by Jeff Skinner
An inspired Tom Watson is still doing it. He has set the golf world on its ear as he still leads The Open Championship going into the final round. He’ll be sixty years old in two months and is on the verge of achieving one of the most remarkable feats in sport. If he wins he will be the oldest major champion in the history of golf. But, this would transcend golf and have to be considered as one of the most significant wins in individual sport. Watson appears to be taking it all in stride. He has spoken of the spirituality of being at Turnberry and has a sense that something extra special is going on there, with him being the recipient of this extraordinary happening.
It may well be that the spirit of the other T.W. (Tiger Woods), who was dispatched two days early by the “Old Girl”, as Turnberry is called by the locals, has found a home in the old bones of this T.W. Tom Watson spoke of his game plan for this tournament. He rarely sets a game plan, but has this week. He looked like Tiger off the tee, as he used irons, hybrids and three woods and a driver only occasionally. Woods used a similar game plan to win many tournaments. Watson also was imitating Woods with the putter as he sank a few long bombs and a couple of clutch par putts.
Watson hung tough all day and played a smart game that utilized his unparalleled ability to win on links courses. Peter Alliss said that, “There is a lot of hit and hope in links golf, that’s why you have to have a feel for it. Watson is the greatest links player in modern times.” No one has a feel for the links game like Tom Watson. After a 36 on the front and a bogey on twelve, Watson had lost his lead and it could have been the start of his fading away. Watson and the “spirits” would not allow it. Faced with a longish, difficult putt to save par at fourteen, he drilled it home. He again threatened to fade after his tee shot on the par three fifteenth landed in the back bunker forcing him to take bogey. The sixteenth hole has played as one of the toughest holes this week, except for Watson. The spirit of Turnberry has been kind to Watson this week. He sank a long birdie putt there on Friday. He sank another long bomb there today to put himself back in a tie for the lead. Seventeen is the only real birdie hole on the back nine when the wind is howling as it was today. Watson slid his eagle putt just by the right side and took his birdie. He was back in the lead by one stroke over Mathew Goggin and Ross Fisher.
Once again like yesterday his walk up eighteen was an emotional trip. Watson, an emotional and sensitive man, said to his caddy, “Bruce is with us today.” Bruce was Watson’s long time friend and caddy that died from ALS a few years ago. His current caddy shot back at Watson, “Don’t make me cry.” But it was too late for Watson, he was teary eyed already. Watson took his par on eighteen and acknowledged the crowd that loves him so dearly and hugged his wife. He’ll no doubt reflect on his day tonight over a wine or two and think about the task that awaits him tomorrow. He’ll be on the verge of the greatest win in major championship history, but he won’t be alone. He’ll have the best wishes of Jack, Arnie and Gary with him, he’ll have the memories of five past Open Championships with him, he’ll have Bruce Edwards with him and he’ll have the spirit of Turnberry with him. Can he do it? If the wind blows again tomorrow, he’ll need to make room in his luggage for the Claret Jug. Luckily the spirit of Turnberry needs no luggage; he carries it with him in his heart.