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British Open: A Tom Watson victory at 59 unthinkable no more

Ross Fisher, teeing off on No.  7, was one shot off the lead 
but said he’d leave today if his wife goes into labor.

Getty Images

Ross Fisher, teeing off on No.  7, was one shot off the lead but said he’d leave today if his wife goes into labor.

TURNBERRY, Scotland — Tom Watson's round should have slipped away Saturday, not only because he is 59 and cannot, by any reasonable measure, be expected to be leading the British Open but because he ran into some of the problems Turnberry's Ailsa course presents.

The wind howled off the Firth of Clyde. His ball bounced a couple of places he wished it hadn't. And at one point, the lead he had held all day slipped away. "I didn't let that bother me," he said.

At this point in his career — and in a week that can now, officially, be described as magical — what could bother Watson? As he carries the lead into today's final round of the British Open, he has shown every person who has walked the sod at this course that he has the swing and the temperament to do the unthinkable: Win.

"He kind of had it going bad there a little bit, but it was like nothing fazed him at all, you know what I mean?" said Steve Marino, who entered Saturday's third round tied with Watson and played with him on an inspiring day. " … You would think maybe he might be nervous, being 59, trying to win the British Open. … But he was just cool, calm and collected."

Watson bogeyed No. 15 to briefly fall out of the lead at 2 under but sank a birdie from about 20 feet on the par-4 No. 16 and birdied the par-5 No. 17 to go back atop the leaderboard.

Watson's 1-over 71 gave him a three-round total of 4-under 266, a shot better than Mathew Goggin of Australia and Ross Fisher of England. Those two seek their first major championships. Watson owns eight, the last in 1983.

There are other former major winners in the mix. Retief Goosen, who has two U.S. Open titles and won this year's Transition Championship at Innisbrook, eagled No. 17 to get within two shots of the lead at 208. He and England's Lee Westwood were tied for fourth. Jim Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champ, was three strokes behind along with Stewart Cink.

Marino wound up in a group at 1-over 211 that included Masters champion Angel Cabrera.

Another drama, involving Fisher, is playing out, too.

Like Phil Mickelson contending in the U.S. Open in 1999, Fisher knows he might walk off the course at any minute if a text message conveys that his wife, Jo, has gone to deliver their first child in England.

"Like I said all along, if Jo goes into labor, I'll be supporting her a hundred percent," Fisher said. "And I won't be here; I'll be with her, because it's something that I definitely don't want to miss. You know, it will be a shame, but I guess we'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it."

Meanwhile, Watson will try to replicate, or at least approach, his run from 1977 when, at the first British Open held at Turnberry, he edged Jack Nicklaus to win the famous "Duel in the Sun."

One measure of Watson's place in history is at the Turnberry Hotel, where he has a suite named for him. That's where he's staying, with roomie Vijay Singh.

"That's correct," Watson said. "Vijay is in the big part of the suite. I'm in the small room."

Today, Watson tries to become the oldest man by far to win a major. Julius Boros was 48 when he won the PGA in 1968.

"The first day here, 'Yeah, let the old geezer have his day in the sun,' " Watson said. "The second day you said, 'Well, that's okay.' And now today, you kind of perk up your ears and say, 'This old geezer might have a chance to win the tournament.' I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know one thing, I feel good about what I did today. I feel good about my game plan.

"And who knows?" he said. "It might happen."

British Open

TV: 6 a.m., TNT; 8 a.m., Ch. 28

Weather: Cloudy with periods of rain, chance 80 percent, high 56. Winds west northwest at 15-25 mph. Rainfall near a quarter inch.

Round 3 leaderboard

Player 1 2 3 to PAR

Tom Watson 65 70 71-4

Mathew Goggin 66 72 69-3

Ross Fisher 69 68 70 -3

Lee Westwood 68 70 70 -2

Retief Goosen 67 70 71-2

Jim Furyk 67 72 70-1

Stewart Cink 66 72 71-1

Bryce Molder 70 73 67E

Thongchai Jaidee69 72 69E

British Open: A Tom Watson victory at 59 unthinkable no more 07/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 18, 2009 9:17pm]
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