Last year, he came away with the championship after going three overtime holes with Irishman Des Smyth. That was the second Senior British Open trophy for him, matching 2003 when he also won in a playoff, this time over Carl Mason.
Watsons run of victories in Britain now total seven, six in Scotland. Hes had five British Open crowns. And he says it wouldnt have happened if he hadnt changed his mindset about links golf.
But I didn't like it. And I remember in '79 - I played at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. I didn't play well in the tournament, but I had somewhat of a bad attitude. I got some bad bounces and this and that.
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.
An event that happened in 1981 completed the transformation.
In '81 my friend, Sandy Tatum, organized a trip, remembers Watson. We started at Ballybunion (in Ireland), and that started my love affair with Ballybunion and links golf, side by side.
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 over here, during his days over in Oxford. And he really kind of led me into a different way of thinking about golf. And I owe him a great debt of gratitude for that.
And what did Watson learn?
Well, the qualities of links golf is to understand how far you can hit it - to get the right weight to the shot, he said last year while winning at Royal Aberdeen.
I've always been pretty good at that. No matter what type of golf course I've played on, I could figure out how to get it pin high. And when you play links golf - for instance, the 12th hole here, the par 5. I hit a 7 iron 240 yards here on the second round. 240 yard 7 iron. 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 a one little knob, right in front of 12 right there, 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 chili-dip, and I struggled to make five. But if I hit it 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.
Watsons first major championship was the British Open at Carnoustie in 1975. Has to be the haggis, he joked.
I remember a great little story there. I remember we rented a house in Montfieth for the week - John Mahaffey and Hubert Green and myself. And we commuted over to Carnoustie. In fact I practiced at Montfieth. I practiced at their practice ground before I went over to Carnoustie in the morning or before I played. And I remember in the playoff round nobody in the neighborhood really bothered us at all. Just let us alone.
But right before the playoff, getting into the car, a little girl came over and in bare feet and it was about temperature about like this. Bare feet. She gives me a little tinfoil of heather that I stuck in my bag. And I kept that in my bag for about four years. That was very sweet.
What it is about Watson and Scotland? Theres something, he admits. Primarily, its just the pure, unadulterated enjoyment he has had in this northern country.
I've had some good success here, he said. It's fun, it's really fun to play a links golf course because it takes so much of your wits to deal with it. It's so much different than playing American golf.
A lot of golfers don't like this type of golf. You got bounces, you got blind shots, you got the wind crossing, you got these bunkers, you can't see them. You got all kinds of different things. It's not right there.
You have to really stay kind of above the fray and then just look down on it and go forward. And try to keep your calm that way. Because if you get involved with just all the things that can go wrong, you're going back, you'll go backwards so fast, it makes your head spin.