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Firth Of Clyde

Firth Of Clyde

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GOLFWatson's amazing story continues59-year-old holds one-shot lead entering final round of British Open.By Barry SvrlugaTHE WASHINGTON POST Sunday, July 19, 2009 TURNBERRY, Scotland — Tom Watson's round should have slipped away from him 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," Watson said.

At this point in his career — and at this point in a week that can now be described as magical — what could bother Watson? He has felt that chilly breeze off the Scottish coast before.

He has made bogey, and will again, and recovered.

And now, as he carries the lead into today's final round of the British Open, he has shown every single person who has walked the sod here 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.

"He was just out there just playing golf and not even worrying about it.

You would think maybe he might be nervous, being 59, trying to win the British Open.


But he was just cool, calm and collected." For one of sport's all-time great stories to be completed, Watson must do that over 18 more holes.

His 1-over-par 71 Saturday 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 are seeking their first major championships.

Watson owns eight, the last in 1983.

If he is to take the ninth major, 26 years later, he would have to do what he has done to this point: play smart, hit the fairway, make clutch putts to save par, and some others of miraculous lengths that just happen to fall in.

His performance here has been defined by some memorable moments on the greens, pray-they-roll-in efforts on both the 16th and the 18th in Friday's second round, and another 25-footer for birdie on 16 Saturday, a stroke that thrust him back into a tie for the lead with Goggin, who was already in the clubhouse.

"Every now and then, it works, you know?" Watson said.

"It's just every now and then.

And boy, is it working at the right time now." Yes, he three-putted the ninth from perhaps 60 feet, and yes, he stabbed at a six-footer that didn't drop at the 12th.

But when Watson has needed something clutch this week, he has, somehow, summoned it.

"When you have that feel around the greens, that keeps you going," he said.

"You're not thinking any negative thoughts.

If I hit it in a bad place, I'll get it up and down." As all this happened, Turnberry was changing into a ferocious but sun-splashed course that sported a serious crosswind.

The breeze, which stiffened as the day went on, flew in directly from the ocean, creating an entirely different feel than Friday, when it howled from the north.

Given that, even as Watson's score looked indifferent — 1 over on the opening nine after that bogey at the ninth — others couldn't make a charge.

Marino, who entered the round tied with Watson at 5 under, appeared to plummet from contention when he played one four-hole stretch in 5 over, dropping back to even by the time he reached the fifth.

He finished with a 76 and is five strokes behind Watson.

The other likely challengers — including 1989 Open champ Mark Calcavecchia, who at 49 entered play Saturday one off the lead — could not muster a run.

He shot 77.

First-round leader Miguel Angel Jimenez shot 76.

Japan's Kenichi Kuboya and Fiji's Vijay Singh carded 75s.

No one in the final six groups of the day broke par.

American Jim Furyk managed a 70 and sits at 1 under, three shots back.

Watson has hit 73 percent of the fairways this week; the field has managed just 58 percent.

Ask Tiger Woods, who is not among those pushing Watson, because he missed the cut.

"Tiger isn't here because he couldn't drive the ball in the fairway," Watson said.

Watson has not much discussed the prospect of actually winning his sixth Claret Jug, one that would tie Harry Vardon for the most ever.

Vardon's last Open title: 1914.

One might have to go back that far to find a tale to match Watson winning in 2009.

"It is kind of emotional out there," Watson admitted.

When he came to the 18th green, having birdied the par-5 17th to take the lead alone, the fans in the stands stood and applauded.

Watson turned to his caddie, Neil Oxman, and thought of his former caddie, Bruce Edwards.

Edwards died in 2004 after a battle with Lou Gehrig's disease, and Watson's devotion to and affection for his old friend has defined some of his past few years.

"Bruce," Watson told Oxman, "is with us today." "Don't make me cry," Oxman said.

Yet they both did, right there on the course.

Watson has spoken all week of the spirits — perhaps of Turnberry, perhaps of Edwards, perhaps of 34 years of playing in this championship — being with him.

And if he walks up that 18th green tonight, holding the lead as he did Saturday, his won't be the only moist eyes on the old links.
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