Tom Watson eyeing his first triumph at St Andrews

By Ron Furlong
tom watson(Photo: Ian Tilbrook)

tom watson

Tom Watson has won five British Opens and as one of the greatest links players of all-time, it is surprising that he has never won at St Andrews.

He has lifted the Claret Jug at Carnoustie, Turnberry, Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal Birkdale, but never on the Old Course.

A year ago, at the remarkable age of 59, he came within an eyelash of winning his sixth overall Open Championship and second at Turnberry. A bogey on the 18th on Sunday—missing a nine foot putt for the win—forced him into a play-off with fellow American Stewart Cink. Watson ran out of gas and Cink cruised to a win.

But Watson, now 60, is playing well. He has played in both majors this year and made the cut each time. In fact he contended up until the last day at the Masters. On the Champions Tour he has played in only five events, but has one win and three top ten finishes.

Watson, who turned pro in 1971, did finish second at St. Andrews in 1984, but other than that he has only one other top 20 finish at the Old Course.

“I didn’t like it when I first played it,” Watson told the Kansas City Star recently. “There were so many blind shots, and the luck of the bounce played such a big role.”

But, with age, Watson has learned to like the course. “I’ve had a change of heart,” he said. “Rather than fighting it, I decided to just go with it and go with the bounces.”

Watson, along with Arnold Palmer and Padraig Harrington, will receive an honorary degree from the University of St. Andrews on Tuesday night. But the kind old gentleman of golf did not come here for honorary degrees. He came here to contend.

As strange as it may seem, Watson is one of the 15 or 20 players in the field who have a shot to win this year.

Top-ranked Tiger Woods, who has won twice at St Andrews, is still struggling to find his game. Second-ranked Phil Mickelson is coming off a missed cut over the weekend, and has only one win this year—albeit at the Masters. The field is as wide open as it has been in years.

Watson can indeed win. He just needs a few of those unpredictable bounces to go his way.

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