On Sunday, Watson completed his 34th Open Championship, tying for 22nd, 11 strokes behind popular winner Darren Clarke. Watson, though, was one round in extreme conditions away from moving considerably up the leaderboard.
Two years ago, there was a playoff loss to Stewart Cink that denied him his sixth Open Championship.
What Watson has shown with his recent British performances—and don’t forget his opening-round 65 in the 2003 U.S. Open at age 53 or last year’s 29th-place finish at the U.S. Open—is that golf is not necessarily a game of gripping and ripping. Golf still remains a game of shot making, a game of finesse and crafty creativity.
As impressive as his eight major wins were back in the day—his last coming 28 years ago—these recent efforts have further proven that his game is timeless.
“It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of expectations coming in. I kind of found a little bit of something with my golf swing, hit the ball more solidly.
“[Royal St. George’s] with the wind conditions, it makes you struggle, and I’m happy about the way I managed the golf course. I didn’t make a double bogey the entire week, and I had a hole-in-one. I mean, come on. It could get better than that, but holes-in-one are certainly things to remember, and I’ll remember that for a long time.”
Watson also remembers the pure passion that he had playing in his first Open Championship in 1975, which he won. And he saw that in his playing partners through the week, British amateur Tom Lewis in the opening two rounds and watching 22-year-old Rory McIlroy go for his second straight major.
“Tommy Lewis [age 19] and Rory and Ryo Ishikawa [age 19]. Of course these young people are just what I was,” Watson said. “I came on the tour at age 22. I wasn’t 18 or I wasn’t 17 or 19 like Seve [Ballesteros], but it’s close enough. We were mere babes with passion and dreams that maybe someday we can be a Jack Nicklaus, and that’s what I had.”
Had? Try still have.
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.