Born Sept. 4, 1949, in Kansas City, Mo., Watson grew up as a talented all-around athlete with a competitive drive, and that drive powered him to a Hall of Fame golf career. He ranks tied for ninth all-time on the PGA Tour with 39 victories, including two Masters, a U.S. Open and a remarkable five British Open titles. Watson won the Memorial Tournament in 1979 and 1996, joining Tournament founder and host Jack Nicklaus as a two-time winner. His 1979 win included a 69 in the second round in cold, blustery conditions when the field averaged a collective 78.737. He referred to his performance then as "one of the best, most satisfying rounds I've ever played."
Just last week, Watson proved once again that he is one of the game's most steely competitors by capturing the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., to become the oldest winner of a Champions Tour major since the circuit began in 1980 and the second-oldest to win the Senior PGA behind Jock Hutchinson.
In a career filled with highlights, two of his most memorable major championship victories came in tightly fought head-to-head battles with Nicklaus. In 1977 at Turnberry, Scotland, Watson bested Nicklaus in the famous "Duel in the Sun." The two men were paired together for the final 36 holes, and Watson edged Nicklaus by shooting 65-65 to the Golden Bear's 65-66 to win by one stroke. Watson clipped Nicklaus yet again in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. With Nicklaus the leader in the clubhouse, Watson orchestrated one of the most memorable shots in major championship history by chipping in for birdie from ankle-high rough on the par-3 17th hole en route to his only national title.
In 2009, nearing his 60th birthday, the five-time Open Champion almost rewrote the record books again when he finished tied for first after 72 holes in the Open Championship at Turnberry. Although he lost in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink, Watson mesmerized a worldwide audience with his stunning heroics and, ultimately, with his gracious sportsmanship.
A four-time U.S. Ryder Cup player (1977, '81, '83, and '89) and the winning U.S. captain in 1993, Watson earned PGA Player of the Year honors six times and was the PGA Tour leading money winner on five occasions. Playing mostly on the Champions Tour now, Watson has won 14 times, including six senior majors.
Watson's respect of the game and its traditions began with his father Ray, a long-time scratch player who introduced young Tom to the game at age six. He developed into a state amateur champion at 17 and went on to play golf for Stanford University while earning a degree in psychology in 1971. Watson joined the PGA Tour that same year and won his first tournament, the Western Open, in 1974. After losing leads in the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens, Watson captured the first of his eight majors at the '75 British Open at Carnoustie in a playoff win over Jack Newton.
Throughout his career, Watson has been a respected sportsman and ambassador for the sport. He received the USGA's prestigious Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship in 1987, and he was elected to the PGA World Golf Hall of Fame the following year. In recognition of his role not only as a champion, but also as an ambassador and devoted caretaker of the game of golf, Watson was selected to the Memorial Tournament's Captains Club in 2009.
Watson has helped raise more than $15 million for various charities, including Kansas City's Children's Mercy Hospital and for the development of golf courses for junior players.
Watson lives in Kansas City, Mo., with his wife, Hilary. He has two children, Meg and Michael, and three stepchildren, Kyle, Paige and Ross.