Archive for Friday, July 18, 2003

Great start, tough finish for Watson

July 18, 2003


— Five-time British Open champion Tom Watson is making a habit of starting strong in major championships.

At last month's U.S. Open, Watson opened with a 65 and stayed in contention the next two days.

Thursday at Royal St. George's, Watson was 3-under and tied for the lead after 16 holes, but took double bogey on the 17th and bogeyed the 18th to finish at even-par 71 -- three shots off the lead.

"Those two holes require excellent driving and I didn't put the ball on the fairway," Watson said. "I deserve what I got.

"It leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth playing the last two holes like that but, all in all, I played a pretty good round of golf."

Watson, 53, isn't writing himself off just yet. He's the only player to win the British Open on five courses, though Royal St. George's isn't among them.

"I've never played very well here," Watson said. "There are a lot of blind shots and it takes an awful lot to win here. When Greg Norman won here in the early '90s, he played just magnificent golf to shoot the scores he did with no bogeys on the last day. You have to be right on, not scratchy like I was."

  • Long day: The first round of the British Open is the longest day in golf.

Too long to finish, in fact.

In a rarity at golf's oldest championship, two groups failed to finish before darkness fell on Royal St. George's. There is only enough light to play golf until about 9:30 p.m.

The last group was to return at 8:30 a.m. to finish the 17th. The other group was playing the final hole.

  • Bunker mentality: Thomas Bjorn was 2-under par and contending for the lead. He walked off the 17th green with a quadruple bogey, the victim of a bunker and his bad temper.

Bjorn's lob wedge for his third shot found the back bunker. When he failed to blast out, he slammed his club into the sand in disgust.

Since he was still in the bunker, he was guilty of grounding his club.

Bjorn was assessed a two-shot penalty, got onto the green and holed the putt for an 8.

He left without talking to reporters.

  • Otto's back: Two years ago, Hennie Otto feared he would never play golf again, let alone lead the British Open.

The South African needed back surgery, then spent several months in pain wondering if he would ever pick up the clubs again.

"I had four months off and thought I was never going to play golf again," said Otto, who held the first-round lead with a 68. "After an operation you are always scared for a few months, but it's nearly two years so it's all to standard I think," he said. "I don't know what caused the problem. The doctor said it could have been anything -- picking up a suitcase or a golf bag, or some sports event. It's much better now, no complaints."

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