The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other Sports

July 7, 2013

Memorable week for Watson

63-year-old out of contention, but still going; Final tee times set

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — The storybook ending of a 63-year-old Tom Watson walking across the bridge to the 18th green on The Old White TPC, where he’s played so many rounds, with a chance to win a PGA TOUR tournament for the first time since 1998 isn’t going to happen. The Greenbrier’s pro emeritus, a World Golf Hall of Fame member who has won eight Major Championships, shot a 2-under 72 Saturday and is now well off the lead heading into today’s final round.

But Watson’s week, which has him 1-under for the tournament, has still certainly been a memorable one, even if his putter has kept it from being unforgettable.

“I need to get that putter working a little bit,” said the six-time PGA TOUR Player of the Year. “That putter’s kind of frustrating me right now.

“It’s not the greens, it’s my stroke. I’m not blaming the greens for anything. I’m just not getting the ball on the line or the speed that I want it to be.”

Watson, the 2014 Ryder Cup captain, has already proved everything there is to prove in the game of golf, so he’s learned to just enjoy himself, even if every stroke isn’t perfect.

“I love it here at The Greenbrier,” said Watson, who’s become somewhat of an honorary West Virginian to his fans in the area. “I’ve been coming here for about 34 years now every year, and it’s a great place to come and rest. It’s also a great place to come and play a great golf tournament, thanks to Jim Justice. What The Greenbrier’s done for the PGA TOUR here, it’s very special. The things that he provides for not only the players but the fans is extraordinary. Without a doubt, it’s the best out here on TOUR.”

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From the oldest competitor in the field to the youngest, Michael Kim is another unlikely contender in the mix heading into the final day.

The 19-year-old amateur — who made The Greenbrier Classic field by virtue of winning the Haskins Award, college golf’s version of the Heisman Trophy — carded his best round of the tournament Saturday, a 3-under-par 67 that moved him to 4-under for the tournament.

Kim, who plays at the University of California, has hit 85.71 percent of fairways this week and has reached 68.52 percent of greens in regulation.

“I’m just trying not to embarrass myself, honestly, out here,” said Kim. “I’m just trying to have fun and be comfortable.

“I’m just trying not to think about the score or where I’m playing or just anything like that. (I) just focus on my ball. It’s a cliché, but it is a cliché for a reason and I just take it one shot at a time.”

Kim, though, has allowed himself to dream about what it would be like to win an event on the PGA TOUR.

“It would be unbelievable; it would be a dream come true,” he said. “It’s a dream to be out here on the PGA TOUR playing against the best, and if I’m fortunate enough to win it tomorrow, it would be awesome.”

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Scott Stallings, the 2011 Greenbrier Classic champion, is in the hunt again at 6-under for the tournament after a round of 67 on Saturday, but the 28-year-old Knoxville, Tenn., native said it’s a much different course than the one he was on when he beat Bill Haas and Bob Estes in a playoff for his first PGA TOUR win two years ago.

“It was so firm when we played. I remember some of the clubs I hit in, like I hit 9-iron into 12,” said Stallings. “Today, Bubba (Watson) and I both hit 2-iron, and it’s just totally different with the fairways being soft with the rain that we’ve had.

“It’s in so much better shape than it was two years ago. The course and staff have done an incredible job getting it to where it is. It’s just gotten better every year. It’s funny how different it plays from year to year.”

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The 2012 Greenbrier Classic ended with threatening skies overhead, and a thunderstorm broke loose on The Old White TPC just minutes after Ted Potter Jr. was presented with the championship trophy.

Mother Nature could again try to crash the party today. The weather.com forecast for White Sulphur Springs is calling for a chance of thunderstorms beginning at 1 p.m. and increasing throughout the afternoon.

— E-mail: chuffman@

register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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