Shades of Old Tom - Ol Tom

By George WhiteJuly 26, 2005, 4:00 pm
Senior British OpenThe kids came knocking, threatening to kick in the front door if no one stopped them. But eventually, it was still the bailiwick of the old man. Yes sir, when the wind howls and the temps drop and the skies are full of fine little rain drops, you can always count on the old man for something spectacular.
First it was Loren Roberts, flush with the newly named moniker, Champions Tour rookie. And over the weekend, it was Greg Norman, who wore the same label. But eventually it was Old Tom Morris - er, ol Tom Watson - who prevailed at the Senior British Open. All is right with the seniors for at least another week, at least until the U.S. Senior Open is contested this week.
Tom Watson
Tom Watson now has two Senior British Open titles to his credit.
Ol Tom has now won seven times on links courses ' five British Opens and now two British Seniors. He hasnt played particularly well the past two seasons. But when you cross the Atlantic, you can always expect the 55-year-old brain to start whirling. Theres something about winds and mist and links golf that appeal mightily to Watson.

I really think that it goes back to my understanding of links golf, Watson began, which started in '79 and culminated in '81.
Before '79 - I played from '75 to '78 - I didn't particularly like links golf. I was an American golfer. I liked it through the air, hit the ball high, couldn't hit the ball low with much accuracy.
A man who was raised in Kansas City didnt know much about playing in the British Isles. And, he confesses, he didnt like it much. But he had to start liking it, or else he had to stay home and play the game the American way ' a succession of high shots. But in 79, during the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, he finally got the point through his noggin.
I didn't play well in the tournament, but I had somewhat of a bad attitude, ol Tom confessed. I got some bad bounces and this and that. And I finally told myself, You know, this game is played on the ground. And you have to expect some bounces, some good bounces and bad bounces. And I've had some terrible bounces out here. But I've had some great bounces.
It finally happened two years later, in 1981, on a pleasure trip organized by Watsons friend Sandy Tatum. That was when the concept of links golf set it.
We started at Ballybunion, and that started my love affair with Ballybunion and links golf, said Watson. We played at Ballybunion and then we went up and played Dornoch. We played Prestwick and Troon. And it was with Sandy - who was an Oxford student and who played a lot of golf in Scotland and Ireland and England during his days over in Oxford. And he really kind of led me into a different way of thinking about golf.
Both Roberts and Norman were making their Champions Tour debuts. Both are destined to win plenty of tournaments on this tour. Roberts opened the event at Royal Aberdeen with the lead after the first day and eventually finished fifth. And Norman, who actually played the European Tour from 77 to 80, had a very strong final three rounds and finished just one shot out of a playoff.
Both will feature prominently in future Senior British Opens. But for now, this is still the old mans personal playground. Watson is just five weeks short of his 56th birthday, and hes learned in the last 25 years to let nothing irk him when it comes to playing links golf. He illustrated that by using the par-5 12 hole at Royal Aberdeen as an example.
I hit a 7-iron 240 yards here on the second round - 240-yard 7-iron, he began. Now, you don't hit 240-yard 7-irons. But then I backed off and hit an easy 6-iron yesterday and then hit a good 6-iron today.
And there's one little knob, about 20 yards in front of 12. And it's kind of lush. And I hit this 6-iron perfect, it was going right at the hole and gets right in this knob and comes up short. And then I chilly it. Then I put a chilly dip on my pitch shot. And I struggled to make five.
But if it hits five feet short of that on that same line, it's a good chance that I'm going to be very close to the hole. But it hit five feet this way on an up-slope on a soft area and stopped it short. And you have to go with that. You just can't get upset about it. That's the essence of links golf.
There are quite a few age lines in Watsons Huck Finn face now. But there is a ton of golf knowledge in Tom Watsons brain. And there are decades of experience in handling the golf courses of the British Isles.
Norman and Roberts will be assuming the mantle of Champions Tour champion before long. But ol Tom isnt ready to turn over the title just yet. This was the U.K., remember. And in the U.K., Watson is the reincarnation of Old Tom Morris.
Email your thoughts to George White
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Senior British Open
  • Full Coverage - Senior British Open
  • Getty Images

    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

    Getty Images

    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

    Masters victory

    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

    Man of the people

    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

    Departure from TaylorMade

    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

    Victory at Valderrama

    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm