TROON, Scotland – “No shanks today.” That was the first thing out of Tom Watson’s mouth this afternoon as he briefed reporters on his 1-under-par 70 in the first round of the Senior British Open. The defending champion could have added, “No tops, skulls, chunks or whiffs, either,” but he didn’t mention any of those calamities yesterday, when he dropped the S-word 13 times in a single press conference.
Today, however, it was Watson’s shankless task to describe a round of unprecedented monotony, a round in which he hit all of Royal Troon’s greens in regulation. “How about that?” he asked. “I’ve never done that before. I don’t think I’ve ever hit 18 greens on Tour, EVER, in my life.”
Despite finding all those greens, Watson had only a few good birdie opportunities this morning, most of his putts being in the 20 to 30-foot range. “I wasn’t that close to the hole,” he conceded. “But I played a good round of golf today.”
The highlight of Watson’s round? Probably the eleventh hole, where a spectator collapsed. “The gentleman was a typical Scot,” said Watson, who went over for a look. “He said, ‘Quiet, they are trying to hit.’ He’s on the ground like this” –- Watson tilted his head and rolled his eyes back to simulate a dying man, gasping. “’Quiet, they’re trying to hit!’”
The afflicted Scot recovered quickly, Watson added, lest we think him heartless.
Anyway, it’s one good round down for the links-loving Missourian, who is trying to accomplish at Royal Troon what he has already done at Turnberry and Muirfield –- win the Senior British Open on a course where he won one of his
four five Open championships. But Watson insisted that he looks neither backward nor forward at this stage of his life. He’s all present-tense –- as is Royal Troon, which plays no easier for former champions.
“This course, it takes,” Watson said. “If you hit it in the wrong places, it REALLY takes. You have to avoid those wrong places.”
And you have to avoid the shanks. But that goes without saying.
(Photo: Phil Inglis/Getty Images)