Tom Watson Wins the Bing Crosby National by just a stroke
PEBBLE BEACH Calif., Jan. 23—Tom Watson won the 36th Bing Crosby National Pro‐Am golf tournament today in a Hairbreadth Harry finish, by only one stroke. He took the first prize of $40,000 with a bogey 6 on the 18th hole just a few moments after Tony Jacklin of Britain, playing in the foursome immediately ahead, had handed him the opportunity with a bogey of his own.
Jacklin missed a 5‐foot putt that spelled the bogey.
“You could go on guessing forever what Tom would’ve done if I’d made that par 5,” Jacklin mused, “but I’m not disappointed.”
‘Not a True Crosby’
For his part, Watson, aware of how that oceanside 18th hole of Pebble Beach had drowned many a golfer’s chances, said:
“If Tony had made the 5, it would have been a different story. I’d have gone for it, played it aggressively.”
This was what Watson and many others called “not a true Crosby.” Until three years ago this tournament, a notable event that brings together 168 leading professionals and 168 wealthy amateurs, had been played in the rain, the cold and the wind that are characteristic of January on the Monterey Peninsula—“Bing’s weather,” they call it. This weekend it was played in flawless, sunny weather—temperatures in the 60’s and not even a breeze.
No wonder Watson’s 72‐hole aggregate of 273 broke this event’s 19‐yearold record, set by Billy Casper, by four strokes. Watson’s score was 14 under par for the the tournament, held on three courses.
Two Others Also Break Record
Two others also broke the record—Jacklin, with 274, and Lee Elder, who placed third, with 275. Bill Rogers, the fourth‐place finisher, tied it at 277.
The final round was unusual in that th.e three leaders, having shot 71’s, finished in the same positions as when they had started, and in one‐stroke increments.
This was Watson’s first victory since his best season, 1975, when he won the British Open. the Byron Nelson Classic and the World Series of Golf. He had 11 top‐10 finishes last season, when he placed 12th on the earnings list of the Professional Golfers’ Association with $138,202.
Watson. a 27 ‐ year ‐ old Stanford graduate who majored in psychology. is well aware of his reputation for “choking” when in fl, lead. is be did in the 1974 and 1975 United States Opens.
“Anyone who is leading has to he apprehensive,” he said. “But I’m more mature now. Tony and Lee Elder were putting a lot of pressure on me, and, believe me, I was choking out there. But I fought my inner self and controlled my swing. Three or four years ago my swing would have broken down under that kind of pressure. But today I had a lot of confidence, and the swing held up.”
When the final round began today, there was a traffic jam among the front‐runners. Of the six leading players, Watson was at 13 under par. Jacklin 12 under, Elder 11 under, Vic Regalado 10 under, Rogers 9 under and Don Bies 8 under.
Watson Bogeys on 14th
This congestion suggested that a tie was likely, and it continued to look that way when four leaders, including Watson and Jacklin, birdied the easy par‐5 second hole. Then Jacklin picked: up another birdie at 4, where he holed an 8‐foot putt. That tied him with Watson at 14 under.
The difficult sixth, a par 5 of 515 yards up from a valley to a plateau overlooking the Pacific, was a swing hole. Although bunkered, Watson made a birdie there, and Jacklin took a bogey to fall two shots behind.
Watson pulled further ahead, to 16 under, with a birdie on 10, where he knocked in an 8‐foot putt.
Elder, meanwhile, gained two strokes on par on the front nine, and he held on at a steady 13 under par until the 18th hole, whore he got caught in a seaside bunker for a bogey 6 and a finish of 12 under par.
As late as the 13th hole, Watson held a two‐shot lead over Jacklin. But on tho par‐5 14th his, third shot caught the front bunker, and that cost him a bogey. Now he was only one shot ahead.
He began to look like the “old” Watson on the par‐4 16th, where he pulled his drive and was stymied by a stand of trees.
“It was 185 yards to the pin, and I was all punped up.” Watson said, “and I knew I could do it.”
What he did was smash a 5‐iron over those trees to the green, 40 feet left of the hole, ind he saved his par with two putts Then he took a par 3 on the 17th.
On the 18th, in the foursome immediately ahead, Jacklin drove with a 1‐iron —as he alwii,ys does, because in 1972 he teed off with a driver right into the Pacific for an 8.
His second’ shot, with a 3‐iron, was conventional layup, to stay short of frotible. His third shot, with an 8‐iron, was lofted just the way he had planned to hit it, but it fell on the front edge of the green, and the backspin sucked it back just off the fringe. From there Jacklin chipped weakly, five feet short. Then he missed the putt that might have forced a tie and a playoff.
From the tee Watson realized he could win with a par 5 if Jacklin parred, , or with a bogey if Jacklin bogeyed.
And it was close, really close. After a solid idrive, Watson dropped his second shbt into a seaside bunker about 100 yards from the green. Would he be the “old” Watson again? Then he hit a 9‐iron a little thin to the far side of the green. Now he was lying 3, and he had to get down in three strokes from 30 feet to win. He chipped strong on, his fourth stroke, four feet past but on the downside and safe. He left the putt about three inches short, and the following tap‐in, for the bogey, won the tournament.
Jacklin, winner of the 1969 British Open and the 1970 United States Open, had a fine career going until he gave up his American tour card in 1972 to devote full time to European competition. But ‐a sagging economy coincided with the deterioration of his game, and he fell on hard times. Jacklin was reinstated to the American tour in 1975.