Turning Back the Clock Graybeards like Tom Watson had a big time on the West Coast

March 09, 1998

Although the PGA Tour's heralded youth movement, led by David
Duval, Justin Leonard and Tiger Woods, is still in high gear,
the 6 2/3 tournaments that made up this winter's soggy West
Coast swing proved there's still some kick in the geriatric set.
Scott Simpson, 42, won the Buick Invitational for his first
victory since 1993. Bruce Lietzke, 46, might have joined Simpson
in the winner's circle had not an errant drive by 38-year-old
Fred Couples hit a golf cart and stayed inbounds, helping
Couples tie Lietzke and win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in a
playoff. John Huston, the kid in this bunch at 36, broke a Tour
scoring record by going 28 under par while winning the Hawaiian
Open.

Still more startling is the resurrection of Tom Watson (above).
Watson, 48, responded to the Casey Martin issue by pining for
his own cart. "These old bones could use a rest," he said. But
ol' Tom's bones have worked well enough in 1998 to earn him
second-place finishes at Phoenix and Hawaii, worth a total of
$359,000, more than he earned in all of 1977 and '82, two of the
six years in which he was player of the year. Watson's '98
earnings will get a hefty boost on Aug. 17 when the final round
of the rain-suspended AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is
played: He's tied for the lead.

Watson isn't listed in any statistical category, but only
because he has played too few events to qualify for the stat
lists. His numbers would put him at the top in scoring--he
hasn't shot above 70 while averaging 67.3--and at or near the
top in sand saves (80%), greens in regulation (79%), birdies
(5.4) and putting (1.664).

Putting? Tom Watson? In his heyday no one was a better wandsman
than Watson, but in recent years four-footers have turned him to
jelly. This season, however, he has focused on his
follow-through on short putts, and the pride of Kansas City
again looks like the fellow who won eight majors between 1975
and '83.

Other oldsters seem to be following Tom's example. In fact, most
of the top-ranked players in the Tour's 10 statistical
categories are 35 and older. (They appear in red in the chart
below.) Then there's R.W. Eaks, who turns 46 years young in May.
Between 1981 and 1998 Eaks, the Nike tour's alltime leading
money winner, with $442,455, played 25 PGA Tour events and made
only five cuts. This year he finished seventh in Hawaii and,
despite missing the cut (by one) at the Nissan Open, had earned
$68,203. Eaks is well on the way to keeping his Tour card for
'99 and eking out a comfortable living.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BURGESS [Tom Watson putting]

SCORING
Tommy Armour III, 69.23
Tiger Woods, 69.33
John Huston, 69.57

DRIVING DISTANCE
John Daly, 304.3
Tiger Woods, 291.4
Vance Veazey, 286.9

DRIVING ACCURACY
Fred Funk, 81.6
Doug Martin, 80.2
Justin Leonard, 79.8

GREENS IN REGULATION
Paul Azinger, 78.6
John Huston, 78.4
Jesper Parnevik, 76.9

TOTAL DRIVING
Tiger Woods, 9
John Huston, 37
Kelly Gibson, 51

PUTTING
David Toms, 1.680
Lee Janzen, 1.682
Brian Henninger, 1.684

BIRDIES PER ROUND
John Huston, 5.00
Fred Couples, 4.87
David Duval, 4.86

EAGLE FREQUENCY
Kenny Perry, 46.3
Billy Ray Brown, 54.0
Lee Janzen, 63.0

SAND SAVES
Kirk Triplett, 78.9
Billy Mayfair, 75.8
Jay Haas/Willie Wood, 75.0

ALL-AROUND
John Huston, 70
Tiger Woods, 182
David Duval, 193

QUALITY IN QUANTITY

Tom Watson says he plans to play in only 16 PGA Tour events this
year. If Watson can somehow keep making putts and cashing checks
at his current clip, he will earn $2,875,200 in those 16 events,
matching his winnings from 1991 through '97 and obliterating
Tiger Woods's single-season record. Here are this year's top 10
in earnings per outing.

EARNINGS
EVENTS PER EVENT

Tom Watson 2 $179,700
Tiger Woods 3 $161,867
Jesper Parnevik 3 $151,541
Stephen Ames 1 $142,800
John Huston 4 $115,063
Fred Couples 4 $106,816
David Duval 5 $106,733
Bruce Lietzke 3 $84,100
Skip Kendall 5 $80,710
Scott Simpson 5 $79,523

GROWING PAINS

Until Stephen Ames placed third at the Nissan Open, none of this
year's 19 rookies could claim a top 10 finish. Here's how the
leading newcomers stack up.

'98 EARNINGS RANK

Stephen Ames $142,800 29
Glen Hnatiuk $38,330 98
Steve Flesch $27,705 116
Mike Weir $18,000 130
Guy Hill $17,430 136

THE NUMBER

1.73
Stroke differential between the PGA Tour's scoring leader (Tommy
Armour III, 69.23) and the Nike tour's leader (Tommy Armour III,
67.50).

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)