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'Just a couple of guys having lunch'

I'm too old, seen too many rodeos, seen too many jump shots and touchdowns and towering tee shots to be starry-eyed, but the gentlemen sitting at lunch with my wife Beth and me at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio last week came close.

You can't sit with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson and feel like you're with a couple of your rope-hooking, three-putting pals back at the club.

Nicklaus may be the greatest ever and Watson's not far behind. They've won 26 major championships between them. So, yeah, if I had a scrapbook, that would have its own page.

Sitting there shoulder to shoulder were two men who were involved in a couple of the most memorable moments ever in golf. In both, Watson caught lightning in a bottle to beat Nicklaus.

At the 1977 British Open at Turnberry, they went head-to-head in the third round and each shot 65. They were paired again in the final round. Nicklaus shot 66, but Watson birdied the last two holes for another 65 and the victory.

At the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Nicklaus appeared to have won, but Watson holed a miraculous pitch shot from the heavy grass alongside a bunker for a birdie on the 71st hole and then finished with another birdie.

The fortunes of war.

Now, as far as they were concerned, they were just a couple of guys having lunch, which is pretty much the way the conversation went.

We talked about our kids and grandkids. Nicklaus, who is 71 now, said all of his sons who tried pro golf have or soon will have regained their amateur status and he wouldn't be surprised if the oldest, Jackie, tries to win a second North & South Amateur at Pinehurst.

Beth and Tom talked about tomato plants and birds and tapioca pudding.

His eyes got brighter when he talked about the first shotgun he ever owned and about shooting his own Thanksgiving turkey.

The conversation bounced from one thing to another before inevitably turning to golf. Somehow, bunker play came up. I complained about my sand game and Watson volunteered a tip.

We helped ourselves to some more pork loin from the buffet and Nicklaus turned to Watson and asked, "How's your putting?"

Watson won five British Opens and narrowly missed another last year at age 59, won two Masters and a U.S. Open and he is enjoying a brilliant career on the seniors circuit but in recent years, his putting has been erratic.

Watson said his putting was so-so and described what was going on with it. Nicklaus asked questions. Show me how you grip the putter, he said. How do you take it away? Things like that.

It was a beautiful moment, two of the greatest of all time, rivals who fought each other fiercely in the game's great arenas, sitting shoulder to shoulder, talking about the eternal quest.

Just like us.

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