I’m sitting here at 10:54 Saturday morning watching one of my favorite golfers as a child all alone at the top of the leader board of the Open Championship. Tom Watson, one month from turning 60 – that’s SIXTY years old, is winning the oldest major championship in golf. I was 14 in 1977 when the red-haired soft-spoken golfer from America’s heartland won his second Claret Jug on this same seaside course on the west coast of Scotland. He still has that compact efficient swing, and a calm demeanor. He is one of the best wind players in the world. While I type, he just got up and down from a pot bunker to save par.
In the mid-seventies, Watson was the first person to really contest the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, for the number one spot in the world. Watson was fearless. He had nerves of steel on the green. He was a pure ball striker – and still is. And he can keep the ball low, critical to be effective on these seaside courses where one day a hole can play 3-wood, 9-iron, and the next drive, 3-iron.
What a story this would be if Tom could hold it together and hold that Claret Jug for the sixth time! It would be the greatest sports story of the year if he did.
Contrast this to the perhaps even more improabable story of Tiger Woods missing the cut. You could have been given 5,000 to 1 odds of Tiger missing the cut and Watson leading after 39 holes. It looks as though Tiger has some serious things going on with his swing. He was all over the place. He will get with his swing coach and come into the next tournament with a real chip on his shoulder.
3:00 Tom Watson battles back from -2 with along birdie on 16 and a two-putt birdie on the par 5 17, to finish round 3 at -4, ALL ALONE at the top of the leader board. He is 18 holes away from completing and accomplishing one of the greatest sports stories of all time. But watch out for Retief Goosen at two back and the sneaky Jim Furyk three back at -1. It won’t be easy for Tom, which will make it all the more special when he raises the Claret Jug around 3:00 tomorrow. Did I tell you he’ll be 60 next month and had his hip replaced last October?? If he hangs around and doesn’t fold (he won’t) think of the buzz around here when he comes to Baltimore Country Club in a few months for the Sr. PGA Championship.
Enjoy the golf tomorrow. You may never see something like this happen again. Time is standing still in Scotland this weekend.