by Jeff Skinner
It was an amazing day at St. Andrews, an amazingly long day. In the morning it was Mark Calcavecchia’s 67 to jump into second place, Miguel Angel Jimenenez bounding 68 places up the leaderboard and South African Louis Oosthuizen playing patient golf and taking a five stroke lead going into the weekend that kept us occupied during our first breakfast. Later on it was a decidedly different story.
As the tee times got later the rain subsided but the wind took control of the course and banished any thought of a sub-par round from all of Fife. With 30-40 mph gusts blowing balls left, right and off the greens it was St. Andrews on steroids. There was no hope for those poor players still out there on those windswept links.
It was a battle to keep the ball on the fairways and even tougher to keep it on the greens. As they battled the wind and The Old Course, the afternoon came down to one player for me; Tom Watson. Hoping Tom would make the cut became my main rooting interest for the long afternoon here and evening at St. Andrews. When Tom failed to make any birdies on the back and then went bogey, bogey on 16 and 17 we knew his walk up 18 would probably be his last at St. Andrews during an Open Championship.
No American golfer has dominated the Open Championship like Tom Watson. Few have the respect for links golf and The Open like Tom Watson. His walk over the Swilcan Bridge was where he started his emotional exit from St. Andrews. With the fans, players and media cheering the photographers snapped their pictures as Tom stood on the bridge and said good bye to St. Andrews: the course and the people.
To make things more dramatic Tom almost wedged it in on 18 for an eagle but settled for a final birdie at St. Andrews to the cheers of those fans that love him so much.
Afterwards Watson reflected on his days at St. Andrews. “I’ve been defined by the Open Championship. St. Andrews is the epitome of Open golf.” He said he’ll take away “a great respect for the golf course and a great respect for the people out here watching the golf tournament. I love playing golf over here. The Scots know the game and it has been a pleasure to be their champion.” The feeling is mutual Tom.