Augusta bids farewell to Watson

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Tom Watson will grace the iconic Augusta National course at the Masters for the final time in April.

It will be the veteran’s 43rd Masters and at 66-years-old, he will be the oldest player in the field by a whopping eight years.

Watson's first trip down Magnolia Lane was as an amateur in 1970, which culminated in him missing the cut. 

The American would only return five years later, this time as a professional with one PGA title under his belt. His T8 performance set the benchmark for what was a sterling year for the Kansan, as he would go on to win the Byron Nelson Golf Classic and his maiden major at the Open Championship at Turnberry.

That would be the first of his eight major wins, which included two Masters titles in 1977 and 1981. His maiden Masters was particularly memorable, as he holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th to go one shot clear of Jack Nicklaus, before closing it out on the 18th with a par. 

"Winning the Masters was the highlight of my career," Watson told augusta.com.

"When I won and beat Jack he way I did, I knew I could do it under the most extreme pressure. It definitely had something to do with winning at Turnberry. That was when I knew I could play with the big boys."

While Watson's skill and mental toughness cannot be denied, it is a combination of age and golf's technology that has ultimately led to him falling behind.

When Watson won at Augusta in 1981, the course was 7000 yards long. However, ball technology and superior equipment forced courses around the world to increase their length and Augusta was no different, as it is now nearly 500 yards longer. 

"That's why I'm hanging it up this year," revealed the 39-time PGA Tour winner.

"I can't hit lofted-enough shots into the greens. I'm spinning my wheels. It's too big for me."

In 2009, however, those wheels appeared to be getting more than enough traction as a 59-year-old Watson found himself with a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the Open Championship at Turnberry. 

Watson would eventually tie Stewart Cink and the two headed to a playoff, where Cink ended Watson's bid to become the oldest major championship winner.

At the 2015 Open Championship at the home of golf in St Andrews, Watson revealed that 2016 would be his final outing at Augusta.

"Over the years, I've made my share of wrong decisions, but do I have regrets? The only regret I have is that it’s the end," he said at the time. 

"It really is. It's the end. It's 40 years. It's the end. And I regret I don't have the tools in the toolbox to be able to continue on.

"It's a little bit like death. The finality of the end is here. But what tempers that very much are the memories and the people I’ve met along the way."

As it was in Scotland, you can be sure Augusta will be an emotional send off for the one of the true gentlemen of the game.