

The 66-year-old Hall of Famer did not make the weekend cut and took his final swings at Augusta National amidst tears and hugs. With a final wave of his hat to the crowd that cheered him on one last time, he bid adieu to the historic course.

After nearly a half-century thrilling fans with his play, Watson announced in July that this would be his final Masters. He cited a decline in his level of play as the reason for his decision. On Friday, he shot an 8-over 78, following an opening-round 74, for which he was pretty content.

“I think 74 is not bad for old folks. I can’t complain.”

Over the past two decades, the former champion qualified for the final rounds only twice.

He leaves Augusta as one of the best golfers of all time, winning eight majors. The Kansas City, Missouri, native led the PGA Tour in earnings five times, including from 1977-80.

But, as Golf noted, Watson will be remembered as a man who simply loved the game of golf.

In 1987, he was awarded the Bob Jones Award, which is given each year to an individual “who demonstrates the spirit, personal character and respect for the game.”

Sandy Tatum, Watson’s longtime friend and former USGA president, has said that nobody had “a more consummate love of golf” than Tom Watson, in a note posted to Golf.

“At the nadir of his decline, we were playing in the AT&T and got to 17 at Pebble Beach, and he needed two pars to make the cut. Well, he hit a lousy iron and chunked a chip, which I’d never seen him do before, and made double-bogey. Right after that we went to Cypress Point for lunch. It was a cold, rainy day. He looked at his watch. He said, ‘It’s 4:30 ? we’ve got time for nine holes!’ We didn’t have our clubs with us, so we borrowed some from a member, went out and played five holes in the mist before dark. I don’t remember ever having more fun on the golf course.”

While Watson did well during his opening round this week, he remained cautiously optimistic about his chances of making the weekend cut.

“Who knows what happens tomorrow? Be the oldest guy to make the cut.”

Ultimately, Watson did not make the cut, but he knew even before he arrived to the tournament that the chances were slim. He knew better than anyone that his best days were behind him as he arrived for his final masters tournament.

“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. And I haven’t been able to really honestly compete with them for several years.”

Despite his decline, Watson enjoyed many years ruling the fairways. He won the coveted green jacket in 1977 and 1981, always maintained a level head in the spotlight, and stuck to his priorities.

“The most important thing for me to work on is my golf. That’s what I do well. If you get distracted by too many outside interests, it’ll hurt your golf. I’ve seen it happen.”

As with many celebrity athletes, fame came with a glaring spotlight, which prompted Watson and his family to become very protective of the golfer’s privacy. Watson’s brother-in-law and agent, Charles Rubin, still screens every interview request and keeps the family’s home in Mission Hills, Kansas, off-limits to the media.

On the 18th hole Friday, the crowds welcomed Tom Watson to his final green with rousing applause, and on social media, he was remembered for continuing his endearing tradition of eating an egg-salad sandwich on the 13th hole in honor of his former caddie, Bruce Edwards, who died in 2004.

Watson played on four Ryder Cup teams and led the U.S. team as captain to winning the title in 1993. He was also named PGA player of the year six times.

Tom Watson will be missed.

[Image via Associated Press]

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