Wednesday 21 August 2019

Classy Watson bids emotional farewell to Major golf

Tom Watson. Photo: PA
Tom Watson. Photo: PA

James Corrigan

Never mind an eye, nothing was dry in the house yesterday when Tom Watson bid his competitive farewell to links golf.

However, it says so much about the class and popularity of the 69-year-old that he managed to shine a bright and unforgettable light through the dramatic deluge that hit the final round of the Senior Open.

Bernhard Langer was the winner, but with respect to the dominant German and his wonderful closing 66, Watson was the champion who gave Royal Lytham and St Annes its more lasting memory.

On Saturday, the greatest links practitioner of the last 100 years had announced that this was it as far as Major golf is concerned and despite the worst intentions of Mother Nature, there was always going to be a large and emotional gallery following the hero from Kansas City.

Thanks to the delayed start because of the waterlogged fairways, there were actually two final-green farewells for Watson.

In order to escape a Monday finish, the field went off two tees in threeballs.

Starting on the 10th, there were big crowds when Watson reached the 18th (his ninth). He bowed to both sides of the green and then blew a kiss.

The ninth hole is out in the country at Lytham, so they followed him to the very end and when he walked to that par-three green - breaking into a little run up the hill - he tipped his hat, wearing that serene grin.

Refused His 25-footer for birdie burned the edge and refused to drop, but on nine-over par, Watson was hardly worrying.

He waved and gave the thumbs-up as he walked from the green to the waiting buggy. That seemed to be that, but the crowd put up another cheer. Watson turned, took off his hat and performed a two-handed wave from the rough.

It was class personified.

Of course, a more ideal setting would have been Scotland, where they regard him as one of their own.

He won four of his five Claret Jugs north of the border and so almost completed the finest sports story ever written when coming within an eight-foot putt of winning a sixth Claret Jug - and equalling Harry Vardon's record - when a 59-year-old at the 2009 Open at Turnberry.

Still, it acted as a bugle call to those with ear trumpets everywhere.

"You are never too old," he said.

Watson still believes as much, despite coming to the conclusion it is time to say goodbye. This was his 18th Senior Open and the three-time champion has never missed a cut. It was his biggest fear.

"I take pride about not missing a cut, I really do," Watson said. "I feel that, when you miss a cut, you really failed. You fail a lot in golf, you fail a lot on the course, but missing the cut is the ultimate failure to me." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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