Augusta - Tom Watson drew down the curtain on one of the greatest careers in golfing history at Augusta National on Friday when his bid at 66 to become the oldest player to make the cut in the Masters fell short.
The eight-time major winner shot a fine 74 on Thursday in what was his 43rd Masters campaign dating to 1970, and he needed something similar in the second round to beat the axe.
But he never looked like achieving that, firing a 78 that left him two strokes outside the cut line for the weekend.
"Probably my last tournament I'll play against the kids. I know I'm going to continue to play against the old guys. I doubt if I play against the kids anymore," he said.
"Depends on maybe if there's a 6,400-yard course that they have somewhere the kids play, I might go play that one."
Watson got off to a bogey start after a weak opening drive and when he did more damage to his hopes at the fourth and fifth, the end was in sight.
He completed his 134th and last round in the Masters with a long snaking putt at the 18th that stopped just inches away from what would have been a fitting final birdie.
He was then embraced by a waiting gallery of family, Augusta green-jacketed officials and former golf rivals with hundreds of fans surrounding the green.
"The gratitude that the crowd showed me all day, hats off. I just feel very blessed that they feel that way about me," Watson said, holding back the tears.
"I hope that over the period of my career, I've been able to show the crowd, show them some great golf."
Watson, whose two Masters wins came in 1977 and 1981, said that the only regrets he had over his long career was not winning a few more majors.
"I know I won probably more than my share, but on the other hand, there are a few that got away. I guess it all balances out in the end, just like they say," he said.
His departure from the pro ranks not only bookends a wonderful career that started in 1971, but it also eclipses a legendary era in golf that started with Arnold Palmer in the late 1950s and went through Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus and onto Watson, whose duels with the "Golden Bear" were epic.
After Watson faded came the time of Greg Norman and Nick Price and neither of them ever won at Augusta National, so they do not have the privilege of being invited back as a former winner.
The prime of Watson's career came in the late 1970s and '80s, when he won his two Masters titles as well as five British Opens as well as the 1982 US Open.
Watson barely missed out on a career Grand Slam, settling for a best-finish of second at the PGA Championship in 1978.
He then had an extraordinary Indian summer to his career when he nearly pulled off one of the most astonishing feats in sports history in 2009, settling for second at the British Open at Turnberry at age 59.
He dropped a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink at the Scottish course only nine months after having his left hip replaced.
Last July, he said his goodbyes to the British Open with an emotional gloaming walk up the 18th fairway at St. Andrews at the end of his second round.
But Friday's walk up the 18th at Augusta National, he said, was even more special.
"There's more finality in this walk here, because I really have made the decision that the kids hit the ball too far. I can't compete against the kids.
"This course really shows the difference. You've got to hit the ball a long way to play this golf course."