Thrilling eagle fails to appease Tom Watson as untidy finish leaves fans' favourite frustrated by form
The 60-year-old, who had earlier holed an 8-iron for an eagle-3 at the sixth - Hogan's Alley - signed off his nostalgic return to the course where he'd won the first of his five Open Championships in 1975 with three bogeys for a 74 and a six-over-total of 290.
A big draw for the crowds once again even though he was nine off the lead at the start of the final day, the three-time winner was particularly disappointed to take 5 at the last after hitting "a fat sand wedge" into the burn. It was his second visit of the week to the water at the 18th, but Watson was even less impressed by how he'd played in general here and also at St Andrews, where he'd missed the cut in his last Open Championship on the Old Course.
"I just wish I'd played better these last two weeks. I just didn't have it this year," he said.
There was no bridge kissing this time - the shot into the burn probably put paid to that - but Watson brought the curtain down, competitively at least, at another of the Scottish courses he's graced over the past 35 years with the class and dignity of a true champion.
The big question now is when will Scottish fans get the chance to see him again? The Senior Open is being held at Walton Heath next year, while the next two Open Championships are also in England - Royal St George's in 2011 and Royal Lytham in 2012. A Senior Open that year is a possibility if the event is in Scotland. If not, it's likely to be the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013.
"I don't know how many more years I'll play (in this event], I can't tell you," he said. "Eventually, coming back will depend on the level of my game. I can see in the future where my level of game might not be good enough to come back and play, and that's when I'll make a decision."
He added: "I struggled with my game again today but it was a walk down memory lane. I remember a lot of the shots from 1975, I just wish I could still recreate some of them. I enjoyed turning 35 years into some memories."
A fresh memory will undoubtedly be that eagle - the only one of the day at one of the signature holes on the Angus course.
"I hit an 8-iron 129 yards into the wind. It was a beautiful shot at the hole, landed six feet away and took one bounce into the hole," he reported cheerily before talking, almost in shame, of his closing hole. "That's not a good way to finish," he said, though, in fairness, he made a good bogey after chipping to four feet and holing the putt.
"I wasn't emotional," said Watson. "I was just trying to play my best and compete. I still get frustrated."
Andy Stubbs, the European Senior Tour chief executive, is hoping to see Watson at a number of Senior Open Championships in the future. "I'll push the chair as long as he's willing to get out and hit the shots. I'll wheel him round any time," he said. "He has great humility about himself and the way he plays and he has time for everybody. He's wonderful."
Stubbs, who had qualified for the event himself, played with Watson in the pro-am here and added: "He's an unbelievable man and a privilege to play with. He was so good for me; to be able to listen to a guy like that when I'm about to play in the championship and just listen to his strategy. He said at the start of the week that he was going to be hitting irons from some tees and woods into some greens because he didn't want to be going into the bunkers. It takes a big man to be doing that."
Like so many of the British courses he's played, Watson, who is hoping he'll be able to overcome an eight-hour time difference to give a better account of himself in this week's US Senior Open at Sahalee, near Seattle, has some good memories from Walton Heath dating back to the 1983 Ryder Cup.
That year he was part of a team many reckoned to be America's strongest ever - it also included Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer - that beat Great Britain & Ireland 18.5-9.5. "I had a good partner that week, Jack somebody," he noted with a smile. "It was a real strong team that year and the score reflected that."