This is turning out to be a very surprising Open Championship. Following Tom Watson’s Thursday performance, I almost wrote a post about how he should enjoy the moment because he wouldn’t be around for the weekend.
Boy was I wrong. Following Friday’s round, the five-time Open Championship winner stands tied for first at five under.
Unbelievable. He’s 59 years old. The Battle in the Sun at Turnberry was THIRTY THREE YEARS AGO. And yet he hit a couple of three-hundred yard drives.
Even if Watson falters on the weekend—and I hope he doesn’t—this performance probably cements Watson as the greatest links player of all time. He started out with four bogeys on the first five, but soon recovered. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that his rally began as the weather turned nasty. Watson is a mudder.
Watson, who played with Sergio Garcia, said in a post-round interview that as he was walking down the eighth the Spaniard said “Come On, Old Man.” He reflected that it “was nice of Sergio to give me a little pep talk there. It turned around when I made the putt on 9. There’s always a bunch of give and take in a round of golf.”
Good for Sergio. It’s nice to know that he’s a sportsman.
An interesting aspect of Watson’s feat is that is putter is working so well. He made a 35 footer on the first for a bird, a twenty five footer on nine, a fifty footer on sixteen, and finished with a similar one at 18. His smooth stroke on the greens is surprising because its usually the putter that goes first.
Even more surprising is that Tiger Woods missed the cut. He started out pretty well, but his round fell apart with a disastrous lost ball on the par 4 tenth. From the way he began flailing at the ball, and missing the fairways even when playing conservative irons, Woods looked like just another journeyman pro, not the Golf God of previous years.
I watch enough golf that I usually can identify the pro by the swing. Just a glance at the setup or follow-through is enough. But if Tiger were wearing a Nixon mask today, I wouldn’t have known who it was. His swing just doesn’t look like it used to. The follow-through is all wrong. It’s almost like he’s hitting the ball instead of swinging through it.
He putter was no friendlier. He missed some putts that the “old” Tiger would have made.
So Tiger misses the cut at a major for only the second time as a professional. It’s his first missed cut at a major since 2006.
Other notables who missed the cut: Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton, both previous Open Championship winners. David Duval missed the cut. So did Colin Montgomerie, who will finish his notable career without the thing he probably wanted most (although if Watson is in the drivers seat at sixty years of age, Montgomerie still has a chance).
Still in the hunt: Links golf newbie Steve Marino, tied for first with Watson. Mark Calcavecchia! Vijay, Retief and Miguel A. Jimenez at three under, and a host at -2, including Stewart Cink, Lee Westwood and JB Holmes.
I can’t wait until Saturday.