Tom Watson Biography

Tom Watson at the 1977 British Open
Tom Watson during the 1977 British Open, which he won by one stroke over Jack Nicklaus. Don Morley/Getty Images

Date of birth: Sept. 4, 1949
Place of birth: Kansas City, Missouri
Nickname: Early in his career, Watson was tabbed "Huckleberry Dillinger" by some in the media. The unusual moniker stemmed from the young Watson's innocent-looking freckled face that didn't match his killer instinct on the course.

Tour Victories

• PGA Tour: 39
• Champions Tour: 14

Major Championships

• Masters: 1977, 1981
• U.S. Open: 1982
• British Open: 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983

Awards and Honors

• Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
• PGA Tour money leader, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1984
• PGA Tour Vardon Trophy winner, 1977, 1978, 1979
• PGA Tour Player of the Year, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984
• Captain, USA Ryder Cup team, 1993, 2014
• Member, USA Ryder Cup team, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1989

Quote, Unquote

• Tom Watson: "A lot of guys who have never choked have never been in the position to do so."

• Tom Watson: "If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate."

• Tom Watson: "I learned how to win by losing and not liking it."

Lanny Wadkins: "Tom would never tolerate a weakness. He'd go to the practice tee and beat at it until the darn thing went away."


• In 1999, Tom Watson was made an honorary member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. He joined four other Americans to receive that honor: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, President George H.W. Bush and Gene Sarazen.

• In four of Tom Watson's eight major championship victories, Jack Nicklaus finished second.

Tom Watson Biography

In the period of time between Jack Nicklaus' peak and Tiger Woods' peak, Tom Watson was the best golfer in the game.

Watson stood up to Nicklaus on numerous occasions, one of the few golfers who consistently went toe-to-toe with Nicklaus and came out on top.

Their duel at the 1977 British Open - where Nicklaus shot 66-66 over the final two rounds, while Watson shot 66-65 to win by one - is one of the greatest head-to-head battles the sport has ever seen. Watson robbed Nicklaus of another major at the 1982 U.S. Open with his famous chip-in on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. In fact, in four of Watson's eight major championship wins, Nicklaus was runner-up.

Watson played golf at Stanford University and graduated with a degree in psychology. He turned pro in 1971, but in his early years got the reputation of a player who wilted under pressure.

Watson began working with Byron Nelson, who would become a great friend and mentor, and in 1974 broke through with his first PGA Tour victory. In 1975, he won the Byron Nelson Classic, then his first British Open title. Watson was off and running.

He went on to win the British Open a total of five times; the Masters twice, and the U.S. Open once. He led the PGA Tour in wins six years, in money five years, in scoring three years. He was PGA Tour Player of the Year six times.

During those years, Watson was an aggressive putter, fabulous chipper and unsurpassed from tee to green.

His final PGA Tour victory came in 1998. In 1999, he began playing on the Champions Tour. Watson was Player of the Year in 2003, but the year also was marked by sadness: his longtime caddie, Bruce Edwards, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease. Watson co-founded an organization, Driving 4 Life, to fight ALS. He donated $1 million to the foundation, and during 2003 alone Watson helped raise nearly $3 million for ALS-related causes and other charities.

In 2007, Watson won his third British Senior Open. And in 2009, Watson, nearly 60 years old, gave golf fans a thrill when he held or shared the lead in the British Open after the second and third rounds and nearly all of the final round. He reached the 72nd-hole tee with a 1-stroke lead, but bogied and then lost to Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff. Had Watson pulled off the victory, he would have been, by far, the oldest major championship winner ever.

Tom Watson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.

Watson has authored or been featured in several instructional books and DVDs, most recently the book The Timeless Swing (read review) and the DVD Lessons of a Lifetime (read review). He also has a golf course design business.