Maybe you’ve heard of this Tom Watson guy. Well, he is leading the 138th edition of the British Open through 54 holes at 4-under-par. And he’s 59. (Yes, fifty-friggin-nine!) Believe it or not, he may very well take home the Claret Jug on Sunday.
Playing in the final group today, he captivated us even more than a Tiger Woods-come-from-behind-run-on-Sunday. He was three-over for the day through 15 holes. But he battled back and birdied two of the final three holes – one of which resulted from draining a 20 footer. Not surprising considering we’ve seen him drop those throughout the tournament. He finished with a one-over-par 71.
Look at the other names in contention. Mathew Goggin. Ross Fisher. Lee Westwood. Bryce Molder. Other than Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk, the rest have never won a major. I mean, who the heck is Thongchai Jaidee? Furyk is the only one I can see creeping up and perhaps winning.
Sure Watson is old(er). He might lose steam. But in golf, mental resilience is more crucial. I don’t see him pulling a choke a la Kenny Perry at the Masters earlier this year. Watson knows what it feels like to be leading going into the final round of a major. And he knows how to battle Turnberry if the wind starts to gust. On a Sunday at a British Open, experience goes a long way. He’s been in this position many times in his career.
After he shot 65 on Thursday, I posed the question whether Watson could muster up a performance more impressive than that of Jack Nicklaus at the ‘86 Masters or Hale Irwin at the ‘90 British Open.
Maybe I’ve been drinking too much kool-aid. But I thought he could and 36 holes later — against the odds — I still think he can.
[Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images Europe]