Twenty years removed from the last time he held the claret jug, Watson shot even-par 71.
It leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, said the five-time champion, but all-in-all I played a pretty good round of golf.
Its the second consecutive major (on the regular tour) that the 53-year-old has opened in impressive fashion. He shot 65 in the first round of the U.S. Open before settling into a tie for 28th place.
Harry Vardon owns the British Open victory record with six. He triumphed twice at Royal St. Georges (1899, 1911).
Watson won in 1975, 77, 80, 82 and 83. But he has never fared well here. His best finish is a tie for 23rd in three prior appearances.
This golf course has always been a struggle for me, and today was no different. It looked pretty easy through 16 holes, but I assure you it was a struggle, he said.
Watson made four birdies and one bogey before stumbling home.
It may be the two most difficult finishing holes ' as far as driving holes ' that we ever play. Theres just no room to hit the ball in the fairway, he explained. Youve got about five yards to hit the ball, and if you dont do it youre in trouble.
There was an unfamiliar face on Watsons bag Thursday. Bruce Edwards, who suffers from ALS, did not make the trip because the potential cold weather badly affects his damaged nervous system ' particularly his shaking hands.
Instead, Watson is employing Neil Oxman. Oxman began caddieing in the 1970s to make some money out of college before turning his attention into the political arena.
Oxman is political/media consultant in Philadelphia. He runs national Senate and Congressional campaigns ' mainly for Democrats.
If you want to win a campaign, you hire Neil, said Watson.
Oxman, a self-proclaimed golf enthusiast, said he has worked for about 25 different players over the years. He is close friends with two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North, and looped for Gary McCord in this years Senior PGA Championship, where he made the Watson connection.
Though Watson and Edwards have been a team for over 30 years, the two have seldom worked together in the Open Championship. When Watson was at his peak, prize money wasnt big enough to offset overseas travel expenses.
He won all five of his Britsh Opens with Scot Alfie Fyles on his bag.
Still, he wishes his good friend had made the trip this year. The two captivated crowds during Watson's recent run at Olympia Fields.
Bruce was here with me in spirit, Watson said. A couple of putts out there, I was thinking, What would Bruce read here?