By Andy Farrell, Special to PGA.com
SANDWICH, England -- It was a day for Watson pars. Fortunately for Tom Watson, he made a ton of them.
It takes a special kind of golfer to arrive on a first tee with the wind howling and the rain pounding down and look forward to the challenge. Watson always does, though not always work out as well as it did when he returned a 72 in the third round of the 140th Open.
"I had my uncomfortable days," he said. "I've shot high scores on days like today. But this is one of those days I'll remember. It was a very good day out there, especially with the putter."
With the wand doing its magic on the greens, Watson reckoned he would have had something like a 77, which was more like the average score among the earlier starters that included the 61-year-old, five-time Open champion.
He saved pars at the first and the fourth - where he hit two drivers and was still short of the green - with decent putts, made a birdie at the par-5 seventh and only made his first bogey at the 11th.
At the 10th he was in a bunker and hit a brilliant recovery and smiled broadly.
"Pars are great scores today," he said. "I really had a good feel with the putting and it saved me. Now I know why I won all those British Opens. That putter was always pretty good."
Everyone was well wrapped up against the elements but still the spectators came out onto the exposed links and they were rewarded by Watson's nostalgic display. A surprise run at a sixth Claret Jug, the one that so cruelly eluded him at Turnberry a couple of years ago, was always going to depend on the weather for the leaders and here the American was not in luck as conditions eased. He finished at 4 over, which was still eight behind before Darren Clarke and Lucas Glover teed off. In years to come, the scores in the books will not tell the full tale of how well Watson played on this day.
No one else had managed anything better than a 73 before Watson reached the clubhouse. There were a few dropped shots on the back nine, including at the last, but a wonderful 4-iron at the 16th, the same club with which he holed in one at the sixth on Friday, set up a second birdie of the round.
It has been another extraordinary Open week for Watson. Last weekend he visited Omaha Beach in Normandy and the cemetery at Ranville.
"It was a very emotional trip," he said.
In practice, Watson got blew about by the wind on Tuesday.
"I shot about an 84 or 85 which gives you a measure of what this course did to me that day. I tell you, that does not help your mental condition."
When the championship started, he was part of the attention on British amateur Tom Lewis, who was named after the American. Through it all Watson kept about his business and when the challenge was at its stiffest on Saturday morning, Watson responded as of old.
Experience played its part.
"One of the things you learn," Watson explained, "is the old saying, 'swing with ease in the breeze.' You see the young kids trying to hit the ball really hard in the wind. You don't need to do that. I mean, I'm 61 years old so I can't swing hard anyway."
There is also the little matter of looking forward to the battle.
"It is a game and it's fun," he said. "I kind of liked the forecast that it was going to get nasty, or dastardly as Peter Alliss would call it. It worked out for me today."
As for Sunday's final round, he added: "It would be nice to have some wind tomorrow but we can do without the rain."