ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – To hear 60-year-old Tom Watson, don’t expect an old-age miracle this year.
The man who nearly won the 2009 British Open at Turnberry says he’s putting well but that his game isn’t as good as it was last year.
“I want to hit 90 percent of my shots the way I want to instead of the 50 percent of the last couple days,” the five-time Open champion said after his third practice round at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
Watson is playing his seventh Open at St. Andrews, and perhaps his last one here. He played a Sunday practice round in 45-mph wind, and another day he played a warm-up session with Stewart Cink, who beat him in the 2009 playoff. Watson said he and Cink “didn’t really talk about last year.”
Interestingly, Watson said when he toured the ancient links Sunday it was like “playing it all over again for the first time. St. Andrews is a hard course to understand. You’ve got to relearn it all the time.”
On Tuesday, Watson, Arnold Palmer and Padraig Harrington received honorary doctorates from the University of St. Andrews. Watson has told Palmer over the years, “You’ve always been my idol.” On Tuesday, he said he told Palmer, “The only reason I beat Jack (Nicklaus in some duels) is because he beat you.”
His evening Tuesday, though, had a sad tinge. Three-time Open champion Seve Ballesteros, battling brain cancer, couldn’t make it to this Open but taped a video greeting that aired at the champions’ dinner.
“It was sad,” said Watson, who lost to Ballesteros here in 1984. “He’s obviously struggling. It’s sad to see where he is right now.”