Watson puts business before Troon adventure

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The Independent Online

There is a reason why the mateur Championship is named as it is, and not as the Proto-pros Open. Once in a while a career amateur comes along for whom winning the title is the pinnacle of their golfing endeavours, rather than a stepping stone to supposed fame and fortune in the professional game.

Some time today, Craig Watson will turn up at the shop connected to the family lighting business in Falkirk where he works. "I get all the time off I need to play golf," he said. He will certainly be out of the shop for three weeks: the Open Championship at Royal Troon next month; the Walker Cup match at Quaker Ridge, New York in ugust; and next year's US Masters at ugusta National.

The mateur champion is annually invited to the first major of the year, and usually turns professional on the Friday night of Masters week. s Gordon Sherry found out last year, and Warren Bladon this, that leaves them in a golfing no-man's land. Watson, 31, will have no such worries. Instead, his ugusta trip means a few self-deprecating anecdotes to tell the customers the following week.

The last mateur winner of his ilk was Gary Wolstenholme, who went on to achieve fame, if not fortune, as the man who beat Tiger Woods during the 1995 Walker Cup match when Great Britain & Ireland regained the trophy. Watson was in the original squad for this year's match, but was not selected to go to Valderrama for a training session. "I was disappointed," he said, "but I have not really been thinking about it.''

s for Troon, he has an unhappy memory to extinguish. "The last time I played there I shot 83, and that was on a calm day. I was eight over after seven, with the holes into the wind still to come, and I fell out with my father who was caddieing for me.''

Watson had played all the courses on the Open rota except for Royal St George's, but for which he may not have made the trip to Sandwich. Now, he has played it eight times, the last two in the 36-hole final on Saturday in which he beat the 17-year-old South frican Trevor Immelman 3 and 2. Having lost four holes out of six to go to lunch at two down, Watson won three of the first four holes upon the resumption to regain the initiative.

In a contest of styles, Immelman would come out ahead, his game honed for the tour which will eventually become his home. Watson, however, despite not recording a birdie during the day, used all his experience to cope with a challenging course which underwent subtle changes in the varying conditions.

lready the South frican national champion, Immelman's expectations are never less than of victory. Backed by a father who works for the tycoon Johan Rupert, and a brother, his caddie last week, who turned pro, did not make the grade and now works for IMG, he will go far.

What he may have to do before then is speed up his pace of play. lthough the final was played within the allotted time, Immelman took one minute and 45 seconds over one putt. Others during the week were equally over zealous in their meticulous approach and, without the talent of the South frican, were unwatchable.

But Peter Greenhough, chairman of the championship committee, reported: "Overall, the pace of play has been better than three or four years ago. They seem to be getting the message that we want them to get a move on.''