Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002. A former Mets beat reporter, he has covered baseball's special events, including the World Series and the All-Star Game Show More


The day was historic in a way, what with the buildup and the context. So it was great to have so much input from Tom Watson, someone who has observed history, studied it, lived it and made it.

Watson was at it again Thursday, shooting 67 at 60 years of age, putting him one shot out of the first-round lead at the Masters. The round forever will be known as the one in which Tiger Woods began his second chance. But Watson made the day represent the rest of us, at least those of us who would like a second chance from Father Time.

He tied his personal best score at Augusta National, which he first shot the day they put a green jacket on him in 1977. He repeated the magic that brought him within one putt of an unimaginable win in the British Open at Turnberry last July. Ever since then, people with gray hair, thin hair or no hair have been telling him how much it meant to them.

"After Turnberry, that glow is still around," he said after he buoyantly walked off the course. "And it comes from people who have said, 'I just have something to say to you.' "

People in and out of golf have come up to him to say, "You've just proven to me that I'm just not too old."

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Fred Couples proved that, too. Watson's fellow Champions Tour player, 50 years old, finished ahead of the whole field Thursday at 6 under. It's all very comforting to anyone who is older than 40, or will be someday.

Watson proved again that he is not too old to enjoy a moment. He was especially inspired by having his son Michael on the bag. It already had been a special week, what with Michael surprising his girlfriend with an engagement ring during a Sunday practice round on these hallowed grounds. "Everyone was in on the scam, including Mr. [Billy] Payne," Watson said, referring to the Masters chairman.

And Thursday was going to be a special moment for Watson even if he had shot 77. He was up early to be in the gallery to watch Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus hit ceremonial tee shots as honorary starters, the latter for the first time. He loved participating in the ovations. He got a kick out of seeing Palmer pipe one down the middle, then hearing Nicklaus turn to him and ask, "How did you do that?" and listening to Palmer's reply: "Keep your eye on the ball."

"It's an important part of the tournament and my friends are there. I wanted to see them hit off," Watson said. "That's the older generation here at Augusta."

He has respect for all the generations that have played golf, especially at Augusta. In his news conference, Watson referred to Byron Nelson, Palmer's double bogey at 18 in 1961, Mark O'Meara's birdie on 18 in 1998, Couples' miracle shot on 12 in 1992 and his own 67 in 1977.


No wonder he was one of the very few golf people to have chided Woods over the past few months. Watson said Woods needs to show more respect for the game through his on-course behavior - a conclusion with which Woods agrees, based on his news conference Monday.

Watson knows the distance between being respectful and taking himself too seriously. When reporters were hushed Thursday, Watson reprised the remark he made after his playoff loss at Turnberry: "This ain't a funeral."

Far from it.

As he said, "It's been a wonderful week."

And a wonderful life, one that isn't only history yet.