Tom Watson knows better than most how to handle the Scottish sea breeze. (Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)
Watson's plan for Sunday: Keep following his plan
His magical run this week isn't magic at all, says Tom Watson, but rather simply proper execution of his game plan. He knows the world is watching, and he can't wait to see if he can finish the job.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
TURNBERRY, Scotland -- Tom Watson knows what we’ve been thinking.
He shoots 65 in the first round of the 138th Open Championship, and we’re pretty darn impressed. Not bad for an old guy, we say, but there’s no way it can last.
Watson grabs a share of the lead after the second round -- on a day when Tiger Woods misses the cut -- and we’re wondering what happened to his AARP card. Shouldn’t he be saving this for next week’s Senior British Open?
But when the man who will celebrate his 60th birthday in 47 days takes a one-stroke lead into the final 18 holes, we’re afraid it’s simply too good to be true. And we’ll be glued to TV sets around the globe to see if Watson can pull off the game’s biggest coup.
“Now you kind of perk up your ears and say, this old geezer might have a chance to win the tournament,” Watson said with a knowing smile. “… I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know one thing, I feel good about what I did today. I feel good about my game plan.
“And who knows, it might happen.”
Who knows, indeed? Should Watson, who leads Australia’s Mathew Goggin and the UK’s own Ross Fisher by one, capture his sixth Claret Jug on Sunday, he will become the oldest man to ever win a major championship or any PGA TOUR event.
“Tom's a heck of a player -- to be doing this at 59 is incredible,” Fisher said.
Watson says his nerves are “too well fried” to feel anything. In fact, he’s repeatedly used the word spiritual, even serene, this week to describe his feelings as he makes his way around Turnberry’s famous links, where he and Jack Nicklaus staged the “Duel in the Sun” back in 1977.
The Golden Bear, who knows a thing or two about epic victories after winning the Masters in 1986 at the age of 46, was watching like the rest of us on Saturday -- in between his tennis match. Nicklaus said on his Web site that he sent Watson a text message after the round.
“Barbara has been texting him all week, but that was my first,” Nicklaus said.
And how did he feel when Watson walked off the 18th green in sole possession of the lead?
“Like everybody else -- including Tom -- I had some tears in my eyes,” Nicklaus acknowledged. “… I just really hope he wins. I know Barbara and I will be rooting hard for him.”
Nicklaus was right about the tears at Turnberry, too. Watson has said memories have carried him all week long, and nothing is stronger than the bond that he shared with Bruce Edwards, his long-time caddy who lost a brave battle with ALS several years ago.
“(I) looked at Ox (Neil Oxman), my caddie, after I hit my shot on the green at 18, handed him the club and said, ‘Bruce is with us today,’” Watson said. “He said, ‘Don't make me cry.’ So he started crying and I started crying.”
No doubt more tears will be shed on Sunday if Watson can make history. But Turnberry, which has become increasingly difficult as the week has progressed, will have something to say in determining the winner, as will the rain that is expected to arrive and the capricious winds that will continue.
Only seven players remain in red numbers after 50 broke par in the opening round when the air was still. Among those are former U.S. Open champions Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen, a two-time winner, at that, and veterans like Stewart Cink and Lee Westwood.
Goggin, who was a late addition to the field after Trevor Immelman withdrew last week, was the only player among the top seven on the leaderboard able to break par on Saturday. He made his move about an hour ahead of the final group, too.
“If it’s going to be windy like this again, I still think I’m going to have to shoot something under par maybe to have a chance to win,” said Goosen, who is two strokes behind Watson. “… You’re going to have to be very patient and just wait for it.
“If you hit a good shot, maybe hole a 20, 30-footer and make a birdie that way. But some of these flags are impossible to get close to.”
“A little bit of wind gets up and it gets a lot trickier,” Cink agreed.
Watson, though, knows better than most how to maneuver his ball in the brisk breezes that are whipping off the Irish Sea. He said earlier in the week that he would love to take his chances in a “howling gale” and his confidence has grown with each passing round.
“The first day it was great to start off that way,” Watson said. “And the second day I struggled but then came back so that was confirmation. Today I made some good putts. I made some great pars today, which you have to do on a windy day here at Turnberry.
“Tomorrow maybe I can go out there and complete the game plan and do what I think I have to do to win the tournament.”
And fulfill a world full of dreams in the process.