Watson of old fills void left by wounded Tiger
Past master plays to the galleries on day of drama as Woods misses the cut in a major for only second time in his professional career
Saturday 18 July 2009
It was the day Turnberry turned into a monster and did the unthinkable – it swallowed a Tiger.
For only the second time in his professional career the world No 1 missed a cut in a major here yesterday. And what made it all the more astonishing was the other "TW" at the top the leaderboard. At 59, Tom Watson became the oldest player to lead after any round of any major. The Open truly had seen nothing like it.
Which had been the most unlikely scenario? Take your pick; the fans were as they left here last night recalling a breathless finish to what had threatened to be a fairly flat second round. Let us start with Woods. After all, Watson has won five Opens before, while Woods had only suffered five missed cuts before in 275 professional tournaments and not one in the last three years. When the 14-time major winner eventually tapped in for a 74, to crash out at five-under, the golfing world was flabbergasted. This Open weekend will not be the same without him.
Actually, whisper it, but it will be. Woods was not around for the drama at Birkdale last year. But there was a reason for that absence; he was off having knee surgery. Of course, there had also been a valid explanation at the 2006 US Open. His father had died six weeks before and Woods arrived at Winged Foot as the grieving son understandably lacking desire. There is little doubt the hunger was here this time. Yet there is even less doubt his game wasn't. And neither, for that matter, was that famous recovery powers which have rescued him on so many occasions before.
"I hit some bad tee-shots and iron-shots and didn't get it up and down," said Woods. "It was just problem after problem. I kept compounding my problems out there."
So stunning was his exit that it might even have been possible to overlook the equally sensational deeds at the other end of the leaderboard. Watson continued to rebel against the sands of time, not to mention the pot bunkers of the Ailsa Course, to record a 70 to remain at five-under and share the halfway advantage with his fellow, and largely unknown, countryman, Steve Marino (below). On a blustery day when there were only a handful of sub-par rounds this could even be considered as one of the performances of Watson's lifetime. Right up there with the 65 which brought glory in the "Duel in the Sun" here 32 years ago.
At the very least Watson's reaction on the 18th green last night rivalled his unbridled joy when holing the winning putt in 1977. But then, the old boy was off the green, some 55 feet away. Watson had rolled an even longer one in on the 16th, so may just have been expecting it. When the ball obeyed the fairytale script, Watson made a huge chorus-girl kick and so the crowd responded. He had enjoyed a standing round of applause when he walked on to the final green. Now followed the jumping-up-and-down round of applause. Not bad for a chap two months short of his 60th birthday who eight months ago had a hip replacement. Not bad for a has-been, who was supposed to be here only for the nostalgia.
Yet the dream created by Watson's opening 65 appeared to be turning sour when he bogeyed five of the first seven holes. The 25mph gusts had arrived and the legend from Kansas was clearly suffering. "Come on old man" said Sergio Garcia on the eighth with a slap of the back. "I feel like an old man," laughed Watson. Not for long he didn't. That old man played the last 10 holes in four-under, which happened to be some eight shots better than Woods was to manage. In truth, over this staggering closing stretch the oldest man in the field put all his younger rivals in the shade. Including the 16-year-old Matteo Manassero.
Except, the Italian actually played a starring role in this drama for the ages. He walked along with Watson, chatting, laughing and lapping up every moment of this most special of experiences. He was lifted by Watson, and Watson was lifted by him. At one-over Manassero made the cut, which just goes to prove how this sport transcends the generations. Whatever Manassero goes on to achieve – which on this showing will be plenty – he will never forget these magical two days.
If only the rest could have boasted such a positive mindset. Most of the young brigade came off moaning about the Royal and Ancient's treacherous pin positions. ("Ridiculous,", said Paul Casey. "Brutal,"said John Daly. " Inaccessible,"said Justin Rose.) In contrast, Watson simply tipped his hat towards an old foe and friend. "Lady Turnberry took off her gloves today," he said. "I knew the outgoing nine was going to be tough, and I hit some poor shots. But I never gave up hope because I knew that the incoming nine was going to play a little bit easier going downwind. Can I win? I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could."
