British Open proves elementary for Watson, tough on Tiger

July 16, 2009

watsonIt is fair to say we all expected an American with a surname beginning with W to be soaring up the British Open leaderboard but everyone has been shocked that it is 59-year-old senior Tom Watson topping the strong field and not a certain Tiger Woods.

Whilst the world number one toiled in calm conditions at Turnberry’s Ailsa course on Thursday, five-times Open champion Watson was recording a bogey-free five-under-par 65 to take the early clubhouse lead.

“Yesterday and the day before, playing the practice rounds I felt very good about the way I was hitting the ball and the way I was putting the ball,” Watson told reporters. “And it was not much of a surprise for me to go out there and get under par.”

Many will expect the eight-times major winner to fall away and not remain in contention but may I remind you cynics of the performance of another past master, Greg Norman, at last year’s championship at Birkdale. Norman finished third after leading going into the final round.

And it is not just Watson who is proving a torch bearer for the elder members of the golf circuit. Fifty-two year-old twice Open champion Mark O’Meara went out early and fired a solid three-under par 67 to sit alongside 1989 champion Mark Calcavecchia — one year shy of his 50th birthday.

Much of the talk at Turnberry before the championship had been about the chances of young Briton Rory McIlroy and teenaged Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa lifting the Claret Jug but Watson and co have shown them they still have a lot to learn on the South Ayrshire links.

In light of the fact that veteran Kenny Perry, 48, came within a whisker of winning this year’s Masters, only succumbing to eventual winner Angel Cabrera in a play-off, could this be the year the veterans fights back?

Let’s see what the kids are made of.

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