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.
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.
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