Memorial Tournament
Memorial Tournament
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Watson warms to memories of a freezing Memorial

The rain slashed across the course and 30 mph winds made it feel as if it were 13 degrees.

A perfect day for golf for Tom Watson.

The Memorial Tournament resumes this week, but 20 years ago Watson put together a round in this event that still amazes.

He shot a 3-under-par 69 in the second round in 1979. The total seems nothing special, but consider that the rest of the star field averaged 79, and 42 of the 107 players couldn't break 80.

"When the weather gets real bad a lot of times, you feel like you've got about half the field beat," Watson said.

Roger Maltbie, who won the inaugural Memorial three years earlier, shot a 50 on the back nine and finished at 92, the highest totals ever at the tournament.

"My hands were so cold I couldn't even feel the club," Craig Stadler said after shooting an 80. "You really couldn't even play."

Miller Barber remained in contention with a 73.

"It was the worst," he said. ``I've played a lot of rounds when the wind has blown hard, and a lot of rounds when it rained, and a few when it was cold. But never all together."

Bruce Lietzke thanked the tournament volunteers for not deserting their posts.

Wayne Levi shot an 84 -- and made the cut. Ben Crenshaw (82), Mark McCumber (83), Jerry Pate (85) and defending champ Jim Simons (79) couldn't get under the 36-hole cut of 13-over 157. That's the highest cut since the PGA Tour started keeping track in 1970, and all three have taken place at the Memorial.

Tournament founder and course designer Jack Nicklaus said he hasn't seen many days like that on tour.

"We've had some days as cold, and maybe some snowy days," he said. ``But that was a tough day."

Watson didn't have a bogey and later said, "It wasn't all that bad out there."

Yeah, right.

The players had complained about the rain and wind during the first round. Lanny Wadkins shot a 69, with the 29-year-old Watson four strokes back and trailing seven players.

"I remember after that first round I was talking to one player, who will go unnamed, and he said, 'How do you do it, Tom?' I said, 'Do what?' He said, 'Well, how do you hold it together?' I said, 'Well, the one thing I do is that when things get going badly, I don't give up,"' Watson said.

"The next day that player got to the first tee and he withdrew because the weather was so bad," Watson said with a laugh.

A frigid storm front had hit Muirfield Village Golf Club, turning away fans and turning the tournament into the Hypothermia Invitational.

"I didn't have a very good rainsuit, so that morning I went out and bought a rainsuit and some cold-weather clothes," Watson recalled. "I didn't bring any cold-weather clothes, like an idiot."

Wearing a stocking cap and pulling on thick gloves between shots, Watson had to hit a 2-iron into the first green, which usually requires a short iron. On the second hole, he hit a 1-iron to the green, a half-dozen clubs more than the norm. He parred both holes.

He followed with birdies at the fifth and sixth, then closed the round with a birdie for his 69.

Watson didn't stick around to soak up the mitten-deadened applause of a few hard-core fans in the gallery.

"Are you kidding?" he said. ``I wanted to get in that clubhouse and get off that golf course."

Watson grew up in Missouri, where the winds and temperatures can be brutal. He learned how to keep the ball down in a headwind and to carve it into a crosswind. While others wintered in California and Florida, he practiced against the elements. No surprise he would win five British Opens.

"I was used to it," he said. ``When things are going well, you don't really think about it."

The 69 vaulted him to a four-stroke lead. He played the last two rounds in 1-under to beat Barber by three strokes and Bob Gilder by six.

"Anybody can play well when the weather's right," Watson said. ``But the weather and the wind and the cold -- you add those elements to the golf course, an especially difficult one like Muirfield Village. ... To conquer it, that gives you a great feeling of satisfaction."