Around 10 o'clock yesterday morning the detailed leaderboards at Lytham were showing figures that were causing sharp intakes of breath. For two days they had been littered with the blue-on-white plastic tiles of the bogeys made by this year's Open field, so it was nothing new. But it was the names beside them that caused the shock. For after six holes of their third round playing together, one of the legends of the game, Tom Watson, and England's world No 3 Lee Westwood were amassing double bogeys at an alarming rate.
Westwood did at least go on to make four birdies and sign for a respectable yet personally deflating one-over-par 71. For Watson, an eight-time major winner in his prime but now 62, there was no sign of the heroics which saw him defy his advancing years and finish second in the 2009 Open at Turnberry. He shot a 76.
Afterwards, neither spoke with any optimism about the state of their games but at least Watson, one of the great gentlemen of the sport, was kind enough to predict that Westwood, who will be 40 next year, will one day make the big breakthrough after 54 failures to win a major. "He's a wonderful guy and a really fine player," said Watson when asked about Westwood's chances. "I wish I could have inspired him today with my play. I think the way I played could have dragged him down.
"Of course Lee can win a major . He's knocked at the door too many times not to win one."
Asked whether he gave Westwood any advice during their round in which they were often seen talking animatedly together, Watson attempted to deflect the question with humour saying: "The only advice is that you just have to shoot lower than everybody else in the tournament." But then he quickly added: "He'll be there again. I expect him to win a major championship."
But there were not many positive words from Westwood. "I just came into the week not hitting the ball great and carried on for the first two rounds not hitting it great," he said. "And that's the reason why I am four over par. I have hit a few fairways but I have not holed enough putts and the short game was not great over the first couple of days. You need all your game in shape to play one of these weeks." Watson vowed to return to play in the 2013 Open at Muirfield, but first he heads for Turnberry, where he won his second Open title in 1977, for this year's British Seniors Open. "I am in the doldrums with my swing right now," said Watson. "I don't give myself the chance of winning anything."
Ascot's Roger Chapman travels to Turnberry on the crest of a wave after winning the two senior majors of the year in the US in the past few weeks. And having taken the US PGA Championship and the US Open he now feels confident he can complete his age group's grand slam.
It was at Turnberry in 1977 where Chapman made his Open debut as an amateur and watched Watson and Jack Nicklaus in their prime. Yesterday he said: "With those two wins in America I have now got a lot of self-belief, my confidence is sky high and I am going to give it a go for the third win. It would be nice to make a bit of history."
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