AMIDST all the nostalgic reflection and emotion surrounding Tom Watson’s final appearance at an Open, the five-times winner of the championship has been keen to stress he is, first and foremost, here to compete and play golf.
He finally got the chance to do that yesterday and was left frustrated by a round which started badly, picked up for a while before, in his own words, “the wheels kinda fell off”.
The 65-year-old American toiled away for a four-over 76 that contained an unwanted hat-trick of double bogeys in the last six holes.
“Too many sixes. That’s what I said in the recorder’s office,” said Watson afterwards. “I had too many unforced errors. Actually on the first hole I hit what I thought was a pretty good sand wedge, and I didn’t miss it, I just didn’t hit it hard enough and hit it in the water. But I did get it up-and-down.
“Then I got on a little roll on six through 10, I played some good golf there and made a good putt at 12 to save par. Then the wheels kinda fell off. At 13 I put the ball in the bunker where you’re not supposed to off the tee, and then three-putted, as I did 17, as well, when I put the ball out of play in the left rough.
“So I had two three-putts after hitting a bad drive, and again, you don’t follow up an error with another error, or you’re going to make some big scores, and that’s what I did.”
As you would expect, the great man received terrific backing all the way around the Old Course and that helped temper the negativity he felt about his play. “The crowds are very nice, very appreciative, and I’m appreciative to be back,” he said. “I respect what they’re doing for me. You know, you give respect to people who give you respect.”
Watson is braced for the tough conditions today but knows he will have plenty of company in that regard.
He said: “You see all the red numbers today? You’ll see a lot of black numbers tomorrow, I promise you. The wind is going to be blowing 25 to 30 to maybe 40 gusts, and the golf course will take its toll tomorrow.”