Indeed, what price Watson equalling Harry Vardon's record of six Claret Jugs? A damn sight shorter if Woods was still on the premises. But he isn't and the narrative of his demise here will long be recounted in Ayrshire. There was the lost ball on the 10th, the chip that rolled back down the hill on the 12th and any number of uncharacteristic displays of mediocrity before, in between and thereafter. There was a mini charge at survival when he typically rediscovered his poise to birdie the 16th and the 17th. Alas, it was all to no avail.
Of course there were other stories to digest; not least the resurrection of another former champion, Mark Calcavecchia. The rotund 49-year-old with the bad back is one behind on four-under after a 69 and extolling the benefits of St Mungo, the local beer. "I'm allowing myself four a night," said the hero of 1989. "Not too many, but just enough." Then there is Ross Fisher, the leading Briton on three-under after a 68. This was a better day for the home guard with Lee Westwood also in the top 10, on two-under after a 70. Yet this was no time to be patriotic; this was the time to be gobsmacked. Completely and utterly gobsmacked. Goodbye, Tiger. Hello again, Tom.
The Open: Second-round scores
135 S Marino (US) 67 68; T Watson (US) 65 70.
136 M Calcavecchia (US) 67 69.
137 R Fisher 69 68; R Goosen (SA) 67 70; M A Jimenez (Sp) 64 73; K Keboya (Japan) 65 72; V Singh (Fiji) 67 70.
138 J B Holmes (US) 68 70; J Kingston (SA) 67 71; L Westwood 68 70; S Cink (US) 66 72; M Goggin (Aus) 66 72.
139 M Kaymer (Ger) 69 70; A Cabrera (Arg) 69 70; J Furyk (US) 67 72; J Overton (US) 70 69; S Garcia (Sp) 70 69; C Villegas (Col) 66 73; B Weekley (US) 67 72; B Grace (SA) 67 72.
140 S Hansen (Den) 68 72; J Daly (US) 68 72; R Sterne (SA) 67 73; A Wall 68 72; N Dougherty 70 70; J Leonard (US) 70 70; C Wood 70 70.
141 E Els (SA) 69 72; J Rose 69 72; Z Johnson (US) 70 71; F Molinari (It) 71 70; F Hed Andersson (Swe) 71 70; H Stenson (Swe) 71 70; M Manassero (It) (x) 71 70; P Hanson (Swe) 70 71; G McDowell 68 73; G Fdez-Castano (Sp) 69 72; D Howell 68 73; T Jaidee (Thai) 69 72.
142 A Romero (Arg) 68 72; D Love III (US) 69 73; P McGinley 71 71; T Lehman (US) 68 74; F Jakobsen (Swe) 70 72; R S Johnson (Swe) 70 72; K Sutherland (US) 69 73; D Drysdale 69 73; P Broadhurst 70 72; O Wilson 72 70; D Clarke 71 71; B Mayfair (US) 69 73.
143 D Gaunt (Aus) 76 67; R McIlroy (N Irl) 69 74; R Imada (Japan) 74 69; P Harrington 69 74; S Appleby (Aus) 71 72; S Aiken (SA) 71 72; N Watney (US) 71 72; K Perry (US) 71 72; S Stricker (US) 66 77; S O'Hair (US) 68 75; L Donald 71 72; B Molder (US) 70 73.
144 S Kjeldesen (Den) 68 76; P Casey 68 76; P Lawrie 71 73; P Goydos (US) 72 72; T Levet (Fr) 71 73; G Storm 72 72; M O'Meara (US) 67 77; R Allenby (Aus) 70 74; J Edfors (Swe) 71 73.
The following players missed the cut:
145 M Weir (Can) 67 78; B Curtis (US) 65 80; C Montgomerie 71 74; T Hamilton (US) 75 70; C Hoffman (US) 71 74; P Hedblom (Swe) 71 74; J Geary (NZ) 70 75; A Scott (Aus) 71 74; A Hansen (Den) 68 77; T Woods (US) 71 74; DJ Trahan (US) 68 77.
