Thursday, June 12


Magic returns for one special day



OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Tom Watson had plenty of reasons to be emotional.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson tied his best-ever U.S. Open round Thursday.

He could reminisce about his first experience in a professional golf tournament, right here at Olympia Fields Country Club. He could ponder 30 years of U.S. Opens, realizing that this could be his last.

But the biggest reason for tears, of course, was standing right beside him. Bruce Edwards, his friend and caddie for most of three decades, was crying. And Watson cried along with him. A 65 during the first round of the 103rd U.S. Open brought back a lot of memories for this duo.

"It was a very special day,'' Watson, 53, said. "You can only imagine, put yourself in Bruce's situation and my situation, what it means to do well at this late stage in your life, playing in the tournament you want to win the most.''

Edwards, 48, learned in January that he has ALS, but has remained as Watson's caddie despite a noticeable loss of weight and slurred speech. Although the United States Golf Association offered Edwards the use of a cart, he declined.

Afterward, Edwards broke down talking to reporters.

"We turned back the clock today,'' Edwards said. "It was wonderful. It was a blast ... The whole day was (emotional) because you never know if this was my last one. That fact that they gave him a spot to play this year was very special. And on top of that, the first professional tournament he played was right here. It was a great day.''

Watson, who played in his first PGA Tour event at Olympia Fields in 1968 as an amateur at the Western Open, is competing in his 30th Open on a special exemption granted by the USGA. He rewarded the USGA's faith him by equaling his lowest score in 105 rounds at the Open.

The score was achieved with an eagle from the fairway, two late birdies and a great par-saving putt on the final green after a bunker blast.

It was a scene played out many times before in the legendary career of Watson, who has won eight major championships, including the 1982 U.S. Open with Edwards on the bag. Edwards was there again, where he has been for most of the past 30 years.

But this was different.

Days such as Thursday's are fleeting for Watson, 53, who now plays mostly senior golf. And the days, period, are fleeting for Edwards, who on Jan. 15 was diagnosed with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, for which there is no cure.

"It's an insidious disease,'' Watson said. "It's what they call an orphan disease, a disease that the drug companies can't make any money finding a cure for, because there's not enough people who have it.''

Watson has done his homework, and found that the average life expectancy for someone with ALS is just three years. Various doctors he has consulted have told him that a drug cure is five to 10 years away. "The disease needs private funding,'' he said. "The effort there really has not gotten to the point where there's enough money involved to find the cure.''

For one day, at least, Watson gave Edwards a big reason to smile.

"Today, I am the guy I used to be,'' said Watson, who has 39 PGA Tour victories in his Hall of Fame career, including five British Opens, two Masters and the U.S. Open. "I don't have to remember, I am the guy I used to be. Maybe it was just for one round, you never know. But let's find out after Sunday.

"Wonders never cease. You don't expect a 53-year-old golfer to be tied for the lead in the U.S. Open, do you? Obviously, it was a special day, not only for me, but my caddie, Bruce. A lot of good things happened.''

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com










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