Tom Watson holds 54-hole lead at British Open

By Doug FergusonJuly 18, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Tom Watson took three practice swings without a club in his hand, then looked toward the green and pictured the shot he needed to play.
 
Standing on the edge of the fairway, a marshal who had seen Watson work his magic at Turnberry for three decades whispered in his thick Scottish brogue, lost in time as he watched a 59-year-old champion leading the British Open.
 
What are you going to do, Tom? he said. Cut a wee 7-iron in there? Throw an 8-iron into the air?
 
Tom Watson is vying for his sixth Open Championship title. (Getty Images)
Then, shaking his head with a smile, the marshal added, Fantastic story, aye?
 
Watson is turning this British Open into a fairy tale.
 
Even as he slipped out of the lead Saturday in the testing breeze off the Firth of Clyde, Watson didnt blink except to hold back the occasional tears. He is close enough to the Claret Jug to believe he can win again.
 
A 30-foot birdie putt on the 16th gave him a share of the lead.
 
Then came a hybrid 2-iron that took a bounce to the left and onto the green, setting up another birdie.
 
When he walked up the 18th fairway, his name atop the massive yellow leaderboard, Watson had a 1-over 71 for a one-shot lead, leaving him 18 holes away from becoming the oldest major champion in history.
 
Can this really happen?
 
Even Watson wasnt sure early in the week. Now, the doubts have morphed into determination.
 
The first day here, Yeah, let the old geezer have his day in the sun, Watson said. The second day you said, Well, thats OK. And now today, you kind of perk up your ears and say, This old geezer might have a chance to win the tournament. I dont know whats going to happen, but I do know one thing, I feel good about what I did today. I feel good about my game plan.
 
And who knows? he said. It might happen.
 
Hes even got the attention of Jack Nicklaus, whom Watson beat at Turnberry in the famous Duel in the Sun in 1977. Nicklaus, who rarely watches golf on television, saw most of the third round from his home in south Florida.
 
I had some tears in my eyes, Nicklaus said. I just really hope he wins.
 
Watson wouldnt give details of his mysterious game plan, only that he has figured out how many bogeys he can afford to make, and how many birdies hell need to make up for any mistakes.
 
So far, its going well, he said.
 
The plan has put him at 4-under 206, one shot better than Mathew Goggin of Australia and Ross Fisher, who isnt even sure he will make it to the tee Sunday. His wife is expecting their first child, and Fisher said his priority is to be in England for the birth.
 
Fisher, who birdied two of his last three holes for a 70, was fifth at the U.S. Open last month, his best finish in a major. Imagine if he had been told that only a 59-year-old man would stand between him and the Claret Jug.
 
Probably would have laughed, Fisher said. I mean, its incredible.
 
Watson will be playing in the final group with Goggin, a 35-year-old who hasnt won in 10 years ' and that was on the Nationwide Tour. Until Saturday, when his 69 was among only five scores under par, his greatest moment in the British Open came in 2003 at Royal St. Georges when he was paired with Watson in the third round.
 
Hes such a great player and such a great champion, especially at the British Open, Goggin said. And it was also shocking just how good he was. I mean, it was ridiculous. Im thinking, Hes getting on in years and not playing so much, and hes just smashing it around this golf course. I was really impressed.
 
A year ago, 53-year-old Greg Norman had a two-shot lead going into the final round at Royal Birkdale and couldnt hold on.
 
Watson has much more experience with eight majors, five of them on links courses.
 
He also has much more company.
 
Lee Westwood (70) joined Fisher as the only players at par or better all three rounds at Turnberry, escaping with a bogey on the final hole to finish at 2-under 208 with two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who had a 71.
 
Another U.S. Open champion, Jim Furyk, made only two bogeys in his round of 70 and was at 1-under 209 with Stewart Cink (71).
 
Steve Marino is still in the mix, somehow.
 
Tied for the lead with Watson going into the third round, he dropped five shots on his first five holes, rallied to get back into contention, then lost a ball on the par-3 15th to make triple bogey and three-putted at No. 16 for double bogey. He birdied his last two holes of this roller-coaster round and shot 76 to fall five shots behind.
 
