Jul 18

The Open Championship

Posted By:Russ James - Firth, NE  Tags:

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I am trying, without any luck, to wrap my head around what Tom Watson is on the verge of accomplishing.  At fifty-nine years young Watson takes a one stroke lead into Sunday's final round of the Open Championship at Turnberry.  If he is able to hang on to his lead we would be witness to quite possibly the single greatest sporting accomplishment in history, and certainly the greatest golf victory of all time.

As it stands now the oldest golfer to ever win a major championship is Julius Boros who won the PGA Championship at the age of forty-eight, eleven years younger than Watson.  Last year Greg Norman became the oldest golfer to lead a major championship at the age of fifty-three when he found himself atop the leader board of the Open at Royal Birkdale.  Norman held this record for exactly one year, until yesterday's round found Watson atop Turnberry's leader board in a two-way tie with fellow American Steve Marino.  After today's round Watson is again on top, this time in sole posession of first at four under.

So, does Tom have a chance to do the unthinkable?  Absolutely.  For starters this is not an unfamilliar territory for Watson.  With thirty-nine PGA Tour wins, ten Champions Tour wins, and eight major championships - including a record five times hoisting the Claret Jug - Watson is no stranger to Sunday pressure.  Also Watson has perhaps more experience playing Open style courses than any other active player.  He went into today's round at five under par and flawlessly executed a game plan with the winds howling off the Firth of Clyde, surrendering only one stroke to par.  In conditions that saw only five players break the par mark Watson proved that his knowledge of Turnberry's rolling links and his understanding of how to play these conditions is the real key to winning.  And, again, his execution has been nearly perfect; compare how Watson has played to this point versus the rest of the field:

                                               Watson          Field Average
Driving Distance                     296.5               289.42
Fairways Hit                         10.33/14             8.15/14
Greens in Reg                         12.67              1.61
Putts per Round                        30                  31.05

The most striking statistic in my mind are the greens in regulation.  This dramatically illustrates that Watson is still one of the game's premiere ball strikers, and, he is consistently in the fairway, making it easier of course to find the green in regulation.

So, taken as a whole the prospect of Watson coming out on top tomorrow is a very real possibility.  If you were to ask him, which someone did, he says he hasn't won anything yet.  And of course he hasn't.  Yet he stands on the brink of doing something completely off the charts in the sporting world.  I know I'll be glued to the set tomorrow, starting bright and early at 9:00 am est.

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