Pep Rally


135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Sergio Garcia walked down the eighth fairway, put his arm on Tom Watsons shoulder and said what any young man would say to someone who is 30 years his senior.
Come on old man, get it going, Garcia jabbed.
Today Im an old man playing like an old man, was Watsons retort.
Remember yesterday, Garcia responded, Its time to get going.
Tom Watson
Tom Watson celebrates his birdie putt on the 18th hole Friday. (Getty Images)
Although Garcia doesnt want credit for the pep talk, it was exactly what Old Tom Watson needed to hear. He had just made bogey on five of the previous six holes and was looking every bit the aging veteran, not the man who turned back the clock a day earlier with a sizzling 65 at his beloved Open Championship. Eighty was looking like a realistic score at the time.
Then Watson made birdie from 25 feet on the ninth hole and something clicked. He had a calm about him that he hadnt felt since a first-hole birdie and he realized that the final nine holes would be played into a helpful wind. A birdie from 15 feet on the 11th followed.
Just 24 hours earlier it was Watson who said, It doesnt feel a whole lot out of the ordinary from 32 years ago except that I dont have the confidence in my putting that I had 32 years ago. But, again, a few of them might go in.
Did they ever.
While seemingly everyone at Turnberry was fixated on Tiger Woods teetering on the cut line, it was the other T.W. who was making magic.
Watson dropped a bomb from 75 feet on the 16th hole after hitting a 7-iron to the back of the green. Though not nearly as long, he drained a 45-footer for birdie on the 18th that was more significant because he shot 70 to tie for the lead with Steve Marino at 5-under 135. Watson unleashed a neat little fist-pump with his leg raised and the Scottish faithful erupted into a glorious roar only reserved for legends.
I just had a feeling I was going to make that putt [on 16], Watson said. And at 18 I kind of had the same feeling. I said, If I can make it at 16, why cant I make it here at 18? And sure enough, it went in.
Garcia was in the midst of a solid round himself and admitted that he got goose bumps on the 16th and 18th holes when Watson sank both birdies.
He stayed tough and it was great to see, said Garcia, his sense of the occasion showing clearly on his face. I enjoyed our time together.
This is getting to be heady stuff. One year after a 53-year-old Greg Norman took the lead into the final round at Royal Birkdale, a 59-year-old Tom Watson is in pursuit of his sixth Claret Jug and leads at the midway point?
Speilberg cant come up with stuff like this.
What would the movie trailer say?
Past-his-prime 59-year-old returns to the site of his greatest victory 32 years later, shoots an opening-round 65, struggles at the start of the second round but rebounds by making bombs all over the coast of the Firth of Clyde.
No one would buy it.
The day began with more questions than there were answers. How is it possible for Watson to play well enough to stay in contention? How will the difficult conditions affect him? Can he make enough crucial putts? At what point will that suspect putting stroke leave him?
It seemed like Watson answered some of the questions on the first hole when he hit a pitching wedge to 22 feet. The ball wasnt more than 10 feet off Watsons putter when he started walking toward the hole in celebration of the birdie. He knew he had hit a money putt.
The bogeys on Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 werent from poor shots as much as they were from a combination of the wind and poor putting. Then Garcia delivered his pep talk and, presto, Old Tom turned into Young Tom.
I guess the memories are with me, all the wonderful memories Ive had playing links golf, Watson said. Walking down the fairways, walking up onto the greens, people showing their respect for me, showing my respect for them. Its a fabric of my life.
You can try to dissect it numerous ways but the bottom line is that 59-year-old Tom Watson shares the 36-hole lead at the Open Championship at Turnberry.
Whats next?
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The 138th Open Championship