Marino was in the group at 1-over 211 that included Masters champion Angel Cabrera, while another shot back was John Daly (72). Among those too far back to contend is Padraig Harrington, whose hopes of a third straight Claret Jug ended with a 76.
 
This is Watsons turf, the guy who put Turnberry on the map by winning that wondrous duel with Nicklaus. A victory truly would belong to the games ages.
 
The oldest major champion was Julius Boros, who was 48 when he captured the 1968 PGA Championship. The oldest player to win a regular tour event, America or Europe, was Sam Snead at 52 in the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open.
 
The scope of whats at stake seems lost on Watson. He felt no nerves when he walked to the first tee to warm applause amid sunshine and a cool, coastal breeze. He avoided an early collapse by twice making par. From a pot bunker in the third fairway, he blasted out and hit 7-iron to 8 feet. From a greenside bunker on the fifth hole, he hit out to 15 feet and made that one, too.
 
The wind was the toughest of its kind, playing across the fairways, making it difficult to keep the ball in the short grass. Watson ran into trouble during a seven-hole stretch that began at No. 9, dropping three shots to fall out of the lead.
 
He managed to find two more birdies, the roars getting louder with each one.
 
Then came another long salute as he walked toward the 18th green. Watson blinked back tears, especially when he told caddie Neil Oxman, a friend from Philadelphia, that Bruce Edwards was surely watching. Edwards, Watsons longtime caddie, died of Lou Gehrigs disease five years ago.
 
Watson nearly thrilled the gallery again with a 60-foot putt that trickled to a stop a foot short of the hole. He waited for Marino to finish, tapped in, then turned and toasted the crowd.
 
Someone asked him later if he had pinched himself.
 
I dont need to, Watson said, flashing that gap-tooth smile. Im awake.
 
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    McIlroy battles back into tie for BMW PGA lead

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 4:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy got off to a rocky start on Saturday in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, including hitting a spectator and making a double bogey. But after that incident on the sixth hole, he didn't drop another shot, birdieing the final hole to shoot a 1-under 71 and tie for the lead.

    McIlroy had gone into Moving Day with a three-shot lead, but Francesco Molinari had the round of the day, a 6-under 66. "It was nice keep a clean scorecard," said Molinari, who hasn't made a bogey since the 10th hole on Friday.


    Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


    McIlroy and Molinari will be paired in Sunday's final round. They are tied at 13 under par, four shots clear of Ross Fisher, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield and Alexander Noren.

    The Wentworth course ends with back-to-back par-5s, and McIlroy birdied both of them. He got a break on the 18th hole as his drive hit a spectator and bounced into light rough.

    "It was a struggle out there today," McIlroy said. "I think when you're working on a few things in your swing and the wind is up and you're stuck between trying to play different shots, but also try to play - you know, make good swings at it, I just hit some loose tee balls on the first few holes. But I'm proud of myself. I stayed patient. I actually - I'm feeling a bit better about myself after today than I was even walking off the course yesterday."

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    Watch: McIlroy hits spectator on hand

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 2:58 pm

    We never cease to wonder at how close fans crowd in to the intended line of some shots, and just how skilled Tour players are in not hitting someone.

    But every once in a while, golf ball and spectator intersect, with painful results. It happened to Rory McIlroy during the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, after he had hit a wayward drive on the sixth hole. Attempting to hack out his second shot from under a bush, McIlroy struck a female spectator on her right hand. There was no official word on her condition, but she was clearly - and understandably - in pain.

    McIlroy went on to make double bogey but was able to put the incident behind him, as he promptly birdied the next hole.

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    Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

    By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. – After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

    Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

    ''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

    Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

    Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

    Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

    ''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


    Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

    ''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

    Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

    ''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

    Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

    Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

    Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

    ''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

    In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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    Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

    By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

    BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

    ''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

    McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

    Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

    ''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

    Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

    ''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

    Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.


    Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


    McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

    ''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

    McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

    McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

    McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

    Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

    ''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

    Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

    ''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''