Pro Golf: Watson bids Open goodbye in twilight
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- The twilight of Tom Watson's storied 40-year British Open career came in the twilight. It was 9:48 p.m. on Friday when Watson, winner of the Open five times though never at St. Andrews, walked off the 17th green to loud c...
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - The twilight of Tom Watson’s storied 40-year British Open career came in the twilight.
It was 9:48 p.m. on Friday when Watson, winner of the Open five times though never at St. Andrews, walked off the 17th green to loud cheers - “We love you, Tom” - from a sparse crowd.
On the 18th tee the 65-year-old Watson asked his two playing partners, Ernie Els and Brandt Snedeker, whether they wanted to play the final hole as darkness fell. Both men said yes. They teed off in the gloaming.
The players and caddies stopped on the Swilcan Bridge for the traditional parting wave from a retiring golf hero. The crowd responded with still-louder cheers.
Watson was the last to depart the bridge and head toward the green. He had a spring in his step.
But the emotion and chilly, windy and drizzly darkness - maybe both - were taking their toll on a protracted day after an early-morning deluge had caused play to be suspended for more than three hours.
Watson bogeyed the last five holes, including missing a short putt on the 18th to an audible groan from the crowd.
But when his final putt fell - at 9:53 p.m. - the cheers erupted all over again.
This time, with no rush to finish another hole before absolute darkness, they went on and on.
At his news conference afterwards Watson reminisced about his four decades of Open experiences, including the 1977 ‘Duel in the Sun’ at Turnberry, where he tied Jack Nicklaus with a 50-foot putt on the 15th hole of the final round and went on to beat golf’s then-dominant player.
Nicklaus threw his arm around Watson’s shoulder as the two men walked off the green.
“The applause (today) made me feel humbled,” said Watson, who missed the cut on his swansong appearance at St. Andrews after carding an eight-over 80 in the second round.
There were no tears, he added, though his son and caddie, Michael, came close.
“It’s been one heck of a run,” Watson said. “A really good run.”