TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) — Tom Watson looked around at the amazing scene Saturday, his eyes tearing up a bit as all the Scottish fans surrounding the 18th green toasted one of golf’s greatest champions.
He might just have another title in him – this one for the ages.
In a repeat of the British Open’s throwback theme, Watson shot a 1-over 71 Saturday that kept the 59-year-old out front heading to the final round at blustery Turnberry, where the scores kept going up but the ol’ guy never faltered.
Three years shy of qualifying for Social Security and playing on a surgically replaced left hip that’s less than a year old, Watson showed the kids how it’s done. He pulled off several brilliant par saves, played it safe when he needed to and shook off a stretch of bogeys that briefly cost him the lead.
Then, at the end, pure magic for the second day in a row.
At No. 16, Watson followed Friday’s 75-birdie putt by rolling in one from 30 feet away, pulling even with Australia’s Mathew Goggin and England’s Ross Fisher.
“The putt I made at 16, I was about ready to make all day,” Watson said. “When I hit it I said, ‘I’ve got it right on the line I want. Let’s see if it breaks.”’
It did. The place went nuts.
On to the par-5 17th, where a fortuitous kick off a mound in front of the green sent Watson’s ball rolling right up above the flag on the second shot. The eagle putt came up inches short – wouldn’t that have been something? – but he tapped in for another birdie that gave him sole possession of the lead.
At 18, Watson did all that was needed to ensure the lead was his going into Sunday. An iron off the tee, an approach shot that stayed well clear of all the trouble on the left, a long putt right up next to the cup and a final tap-in for a 4-under 206.
Goggin, a 35-year-old journeyman on the PGA Tour, shot 69 for one of only five rounds in the red. Fisher shot 70 and only hopes that his first child holds off for another day. His wife is expecting, and Fisher said he’ll leave the tournament if he gets a text saying she’s about to deliver – even if he’s leading the Open.
Fisher and the scruffy Goggin will have their fans, but most everyone figures to be cheering for Watson, a five-time Open champion who becomes the second straight 50-something golfer to hold its 54-hole lead.
Last year, it was Greg Norman – a relative spring chicken at 53 – who found himself 18 holes away from becoming the oldest major champion in golf history.
Norman faded at the end.
Now it’s Watson’s turn to pursue history. Julius Boros was 48 when he captured the 1968 PGA Championship, and no one older has ever captured one of the golf’s Grand Slam events.