Thursday, July 16, 2009

In the first round of the British Open, I'll be eager to see what kind of score Tom Watson can post. He's playing the first two rounds with Sergio Garcia and an amateur, Matteo Manassero. I've seen Watson interact with a lot of amateur golfers over the years. He asks them questions, and he leads by example. Sergio will learn a thing or two, playing with Watson.Unless he plays unusually well, Watson's getting near the end of the line. I don't see him making another cut in a Masters, unless the course is really hard and dry. He's become short off the tee and the course has become crazy-long. This week, at Turnberry, he returns to the scene of the crime, where he nipped Nicklaus by a shot for the '77 Open, and where he won a Senior British Open in 2003 in a playoff. Next year, the Open goes to St. Andrews, and then Watson will be 60 and at the end of the line. No more exemptions, unless he plays his way in. Five Open titles. Golf's greatest championship defined his career.At the Masters, on the practice tee, Watson made the same up-and-down rhythmic swing he's made forever, but he shot a thousand. A links course is a different matter. I know this will sound crazy, and maybe I've been listening too much to my friend Neil Oxman, Watson's caddie, but I think Watson can shoot good scores at Turnberry. Like, within 10 shots of the lead when it's all over.He belongs to a fading era, when golf was more manly and independent. When he lost, he took it on the chin, almost proud about it. There's something about him: he's hard to talk to, you never feel like you're getting anything like the full story when you listen to his interviews, but I still find him as compelling as anybody in the game. Like a lot of us, I grew up on him. He was never lovable. But if  you loved golf, you respected the man. Sound like somebody else in game today? I can think of one guy.

More on Watson Watson discusses Duel in the Sun: Interview | Video SI's John Garrity recalls the Duel in the Sun Dan Jenkins: A Braw Brawl for Tom and Jack (July 18, 1977)

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