Open field

In one unforgettable hour, as nostalgia gave way to disbelief, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green at Turnberry headed in opposite directions few could have imagined.

Tom Watson celebrates after a birdie putt on the 18th hole during the second round of the British Open at Turnberry

Tom Watson celebrates after a birdie putt on the 18th hole during the second round of the British Open at Turnberry

TURNBERRY, Scotland — In one unforgettable hour, as nostalgia gave way to disbelief, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green at Turnberry headed in opposite directions few could have imagined.

The oldest player at the British Open was leading.

The best player was leaving.

Even a tournament that has been around for 149 years can still serve up a shocker or two.

“It’s as if the spirits are on my side,” said Watson, a 59-year-old wonder who made history Friday afternoon as the oldest player to lead a major championship.

“Kept making mistake after mistake,” said Woods, the No. 1 player in the world.

Watson played his best golf on the toughest stretch at Turnberry, then finished with a pair of birdie putts that were nearly as long as his odds of winning another claret jug. The last one was a 45-footer on the 18th that gave him an even-par 70, putting him in the lead with British Open rookie Steve Marino, who had a 68.

Woods came through an hour later, and was at his worst.

He hit one tee shot that was never found in the high grass along the dunes right of the 10th fairway. He hit into a fairway bunker for the first time all week. It took him two shots to get up a bank and onto the green.

Woods dropped seven shots during that wretched six-hole stretch, and not even two late birdies could spare him the indignation of missing the cut in a major for only the second time in his professional career, and the first time in any tournament in more than three years. Needing to chip in for birdie on the 18th hole, he came up a few feet short and tapped in for a 74.

“I kept compounding my problems out there,” he said.

Forget about Woods’ pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors.

Now it’s about Watson going after Harry Vardon and his six British Opens.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win,” Watson said.

He was at 5-under 135 with Marino, a 29-year-old American who didn’t know until last weekend that he had gotten into the British Open, and then had to fly his father from Virginia to his home in Florida to fetch Marino’s passport.

“I wasn’t even expecting to play in this tournament,” Marino said.

One year after Greg Norman made a stunning bid to win the British Open at 53, the prospects of Watson winning at 59 are staggering. The oldest major champion was Julius Boros, who was 48 when he captured the 1968 PGA Championship.

Watson won his first of his five British Open at Carnoustie in 1975, five months before Woods was born.

“I guess the memories are with me, all the wonderful memories I’ve 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. And it’s been since 1975 — 34 years I’ve played links golf. And it’s a fabric of my life, I can tell you that.”

He is only halfway home, however, and this British Open is alive with so many possibilities.

One shot behind was 49-year-old Mark Calcavecchia, who won 20 years ago up the coast at Royal Troon. He, too, survived the stretch of holes along the Firth of Clyde in a stiff wind that demanded so much of every shot. Calcavecchia made a 40-foot birdie putt on the 10th that sent him to a 69.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen twice saved par from 35 feet and had a 70, putting him in the group at 3-under 137 that included three-time major champion Vijay Singh.

Among those who failed to make the cut: Canadians Mike Weir and Stephen Ames, Colin Montgomerie, Anthony Kim, David Duval, U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover and last year’s British Open runner-up, Ian Poulter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Admiral Art McDonald has voluntarily stepped down as Chief of Defence Staff due to an investigation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Admiral Art McDonald steps aside as defence chief amid investigation

Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre appointed acting chief of the defence staff

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. A new report suggests the economic impact of the pandemic led to a massive increase in federal aid to Canada’s oil patch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Pandemic increased direct aid to fossil fuel producers, new study shows

At least $1.9 billion in direct aid to traditional energy sector last year

Glen Carritt organized a United We Roll Canada convoy around May 2019 that travelled in 2019. An independent review said he breached council code of conduct rules multiple times. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Former Innisfail town councillor breached code of conduct many times, says review

Consultants say 29 of 36 alleged breaches by Glen Carritt had merit

Meteor spotted over Edmonton, Alta., on Feb. 22, 2021 by several, who took to social media to share their surveillance camera captures. (@KixxAxe/Twitter)
VIDEO: Fireball meteor streaks across sky, spotted by early-morning risers in Alberta, B.C.

Videos of the quick streak of light flashing across the sky before 6:30 a.m. MST

Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich (33) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Jimmy Vesey (26) as Flames' Christopher Tanev (8) and Joakim Nordstrom (20) defend during first-period NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson yells to her sweepers at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

A crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien looks towards the ice as his team takes on the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadiens have fired head coach Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt (13) attempts a shot on goal during the first half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match against Argentina, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Phelan M. Ebenhack
Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta's COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, government house leader and environment minister, after Nixon is sworn into office in Edmonton on April 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie attends a a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The CFL faces more challenges in its 2021 return than it did last year when it was forced to cancel its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

Most Read