SOUTHPORT, England — Fans of Tom Watson have long been accustomed to watching their 58-year-old hero climb the leaderboard at the British Open. Over the past two decades, those fans have also become familiar with seeing their hero suffer through spells of abysmal putting that would send lesser men to a padded room.
They saw both this week at Birkdale.
After a solid opening round of 74 in atrocious conditions, during which he briefly held the lead in the Open Championship, Watson shot a second-round 76 to miss the cut by one stroke. And again, the putter was to blame.
"I missed a lot of short putts or I'd be in the tournament, frankly," Watson said after his round. "I hit the ball well enough to be playing and competing in the last two rounds, and competing for the tournament. But the putter is just awful."
Asked if he thought his putting woes were a by-product of the windy conditions, Watson said, "I think it's a by-product of my lousy stroke."
After a run of bogeys on the back nine, Watson gave himself a shot at playing the weekend with a birdie on 17. But a missed birdie putt from 25 feet on the last green signed his ticket out of town. He moves on to Royal Troon in Scotland, where he won the Open in 1982 and where he will defend his Senior British Open crown next week.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I have some good memories of Troon."
Until then, Watson said, he plans to spend the weekend in the broadcast booth with ABC television and work on his putting.