Tom Watson refuses to be a ceremonial player, especially when it comes to the British Open. He showed what he was talking about Friday when he quickly turned things around with a hole-in-one on the sixth hole.
Watson drilled a 4-iron from about 160 yards into the wind, a shot that looked good from the time of that crisp click off his club. He never saw the ball bang against the pin and disappear, and he paused slightly even after hearing a sudden burst of cheering from fans perched atop the tall dunes surrounding the green.
He raised his arms, and eventually turned and took a bow for a packed grandstand behind him.
“I didn’t see it,” Watson said. “You can’t see it go in. I just saw it on the replay in there. It was a slam dunk. If it missed the flag it would’ve been 30 feet by. But it was lucky. They’re all lucky when they go in. But that’s what I was aiming at.”
It’s not all luck when it comes to Watson and the British Open he has won five times.
The oldest player in the field at 61, he wound up with an even-par 70 and was at 2-over 142, only six shots behind going into the final two rounds at Royal St. George’s. Not many expect him to contend, even though memories are fresh from when he came within one putt of winning at Turnberry two years ago.
Masters champion Charl Schwartzel was feeling better about his chances after a 67 in the second round.
He’s not sure he hit the ball any better than Thursday, but the bounces seemed to go his way.
And yes, there are a lot of bounces.
“Yesterday I felt I was playing well. I was hitting good shots and I was getting penalized for it,” Schwartzel said. “I was hitting tee shots on the lines I was aiming for — and you’re talking one yard either way and you’re absolutely perfect — and you end up in bunkers and chipping out sideways, and now all of a sudden grinding for bogeys.
“After a while,” he said, “that starts getting frustrating.”
Stricker strikes again
Steve Stricker has a chance at a feat achieved only once, and that was 40 years ago — winning a tour event, then winning the British Open the next week.
Lee Trevino did that in 1971 with the Canadian and British Open. Only nine other players have won the week before winning a major, the most recent being Tiger Woods at the Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship in 2007.
Oddly enough, Stricker couldn’t crack the top 50 the last two years that he won the John Deere Classic. On Friday, Stricker had a bogey on the easy par-5 seventh, but made enough birdies for a 71 and was only four shots out of the lead.