| For Watson (right) and Edwards, this is a lot more than a game
Inside the scorer’s room, 53-year-old Tom Watson was checking his 65 that shared the first-round lead in the 103rd US Open, but soon his 48-year-old caddie, Bruce Edwards, walked quickly over to where more than a dozen reporters were waiting.
Waiting for him even more than they were waiting for Watson. “The way I talk,” Edwards said with his boyish smile, “you want to talk to me'”
His words were slightly slurred. Late last year, Edwards was found to have ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the neurological illness known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. But he has continued to carry Watson’s 50-pound golf bag on the Champions Tour, and he trudged with it Thursday in one of the most emotional golfer-and-caddie rounds in Open history.
“The fact that they gave him a spot,” Edwards said of Watson’s exemption in the Open, “was very special.”
And when Edwards was asked what Watson’s friendship and financial help — the annual medical cost of treating his disease is reportedly about $200,000 — has meant to him, he said, “He’s a ...” and he burst into tears.
“It was very emotional,” Watson said later of the round. “We were taking care of business, but he had tears in his eyes and he made me cry.”
Edwards, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, with his wife of five months, Marsha, has been Watson’s caddie for 30 years, except for the three years when he worked for Greg Norman. “I have so many memories,” Edwards said. “This is another major one in my career with him.”
This memory may be the best of all, the one that will stay with him when, inevitably, he won’t be well enough to carry the golf bag, stir Watson when he’s down, calm him when he’s angry; to do all the little things that a good caddie does besides suggesting a club or reading a green.
“We turned back the clock,” Edwards said of Watson’s 65. “We had a blast.”
Turned back the clock to all those glorious years when Watson was the world’s best golfer, winning the 1982 Open along with five British Opens and two Masters, back to when Edwards, tanned and slim and with that boyish smile, was at his side not only as the best-known caddie, but the best caddie.
“If anything,” Edwards was saying now, “the disease I have, what I’m trying to do is show other people to keep going. I don’t know when I won’t be able to do it any more, but I feel pretty good. I sound like the town drunk but to hell with that. I love what I do. I love working for him.”
What had Watson whispered to him as they walked off the final green' “Not bad for old folks, huh'” Edwards said. “He’s 53 going on 24.”
Asked if Thursday’s 65 rated with Watson’s chip-in at Pebble Beach to win the 1982 Open, Edwards said: “It was just a game back then. It’s a lot more than a game now.”
Not far away, Watson was talking about how, with some 30,000 people affected by ALS, medical research has been concentrated on trying to find cures for the millions with cancer and heart disease, to name two illnesses. “In five or ten years,” Watson said, “we’ll find a cure for ALS, but we need the money for research.”
Watson acknowledged that Edwards was his inspiration in trying to win this Open at what would be a record age. “Bruce doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” Watson said. “He always has a positive attitude. He stands above most of the caddies out here in how to do his job.”
Despite his debilitating illness, which requires him to take some 150 pills a day, Edwards declined to accept the option of using a golf cart in the Open. “I’m doing really well,” he said. “My legs are good.”
So are his instincts as a caddie. Edwards was at Watson’s home outside Kansas City on Monday when they were looking over some of the golf clubs that Watson had used in other years. “He told me to put my old Ping putter in the bag,” Watson said.
With that old putter, Watson needed only 23 putts Thursday in his five-under-par 65. That tied his lowest Open round, a 65 in the second round at Olympic outside San Francisco in 1987. But on No. 12, a 458-yard par 4, Watson didn’t need to putt.
“When he holed that 6-iron there,” Edwards said of Watson’s eagle 2, “I said, ‘Looky here, we might have something going today.’ He never made a bogey after that.”
And can Watson keep it up Friday'
“Why not'” Edwards said. “I’m not going to stand here and tell you he can win or he’s going to win, but if he keeps his emotions better than I have and that putting stroke works like it did today, we’ll give ‘em a go.”
It’s always been “we” with Tom Watson and Bruce Edwards, but never as much as it was on Thursday.