British Open: Watson still on top with 18 holes to go

July 18, 2009 | Drew Forrester

24 hours from now, we might very well be talking about the greatest story in the history of golf.

Better than Francis Ouimet winning the 1913 U.S. Open as an amateur.  Better, yes, than Hogan winning the 1953 British Open after nearly being killed in a car accident in 1949.  And yes, better than the ’86 Masters when Seve Ballesteros gift-wrapped a 6th green jacket for 46-year old Jack Nicklaus.  

If Tom Watson wins the British Open tomorrow at Turnberry – at age 59 – it will go down as the greatest golfing triumph ever. 

And make no mistake about it, Watson can win. 

It’s not going to be easy.  A host of players behind him are very capable of producing an under-par round, including England’s Lee Westwood, South African Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk of the United States.  While Ross Fisher and Mathew Goggin both stand at -3, one shot behind Watson, it’s Westwood (-2), Goosen (-2) and Furyk (-1) that are likely to present the biggest challenge to the 59-year old.  

Last year at this time, Greg Norman looked poise to win at age 53 at Royal Birkdale — but his final round included bad swings, errant shots and poor putting.  It was, typically, another final round failure for The Shark. 

Watson is certainly capable of shooting himself out of the tournament tomorrow, but he’s much more of a champion than Norman ever was and 5 Claret Jugs to TW’s credit are indicative of his ability to “move the ball around the course” as the Scots like to say.  He might not win tomorrow, but I doubt Watson gives it away.  He’s as comfortable at Turnberry as anyone else teeing it up on Sunday. 

Personally, I like Westwood’s chances tomorrow.  He’s due.  A series of close calls at majors includes a 3rd place finish in the ’08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines when his 20-footer at the 72nd hole came up a foot short and cost him a spot in the playoff with Tiger and Rocco Mediate.  He’s been an exceptional Ryder Cupper for Europe, so the pressure of the first tee at Turnberry won’t bother him a bit.  Goosen owns a pair of U.S. Open trophies and Furyk won the ’03 U.S. Open, so both of those men have “been there, done that…”  

But I’ll be rooting extra hard for Tom Watson.  So will just about everyone else, I suppose.

It would be one for the ages.  All the ages, in fact.

It would be, simply, the greatest win in the history of golf.