Happy Birthday Tom
Today, Tuesday 4 September, marks the birthday of one of the game’s finest ever players, with links golf in his blood and Open memories to treasure.
Tom Watson has enjoyed success at The Open unlike most other players – with five wins and 10 top-ten finishes.
From Carnoustie to Royal Birkdale he has seen it all and done it all in pursuit of the Claret Jug and on his birthday we look back at some of the highlights.
Few players are as synonymous with The Open as the great Tom Watson, a five-time Champion Golfer of the Year who is widely regarded as one of the finest players ever to grace the game.
Watson may have been born in Kansas City in 1949 but he played the game like a St Andrews local, mastering the world’s toughest links golf courses as soon as he stepped off the plane.
As a first experience of links golf, Carnoustie is as tough as it gets. The Angus course has a fearsome reputation, with whipped winds, hundreds of bunkers and of course the Barry Burn.
"I played golf the American way - I hit the ball high through the air and I expected the ball to stop. On links golf courses it didn't stop; I had to go back to my childhood and play the roll,” he said.
“That's when I had the epiphany - this is the way golf should be played. If you hit the ball solidly you can hit the ball the right distance and that's the key, get it flag high and put it where you must put it
"When you play the roll and these bad bounces come about you have to learn how to deal with them."
Watson clearly was unperturbed on Scotland’s North East coast. He steadily climbed the leaderboard and sat just three shots off the top after day three. The rest is history.
Watson kept his nerve while others lost theirs – shooting a calm 72 in stormy conditions to reach a play-off. He beat Jack Newton over an extra 18 holes by just one shot.
That sparked Watson’s love affair with the Claret Jug. He won two Masters titles and a US Open in 1982 but it is The Open where he made his name.
Two years after that win at Carnoustie, Watson went head to head with Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry – shooting back-to-back 65s to win the Claret Jug by a shot in one of the greatest final rounds of all time.
Further wins at Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal Birkdale followed. In eight years Watson had lifted the Claret Jug five times.
There was still time for another close shave in 2009 – aged 59. Those at Turnberry, and the millions watching around the world, held their breath as the American faced a putt for victory.
It slipped by and he was eventually beaten by Stewart Cink in a play-off but those four days cemented his legacy as one of the best links players the game has ever known.
Practice Day tickets are still available for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush in 2019 and remember, when you buy your tickets for The Open with Mastercard, you will receive a £5 discount per transaction.