146 M Kuchar (US) 70 76; T Clark (SA) 71 75; K J Choi (S Kor) 74 72; A Kim (US) 73 73; P Baker 74 72; E Saltman 70 76; J Senden (Aus) 66 80; L Oosthuizen (SA) 70 76; R Ishikawa (Japan) 68 78; B Baird (US) 72 74; B Crane (US) 71 75; M Laird 74 72.
147 R Davies 73 74; J Driscoll (US) 76 71; D Toms (US) 72 75; R Sabbatini (SA) 74 72; C Schwartzel (SA) 71 75; D Duval (US) 71 75; Y Ikeda (Japan) 76 71; R Green (Aus) 71 76; M Brown (NZ) 71 76; R Pampling (Aus) 74 73.
148 D Higgins 73 75; G Bhullar (India) 71 77; S Lyle 75 73; A Quiros (Sp) 71 77; C Howell III (US) 73 75; G Orr 73 75; B Watson (US) 73 75; R Jacquelin (Fr) 75 73; P Marksaeng (Thai) 73 75; M Brier (Aut) 71 77; R Rock 73 75.
149 B Gay (US) 73 76; S Ames (Can) 72 77; L Glover (US) 72 77; S Gross (Ger) (x) 74 75; D Smail (NZ) 70 79; R Echenique (Arg) 72 77; W Liang (Chin) 77 72; A Yano (Japan) 75 74; R Ramsay 77 72; B Snedeker (US) 72 77.
150 T Wood (Aus) 73 77; T Kondo (Japan) 71 79; T Pilkadaris (Aus) 68 82; S Surry 69 81; C Campbell (US) 73 77; K Duke (US) 71 79.
151 H Mahan (US) 72 79, N Faldo 78 73; J Kavanagh 74 77, R Finch 73 78; C Pettersson (Swe) 74 77; T Stewart (Aus) 74 77; R Finch 73 78; M Cayeux (Zim) 75 76.
152 D McGrane 78 74; G Norman (Aus) 77 75; L Saltman 75 77; T Haylock 74 78.
153 B Vaughan (US) 78 75; G Ogilvy (Aus) 75 78.
154 K Oda (Japan) 76 78; I Poulter 75 79; D Johnson (US) 78 76.
155 D Wardrop 75 80
156 M Wright (Aus) 77 79
157 O Fisher 79 78.
160 P Larrazabal (Sp) 79 81.
161 P Ellebye (Den) 77 84
162 J Ahlers (SA) 83 79
Retired: M Campbell (NZ) 78.
(GB & Irl unless stated, par 70)
(x) Denotes amateurs
Third-round: Tee Times
08:40 J Edfors
08:50 R Allenby, M O'Meara
09:00 G Storm, T Levet
09:10 P Goydos, P Lawrie
09:20 P Casey, S Kjeldsen
09:30 B Molder, L Donald
09:40 S O' Hair, S Stricker
09:55 K Perry, N Watney
10:05 T Aiken, S Appleby
10:15 P Harrington, R Imada
10:25 R McIlroy, D Gaunt
10:35 B Mayfair, D Clarke
10:45 O Wilson, P Broadhurst
10:55 D Drysdale, K Sutherland
11:05 RS Johnson, F Jacobson
11:20 T Lehman, P McGinley
11:30 D Love III, A Romero
11:40 T Jaidee, D Howell
11:50 G Fernandez-Castaño, G McDowell
12:00 P Hanson, M Manassero*
12:10 H Stenson, F Andersson Hed
12:20 F Molinari, Z Johnson
12:35 J Rose, E ELS
12:45 C Wood, J Leonard
12:55 N Dougherty, A Wall
13:05 R Sterne, J Daly
13:15 S Hansen, B Grace
13:25 B Weekley, C Villegas
13:35 S Garcia, J Overton
13:45 J Furyk, A Cabrera
14:00 M Kaymer, M Goggin
14:10 S Cink, L Westwood
14:20 J Kingston, JB Holmes
14:30 V Singh, K Kuboya
14:40 MA Jimenez, R Goosen
14:50 R Fisher, M Calcavecchia
15:00 T Watson, S Marino.
(x) Denotes amateur
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