Watson gets his moment at St Andrews


A rising superstar, 21-year-old Rory McIlroy was Thursday’s St. Andrews story thanks to a brilliant 63 at the Open Championship in rare pristine conditions.

But the finicky weather at St. Andrews was blustery Friday and as the wind blew late into the evening with it came a new story. A late afternoon round of 80 swept Rory up and out of the top spot on the leaderboard to replace the superstar with a name that ESPN announcers had to ask how to correctly pronounce.

Sleeping with the lead we find Louis Oosthuizen (LOO-ee WEST-high-zin) who will be playing the weekend for the first time in four starts in the Open Championship. It’s only his second made cut in a major and he’s five shots ahead of a former Open champion, 50-year-old Mark Calcavecchia, who lifted the claret jug more than two decades ago. But that’s not the story.

And neither is Phil Mickelson, who despite playing with better conditions on Friday is pages down the leaderboard, 12 shots off the lead. And it’s not Tiger Woods either. He seemed poised to pounce after an opening-round 67, but Friday he bore the brunt of the weather and carded a 1-over 73 to fall 4 under for the Championship.

We had to wait until the horn blew signaling the end of play on Friday, after 13 hours of live television coverage, for today’s story. It was worth the wait.

Just as the sun set and the clouds began to glow pastel shades of lavender, iridescent peach and pink, and moments after the horn blew to signal the suspension of play due to darkness, 60-year-old Tom Watson said goodbye to St. Andrews. In a few fleeting moments captured by the cameras and the patrons spilling over the railings flanking the final hole we witnessed what will be a picture of history.

From the control room in our studios where I was watching this iconic moment tingles, chills, and maybe even some tears swept through the room as Watson walked up to the Swilken bridge, kneeled over and kissed it. Kissed in his own words “the Old Lady.”

Then this old Tom, a modern legend of links golf, waved his arms, smiled, and with glassy eyes looked back at the course. No doubt looking back on all of his memories and all the years he’s spent playing in the birthplace of the game that has been his path and his bridge to leave his mark on the world. It was a special moment in golf. One far different from where Watson was a year ago at the Open at Turnberry when he was leading the Championship at the age of 59. But it was a moment, a story that gets its own run today and no doubt will be replaced by another one tomorrow. But one that won’t be forgotten.