Can Watson create history at Turnberry?
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2009 British Open | Round Three | 19 Jul 2009
At Turnberry tomorrow, not only will history repeat itself but it might well go one or two better. 59-year-old Tom Watson is defying both gravity and logic with a masterly display of Links golfing skills.
Watson leads the Open Championship by one over Ross Fisher and Mathew Goggin and by two over Lee Westwood and Retief Goosen and while there are another dozen or so players who likely still fancy their chances of victory, Watson is, unbelievably, the man to catch.
If he was to win tomorrow, Watson would become the oldest player by a massive 13 years to win a major championship and given the manner in which he has handled the course and the increasing expectation then few would be prepared to bet against it happening. Watson would also join Harry Vardon as one of only two players to have won the Open Championship on six occasions and the first in 95 years to do so
On a day where, once again, the wind blew consistently around the 20mph mark, Watson was in his element. Just as he had done on day two he produced two late birdies in his round to regain the lead he had shared with his playing partner Steve Marino heading into day three.
Stacked up behind him are a host of hungry young golfers, many seeking not only a first major championship but for many their first win on the PGA Tour. Mathew Goggin, Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood are in that category but with Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Bryce Molder and Thongchai Jaidee all within four shots of the lead an eclectic mix of chasers will challenge for the title tomorrow.
Not that the list stops there. Sunday at Turnberry promises to be one of the more fascinating days in recent major championship history.
Watson appeared to be losing touch when he slipped to three over for the day at the 15th but as he had done on Friday he bounced back with a birdie at the dangerous par four 16th with a huge putt and then secured the almost compulsory birdie at the par five 17th when he found the green and two putted to take the lead.
Mathew Goggin has been the surprise Australian this week. An immense talent but earlier in his career sometimes his own worst enemy, the 35 year old has not won an event of any kind since his win in two Nationwide Tour events ten years ago. He has been twice runner up in events on the PGA Tour in his eight season history there but tomorrow he faces a day that could change his life forever. Goggin played beautifully at the end of 2008 including a narrow loss to Tim Clark at the Australian Open and started his 2009 season off well in the US but in recent weeks he has not played quite as well. A win is not beyond him however.
“I’m not too stressed out,” said Goggin after his round, referring to the fact he had now on for so long.
“It is all about managing your expectations and trying to be consistent. There are situations where you feel you could have done more or made a mistake or others have hit great shots but you keep knocking on the door and hopefully you get the chance to walk through and obviously this would be a nice week to do it.”
Englishman Ross Fisher has emerged as one of Europe’s best in the last eight twelve months. His recent runner up at the BMW PGA Championship and his 5th place finish at the US Open have him hardened for what will be his greatest test tomorrow. He must also contend with the possibility of his wife Joanne producing their first baby at any tick of the clock and so the next 24 hours will be an anxious wait for the 28 year old.
“If you are not enjoying this out here you don’t deserve to be a pro golfer,” said Fisher referring to the amount of crowd support he was receiving. “Hopefully we will get to hear a lot more cheers tomorrow.”
Westwood stumbled at the last when he got caught up in the greenside rough but he did well to save bogey and is just two back and perhaps Watson’s biggest threat. “There is a lesson to be learnt there,” he said referring to taking too big a gamble with his line to the last.
“I strayed away from my game plan. If I had have hit it five yards right where Billy (his caddy) told me to I would be one better. All week however I have hit it pretty much where I wanted to and am happy with the way I am playing and have given myself a chance at the open Championship.”
Retief Goosen’s round was highlighted contrasting fortunes at the two par fives. A double bogey 7 at the 7th threatened to bring his challenge undone but a lengthy putt at the 17th for eagle had him knocking on the door once again. The two time major winner has given himself a great chance of a third.
Of the other Australians Robert Allenby is 56th, Stuart Appleby is 64th and Daniel Gaunt 72nd.