SANDWICH, England – Let’s hope Young Tom was listening to Old Tom the last two days.
Tom Lewis couldn’t have asked for a better mentor to take him through his first major championship than five-time Open winner Tom Watson.
The old boy showed the young whippersnapper how this game is played during Round 2. Move over Young Tom – Old Tom ain’t quite done yet.
Helped by a hole-in-one at the par-3 sixth hole, Watson fashioned a level-par 70 around the links of Sandwich. That was four shots better than Lewis.
Both men made the cut. Watson is still thinking of his sixth old Claret Jug, while Lewis is dreaming of his first. Lewis is two shots better than Watson at 1 under for the first two rounds. However, at Royal St George’s, with the weather expected to get worse, Watson still has a chance of winning the 140th Open.
No wonder Watson was in a philosophical mood afterward.
“All golf is a series of victories and defeats,” Watson said. “That’s all it is. There are many victories and major defeats each time you play a round of golf.”
Lewis found that out in Round 2. After the euphoria of a 5-under 65, the game brought the 20-year-old back down to reality.
“I think if you asked me two days ago I would have taken it (1 under through 36 holes),” Lewis said. “But at this moment it doesn’t feel so good. Four over is not a great score, but the way I hit it and the way I felt on the greens, today wasn’t terrible. Hopefully I can have two good scores on the weekend.”
Lewis would have been over par for the 36 holes if not for an outstanding piece of good fortune on the 18th hole. The Englishman’s ball was screaming out of bounds when it hit a boundary post and stayed in bounds. Lewis had to chip off the road behind the green but did not get up and down.
“I was a bit angry with finishing there. But I was lucky.”
As far as winning the tournament goes, the youngster wasn’t as confident as when he made his “I will turn pro if I win the Open Championship” statement. Maybe his humbling in Round 2 made him slightly more realistic.
“It would be nice to win the silver medal and try to finish top 15. I’ll try to take it one step at a time.”
Watson didn’t quite hang the tag “future Open champion” around his young neck, but he gave little doubt the kid has a great future.
“He’s good,” Watson said. “He’s a fine player, he really is. He’s got strength. He’s got a wonderful putting touch, pitching touch. He flights the ball very well. He has a very good complement of shots in his bag already as a 20-year-old.”
And with the wisdom of over 50 years in the game, Watson knows just the approach Lewis should take as he heads out into the big bad world of professional golf.
“I think the most important advice is, don’t get too complicated in your life,” Watson said. “You can get very complicated by adding a lot of people and a lot of things in your mind. Keeping it pretty simple, keeping the mind free of clutter is the most important thing. You don’t need the clutter.”
Watson seems to be as clutter free as he’s ever been in his career at this point in his life. Maybe that’s why the Open still seems able to bring out the best in him. Even at 61 years young. Two years removed from a heartbreaking playoff lost to Stewart Cink, and Watson isn’t here to make up the numbers.
“I guess I refuse to be a ceremonial player,” Watson said. “When that time comes then I’ll hang them up.”
Indeed, the oldest man in the field left the course frustrated that he wasn’t closer to the lead.
“I’m still disappointed about the three putts I had today. My distance control was not very good. I missed six to eight foot putts and that’s disappointing because that puts me at 1 under for the tournament rather than at 2-over par.
“The winner of this golf tournament is going to be around par somewhere, I think. They’re not going to be screaming under par with the weather forecast the next two days. It’s going to be difficult. It’s a difficult golf course, but the conditions are going to make it super difficult the next two days.”
Watson is the ultimate bad weather player. Five Open wins are proof of that.
Old Tom might be the better bet than Young Tom over the next two days.