Brian Viner: Hardy Rose benefits from Watson's way with elements

As consecutive shots go in Open Championships at Royal Birkdale, Justin Rose's last in 1998 and his first yesterday could hardly have been more different. On a balmy Sunday afternoon 10 years ago, Rose, then an unworldly amateur aged 17, pitched into the 18th hole to finish tied for fourth. At just before 7.45am yesterday, in a mighty wind and relentless rain, the wiser Rose, with seven professional victories and a European Order of Merit under his belt, struck an unconvincing two-iron off the first tee and watched it dribble into the first cut of rough, right of the fairway.

The toughest of golfing challenges was underway. Birkdale is ferocious when the prevailing wind carries the rain off the Irish Sea, and Rose needed all his admirable equanimity to put behind him a series of mini-humiliations, including a tee-shot on the fifth that would have forced an expletive from a 12-handicapper, and a double-bogey six on the long sixth that was nearly a seven. Four over at the turn, outplayed and outscored by a playing partner comfortably old enough to be his father, indeed the oldest man in the field, the venerable Tom Watson, Rose embarked on the back nine knowing that with too many more dropped shots, he wouldn't carry even into this morning, let alone Sunday afternoon, a realistic chance of winning the Open.

It was to his enormous credit, therefore, that more than two hours later he stood over a short putt on the 18th green, the very place where all that expectation was kindled a decade ago, needing to sink it for a sub-par inward half. As it happened he missed, but nine successive pars and a stoical round of 74 left Rose handily placed at the end of a day on which the atrocious but slowly improving weather conspired horribly against those with the earliest starting times.

Click here for the latest leaderboard and statistics

As for the five-time Open champion Watson, at 58 he is older than Rose and their other playing partner, the 27-year-old Australian Aaron Baddeley, put together. But twice their combined age also means twice their combined experience. As the old-timer waited to strike his opening shot, a policeman who had been standing there since play started at 6.30am observed that Watson was the first man to walk to the exposed front edge of the first tee, tasting the wind.

Watson comes from Kansas City, where they know about wind. And he didn't win five Opens, including one here 25 years ago, without learning how to cope with seriously inclement weather. On the eighth hole, so lashed by the elements that one half-expected to see King Lear staggering around the fairway, it was hard to decide which was the finer achievement: Watson's, in making a birdie three, or his caddie's, in managing to light a cigarette. Whatever, Watson too finished with a 74, but it was a 74 that could have been a good deal better, unlike Rose's, which could have been a good deal worse. So could Baddeley's 75. It took him eight holes to hit a green in regulation figures.

Hitting greens wasn't Watson's problem – he did so imperiously – but locating the hole was. Had his putter been firing as it once did, he would have woken up this morning looking down from the top of the leaderboard. Afterwards, Rose acknowledged that he had learnt some valuable lessons from the American's game, especially the way that he reads the wind.

"He's awesome," he said. He had asked Watson whether this was the nastiest weather he had experienced in an Open career that stretches back to 1975, and Watson said it bore comparison with the first day at Muirfield in 1980. "I said, 'Oh, what did you shoot?' and he said, '68'," Rose, who at the time was sheltered from the weather in his mother's womb, recounted with a smile. Still, the admiration was mutual, with the older man looking enviously at the youthful strength of Rose and Baddeley, so helpful into the teeth of the wind. At the 436-yard 11th Watson nailed a drive, and duly received applause from the gallery, only to find that his ball hadn't quite reached the fairway. He then busted a three-wood, and was still short of the green.

He can console himself with the knowledge that the course at Troon for the British Seniors Open next week will not be so brutal. Moreover, his fellow oldies play with a little more haste than these whippersnappers. At the 13th the group was "put on the clock", and Watson, in his charming way, later expressed just a hint of frustration with the speed of Rose and Baddeley (who, wisecracked a Scouser in the crowd, was "slower than a tax rebate"). "They played better when they played faster," he said.

Suggested Topics
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam