Ageless Watson stays in contention, Jaidee best Asian challenger

By V. Krishnaswamy, IANS
Saturday, July 18, 2009

TURNBERRY - The golfing world woke up to a strange Saturday at a Major - it was one without Tiger Woods on the weekend and it was one where a 59-year-old American, Tom Watson, was looking to further his reputation as the world’s best Links player.

As the 138th edition of the British Open moved towards it climax, five-time Open champion and eight-time Major winner Watson, still had a share of the lead. Watson was three-under through 14 holes in the third round and he shared the lead with little known Australian Matthew Goggin (69).

Watson won the last of his five British Opens in 1983, but his famous 1977 win at Turnberry has led to the 18th hole at the course and the suite at the hotel in which he is staying across the road being named as the “Duel in the Sun” after his epic battle with Jack Nicklaus. The clash is regarded by many as the greatest ever Major finish.

Local favourite Lee Westwood (70) who was in shared lead till the 18th tee, left his third shot in the rough and managed only a bogey on the 18th. Westwood earlier dropped a bogey on third but then played steadily and picked a birdie on 12th and another on 17th, but the bogey on the 18th left a bitter taste.

Watson parred the first five holes before bogeying the sixth and picking a birdie on seventh. A par and a bogey later, he was one-under for front nine. On the back nine he dropped another bogey on 12th to drop to three-under, but still in shared lead.

Watson is looking to become the oldest Major champion. The oldest winner at the Open was another Tom - Tom Morris, who was 46 when he won in 1867. And the oldest ever to win a Major was Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 US PGA Championships.

Adding to the drama at this unpredictable Open was rank outsider Goggin, who has made only two cuts in his previous eight Major appearances with tied 36th at 2007 US Open being the best. Though a member of the PGA Tour, he has never won the US, European or Asian Tour and the last of his five professional wins came nine years ago on the Nationwide Tour.

Indicating a tight finish was the fact that no less than 17 golfers were within four shots of the lead. That group included at least two players over the age of 45 - Mark Calcavecchia (49 years) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (45 years), both of whom were at even par, as was Asia’s best challenger, Thongchai Jaidee (69).

Overnight joint leader Marino had the most eventful 12 holes, which included three bogeys and a double in four holes between second and fifth. But an eagle on seventh meant he was still in contention at two-under, as others also dropped shots.

The Asian challenge was left in the hands of Jaidee, a former paratrooper from Thailand, who was tied for eighth, though a good number of golfers were yet to complete their third round.

Jaidee, winner of most titles on Asian Tour - 12 - shot a one-under 69 despite three bogeys on the back nine to be even par for three days and have a shy at a top-10 if not better.

“I’ve been receiving many text messages congratulating me and giving me lots of encouragement. I know many people are watching me back home and I cannot let them down,” said Jaidee, who last made the cut at a Major in 2005 Open.

“There were a lot of spectators walking across the fairway and I got distracted. Especially on the 14th, just as I had set up my shot and was ready to putt, I had to walk back again to read the lie,” he added.

“I’m enjoying myself this week. I’ve been playing well and an even-par score after three rounds is good. I’ll continue to do my best tomorrow.”

Retief Goosen was briefly tied for the lead with Watson - until the South African took a double bogey at the

will not be displayed