Watson the talk of Turnberry

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The Independent Online

Miguel Angel Jimenez equalled the lowest first round in Open Championship history with a six-under-par 64 today - but Tom Watson was still the talk of Turnberry.

Two months short of his 60th birthday the five-time Open champion made a dream start to what he insists is not simply a trip down memory lane this week.

After his superb 65 Watson, set to be the oldest player ever to lead a major until Jimenez two-putted the long 17th and then made a 60-footer for another birdie on the two holes, declared: "I feel that I'm playing well enough to win. I feel inspired playing here."

The oldest man in the 156-strong field says he has never seen anything more stunning in golf than Tiger Woods winning the 2000 US Open by 15 shots.

But if he does go on to equal Harry Vardon's record six victories on Sunday it will surely take the place of that. Greg Norman coming close to the Claret Jug at 53 last year has nothing on this.

"It would be amazing," said Watson, who underwent hip replacement surgery last October and at the Masters in April - his last major round - collapsed to an 83.

That was on the beast that is now Augusta National, though. This was round a Turnberry course that could not have been more docile.

Even though he agreed "she was defenceless", nothing should detract from what Watson achieved. Woods, after all, managed only a one over par 71 and Norman slumped to a 77.

Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, began his bid for the first Open hat-trick since Peter Thomson in 1956 with a 69 - a big step in the right direction after five successive missed cuts on the European and American tours.

Norman was back on the links where he won in 1986, but Watson's famous "Duel in the Sun" with Jack Nicklaus is now 32 years ago.

He finished with back-to-back 65s that week and had another to be the halfway leader the last time the Open was staged there 15 years ago.

With the 2003 British Senior Open win over the lay-out as well nobody knows it better and he noted: "There are some certain shots out here that the kids are unfamiliar with.

"Playing the practice rounds I felt very good about the way I was hitting the ball.

"And because links golf is not played very much the older guys have an advantage. We kind of get a feel for it and that feel is worth its weight in gold."

Just prior to the championship Watson had received a "good luck" text from Nicklaus's wife Barbara and he stated: "There's something slightly spiritual about today - and the serenity of it was pretty neat."

Playing partner Sergio Garcia, who shot a level par 70, called Watson's display "awesome" and needless to say 16-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, the third member of the group and the youngest-ever British amateur champion, was blown away by it too.

"I wish I had his putting stroke," said Watson. He knows that, as in 1994 when he fell back to 11th, it is the club most likely to let him down.

Not in the opening round, though. After an eight-footer went in on the first he holed from 20 feet at the third, 12 on the 10th and then eight again on the 12th and 17th.

Watson's 65 was matching by 2003 champion Ben Curtis.

The American, 396th in the world six years ago when he became the first debutant to take the title since Watson at Carnoustie in 1975, now stands 27th in the rankings and four birdies in the last six holes made him the second player to shoot 65.

Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, David Howell and Graeme McDowell had hopes of at least matching that after flying starts, but all four finished with 68s.

The five-strong group on four under, meanwhile, included Australian John Senden.

A week ago Senden was seventh reserve for the event and it was only on arriving from Texas on Tuesday that Jeev Milkha Singh's side muscle injury let him in.

As for Colin Montgomerie and Sandy Lyle, still hitting the headlines after Lyle reignited the row over his fellow Scot's "wrong drop" in Indonesia four years ago, they shot 75 and 71 respectively.